Saturday, May 31, 2008

Royal College of Art (RCA): Linkages with NID & Indian Design: Early Years (Part 1/3)

Royal College of Art, London and its significance to the world of design

Picture: Prof M P Ranjan in his office at NID. Pic by Darrag Murphy and Gisele Raulik

I have written about the strong linkages between the German design schools of the Bauhaus and the HfG Ulm with their education philosophy and teaching methods at the National Institute of Design earlier. I have outlined these influences in some detail in my paper that was presented at the DETM conference at NID in March 2005. The paper and presentation can be downloaded from here. (Paper pdf 69 kb) (Presentation Show pdf 2.5 mb)

While these two German schools have had a huge influence on world design, especially in the educational space, we will need to look at the influences of the Royal College of Art (RCA, London) in the shaping of world design as we know it today and in particular I will use this occasion to look at the influences of the RCA on Indian design education and research.

Picture: The great London Taxi (left) and The Royal College of Art on the web.

According to the RCA communication, I quote:

"The Royal College of Art is a very special kind of ideas factory.

It is the world's only wholly postgraduate university institution of art and design which specialises in teaching and research, offering MA, MPhil and PhD degrees across the disciplines of fine art, applied art, design, communications and humanities.

Over 850 masters and doctoral students drawn from all around the world interact with a teaching staff of over 100 professionals, all being leading art and design practitioners in their own right. It is therefore one of the most concentrated communities of artists and designers to be found anywhere on the planet.

Along with an impressive roll call of visiting professors, lecturers and advisors, students are given first-class opportunities for major collaborations with cultural and industrial partners. It all adds up to a creative environment that's unrivalled elsewhere."


Historically, the events that led to the construction of the Crystal Palace in 1850 in London and the conduct of the Great Exhibition of 1951 launched the industrial revolution and also set the stage for the entry for design as a major partner with industry of the day. The British Government took cognizance of this influence and decided to invest in design and art education to help the process of assimilation of these new ideas into industry so that British industry continued to hold a leadership position in world trade with the use of these special skill sets.

The Royal College of Art was set up in 1837 as the Government School of Design with the charter of training designers for the industry as a national responsibility. The history of the great school has been captured and made accessible through the book “The Royal College of Art: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Art and Design”, by Christopher Frayling, Barry & Jenkins, London, 1987. I will not repeat what the book does admirably, that of documenting the illustrious students, Professors and administrators of the school but try and explore the connections between this great school and the NID, which was the first design school set up by the Government of India.

In the two following posts I will expand on the major influences during the formative years of Indian design movement and in another post deal with the contemporary influences with exchange and collaborative between the RCA and Indian design schools, particularly the NID. The second post deals with the formative years of Indian design while the third post with the contemporary exchanges and the creation of new generation of international designers from India.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ranjan,

    This series of posts has been quite of documentation. I regard this an essential resource for concerned people at either institutions. There is lot to know and realize, especially when we talk about lasting collaborations and how individuals, more than anything else, can shape up an era of history.

    Many Thanks,

    Abhishek Shrivastava
    NMD 2005-07


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