Design(ing) a broader appeal

Amrita Prasad
Friday, 2 March 2018

We chat up Prof Nidhip Mehta, head, School of Design, Pearl Academy who participated in the recently concluded Pune Design Festival

Nidhip Mehta who holds an MS Arch Degree  from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, shifted to India in 2009 and since then has been teaching architecture and design full-time. He joined Pearl Academy as a permanent faculty in 2014 and now heads the academy’s School of Design.

Like most architects, Mehta is into many things related to art and design — art history, typography, graphic design, film, literature and music. He strongly believes in the value of interdisciplinary design and tries to bring all of these into his professional work and teaching.

Pearl Academy, an institution of design, fashion, business and media, powered the 12th Pune Design Festival (PDF), the annual gathering of some of the most creative minds in the industry. More than 100 students and faculty members from Pearl Academy actively participated in the festival. This year’s edition of the festival explored the ‘Doctrine of Designism’.  
Here’s chatting up Mehta...

How would you define ‘designism’ and how can that be reflected and propagated in education?
To me, ‘designism’ is a shift away from perceiving design as a specialty, niche discipline and more towards its acceptance as a part of everyday life and behaviour. It’s when design goes from being for a select few to having a broader appeal and impact on society as a whole. This definitely needs to be reflected in how design is taught — inclusive, collaborative, and meant for all.

How is design a part of our day-today-life and how can it be simplified?
Design exists in every corner and crack of our lives, but perhaps we’re not always aware of it. The simple act of squeezing a toothpaste tube is an act of design, though we may never really think about it. In fact, design is probably best served when it’s simple and unnoticeable. Good design doesn’t get in your way of doing or enjoying something; rather it enhances the form often subtly.

One of the purposes of designs these days is to help create sustainability. What would be your comment on that?
I don’t see sustainability as something separate from design. Do we say that a well-designed chair should also be comfortable? No… comfort is part of design. So is sustainability. Unfortunately, these days, we see sustainability as an added layer or bonus in design, when in actuality it’s intrinsic, and in India, it has been so for thousands of years.

How would you define the changes, new trends and future of design?
If anyone tells you that they know what the future of design holds, then they are either lying or mistaken. The future of design is, in a word, ‘uncertainty’.

Which is why the most important skill for young designers to learn today is adaptiveness. The best preparation for design futures is to be flexible, multidisciplinary, divergent, and able to deal with all kinds of uncertainty. This what we in design education are trying very hard to do.

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