Communication Design is a field of collaborations – Tazeen Hussain

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1. What are your roles and responsibilities as the HoD, Department of Communication Design at IVS?
I have to develop and lead on the strategic direction of the department. This includes current and future curricula and expansion, human resource development and acquisition, infrastructure, cultivation of partnerships and public relations. It also involves creating and awareness about the practice of Communication Design as a field that impacts society, culture, environment and futures. And also the idea of socially responsive and responsible design practice.

2. How did you venture into the field of design?
I am a curious person by nature, I love to experiment and I am a keen observer, of people places objects, and human behavior. I undertook studies in IVS and graduated with a B. Des. in Communication Design. I grew up in a household where I was exposed to the field of communication and media from a very young age.

My parents, renowned actor Talat Hussain and my mother Dr. Rakhshanda Hussain (retired Professor and Head of Department, Psychology, Karachi University) lay the foundations of a broad application and understanding of communication and its application. I grew up seeing and experiencing how acting was about communication on one hand and also how psychological understanding of people aided better communication practices and created empathy. We were always encouraged to experience different things. As a child, I was selected to be a part of Sung Sung Chalien, a famous TV program for children by Sohail Rana. As I developed and polished my singing skills I also realized how music and poetry could be harnessed for educational purposes, out of school learning, and in a fun way. I also worked with a marketing research agency on a contractual basis. Later I also got a chance to be on TV and continued to act till 2003. After graduation, I practiced in the media field on the production side as well, assisting, directing and producing TV plays and a talk show. I joined the field of Design Education formally in 2005.

3. You graduated from IVS in 1998. How much evolution in the course structure and study have you seen in communication design?
The courses have evolved quite a bit. I feel this has been spurred by a growth in the field of design academia internationally. It has shifted away from a market-driven approach to creating new markets for Communication Design. This is partly due to the advancement of technology, economic growth, etc. but also due to the rising awareness of design as impacting society culture norms, etc.

The role of the designer and the self-awareness around their sense of responsibility is something that has been given importance. Also the idea of communication designers not just being good ‘sellers’ and ‘visualizers’ but also critical thinkers, innovators and provocateurs. An important shift is a commitment towards decolonizing design education by reexamining the role of design as a practice and outcome, broadening curricula, and bringing local narratives and voices into a previously west centric space. Towards this, in our new curriculum there is an added emphasis on design studies, research and articulation, interdisciplinarity and engagement with ‘materiality’ and ‘making’ – which went missing with the advent of computers, but now forms an important part of the courses. There is also a focus on entrepreneurship now.

4. How do you view the creative skills of the youth pursuing this field?
I think the youth is quite creative in the tech fields, being tech natives they already have a command over their gadgets and their navigation and application. They have a lovely energy and a fresh approach towards things. What I find missing is their in-depth understanding and commitment to things. They are ruled by the ideas of shortcuts. I am aware of the arguments in favor of the idea of inculcating creativity by divesting from the current practice, as the burden of the existing practice binds you. But I also believe that a creative practice that has no roots in its surroundings or is not responsive to its environment and its issues and needs is shallow.

5. What are your pastime pursuits and hobbies?
I am a family person so I love doing up my house, entertaining and cooking to some extent. I also like to read. I enjoy exercise, something that does not get time to do regularly. And I love to dream about traveling and sometimes convert dreams into reality.

6. What advice will you give to those aspiring to enter the field of communication and design?
I would reiterate what I said above. As a communication designer, you are located at a sort of a crossroad. Multiple disciplines feed into you and off you. You cannot be divested from your environment, culture, politics, society, etc. So you must be informed and learn to listen and observe and develop empathy. Communication Design is a field of collaborations so please develop your team skills, cultivate your circles of collaborators. And most of all view criticism and feedback positively. The danger of being too obsessed with your creations is that you are not open to feedback and criticism. Make seeking feedback part of your creative process.

7. Your message for the youth of Pakistan?
Think big, think positive and remain committed to your goals.


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