Experience does not give knowledge, but reflection of that experience is what gives knowledge.
MP Ranjan, reflected on his journey in design using ” Activity Theory” as a medium to demonstrate design interventions at macro and micro levels.
He took us through his earlier stages of life, wherein he grew up in his father’s toy factory . Exposure of his father’s factory gave him insights into application of materials, skills, model-making, and poverty. Education at NID sensitized Ranjan to the principles of design: form, structure, context. After NID, Ranjan worked in his father’s factory for some time developing a wide range of toys , creating better business and new market opportunities. His designs reflected strongly of his attachment to his roots and culture. But his heart did not lie in making money out his father’s factory, rather he wanted to make an impact on the lives of poor workers through amalgamation of design and craft.
Insight on his personal life, gave us a glimpse of step by step acquisition of knowledge and its constant application for the betterment of human lives. Ranjan became a part of the Jawaja project (an IIMA- NID Collaboration), to empower people with self reliability and mutuality. Although the Indian government designated Jawaja( Rajasthan) as a region of high poverty and no resources, some people were knowledgeable of spinning and weaving . Weaving and leatherwork became the basis for economic development activities, and through the participation of its designers, NID tested the relevancy of bringing design education into this rural context.
Other than Jawaja, Ranjan has also been the stalwart behind massive Bamboo movement, brought about to bring economic stability in regions of north east ; to setting up of India Institute of Crafts & Design at Jaipur; and establishing Bamboo & Cane Development Institute , Agartala to further facilitate this craft.
His vast diasporas of experience and knowledge was re-presented as elements of the Activity Theory; wherein he is the subject and his object is to create bamboo products through design collaborations, to meet the macro objective of improving livelihood. To achieve this the mediating tools are the students, design ideas , exhibits, craft initiatives that are bringing design interventions. This in turn forms communities such as institutes that foster ideas and facilitate opportunities of growth. A division of labour can be termed as various people involved in the process starting from carpenters, to transporters, to shop keepers, and so on.
In conclusion, Ranjan encourages us to think like anthropologists, to understand the needs and wants of people and to be sensitive towards our culture and tradition. We should understand the value hidden in design, imagine future and envision how design can help future opportunities.
Our experience in itself should be our greatest resource for knowledge with continuous reflection on our career paths and long term objectives!