Change is the only Constant !

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We have seen business of design change over years. Initial years ( late 1980's to 1995 ), we struggled hard to educate businesses about design. Subsequent years ( 1996 to  2010 ) we focussed our communication around strong thought and strategic importance of Design that Elephant brought to the forefront. Post 2010, the message was geared towards reinforcing our thought leadership in the field as well as revealing the bandwidth of tackling complex design challenges.

Last five years, we have seen change taking place at a tremendous pace. Be is technology at one end or people at the other end. Our clients are younger, smarter and global in vision. As every now & then, we regrouped as a team and rejigged our business processes, skills & resources to meet the challenges as we head towards 2025.

"This is a kind of rebranding & alignment with our key partners. It is the most relevant way to be in touch and was long due. This effort has made us much more accessible and approachable than before. Our communication through the refreshed website reflects the informality of our internal culture and our approach to inside & outside is on the same plane." - Ashwini Deshpande, co-founder, Elephant.

In 2015, team at Elephant identified a series of touch points & processes that needed change. This is of such effort at its launch phase. We will keep publishing each change. Keep a watch and meanwhile, do check out, www.elephantdesign.co

Anthropometry for wearables

Anthropometry for wearables

Lack of consolidated Indian & Asian anthropometric data for limbs, head and other body parts presents unique challenges. How does a design team get around to tackle such a challenge?

By ANAND PALSODKAR

Understanding of human anthropometry  is a crucial part of a design process. This is especially true with products like watches, helmets and new age wearable gadgets. These products behave as an extension to a human body and any use of these products resulting in discomfort would lead to a quick failure of the product itself.

‘’ The products we design are going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated, or in some way used by people individually or en masse. If the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed. If, on the other hand, people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient-or just plain happier-the industrial designer has succeeded.’’ – Legendary American Designer, Henry Dreyfuss

Globally, designers & engineers rely on anthropometric data studied and compiled by Henry Dreyfuss Associates2. Dreyfuss’s contribution to the field of human factors is seminal, however data points related to specific ethnicities and for new age applications like wearables3 are not comprehensive & at times non existent. Pioneering anthropometric work by Dr. G G Ray4 & Dr. Deb Kumar Chakravarty5 on Indian population does not cover wearable physiological zones in the published version and that creates a large vacuum when dealing with wearable products. The design team working on one such project at Elephant6, came across this chasm and had to modify its approach during the design phase while working for Singapore based technology firm, SynPhNe7.

Undertaking the challenge

The design team embarked upon developing a system of wearable devices for stroke rehabilitation that included an arm gear and a head gear to record the muscle & brain response. The challenges were multifold, the devices had to be used by people suffering from partial paralysis with one of the sides of their body non-functional. The device had to fit arm and head sizes, shapes of population from Indian subcontinents, south-east Asia & China. 

The geometry of Arm and the Head had implications since functioning of the device depended on effective sensor contacts to arm skin and head scalp. Available anthropometric data captures only the dimensions of extremities & body parts, however it was important to study the shapes & specific dimensions of arm and the head to determine the profiles of arm and head gear. Such anthropometric data is not available readily. This momentarily stemmed the development work and subsequently led to carrying out anthropometric study of arm and head of a sample population.

Anthropometric study

In-depth user study revealed certain physical realities about the people who would be using such devices. Women wearing bangles, necklaces and those maintaining plaited hair, tight curly hair and people with baldheads & loose skin, all these added to the complexities. Anthropometric research was planned for a sample population of 50 in India & Singapore each. This sample population included men, women and children above the age of 14.

The study included measurements of arm features, circumference at specific points on arm, thumb & palm measurement. Features like circumference, nasion to inion distance, ear-to-ear distance above head were measured for study of the head anthropometry. 

The anthropometry data was classified based on 95th, 50th & 5th percentile male and female. For effective therapy it was imperative to have accurate locations of sensors for both arm & head gear. Sensor point variations were plotted both for arm & the head based on the profiles derived from this study. This helped the team to design the devices with adequate adjustability built in for the sensors that covered a larger part of the population.

Head shape profiles were studied to design the head gear to ensure positive contact of sensors with scalp. Arm gear profiles at elbow, mid and wrist location led to the design of common set of arm straps for 3 sizes of arm gear; small, medium & large.

Pain gain

Lack of data led the development team on an anthropometric hunt. A critical realization was the requirement of wearable data and its access while undertaking such development work. The design team acquired body part profiles & surfaces that helped design contact elements & affordances in the product system. This critical metric research led to numerous insights for innovative development work. After 4 stages of prototype testing, clinical trials of the beta version of this product system is underway in the US, India and Singapore.

