Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Design School at Kerala: State level action in India

KSID Conference Proceedings: A ringside view
9 & 10 November 2009: Kovalam, Kerala

Prof M P Ranjan

Brief summary of the proceedings of the Kerala State Institute of Design (KSID) Vision meeting at Kovalam on 9th and 10th November 2009. Followed by recommendations and action points.

Image01: Day Zero: Sun, Sand and Beach at Kovalam

The conference that was held at the Kristu Jayanti Jubilee Memorial Animation Centre at Kovalam and the conference were set in motion by the Executive Director of KSID, Shri P T Girish who welcomed the delegates and experts to the Vision of KSID conference and invited Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Vice Chairman, Kerala State Planning Board to deliver the presidential Address and Shri P K Gurudasan, Hon’ble Minister for Labour and Excise, State Government of Kerala to Inaugurate the event. Shri P T Girish made a presentation on the KSID and Shri Jogi Panghal was requested to deliver the Vote of Thanks.

The two day programme on 9th and 10th November 2009 was set in motion (programme schedule Appendix 1) Over 50 participants and experts attended the meet over two days (List of participants Appendix 2)

Day 1:
Inaugural Session: 10.00 to 11.00 am
Prof Prabhat Patnaik in his Presidential Address called for an action programme to bring innovation to Kerala and India. He commented that innovation was conspicuous by its absence and this needed to change fast. However he recalled that traditional crafts have demonstrated this capability over centuries but feudal and patriarchal attitudes run deep in Kerala and there was scope for a Central University to bring change. Here KSID is a powerful and ambitious idea that would need to bring design expertise and invoke creative change in the society at large in Kerala.

Image02: Day one: Opening Session

Shri P K Gurudasan, Hon’ble Minister for Labour and Excise, State Government of Kerala inaugurated the conference by lighting a lamp and invited the delegates and participants to join him to light the lamp.

Shri P K Gurudasan called for a focus on the crafts of Kerala as a point of departure. The need to address matters of quality raw material and products alike and to address the impact of globalization and competition with strategies for marketing and articulation of modern trends were items at the top of the agenda. He stated that the role of KSID would be to coordinate design action in many sectors and to provide supports through new design initiatives as well as promotion and publications. New initiatives to train and educate the crafts sector functionaries asa starting point. He recalled his visit to NID and his meeting there with NID Director Shri Pradyumna Vyas as well as NID Faculty members form a number of disciplines including Prof M P Ranjan and Prof Aditi Ranjan and stated that this visit had helped change the concept of KSID and which brings our focuss to the concept of the Vision conference that is being held here in Kovalam. He mentioned that the Director of KSID was a product of NID and this would help in shaping the Institute as we go forward. He stressed on the need for building an appropriate institutional infrastructure quickly so that the next level of funding could be mobilized in the near future. He welcomed and thanked all the experts and participants for giving their time for attending the Vision conference at Kovalam.

Shri Jogi Panghal delivered the Vote of tthanks.

Inaugural Session: 11.30 to 12.00
Shri P T Girish delivered the Directors address (Directors presentation Appendix 3) and outlined the concept of the KSID and listed the action taken so far towards setting up the institute in Kerala. He shared a picture of the renovated building that was being used to house the institute and outlined the events such as registration of the society under the Travancore and Cochin Literary Scientific Societies Act of 1955, followed by the setting up of the Governing Body, Expert Committees and Academic Committee that could develop the action plans for the institute and steer it in the right direction. Shri P T Girish informed the meeting that 4 acres of land had been acquired for the institute and a call for architects had been launched formally. He called on the meeting to articulate a clear brief for the architects for the design of the building and mentioned that four architect s had sent in their expression of interest to take up the task. He reported that there were efforts to make the institute live and active through the conduct of training programmes for artisans and through new product development and that two students from the IICD Jaipur were already on the list of sponsored candidates involved on project based activities of the institute. He mentioned that KISD facilities and infrastructure still needed to be developed but in the meantime a number of activities will be rolled out..

Image03: Day one: Session one

The following Sessions were structured as a series of panel presentations and each speaker had a prepared submission to make (attached Appendix 4 – papers by experts)

Session 1: Vision: Design Education & Action for Kerala
Moderator: Prof Ajaykumar, Principal Fine Arts College, Trivandrum
Rapporteur: Shri Jogi Panghal

Shri Ashoke Chatterjee, Former Director, NID, Ahmedabad
Prof. S Balaram, Dean, DJ Academy of Design, Coimbatore
Dr. Deepak John Matthew, NID, Ahmedabad
Prof. Yunus Khimani, Dean, UG Programmes, IICD, Jaipur
Ms. Sumita Ghose, Managing Director, Rangsutra, (Fab-India – SRC)

Shri Ashoke Chatterjee kicked of the session by recalling the talk with other experts the night before the conference which had established that the KSID would be a work in progress for quite some time ahead. A clear structure and mission would have to wait till Kerala’s real needs are assessed and articulated by the activities of the Institute. He asked for clarity about the role of KSID and expressed the ned for a discussion as to whether the KSID would be an institute for the crafts development or an institute for design education and action. He suggested that Keralas needs may extend to include the travel and hospitality sectors which has been a major user of design services for over 40 years now in India as well as in Kerala. He recalled his visit to Kerala 40 years ago to help set up the first beach resort at Kovalam. He cautioned about the need for deep deliberations to get the objectives right and in particular about the need for a good brief for the architect of the new campus and its facilities.

In the discussions that followed Shri Jogi Panghal agreed that a good brief was a critical need but he also said that we would need to be sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the community in Kerala and what they would want from a new institution. He proposed that the instutute should adopt policies that are open, inclusive and transparent for all its activities and programmes. Prof M P Ranjan stressed that the architect must be told that the building must have a great degree of flexibility and like the NID building it too should be open to change as and when required.

Prof. S Balaram, who spoke next called for design education that could foster thinking that was different. Freedom and autonomy with a physical space that is conducive for design work are a critical resource that should be created. He stressed that heart of design lay in innovation and called for a balance between skill instruction and thinking, both lateral and analytical thinking would need to be used. The ambit of design could extend from procduct, messages, spaces and services all the way to experiences as well. He quoted the example of Vishala in Ahmedabad that focused on the experience of a meal in a rural setting and stated that Kerala too may find applications for such a kind of thinking in the travel and hospitality sector that is a major business in the State. He spelt out threee priority areas for KSID in the days ahead.
1. Survey and documentation of the resources of Kerala to build a strengths map thaty could indicate the areas of priority for the KSID.
2. Focus on getting the right kind of students at the KSID since many of Kerala’s students tend to go outside the State for their education needs today. Awareness building would need to be done since local awareness of design wsa still very low in Kerala.
3. Getting good teachers is always a great challenge. This needs to be addressed both with policy as well as with some strategies that are practical.

Prof M P Ranjan asked for clarity on how he proposed to address the third issue. Prof Balaram replied that the awareness building would need to address both parents as well as the students directly. In the search for good design teaching talent the KSID may start by having a larger proportion of their teachers as visiting faculty with a long term commitment. While this is difficult it is practical and can be sustained and the other schools are all experimenting with this format quite successfully. Prof Sangita Shroff warned that the KSID must look for a complement of full time faculty as well to handle the variety of tasks that a growing institute would need to handle in order to build a good work culture and a healthy academic and administrative balance. Full time faculty are needed to maintain a level of intellectual and emotional balance on the campus with multi-level activities of education, administration and development projects. Prof Balaram agreed with a need for a balance. Shri Jogi Pangaal stressed that good design teachers were hard to get if not impossible for a new institute. He therefore stressed that the policy of using visiting faculty on liberal terms may need to be adopted. He proposed a new kind of architecture for the involvement of visiting faculty as a continuing contact person for the students with an implied use of web as a channel for maintaining this contact.

