Media Lab Asia: Kanpur Lucknow Lab


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Master of Design Program in IIT, Kanpur in collaboration with Media Lab Asia.

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) in collaboration with Media Lab Asia has initiated a new program called the Master of Design (MDes).The inspiration is drawn from the fact that in Media Lab in MIT,USA continuing redefining of imparting education through various new and non conventional methodologies in tandem with new technology is taking place. It was felt that IIT, Kanpur in collaboration with Media Lab Asia could also do some research along the same line. To move in the direction of setting up a good design program in graduate level, a group of three faculty members completed a successful tour of design schools in Italy, Netherlands, France, USA and Japan.This team visited 12 schools and have studied in details the design and media education programs. Based on their experience and reports made by them to the Director, Prof.S.G.Dhande,IIT Kanpur a subsequent meeting took place with faculty members and peoples from Media Lab Asia to discuss the different issues related to the program in IIT,Kanpur. It was decided that there would be four components to the M.Des program These four areas are -

  • Communication for Social Change
  • Craft Heritage and Technology
  • Learning by Design
  • Shelters, Spaces and Decision - making

Also one institution in Bangalore, working in the areas of design, Srishti was involved in the discussion with a view to know their experience as an Indian institution working towards the design aspect but not as a degree providing institute.

Given below is an outline of the overarching goals for the MDes course titled "Communication for Change"

  1. Redefining the interaction between communication and the social well-being of people in the developing world, particularly India.
  2. Making communication a full-partner in the development process.
  3. Fostering debate and reflection on the process of the design and development of social education and communication products.
  4. Finding fresh ways in which artists, designers, social activists, health workers and citizens can cooperate and collaborate in the design and development of the communication products and strategies.
  5. Investigating various communication forms and examining the contentious and problematic issues that are embedded in dealing with notions of social change.
  6. Exploring ways in which new information and communication technologies can be used to empower people and communities in improving their own lives.
  7. Expanding the notion of design as an inclusive and collaborative process that includes the stake-holders and the users actively, right from the initial idea to its completion.
  8. Developing models of social communicators that move away from the vertical and top-down design, to more lateral and participatory ones.

Whereas traditional methods of communication have tended to deliver "designed" messages from "the experts" to the "objects of change" in a hierarchical manner, communication for social change prefers to see the receivers of communication as agents not the objects of change - full partners in a horizontal development process. This approach attempts to energize and actively involve people and communities in creating long-term, sustainable, positive change. In shifting the balance of power, the goal is to give voice to the historically voiceless and marginalized communities and to cultivate an atmosphere in which people have the confidence to own both the process and content of communication.

Real Issues

It was felt that just allowing communication practitioners to collate and montage information through a variety of new and old media technologies would not enable stake-holders to know what they should do, think or act. If information were to translate itself into knowledge and understanding then it needed an experimental dimension to it-one where the flexible use of that understanding was made possible by deliberate design.

The issue selected was embedded within a model for the development of curricula themes around the generative topic of Communication for change.

Within the above framework of reference a continuing professional development workshops conducted successfully in Bangalore for evolving the details of M. Des. Program. These workshops were conducted in collaboration with Srishti.

Goals of the workshop

  • Experimenting with the untrained (free-er, less structured) creativity that comes from grass root practitioners.
  • Combining the skills of professionally trained communicators with the practical experience and ground reality awareness of social activities.
  • Finding and creating common ground between people from diverse fields by bringing people together from communication, education, public health, environmental activism, human rights and development organizations.
  • Increasing the awareness of diversity created by new technologies and developing and awareness of new realities and possibilities that new communication technologies give for people to use their own voices to shape their own lives.

About 150 persons have been trained. These persons have been trained in ICT based design methodology. The high quality of these programs have been appreciated by all. The proposed program of M. Des. which has been adopted by IIT Kanpur and Media Lab Asia is based on the tour report of this team as well as the workshop reports.

Master of Design (MDes) Program offered at IIT Kanpur

Specializations: Product Design, Visual Communication Design.
Collaboration: Media Lab Asia.

  • Right blend of Functionality, Ergonomics & Aesthetics
  • Innovation & Creativity
  • Converting a New Concept into a Product
  • Interaction between Designers, Consumers & Industry
  • Sustainability
  • Durability
  • Economic Viability
  • Eco-friendly Design
  • Conservation of Energy & Materials
  • Hands-on-experience
  • Concurrent Engineering
  • Vision for Future Products


  • Prof. Sanjay G Dhande
  • Prof. Prashant Kumar
  • Prof. Amit Ray
  • Prof. Bishakh Bhattacharya

Course Started in the month of August 2002 and first intake of ten students were inducted through GATE and subsequent interview process.

The duration of the course is 24 months along in the line of other graduate program.

Other institutions all around India are in close touch with this program. A national committee consists of eminent design professional and faculties have been formed in the institute to monitor the progress of the program.

It is hoped the successful completion of the first batch of design students would spread this type of program in other institutions in the country.

Page updated on Fri Mar 7 15:19:37 IST 2003