Design education expands in India
Updated on May 12, 2014 - 12:42 p.m. IST by Merril Diniz

Lab-based learning: (Top) Students at NID practise the mantra “learning by doing” across programmes like Communication Design, Transportation Design and Textile Design;  (Below Left) A student of a Hair and Make-up course at the Neeta Lulla School of Fashion at the Whistling Woods campus in Mumbai; (Below Left) Students experiment in the classroom at the one-year-old Parson’s ISDI campus in Mumbai.

Creativity-3IN April 2006, Rahul Mishra, a textile designer from NID, made an impact at Fashion Week’s gen-next show. His collection of “mundu” inspired western apparel of 100 percent Kerala handloom with reversible coats, impressed the very hard-to-please Albert Morris, a representative of Brown’s, a premier store in London, (which houses Sabyasachi’s designs). In 2014, the boy from Malhausi, a village near Kanpur, won the International Woolmark Prize, first awarded  to renowned designers Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in 1954. The prestigious contest can be entered by invitation only, and the prize money in 2014 amounted to INR 60 lakhs!

According to Pradyumna Vyas, Director-NID, Rahul’s win is a shot in the arm for the Indian design industry. So is Forbes India’s 2014 ‘30 Under 30’ list, which featured four designers including MoneetChitroda, a senior designer (interiors) at Renault Technocentre in Paris. At 28, Moneet is the Group’s youngest-ever senior designer, hired for his impressive portfolio.


Creativity-4IT companies hiring designers

While there are no official figures on how many designers India needs in the next decades, according to several reports, technology majors like Microsoft, Cognizant, HCL and Wipro, e-commerce giant eBay India and the local research laboratories of SAP and HP are headhunting at design schools, seeking to hire graduates who can enhance the appeal of their products, sites and services. Toshiba hired two product designers from NID for INR 38 lakhs to work at their design department in Tokyo, an offer unheard of in design placements.

Mike KnowlesProf. Mike Knowles

Dean, Sushant School of Design

Ansal University


Bringing out inner creativity is an intense task


There is only one goal to overcome, and that is embracing the importance of design education in today’s world. Once students accept what a great step they have taken in choosing design and equally important, parents feel the same way, the job is done. Of course, the basics of discovery need gentle nurturing and special attention. For young people, most of whom were told at the age of 12 that art and design is of no use, making sure they dig deep and bring out the great inner creativity that was sealed up so long ago, is our first intense task. But when that happens and they find that inner well – wow! What gushes forth is wonderful and inspiring.

Internationally, design courses attract attention because great design and more importantly ’Design Thinking’ are seen as the catalysts for every career possibility. It is vital that when looking at design schools you ensure that the faculty are internationally trained by and large or from one of the better design schools in India. Equally, although all schools will stream their courses post foundation, ensure that the broader mentoring is grounded in the holistic approach to design.

Creativity-5Public school campuses grow

As the design industry grows, so has the demand for trained designers. The design education landscape in India is expanding with a rich diversity of courses, USPs and approaches. Today, NID has three campuses. Its main campus in Ahmedabad offers both UG and PG programmes, one at Gandhinagar offers unique PG programmes like Toy and Game design and Lifestyle Accessory design, and its Bangalore campus offers IT-integrated courses. NIFT has 15 campuses, including Shillong, Jodhpur and Kangra offering a variety of programmes. FDDI with eight campuses is especially strong in the technical aspects of shoe design, while aiming to build on its design training.

Pradyumna VyasPradyumna Vyas

Director, National Institute of Design (NID )


"Budding designers must have creative ability and aesthetics (as these get the attention of people), an analytical mind, empathy, an openness to new ideas, a point of view, and general awareness and observation of people, society and technology around you. And finally, you must be passionate!"


AT work Students of Visual Merchandising at Pearl Academy, FDDI and other institutes are taught to create window displays like the one above; A student at Ansal University’s Sushant School of Design in Gurgaon creates a blueprint (Midddle); A fashion design sketch by a NIFT student (far left)

Making a mark

A host of private institutes are making their presence felt by offering  diverse approaches. Srishti in Bangalore  encourages students to question and design, keeping real-world problems in mind. Pearl Academy, with five campuses, has established itself as a household name, and has a strong connect to  industry trends.  The Indian Institute of Arts & Crafts, in Jaipur has a strong focus on India’s rich craft heritage. The IITs offer MDesprogrammes at its four campuses, while CEPT in Ahmedabad is in a league of its own, with its research-intensive approach.