Dr Deepak John Matthew used a case study of a photography activity and expanded on the type of planning and development that would be needed to make the KSID work and deliver the tasks and objectives that are being set out today. He expanded on the NID model and listed all the stages of planning and curriculum development that would be needed as well as the range of equipment and the activities and projects that may be needed to build a department with excellence. He stressed on the need for photography both as a tool for documentation as well as a service department for the rest of the institute and that this would need to be set up at an early date and be maintained at a high level of quality. He suggested that the curriculum could include theory, skill and project based courses. He proposed the need for interdisciplinary classes as well as a Foundation programme for new entrants. He suggested faculty exchange programmes as a way for maintaining faculty quality and contact with new ideas and developments. For students he proposed that by waiving fees or offering stipends that KSID would attract students who would otherwise not be able to afford a good education in spite of having great talent.

Shri Vinod Krishnan asked if Deepak was asking for a clone of NID to be set up in Kerala or would the emphasis be on design for the tourism sector. Prof Ajay Kumar stated that creating capacity in the State for photography could be one of the objectives of KSID.

Prof Yunus Khimani, recalled the history of the IICD that was set up in Jaipur by the Government of Rajasthan with the assistance of NID. The mission of the IICD was to create design techno managers who could create a bridge between designers and markets as well as focus on design, market development and technology development for the crafts sector as a whole. He spoke about the structure of IICD and the processes that it had adopted to improve and develop its education programmes in UG and PG levels with the setting up of an expert Academic Council and a local Board of Studies that could work in cooperation with the faculty of the school. The hallmark of the school was hands on training and the making of prototypes for all new design projects which provides the students with a good feel of the material, technique as well as market possibilities through field contact for gathering insights that inform the design work. Field exposure is particularly stressed and in 3 years of education the student is expected to spend almost one year in the field at a number of occasions. Drawing is another ability that is stressed in the education process at the IICD.

Ms Sumita Ghose who spoke next commented that the KSID had an advantage of being in the Labour Ministry and therefore had the possibility of looking at the task ahead in a bottom up manner rather than a top down manner of policy to the field. She recalled her experience of setting up an NGO for the development of people in Rajasthan and how they came to crafts as a means for generating livlihood with the introcduction of embroidery and other textile crafts that the people already had a capacity for in their present setting. As a trained economist she realized the need for good organization in the crafts sector and in managing the lives and needs of rural people. She stressed that good organization was needed in the crafts sector and the need to shift the policy initiatives form charity orientation to empowerment approaches which could be the focus of the KSID. Design development work alone was not enough since this tended to end up in a number of prototypes but this needs to be translated into a business flow for the benefits to reach the people for whom it is intended. She explained that Rangsutra had started with a call for design and marketing with good organization in a cooperative format. This gave the base for a producer company with a Head+ Heart for survival of the craftspeople. KSID too may need to look at producer groups and stalkeholders with a balanced social and economic agenda. Perhaps the research could look at organization design for empowered craftspersons in the days ahead.

Prof Ajay Kumar summarized the morning session and a good deal of discussion followed. He said that there was no traditional craft left in Kerala due to costs and market pressures. People have moved on to more lucrative occupations. Kerala is fast changing from traditions and many NGO organizations were active in the field but we may need to research as to how well these NGO’s have changed the condition of the craftsmen. He stressed that the KSID should be a design school and not just be focused on crafts alone. This is truly what Kerala needs today. Shri K B Jinan intervened and stressed that Kerala artisans too had their needs.

Prof Sangita Shroff opined that the KSID should first undertake the task of understanding Kerala today. She stressed that the use of image in the task of developing a shared understanding of Kerala was important. Getting images from the field and placing these in contextual structures can reveal many latent needs and design opportunities that could be addressed by the KSID in the days ahead. She called for a documentation of Kerala with a “soul”, a process that could tell us a lot about the condition of the State and its needs and aspirations. This could be done with film makers and photographers being coordinated to build a map of Kerala resources and needs, a “Map with Pictures”. This could be linked with Social Enterprises and groups of professionals who could think strategy and seed entrepreneurship in the State. Shri Jogi Panghal suggested that KSID could interact with artisans in new ways and bring Kerala into its domain. Prof. Sudhakar Reddy suggested that the emphasis could also be on the making of new craftsmen entrepreneurs if traditional ones do not exist. Prakash Murthy felt that the need was to instill pride in the craftsmen for their skills and traditions through some appropriate strategies. Prof Ajay Kumar recalled that in our national history the Schools of Art abandoned crafts to upgrade their own fields of study. Ms Sumita Ghose reminded that in India as in Kerala the areas of agriculture and crafts are the two biggest providers of employment in the country. Shri Ashoke Chatterjee opined that there was a lot of confusion in the development sectors and in some Government policy statements the crafts sector was being described as the sunset sectors!! He ebven suggesxted that some economists suggest that 80 % of India is moving to urban centres but this would be a real disaster. Shri Jogi Panghal suggested that we must take a fresh look at crafts in Kerala and at the new wage levels as a challenge and an opportunity for imaginative design action. The daily wah=ge in Bastar is Rs 45/= per day while a Kerala craftsman would expect upwards of Rs 300 to Rs 500 per day for a similar level of work. Development has wiped out crafts in some areas while it has retained them in places due to poverty levels and a desperate need to work.

Image04: Day one: Session two

Session 2: Vision: Design Education & Action for Kerala
Moderator: Prof Ajaykumar, Principal Fine Arts College, Trivandrum
Rapporteur: Shri Jogi Panghal

Prof M P Ranjan, NID, Ahmedabad
Prof Sudhakar Reddy, AU, Visakapatnam
Shri Jogi Panghal. Designer
Prof. Sangita Shroff, Director, IICD, Jaipur
Shri. K B Jinan, Designer

Prof M P Ranjan made a visual presentation to support his arguments that were stated in his written paper (paper and visual presentation Appendix 5). He used models to explain some salient aspects of design and design thinking. He explained why the true value of design was difficult to perceive and appreciate since much of the offering was invisible or intangible.. He proposed that value perceptions and the appreciation of intangible design offerings was not possible to appreciate unless these are explained in detail or are articulated by the design team as part of their presentation and claim. He used twenty case studies to show how design can be used at many levels of action all the way from material and form, through structure and performance and upto meaning and culture. These stages he characterized as the First, Second and Third Orders of Design that have been elaborated in earlier papers and presentations. He called for the use of design in Kerala as a vehicle for development and strategy across many sectors of the economy and the role of KSID would be to make the process of bringing design into everyday use effective and wide spread particularly in areas of public good. He showed models developed by his students with the use of images and metaphors in his class called Design Concepts and Concerns where they had developed a variety of institutes that could meet the needs of India’s varied geographic regions through the use of design and design thinking. He suggested that KSID too should adopt these methods and develop shared perspectives with stakeholders and then go about implementing these in the institutional frameworks that would be both effective as well as relevant. He proposed that KSID start by building an inventory of design needs of Kerala and set about addressing these through education, awareness building and extension activities. KSID could help by bringing books on design to Kerala through translating some selected ones into Malayalam so that the ideas could b made available at the grassroots level in the State.

