Design For Dummies: A Review Of B.Des.

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Six years of progressive efforts from the top leadership of the institute teamed up with the ever-enthusiastic professors of the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) brought up the four year long Bachelor of Design programme, which commenced in the year 2015. Keeping in mind the innumerable applications of Industrial Design needed in the world today, the B.Des programme is aimed at grooming students interested in design and can be the vehicle to develop essential skills to be applied to various problems.

Looking at the initial years of the programme, there seems to be less participation in institute-level activities as compared to their engineering counterparts. They do have dancers, musicians and performers, however, time management is a significant problem since their schedules are laid out differently than the rest of the institute. With an aim towards doing away with any stereotypes present, let us have a closer look at this programme.

How does one get in?

UCEED
The admission procedure through UCEED for the B.Des programme is very different from the JEE exam for the B.Tech programme. UCEED (Undergraduate Common Entrance Exam for Design), an exam to test the right-hand side of the brain, is the qualifying examination for B. Des courses offered in IIT Bombay, IIT Guwahati and IIITDM Jabalpur. It broadly covers topics such as visualization, observation and design sensitivity, general awareness, analytical and logical reasoning, language and problem solving. Unlike JEE, this is hard to be ‘coached’ for by a practice and conquer approach. Besides questions based on logic/reasoning there are a few questions based on simple concepts of physics (e.g. Newton’s third law) and mathematics too. There indeed are questions based on design aptitude but none of which need a prior expertise on the subject.

The B.Des curriculum

The B.Des programme here begins with basic introductions to design, establishing fundamentals in photography, videography, typography and image representation in the first year. The second year goes deeper into visual and form studies, introducing courses like creative thinking processes while also delving into storytelling and narrative as a problem solving process. The programme here does not impose a specialisation at this level, rather the third year offers a list of electives to choose from where one can go into topics ranging from moving image design (Yes! Cinema!) and animation design to product, transportation or game design. The last year mainly consists of a project including a design research seminar completing a total of 286 credits.

Every course runs for three weeks. Each course has three professors, one for every week and the grading is spread over the entire period through assignments and projects. Even after all the assignments, the final grading is based on a presentation at the end of the semester in front of a jury of professors where a student presents his work done throughout the semester.

Compulsory Semester Exchange

An interesting part of the curriculum is the compulsory semester exchange in the seventh semester. It is a semester wherein the student has to undertake one course, one major project and participate in a seminar for a total of 34 credits in a completely different institute. In order to make this hassle-free for every student, the department has already signed over 10 MoUs which are open for B.Des as well as M.Des students. It has also signed 3 MoUs with universities such as the Kyoto Seika University of Japan specifically for B.Des students. Apart from this any MoU signed by our institute originally for engineering students is applicable to B.Des students as well. This means a total of 67 MoUs are added to the list. When asked about the primary motivation behind this, Prof. Chakravarthy, Head of the IDC, said that a ‘paradigm shift’ occurs and learning can be accelerated to a great extent due to a semester exchange.

Let us have a look at how this curriculum compares with other such programmes across the world.

Comparing curriculums

Objectively speaking, the total credits are 286 and 295 for the B.Des programmes at our institute and at IIT Guwahati respectively. A decisive advantage of the Guwahati B.Des programme is that a B.Des student can pursue a minor from any department of his/her choice. This luxury is not yet available in IIT Bombay. The Guwahati B.Des programme demands six projects worth 50 credits comprising of four academic projects, one interdisciplinary project and one exhibition project. IIT Bombay, on the other hand, has five academic and two summer projects (after the fourth and sixth semesters) as well as the opportunity to pursue a self-initiated project in the summer vacations after the secondsemester. The total credits allotted to projects are 90 in the IIT Bombay B.Des programme.

In terms of electives, there are four department and four HSS electives in the IIT Guwahati curriculum while there are a total of five electives (min. two and max. three of either department or institute electives) in the IIT Bombay curriculum. The semester exchange system, however, does not exist in Guwahati.

Apart from IIT Guwahati, most of the B.Des programmes available within the country as well as abroad have a three year duration and mostly offer some sort of specialization as a part of the degree (for eg. animation) which is not the case in our institution.

The fundamental reason behind this lies in the selection process. It is very rare for a design institute to select students purely on the basis of an objective exam. Most institutes request students to send a ‘design portfolio’ based on which he/she can be enrolled in a programme with the appropriate specialization. To quote Prof. Chakravarthy, “The whole ethos with which we started the programme was that students here are very smart and are selected from a very tough competition. When the students came in, we realised that it was too early for them to specialize. We thought that we could develop the necessary skill set in the first two years, and in their third as well as fourth year, we allow them to take up electives while pursuing a project which is completely based on one particular topicanimation, for instance. So, even if the student is actually doing a project in animation, he gets a basic degree in B.Des with a much wider understanding of everything like film making, product design etc. as compared to an animation specialization wherein skills 13 specific to animation are honed.”

