Explained: The growing impact of design education in India

Explained: The growing impact of design education in India

By India Today Web Desk: Although design has existed in India in numerous forms since ancient times, it is believed that formal design education began in 1961, with the establishment of the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Deeply influenced by the pedagogy at the Bauhaus and subsequently, Ulm in Germany before and after World War II, Indian design education married the Western pedagogical structures with the Indian social ethos. Design is taught at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral level at universities, not to mention hundreds of small design institutes offering professional diplomas/certificates.


Design, as we say, is a creative problem-solving process used to develop innovative solutions and services to make our lives better. In contrast to the expressionist approach of art, design is strongly focused on identifying the user and market needs, and is therefore a process-centred exercise to develop new and innovative solutions.

The design drives profitability and today talented designers are highly sought after in all leading organizations around the world.

In a report published in 2018, McKinsey tracked the design practices of 300 publicly listed companies over a five-year period in various countries and industries, interviewed senior business and design leaders, collected more than two million pieces of financial data and demonstrated that design Under the guidance of companies has grown twice compared to non-design companies.

It clearly established that design was not just about aesthetics, but rather a business tool for growth and profitability.


Design in India focused on the social sectors before liberalization of the economy and industry after the millennium. As design has embraced industry, designers have retained the philosophical foundation of making the world a better place.

In the next two decades, India saw a dramatic rise in manufacturing and services, with design as an enabler for product and service creation.

Automobiles, housing, furniture, fashion and clothing, consumer electronics, films and the media today offer a plethora of options, all differentiated by design, to meet diverse consumer expectations. Due to the increasing demand for designers, design education must be agile, relevant and technologically adaptable. By this construction, design education is nimble, hands-on, hands-on and an ideal blend of theory and practice.


Design is taught as specializations – Industrial or Product Design (consumer durables, electronics, medical equipment, furniture, lighting, ceramics), Communication Design (Packaging, print media, graphic design, illustration, branding), Fashion and Textiles (clothing, accessories), Spatial Design ( interiors, community spaces, heritage experiences, retail), Interaction Design (UI-UX, Human Machine Interaction, apps, interfaces), Moving Images (film, animation, podcasts) etc.

Design education emphasizes learning by doing, a pragmatic model for putting knowledge into practice.

The knowledge taught in classrooms often reflects this pragmatism, with courses ranging from CAD, ergonomics, design theory, history of design, materials, manufacturing, coding, market research, construction techniques, augmented reality, virtual reality, garment construction, etc.

At universities, students learn a mix of theory and practice, culminating each semester with an innovative project that showcases their learning.


Unlike traditional courses that are evaluated through exams, most design schools evaluate through juries, where professional designers from the industry evaluate students’ work through rigorous debate. Students have to justify their creations from various angles such as market need, user need, materials and manufacturing, usability, comfort and safety to name a few. Students are expected to demonstrate novelty through their creations, and this often drives deliberate innovation.

This leads to a built-in entrepreneurial spirit, with many designers choosing to start their own consultancies or labels. There are three traditional exit routes into design education – employment in studios and large companies, entrepreneurship or solo consultancy, and further education.

Design education is strongly influenced by market forces. In the recent past, we have seen two Meta-forces that have changed the course of human development.

The advent of the Internet in the 1990s and the smartphone revolution in the 2000s irrevocably changed our way of life, consumption and behaviour. Technology has enabled us to leap forward and produce new objects, content and services at lightning speed.

Article by: Bhaskar Bhatt, Associate Professor, and Director, Anant National University, School of Design.

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