Prof. Sudhakar Reddy spoke philosophically about the role of crafts in the evolution of the human race. He spoke of traditional knowledge being a base for peace and harmony and that the act of making with our hands is a fundamental human need that would include the handicrafts as well as the fine arts, both which are rooted in our senses as well as in a whole range of attributes determined by function, aesthetics, surface explorations, utility and sensitivity to our surroundings etc. Making, is a basic instinct and it is this making that also makes us human. Thus articles are intended for humanizing society by making these accessible to all those who may need it for a variety of purposes. Traditional articles have a deep structure and meaning, just as colour is used with a specific purpose so is form and other attributes. Gandhiji used non-violence as a method. The control of natural resources was undertaken as a search for power. Peace can be seen as an economic and stable condition but it can also be seen as attitudes of individuals in search of meaning. Peace could be a goal and the making of paper can be a fine activity that could be recommended as well. With roots in traditions we could see it as an activity that is modern and being carried out in the pursuit of sustainable action in the face of present day global challenges. We can bring about an awareness of value transmission through the use of design. This would require high motivation. However, he expressed doubt if this could indeed be achieved and he ended with a wonderful quote about water.

Shri Jogi Panghal, spoke about his long experience in three broad streams that would be of relevance to the topic at hand. Firstly he spoke about his experience in the Practice of Design with a special focus on the tribal areas of India. Secondly he spoke about his experience in Design Education across a number of schools in India and overseas and lastly he spoke about his body of work in Design Research which was unique and through which he was able to trace the evolution of design thought for producing value through the creation of form, function and utility. He spoke of the need for collaborative work through the encouragement of team work. He spoke of the development of Green Strategies and the exploration of life cycle studies for sustainability and to loo at applications of fair trade in our dealings with crafts community. He proposed the need for ethnographic studies to be taken up by KSID and called for the expansion of its reach to areas such as experience design vs object design, He spoke of the approach of co-creation as opposed to the designer labels and championed the idea of services as a means of dematerializing design action. In his visual presentation he spelt out a check list of actionable items for KSID and established another checklist of points that showed the context in which the KSID would need to operate ( visual presentation Appendix 6). His agenda for KSID included the following points:
1. identify – research and document Kerala resources and sensibilities
2. design practice – create new knowledge through positive action on design opportunities
3. education – integrated study of design, management and entrepreneurship
4. outreach and training - possibilities to be explored
5. network - with other schools and universities and collaborate to create value
6. produce - much new knowledge, publish and share freely

KSID vision could focus on research, education, collaboration, practice and advocacy.

Prof Sangita Shroff, spoke briefly about the areas of focus that KSID could look at in the initial years of its establishment. She commented on the opening remarks by Prof Prabhat Pathak and stated that the KSID should move from the rooted feudal structures towards a secular school for design and action on Kerala. She listed the various statistics about Kerala and drew the attention to the special qualities that needed to be kept in focus. It was a small state with high level of educational achievement and a stable population. The wellness industry, the entertainment industry and the sports achievements all suggest that Kerala could build products to enhance the achievements that it already has in these sectors. She also proposed that students could be offered an earn while you learn scheme to encourage entry from the disadvantaged sections of the society. However the whole premise would be based on the first task of mapping Kerala and its resources in a visual format that can be shared to build the action programmes that would follow.

Shri K B Jinnan, decried the sterile form of education that was being offered by main stream design schools that was based on the Bauhaus model of design foundation. He claimed that this affected the natural aesthetic sensibilities of the regional student and gave them homogenized aesthetic that was neither suitable nor appropriate for local action and local cultural development. He proposed that the KSID should be primarily be seen as a crafts development school and not as a generic design school for Kerala.

Shri Jayagopal, showed his architecture projects to the conference at the invitation of the Director, KSID. He has carried out a number of works in the tradition of the great architect and his guru, the late Shri Laurie Baker. He showed examples of many projects done using crafts and local traditional building systems and he presentation was followed by a brief discussion.

Image05: Day two: Session three

Day 2
Session 3: Vision: Kerala Aspirations
Moderator: Shri Ashoke Chatterjee
Rapporteur: Shri Jogi panghal

Shri Prakash Murthy
Dr Sunny George
Prof. Vinod Krishnan

Shri Prakash Murthy offered a checklist of actions that the KSID could take forward on an urgent basis. He stressed that the pride of the craftsmen was an issue that had to be addressed since many development initiatives have eroded that pride and it needs to be re-instilled in the social fabric of Kerala so that the youth would take up fresh initiatives in the crafts sector with design as a driver.

Prof. Vinod Krishnan raised the issue once again as to whether the KSID should focus on Crafts or on Design as its primary activity. He suggested that the Kerala Planning Board may need to take a call on this matter and issue a clarification so that the further planning could move forward in a determined manner. He proposed that the KSID could be partnered with a leading institute of repute that could help incubate its activities in the early stages of development. He stressed that there is a need for need assessment in Kerala and he endorsed the views expressed earlier for a need survey in Kerala today. He reiterated that KSID could start with a mapping of the various design opportunities that exist and based on this concretize a plan for a design school in Kerala.

Shri Ashoke Chatterjee commented from the Chair that that design could be carried out with crafts in focus and that incubation was a good idea. He called for a vision with an action plan and he called attention to the break between the building and architecture trade and the crafts and called for a renewal of these links through a planned programme of action by the KSID.

Shri T M Cyriac made a visual presentation of the hotel buildings that he had designed for a local developer. He said that the hospitality industry needed good quality furniture and services that were not currently available in Kerala or for that matter in India today. He showed the work that he had outsourced from producers in Bali, Indonesia and these covered stone, glass, wood and metal components and systems that had been executed to specifications produced in his office as well as based on drawings by local artists and master craftsmen. He explained that Bali had perfected the art of giving design and production services at a reasonable cost and at good quality using a very reliable supply etnic that made his work easy. He said that Bail offered a number of ready solutions that could be customized for local appiications with ease. He specifically commented that it was easy to get a new design prototyped and fabricated through the Bali producers. This is the impact of globalization.

In the discussions that followed many issues of globalization and cultural expression were discussed. Shri Jogi Panghal mentioned that Shri Singhal in Jaipur offered similar services to international architects using the Rajasthan crafts skills and contacts. Shri Ashoke Chatterjee added that he had seen a traditional expression done in the Carribean that was sourced from Bali. The discussion touched upon globalization, business excellence, competition and the role of crafts in the future and how KSID could take a cue for all that was happening around us today. Prof Sangita Shroff mentioned that crafts sensibilities need to be introduced from the school level itself and offered the example of the Krishmnamurthy Foundation schools that took this training and exposure very seriously for their students. Those who get such and exposure go on in life to many different occupations but they are all sensitive to art and culture and this majkes a huge difference to their professional lives and brings quality to all their activities. Shri Ashoke Chatterjee suggested that the infrastructure of the ITI’s could be a source for new opportunities for such high quality business training of artisans. He proposed the use of tools to reduce drudgery and offered a few examples of their successful use in some major projects involving stone, stained glass and other materials. Prof Sudhakar Reddy suggested that functional and utility crafts could be an area of focus. Shri Ashoke Chatterjee warned that excessive dependence on exports may harm the crafts due to rapid change in their demand structure and suggested that local markets as an alternative that could be developed.