The bachelor’s degree programme in the National Institute of Design (NID) follows a different pattern. It has a two semester long ‘Foundation Programme’ followed by three years of specialised study in fields like furniture design, interior design, communication design, etc. The Foundation Programme is geared to assist in the development of values, attitudes, sensorial skills and aesthetic sensitivity necessary for specialisation in design in general while the next three years focus on the specialisation you choose.

Future prospects

There are a vast number of opportunities for the Bachelor of Design graduates to secure a job in the private sector in organizations such as Hotels, Fashion Media, Furniture Manufacturing Units, and Quality Control Offices, etc. However, Prof. Chakravarthy said that he doesn’t want to link up the placements of the B.Des students with the Placement Cell of IIT-B. He wants to open up the placement scenario such that students apply themselves and get jobs – the process usually followed at most of the foreign universities. “I feel that the current placement scenario at IIT Bombay is highly money centered, which isn’t good. This race for money is definitely not good for the young bright minds that we have nurtured here at IDC”, he adds.

In addition to the variety of jobs offered in India, the candidates can also look out for a profession in various foreign countries. Exhibitions and auctions of one’s creative works can be conducted in various parts of the world. Higher studies in other Indian or foreign universities is also an option for students enthusiastic to further explore the research areas in design.

What can the B.Tech programme learn from B.Des?

Being a Design programme, the course load is heavily practical-tasked and project-based which is very different from the traditional problem solving and engineering approach IITs are known for. Apart from the formal projects at the end of every year in the summer, the course evaluations also happen on presentations which are scheduled at regular intervals. For instance in a course on Mechanism Design, the students had to make catapults with a given small amount of material- so that they know the loads, the situations, the bending, etc. In Prof Chakravarthy’s words, “The idea is to impart powerful experiential learning to the B.Des students.”

B.Des students have definitely benefitted from the small classrooms, which have led to effective interaction between students and professors. Considering the large intake of B.Tech students, this is hard to implement there but something that should definitely be given a thought.

It is fairly obvious that the B.Tech and the B.Des programmes are as different as can be and thus require very different approaches. But the positives that can be noted about the B.Des programme can largely be attributed to its relative novelty and how it has taken inspiration from other successful programmes across the globe. Following a similar approach, maybe a revamp to the B.Tech curriculum is in order.

After about a year and a half of its inception, the B.Des programme at IDC, IIT Bombay has simply grown in stature and its popularity has increased tremendously among aspiring designers. The feedback in general has been positive and it is definitely here to stay.

QUICK FACTS

→ There is an option to convert to M.Des at the end of the third year and get a dual degree instead, much like how the B.Tech and M.Tech dual degree works.

→ Students admitted to the B.Des programme will not be eligible for branch change to any other undergraduate programmes offered by IIT Bombay at any time during the entire duration of the programme.

→ The students in the B.Des programme are not allowed to take up a minor in any other department of the institute, unless you are enrolled in the Guwahati B.Des programme, in which case you are!

→ With just 30 students per batch and 22 eminent faculty members, the students undoubtedly have the opportunity to explore into the fields of their choice and learn the skills and experience required to excel in them.

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I had already planned to do a Engineering and then MDes at IDC. However, specialising from bachelor’s level seemed to be a better idea. Thereby, joining the B.Des program was a natural choice. Also, UCEED being an aptitude based test allowed me to realise my own potential as a designer. Initially my inclinations had been towards product Every course runs for threeweeks. Each course has three professors, one for every week and the grading is spread over the entire period through assignments and projects. design, but upon joining the programme the professorsmanaged to expose us to a variety of disciplines that I had previously not come across. Our courses involve a lot of unconventional thinking and a very hands on approach. The course work keeps us on our toes for most of the time. It definitely has managed to boost our productivity and grasping skills. We’ve learnt a lot more in the given amount of time than what I’d have initially believed possible. To any new student, I’d only say that if you’re looking for a stream which lets you think freely, allows you to interpret your exam questions and assignments however you want, and provides you uncountable opportunities to explore and learn, then IDC is the place to be. I feel lucky to have access to such faculty and infrastructure. It is definitely an opportunity I intend to make the most of.
Maulashree Shanbhag
2nd Year B.Des at IDC,
IIT Bombay and AIR1 in
UCEED 2015

Ever since completing my matriculation, I had always had an inclination towards design. I was pursuing B.Tech in civil engineering at IITB for one year. But, after a year of being relatively disinterested in the B.Tech academic curriculum, while also having spoken to the B.Des freshmen about their courses, I became quite sure that the B.Des programme is where I belong. Since IDC is a more reputed school than IIT-G’s Department of Design, I chose B.Des at IIT Bombay. I did a fair amount of research before making the jump and haven’t experienced any major gaps between the expectations I had and the current reality. Well, to future aspirants–this isn’t a programme you should enrol in if you’re not genuinely interested in design, engineering is far better in that respect, if you can get in. The workload here can and will burn you out if you’re not into it. If you are interested in design, and especially if you have some vision of what you want out of IDC, this is probably the best place to be.
Vineet Srivastava
1st Year B.Des at IDC,
IIT Bombay