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Curriculum Redesign : Photography For Communication Design

PHOTOGRAPHY For Communication Design

Teaching and curriculum development at NIFT, Kolkata [July 2014 - Feb 2018]

In July 2014, I joined the prestigious National Institute of Fashion Technology [NIFT], Kolkata as a guest faculty. I was to teach photography to students pursuing Bachelor of Design [B. Des.] in Fashion Communication [FC]. The first year of the four year B.Des. program was same across all the departments of NIFT— Fashion Design, Fashion Technology, Knitwear Design, Leather Design, Accessory Design and Fashion Communication. It was geared towards proving a common design foundation. Third semester onwards students specialise in their respective disciplines.

The focus areas of the FC course were— Graphic Design, Space Design, Fashion Journalism, Photography and Advertising. Being part of India's premier fashion college, the course had a fashion bias. However, it was not limited by it. According to the syllabus provided, the photography module was divided into four levels. One level each for the four semesters (second and third year of the FC program). The aim of 'Photography Level-1' was to teach the basics of camera and lighting. The subsequent levels covered topics such as portrait, fashion, architecture, product and photojournalism.

keywords: education, design, photography, curriculam, development, fashion, NIFT, India


A. SWOT ANALYSIS

After my first semester of teaching, I noticed certain shortcomings in the syllabus. So I decided to get feedback from students and conduct a SWOT analysis on the curriculum. For the next seven semesters, I continued collecting feedback and incorporated that in an attempt to improve my teaching.

 

I. Strength
The department had a well equipped studio with latest high-end dSLRs, lights and a computer lab with latest iMacs. The college also had reputed departments teaching design to different disciplines such as fashion, textile, leather and product.

 

II. Weakness
Students were not incentivised to conduct in-depth research. There was no academic requirement to produce detailed process documentation. The students were over-burdened with assignments. As a result, blatant plagiarism was rampant. Furthermore, the course did not capitalise on its strengths. No cross-discipline learning with the other departments was actively encouraged institutionally.

III. Opportunity
According to a report published in November 2016 titled ’The Future of Design Education in India’ by British Council, the potential market for design in India is expected to grow to INR 188.32 billion by 2020. Of that, only a fifth of the design market is currently tapped. If the design potential is fully realized, the number of designers required in industrial, graphic, communication, packaging and other design domains will be 62,000 by 2020. However currently, there are approximately 7,000 qualified designers in the country and approximately 5,000 students in design education. Hence the scope of growth is extensive.

 

IV. Threat
The challenge of photography as artist Chuck Close eloquently explained is that it "is the easiest medium with which to be merely competent. Almost anybody can be competent. It's the hardest medium in which to have some sort of personal vision and to have a signature style.” In the digital age, when everyone is a photographer thanks to their mobile phones, conceptualising visuals and executing them with an unique style becomes the hallmark of professional expertise.

V. Recommendations
When all the faculty members from all NIFT centres were asked to submit suggestions for a course restructuring, I submitted my recommendations. However I had already implemented many of them during my eight semesters teaching at NIFT, Kolkata. To read the recommendations click here.


C. REDESIGNING

Photography was just one of the subjects being taught to future designers at NIFT. Hence, the course needed to stress the interdisciplinary aspects of photography vis-a-vis other branches of communication design such as graphic design, space design, advertising and even journalism. This cross-disciplinary approach is often missing from traditional photography courses. For those courses, photography is sacrosanct. A holy grail of sorts that is not to be messed with. As one of the many raw materials in the design process, for FC students, photography was just a starting point and not the destination. And as such they should ideally focus on the content and not be a slave to any medium. With that in mind, I started teaching the syllabus provided but went beyond its scope. I added modules like visual literacy, critical thinking, showcasing and marketing strategies, as well as the entrepreneurial and legal aspects of being a photographer. I focused primarily on critical thinking and exploration. I also tried to inculcate a strong sense of research. My aim was to encourage them to know the rules in order to eventually break them.

I. Philosophy

Photography, at least great photography, is a synergy of knowledge, practice and exploration. To revamp the syllabus, I turned to the three princes from the Isle of Serendip, martial arts and an obscure Zen idea.

While we now associate serendipity with mere luck, at its birth, it referred to a skill that could be acquired rather than a random stroke of good fortune. At its heart serendipity is all about interacting with diverse disciplines that are different from the ones we are used to in order to lend a fresh perspective. Hence, it is something that we can actively achieve.

