Convocation is upon us again this year. Tomorrow's D-day and students are trooping in. This is a time when every pebble at NID shines, the greenery looks a little more verdant, everyone on campus bustles about putting up displays and exhibitions, and showcasing their disciplines to the hilt.
It is surely a momentous occasion for students; an occasion, that one is sure, necessitates mixed feelings in the minds of students who are passing out of an institute. This is an occasion when they are on multiple thresholds at the same time: they are looking back and yet looking ahead; taking a walk down memory lane and yet forging ahead with a spring in their step. This is also the time when they straddle two worlds: they are out of their alma mater, but not quite; into the indusatry, and just about in there. These are selves looking at themselves through dual lenses, occupying both liminal and mainstream spaces, these are people that are gifted and forward looking. Convocation day is a day when the mood is upbeat, enthusiasm and energy reign supreme, and celebrations are the calling of the day.
This is also the time when the Institute is at its sprightliest and attention-grabbing best. Design is celebrated, feted, mulled over, legitimized, and design that has been done in the various small and big studios, workshops, hostel rooms, spills over to the displays on Design Street, the Gautam Gira Sarabhai Square, the myriad other small and big spaces in NID that proclaim their pride in the students even as they joyfully pay tributes to their work.
Every year when I work on the Young Designers book, I can't help but be drawn into the spell much before it has caught on in the institute. When I look at the portrait photos of students, their work, am always somehow suffused with emotion. These happy faces are those one has taught, talked to, laughed with, played agony aunt to, and cried with. It feels good to work for them in a strange way.
The publication usually showcases the diploma work of the graduating students. Students at NID undertake diploma projects as part of the curriculum at the end of the graduate or postgraduate programme in every discipline. They work on a chosen project for six months, understanding the industry from close quarters, demonstrating their capability to perform as design professionals. The project, an integral part of the educational system, aims at providing industrial experience to enhance the education given at NID. It seeks to bridge the gap between the worlds of theory and praxis, making students undertake live projects in the industry and showcase their learning to the institute thereafter.
I am always struck with the vibrancy and wide terrain covered by the diploma projects. The array of diploma projects is astounding in its variety, vim and vigour, its commitment to different sectors requiring design intervention, and in the passion for their work exhibited by our young designers. So we have a dizzying line up of projects engaged with traditional crafts, education, entertainment, promotional design, exhibition and selected spaces, social concerns, developmental communication, conservation of heritage and culture, information design, medical concerns, public amenities, retail, and export.
While passion for design is a shared experience among the eclectic bunch of young designers, the approaches to design and the outcomes are intrinsically distinct and different. Some of the design products, by their very nature, probe design processes, and radically change them; while others tease the very definitions of design: from expressing artistic insights to ethical concerns, from problem-solving to humanizing technologies.
Many projects assuage us that design is not just an elitist profession, and does not shy away from grassroots level concerns. It was not for nothing that someone said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
It is heartwarming to see that what our young designers lack in experience, they more than make up for it in talent. I feel privileged each year when I work on Young Designers because it gives me a vantage point from which to read and look at all the diploma projects done that year. In spite of the time bound and inevitable stress factor built into such an exercise, knowing why and in which way the different minds work is a refreshing experience. It’s easy to see that the diploma work is a function of sound guidance and experience on the part of the faculty, and enterprise, ingenuity, and diligence on the part of students.
And then there are the few students who walk into my office every year and out of sheer goodwill and affection proffer their unstinting support, encouragement and help in various ways for a few hours, a day, in their free time, or just when we need it the most. They come just when we are facing panic attacks about this and that, and bring smiles back to our faces.