Notes:

1.       Anthropometry is the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body.

2.       Henry Dreyfuss Associates, LLC is one of the oldest & most esteemed industrial design consultancy firms in the      United States, known for their work in human Factors and a series of iconic products.

3.       Wearables is common reference to wearable technology.

4.       Dr. G. G. Ray, Professor, IDC, IIT-Powai, Mumbai & Ramakrishna Bajaj Chair, Honorary Professor, School of Biomedical Engineering, IIT Mumbai.

5.       Dr. Deb KumarChakraborty, Professor & Dean, IIT-Guwahati, author of Indian Anthropometric Dimensions For Ergonomic Design Practice.

6.       Elephant, is a design consulting practice operating in India & Singapore.

7.       SynPhNe, is a technology platform, incubated in Singapore, http://www.synphne.org

ANAND PALSODKAR is a mechanical engineer & post graduate Industrial Designer, Design Director, Product Innovation at Elephant. A post grad alumnus of IIT-Powai, Industrial Design Center, Mumbai, he leads the product development vertical. He has worked on several design programs, notably CEAT Tyres, Nirlep Appliances, Thermax Ltd., Symphony Coolers, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others.  

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Client is ...

There are more things that happen between a client and a design team than what meets the eye. A great design outcome is only possible when some magic happens, some happiness blooms.

By Partho Guha    Co Founder  Director     elephantdesign.com

Client is a person

A client represents a business and wants to leverage design for its growth & success. That is just the starting point. A client is also a person gearing to do something awesome, to leave a mark, to sleep in satisfaction, at the end of a hard day.

Relationship

Like any relationship, it is a two way exchange and to make it work we need to accept the other as they are. Often we want to change the other and that destroys the trust.

In a relationship, some times we forget that the only one whom we can change is oneself. When we focus and change self to accommodate the other, the seed of a great project is sown. It is not easy to give away the pride of earlier success, the creative ego, the superiority of intelligence and be humble to make space for others. Different attitude, skill-sets, experience is a must for a project, but conflict never makes a great project. 

Invent the future

Clients and design team are the collaborators ready to take that tandem jump for the unknown scary future. To gain the confidence of sticking one's neck out and feel that the other will cover your back is a gradual process. The confidence grows based on small evidences happening at the early stages of the relationship. Most likely, these are soft and emotional responses. Dating time has serious impact on the project outcome. 

Success

Design projects mostly do not have a sharp target. The success of a project gets revealed with passing of time. The initial response from market, analysis of statistic & data, the pat from the boss, admiring glances from the peers, all contribute to the success of a project. When the client feels the personal success, the project is on a good path. It mostly takes some time before design team feels the glory of the project success. In a way, the success of the client as person is the first leaf of a healthy blooming plant.

Spread the word

When a client speaks about the project he/she is proud of, the design team is always glorified. Those good words are the real indicators of how the project has fared. It takes patience and humility, to wait seemingly infinite time for client to talk. 

 

Then at the right time, all the good words come. It not only energises the design team but also brings in new clients. 

 

Well... what is a success, if it does not bring new clients!

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Typefacets: My life measured in fonts

Typefacets: My life measured in fonts

Nayantara Pande, Graphic Designer, www.elephantdesign.com

People associate certain things from the past with a particular fragrance, or a place, sometimes food. You taste something and it reminds you of your mother and your childhood, get a whiff of some perfume that reminds you of your long lost love. My love for typography makes me associate my past with fonts.

I have always had a keen interest for Type. Even as a kid, unknowingly, I used to sit on MS Word browsing through fonts, exploring. Typing out some of my story books on Word using these fonts thinking I was doing some extremely important work.

Confession: Comic Sans was my preferred choice for a greeting card or something fancy. Papyrus and Chiller were my go-to fonts for something “exotic”. Precisely the fonts that I cringe at if I see them used somewhere in a poster now, thinking to myself ‘Oh God! What were these people thinking?’ 

So what changed that made me realise the good from bad, the beautiful from ugly, the wrong from right? Going to Design School being the most obvious answer, the gruelling assignments, research, books and sharing knowledge played a big roll.

Which brings me to my first love,

1. Helvetica : The Clichéd Choice

How unoriginal of me to like something that every designer is “supposed to like”. But my first ever type assignment was working with Helvetica - The back breaking job of tracing the font in a sentence to understand mechanical and optical kerning, that too from a Typolog. Which means tracing each and every alphabet separately to form a word and then a sentence. That is tedious!

