The Design Overture


NID staircase

“The ability to feel, to see, to discover, to think, to build and model, communicate and to evaluate form the core of design learning…”

M P Ranjan, NID, 2004

Monument at NID: Convocation 2005
NID Monument: Convocation 2005

In July 2002, Suranjana Satwalekar initiated me into the blitzkrieg of Design. Bewildered and gawky, I started with thinking that when NIDians went for a ‘dip’ it was to a swimming pool; my first few weeks were spent in walking around the heritage campus of the National Institute of Design in search for that elusive pool! I never found that pool but in these 15 years, I have flown the roller coaster of colours, forms, typefaces, sans serifs, formats, alignments, layouts, spacings, kernings, matt and glossy finishes, lateral thinking, concepts, ideas, design intents, briefs, colloquiums, craft documentations and diploma projects.

Salute Suranjana for your guidance, nurturing and protection! Your sharp intellect, amazing wit and excellent communication powers enthral me.

What appears is…

At my first meeting with Suranjana, I met Siddhartha Ghosh. Walking through the metal workshop, he asked me where I would like to lunch. Siddhartha (with emphasis on the last ‘a’) offered me the choice between the Amul canteen and BMW, I didn’t answer as I was crazily searching for an exciting canteen of the premier Design school of the country, converted from a BMW car. Aptly interpreting my silence, he said BMW means ‘behind metal workshop’ – and taught me the biggest lesson for survival at not only NID but in life – nothing is what it appears to be!

Those who might not be aware, his work is immortalised in the Calcutta Gallery  Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata.

Siddhartha, with former student Deepthi Radhakrishnan. Photo by: Priyam Chatterjee

Proud of being a ‘cynic on campus’ and not possessing a passport, Siddhartha left for a campus that didn’t bother about his credentials. One of the best yet one of the least recognised designers of the country, not a day goes when I don’t flinch to see ill formatted, wrongly aligned and thoughtlessly placed ‘type’…hope you have found your world of perfect type and form.


The excitement of involvement for the encyclopaedic labour of love ‘Handmade in India’ would soon overtake this awe struck and gaping minion, flowing in and out of the loving conversations between its Editors, Senior Faculty, Aditi and M P Ranjan. Their love and respect for each other was so apparent in every little thing they did and it affected us – buoyant and effervescent elves it made out of mere humans. With amazement, I would hear Ranjan tell NIDians that one doesn’t make mistakes or fail in life, designers just attempt a different approach and continue to create. That smile is no longer there and neither that BIG positive attitude, but the message lives on…waiting for one more chai session at the main gate…

Aditi, your warm smile and calm demeanour has broken many hardened ones and humanised unseen fears. Every meeting with you teaches so much about life, love, education, success, approaches, problems, solutions – basically about Design.

As Issye Miyake said, “Design is not for philosophy, it’s for life.”

Vikas Satwalekar, a designer par excellence, educator and most importantly, a leader – it was bizarre to see the NID Auditorium dissolve in tears on your retirement day. You make it all appear so simple, reminding one of Paul Rand’s “Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.

S M Shah, thanks for persuading me to admire the beauty of rain falling on the ‘big tree’ over a minute cup of steamy tea – life’s spontaneity and joy in small things have always been cherished since then!

NID Aqaurium: cherishing the old with the new

My crush sharer Romanie Jaitley, auraman Amardeep Behl, hugs Nina Sabnani, spotless white MGD Nair, camera and braiding crazed Eroll Pires, ‘achha hai’ Sethuraman, ubercool Pradyumna Vyas, vanguard Mookesh Patel, aureate Anando Dutta, epigrammatic Anthony Lopez, Bhai (the Don) Dinesh Sharma, the not-always-Praji-but-Praji Jasjit Singh,the breathtaking artists Priyam Chatterjee, Shruti Phagre, Shaila Kunhu and Rudranil Das, perfectionist Akanksha Jain, shooting star Yashmi Jain, believer Sumegha Mantri, fairy Deepthi Radhakrishnan, lost in fathomless creativity Priyankar Gupta, reviver Ashdeen Lilaowala, mischief maker Bindhu Madhu, multifaceted Niyati Kumar, coffeeblender ‘Tilla’ Man Aratrik, maverick Moneet Chitroda, soon to be partners-in-crime Sekhar Mukherjee, Bhaskar Bhat and Dhriti Dhaundiyal,..

with Sanchari, Niyati, Farah on their Convocation, 2005

and, the guide Sanchari Mahapatra, the mad Farah Deba, the brilliant Gauri Tiwari, the perfect Deekshit Daniel Sebastian, Mann Singh, Prodipto Ray, Ravi Ranjan, Gunjan Singh, Hitesh Desai, Kavita Arvind, Tanu Sinha, Tulip Sinha, Anita Sundar, Seshadri, Arun John Lakra, Debanjan Nandy, Nishita Surin, Nanditha Sulur, Ruchita Madhok, Anu Mishra, Manju Sethi, Avinash Rajagopalan, Gunjan Ahalawat, Poorvi Mathur, Vijay and Dipika, Abhinav Shaw, Abhishek Bhartiya, Tushar Jain, Mayank Loonker, Paromita Bannerjee, Nachiket Barve, Nitin Patel, Raj Kala, Satyajit Kumar, Abhijeet, Navleen Kohli, Ekta Kaul, Sumit Saini, Anubhuti Bhalla, Riddhi Manna, Minali Singh, Munmun Meenakshi, Rama Aleti, Neha Lad, Neha Ramaiyya,  Nupur Bhargava, Hitesh Kewaliya, VarnikaDesigns brand and website creator Vinu Chaitanya…

convo 2005
There is always light, you have to want it to find it!

To all of you and many many many more stars in the Design galaxy, in humility and gratitude for years of endless learning, I dedicate the series of articles to be published over the next few months in ‘The Hindu’ highlighting the outstanding contribution of NIDians. Their work, spanning over nearly two decades, has already won them recognition at all levels but their ultimate homage is to the problems they are out to solve. Relentless in their endeavour, they inspire all.


Hope remains that amidst the cacophony and chaos of churning out designers at breakneck speed, the realisation dawns that Design is not about glamour, glitterati, paparazzi and social media dazzles but about seamless integration into the environment, acceptance of challenges, working within parameters, dissolving boundaries, pushing imagination frontiers, introspection, creating pathways, devising systems, respecting nature, not discriminating in the excuse of religion, caste, gender, age, class, colour, location, finance, not sinking to negative forces, not becoming irrelevant with time, devoting endless hours to achieve perfection, while illuminating sparks of hope, love, patience, positivity, dreams for a bright future ahead.

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
Steve Jobs
Golden J
Golden Jubilee celebrations, NID, 2011
Disclaimer: These articles are merely indicative of an exhaustive list of NID almuni working in the depths of India. There is no intention in erasing out important work or highlighting some spheres of Design over others.
All photographs have been taken by the author, otherwise attributed.

4 thoughts on “The Design Overture

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  1. It was a beautiful journey to go back to the old NID era and to feel proud that I was also a part of their lives at some point or the other. Most of them still remain in my memory since I joined NID in 1973….


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