India just launched its National Design Policy. I have been in dialogue with M.P. Ranjan of the Indian National Institute of Design about it. This is very exciting for India and for the rest of the developing countries. Here are excerpts from our dialogue.
Dear Ranjan et. al.
Congratulations. As I read through the release, this is very exciting in terms of setting up a comprehensive infrastructure to support design, its recognition of the importance of culture and traditions of craft production to technology and innovation, the integration of design within all levels of educational institutions, and the supporting of design professionals. I may have missed it, but what is the vision of design support for the governmental public sector?
Finally, I would love to monitor what this will mean for African design. When I was in East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania), I was struck by the number of African students who went to India to receive their advanced engineering training. Many of the engineering professors in the Ethiopian education system were Indian. So I would imagine that one of effects of this policy would be the promotion of the role of design in Africa. Is there any addressing of the “Trained in India” phenomenon in the discussions around the policy?
You ask an important question about the content and reach of the National Design Policy in India. Yes, it will have a pan-African impact as we know that South Africa is looking at Indian design with interest and many developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America will now have a model, however useful, to follow if the so wish.
Design support is a less understood concept while design promotion has been the major avenue for Government support and action including the approach adopted by ICSID in many development countries. The approach that has been adopted by Design Wales and now more visibly by the Design Council, UK through their DOTT07 initiatives that are spearheaded by John Thackara are instances of successful Design Support at the highest levels of Government policy which is in my opinion missing from the Indian National Design Policy as it stands today. However it is a reasonable beginning and it will take much effort from the design community both within the country as well as in collaboration with the wider global community of designers and design researchers to bring in a much needed understanding of design as something that now transcends industry and the profit motive to include social and developmental investments and innovations that are critically needed in as a many as
230 sectors of our economy.