On a wall at the end of a lane called Design Street in the NID campus stands a collage of 80 black-and-white logos the premier institute has designed for various ministries,departments,undertakings and corporations. In many ways,the collage shows the level of recognition design has received in India.
Prof M P Ranjan,who has taught at NID for 33 years,and who heads the institutes Bamboo Initiatives Wing,is furious at the perception the government,let alone the country as a whole,has of design.
Everybody comes and asks us,Give us something pretty. But on the other hand,the people who really want to work for rural development,in craft and in fields involving artisans,small-scale industries,healthcare,education,get no funding at all. Theres no support at all, he says.
NID Director Prof Pradyumna Vyas shares the view,though moderately.
IITs and IIMs get funding worth tens of thousands of crores and we get tens of crores, he says.
Prof Vyas estimates that the requirement for designers,especially systems designers,is around 10,000 to 12,000 per year across a host of sectors like transport,health,agriculture,communication and services like postal and courier services.
Design has not been recognised in this country. Talk about the G-Mark certification in Japan. They celebrated their 50 years of existence just recently,and we have only begun to talk about similar certification in India. We are very,very late, he said.
The national Design Policy,however,has only a passing reference in sectors like,for example,agriculture,which is mentioned only once on point 12 of the policys action plan. In fact,the last major exhibition NID organised with the Agriculture Ministry concerning farm implements and tools was way back in 1977.
As an institute,we seem to have distanced ourselves from the needs of this huge sector that provides maximum employment across the country, says Prof Ranjan.
Meanwhile,designers at the institute are confident that processes can be designed effectively.
If you design a complete process,the entire system becomes very efficient, Prof Vyas adds.
One success story is a bamboo-project Prof Ranjan is working on with two students and IL&FS in Tripura. Here craftsmen are trained in better design practices,taught business models,exclude middlemen by putting them in contact with retailers directly,and so have larger shares in profits.
The present design policy seems to be drafted as a sub-set of the Industrial policy,because its under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion,which I think is itself the problem, says Prof Ranjan,while explaining how difficult it was to get his bamboo project off the ground due to lack of funds.
Asked about why he thinks design has been valued little all theses years,he has a crisp two-word answer: Jugaad rules.