Global footprint

International design schools are also setting up schools in India. DSK Supinfocom in Pune, which is strong in product, transportation and game design was set up by a French institute, while Parson’s Indian School of Design And Innovation (ISDI) is associated with Parson’s New Design School, a premier institute in New York.


Creativity-6Making the right choice

Design professional VivekRavunniarath, who attended Pearl Academy, recalls, “When I finished school, I only knew about NID and NIFT. I didn’t get through either of the schools but I heard of Pearl. I took a few weeks’ intensive sketching lessons because I knew it was my weak sketching that prevented me from getting through NID/NIFT. After the lessons, I gave the Pearl exam and cleared it.” Lucky for Vivek, in retrospect he is glad he attended Pearl as it provided him access to the real industry. Many like Vivek, may not find seats in public institutions like NID, NIFT and the IITs, and will need to look at options in the private schools.


How to enter the field

Undergraduate programmes in India, typically range between three and four years. Students who have passed or who will appear for qualifying examinations in 10+2 or equivalents like AISSCE, IB and ISC during the academic year of admission are eligible to apply.


Is a degree important?

While NID awards diplomas at the UG and PG levels, NIFT and some others institutes offer degrees.  However, it is important to understand that unlike courses like Engineering or Medicine, in the design field it is not the degree, but your capabilities as a designer that counts. RadhaKapoor, Founder of Parson’s ISDI shares, “When we had several round tables with industry heads and they felt it was not necessary to have a degree, but our Indian mindsets demands it. Design is a more practical experience and the portfolio that you build.” There is no universal regulatory body for design education.

Hemant-SutharHemant Suthar

Founder, Fractal Ink Design Studio Founder Member, Association of Designers in India (ADI)


"Personality development and not just design skills, is important. You must understand the clients’ brief and be able to express your ideas, because clients can be pushy. So, you need to fight that out!"


Kicking off with a Foundation Course, students get savvy about basic design principles. But by the end of the first or second year, some students rue their choice of programme, hence it is very important to choose your discipline carefully. The best way to know your design interest is to ask established designers. Websites like feature the profiles and portfolios of design students, faculty and professionals from around the world. Your answers may be a few clicks away!



Textile Design

One of the earliest programmes in India, it trains you in the technical and creative aspects of design, and is about the development of fabrics - the raw materials used to create textiles. Students are introduced to various textile technologies like weaving, printing, embroidery and dyeing, and the fundamentals of graphic software and its usage for image creation. Expect regular field visits and internship with textile mills, printing units and other processing houses. 


Fashion Design

This programme teaches you the fundamentals of apparel design, and comprises both technical and creative skill development. This includes fashion sketching, creative design, computer applications, draping, and pattern drafting. The apparel industry spans from the export market and couture, to pret (ready-to-wear) clothing and niche segments. Institutes like NIFT offer a “logical, sequential, hands-on experience enables students to conceptualize designs, make patterns, drape and construct garments of impeccable quality”.


Professional portfolio Mannequins dressed for the festive season by visual merchandising professional ShammiRaghuvanshi from Pearl Academy (Left); Custom-designed and created home furnishings by textile designer Chandrashekhar Bheda from NID (Right); Fitness band Goquii

Goquii-product-designLifestyle accessory Design

Accessory Design is gaining importance as a course taught in design schools, polytechnics and training institutes. Typically, products of companies are customized to suit seasons, regions, lifestyles and culture, and hence require talented designers who are good at aesthetics as well as technically strong across the materials used. The range of accessories includes Jewellery, Home and interior products, Fashion and lifestyle products like bags and luggage, and Corporate and office products. 


Product Design

From pens to kitchen appliances, Product Design is the stream that trains designers to create objects of utilitarian value. Product Design involves an understanding of materials, processes, ergonomics, human behaviour and systems, and the product designer’s role is constantly growing as she/her understands the larger implications of products, and the relationships with users. This course helps you develop technological skills, manufacturing skills and design management, all three key ingredients in product design. 


Interiors, space and furniture design

Contrary to the notion that interior design is about decorating homes, professionals in the field can be found working on all kinds of spaces. For instance, you may need to design the interiors of a hospital, keeping all aspects of healthcare process in mind. In fact, homes form a minority of spaces that interior design professionals work in. Commercial interior spaces include: office spaces; institutions (public & private); colleges and schools; Retail spaces (malls, shopping centres, department stores, speciality stores, visual merchandising, showrooms, kiosks, exhibitions); Healthcare facilities (hospitals, clinics; labs;)  Hospitality & wellness centres and Industrial facilities like factories. 

