Monday, August 4, 2008

A New Stone Turned

Image: Anindya Roy commenting on students presentations in DCC2008 Paldi01

“An unusual choice of career at your age, isn’t it?” This is a question I’ve been thrown in one form or another many a time by friends and acquaintances ever since I made a conscious decision to stop running behind the bigwigs of the Automotive world and instead, look a different way. I joined NID as faculty of transportation design at the age of 27. It is close to a year now since I joined and through this time I have been involved in various courses across a few disciplines. All through this time, like the murmur of monks in a monastery, I used to hear about DCC from students. The remarks didn’t sound so much like that of a course that was taught but a great journey to an uncharted place – revelatory, eye (and mind) opening, unforgettable, intense, tiring, rewarding – and one that would leave you changed somewhere inside for sure.

Just like when I hear of someone who’s been to Ladakh, and I haven’t, my first thought is, “I must go there myself and see what the fuss is all about!” What could be in this place that everyone who’s been to can’t stop raving about? With this curiosity built up over a period of one year spent at NID, one ordinary morning I decided to pack my bags and book my ticket, by replying to M.P. Ranjan’s email call for volunteer faculty. Brave move, knowing that I really had no clue about the course or its subject for the year, I had never read this blog and that I would be facing 20-30 students at a time, some waiting to hear great words of wisdom from this young faculty. The fact is that I was in it for really the same reason as the students – to learn about something anew. Well, the students do have grades to fetch as well but that’s another matter.

Image: Anindya Roy with teaching colleagues: DCC2008 Paldi01

It’s been a week for me on this journey and I’d say what has taken me by surprise is how much there is to unlearn before new learning can begin. It is an unavoidable situation having grown to this age conditioned by much focused education and exposure, the result of years of learning within limited context. What does it take then to outrun the legacy? This is where the DCC course structure takes on the avatar of a roadmap and students become the guides on a journey that never ceases to explore. It is through their brainstorming and structuring of gathered data that a wholesome picture starts to emerge within which one can find specific sites of interest.

Though initially what comes out may be a barrage of information with too many layers for the untrained mind to make sense of, it is within this very tangled web that multitudes of design opportunities lurk. In sessions that follow, much grey matter gets activated, sleep is lost and egos are put aside, reluctantly at times. Scores of minds aligned by a common goal can be a fantastic force. While I am yet to see results of some of the intermediate stages of the process, the direction gets clearer with every passing day. Having a bird’s eye view of the ongoing process not only is educating me (even as all the effort at ground level is being put in by diligent students) but also allows me to have an overview to reflect upon.

Image: Anindya Roy in DCC2008 Paldi01

This is about getting to know your context of work first-hand, meeting the people who matter and the people in whose life a little design intervention could go a long way, about designing not to satisfy the ego but to attempt to satisfy real needs. The relevance of this approach to a context as complex, rich and demanding as India is undeniable. Hopefully, many of us will carry the learning beyond the academic realm and remember it in our careers whatever they may be. A young bloke came to teach a few things and got taught many times as much in return. Not such a bad choice of career after all!

This is but my initial reflection on a new method of Design Thinking that I have had a chance to experience firsthand and in great detail. In the days to come of my involvement with the course and beyond I will be posting my insights, remarks and findings for all to share and comment on.

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