Image06: Day two: Session four

Prof Vinod Krishnan came forward and gave a summary of the proceedings in Malayalam for the benefit of the participants from the local NGO sector.

Shri Ashoke Chatterjee summarized the comments and proposals from the preceding three sessions in a list of 32 specific suggestions and comments and he called for these points to be taken forward in the group workshop sessions that would follow after the groups reassembled. The groups were divided into two teams, one to look at the Administrative and Infrastructure issues that had to be addressed and the other group would look at Programmes and Activities that the KSID could take up with the immediate funds available with it and at its disposal. He listed a number of action points that had come up in all the discussions that had taken place so far.

1. KSID needs a full time Registrar to assist the Director.
2. KSID needs full time Programme officers to manage and handle startup projects as well as field work type projects.
3. KSID Director needs a full time Office assistant.
4. KSID needs a full time Librarian to be able to start the acquisition of book resources in a sustained manner.
5. A one page brief to be developed by the working group to be given to the KSID architects and a procedure that could be implemented urgently.
6. Location of the budgets needed and the development of suitable heads and subheads that could be assigned to specific tasks on a priority basis.
7. Delegation of powers for the use of these budgets by the Director and by other functionaries based on and approved action plan.
8. Documentation of all programmes carried out by the KSID so far needs to be done and these should be packaged so that they can have an impact with users and the State Government and other stakeholders who need to know.
9.Need for marketing expertise at KSID was felt and the Entrepreneurship Development Institute could help in this matter.
10. Mapping Kerala with the use of rich visual mapping techniques is an urgent need.
11. Photography skills could be rapidly developed and shared through the medium of short courses and workshops that are aimed at specific groups.
12. New opportunities could be explored with obvious partners such as the ITI’s, the Weavers Service Centres and look at the needs of sunrise sectors such as the Wellness Industry and the Hospitality sector, Health sector and Sports sector with a focus on National thrust areas.
13. A detailed Action Plan for the immediate period and an extended plan for the first two years.
14. Vision and Mission explained: Vision is a picture of tomorrow : Mission is the roadmap of how to reach that goal.
15. KSID has not shown any real progress since May 2009 meeting and that is not acceptable. State Government need to do more.
16. Commenting on Prof Prabhat Patnaik’s opening address he suggested that KSID should discuss the empowerment of people and the feudal make up of the Kerala. From this base develop a clear brief for the programmes and activities of the KSID.
17. Crafts could be a starting point for KSID activities.
18. Called for a clear articulation of “what does Kerala want?” and “What does Kerala need?’ based on the call made by Prof M P Ranjan in his approach paper.
19. Recalled that Shri Jogi Pangal had raised the same questions and had suggested field surveys as a way to answer some of these.
20. Asks for recommendations for the specific crafts that could be taken forward by KSID.
21. Asks for an active contribution from the KSID Board for directions forward from this event.
22. Stressed to get activities started even if the building and campus may take some more time.
23. Need top explore the suggestions of having an MOU with NID and IICD at an early stage.
24. Explore the relationship between designers and craftspersons and build strong linkages in the discussions ahead.
25. Need to develop mutual respect between designers and craftsmen.
26. Quality – What is it? The need for clear benchmarks for KSID to follow.
27. Bibliographies of all crafts documentations done by NID, IICD and NIFT could be collected by the KSID as a starting point for their own research initiatives.
28. List of key books for KSID own resource centre may be developed and the suggested ones immediately were tha Handmade in India, Bamboo & Cane Crafts, Stone Crafts of India etc.
29. Invite KSID and Crafts Council of India to conduct an economic survey of the Kerala crafts sector.
30. Recalled suggestion by Shri Jogi Panghal that vision and mission of KSID must be value based and called for the development of a list of values that could guide the further proceedings.
31. The question of wheteher KSID will be a Design School may be deferred for the future discussion while direct action plans are drawn up today.
32. Sugggested the formation of two breakout groups that could discuss these issues in depth and prepare recommendations for the KSID management to take up later.

In the discussions that followed Shri Jogi Panghal stressed that the visual mapping project may be taken up as a priority area. Prof M P Ranjan called for a multi disciplinary approach and said that besides designers the use of anthropologists and ethnographers may also be considered but work must be in a design mode of finding new opportunities rather than just collecting facts.

Prof M P Ranjan stressed the need for spreading design knowledge specifically in Kerala by the use of the local language in both schools as well as at the college levels as an activity for the KSID to take up that would bring it visibility for its intellectual contributions and a better understanding of the complex subject that is much needed in India today. Kerala and KSID could take leadership by producing some popular design books that explain the subject in the local language as a co-branded product or an KSID imprint in cooperation with the publishers as well ast the authors of the selected works. He specifically recommended two books listed below for consideration.
1. Design and Environment by Prof Kumar Vyas, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad 2009
2. Design: A very Short Introduction, by Prof John Heskett, Oxford University Press – India Edition, New Delhi, 2007

Image07: Day two: Session five

Working Groups Formed
1. Administrative and Infrastructure needs of KSID
2. Programmes and Activities for KSID

Working groups assembled in two parts of the conference room and over two sessions worked our=t a checklist of recommendations that were captured on chart paper diagrams and these were presented to the plenary session in the presence of Prof Prabhat Patnaik. Base on these discussions the following recommendations emerged.

1. Administrative and Infrastructure needs of KSID
– to be detailed out and listed here by Shri P T Girish based on the notes from Prof T Y Vinod Krishnan (pictures of chart paper attached)

2. Programmes and Activities for KSID
– to be detailed out and listed here by Shri P T Girish based on presentation by Prof M P Ranjan and Shri Jogi Panghal (Pictures of chart paper used in presentation attached)

Concluding Session
Prof Pratap Patnaik summed up the conference presentations and complimented the delegates for the huge effort that had been put in over the two days at Kovalam. He agreed that the Infrastructure plans and activity plans for the KSID would need to be informed by flexibility in thinking and both the space and faculty planning had scope for innovation. He agreed that flexibility was important for a design institute and that all design institutes must be open to new ideas. He agreed that the KSID had started out as an Institute for design and the crafts sector could well be one of its major areas of focus in the early years. The intentions of the KSID have been articulated in the MOA based on which it was registered but the Government of Kerala had an open mind and the experts could shape the institute as we moved forward. However he suggested that we should not loose sight of design as a driver for the activities at the KSID.

He opined that KSID may face many hurdles and being in the Government sector may bring in its own constraints but this he felt should not burden the KSID and sometimes the struggle is within ourselves in articulating clearly where we would like to go from here. Frozen structures can only damage the long term viability of any entity and many great institutes tend to loose their vitality after sometime. He urged that the KSID would work in ways to keep this vitality alive for a long time to come and this needs vision and a clarity of mission. He recalled that in the West there are many institutes of excellence that have kept amazing us repeatedly over long periods of time, some over 100 or more years. History of its establishment may have set up some constraints for the KSID but while finance may take some time to respond he did not feel that there were any major constraints that would impede the development of an institute such as the KSID. He felt that there was a need to continue the dialogue with experts as had been done over the past two days and while the Geography in Kerala may be a bit of a constraint with limits set by the hills and the seas the mind need not be limited by these geographic limitations. He suggested that both the Governing Body and an Executive Body or Council could be considered if found necessary for operational reasons and thanked the members for their contributions at the conference and workshop sessions at Kovalam over the past two days.

The above post was drafted based on my notes at the two day conference at Kovalam on 9th and 10th November 2009.