Neeta LullaNeeta Lulla
Fashion Designer & Founder, Whistling Woods Neeta Lulla School of Fashion

"In today’s competitive world, it is important to have the correct knowledge, technical know-how, and global exposure to be able to excel in the industry. Fashion students must focus on these points while choosing their school"

Communication Design

A programme that is well-established at design schools in the US and Europe, Communication Design is gaining prominence at Indian design institutes because of the vast job scope. Just as fashion designers use textiles as raw material to create clothes, Communication Designers use images, visuals and video as raw materials, to communicate ideas, advertise and promote products or services. For instance, companies look for a logo that will be etched in the memories of consumers forever. Think Apple, Nike or the Olympics. This upcoming area known as brand identity  needs professionals with design skills and strategic thinking, a winning combo.


Allied fashion programmes

Over the last decade, fashion industry has demanded professionals who understand the fashion business, but are equipped with specific skills like marketing, styling, visual merchandising and communication. Neeta Lulla, Founder of the Neeta Lulla School of Fashion at the Whistling Woods campus, Mumbai shares that allied fashion programmes offered today, include, Fashion Marketing, Pattern drafting and sewing techniques, Couture finishing and customization, Personal Styling & Grooming, Fashion Photography, Hair & Make Up, and specialized courses like Celebrity Styling for Films & TV, Draping, Pattern Making & Apparel Construction, Digital Fashion using CAD, and Illustration.



Most design institutes have a written test, followed by a studio test.

Level I: Top entrance tests for Bachelor’s programmes

CEED (IITs): The Common Entrance Examination for Design (CEED) is an all India examn conducted by IIT Bombay, on behalf of the HRD Ministry,  for admission to Master of Design courses offered at four IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati and Kanpur). The test assesses your design aptitude involving visual perception ability, drawing skills, logical reasoning, creativity, and communication skills.  

Radha KapoorRadha Kapoor

Founder, Parson’s Indian School of Design And Innovation (ISDI)

"How do we commercialise design? How do we get designers to monetize their skills? This function has been highly undervalued but we are now seeing a boom in technology and design innovation, and we are actually seeing companies appointing Creative Officers"

NIFT: NIFT conducts a Paper-Based Test (PBT) entrance for its BDes courses, comprising two parts of three hours each. The General Ability Test (GAT) comprises: Quantitative Ability, Communication Ability, English Comprehension, Analytical Ability and General Knowledge and Current Affairs, and is a 150-mark test. The Creative Ability Test (CAT) that gauges creative and innovative aptitude through colour and illustration, is a 100-mark test.


NID’s Design Aptitude Test is a three-hour 100 mark paper which tests Design Problem Solving, Visual Sense, Observation & Perception, Environmental Awareness, Mental Ability and Communication skills, through a range of visual and textual questions.  


 FDDI: You must appear for the Computer-based All India Selection Test (AIST), which test you in Math, General Science, English and General Awareness. Application deadline is May 20, and the exam is  on June 14, 15 and 16.


Pearl Academy conducts two all India tests for its five campuses.  Design Aptitude Test examines your aptitude for creativity, drawing, design ability, power of observation and imagination, sensitivity to environment and communication skills, and the General Proficiency Test judges English language proficiency, Language Ability, Logical reasoning, Quantitative ability, Data Interpretation, basic Math, etc. The exam is usually in June 2.


Symbiosis Institute of Design conducts the Symbiosis Entrance Test (SET), which allots 150 marks for design aptitude. Online registration closes on April 13, 2014 and the test will be in May.


Level II: Creative test

Almost all design schools conduct a studio test, which gauges your creative ability, conceptual thinking, drawing skills, problem-solving approach and ability to work with various materials. The studio test may be divided into two-three parts such as doodling/sketching, observation test and a 3D modeling section where you need to create something with materials like fabric, clay and even waste.  The test is followed by an interview with a jury, who reviews your 3D model.  Institutes like DSK Supinfocom in Pune have a portfolio review. Your portfolio can include sketches, websites, fashion design, anything showcasing your creativity. It is not compulsory, but a good one can impress the jury. Designer RituBeri wore a sweater she knitted to her NIFT interview. She got in!



