What is design?
One may find many definitions of design in books, dictionaries and even
from erudite scholars that define the very nature of design to be as complex
as that of technology. Like for instance John Chris Jones, the famous
welsh designer in his book “Design Methods and Technology: Seeds
of Human Futures” writes;
“Design is essentially a rational, logical, sequential process intended
to solve problems or, initiate change in man-made things” 1
But from a student’s perspective, I guess the best definition I
have found so far is that given by a dear friend. Short and simple…
“Design is Life…”
At a first glance many of you students who are intrigued by this mysterious
and not so well acknowledged ‘world of design’ in India, would
react to it as “how vague is that!” but I believe as you step
into this world you would realize its actually true and one needs passion
to live it!
So, technically one can understand design as a problem solving process.
A process that first identifies and analyses a problem or need and proceeds
through a structured sequence in which information is researched, ideas
are explored and analyzed, until an appropriate solution to the problem
or need is arrived at. Hence design could be viewed as the process that
translates an idea into a blueprint for something useful, whether it's
a vehicle, a building, a graphic, a service or a system.
But at the very basic level, as someone has rightly said; “design
is a search, not for the right answers, but for the significant questions."
So the very obvious next question would be who is a designer and
what is he really supposed to do? Well first and foremost he
must ask the significant questions and for that he needs to be a sensitive
human being. But apart from that he is a highly creative person who enjoys
solving problems. The designer today is like an integrator, one who understands
various standpoints: sociological, political, technological, ethical and
commercial and synthesizes them to implement his vision or idea into a
desirable, feasible and commercially successful result which adds value
to peoples’ lives.
The accomplished American graphic designer Paul Rand puts it like this
"The designer does not, as a rule, begin with a preconceived idea.
His idea is the result of subjective and objective thought, and the design
a product of the idea. In order, therefore, to achieve an honest and effective
solution he necessarily passes thought some sort of mental process ...
Consciously or not, he analyzes, interprets, translates ... He improvises,
invents new techniques and combinations. He coordinates and integrates
his material so that he may restate his problem in terms of ideas, pictures,
forms, and shapes. He unifies, simplifies, and eliminates superfluities.
He symbolizes ... abstract from his material by association and analogy.
He intensifies and reinforces his symbol with appropriate accessories
to achieve clarity and interest. He draws upon instinct and intuition.
He considers the spectator, his feelings and predilections."
design might sound as a gargantuan task on reading all of this but trust
me, once trained as a designer the process becomes second nature, but
not to forget with hard work and motivation, which is off course essential
to achieve anything, actually. So, if you are firm in your views and looking
for a career which will give the creative streak in you an outlet and
also provide you with a good living, design may be the profession for
What are the various fields of design?
Design today is everywhere. It's driving businesses, cultures, media and
technology and making sure environments (virtual or real) are easier to
navigate. We could categorize the following as broad fields of design
which imbibe various specializations within themselves.
• Communication design (Animation, Web Design, Graphics, Printing,
Film and Video)
• Space design (Architecture and Interior Design, Exhibition,
Merchandizing, Set Design, Sigange Design)
• Industrial Design (Transportation, Furniture, Ceramics,
Products and Packaging)
• Fashion Design (Textiles, Fashion, Accessories, Jewellery)
• Craft Design (Material Based, Technology based)
• Interaction design (User experience design, User Interface
design, New Media Design, Game Design)
• Service Design
• Design management (Design Policy, Design Strategy, Design Planning,
What do you need to get through a design school?
There are various schools, which we call D-schools (Design schools, that
is!!) which provide education in the above mentioned fields of design.
And answering the next question popping in your heads!!...i would say
that to get through one of these D-schools, fundamentally, one needs common
sense and a mind to think things differently. Say for instance if you
know a certain problem can be solved in a particular way which is most
common, a solution that would occur to many, one should try n exert one’s
mind to think of a different innovative solution to the same problem.
Apparently, it’s the key to getting through any competitive design
exam. Also, one needs basic sketching skills as it helps to put one’s
mind on paper… “Whats in your head needs to be seen, right?”
the ability to reason with logic, the ability to think futuristic and
the ability to visualize random thoughts through a logical process. Apart
from these a general awareness about emergent technologies, systems and
a keen observation of the world around you, would make you a befitting
choice as a design student.
How to prepare for a design school admission test?
So in order to prepare for a D-School admission test, well, I would say,
the best way is to not prepare at all, and land at the examination centre
with your common sense and lateral thinking caps bang on! But jokes apart,
besides that, one should consciously try and develop keen observation
and with practice try to retain more and more information in memory from
what you see around you and read everyday. Usually most D-schools would
have their specific admission tests which would aim at testing what they
term as ‘your aptitude” for design. This usually would mean
how you approach a particular problem given, what is your process of thinking
and what off course is your solution. They'll usually ask you to visually
represent your concepts and ideas (so you'll need to practice your sketching
and drawing skills). They might also throw at you some really out of the
world questions like randomly, “why did the cat eat the dog?”
The point I am trying to get at is, that one can be a little imaginative
and respond to such questions, there are no hard and fast rules; you make
your rules as long as you can justify them.
aptitude test most often is followed by a selection round and thereafter
an interview, where one gets an opportunity to present one’s interest
in the field and carrying some examples of your work: sketches, scribbles,
some personal explorations in your area of interest are advisable. If
you have the right attitude and the communication skills (drawing and
speaking) and be creative with your ideas, you can do well.
Information on admission tests to D-schools and architecture colleges
can be found on their respective websites as well as here at “www.designinindia.net”
So now we come to what one can expect at a design school, how
do they teach?
What do they teach? D-schools mostly offer design degrees with some specialization,
which is understandable as design is all encompassing and focusing one’s
interests in a particular field of design most definitely makes sense.
The curriculum would involve certain fundamental courses and certain specialized
courses depending on whether the degree is a graduate or postgraduate
degree. The teaching atmosphere is essentially free and emphasis is on
one on one interaction between the teachers and the students. As part
of Design Studios students are given practical problems to solve and hence
the process of design is left for exploration. Though most design schools
would expect students to be self motivated and hard working, with dedicated
faculty, one can obtain insights into ones work regularly. The opinions
given by faculty over work are often known as critique sessions and if
worked out with research, logical reasoning and conviction one can always
defend ones solution. Its also part of the training - one needs to be able to present
and “convince” an idea to a client.
What are the job opportunities after studying design?
After a graduate or post graduate degree in design, there is a sea of
job opportunities one can avail of. Industrial and product designers usually
get work opportunities in production and manufacturing companies and professional
design studios. Communication and interaction designers work in fields
like media industry, publishing and advertisement firms, and of late,
in the IT industry. With a few years of experience, designers then have
opportunities to get into design management and R&D. Besides, designers
can always venture into freelancing when they feel they have adequate
understanding of the design industry.
Where could one pursuer higher studies and research?
Apart from the above, after a professional degree, there are also options
of pursuing higher studies and research. Depending on personal interest
one can choose to pursue a doctorate either in India or overseas. Various
universities and design schools offer doctorates in design and enable
associations with the arts, human sciences, computing or business for
research. Apart from that research with companies and within the industry
or with government aided projects could also be overtaken.
A list of all institutions (with contact information)
offering courses on design is available - Click
Information on admission tests to D-schools and architecture
colleges can be found on their respective websites as well as here - Click