A survey of the vast and amazing history of design gives us clues that would prove to be useful while understanding questions such as what it is to be design-conscious or how to design. Exploration of simple concepts and daily observable phenomena lead to ideas, which when developed or taken through a creative process, design starts emerging. Simultaneously and sensitively gathered applied knowledge regarding human behaviour, structure and materials make it possible to convert an emerging design into a sensible object or a piece of architecture. Miki Desai believes that for introductory learning process, it is rather dangerous to teach design through principles, precedents and architectural language. A building should not be expected, rather ideas regarding shelter and place making should be explored. This belief forms the basis of his attitude to teaching basic design, which he has taught to first year students for more than 25 years.
The major aim of the course is to put forward one of the ways of learning about design issues in a manner that would sensitise a student and take him in the direction of creative exploration. The course attempts to expose the learner group to various processes that would enable them to express themselves by means they have not used much before. The students' rudimentary and unexpressed thoughts/ideas/impressions and naive/awkward ways of drawing and making things are an asset for the creative exploration of their world, the manipulated and built human environment. Importance is given to visual literacy and the art of abstraction, but this is not treated as the only mode to understand and express architectural thought. This, essentially, is the heuristic method of learning design.
Inquiry into the logic behind common objects that we use, and people and environmental factors discussed in general, provide clues as to where the scope for the study lies. 'Look-feel-reason-evaluate' and 'observe-record-interpret-synthesize transform-express' are used as quasi-formulae to provide some framework to the studies. Place and activity rather than space, sequence, arrangement and organization rather than form and structure, guessing dimensions and sizes, measuring with space/hands/feet rather than with a tool, guessing the number of people/vastness rather than accurate areas, mapping rather than drawing plans and do-it-your-way/go-wrong rather than come-up-with-correct-image-at-first-shot are relied upon for the ultimate understanding of basic design and architectural drawing in a wider context of human environment.