Design thinking is new Mantra for Brands

19 Nov,2015


Education in design has moved beyond traditional advertising and design agencies, as the emphasis is beyond just art and craft, but an all-new approach to dreaming up innovative solutions. In Mumbai to formally launch the Indian School of Design & Innovation Design which has a tie-up with the acclaimed New York-based Parsons The New School of Design schools, the New York-based school’s President, David Van Zandt, spoke to Pradyuman Maheshwari in an exclusive interview


So what brings Parsons to India?

We look at India as a growing economy. Already, a third of our students come from outside the US and India is a big provider. But we also think there’s a lot of growth here in India and it’s a place where the government is now [supporting] design [initiatives] in terms of pushing for it in the economy. So it’s a natural fit for us.


Your second school outside the US was in France, and the third is here, so that’s a significant vote for the country.

Yes, it is. We think of Mumbai as a global city that has a deep, cultural history and there’s a lot of making going on here. We think it’s a perfect place for design students to learn because design, essentially, is taking cultural bits and building on those to solve problems.


But design is also misunderstood. People may be willing to pay for advertising, but they think design is just a logo here or there and can be done by any design or creative agency…

Yes, but we look at design as more across-the-board. It’s a broader concept, about how to organise people, objects and environments to make the world a better place. That, at the end of the day, is about human behaviour, and the more our students know about cultural depth, the better designers they are they going to be. You see this in the industry now, with designers becoming an important part of new products. Google, for example, grew by hiring many great engineers, but a few years ago, it realised it designers to bring in a different skillset and it did that. In fact, one of our alumnus heads Google’s design lab in New York.


At Parsons and internationally, which area of design do you find is growing the most?

Right now, most of it is about making technology products more user-friendly. But across industries, people want to bring design thinking into their operations, whether they are product makers, service providers or something else. We’ve even seen governments bringing design consultants to help them change their processes and make things easier for citizens.


At The New School, apart from just the skill, there is a fair amount of emphasis on academics and theory as well. So how much of the programme stresses academics and how much hands-on skills training?

There are two parts to it. In our Bachelor’s programme — our first degree programme — about 25 per cent of the courses are in the liberal arts and social sciences, which means humanities taught by the social sciences faculty that we have. The other part is the research behind design itself, so are integrative seminars take place both in New York and Mumbai, students go out to research particular cultural features like try to go very deep before they get to design things that around or for that cultural feature. To be a good designer, you have to understand how humans behave and what’s going on in the world. And that’s how research impacts designing in the design courses.


Given the kind of training students in the design school go through, do you see marketers and agencies using more of design school graduates in the future than advertising school?

A lot of our graduates at Parsons end up in advertising-marketing sorts of companies. With social media and other forms of advertising, you are seeing a lot more design come in, not just in terms of pretty pictures making the print ad look good, but in terms of how do you reach the particular audience you need to reach and what’s going to – and that’s a matter of understanding how people interact with various media.


How do you ensure the same Parsons’ experience for Parsons students here, because any educational institution is a lot more than just what is being taught…

The key is really in the first year, and we replicate the first year programming and style of teaching [of the Parsons abroad] here in Mumbai. There will be differences, one, in terms of scale because we’re just much bigger in New York. Mumbai’s is also a different culture from New York so students have different experiences.


And you’ll ensure the same standards are maintained?

Yes, that’s extremely important to us. As a business proposition using the Parsons’ name we don’t want to have it diluted in terms of its quality. It’s the No 1 brand in the world, in terms of design education, so we want to keep it that way.


Could you elaborate on how you will ensure the same standards?

It’s in our supervising and overseeing of the syllabi. We will have faculty visits to follow-up on the teaching here and make sure it’s up to our standards. We keep a constant flow of information, and the curriculum and syllabi have to be passed through our faculty in order to be sure that we’re covering the same things, and we also care about the quality of the teacher. One of the reasons Mookesh Patel [Dean at ISDI Parsons] is here is because he has the experience of both and he’ll do an excellent job of maintaining that quality.


Does a certificate from here get the same credit that a certificate of a student from New York would?

Yes, if a person graduates with a diploma certificate here from Parsons Mumbai, it is certainly eligible for one of our post-graduate programmes in New York. Though that would require an undergraduate degree design.


Yours is a private institute, not affiliated to any university. But it’s recognised as one

In New York we have a lot more freedom so we care less about what the label is and more about what the quality of education is


And in India it’s all about label.

I know. Hopefully some day we’ll be able to actually offer our degrees in India, but at this point, we can’t do that and we just have to go on the quality of the programme.


A shorter version of this interview first appeared in dna of brands.The interview also appeared on BrandStand as a part of a package on ISDI. Watch it at: 


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