Questions answered regarding 'Design'
by Shruti Agarwal
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."
Well, 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 you.
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, Transformation Design)
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.
The 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 here.
Information on admission tests to D-schools and architecture colleges can be found on their respective websites as well as here - Click here