Prof M P Ranjan

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Design Thinking: The Flavor of the Month

Design Thinking and Action in India and elsewhere.

Prof. M P Ranjan

The month of November 2009 seems to be the Design Thinking month with so many events and discussions taking place on the subject all around the world. It surely is the flavor of the month as far as I am concerned since I have been named amongst the top twenty design thinkers of the world by a very generous blogger in Columbus, Ohio State, USA. The list is located on the Design Thinking Exchange site that is managed by Nicolae Halmaghi through his own research initiatives and the list is his personal view but he supports it with the research that he has carried out over the past few years. This has raised many voices in India and elsewhere and my mail box is full of congratulatory messages that I cannot reply individually so I have decided to make this post and explain what seems to be happening in the design thinking space.

Image01: An early representation of design thinking as a model that was used to teach NID students in the Design Concepts & Concerns class as prepared in 1990. This was retrieved from Nagraj Seshadri's class notes which were submitted to the NID Library as part of the course documentation that was done over the years.

I write to Nicolae Halmaghi to explain why he had included me on his list of top twenty design thinkers in the world especially since I am yet to publish a major book on the subject although I do have many published and unpublished teaching notes and papers that were prepared over the years on the subjects of design, design education, design methods, design concepts & concerns course and on design thinking as well. I quote from my mail to Nicolae:

I was quite surprised to see my name on the top twenty list particularly since I have not yet published a comprehensive book on the subject of design or design thinking although I have many papers on my website and my blogs dating back to my early teaching notes and published papers. My three books to date are on bamboo and design and on the Handcrafts of India called "Handmade in India".

I am curious to know the extent of your research and if you are aware of the work done at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad over the past 50 years since it was set up in the early 60's based on the seminal report by Charles and Ray Eames called the India Report. You have not included NID in your list of Design schools either on your site. In particular which is the paper or papers you have referred to in making your assessment for the list. You mention a 1989 paper, I am curious as to which one this is. I have many papers from the 80's and several 'unpublished' ones but most of these were distributed as xerox copies to my class in design methods along with models that I used to explain the concepts“.

Image02: A chart showing the development of the Design Methods course at NID from its origins on the 60’s to the forms that it took till the time the chart was created in 1995. The course was then called Design Concepts and Concerns as it now stand today. The course has evolved further in its content and teaching method which has been explained in my paper for the EAD06 Conference in 2005.

Nicolae graciously wrote back and I quote the part of the message below and he has also made an additional post on his blog after some critical comments from Bruce Nussbaum.
“I must admit I have stumbled over your papers accidentally, about a year ago. I was very unhappy with the “muddying” of an emerging discipline and I felt very alone. Everybody seamed to be happy with the progress, except me. At that point, I was working on finding unifying principles that allow seamless communication across different systems (financial, economical etc) across both brain hemispheres.

I am not quite sure what I was searching for, but all of a sudden, I realized that I was staring at a paper whose content was plagiarized for years by an entire industry. Most of the architecture, structure and process of what we now call Design Thinking was there. All of the current buzz terms associated with design thinking were eloquently presented in this paper. Even the term “Design Thinking” was there, except it was used very inauspiciously without great fanfare.
The paper that I am talking about is “Design Visualization”, published in1997 (I think I said 1998. will correct immediately)

The paper that Nicolae referes to can be downloaded from this link here. Download paper as a pdf file here

Image03: Profile of the Emerging Designer model as it is used today was also modified a number of times and now it has a central core that is Values which inform all other actions and thoughts of as part of the design process.

I did some background research from my own archives as well as from the NID Library where we had placed student notes from the courses that had been conducted in Design Process way back in 1982 onwards. This I did to check the provenance of my ideas on design thinking. I found an early diagram that I had used to explain design thinking in Nagraj Seshadri’s class notes from the 1991 Foundation class at NID when he was a student in my DCC class. Nagraj went on to graduate from the product design programme at NID and then did his Masters Degree from the RCA, London also in Product Design. In 1999 he won the first ever award offered by Core77.com for his classroom project carried out at the RCA, an intuitive electronic music device for children. When I browsed through his Foundation document of 1991 I saw that he was involved in a group assignment that dealt with the key words “Toy – Physics – Child” and the group explored the concept and built an interaction matrix that captured numerous attributes through the analysis of all the traditional folk toys that were in Sudarshan Khanna’s book, Folk Toys of India. This for me demonstrates the reflexive nature of design activity and of design thinking itself. George Soros explains his concept of reflexivity in his book Open Society and also in his recent online lectures available from the Financial Times website here. This shows that one engagement with design thinking on a particular subject could be a life long engagement since the act does something to you while you try to do something to the world.
Core77 Competitions list
Digital Sound Factory for Kids by Nagraj Seshadri

So I wrote back to Nicolae and told him about my findings.
Thank you for the clarification. However, it is very daunting to be placed in the rarified space of the worlds top twenty, which is always a very difficult task since there are so many perspectives from which all of us work and look at ourselves and our peers. Your blog post has stirred up much interest here in India and I hope that it will bring a better appreciation of the role of design itself.

I must give you a background for the 1997 paper on Design Visualisation. I started teaching a number of courses at NID dealing with materials and geometry in the early 70's and was part of the group that worked closely with the development of the Foundation Programmes at the Institute, particularly for the Undergraduate programme in Design. I started teaching Design Methods as a course in the early 80's and in these courses used the work of Prof Bruce Archer and the works of John Chris Jones and Christopher Alexander as the platform for building a teaching module for NID's Foundation programme in design. In 1988 Prof Bruce Archer visited NID and I had the opportunity to act as guide and local host and traveled with him to Bombay IIT for a short exposure at IDC. During this early period I had prepared many slides with models that could be projected on an over head projector and these were used in the class as well as distributed as teaching notes along with a course abstract paper. The course evolved each year due to interactions with students as well as critiques from faculty colleagues in a very lively environment that was the NID of the 80's and 90's. Much of this work is undocumented although occasional internal papers may have been distributed since all the texts were made on ordinary typewriters and never published.

The Design Visualisation paper too was never formally published but earlier versions of this pdf file were shared with students and faculty at NID as xerox copies of typed paper. This particular version was made after our Apple Mac lab got established in 1988 when I started converting the OHP slides into computer illustrations and this too went into many versions in those days. While these models have been with my students all along I was able to share these with a wider audience only after I set up my website in 2004. All along I have been collecting a substantial list of books as well as using ones that are in our Institute library. Of these I would list the HfG Ulm and Bauhaus papers as major sources of design exploration and pedagogy. In early September 2003 I made my first post on the PhD-Design List <003565>and from then onwards I have made perhaps 150 posts in response to the very stimulating exchanges that have been taking place on that list about the nature of design and all aspects of the subjects. This paper was first posted on the PhD-Design list as a text contribution on 20th September 2003 during a discussion on Creativity and Visualisation <003681>

There are many serious design thinkers populating the PhD-Design list who have been making significant contribution to our understanding of design and design thinking. I wonder if you have studied this list. I am hugely impressed by the thoughts and writings of Klaus Krippendorff, Jerrome Diethelm, Charles Brunette, and many others on that list, to name only a few. Next month I will be traveling to Melbourne at the invitation of Ken Friedman, Dean, Swinburne University Department of Design to attend a conference on Design Thinking on the 21st and 22nd November. We will expect to meet many of the leaders of design thinking at that conference and I look forward to it. I have also been invited to speak to business leaders by the Design Victoria at a breakfast meet on 24th November at Geelong.

