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How Design Education Can Help In Building Sustainable Future

Design education plays a crucial role in nurturing the perspectives and skills among the individuals that empower them to create a sustainable life and ecosystem.

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Design is a way of life. It finds its expression since primitive times. As MP Ranjan in his paper “Hand-­‐Head-­‐Heart: Ethics in Design” published in 2009 as keynote* at Istanbul mentioned, “What is Design today? Let us start with our new definition of design since the word has acquired so many meanings over the years. I have used the metaphor of fire to define design using a model that was developed with my students. When we look at the fire we see that it has various components — Fire (Agni) is a process of transformation - a material is transformed by organic exchanges with the environment and an effect is the product of this exchange. The process is always situated in a particular context and this context is represented by the ground on which stands the fire, both time and place taken together form the context. The process of burning and the products of light, heat and smoke are all in close interplay with the environment and design too is an activity that can happen only with reference to its own context. This fire, therefore, represents the kind of complex transaction that I consider an adequate expression for the systems metaphor for design…”

Design education is the grooming of senses which enables design practitioners to be able to see what is beyond the visible, existing in its natural ecosystem. It encourages them to connect the dots and facilitate a solution which lives its own circular lifecycle through ethical practices. It’s a way of conscious living. A design enabled society cannot miss the coexistence of materials, beings and energy systems. A design sensitized individual cannot miss the interconnectedness of the lifestyles of all life energies around them. This awareness is the birth of a sustainable existence where the individuals and society take responsibility for their actions and resources. 

Design education plays a crucial role in nurturing the perspectives and skills among the individuals that empower them to create a sustainable life and ecosystem. The pedagogy adapted universally professes learning while doing. It fosters the application of theory into practice in real-life opportunities.

How does this happen?

Through learning from the field and real-life scenarios, it aligns students of design to investigate deeply while identifying needs within their contextual frameworks. It facilitates the design student with certain time-­tested tools which help them develop a holistic perspective and ability to synthesize the empathetic observations through an in‐depth study of stakeholders as well as partners playing roles in the ecosystem. The understanding of the indigenous systems and ability to recognize their tacit knowledge is something a design student is subtly engrained with while learning ethnography and aesthetic sensibilities from the communities themselves. They are nurtured to be globally conscious, are equipped with technological advancement and create for the local needs with their sensibilities of working as teams. The ability to respond appropriately and proactively to a given scenario and create a self-­sufficient solution for larger good is the core strength of a design practitioner.

Design education seamlessly addresses all of the above because it has evolved as a perfect blend of arts, engineering and liberal arts with the flavour of activism and discipline of management over the past few decades. Inclusivity and resilience are the approaches that the design profession is seated in. This is a powerful concoction that is needed for developing a resilient as well as therapeutic outlook.

With the earth and her environment readjusting themselves, we are amidst climate change challenges. This is coupled with the societal unrest amongst the various sections, communities and countries which we have suffered for decades across the globe.

The ability to deeply understand and appropriately act for solutions of everyday challenges emerging from the complex scenario is the basic human need. To bring back the sustainable existence of inter-­‐connectedness, a holistic perspective with the ability to create among the youth and adults is the need of the hour. Design education is the answer to this.

* Keynote lecture 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 AS, Profilo and the ITU.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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Design Education Sustainable Future sustainable life

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