Design Is User-centric, At Its Core: Aneesha Sharma

Aneesha Sharma, HoD, Department of Design, IIT Delhi, provides an understanding of the area of study

Aneesha Sharma, HoD, Department of Design, IIT Delhi

The Department of Design, IIT Delhi, which has long-standing PhD and master's programmes, has now started B. Design also. With a series of labs, freedom to explore across domains, and the whole learning and research ethos, the institute is poised to nurture the dreams of young school pass-outs in this area of study. Aneesha Sharma, Head of the Department of Design describes the thrust of the programme, in an interview with BW Education. Excerpts:

What is the focus of IIT Delhi’s Design programme? Can you describe the infrastructure that has been created at the institute for the programme?

The IIT Delhi design programme has a strong rooting in the design pedagogy with experience of running the masters programme for the last 26 years while we have started our BDes programme this semester.  IIT Delhi's design programme has always been a bastion of functional design solutions for the grassroots level problems of every stratum of society. The programme has consistently kept up with the national and international standards and trends in design. We have a very robust alumni base who play a major role in shaping our design programme. Our alumni are today in esteemed design leadership positions in various organisations like Microsoft, Google, Philips Healthcare, Volkswagen, GE and Tatas, to name a few. Our alumni have also started their design studios in various domains of design and that adds to the entrepreneurship side of our pedagogy. Being a part of IIT Delhi, our students also embrace the start-up revolution and they take up design projects which are further developed into a start-up.

IIT Delhi has always highly valued its design programme and has been instrumental in supporting all the design endeavours of the design students, as well as design researchers. The Department of Design has fully equipped design labs for the students wanting to pursue industrial/product design, interaction/UX design and communication design practices. The department also has advanced research labs in the areas of ergonomics, sustainability, transportation, neuro-cognition and their applications in design domains.

What is needed for a person to do well in the design field and is there a scope for non-science students too? What is it that IIT-Delhi seeks in its design aspirants while granting admission?

A successful designer requires an equal amount of creative and analytical mindset. Hence, we do not restrict our intake only to science students. We are very much open to non-science students taking up design as a career option. 

The admission process requires the aspirants to qualify for the UCEED (Undergraduate Common Entrance Exam for Design) for Bachelors-BDes and CEED (Common Entrance Exam for Design) for Masters -MDes.

Is there sufficient infrastructure available in the country, including faculty availability, for design programmes? 

One should understand that design has always been a part of the Indian consciousness and its cultural mindset though we may not have cognised it as equitable with the design as is formalised in the contemporary milieu.

If we look at the recent history, design, as a formal educational programme, was brought to India in 1960-61 as part of PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision. Design institutes like NID were set up. The IITs also joined with the Industrial Design Centre at IIT Bombay. Hence formal design education has a long legacy and it has shaped the way we perceive and practise design in India in contemporary times. The design community is a very close community and we have grown with the teachings of our erstwhile design gurus like Kumar Vyas, S Nadkarni, Ashok Chatterjee, AG Rao, LK Das and many, many more.

How can sustainability become a core concern while designing products?

Design, at its core, starts by making inquiries into the user with a focus on his/her interaction with the environment and through the entire design process, these two are consistently at the centre of all the explorations for innovation. Hence, I believe that the due considerations of sustainability are naturally integrated into the designer’s consciousness.

As I had mentioned earlier, at DoD IIT Delhi we encourage our students to investigate the grassroots-level problems of our society. Hence, if you see our student product design projects, you will find them ranging from indigenous packaging, solar lamps, harvesting electricity from rains, chulha that cuts the smoke, ceramic filters, reusable female hygiene products, and so on. 

Can you shed light on interdisciplinarity involved in designs, with a few examples?

Design is all about finding the right and optimal solution for my user’s needs. Towards this endeavour, the designer wears multiple hats at various stages of the design. At times s/he has to become a researcher, an analyst, an animator, a technology expert, a psychologist, a materials expert and so on. Hence designers always have a streak of inter-disciplinarity imbibed within them. Hence at DoD, one of the very important learning for our students is ‘learning to constantly learn new things, adapt to new challenges, and deliver in the most constrained situations’ to the point that it becomes an attitude for the designer. A designer is always open to absorbing new knowledge in a very focused manner and applying it in the most optimal manner in any design problem. 

At DoD, we also emphasise collaboration. A designer needs to collaborate with various experts and skilled individuals so that this user’s problem is addressed in the most sincere manner. Our students also come from various backgrounds and have eclectic skill sets. Hence, they learn how to work together in collaboration toward a common design solution.

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