Saturday, August 18, 2007

The NextD Leadership Institute, New York: Can its message offer a direction for design thinking in India?

Image: Screen-shot of the NextD Website

NextD Leadership Institute and the lessons for India?

Design is changing and there is one organization that has perhaps contributed most in the past few years in mapping this change and in building tools to cope with the change that they call Design 1.0, Design 2.0 and now Design 3.0. This is the NextD Leadership Institute in New York and through the NextD Journal as well as the series of NextD Workshops they have been spreading the good word about the considerable change that is being seen by some of us today at the leading edge of design action across the world.

Their website, and their inspiring online Journal and pdf download (all for free) has been a source of great strength for my students who were often perplexed when confronted by the complexities of their design challenges in India but having a resource that could be easily referred was a boon, the value of which only time will tell. Great resource, and we wish that there were more like this one around.

The NextD Leadership Institute was an outcome of some soul searching by GK VanPatter and Elizabeth Pastor as an experiment in innovation acceleration back in 2002. In their process of re-inventing design they set out to try and influence design education as well as how it is practiced as an cross-disciplinary activity to address the complex tasks that needed resolution in our society. With the marketplace having changed dramatically they were looking for directions and approaches to make design relevant at the leading edge of this change and one of their key offerings to explain this change was embodied in "Mindscapes" a series of examples, stories, diagrams and models that helped capture the contours of this changed landscape.

Recently, in response to the provocative article by Bruce Nussbaum – Are designers the enemy of design – on his blog at BusinessWeek online, the NetxD team quickly sought views from the design community around the world and from this came the rapidly compiled text titled "Beautiful Diversions" which set off another round of debates about design as it is understood today. For me the small NextD team were able to demonstrate the huge change which in the world of internet enabled communication gave equal reach to both small teams as well as established media moguls like the BusinessWeek and the other corporate giants alike. We are indeed heading towards a world that is shaped by the emergent creative economy of the future. The world is indeed changing and as we have seen the KaosPilots as a very small school with very few students making an indelible mark with their ideology and approach to using design, the NextD Leadership Institute too has made an impact in the design space with their Journal, Mindscapes and Workshops, besides other initiatives that have been offered from time to time over the past few years.

That we need to bring the message of the NetxD to India is a foregone conclusion. I have recommended their message to all the students in my classes, to my Institute and colleagues as well as to many corporate and design schools in India and many of them are actively using the NextD offerings having bookmarked their website or having subscribed to the regular journal offering which comes free for all those who are interested. Our efforts to find sponsors to get the NextD team over to India continues and we hope to see them soon in India so that the message that they offer can be used in all the 230 sectors of our economy in mission critical applications that are sadly missing in the design activities of the kind that are needed to bring about real transformation in our society as well as in our business offerings, both of which need design, but both seem to be blissfully unaware of this need, notwithstanding the announcement of the National Design Policy in the beginning of this year, on the 8th of February 2007 to be precise, by the Government of India. Just that day I was in downtown New York in a meeting with G K VanPatter along with my colleague Sudrshan Khanna in order to explore the possibility of some collaborations between our two Institutes. I do hope that we can move this forward quickly and that we can then move on to an application stage in the use of these ideas in transforming design education as well as practice in ways that are needed in India over the next few years. By the way, we were in New York to attend the "Design with India"event on the 5th February 2007 at the Asia Society, New York,which was spearheaded by one of our graduates Uday Dandavate founder of SonicRim, Columbus,Ohio.

It is not just I who is excited by the NextD it seems, if we are to assess their impact through the varied partners who have agreed to be interviewed by the NextD team for the NextD Journal using a unique format of conversations rather than bland interviews that are usually used in the traditional media or the other form of sage pronouncements by experts who are given space by the media to expand their ideas about the subject of their expertise. The procession of experts who have contributed to the NextD Journal make a literal who's who of design thinking and they come from many disciplines that have engaged with design and therefore have much to offer by way of insights about design that are unique as well as interesting. I have recommended the NextD Journal to all my students as a catch-up on the latest in design thinking that is both concise as well as insightful, take a look for yourself.

NextD website link
KaosPilot website link
NID website link

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