Series on design teachers in India:
Professor Kumar Vyas, Father of Indian Design Education (1929-25.3.2017)
Born in 1929 in Uganda, studied in India.
Received an early training as an industrial designer at the Central School of Art and Design, London.
Worked as a professional designer for 5 years at Douglas Scott Associates, London.
Was invited to join NID in 1962, to establish the Faculty of Industrial Design at NID, Ahmedabad with an aim to initiate training programmes for the first cadre of industrial designers and design educators in India.
In 1970, Vyas helped innovate and introduce NID’s first undergraduate program—the five and half year long professional education program.
Was the first Industrial Design and ‘systems thinking’ educator in the country
The origins of Systems Thinking at NID are in his teachings on how to seek and identify the ‘need’.
Became the Dean when the undergraduate programme was started in 1970.
He designed a framework where learning could take place in an atmosphere of great freedom, learning based upon experimentation and a spirit of enquiry
From 1977 onwards, Vyas was engaged in engaging with youth on concepts of design and design thinking.
From 2011–13, Vyas held the position of Honorary Research Fellow at NID.
He taught at CEPT University in Ahmedabad and helped establish the MIT Institute of Design, Pune
He was an advocate of Appropriate Technology (what could be termed as Sustainable Practices) at a time when all the attention was on mass manufacturing.
He explored the relevance of design against its historical backdrop; and that too in the context of modern design that is design the way we know, learn and practice. He believed if there was to be a history of modern design in light of the new, end-of–the-millennium dispensations reflecting the concerns of the emergent societies of Asia and Africa, it must look beyond the conventional sources. And very few efforts at the time were made to assess design, especially international design, in the Indian context. This was specifically to the time soon after the arrival of modernism and the Modern Movement in India in the final decades of the nineteenth century and of modern design soon after India’s independence.
The influential works of Kumar Vyas at NID helped in directing a new take on the ‘Bauhaus/Ulm’ approach to design. It, over time, became invaded by the Indian manufacture and production ranging from traditional craftsmanship to large scale projects for the space industry. It has become a method that is the base of NID so much so his efforts has been deduced, having worked against all adds and at a time when change was despised and surrender of traditional, largely colonial, educational methods loathed.
During his time at NID he continuously pushed new boundaries, exploring, introducing and developing new materials for design studies in the country. These became extremely consequential in expanding a national design movement that could use learning materials relevant to the Indian environment along with a load of resources from overseas.
His writings and teachings inspired more than a generation of Indian designers to the new possibilities of design and initiated many at NID itself. His educational kit for school children called ‘Design and Environment: An Introductory Manual’ became exceptionally popular enough to be broadcasted on the Indian National Television Network. This became a major step to country-wide awareness and understanding of the role of design. More of his books included Design the Indian Context and Design: the International Movement with Indian Parallel.
These great contributions to design education and teaching earned him international recognition with the Sir Misha Black Medal (2011) for his distinguishing contribution to the fields of design service and design education.
“He was an inspiration to the design fraternity and had been a regular on campus until last year. Having been part of the founding team of the institute, he continued to mentor and inspire design students and young design faculty even after he retired from active service at NID,” said Pradyumna Vyas, Director NID.