Over the last few years, the design education space in India is gradually witnessing exponential growth. Design Education is being touted as a fundamental element of national prosperity and is viewed as a critical component of innovation strategy. Today’s youth are on the path of exploring an alternate career that drives innovation, and design is quickly emerging as the right recourse. Besides, design as a profession has evolved from a merely form-giving activity to a holistic problem-solving philosophy. Thus, the concept of cookie-cutter education does not serve our youth today, and we need to employ better design education programs.
Fulfilling the educational reforms that design requires is JK Lakshmipat University, located in Jaipur, a design school aligned with innovation. It is the concept of utilizing holistic problem-solving capabilities through the design and selection of programs that attract students to become a part of this college and not just the facilities JKLU offers.
The JK Lakshmipat University was just recently awarded Grade A by NAAC in its first review cycle. Supported by the 125 years old legacy of contributions to nation-building by the JK Organisation, JKLU was built on the idea that Don Norman, famous American researcher, professor, and author, proposes – Design education has to move away from the schools of art and architecture and move into the schools of science and technology. JKLU already had an Institute of Engineering & Technology and an Institute of Management. The Institute of Design was set up as the third pillar of this triad.
Offering a Comprehensive Suite of Cutting-edge Programs
Incepted in 2018, the college commenced its journey with three very unique programs: Product Design, Interaction Design, and Interdisciplinary Design. This year JKLU has added another exclusive program, Integrated Communication Design. The institution also extends a unique modular M Des program of two years in Product Design and Interaction Design, with modular exits. “All these programs are uniquely placed and truly future-ready. We have not included the widespread ones like Fashion Design and Interior Design, as they do not fit our ethos. Each program has input in critical thinking and communication. All the design programs have inputs from Technology and Management as well,” reveals A Balasubramaniam, Director of the Institute of Design, JK Lakshmipat University.
Moreover, JKLU has forged strong industry and academic collaborations to help students acquire enhanced capabilities and skills. The college is an Institutional member of ADI (Association of Designers of India) and has collaborated with ADI in launching events like the ‘Design Guru Day’ and Signature session series. “We have academic collaborations with IICD, Jaipur. We have an MoU with Edinburgh Napier University for an international student and faculty exchange program,” adds A Balasubramaniam.
Design Thinking Yields Creative Solutions
Encouraging the flow of creativity, innovation and intelligence amongst its students, JKLU offers studio-based classes. The faculty members mentor students at all levels to work on unique problem areas that need innovative solutions. “Students are encouraged to go the whole nine yards, visualizing new solutions to wicked problems and prototyping tangible results. Our Makerspace on campus is a tinkering lab that helps students explore new materials and traditional ones like wood, bamboo, wire, and aluminium sheets, which hone their creative skills,” informs A Balasubramaniam.
Students joining this institute are prepared for a career in design. While acquiring and fitting into a regular desk job might be an easy task, JKLU better prepares its students with their management courses like Entrepreneurship, Proposal making, portfolio building, communication, and so on that help them transform into successful entrepreneurs. JKLU is one of the few institutes in Jaipur that has an Atal Incubation Centre that incubates start-ups. This allows students to establish a business of their own.
JKLU believes that faculty plays a core role in helping students realize their true potential. In keeping with these beliefs, JKLU’s core group of internal faculty members are drawn from premium Design institutions like NID Ahmedabad and IIT Bombay. The visiting faculties come from academia like NID and industries like Paytm, Oracle, Samsung, Intuit, and Byju’s. The institute possesses an excellent student-faculty ratio with one-on-one faculty mentoring, besides having a panel of senior principal designers from NID as Professors of Practice. They have a wealth of experience to share and help mentor the young faculty and students. This is yet again one of the college’s USPs.
Giving Students a Boost Up
JKLU helps promote student leadership and participation, stimulate creativity, and have a fun-filled college experience through the 16 clubs the institute has to offer, like Music club, Literary clubs, Art clubs and Quizzers. Uplifting deserving students through scholarships, JKLU offers up to 100 per cent scholarships to students who fit specific criteria. Students with excellent academic performance in Class X and Class XII and rank-holders in NID_DAT or the UCEED exams are considered. In addition, scholarships are upgraded for exceptional talent displayed in portfolio and interview rounds and/or extraordinary performance in co-curricular activities. The scholarship offered by JKLU is applicable for the duration of the program, subject to maintaining the required CGPA. “We give special scholarships to girl students in tech, students from the defence families, and students from the northeast regions,” adds A Balasubramaniam. So, in essence, robust programs, faculty trained in premium institutes of design, and state-of-the-art facilities that match the best in the business are some of the reasons that lead students to join JKLU.
Emerging as Winners through the Pandemic
Being a recently established college that continually strives to stay ahead of evolving technologies, trends and events, JKLU was aware that design education would have to reinvent itself with the onset of the pandemic. “Teaching design online was a challenge as it is meant to be a hands-on, minds-on program. We got into lockdown in the seventh month of the launch, and we had to change the pedagogy and be truthful to the syllabus. We continued online for almost two years, and by now, we have had more experience teaching online than offline. As a result, like elsewhere in the world, we have understood the benefits and limitations of hybrid teaching. We have honed our remote-mentoring process. This has given us more confidence in handling tough situations,” reveals A Balasubramaniam on the challenges addressed during the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The faculty at JKLU are well-equipped to impart hybrid teaching, and their collective experience in remote learning and teaching is being documented for posterity. In the post-pandemic world, access to global faculty has become more accessible, and the college intends to leverage this opportunity to get international faculty onto some of its programs. A Balasubramaniam signs off, “We are just beginning and have a long way to go. New facilities are being procured for the students. Additional faculty is in the process of being recruited. These include renowned names of senior faculty and young designers who are new to teaching. We will be launching a fellowship program too.”
About A Balasubramaniam, Director, Institute of Design, JK Lakshmipat University
A Balasubramaniam is the Director of the Institute of Design, JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur. He is the founder of January Design, a consultancy that works predominantly with marginal crafts, grass-root innovations and the MSME sectors of the industry. He is an early graduate of NID, Ahmedabad, India.
He has headed the Fair-trade division of Oxfam, Great Britain in India; co-ordinated setting up PRIDE, a design excellence division at NSIC, developed products with artisans in Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, UP and Punjab, led a design team for bamboo design projects in the North East for UNDP, been a consultant to NIIT and has worked with grass-root innovators with the National Innovation Foundation.
He has taught design and been a jury member in major design institutes in the country. Some of which are NID, NIFT, School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi, IICD, Jaipur, KSID, Kollam, Pearl Academy and IILM Gurgaon. He has been a member of the academic board for Industrial Design at Pearl Academy, SPA New Delhi, and Nirma University.
Besides his blog, DESIGN THOUGHTS, he regularly writes on India-centric design issues in the Economic Times, Businessworld and other design publications.