But I loved it. It is then when I realised typography is what I want to be associated with in future, in one way or the other. When you’re working on something so intensely, you do predominantly tend to notice things related to that in your surrounding. So I started noticing Helvetica used in posters, hoardings, ads, logos. I learnt how to recognise a typeface! One achievement unlocked! That thrill of being able to recognise a typeface is kind of addictive. Gives you an ego boost. So I started digging deeper and reading more, observing more using the typeface more and at the same time exploring new typefaces.

This is when I met my muse,

2. Baskerville : The Classic Beauty

This memory is synonymous with my mentor and teacher Manasi Keni, who realised my love for typography right from the beginning of my first year. Very strict but equally rewarding, I was very lucky to have such a dedicated teacher who went out of her way to help and strive for our betterment. Out of the many fun assignments she gave us, one of them was to present our favourite font. 

I had moved on from Helvetica by then and fallen in love with Baskerville. It’s beautiful curves, contrast and it’s elegance. A serif font with gentle transitions. The serifs gliding into the stems was a treat for the eye. Two of my favourite letters were the uppercase ‘Q’ because of the unapologetically bold yet elegant backward slash and the lowercase ‘G’ for it’s ear and loop. 

This was the first presentation I ever gave in college. I have a very bad stage fright. I was absolutely dreading the day even though I had to present in front my own classmates and friends. I was thinking, why did my teacher put me through this task?! I’d rather go through the agony of tracing the entire Typolog than do a presentation! It is when my knees were shaking and heart pounding that I remembered, while researching for the presentation I found out that John Baskerville, the creator of this font was illiterate. His knack for calligraphy and penmanship and a strong urge to learn about type made him quit his job and start his own press which ultimately gave birth to the first transitional typeface which later was an inspiration for Bodoni and Didot. 

I thought to myself, if an illiterate could achieve such a feat and design his own font, I can most certainly give a presentation. It gave me courage and I got through it. I still get scared to present in front of people, but now I know that, I can do it anyway. This font taught me that where there is passion and dedication, nothing seems impossible. All the qualities that got me through design school and to where I am now. Constantly evolving, constantly searching.

3. Museo and Brandon Grotesque: My 3AM Friends

Your first job is like finally diving into the ocean after swimming in the pool for four years. It is when you find out that most of the things you learnt in college do not apply in “real life”. The basic design sense is there, aesthetics and principles apply, but the rest? In that moment you realise you have SO much to learn still. 

All that ego about being one of the brightest students in class is shattered by the slap of reality that life gives you. Everything is unclear again. But that’s okay! Remember what Baskerville taught you? Perseverance and dedication! Also, some good friends are just what you need! It is here where I came across Museo and Brandon Grostesque. I was aware of Museo back in college but never really got to explore it. These two fonts have proved to be my pillars in tricky situations like a creative block a day before a deadline. 

The have made my logos look sleek and my packaging clean and contemporary. Museo is like a flexible companion providing solutions to all your problems with its Serif, Sans, Cyrillic and Slab Family. Brandon Grotesque is a total hunk with it’s strong yet friendly appearance sitting next to you saying encouraging words while you burn the midnight lamp.

On this quest of life I look forward to many more adventures with my Type friends. I thank those which have taught me important life lessons, some which have disappointed me and some which have supported me.   :)

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1% inspiration 99% perspiration

By Partho Guha Co founder Elephant Design, elephantdesign.com

1% inspiration 99% perspiration

In any project where the outcome is something new, we think it is driven by inspiration. The ideas which leads to big shift in our life, which really takes us to the future are the domain of few gifted individuals who can think up these great ideas. 

In today's time, this is a mistaken presumption.

Inspiration

Most people can join some few dots and come up with next best idea. The ‘eureka’ moments are way too common than we believe. If we ask around, it will be really hard to find a person who has no great idea. Idea is always in abundance and overflows at our will. This is way too over rated.

Perspiration

Getting an idea from ‘thought to thing’, is completely a different capability. Very few people have the gift to commit for an idea and spend half a life to realise. This is the true magic of creation.

1% inspiration is actually enough to get an idea to start with, but one does need 99% perspiration to keep at the idea and make it come alive.

Most of our education system is focused around this 1%. We learn to become good in thinking and communicating ideas. Our hero is a person who can speak beautifully about a life changing big idea. We are not really bothered about those people who will actually work on the idea and implement it. They mostly stay in the fringe and are forgotten as ordinary.

To inculcate the culture of innovation and doing never before things, it is time to we start celebrating the perspiration. 

