India's Transportation Design Students
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad is hidden in the greenery behind an iron gate in the crowded streets of the biggest city in the Indian state of Gujarat. There are no car manufacturers here, nor is there any particular tradition of design in general. But for almost half a century this has been the main school to enrol in if you want to become a car designer in India. With the immense growth the car industry is experiencing in the subcontinent, more and more young people are now seeking specialist postgraduate education. This is the reason why, three years ago, NID started a specific Transportation Design postgraduate program—a program that in December will yield the first batch of ten students to be awarded a postgraduate degree in Transportation Design at NID.
The college has several departments, and a vast number of programs, for both undergraduate and postgraduate students: Product Design, Furniture & Interior Design, Ceramic & Glass Design, Textile Design, Graphic Design, Animation Film Design, Film & Video Communication (and Exhibition Design for the latter), and of course Transportation & Automobile Design. The postgraduate courses, like the Transportation Design program, last two and a half years, and access is limited to a very small number: typically 15 students in each, and just ten in transportation design.
We met some students at work when we visited the college recently, and asked them if we could see their current projects. Hrishikesh Neve, 24, showed us the Mercedes Racer. Neve said he drew his inspiration from an athlete waiting for the starting gun; a tense and compressed posture with the energy stored in the flexed muscle ready to be released in one go. The two-seater, mid-engined sports car pays homage to the Mercedes-Benz racing legacy. His second project, the Tata Electric Car, explores a two-seater concept for commuting within congested cities. The key idea was to remove all the unnecessary volumes and make the occupants feel as if they are just sitting in a chair.
Second-year student Aditya Narayan, 24, also created a concept for the Tata brand, but from a completely different perspective—developing an extreme off-road, two-seat, rear-engined, four-wheel-drive vehicle. The spare tire placed up front provides an aesthetic element as well as crash protection, and the body panels are kept to a minimum in order to show off the vehicle's aluminum substructure.
After spending some time with the students, we met Pradyumna Vyas, who was appointed as the new director of NID in April 2009. Vyas also mentors the Transportation Design course and told us that the school has direct links with the national and international professional environment: "We have many internship programs in India and abroad and take part in several international design competitions. I consider it essential that the students, alongside the ordinary intensive course of study, are continuously kept in close touch with the reality of the industry."
In 2008, Pininfarina signed an agreement with NID to co-create an internal competition and internship program that would award the winning student a three-month internship in Turin—and this collaboration has been renewed in 2009. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students, but I think it is also very important for them to have a direct relationship with national manufacturers," Vyas added, before adding "Tata, Mahindra and Renault Design in India are the design centers that we have the closest contacts with".
As the leading school in India, NID was also invited, together with seven other international institutes, to take part in the Fiat contest Design the Italian way in 2006/2007, and won the best design for Alfa Romeo with Mahaan Ghose's project.
The Transportation and Automobile Design department has also recently established a partnership with the Domus Academy of Milan, offering an Integrated Degree at post-graduate level. "NID Students will have the opportunity to access the partial scholarships being offered exclusively to NID by the Domus Academy, with most of these being awarded to young talent in the field of Transportation and Automobile Design," concluded Vyas.