Monday, September 16, 2019

Ranjan's history of NID

I recently reviewed a time line of the history of NID (India’s National Institute of Design) developed by my friend and colleague, Prof. M P Ranjan.
 It is a wonderful history of the many forms of design that have unfolded not only at NID but in many places around the world as well. In particular it is a marvelous story of the development of NID as a leading design institute that serves both India and the world. 

At the time of his untimely death Ranjan was working with me to see if there was a concept/term in Sanskrit that described the relationship between those who were served by those who served them. In my work with C. West Churchman, the term ‘client’ was often used to describe such a relationship—which was unsatisfactory to both of us. It sounded too legalistic and did not capture the ‘conspiracy’ (i.e. breathing together) of the intimate relationship between designers and those they serve. We were always looking for an alternative descriptive term. 

The terms ‘customer’, ‘consumer’, and ‘user’ are used by transaction designers—those who create things or services to sell to others—but those terms described relationships that were quite different from the relationships of agency, service and fiduciary contracts present in social systems design. Terms like ‘end user’  are used by designers who create things as ‘change agents’ effecting other’s lives. None of these terms describe the complex relationships formed in design cohorts created to serve others.

I was very excited to see what Ranjan would find for our consideration but unfortunately it was not meant to happen. Ranjan was the ideal scholar-practitioner and understood, as well as appreciated immediately, what my quest was and why it was important. His energy and intellect is very much missed.