Perspiration demands meticulous planning, ingenuity to do with less of everything, patience to endure ridicule and maybe failure every-day for next ten years. That is the kind of time it takes, to make a new idea work for users successfully. 

Perspiration may seem ridiculously painful, but it is the true joy for many invisible, adventure loving, excellence seeking working folks around us. 

What is a journey if it is not really scary!

 

Scientist at NASA experienced 20 failures in its 28 attempts to send rockets to space. 

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Seeking the ‘Little Girl’

Seeking the ‘Little Girl’

Little Girl, is that bubbly person with her unique sense of life and constantly looking for joy. She is the future, unaffected by the past. That is the person we always want to design for. Through our design we are always trying to add little joy in her life. But thats not always really simple. The serious conversation of design on competition, manufacturability, the appropriate time to launch, the scale it needs to achieve dominates the conversation. Little girl mostly slips away from these conversations. 

By Partho Guha, Co founder & Director, Elephant   www.elephantdesign.com

There is no ‘Little Girl’ in the user data

In our conversations about the users, we are now quite sophisticated. We have borrowed framework, principle & methods from sociology, statistics, anthropology, psychology & such expertise to understand large number of users. Understanding the desirability factors of a user’s mind specially for a mass distributed offerings is a huge challenge. We are trying hard to make it a fact based conclusive logic, because that is easy to explain when large investments are in questions. But the Little Girl, always absent from such data sets and analytics

There is no ‘Little Girl’ in the analysis

Though are we fully aware that hard data never represent emotions of the users. Emotions are possibly the strongest driver for desirability. In our high level conversations we are avoiding these soft issues because we do not know how to discuss feelings, memories, happiness as data.  May be the analytical approach itself is completely inadequate to tackle these soft issues. 

We may find the ‘Little Girl’ in early ideas

We need to move over to the synthesis processes to have any conversation on feeling. An analysis process starts with breaking down the context and than work towards ideas and a synthesis process starts with ideas and than concludes through validation. When we start the design process with messy data & deep empathy and trust the artist in us, there is a chance we may get the Little Girl in conversation. 

May be a chance worth trying.

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Growing with the Problem

Problems, which keeps the world leaders awake at night, have already changed. Technology is becoming the dominant force and as human we are grappling with the speed & meaning it brings to our daily life. World today is looking at design to solve these complex & unprecedented problems. We as designers are eager to rise to the occasion and welcome the change. We need to relook at our methods, mindset and measurements to be effective with these problems.

At Elephant, we are constantly experimenting with our self to understand and gain capability to address these problems. Creating a next level of work culture is one such focus. 

Partho Guha, Co founder and director Elephant design.

EMPATHY. People matter to us. More than anything people defines what we do. People from all walks of life use our design. Clients represent a business but at the end they are people too. They come with their own needs and wishes, their personal expectations, dislikes and world views. Then comes our own team, the most important set of people we have at Elephant.

To work with people we need to understand them deeply & seriously. Considering we do not even understand our self-well, this is a daunting task. Empathy is possibly the most human way to understand another human. After going about the practiced way of logical profiling, demography, segmentation, motive & barriers and such logical methods, one needs to trust empathy. That is how we go beyond words & statistics and people become alive and connectable.

Thankfully we are born with empathy and use it extensively in our personal life. When at work we seem to switch off this important capability. At Elephant, we wish to switch on the empathy and use it as our primary tool to understand people.

EXPLORE. A design problem comes with certain obvious solutions. The practical, proven, easily acceptable solutions, little tweaked for the context, easily becomes the winning idea. Possibly in any design project this is the greatest challenge to solve. How not to give in to the obvious and push the boundary fitting to the opportunity. It demands a great effort and energy from the team (client, design & vendors) to take the project beyond the obvious.

Adapting to the mindset of an Explorer, possibly the best way to go beyond in a collaborative way. The explorer’s restlessness of finding the edge, the faith that there is always a better way drives this effort. At Elephant we greatly respect and encourage the explorer in us to grow and take charge of projects.

MAGICAL CHANGE. Subtle changes are everyday occurrence in our life but only sometime there are changes, which are momentous and defining. They demarcate the past from the future. At Elephant we work towards making such magical change happen to the business and people we work with. Most importantly, we try to create such changes for people in our team. We try to contribute and bring about magical changes in each other’s life.

At Elephant we believe magical changes only happen when we work with empathy and like an explorer. 

Surely many from the global design community have felt this urgency for change and already doing something in their context. We all need to learn from each othersexperiences.

We are all ears to learn from your comments and thoughts.Thank You.

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Behind every successful startup, there is Good Design!

