The rusty neighbourhood letter boxes are soon to be replaced by swish designer water-proof steel-bodied ones.

The bulky, red-coloured or sometimes rusted letter boxes, one sees at post-offices or on the wayside, are slated for a smart makeover. The Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay has come up with a new designer letter box which has a steel body with a red top. The IDC had offered several designs to the Department of Posts out of which the one model has been selected. “You can find the new letter boxes at a few selected places in Mumbai,” Professor Ravi Poovaiah of IDC said.

That the new boxes are made of steel makes them rust-proof, water proof and aesthetically attractive but without losing the traditional look. The IDC, which has academic programmes in the areas of Industrial Design, Visual Communication, Interaction Design, Animation and Mobility and Vehicle Design, is now creating open source designs that can be used by anyone even outside the institution.

This programme is being carried out in collaboration with the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development is funding this ambitious project that involves over 40 researchers based across the three institutions.

Under the project, students document resources, study the designs and even support designs. Over 100 courses are getting ready as of now and the website is a huge hit though it is only 10-months old, Professor Poovaiah explained. It is a visual delight and a huge repository of traditional Indian designs, he said.

The IDC holds the distinction of designing the new-age petrol pumps that are now installed at the petrol bunks across the country, and of course, the new logo for the Indian rupee. The education programme at IDC is a mix of pedagogic experimentation with pragmatic design approach and blends hard-core problem solving with design research. New thoughts, philosophies and research into several aspects of design are experimented and integrated to have continuous revitalisation of the academic programmes at IDC.

The Centre interacts with industries and institutions for promotion and awareness of design. These are in the form of organising seminars, conducting short term courses and workshops. In the area of design practice, IDC offers professional design consultancy and advisory services to industries and other organisations.