Industry exposure for design students is an indispensable part of their education, says Krishan Jagota, President of the Association of Designers of India, Mumbai Chapter. Jagota, who is also the Head of Product Design at Sideways Consulting, tells Education Post’s Tanay Kumar how he went about bringing a student exchange scholarship program to Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (HTW), Berlin at his alma mater, the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.
You completed engineering in IT and are now a well-known name in the Indian design circle. When did you realize your interest in the field of design?
The bigger reason that I pursued engineering was cricket as I came to know that the Jaypee Institute of Information and Technology (Noida) has a big cricket ground and I used to play cricket a lot. I didn’t know what I actually wanted to do, so I did it majorly just for graduation.
My mother was a professor. In college, I was an average student, not the topper kind, but I was very much into extra-curricular activities like music and arts. I was really into drawing and design but had not given a very serious thought to pursuing a proper career until my fifth semester of graduation.
At the NID, I did a design project on garbage pickers and stood second in my class. The rest is history.
You pursued a design course from Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Berlin, which is a German public university. Are there any academic practices at HTW that are still not followed in Indian public design institutions?
Fortunately, the NID was established on the inspiration of the Bauhaus School of Design and Ulm School of Design in Germany. So, there are lots of similarities among German and Indian academic practices when it comes to design. One challenge is common in both countries, which is industry connect in design institutes. Industry exposure to design study is unquestionable. That also exists because we have been dependent on China for many of our industries. Industrialization is still yet to pick up speed in India.
You won’t be sent to China to observe the varied scales of industries if you’re studying industrial design. Issue is the manufacturing sector not the service sector. So, if a design student gets more manufacturing industry exposure, his/her perception and observation about design will improve. Compared to India, the industry connect is more in Germany as the country is more industrialized, but I believe it should be more cohesive.
One thing I would surely add is that research should be encouraged in India, as research is probably the only method when one is allowed to experiment and come up with new readings and observations. Design is a field where observation and visual pleasure differ from people to people. It’s not even like a common code for a full enterprise. So, research encouragement is indispensable in India, as it also eradicates personal biases.
Just like IT or engineering has different branches of study, tell us about the various streams/branches of design and their industry implementation.
It’s a bit unfortunate today that common school students might not be able to answer if you ask them what branches or institutions are available to study design as a regular course. There was only one National School of Design for a longer time in India. Thus, design as a study has been seen as more like fashion design or interior design, or a more common answer would be an artist.
If I talk of branches then, there is graphic design as most people are aware as well. Industrial design is a big umbrella which deals with ceramics and glass design furniture and interior design, product design, toy and game design, transportation-automobile design. Textile and lifestyle accessory design are the other branches where one studies about apparel and lifestyle products designing. Broadly, there are two big branches under which every branch exists: industrial design and visual design.
Design Engineering is also a branch where one finds an amalgamation of design and engineering.
What should be the priority for design graduates if they choose to work at a multinational or a start-up?
It is all about being who you really are and how honest you are with your employer. I have seen people who were in big design firms but they were bored because they were not allowed to even sometimes experiment with their own idea of design, forget about its execution. Start-ups at least give a chance to experiment because they want to make a place.
So, I would say that try to look for those places that resonate with your own work pattern and practices. Better not to be just a template or design-template and try not to become a jack of all trades and master of none.
At an event at ARCH College of Design, you said that everything is getting subsumed in new media. What are the challenges that new media and Artificial Intelligence might pose to the design industry in future?
I believe that the designers should leverage AI for their work. See it with an example: did people lose interest in humans when books were invented or printed or when radio and television came into being? Human experience will always play a bigger role in any industry. Another example is social media. Why must social media be blamed if one is not able to leverage it? When a new technology comes in, it subsumes the older technology.
If you are requested to mention three soft skills and three academic skills that a design graduate must always focus on, what would they be?
Three soft skills I look for are: honesty, hard work and curiosity. And of course, core competence in our own domain is important. There should not be any false flags in one’s resume. We can train if one doesn’t know certain software, but claiming to have the software-skills you don’t know is a red flag. Design’s core competences are always important, but I am more interested in one’s traits and nature than computer software.
Please recommend some books that may have impacted your life, whether it is related to design or not.
Don Norman really amazed me when I read The Design of Everyday Things. This book will add many new and unconventional perspectives to design students. There is another book for creativity, Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. This book explains many important aspects of digital design.
I really enjoyed reading Masala Lab by Krish Ashok. as it puts a proper scientific process behind cooking. Reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens was also delightful. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman is also a very thought-provoking book to read.