ASAP, CIIE-IIM-A incubated Bangaluru startup that created this “on the go” snack, Elephant design helped strategise and communicate a differentiating visual story.

ASAP, CIIE-IIM-A incubated Bangaluru startup that created this “on the go” snack, Elephant design helped strategise and communicate a differentiating visual story.

Last few years, India has seen a steady rise in design consulting needs from new mushrooming businesses, commonly referred as ‘Startups’. These are not necessarily the love child of newbies but also some industry veterans or serial entrepreneurs taking on new business challenges, who understands the importance of design. Here, Ashish Deshpande explains the pros & cons of designing for startups.
(As appeared in Creative Gaga)

A motivating enterprise environment in India, propelled by several industry & government initiatives has helped create a breed of entrepreneurs high on enthusiasm, technology savvy and willing to take the risk on new product service formats. Design is playing a crucial role in their journey as well as successes and there is increasing acceptance to the use of design in building a resounding brand & quality of product or service application. Paperboat is great example of a recent startup success story where one can observe design playing a key role. However, working with startups has its own unique hiccups and thrills.

Paperboat. A memory drinks based startup where design added emotive value to the brand, identity, language, pack form function

Paperboat. A memory drinks based startup where design added emotive value to the brand, identity, language, pack form function

CHALLENGES with Startups

1. MULTI-ROLE INVOLVEMENT

Let’s face it! Startups are ultra lean. Aligning business & technology solutions to a consumer-focused approach needs to be done at multiple levels. Since most startups, unlike the well-established corporate world, cannot afford multiple experts & agencies, a designer is seen as a ‘fix all’ for several needs. Involvement of a designer or design firm goes beyond a specific design assignment. Designer ends up playing a strategic role, trying to balance business strategy with design, brand image, product, pack, quality, vendor development, applications and point of sale, with key design language & marketing messages.

2. DISTINCT SOLUTION

Most startups are either technology or business focused. Design is a weakness and so is the ability to profile and understand end consumer. Startups tend to get committed too early to a particular tech or proposition without ascertaining appropriateness, uniqueness and distinction of their offering. Despite a new idea, most times, the end offering is neither distinct enough, nor is perceived value appreciable. This grave omission places the fledging business at risk from the word go.

3. INCREMENTAL APPROACH

Paucity of key in-house expertise & resources, especially funds, forces design to be undertaken in an incremental manner, stretching across months at times. Design implementation also takes place at a slow pace so it is difficult to see the full picture or measure the impact of design. A healthcare start up, setting up new format of hospitals launched the service care product with just the new brand identity, However, the hospital experience that would resonate with the brand was placed on hold due to lack of funds. The result was apparent. Customers never experienced the distinction in the hospital value proposition and never understood as to why they should adopt this new hospital chain.

SynPhNe. Singapore based technology startup where design helped cutting edge tech become human through Industrial Design of Wearable stroke rehabilitation device focused on needs of patients.

SynPhNe. Singapore based technology startup where design helped cutting edge tech become human through Industrial Design of Wearable stroke rehabilitation device focused on needs of patients.

ADVANTAGES with Startups

1. CONTAGIOUS ENERGY

Startups are a happy lot. Usual work culture is hands-on and people come across eager to learn, share and help. It is great to work with synergies of such teams and be part of an exciting journey. The results reflect on the design output. Client meetings are less of drudgery, are participative and consequently more productive.

2. WILLING EXPLORERS

This is one place where Startups score. They are willing to play along as you explore, experiment & test. There is negligible blame game, no departmental silos or ‘mother of all’ presentation to the King of the corporate. Results are quick and decisions are usually part of a co-creative play. Funds are the only constraint but then frugal approach and ‘jugaad’ prototypes are more than welcome. This approach works wonders for the confidence of the design team.

3. CREATIVE SATISFACTION

Many startups are working in the healthcare, social impact, agri-tech and energy space. Just the sense of what your work will potentially achieve can layer the designer in you with goose bumps. Each startup is a new challenge, whether it is B2B or B2C, it gives a sense of new purpose and when design helps enable such opportunities, the result is very satisfying. Design as core to startups is understood by the fact that many new enterprises have designers as co founders. Designers in India will have to quickly adapt to this new scenario and draw out a process to work with the Startup eco system. This culture is here to stay.

Plezmo. IOT based education platform that helps you learn program logic while you have smart fun. Pic by Plezmo

Plezmo. IOT based education platform that helps you learn program logic while you have smart fun. Pic by Plezmo

Plezmo. IOT based education platform that helps you learn program logic while kids have smart fun. Pic by Plezmo

Plezmo. IOT based education platform that helps you learn program logic while kids have smart fun. Pic by Plezmo

Is the future of design industry collaborative?