Notwithstanding the Design Thinking Exchange posts and the top twenty list we do see signs that things are stirring up and Design Thinking is becoming the flavor of the month. Last week Bruce Nussbaum sat down with Tim Brown and with Roger Martin, authors of two new books on design thinking for business applications and these talks were much publicized. Tim Brown’s TED Talk is doing its rounds and Roger Martin too appears in the New School interview. Both the books landed on my desk thanks to my advance orders at Amazon. I will get down to reading them when I get back from my own do at Melbourne. Another significant event is the ICSID conference in Singapore from 23 to 25 November and the theme is …. Design Thinking!! NID Director, Prof Pradyumna Vyas and two faculty colleagues Prof Vinai Kumar, Acting Dean Gandhinagar and Prof Shashank Mehta, Chairman Faculty Development Centre will be traveling to Singapore as well. Prof Proadyumna Vyas will be standing for election to the ICSID Board in the long tradition of the NID Directors since Prof Kumar Vyas, Mr Vinay Jha, and Darlie O Koshy and I would urge all ICSID members to cast their vote in his favor.

So Design Thinking is indeed the flavor of the month and is here to stay and I hope India will take it a bit more seriously than it has been over the past 50 years since design was established as a discipline here in India.

Prof. M P Ranjan

Monday, November 2, 2009

Animation at NID: A brief History

Chitrakatha 2009 and the memories from NID's animation journeys

Prof. M P Ranjan

With the CNBC TV18 bestowing a singular honor by recognizing Sekhar Mukherjee as India’s animation teacher of excellence through their Golden Cursor Excellence in Animation Awards conferred on him 8 May 2009 at a glittering function in Mumbai we get an opportunity to look back at the stirrings of animation in India and how it set roots at NID.

Image01: The CNBC TV 18 award to Sekhar Mukherjee has finally brought some recognition to NID teachers in Animation Design discipline. We can review this in the backdrop of the Chitrakatha 2009 events at NID over the past three days.

This is a brief but incomplete history of the valiant efforts made at NID over the years to establish an animation based profession in India, the first institute to take up this challenge. Jayanthi Sen in her article in Animation World Network ion 19 October 1999 maps the origins of animation in India with the arrival of the Cartoon Film Unit at the Films Division set up buy the Government of India. In the mid 50’s they brought Disney Studio maestro, Claire Weeks to train the first batch of trained animators for the Indian scene. The story of NID’s contribution to Indian animation has not been written and I do hope that some serious research scholar will take up this challenge and articulate the epic journey from its origins in 1963 when the Oxbury camera came to NID to the Chitrakatha 2009 and beyond.

Image02: Animation heros seen at the Chitrakatha 2009 event on the NID campus at Paldi. Each of them a leader in the field and with many successful films to their credit.

However in 1961 NID was set up at Ahmedabad and very early in its development the Visual Communication programmes were established with the offering of the first Post Graduate Programme that started in 1963. Amongst the first batch was Ishu Patel who having joined the programme to study Graphic Design gravitated to learning animation after a foundation in Graphics from the master Armin Hoffman. While he was a student at NID two animators came to NID and made a great little film in the mid 60’s called Swimmy. Leo Leonni and Gulio Gianini were assisted by Ishu Patel, Mahendra C Patel, Vikas Satwalekar and I S Mathur, all first generation students at NID in the Visual Communication programme.

Image03: Chitrakatha 2007 showcased NID animation and set the stage for a broader recognition of NID’s contributions to the field of animation film making in India over the years.

Ishu Patel studied Graphics at Basel under Armin Hoffman and in 1970 was deputed to the National Film Board of Canada to study animation. This started a life long passion for animation and a long string of great experimental films made both at NID as well as at the NFBC which he joined full time in 1972. He returned to India each year to share his work at the Institute and many NFBC films came into the NID archives most notable of which are the fine collection from Norman McLaren and later from Ishu Patel himself. Saul Bass and Charles and Ray Eames too were highly influential in the early years in shaping the directions of animation at NID through screenings of their work on a regular basis in the NID auditorium.

Ishu Patel on Wikipedia
Leo Leoni on Wikipedia
Gulio Gianini on Wikipedia
Charles and Ray Eames on Wikipedia
Saul Bass on Wikipedia
National Film Board of Canada on Wikipedia

Image04: Scenes from Chitrakatha 2009 at NID campus between 29th and 31st October 2009.

The next generation of NID students included R L Mistry and Narayanbhai Patel who took to animation and illustration through their long career as student and later teachers NID. Narayanbhai experimented with paper sculpture based animations while R L Mistry explored many styles of illusrtration and developed his art to a very high level of perfection and achieved the distinction of getting the National Award for his film the national Highway from the President of India. After Ishu Patel left NID in 1972 it was R L Mistry who took up the major responsibility of teaching animation to students at NID and there were a steady stream of interested candidates who loved the medium and wished to explore but the funding was limited and hard to find and the Oxbury camera was available only in limited periods due to cost of operation. NID’s exhibition design projects brought in many opportunities for the animation activity and the education programme too legitimized the periodic use of the medium for basic exercises that were many.

R L Mistry on NID website : A book by Prakash Moorthy

Image05: Additional scenes from Chitrakatha 2009 at NID campus between 29th and 31st October 2009.

The next batch of NID animators included Nina Sabnani, Binita Desai and Chitra Sarathy who joined NID as informal learners in short term programmes offered by the department and International consultants were present to conduct some of the programmes for these students at NID. The trio spent a period of experimental work in Calcutta with the Graphic Designer Raghunath Goswami who experimented with the medium for social communication tasks as part of his studio in the Eastern India. NID produced a intermediate technology animation stand for use with a stop frame movie camera and this stand was shifted to Calcutta for use by the NID animators in Goswami’s office. Late 70’s and the early 80’s found Ashoke Chatterjee at the helm of NID as its Director and he insisted on the use of animation for developmental comminication of a variety of types. He managed to get the Ministry of Health to invest in NID animation abilities and Nina Sabnani produced a series of films on the subject of maturation of the girl child and child birth and the associated health issues. In the 80’s and 90’s animation was used extensively for making many short instructional films for screening at the NID designed theme exhibitions such as the Energy pavilion in 1983 that was headed by Vikas Satwalekar. However in spite of these successful demonstrations funding from Government sources was hard to come by and it was back to education assignments to keep the Oxbury camera busy through the year.

Binita Desai made a presentation about 20 years of NID animation at Chitrakatha 2007 and the link here shows her talk in summary on the blog All About Animation:

The UNDP programme of support for the Institute in late 80’s saw the arrival of some support for the animation programme at NID by way of international consultants and travel and study opportunities for NID faculty. Nina and Binny having joined the faculty were deputed to the UK to study animation under Roger Noake while their initial training was provided by Claire Weeks at NID. After their return Nina and Binny got involved in animation education and in making occasional demonstration films and work on a variety of projects that included animation skills such as the animated symbols for the Doordarshan TV channels. The next generation of students included both those in the Post Graduate programme as well as students for the Under Graduate programme at NID. With the arrival of digital technology in the 90’s the field of animation received a great deal of interest in India and the spread of Television across India also brought in new opportunities for the NID animation students. The music channels provided internship opportunities and soon a flood of employment opportunities came their way and Bombay studios gave many of our students professional placement. The other major employer was the IT interactive media industry that took students for gaming and new media product applications and numerous diploma projects were sponsored by industry and these gave a new edge to the animation activity at the institute. I hope that some of these stories will be documented and shared in the days ahead and I am happy that the two Chitrakatha episodes of 2007 and 2009 have given our alumni a platform to share their journeys.

