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Designed Empowers Students To Innovate, Embrace Technology, Champion Dr. Nitin Rane, Vice-Chancellor Of Sustainability

In an interview with Education Post’s Prabhav Anand, Dr Nitin Rane shares his insights into the transformative power of design education. He also shares that Design education empowers students to innovate, embrace technology, and champion sustainability.

Prabhav Anand20 March 2024 05:52

Dr. Nitin Rane, Vice-Chancellor, Avantika University

Dr. Nitin Rane, Vice-Chancellor of sustainability Ujjain’s Avantika University, shares insights into the transformative power of design education in an exclusive interview with Education Post’s Prabhav Anand, while discussing the pivotal role of design in fostering innovation and problem-solving skills. He further emphasizes the importance of embracing emerging technologies and ethical practices to prepare students for future challenges.

Q. With your background in academic administration and experience in diverse fields like chemical engineering, how do you perceive the role of design education in fostering innovation and problem-solving skills among students?

It teaches students to analyze situations from multiple perspectives and to identify underlying issues. It encourages students to think critically about problems and challenges.

It also cultivates creativity by encouraging students to explore new ideas, experiment with different concepts, and think outside the box. This creative mindset is essential for generating innovative solutions to complex problems.

It stresses empathy and understanding the needs of end-users. By focusing on user-centered design principles, students learn to develop solutions that address real-world problems and improve the user experience.

Overall, design education provides students with the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed to innovate and solve complex problems effectively. By fostering creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and interdisciplinary collaboration, design education plays a crucial role in preparing students to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Q. How can design education adapt to embrace emerging technologies and trends, such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and wearable tech, to enhance the learning experience and prepare students for future design challenges?

Design education can adapt to embrace emerging technologies and trends such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and wearable tech in several ways to enhance the learning experience and prepare students for future design challenges. It can incorporate modules or courses specifically focused on emerging technologies like VR, AR, and wearable tech. These modules can cover topics such as design principles for immersive experiences, interaction design for wearable devices, and the integration of AR into design processes.

Providing students with hands-on experience with emerging technologies is essential. Design schools can establish labs or workshops equipped with VR headsets, AR devices, and wearable tech for students to experiment with and develop projects. Encouraging collaborative projects that involve the use of emerging technologies can help students gain practical experience and learn from each other. Teambased projects can involve designing and prototyping VR simulations, creating AR-enhanced educational materials, or developing wearable tech prototypes.

By embracing emerging technologies and trends, design education can enhance the learning experience, empower students to explore new creative possibilities, and equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to address future design challenges effectively.

Q. As the Vice Chancellor of Avantika University, how do you ensure that design education remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of industries and society?

Ensuring that design education remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of industries and society requires a proactive and multifaceted approach.

At Avantika University, we actively engage with industry partners to stay informed about current trends, and evolving needs. Collaborating with industry professionals through internships, guest lectures, industry-sponsored capstone projects, and inviting industry professionals on advisory boards provide us valuable insights and help align curriculum with industry requirements. We have an iConnect program where we bring stalwarts from various walks of design to our campus almost every week to share their experience and expertise with our students. These experiences provide students with practical skills, industry exposure, and networking opportunities while addressing real-world challenges.

These initiatives ensure that our programs remain relevant, responsive, and aligned with the evolving needs of industries and society, preparing our students to thrive in the dynamic field of design.

Q. Given your philosophy of “Dare to Dream, Dare to Try, Dare to Fail and Dare to Succeed,” how do you encourage students to embrace experimentation and risk-taking in their design projects and creative endeavours?

We encourage students to embrace experimentation and risk-taking in their design projects and creative endeavours that can foster innovation, resilience, and growth. We provide a supportive and inclusive environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and exploring new ideas without fear of failure or judgment. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and constructive feedback among students and faculty.

We emphasize the importance of an iterative and incremental design process that involves prototyping, testing, and refining ideas based on feedback. Encourage students to embrace ambiguity, embrace failure, and view setbacks as valuable learning experiences that contribute to growth and improvement.

We celebrate and recognize creativity, innovation, and risk-taking in design projects through awards, exhibitions, showcases, and public presentations. Highlighting exemplary work and acknowledging students’ efforts can inspire others to embrace experimentation and push the boundaries of their creativity. Students put up “Course-End Exhibition” for everyone to view, participate and reflect upon.

We provide students with access to resources, tools, and facilities to support their experimentation and creative endeavours. This includes access to design workshops, labs, prototyping equipment, software, mentorship, and funding opportunities for off-beat projects, through our Avantika Innovation and Incubation Centre (AIIC).

By implementing these strategies, we cultivate a culture of experimentation, risk-taking, and innovation that empowers our students to explore their creativity, push boundaries, and develop innovative solutions to complex design challenges.

Q. In your opinion, what are the essential skills and competencies that aspiring designers should develop during their education to thrive in a competitive global marketplace?

Aspiring designers should develop a diverse set of skills and competencies to thrive in a competitive global marketplace. Here are some essential skills and competencies for designers. They should possess the ability to generate original ideas, think outside the box, and approach problems with a creative mindset to develop innovative solutions and stand out in the marketplace. They should be able to analyze problems, evaluate potential solutions, and make informed decisions based on evidence and reasoning. Critical thinking skills help designers address complex challenges and anticipate future trends.