The emerging trend of multidisciplinary collaborations provides opportunities to innovate through unconventional means - Extract from an article by Aparna Raje published at Mint

"Over the last nearly three decades, the Pune-based multidisciplinary consultancy Elephant Design and Ahmedabad-based air cooler firm Symphony have evolved a symbiotic relationship. It has resulted in consistent product innovation, marketplace dominance and tremendous financial success, even scooping Symphony out of bankruptcy at one point, in 2009.

“We began working with Symphony in the early 1990s, when we had just started Elephant. They had four-five products in their cooler range, and sales of approximately Rs20-25 crore a year, when we first met them, and they were not listed on the stock exchange. Today they’re in more than 60 countries. Our relationship has grown from being a design service provider, to playing an advisory and strategic role. We have either worked completely on, or been instrumental in designing, nearly every product they’ve launched, especially in the last 10-15 years, creating new categories such as tall, slim, space-saving coolers with better aesthetics,” says Ashish Deshpande, co-founder of Elephant Design.

Achal Bakeri, managing director of Symphony, concurs. “Design is deeply integrated into our business model and always has been. Through design we have differentiated ourselves from what’s available in the market. We don’t have any in-house industrial designers, we had them for some time but found it was unnecessary. Our design team would only know air coolers, Elephant designs all kinds of products and has a much wider design understanding than us. Their teams work very well alongside our sales, marketing, engineering and manufacturing teams,” he says."

"Bakeri of Symphony endorses the role of informality in promoting design-led collaboration. “Over the years, Elephant and Symphony have understood each other very well, we don’t need to talk much.... The organizations have a good chemistry,” he says."

"Collaboration and design are naturally harmonious, but can sometimes fall out with each other. Design-led collaboration warrants patience and resilience, believes Ashish Deshpande (Elephant Design co-founder). “Design needs patronage. If it is nurtured over a period of time, it starts delivering. If it is confined to only a one-time period, it doesn’t always work. In many companies, people keep changing and it is harder to maintain consistency in the relationship.”

Ideation!

Ideation

Life & work is full of challenges. How do we creatively tackle everyday challenges? One Monday Morning1, two young designers at Elephant2 share ideation as a tool to solve challenges.

I haven’t failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work
— Thomas Edison

Innovators are supposed to think new. What do accountants do when they are faced with challenges?  Or, for that matter project managers or software coders? Is it possible to institutionalise creative thinking?

Tanmaya Rao & Shruti Jain, Designers at Elephant, conducted a workshop session that introduced ideation not just as a process but rather a tool to creatively look at problems. Given a set of constrains, individuals & teams were able to conjure solutions to unfamiliar challenges & constraints.

There were 3 main take-away from the Monday workshop;

#1

Working as co creative teams is an effective way to look at cracking a problem.

#2

Ideation cannot be a random process of simply starting to think at a given moment. It helps teams to arm themselves with a “Creative thinking technique” like SCAMPER6.

Such tools help look at challenges with a changing perspective. As with Thomas Edison, a technique can also help a team cover all angles and possible eliminate most ideas that don’t work. 

#3

Participating teams went beyond using the tools to note down ideas, choose a few promising ones, go beyond to execute a couple of ideas and most important, share.

“Ideation without execution is delusion”, say’s, Robin Sharma. When an idea is executed, it gets tested and there is feedback. It is feedback and subsequent evolution or rejection of ideas that leads a team on to a path of problem solving.

It may help to institutionalize the act of ideation first as a mile stone is the process of looking at challenges (just like say, Root Cause Analysis8 is one such milestone when looking at challenges). Teams must realize that an idea alone is not good enough and a whole lot more thinking, detailing, execution, testing is required before a problem gets creatively solved. Theodore Levitt, American economist & Professor at HBS9 had famously remarked, “ Ideation is not a synonym for innovation, conformity is not its simple antonym and innovation is not an automatic consequence of creative thinking.”, indicating that creative ideation alone is not sufficient to solve problems.

Having said this, the workshop did provide non-design & design teams with a mind tool & technique to keep handy when facing a challenge.