Image06: Stills from the trailer of “Arjun” an animated feature film being directed and produced in Mumbai by Arnab Choudhury and Pavan Buragohain for the UTV Productions due for release early in 2010.

The NID animation department has produced many champions of Indian animation and their story too needs to be told at some length, hopefully after a good deal of research since there is much to be said here. However I am aware of some of these cases since these students have been in touch with me over the years and I have been watching their progress as young professionals and now as accomplished animators that India has to offer to the world. This group includes many individuals and here I can only mention a few that I am aware of in some detail. They include Prakash Moorthy, Umesh Shukla, Dhimant Vyas, Vaibhav Kumaresh, E Suresh, Arnab Choudhury and Pavan Buragohain. I do hope that the others will share what they are up to these days and tell us about the exciting projects that they have on hand, a bit of which we were able to glimpse during the Chitrakatha 2009 that just concluded at NID between 29th to 31st October 2009. Besides the international presenters from Mexico and China we had some from experts from industry and education from Kolkatta, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. However bulk of the presentations were from the NID graduates who are making waves in India across a number of media sectors from advertising, TV entertainment, game design, childrens animation, edutainment, and most exciting of all mainstream feature length animation due to hit the stands shortly. Student animators too showcased their work across many sectors and entries were screened from many nations during the three days as part of the student competition entries that were judged by a panel of jurors and awarded at the end of the event. Others who came to NID for the event include Sheetal Sudhir and Manish Sehrawat of Channel V and Sanjay Jangir, a recent NID graduate showed his Diploma film that was feated at film festivals in Canada, Switzerland and Japan recently.

Pavan Buragohin on the web link:

A note about the making of “Arjun” screening at NID during the Chitrakatha 2009 that appeared in the Ahmedabad Mirror.

Sanjay Jangir web link for Raah:

Image07: An exhibition about Comic Books on the sidelines of the Chitrakatha 2009 at the NID Gallery and other related events exploring the role of Comics in national education of the future.

While the most exciting presentation for me personally was the screening of the making of “Arjun” which promises to be the first ever full length feature animation film to be produced by a group of NID animators and that too as a fully indigenous production effort. This was particularly interesting since Arnab Choudhury shared the design process and the stages through which the film had to be visualized with the use of live action to discover both characters as well as postures and action sequences, dramatization of the theme and scenes, and the followup articulation with sketches and diagrams of key figures, characters and scenes so that these could be passed on to the production stage in a coherent manner involving a vast group of service providers without compromising the quality and intention of the designers involved. This process promises to create a solid foundation for a vibrant animation industry in India that delivers compelling products instead of just BPO type finishing touches to international producers. Further the quality and impact of the presentation was such that many of us left the auditorium feeling that the team had a Oscar quality film in the making, we wish the team all the very best in the days ahead. NID animation has finally arrived at the national stage and that too with a big bang!! Other young designers are in the ranks and they will be able to dream big and have the conviction to take on the Bollywood producers and money bags who have been sitting on the sidelines so far in the days ahead I am sure. Government of India could do well to find and channel venture funding for the young creative animation producers and this will speed up the process of seeding a fantastic industry based on design talent in India of the future.

I was invited by Sekhar Mukherjee to sit in on a panel discussion on the topic of the role Comic Books in Education in India. The discussions were quite stimuilating and there is indeed a role that Comics will and can play in the days ahead. I mentioned the book by Scott McCloud called “Understanding Comics” which I have been reading with great interest for the theory that it provides us and also about TED talks where Scott McCloud gives us an insight into the world of Comics that is both informative as well as entertaining.

Prof. M P Ranjan

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ethics in Design: Istanbul conference and after

Images and Comments: Istanbul conference and after

Prof. M P Ranjan

On the 8th of October 2009 Prof M P Ranjan delivered the keynote address at the 4th National Design Conference at Istanbul Turkey and spent the next day listening to the numerous sessions at the conference on various issues dealing with design that the Turkish scholars found interesting and relevant, all in Turkish, with two student guides whispering the English translation into his ears. The conference was stimulating and the event was conducted in a historic setting of the Istanbul Technical University at Taskisla in Taksim in the heart of Istanbul. The conference was organized by Prof Alpay Er, Head of Department, Industrial Product Design at ITU and the participants came from many of the 24 schools of industrial design in Turkey and included teachers, students and professional designers. The keynote paper and visual presentation titled “Hand-Head-Heart: Ethics in Design” can be downloaded from here from this blog.
Download full paper titled "Hand-Head-Heart: Ethics in Design" here -PDF file 360kb Full Text
Download visual presentationas a pdf file here - PDF file 4.8 mb visual presentation screen resolution

Image1: Prof M P Ranjan delivers keynote lecture titled “Hand-Head-Heart: Ethics in Design” at the ITU Auditorium in Istanbul on 8th October 2009. The theme of the conference is “Design or Crisis”.

Image2: The historic building of the Istanbul Technical University has a mural painted by Abdurrahman Öztoprak from 1950’s while the building itself dates back to the 1850’s.

Cigcem Kaya, one of the researchers at ITU wrote to me that this fresco on one of the walls of Istanbul Techical University, School of Architecture, is one of the major works of Abdurrahman Öztoprak from 1950s. Trained in Academy of Fine Arts (Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University) by Nurullah Berk, Öztoprak is one of the first and most reputable social realist painters of the country with some embodiment cubism as well. Although housed in an architecture school not many people know about the legacy of this fresco. It lies silent behind gatherings and conferences: untitled. Further enquiries with Fatma Merve, one of my student guides revealed that, "Abdurrahman Öztoprak (*1927 Istanbul, lives in Akyaka) is one of Turkey’s leading contemporary artist of international stature. His works are represented in the permanent collections of major museums and private collections in Turkey. He draws his inspirations for his abstract compositions primarily from Classical European Music. He created a unique body of abstract works during a fifty year period. On July 1st 2007 Abdurrahman Öztoprak has been eighty years old. Öztoprak was educated at the Art Academies in Istanbul and Rome and worked in Germany between 1960 and 1975. Öztoprak’s abstract paintings are a true archive artistic dialogue between East and West cultures and testimony to the way in which different traditions express their feelings. Their messages are continually universal. The geometrical abstract works of artist demonstrates a unique imaginative form vocabulary. Öztoprak’s paintings have recorded interesting dialogue between Oriental and Occidental Art; through them we witness a fertile symbiosis of Turkish and European Culture."

Image3: The beautiful courtyard at the Istanbul Technical University springs to life in the coffee and cocktail breaks and students stream out to sit in the sun and socialize between classes. Pelin Kazak who picked me up from the airport won the best prize for the student exhibit.

Image4: Experiencing street food views in Istanbul with student volunteers on the day before the ITU conference.

Image5: Entrance to the ITU building with the conference poster and views from the conference venue during the keynote lecture.

Image6: On the sidelines of the conference XXI Design Magazine conducted an interview with Prof M P Ranjan

Image7: On the day after the conference Merve and Saniye, student volunteers showed me the scenes of the Bosphorus, crossed over to the other side of Golden Horn and looked at the covered market and took the ferry ride to end the day.

