The NID and Design for Change Experience


A first perception of a space is widely influenced by the way we reached it. My guide must know that as he wants me to pay attention to the road while the rickshaw is taking us to the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Thus, at the end of one of the two straight main roads I finally get my first look at the NID*. Only few steps after crossing the main gate, we can yet see the Design For change panels along the way – Feel, Imagine, Do, Share.The topic is settled. Let’s go deeper and see how we can put these words in practice.

Before starting the workshop, a quick look at the place itself, so that my first NID experience is as complete as possible. As we walk around we meet few people that my guide introduces me to, including this huge tree in the patio right in front of the office. “The tree was this high when I first came here..” says the professor, his hand 1 meter above the ground. A metaphorical representation of an incredible design career, or of all the students taking their roots at NID and then growing by themselves as designers. My lyricism stops here as time for lunch has arrived. We take part to what seems more like a ballet choreography than a straight queue. Teachers, student and children mix together, smiles everywhere and happy photographs : the positive and creative atmosphere is tangible while the screen diffuses the Design For Change projects pictures taken all over the world.
A bit more ice cream and it is now time to start the workshop. Children take place around the tables as we provide them some pens and paper sheets. As an introduction, everyone is asked to present him/herself once they received the ball thrown by the previous child. Not only they tell their names and where they come from, but they have the hypothetical power to infect the whole world with positive diseases. If only those virus of happiness and smiling bacteria could expend as fast as the real bad ones. Thus the afternoon begins with a strong feeling of hope.
Then, so as to experience for real the four design precepts written everywhere (Feel, Imagine, Do, Share), the professor brings the idea of visualization : make visible what is in your mind. To do so, we start with a very simple example ; every student is asked to represent their path from home to school. If your mates around the table can understand your way, then the design is good enough. If not, add some landmarks on the road, draw the actual street, add details like the name of some places. At that point, students realize how important it is to have  a clear vision in their own mind so as to be able to share it with others.
The next step is about identifying at least one design problem on the way to school, express it clearly, and then think of possible solutions. All are now very happy to share their ideas with energy. Some of them are running out of paper sheets to put down their design thoughts. The photo cameras run from hand to hand so as to immortalize this workshop and all the drawings and ideas.
We all hope the students will learn from this afternoon, and by looking at them we do not have too many doubts about that. By a very simple quotidian example the teachers manage to transmit them the essential steps of a design thinking strategy. From home to school. We know they all experience it every day, but the in between is particular for each student. During the workshop they had a chance to think about it in a deeper way. First they had to feel their day-to-day life situation in a different context, with a critical distance, in order to be able to transmit it to others, by making visible the invisible. Then they had to imagine something that they want to change/improve/remove from this situation, visualize it, and share. A whole design process that everyone could experience precisely because the chosen example is universal and simple.
Many thanks to my guide for the day, M.P. Ranjan.
Although I was the assisting teacher, I certainly learned a lot from this workshop and from the kids. I was impressed to feel so much hope and willing to change by seeing their drawings and talking with them. And I also could experience a design strategy “in real life” rather than in a quiet office. An essential and constructive approach for the designer I pretend to become.
Text and Photos: Hélène Thébault, A4 student and intern.
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