Notes

  1. Monday Morning Meeting, is a weekly feature at 10:00 am where the entire Elephant team gets on to a share & learn platform.
  2. Elephant, is India’s independently leading Design Consulting organization www.elephantdesign.com .
  3. Thomas Alva Edison, 1847-1931, was an American inventor & businessman.
  4. Tanmaya Rao, is an Environment Designer working at Elephant.
  5. Shruti Jain, is an Environment Designer working at Elephant.
  6. SCAMPER, is an acronym for 7 ideation & thinking techniques, (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R) reverse, credited to Bob Eberle.
  7. Robin Sharma, is a Canadian writer and leadership speaker, best known for his The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari series.
  8. Root Cause Analysis, (RCA) is a method of problem solving used for identifying the root causes of faults or problems.
  9. HBS, is Harvard Business School.

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Entrapped!

Entrapped!

Glimpse of the ugly side of Design assignments professionals need to be wary of, while they quench their quest for the best.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

Mac: What's the job? 

Gin: Like the wise man said: first we try then we trust.

Catherine Zeta-Jones (Gin) in 1999 American film, Entrapment, lures Sean Connery (Mac) into a high profile robbery, building a mysterious appeal to the “Job”. Now, Designers are not con artists, but as a professional species, they do get lured now and then into assignments that seemingly appear exciting, but the full picture is never to be seen or shown.

One of the definitions about fresh Design is creating the “new” and for design professionals this is always an exciting proposition. As professionals itching to contribute with better design, we are always looking for challenges. While seeking opportunities to design is a fundamental trait of a good design professional, there are few situations that one must be on the look out to avoid.

Carpetbaggers

“We would like a full presentation,” said the corporate manager on the phone call, “Please submit your understanding, strategy & design creative. Our MD will personally select the Design agency. We have called 7 firms to present & pitch”.

Brand & Product managers do have a need to evaluate design firms, choose the best their business aligns with and it is their right to do so. However, it is difficult to understand full scope presentations that are not paid pitches. In their bid to garner projects many design firms fall prey to such requests.

The biggest resource in possession of a design team is “consulting time”. By participating in unpaid work, a design team takes huge risk with its most precious resource, “Time”. Beyond bleeding the firm of its earnable time, such risks end up providing opportunist clients with a bag full of free approach options and most importantly encourages a culture of free work, lowers respect for effort & intellectual property rights.    

Comatose Client

Any designer or Design team’s worth is the projects they have managed to successfully complete. Key to such successful execution of a design project is the quality of decision making from stakeholders.

Family feuds, multiple project ownerships, inter-department rivalry, not involving other teams, changing roles or business focus, financial woes and such other conditions can stall decision making at crucial junctions and simply hang seemingly good projects.

Though design effort may get compensated financially in such conditions, there is low satisfaction with design teams and usually it is a wasted design effort. Stalled projects disturb team schedules, lower morale and usher a general disinterest as time flies along. Since such projects see partial execution, there is little learning and takes a toll on meaningful design experience that one may have gained.  In the long run, such projects start bleeding finances.

 

It pays to evaluate & understand the decision maker while signing up for a project. How strong is the involvement of the decision maker? Which teams will contribute to the success of the project? What is the level of support the design team can expect? Are there any possible party poopers to be expected along the way? What is the level of control on the project to see the project through?  Commitment to time, budgets, approvals, business vision of the project itself needs to be evaluated right before the start. It is Ok for the designer to ask a few questions and spell out any emerging gaps or concerns.

Startup Hiccups

Last few years has seen a proliferation of startups. Most of the startups are design aware, are open to new ways of doing business and looking to differentiate. Designers do find startups as exciting opportunities to work and help them differentiate. Energy of a startup is contagious and working with smaller teams is always engaging & fun.

However, startups do display a few shortcomings especially with funds, resources and limitation of network. Major investments into a project are expected during product execution, launch & promotions. This is one area where most startups stutter to a stall, drying up reserves and most conceptual projects experience prolonged suspension periods. For young designers this is a moment of frustration & disillusionment and for an experienced team it is a loss of productive time & opportunity.

Any professional will tell that time is precious. Time adds to our learning as well as earning. When projects make a designer lose both, time & money, one hopes that the experience gained on the project was worth its while. When projects don’t see light of the day, when success does not surface at business level, in markets and with the user, experience remains on paper.

“It is your job to deliver the project”. This is a favorite punch line of most business managers or CEOs to design teams. It is equally important for designers & design teams to question the stakeholders if they have the wherewithal to support the project from concept to market. Any ambiguous answer to this question must raise a red flag.

As someone said that we must learn to choose our battles that we want to fight, those that are worthy for dying. Similarly, a designer must carefully choose the projects she should be betting design skill & time. And there will be times when on a time trap project, as designers, we must learn to say, thank you, but NO!

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a member of The Design Alliance Asia & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others. Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context: Design for Real Needs, at the International Design Congress in Gwangju, Korea and is the Product Design Jury, Cannes Lions 2017.