But just knowing something is of no use. In the context of martial arts training, one often hears the expression karada de oboeru. It’s Japanese for learning with the body. When you've done something — an action or technique — a few times, you'll have some understanding of it. Only when you've put your body through it a few thousand times, it becomes an instinct.

Lastly, exploration can appear esoteric or even pointless. The Zen philosophy of mushin can help demystify it. Translated 'mind without mind,' it’s when a person is free from anger, fear, ego or emotions. At this point, he relies not on what he thinks should be the next move, but what is felt intuitively. In this state, a master finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move.

II. Course Weightage


D. SYLLABUS

Module 1 : Genesis

1A. Introduction
1B. History of Photography
1C. Photography in Colour




 

Module 2 : The Art of Seeing

2A. Visual Literacy Basics
2B. Advanced Visual Literacy
2C. Art History for Photographers
2D. Killing Darlings [Editing]
2E. Building Narratives
2F. Critical Thinking and Ethics
2G. Film Theory

Module 3 : Light and Camera

3A. Fundamentals of Light
3B. Placing Shadows
3C. Controlling Exposure
3D. Lens and it’s Features
3E. Flash Photography
3F. Basics of Motion Picture Photography
3G. Audio Recording
 

Module 4 : Exploring Genres

4A. People
4B. Things
4C. Spaces
4D. Fashion (Introduction)
4E. Fashion (People)
4F. Fashion (Things)
4G. Graduation Project (Optional)

Module 5 : After Photography

5A. File Management and Basic Workflow
5B. Advanced Retouching
5C. Showcasing Strategies
5D. Video and Audio Editing
5E. Colour Grading
5F. 3D Modelling and Motion Graphics
5G. Coding for Designers : HTML, CSS, Processing
5H. Building Websites with CMS

Module 6 : The Business

6A. IP Rights, Copyright Law and Contract
6B. Marketing Strategies
6C. Accounts and Invoicing
6D. Costing and Taxation
6E. Applying for Grants and Fellowships


E. MODULE DISTRIBUTION

Photography Level 1

1A. Introduction
1B. History of Photography
1C. Photography in Colour

2A. Visual Literacy Basics
2B. Advanced Visual Literacy
2C. Art History for Photographers
2D. Killing Darlings [Editing]
2E. Building Narratives

3A. Fundamentals of Light
3B. Placing Shadows
3C. Controlling Exposure
3D. Lens and it’s Features

4D. Fashion (Introduction)

5A. File Management and Basic Workflow

Photography Level 2

2F. Critical Thinking and Ethics
2G. Film Theory

3E. Flash Photography
3F. Basics of Motion Picture Photography
3G. Audio Recording

4A. People
4E. Fashion (People)

5B. Advanced Retouching
5C. Showcasing Strategies
5D. Video and Audio Editing
6A. IP Rights, Copyright Law and Contract

Photography Level 3

4B. Things
4F. Fashion (Things)

5E. Colour Grading
5F. 3D Modelling and Motion Graphics
5G. Coding for Designers : HTML, CSS, Processing
5H. Building Websites with CMS

6B. Marketing Strategies

Photography Level 4

4C. Spaces
4G. Graduation Project (Optional)

6C. Accounts and Invoicing
6D. Costing and Taxation
6E. Applying for Grants and Fellowships


F. ASSESSMENT

I. Marks Distribution

II. Internal Assessment

Hover on the pie charts to see %


G. EXPECTED OUTCOMES

1. Exposure to varied styles of photography, visual literacy, art history, ethnography and ethics leading to the development of a sophisticated understanding of visual culture, aesthetics, and critical design thinking.

2. A professional portfolio comprising of projects in portrait, architecture, product and fashion photography with a stress on more conceptual works.

3. Expertise in skills such as lighting, developing visual narratives, conceptualising projects, creative direction, retouching, cinematography, audio recording, editing and colour grading films. 

4. Knowledge of intellectual property rights, marketing and entrepreneurship.

5. Familiarity with the following softwares —
Photoshop, Lightroom, Final Cut Pro, Audition, Da Vinci Resolve, Cinema 4D, After Effects, HTML, CSS and Processing.


H. STUDENT'S WORK

I. Beyond Words by Baishali Pradhan / Graduation Project : Semester VIII

 

III. Your Acystant to PCOS by Ankita Das / Semester V

II. Melanin Obsession by Shivangi Roy / Semester VI

 

IV. The Purple Heart Project by Rajshree Saraf / Semester IV

NB : Copyright of photos displayed in this section remains with the respective photographers.