Design Education Manifesto

A letter written to the Educational Board in India

Design is a way of life.

Design is an education.

Design is a tool for a better and more open understanding of the subjects entwined with our everyday lives.

Design, as a way of learning, and as a subject of education should be integrated in everyone’s educational systems and educational lives.

Design needs to be integrated at every preliminary stage of education- primary school, secondary school, and undergraduate college education. Design subverts the teaching of many strict syllabus subjects, and it is easy to fall out of the habit of thinking creatively and openly. A given structure is easier to follow than having to create one oneself. Hence this form of education needs to be reinforced and reintegrated at every important stage of change (in education and in age).

The oxford dictionary defines design as ‘purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object’. In summation design is observation for creation. Design is henceforth observation and creation. Design allows for the mind to sieve through information, categorize and compartmentalize. Design allows for the sieving of that information whether visual or textual to be thorough and intellectually advanced.

We are able to see for example tints and shades of the same black, in other words the materials that went into the making of an object/thing/person/place, which prior to a design education was perceived as only black (object/thing/person/place). Design changes perception. It fine-tunes how we perceive an image or a word and how we go forth to break down it’s meaning and relate it to other stimuli in our lives.

Design is a privilege that is often ridiculed as a less ‘noble’ profession to educate oneself in. At the schooling level, design is derided because it does not expect the designer to remember formulae or theories that can help solve an equation that seemingly changes lives. However, who are often overlooked are the creators of the formulae and theories, which exist per say in mathematics, sciences and economics. These creators were nothing but designers. They were men and women who had the ability to perceive information and think, “outside-the-box” to create solutions that never before existed. The verb ‘create’ that is used for how theorems and formulae came to being is a direct indication of their birth from a design realm. The education of mathematicians and scientists may not have been labeled as a ‘design education’ but the values of what they learned and practiced take roots in what we know today as design.

Today for example when a college going student says they are studying pure or applied mathematics, or any of the sciences, they are learning the history and the logic of the formulae and laws of the sciences but they are not being educated in how to create them themselves. This is an education through imitation. It is not to say that some of those who learn by mimicry don’t transform into artisans of their fields and go onto pursuing the ideas and values upheld by design and therefor become creators and inventors. But most of those who enter this education learn only how to solve problems in a linear fashion as dictated by previous stated law. Design teaches the mind to diverge from the linear and instead find every other way of solving the problem. It forces us to approach the uncomfortable unknown. It forces us to question the origin and the merit of a stated rule. Through numerous ideations and iterations the mind and its creativity is obligated to exhaust itself in design. In exhaustion is new learning that never would have come about if the mind had not taken a walk down the unknown path.

Design is creativity, which is in turn the ability to keep an open mind. In the upturned world of today that is moving towards xenophobia, racial bias, sexual bias, and social bias it is more important than ever to instill an open minded thinking. It is a duty of every individual to be able to look beyond themselves, their skin, their family, their monetary and social rights and acknowledge a different world outside. Fore more it is imperative that humans find a way to negotiate selfishness with humanity to strike a balance.

To me design is a way of seeing, a method of problem solving, a form of communication and a medium of reflection and response. Thus the world of design for me is the pragmatic and creative basis and space for solving a problem and finding the best possible way to communicate it. I value organization, synthesisation and clarity of information, that is then sieved and displayed. I value the power design has through the marriage of words and images to have an (social) impact. Design begs to, causes and demonstrates change. In third world countries a design education is considered a folly. In India for example engineering, doctorate and business are deemed professional and noble professions because they are high paid for the most of it, provide security and require lengthy studies to achieve a degree in. Design on the contrary is labeled silly and a hobby. In the past half-decade, upcoming fine artists from around India have been putting force into a movement to liberate and gain respect for themselves. Design however is still an under rated field. In my opinion the purpose that societies are concerned with are the problems that designers work to solve and communicate, respond to and reflect upon. Each society has a different problem. It has a different cultural, religious, demographic mix and history. Hence the questions they ask and the answers they receive are different. Some of these answers and designs are closer to mutual understanding, but others very differently. A more developed society would find a place for and respect the need for design to restructure everyday life and everyday problems. A society that is less developed tends to first focus on earning money to fill stomachs and meet basic necessities and considers design at the aesthetic level. They consider design a luxury.

But Design is a necessity.

Apologies for the verbose extent of this letter. Some intellectuals believe that the longer and more saturated a piece of argumentative writing is, the more effective it will be. Hence Mehra decided to give this approach a try too. Whatever it takes to get across.