Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Jitin Chadha is the Founder and Director of IIAD, a design institute that offers Undergraduate Design Programs in collaboration with Kingston University, London. In addition to this, he is also the Founder Director of Indian School of Business and Finance (ISBF), New Delhi, which is well known for its affiliation with the University of London, London School of Economics (LSE).
Dr. Chadha brings passion and experience to the field of education and is committed to bringing world-class design education in India through IIAD. He believes in quality interdisciplinary programs that will nurture talent and intellectual curiosity and foster critical thinking along with giving the students a core skill set. Dr. Chadha is synonymous to quality education and IIAD is set to create a benchmark in International Design Education.
Dr. Chadha’s experience in the education industry
I have been in the education industry now for more than a decade, with two institutions that I have founded. One is the Indian School of Business and Finance, ISBF (2006) in collaboration with the London School of Economics (LSE) and the second is Indian Institute of Art and Design, IIAD (2014) in collaboration with Kingston University, London.
What makes Education one of the best industries to work in is not just the fact that it is a growing sector with a lot of potential but also the fact that it is one of the most satisfying sectors to be in. Here, one gets to mold young minds and help them build their future. This also helps shape the larger future of the country and assists in nation building. It is not for nothing that it is said that Education is a noble sector.
Dr. Chadha’s philosophy of leadership
Leading an educational institute is unlike a business house because here you are dealing with human beings and not any commodity. Therefore, the head of an educational institute has to first and foremost have empathy and an open mind in dealing with people. He also needs to have a vision that has to be situated in the future and has to ensure that all the facets of the institution are working towards it. Also, as I stated, an Institution is built by its people, so a leader of an institute has to be a team-builder as well as a team leader. He has to be a people’s person and a long-term strategist because institutions of merit like IIAD are not built in a day.
Significant challenges faced as the director of Indian Institute of Art and Design
In any venture, there will always be challenges, especially if one is trying to break out of the box as we at IIAD are trying to do. We are trying to shift the paradigm in Design Education here and that undoubtedly presents a different set of challenges on an almost day-to-day basis. Just to give an example, we have to change the stereotypes in the minds of parents, and sometimes even students, on a regular basis. And then, of course, there are the physical challenges of setting up a new institute. But then, it is such challenges that make this journey exciting and fulfilling.
Curriculum of IIAD
I’d go as far as to say that our curriculum is better than many in the current Indian scenario. It has been put together after a lot of deliberation, thought, and hard work. It involved, and still does, a lot of national and international experts, from academic as well as industry. We also constantly run it past experts, through students’ work and faculty interactions, to keep benchmarking it with global standards as well as industry requirement.
Views on the growth of students through placement opportunities available at Indian Institute of Art and Design
Our first batch graduates in 2019 and we are confident of excellent placements for them. This confidence comes from our belief in our curriculum and our delivery of it. Already our internship record is excellent, not only in that all mandatory internships have been assured, but the fact that each student’s needs, skills, and aspirations have been individually addressed and mapped to the correct opportunity. That kind of student-centricity and empathy is rare. About pushing the envelope, we hope that our students are employable not just in our country or region, but will be sought-after internationally.
Dr. Chadha on his relation with the students and how he makes himself available to them
Indian Institute of Art and Design was established with an endeavor to develop professionals with a distinct aesthetic sensibility. IIAD provides students with a platform to not just enhance their design thinking skills which would extend to the realm of design industry but also share a congenial bond with the faculty and staff here.
I personally believe that an educational institute grows with its students and this growth is nurtured with care and understanding. An environment with restrictions somewhere annihilates the creative spirits of the students, so we have been quite certain on offering hands-on experience to the students in an independent set-up. The faculty, staff and every member at IIAD has developed a bond with the students which assist in their overall growth and development.
Amidst the busy and chaotic schedule, I try to make space for the students in times of their concern as and when they require with regards to the curriculum, events, seminars, and workshops. It is of immense significance to maintaining an open dialogue with the students in order to understand and comprehend them. As I said, we, as an institute grow with our students, their success is ours and so are their predicaments.
Thoughts on an ideal school environment
An ideal school environment, according to me is one where students have the liberty to express their ideas and opinions with the faculty and staff. I always insist on offering students space and privilege to bring out the best in them and this can be executed when students share an amiable relation with the staff and are not restrained from voicing their propositions and all matters concerned with their overall growth and development. An environment where faculty believes that education is not limited within the four walls of a classroom is what we believe is an ideal learning environment and that’s what we strive for in IIAD.
I most definitely encourage the culture of teaching-learning in an open environment because this generation is focused and career oriented from an early age and they develop their opinions soon. They are quite clear about their strengths and shortcomings early on in life. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to encourage their unique perspectives, believe in their aspirations and create an unbiased atmosphere to let their ideas take shape.
Top qualities that an aspiring designer must possess
Design is one of the most sought-after professions today and a professional degree in design is always helpful if one wants to pursue this profession in the long run. However, design has more to do with the ability to think, ideation and creation that would appear only aesthetically good. Over the years, I have observed and to some extent learned, a lot from the versatility and the width of the design industry as well as the design students at IIAD. According to me, some of the top qualities of an aspiring designer would be:
- Ability to ideate and empathize
- Breaking the conventional methods of learning and applying
- Developing ideas beyond the traditional realm of imagination
- Non-linear thinking ability
- Urge to learn and research existing design paradigms
Goals in mind for IIAD for the next few years
Here at IIAD, we want to engage with the next generation of students and help them navigate through their interests & career in design. By sharing our understanding and expertise in design education, we wish to build a strong community of designers who can compete at an international stage. The design industry is becoming more inclusive and less isolated each day. This helps create an environment conducive to collaborative work and cross-border exchange of ideas which will result in cutting-edge solutions.
We wish to be a facilitator of such an education system that plugs the need for any student to seek education or a career anywhere in the world. There is a common understanding that any form of education abroad must be better than its Indian equivalent. We want to abolish such a notion by bringing the same quality to design education to India.
Suggestions to the current youth and the aspiring students
I would suggest to the aspiring students to have a thorough knowledge of design in India itself. It is essential to bring a unique essence of context and aesthetics to your original work which would require an in-depth knowledge of different elements of design in India. This will help the aspiring designers to set themselves apart and also create a niche. It is also vital to equip oneself with multidisciplinary skill sets and the market is indicating the same. It is important that the aspiring students understand that being able to churn out good design, which is the end result of any formal design education is a product of an elaborate process.
This includes generating concept, ideation, research, prototyping, and development. And the process does not come to a halt at that point, it actually extends further. An understanding of sourcing, quality, distribution, and market will also prove to be essential survival skills in the industry. So, a wholesome and all-round understanding of any product/service cycle will help them understand the need of the design industry.
Also, a country like India needs a lot of design-educated professionals to be able to improve the everyday life experience of our people. I would advise young design aspirants to start thinking beyond the mere beauty of design to its utility as well.