Foundation Design Education is a basic or introductory course in modern design education to introduce fundamentals of design to students. It comprises the first year of a four-year, allexclusive design educational programme after a high-school education. It includes introduction to basic skills, theories, design-thinking processes, human needs, and much more. The downside, however, is the focus on skills, which, outweighs all else in the current Foundation Design Education courses. This study proposes that an emphasis on understanding the Self for the designer and the Self-Other relationship in Foundation Design Education could highly enrich the design education. Central to the study is the humanistic concern that needs to be woven into the fabric of Foundation Design Education.In context to this research, humanistic concern would involve qualities of integrity, respect, compassion and values that reflect a belief in human dignity and science. It is a belief that human needs and values are of prime importance and projects an emphasis on agency of human beings, individually and collectively in a holistic manner.
The Self is recognised in the disciplines of Psychology, Sociology & Philosophy. It is however, recognised that there is an apparent omission of the Self for the designer in the Design discipline. The study begins by attempting to examine the explicit acknowledgement of the Self and the Self-Other in disciplines other than design, and attempts to draw parallels in design education. It seeks to adapt ideas of the Self and the Self-Other as understood in disciplines such as Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and attempts to define the notion of the Self for the designer and formulate a theoretical framework of the Self-Other relationship for the designer.
A literature review of the Self and Other in disciplines other than Design along with examples of the Self-Other relationships, as understood by other disciplines such as Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology, are presented to develop a theory of how such an understanding may benefit the design education.
The study also attempts to understand Foundation Design Education as developed and practiced in some of the institutions for modern design education globally, such as the Staatliches Bauhaus Design School (Bauhaus) and Hochschule fÃ¼r Gestaltung (HfG) School of Design, Ulm. From the study of the Foundation Program at Bauhaus, it was found that there was certainly a concern for the New Man in a new technological society, a humanistic concern. Being a humanist for the Self, means holding a compassion-based value system and recognizing common humanity with all of humanity, nature, environment and the planet. It
also reflects the acknowledgment of personal biases.
At the HfG, Ulm, the principles of standardisation and mass production steered the teaching towards exploring a scientific approach, integrating systemic and objective methods of collecting and processing data in order to inform of the design solution. A new scientific humanism, which synthesised science and design, recognised the pluralism of methods and methodological perspectives needed by the designer in addressing the new problems of industrial culture. There is an attempt to tease out the nature of the Self and the Self-Other relationship from texts by the Bauhaus and Ulm educators in the West and the EamesÂ’ India Report in the Indian context.
The Self-Other relationship, in context to humanism, suggests that by developing a more nuanced understanding of the relationships between humans, society, industry, technology and even the non-human worlds, we become acutely aware of our all-too-human nature. When we try to make a leap to embody other human perspectives we need to safeguard from false empathy. It could be an imposition of our personal biases and understanding of other entities, instead allowing for the space and the possibility to imagine other types of intelligence that are completely different from our own.
This is followed by a study of the Foundation Design Education courses as practiced in a few design institutions of India (National Institute of Design, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Pearl Academy, IILM School of Design, and Institute of Apparel Management). The study found many similarities with the Bauhaus and Ulm responses. Assignment outcomes were similar to Bauhaus and HfG, Ulm outcomes. The study, however, found no reference of the notion of the Self for the designer and the Self-Other relationship in the various Foundation Design Education courses of India and in interactions with design educators. The study involved extensive engagements with experienced design educators and design participants in the various design education conferences. Excerpts from these interactions with design educators have been used to argue that such a lacuna exists, and establishes the importance of understanding the Self and the Self-Other relationship in Foundation Design Courses.
A series of interviews were subsequently conducted to discern humanistic abilities that students needed to develop for a Foundation Design Education. Some of the abilities that emerged from this investigation were Â– ability to engage in holistic thinking; ability to make a positive change; ability to respond to real problems; ability research and imagine the future; ability to engage in the process of introspection of the self and a process of extrospection with the other. Introspection is one of the most obvious components of our unique human consciousness and sentience. Navigating knowledge, accuracy of the information at our disposal, biases, and sensitising the self. Extrospection is how the Self understands and empathise with the external environment around and the Other.
The key concerns expressed by design educators in the interviews underlined the importance of a set of abilities that are critical for these students. These abilities are sought to be developed through assignments, where assignments are considered not the end but the means to an end. Developing a process-oriented thinking that applies these abilities is critical. A process that keeps the human central and follows a systematic, investigative path of identifying, examining, discerning, extracting and translating insights. In order to address this, the thesis proposes to seek an understanding of these aspects more clearly. The thesis proposes that an understanding of the notion of Self for the designer and the Self-Other relationship can possibly lead to problem-solving methods that are more humanistic in their response to the contemporary issues. A notion of the Self sensitises the designer in a holistic manner, reinforcing the ability to observe, empathise and facilitate preferred changes that pervade preconceived existing perspectives by exploration of sustainable solutions in the ecosystems.
The thesis proposes that a suitably modulated Foundation Design Education can enrich the programme. One such modulation was carried out in an engineering institute where a new B.Tech. programme, Computer Science and Design, was being introduced for the first time. The courses are designed keeping the Self and the Self-Other relationship central. These courses are documented and the learnings of students are recorded. At the end of each course, students reflect upon and articulate the abilities they believe they developed in the assignments. They also reflect upon the Self as a designer, that helped in shaping the processes of problem solving and developing sensitivity to others.
In conclusion, the study suggests that a better understanding of the notion of the Self and the Self-Other relationship in Foundation Design Education can possibly lead to design processes and methods that are responsive to the problems, issues and needs of present times.