Noted design educator and founder of NID’s faculty of Industrial Design, H Kumar Vyas (88) passed away on 25th March 2017 owing to age-related complications. Born in 1929 in Uganda, Vyas had his early training as an industrial designer at the Central School of Art and Design, London, and worked as a professional designer at Douglas Scott Associates, London.
Joining NID in 1962, Vyas established the Faculty of Industrial Design with the aim of initiating training programs for the first cadre of industrial designers in India. In 1970, Vyas helped innovate and introduce NID’s first undergraduate program—the five and half year long professional education program. From 1977 onward, he turned his attention to engaging with youth on concepts of design and design thinking. Between 2011–13, Vyas held the position of Honorary Research Fellow at NID.
I am blatantly usurping Dhun Karkariya’s graphical tribute to Kumar to make mine here. (Thank you, Dhun.) Professor Kumar Vyas was not just the founding faculty of the National Institute of Design (NID); for the few of us who are setting up the School of Integral Design (InDes), he is the first ‘systems thinking’ educator in the country. Systems Thinking at NID has an elongated history. Its origins are with Kumar’s teachings on how to seek and identify the ‘need’. To be able to identify and isolate the ‘need’ in any design project is akin to finding ‘purpose’ in a system. That is what defines boundaries and forms the basis for investigation and action. This base in systems was later strengthened by Mohan Bhandari’s contribution – to see everything as processes and not as things. To see the underlying connections and relationships that give shape and character to the ‘things’. And then by MP Ranjan’s use of metaphors to find structure, to know how it all connected together and made sense. And to his use of scenarios to peep into the future.
While all this happened over a period of years, systems thinking existed in a tacit form on the campus; through their writings, Bucky Fuller, Stafford Beer, Ivan Illich, Victor Papanek, Stewart Brand, Christopher Alexander, and Christopher Jones could be counted as much faculty as Kumar and his colleagues.
An NID graduate’s ability to move beyond one’s specialization and be successful in almost any other (product and furniture designers as successful information architects, Software User Interface designers, and so on) is attributed to the ‘systems’ base of the institution’s education.
Kumar’s own versatility emerged from being always ahead of the times. He taught us Visual Thinking through his Sketch-In courses in an entirely new way and equipped us with visual tools without the use of any tools! He was a proponent of Appropriate Technology (what would currently be termed as Sustainable Practices) at a time when all the attention was on mass manufacturing. Even his recent research and proposal, Failed Roman (http://nid.edu/FailedRomanA/FailedRomanA.html) on the inadequacies of the Roman script in capturing Indian sounds is a prime example of his forward thinking. Now that English is pretty much an Indian language in India, imagine the implications and consequences if we started using a modified Roman script to overcome these failures!
Yes Sir, Kumar Vyas, the true torch bearer of Design Thinking & Practice in India. My ‘Sir’ Name cannot be any other.
(Dinesh Korjan – Product Designer. Head – Korjan 2..0 )