Image8: Sunday it was street life in Istanbul on both sides of the Bosphorus, teeming with people, dressed in their best and nowhere to go in particular and nothing to do in particular, an interesting day of ambling about on the town.

Image9: Return journey through Doha Airport in Qatar is one big shopping mall and a number of halls full of Eames Tandem Sling Seating just like the original prototype that we have in the NID Prototype Collection back home at Paldi campus.

Prized takeaway from Turkey: A small book, "On Methods of Research by Bruce Archer, published locally by METU Faculty of Architecture Press, Ankara, 1999" was presented to me by Prof. Dr Fatma Korkut and Prof. Dr Gulay Hasdogan, both faculty at the Department of Industrial Design at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara in Turkey. This book is in both English and in Turkish language, front to back, and as a low cost offering it makes available valuable insights into design and research from one of the world thought leaders in the subject. I was wondering if India too could not do this and if some Indian school takes up this challenge they will soon be seen as the design leaders in the region themselves. I have a wish list of a set of books that must be made widely available to Indian audiences from the school level all the way to the level of industry stalwarts and Government officials who should be exposed to ideas in design if we are to see a change in the use of design in India in real sectors of national need. Is anybody listening?

Design Thinking: Is however the Flavour of the Day. Design Thinking Exchange posted a list of thinkers that generated scores of emails and Facebook & Twitter posts that came my way. Thank you all for your mails and Tweets. More about this in my next post, particularly since I am off to Melbourne next month to participate in another conference on Design Thinking organised by the Swinburne University by Prof Ken Friedman, Dean, Swinburne Design.

Prof. M P Ranjan

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hand-Head-Heart: Ethics in Design

Hand-Head-Heart: Ethics in Design : Keynote address at the 4th National Design Convention at Istanbul on 8th October 2009.

Prof M P Ranjan

Prof M P Ranjan has been invited to deliver the keynote lecture at the 4th National Design Convention at Istanbul that is being organized by the Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, Turkey. This gives us an opportunity to look at the forces that are influencing design today and those that have helped shaped it over the past five to eight decades since the Bauhaus and the Hfg Ulm schools in Germany. My lecture looks at the ethical dimensions in design and I am quoting the abstract of my paper below along with a couple of models that I shall be using to explore these dimensions in my lecture. It is supported by case studies that we had researched for the sustainability posters that we had designed for the World Economic Forum in January this year as well as some of our own work at NID that could illustrate these ethical dimensions as we go forward from here. The various ethical dimensions have been grouped into the three orders of design that had been written about in a previous post on this blog and the list of books from my design bookshelf is also quoted below for immediate reference.

Image01: Title page of the visual presentation titled “Hand-Head-Heart: Ethics in Design”


Keynote lecturer at the 4th National Design Conference between 8th and 9th October 2009 at ITU in Istanbul, Turkey at the invitation of the Department of Industrial Product Design at Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and the conference co-sponsors, Koleksion A.S., Profilo and the ITU.

Our understanding of design has been evolving steadily over the past 100 years and in recent years there has been a rush of new research into a variety of dimensions and Ethics is one the many dimensions that have received research attention. In this paper we look at the various dimensions of design and at current and past definitions to see the contemporary understanding of the subject as we see it today with the aid of models that the author has evolved over several years of reflection and research. We then trace the evolution of design as a natural human activity and restate this history in terms of the major stages of evolution from its origins in the use of fire and tools through the development of mobility, agriculture, symbolic expression, crafts production and on to industrial production and beyond to the information and knowledge products of the day. This sets the stage to ponder about the future of the activity and of the discipline as we see it today.

With the use of a model the expanding vortex of design value and action is discussed with reference to the role of ethics and value orientation at each of the unfolding stages through which we have come to understand and use design over the years. Beginning with the material values of quality and appropriateness we explore the unfolding dimensions of craftsmanship, function, technique, science, economy and aesthetics that has held the attention of design philosophers and artists over the post renaissance period. In the last fifty years our attention has shifted through the work of several design thought leaders to aspects of impact of design on society, communication and semiotics, environment and even on politics and culture with some discussion on each of the major contributors in this ongoing discourse. The further developments that lead to systems thinking and on to the spiritual levels are introduced to place the ethical debate at the centre of the design discourse at each of these levels of engagement.

Some critical case examples are introduced to exemplify the arguments that have been made to establish the various levels of ethical actions that design has discovered and with these the author will argue that design is evolving to a more complex form that will require new kind of integrated design education that is already being experimented with across the world in the face of a series of crisis that we have been facing in industrial, economical, social, and most visibly at the political and ecological levels. These ethical lessons are still diffuse and disconnected in the fabric of design action across the world and we will need to find ways of bringing these to the hand, head and heart of design education if we are to find a new value for design that will help us address the deep crisis that we are facing today.

The full paper addresses the following six questions by expanding on each as we go forward with the discussions that each question entails.
1. What is Design today?
2. How did Design evolve from being a core human activity to become a modern discipline with a significant future?
3. What are the unfolding dimensions and orders of Design that we can call the “Ethical Vortex of Design”?
4. Who are the thought leaders who have anticipated these expanding dimensions of Design particularly from an ethical perspective?
5. Are there some critical cases in this broader filed of Design that could provide clues for our journey forward at each of these ethical nodes towards an “Integrated Design of the Future”?
6. How do we move towards a new Design education that can “Create the Unknowable – the future for all of us”, in an ethical manner and still be in tune with the needs of our times?

Image02: Three Orders of Design: Model showing the expanding dimensions of the vortex of design thought and action.

Thought Leaders in Design: List of books that shaped design thinking in India.

Image03: The Ethical Vortex of Design with the Three Orders overlapped showing the placement of design thought leaders from my personal view and reading.

Design Theory related books which I call the “Design Bookshelf”.

1. Bruce Archer, Design Awareness and Planned Creativity in Industry, Office of Design, Trade and Commerce, Ottawa and the Design Council, London, 1974

2. John Chris Jones, Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, London, 1970

3. John Chris Jones, Designing Designing, Architecture Design and Technology Press, London, 1991

4. Johannes Itten, Design and Form: The Basic Course at the Bauhaus, Thames & Hudson, London, 1963, 1975

5. Josef Albers, Interaction of Color: Revised Edition, Yale University Press, 1971

6. Paul Klee, Pedagogical Sketchbook, Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1953, 1962

7. Paul Klee, Paul Klee Notebooks Volume 1 The Thinking Eye, Lund Humphries, London, 1969

8. Paul Klee, Paul Klee Notebooks: The Nature of Nature Volume 2, Lund Humphries Pub Ltd, 1992

9. Lazlo Moholy Nagy, The New Vision: Fundamentals of Bauhaus Design. Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Daphne M. Hoffmann, Dover Publications, New York, 2005

10. Nigel Whiteley, Design for Society, Reaktion Books Ltd, London, 1993

11. M K Gandhi, Gandhi: 'Hind Swaraj' and Other Writings, in Anthony J. Parel (Ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997

12. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Harper and Row, New York, 1965

13. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, HarperCollins, New York, 1969

14. Robert Prisig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, Bantam, New York, 1984

15. R Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, St. Martin's Griffin; 2nd edition, New York, 1982

16. Otl Aicher, World as Design, Wiley-VCH, Berlin, 1994

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Prof M P Ranjan

Reports on the lecture at Istanbul; have started coming in and these will be pointed from the links here below:

Designophy link: 8th October post on Designophy about the keynote lecture with images

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