In the bustling capital city of New Delhi stands Apeejay Institute of Design (AID), strikingly calm and peaceful. At first sight, the very façade stands testimony to great design. Lush green foliage cocoons the half-acre campus, enveloping the earthy building and its 250 students in a canopy of natural inspiration. Inside, students can be found silently gazing at a tree or plant, sketching, painting or drawing. Others are hard at work in workshops and labs, meticulously detailing the progress of their weekly assignments.
Design education has a unique approach at AID. “Creativity needs the appropriate atmosphere to flourish and flower. Design, on the other hand, requires a scientific approach,” believes Ms. Reetu Betala, Founder Director, AID. This marriage of creativity and science, design and discipline is exactly what AID is all about.
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Pioneering design education
At the time of its establishment in 1991 by the industrial house, Apeejay, Director Betala recalls being asked, “What will you do with kids for four years?” Twenty-six years later, many successful alumni of AID can vouch for her leap of faith in pioneering the four-year Bachelor of Design professional degree programme. The institute was well ahead of its time, having introduced the semester and six-month internship since its inception.
Kanika Sachdev fondly recalls her time at AID as a student of Fashion Design, batch of 2007. “The faculty was really great. Every department was very well coordinated and every faculty was very helpful. They taught us each and every detail. We had a lot of industry experience,” says Sachdev. Sachdev went on to work with distinguished designers like Anju Modi and Ritu Kumar. Within a decade since her graduation, she is the proud founder of ‘Jajaabor’, her very own fashion label.
Be your own boss
Kanika Sachdev’s story of success is not unusual for the students of AID. In fact, it is encouraged as the norm. “I tell my students, do three years in the industry, go back to your hometowns and start your own business. And it is happening!” exclaims Director Betala.
The curriculum and industry-oriented approach at AID emphasises strong conceptual development, giving rise to ‘design thinkers’. These students develop not only the highest order of technical skills, but also have a knack for management. “What India needs is entrepreneurs,” remarks Director Betala. The curriculum lays emphasis on core management subjects with a 30-hour entrepreneurship module. The course helps students eventually plan and develop successful entrepreneurial ventures.
Fashion for a cause
“You don’t become a designer if you stitch four garments,” is the staunch belief of Director Betala. Standards are high at AID. This sets students’ ambitions soaring even higher and that reflects in the quality of the output. Students have bagged internships and jobs at Zara, Marks & Spencer, Levi’s, Jabong and Reliance Trends, among other well-known labels, besides working with premier fashion designers like Tarun Tahiliani and Pankaj & Nidhi. But fashion at AID is not all about glitz and glam. One group of students collaborated with IIT Delhi to conceptualise ‘enabled clothing for elderly’. They revisited four Indian garments—the saree, blouse, kurta and salwar. They identified the problems and circumstances of the elderly by visiting old age homes. Simple design solutions were devised which did not take away from the traditional element of these garments that the elderly value so dearly. Yet, comfort and wearability were given priority. Such projects are encouraged at AID—where students can employ fashion as means to improve lives and make a difference.
Traditional crafts, modern views
In 2006, the Ministry of Culture, West Bengal, called upon AID to revive and revitalise dying painting art forms. Traditional styles like Saura went from wall to workshop. Students worked with craftspeople to create a home furnishing range complete with cushions, curtains, lanterns and table linens, along with bags, stationery items and more. The line was displayed at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, to much public applause. Such government commissioned projects keep happening at AID.
“Every youngster must give back,” believes Director Betala. Preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of the country is part of the mandate at AID and students are very much a part of it.
Hands-on, experiential learning
Every week, students receive a new project. For first year Fashion Design student Aditi Ambasta, fashion took on an unexpected street-style twist. “My last assignment was about creating design solutions for street food vendors around the AID campus. I had to analyse their challenges and give solutions for the betterment of their stall. I focussed on a local chhola kulcha waala. He didn’t have a menu, he had no offers, hygiene was low, and he faced seasonal issues. I designed solutions to these problems,” says Ambasta, who went on to share a proposal with the vendor, in a bid to help him take his business to the next level. Projects like these help students in a multi-faceted way. It helps students stay grounded in the realities of today’s world and recognise at the far-reaching applications of design. They begin to look at society, the industry and everything around them through a problem-solving attitude. Here, design education is totally research-based.
Students are required to document each and every step of their projects, right from research and surveys to conceptualisation, designing, prototyping and testing. Through these weekly assignments, there is a close and continuous model of evaluation.
An enriched environment
The campus gardens, amphitheater and open-air canteen are filled with the creations of students from paintings and sculptures to murals and more. A one-of-its-kind art gallery displays the innovative and inspiring works of both students and faculty. Natural light streams into the deliberately and beautifully designed building, illuminating the many design studios and workshops.
Admission to the institute is not just based on skill, but on concept and thought orientation. This is nurtured throughout their education. As students go through their years of training, they emerge as uniquely skilled design thinkers. Naturally, placements come easy to these bright youngsters.
Even without a placement cell, AID manages to boast a 100 percent placement record. The reason? A legacy of 26 years has given AID a distinctive name in the market. Director Betala’s desk and inbox are always crowded with offers from top brands in the industry in India and across the globe - and pool of brilliant designers emerge ready to shine in their careers.
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