Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Communication Design: 50 years of Contribution to the Indian visual landscape

Communication Design: The Early Years at NID

Image: Wall of tiles at the end of the Design Street at NID with a sampling of symbols and logos designed for various public and private Indian organizations.

Visual Identity is the visible face of an organization and its services through which we recall and recognize the products and essence of the various offerings from a particular organization. This extends to both public service organizations such as the air, rail and road transport services as well as corporate organizations in manufacturing, finance and other services. At NID, the Communications Design faculty and students have been offering the services of designing such identities to corporate and government bodies almost from the very inception of the Institute and the setting up of its graphic design education programmes in the early 60’s. However very little is written about this work and therefore little is known about the contributions made by the NID designers to the Indian economy and its brand portfolio which most Indians are familiar with. The wall of tiles can be seen at the far end of the Design Street as a visitor passes through the NID building past the Fountain Plaza, the Gautam Gira Square and the Big Tree, all familiar landmarks to NID students and faculty. I do wish that some committed graphic design research is done to first document this legacy and then assess the worth of these contributions to the Indian people. The Communications Design activities have been at the centre of the NID education and professional offerings over the past 50 years and it is high time to look back at these offerings and explore the various dimensions and disciplines through which these have journeyed across the decades of sustained contribution. Over 800 public and private sector identities have been designed by the NID community and numerous other areas of design exploration include advertising, social communication, film making, animation, text book designing, typography, photography and illustration, to name only a few of the areas that form the body of communication design work from the Institute.

If I step back in time, the first programme in Graphic Design and the other Communication Design disciplines was offered at NID in 1963 when a number of fine and applied artists were inducted into the first programme at NID under the stewardship of Dashrat G. Patel, Design Director, Visual Communication and several international design teachers who came to NID as consultants in the discipline. In those days the dominant disciplines were Graphic Design, Typography, Photography, Exhibition, Illustration, Animation, Sound and Film Making. Many of these were offered as specializations to the joining students after a period of basic design education at NID. The first programme in Communication Design commenced in 1963 with the induction of eight post graduate students.

Image: Some examples of graphic design work done in the classroom in the early sixties from the NID Documentation 1964-69 (download pdf 25 MB here)

This programme was preceded and overlapped by a six month course in Basic Design that started in March 1963 with six students from a variety of backgrounds. While I do have a list of these six students we do not have any information about them after they left NID in September 1963. The Basic Design course was prepared and conducted by Prof. Jesse Reichek and Richard Berteaux from UCLA, Berkeley, California. These six students are listed below:
1. Arvind Desai
2. S Patel
3. N Chauhan
4. Gothankar
5. B K Ralput
6. B Das

This batch was followed soon thereafter by the first batch in Communication Design with the entry of the eight students from varied backgrounds in fine and applied arts, cinematography and literature. This first batch joined NID at various dates from June 1963 to December 1964 and many of them went on to join NID as full time faculty before or after a period of training in their area of specialization at a school or office of a chosen design consultant of international repute. The major consultants who provided the expertise and teaching inputs over varying periods of time were as follows, but this is not a complete list however:
Graphics: Armin Hofmann, Allgemeine Gewerbeschule, Basel
Communication: Bob Gill, Royal College of Art, London
Typography: Adrian Frutiger, Ecole Estienne, Paris
Documentation: Eberhert Fischer, Musee Ethnographique, Basel
Exhibition: Charles & Ray Eames, Consultants, California
Photography: Christian Staub, Hochschule fur Gestaltung, Ulm
Photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris & New York
Animation: Leo Leoni, Consultant, Italy
Sound: David Tudor, Music Composition, USA
Printing: Manfred Merz, Switzerland
Block Making: Eduard Schmid, Switzerland
…….and there were many more, all listed in the NID Documentation 1964-69 (download pdf 25 MB here)

Image: Looking at the Design Street from the Fountain Plaza (right) and from the top of the Big Tree (left)

The first batch of students in Communication Design at NID are listed below;
1. Ishu B. Patel
2. Rohit Modi
3. P M Dalwadi
4. A P Gajjar
5. Manu Gajjar
6. Vikas Satwalekar
7. I S Mathur
8. Mahendra C Patel

The second batch that joined the NID Communication Design in May and June of 1965 included four students, all of whom left the institute after varying periods of study from three months to 15 months duration. The four students are listed below:
1. H K Patel
2. V M Patel
3. M M Patel
4. H A Vora

Image: Some garphic design assignments from the early sixties at NID.

The third batch of nine students joined NID between May and September 1967 and four of them went on to join the institute as full time faculty after a period of study at Basel and two others were appointed as faculty immediately after they completed their programme of study at NID. These students are listed below:
1. N N Patel
2. R L Mistry
3. C N Shah
4. P M Choksi
5. S M Shah
6. Girish R Patel
7. M O Vaghela
8. N A Patel
9. V H Varia

Image: The NID Main Gate and Prof M P Ranjan in his office at NID.

The first programme for school leavers commenced in 1970 and the faculty here was drawn from the first three batches of Post Graduate students in Communications Design and Industrial Design, an all Indian faculty. Of the 24 students who joined the programme in the Foundation, 10 chose to join the Communications Design discipline. Eight students went to Industrial Design and six joined the Textile Design area. The Communications Design programme has grown from strength to strength over the years and some of the most respected design professionals in India in the fields of Graphics, Advertising, Animation, Film Making, Photography, Packaging, Branding, Social Communication, Book Design, and several other areas of specialization have come from these programmes at NID. While the numbers have always been rather small, I believe the impact has been quite significant and I am sure that time and the ongoing public reflections will show this to be so.

I hope that the Golden Jubilee of the Eames Report will be an occasion to reflect on these contributions and to take stock of what has been done so far and to set the tone for the way forward. I also hope that some of these young designers will share their work in the days ahead in a substantial manner and from this we will be able to garner the shape of Indian communication design as a composite whole.


  1. Reading this post was an eye-opener. As a graphic design student I am truly envious of those batches that has stalwarts like Armin Hoffman, Henri-Cartier Bresson and others. Our institute has an amazing legacy. I also wish I could document it.

  2. my fathers name is wrongly written he is V H Varia, and not H N Varia, request, make a not of this and change it

  3. The correction of the initials have been changed as suggested, thank you for the input.

    8 June 2010


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