Strong visualization skills, including sketching, prototyping, and aesthetic sensibilities, are essential for designers to convey ideas, concepts, and solutions effectively to stakeholders and clients. They need to be proficient in the technical tools and software used in their field, such as design software (e.g., Adobe Creative Suite), prototyping tools, 3D modelling software, and programming languages (e.g., HTML/ CSS, JavaScript)

Understanding user needs, preferences, and behaviours is crucial for designing products, services, and experiences that meet user expectations and deliver value. Designers should employ user-centred design principles and methods to create user-friendly solutions. They must cultivate empathy and cultural sensitivity to understand diverse perspectives, experiences, and cultural contexts. Empathizing with users and stakeholders helps designers create inclusive and culturally relevant solutions.

Designers often work in interdisciplinary teams and collaborate with stakeholders, clients, and users throughout the design process. Strong communication skills, including verbal, written, and visual communication, are essential for effective collaboration and project management. Understanding business fundamentals, market dynamics, and industry trends is essential for designers to develop commercially viable solutions and effectively communicate the value of design to stakeholders and clients.

Adaptability and flexibility in response to changing requirements, constraints, and technological advancements are critical attributes for a successful designer. The ability to learn new skills, adapt to new tools and methodologies, and embrace uncertainty is crucial for staying competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

By developing these skills and competencies during their design education, and throughout their careers, aspiring designers can position themselves for success in a competitive global marketplace and make meaningful contributions to the field of design… and the humanity at large.

Q. With the increasing focus on sustainability and social responsibility, how do you see design education evolving to incorporate principles of eco-friendly design and ethical practices?

Design education must incorporate principles of eco-friendly design and ethical practices in several ways to prepare students to address sustainability and social responsibility. Design education programs need to integrate courses or modules focused on sustainable design principles, environmental issues, and ethical considerations. These courses can cover topics such as sustainable materials, lifecycle analysis, renewable energy, ethical sourcing, and social impact assessment.

Incorporating real-world case studies and examples of sustainable design projects can provide students with practical insights into eco-friendly design practices and ethical decision-making. Analyzing successful examples of sustainable design projects can inspire students and illustrate the potential impact of their work. Design education should provide students with hands-on opportunities to apply sustainable design principles in their projects. Assignments, workshops, and design challenges focused on eco-friendly design can encourage students to explore sustainable materials, innovative techniques, and environmentally friendly solutions.

Design education should emphasize ethical considerations in design practice, including principles of fairness, transparency, accountability, and respect for human rights and cultural diversity. Students should be encouraged to consider the social and ethical implications of their design decisions and to prioritize the wellbeing of people and the planet. The learning pedagogy at design schools can incorporate experiential learning opportunities such as field studies, site visits, and community engagement projects focused on sustainability and social responsibility. These experiences can provide students with firsthand exposure to environmental issues, sustainable practices, and the needs of local communities.

At Avantika University, we constantly encourage our students to engage in socially relevant initiatives. We recently collaborated with MP Tourism to renovate the Pranpur village, known for its Chanderi sarees. Our students, faculty members, staff along with few artisans gave a facelift to the weavers’ houses, by colouring their walls inspired by the motifs, patterns and colors of Chanderi sarees. Such a transformation is leading to increased tourist footfall, leading to greater income opportunities for the weavers, elevating their standards of living

By incorporating principles of eco-friendly design and ethical practices into the curriculum, design education can empower students to become responsible guardians of the environment and agents of positive change in society. By equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to address sustainability challenges, design education can play a vital role in shaping a more sustainable and equitable future.

Q. How do you envision the future of design education, and what initiatives or strategies do you believe are necessary to prepare students for the complexities and opportunities of tomorrow’s world?

The future of design education is likely to be shaped by several key trends and considerations, including advances in technology, evolving industry needs, shifting societal values, and global challenges such as climate change and social inequality. To prepare students for the complexities and opportunities of tomorrow’s world, several initiatives and strategies are necessary.

Design education should incorporate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing into the curriculum. Providing students with opportunities to learn and experiment with these technologies can enhance their creative capabilities and prepare them for careers in rapidly evolving fields.

Encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration between design and other disciplines such as engineering, computer science, business, and social sciences can foster innovation and address complex challenges. The learning facilitators should provide opportunities for students to work on multidisciplinary projects and develop a holistic understanding of real-world problems.

Design education should emphasize adaptability and lifelong learning, preparing students to navigate a rapidly changing professional landscape. Encouraging a growth mindset, fostering a culture of experimentation and risk-taking, and providing opportunities for continuous skill development and professional growth are essential for preparing students for future challenges and opportunities.

We need to foster a global perspective and cultural competency, preparing students to work in diverse cultural contexts and address the needs of global markets. Exposing students to international design trends, cross-cultural collaboration, and global design challenges can broaden their horizons and enhance their ability to create inclusive and culturally sensitive designs.

Design education should incorporate entrepreneurship and business skills into the curriculum, empowering students to turn their creative ideas into successful ventures. Providing students with opportunities to learn about design entrepreneurship, marketing, project management, and intellectual property rights can prepare them to thrive as design professionals in a competitive marketplace.

We must embrace flexible and hybrid learning models that combine traditional classroom instruction with online learning, experiential learning, and remote collaboration. Providing students with access to digital tools, resources, and virtual learning environments can enhance their learning experience and prepare them for remote work and collaboration in the digital age.

Overall, the future of design education will require a dynamic and forward-thinking approach that adapts to the changing needs of students, industries, and society. By embracing emerging technologies, interdisciplinary collaboration, sustainability, adaptability, global perspective, entrepreneurship, and flexible learning models, design education can prepare students to thrive in a complex and interconnected global communities.

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