Choosing the right institute

The cost of a good design programme ranges between INR 4 to 25 lakhs (for 3 to five years). Factor in that course fees do not include the cost of buying materials used in projects and showcases, and these must be billed out of own pocket, or else find a sponsor who can fund your project. According to NID Director Vyas, key aspects comprise  faculty who must have stellar industry experience as well as conceptual bent of mind. The learning environment plays an important role, as this is a lab and experiment-based learning as opposed to lectures. Well-equipped labs and creative spaces to do your work is a must. Your campus must be connected to industry and society, as design cannot work in isolation or be learnt from a textbook. Beware of schools that lack infrastructure and make tall promises. Speak to alumni, visit the campus and meet faculty and students for insights.


Learning by doing

Be prepared for some de-schooling! You will experience a shift from lecture-style classes to hands-on, studio mode of teaching, which takes some getting used to! Expect discussions, field trips, real-time projects and working in the field. Exchange programmes are common at design schools, with international tie-ups, as there is nothing more refreshing for a design student than learning in a new environment.


Employment options

Unlike in fields such as management, most design pass-outs prefer working independently. However, it is a good idea to gain work experience and then branch out on your own. The recruiting canvas is wide, ranging from export houses, buying houses, design studios and corporates, to automobile companies, architecture firms and design labels. IT companies, today, are ready to shell out up to INR 18 lakhs to snatch a good design student, and according to Pradyumna Vyas, Director – NID, across the board companies are willing to pay more today, than ever before.


Smart tips

Once you enter design school, building up your portfolio (online & offline), is a must, so you are ready with a showcase for recruiters at placement time. It is important to develop your understanding of business and finance management during your course. Design entrepreneur Vivek learnt this the hard way. “For a designer who is a business owner, the  smart thing to do is to assemble hardcore business managers, because a combination of skillsets will make your more  successful!” Students can also join the Association of Designers of India (ADI), ( for mentoring, design competitions and festivals. Formed by a group of professional designers, you can benefit from their experiences! 

List of prominent design schools






NIFT (15 campuses)

BDes (multiple courses) &MDes, MFM


NID (3 campuses)

Graduate Diploma Prog (GDPD) & Post Grad (PGDPD) (multiple courses)


FDDI (8 campuses)

BDes( multiple courses); MDes,


CEPT, Ahmedabad

Bachelor’s in Interior Design; Master’s


UPES School of Design Studies

B.Des. (interdisciplinary) &MDes (Transportation; Industrial; Product; Interiors)


Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune

B.Des (Fashion; Communication; Industrial; Textile; Fashion Communication)


IIT Bombay (IDC)

M.Des.(Master of Design)


IIT Delhi (IDDC)

M.Des.(Master of Design)


Pearl Academy (5 campuses)

BA Hons. (Multiple courses)


Parson’s ISDI (Mumbai)

UG Diploma (Communication;Fashion: Interior;Product);PG Diplomas(2 courses) 


Institute of Apparel Management, Gurgaon

UG & PG progs (Fashion & Lifestyle; Fashion Art & Photography etc)



M Design (Communication Design)


DYP-DC (DilipChhabria)

UG Program in Automobile Design;
Multiple PG programmes


ApeejayStya University, Sohna

B Des (Space; Lifestyle; Media) &
Integrated MDes


G.D.Goenka (School of Fashion & Design)

BSc/ BDes/ Integrated MSc  (Fashion/Communication/Interior/Product)


Srishti, Bangalore

Foundation studies, UG & PG Diplomas


MAEER’s MIT Institute of Design

UG,PG Diplomas (Industrial;Commprogs)


Apeejay Institute of Design

BDes (Fashion; Animation & Multimedia; Interior; Graphic); M Des


Amity Institute of Fashion Technology, Noida

BSc (Fashion {Des/ Technology/ Communication}, Textile)  Master’s


DSK Supinfocom, Pune 

Foundation Advanced (Industrial, Video game, animation)


Raffles Design International, Mumbai

Diploma or Bachelor’s (multiple courses)


Neeta Lulla School of Fashion

Diploma in Fashion (Illustration; pattern-making; merchandising; costumes)


Sushant School of Design (Ansal University)

B.Des (Fashion & Textile; Visual Comm; Product; Interiors), MA (Design)


Mod’Art International (2 campuses)

Fashion Design Degree; Master’s in Fashion Management


Raffles Millenium (Delhi)

Diploma or Bachelor’s (multiple courses)


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