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Mango

Mango

Come summer and we think Yellow! Ever wondered about the inspiration & meanings drawn from this king of fruits in the visual world?  

By Pratyancha Puri

It’s summer and it’s hot like never before. The one thing that we really love about summers is mangoes1. Yes! mangoes found in different shapes, sizes, colours, and their significance in the vast culture of India and around the world. Well, wondering why I am giving all this gyan2 on a mango that which we already are aware? I am not going to talk about mangoes and its benefits or how good a fruit it is in reality. This article talks about its significance in different cultures and how one of the most familiar motifs that we see around us has a much deeper meaning.

A mango look alike motif composed of two or three concentric compartments, embellished with flowers and other organic elements are called ‘Paisley’. Its name is derived from a town in west

Scotland, Paisley, hub for textiles where Paisley designs were first used, so much that there is a Paisley Museum3embellished with paisley’s first ever used artefacts & paintings.

The symbolic ‘kairi’4 shaped motif, known internationally as paisley continued its appearance in the Indian sub continent even during the fourth period culture or the age of foreign invasion 500 BC – 500 AD. People from west brought their diverse culture and with their culture came Paisley, which later became popular in Kashmir5 and wove its way into the Pashmina6 shawls. Inspired by Persian7 art, the Mughal8 emperor Humayun9 brought in Paisley as a vibrant piece of art & design, which is still seen embedded within different crafts around the Indian sub continent.

Paisley in Art & Design

Wood handstamp for textile printing traditional paisley designs, Isfahan, Iran.

Wood handstamp for textile printing traditional paisley designs, Isfahan, Iran.

Block printing

An ancient art still being practised in different parts of India witnesses the use of Paisley vividly.

Chikankari – Lucknow10

The word Chikankari has been derived from a Persian word Chakin or Chakeen, which means creating delicate patterns on a fabric and creating cloth, shaped with needlework. Paisley is common to block prints and Lucknow embroidery.

Kalamkari – Rajasthan11

Kalamkari is an ancient style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind12 pen, using natural dyes. The word Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word where ‘kalam‘ that means pen and ‘kari‘ refers to craftsmanship. Motifs used in Kalamkari vary from flowers, peacock, Paisleys to sacred characters of Hindu epics like Mahabharata13 & Ramayana14.

Kantha – Bangladesh

This type of embroidery is done on old saris stacked on each other and hand-stitched to make a thin piece of cushion & bed covers. Well I guess, that’s what inspired traditional handcraft artisans to come up with furnishing solutions with elegant mango shaped paisley patterns layered onto the fabric.

Handcraft in India is vast. The use of paisley is seen everywhere from Kashmiri Pashminas to Amritsiri Phulkari15 toJuttis16 in Punjab to Khandi17 printing in Nepal. If one notices it is clear that the extensive use of Paisley in Indian art & design is inspired by the Persian culture, and Mughal influence played a big role in introducing paisley to the Indian culture, so much so that we don’t even notice its presence in our day to day life. I am sure I have missed a few but you see, Paisley has so extensively proliferated across the Indian sub continent that it’s not easy to cover everything in one article. I just have one more fascinating story about Paisley to share.

Psy Paisley

Paisley became popular with the gypsies & hippies in the mid and late 1960’s under overt influence of The Beatles18. The style was popular during the Summer of Love 1967. Also, Fender Guitars made a Pink Paisley version of their guitar. Prince19 paid tribute to the Rock & Roll history of Paisley when he fashioned Paisley Pack Records and established Paisley Park Studio, named after his song Paisley Park 1985. Paisley’s significance with growth, fertility and ‘ The Tree of Life’ is probably why it is associated with travel, spirituality & psy, made popular in the 1960’s. The decade moved culturally towards a Rock & Roll swag in terms of fashion and also music, sparking the love affair of Paisley with The Beatles travels during their travel to India with the Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 20 - with John Lennon21 famously having his Rolls-Royce painted all over in Paisley.

Filming a sequence for “I Am the Walrus”

 
John Lennon’s 1965 Phanton v

elecaster in Pink Paisley

Cover art for the single Paisley Park by the artist Prince. 

The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the label, Paisley Park, or the graphic artist(s). Prince & The Revolution “Paisley Park” single 1985.

Filming a sequence for “I Am the Walrus”

John Lennon’s 1965 Phanton v

 
elecaster in Pink Paisley

Rock the Paisley

The famous 1986 revolution was an avalanche of this tremendous fashion trend and Hippies created their own counter culture founded on psychedelic rock and the Hippie dress, which they believed was part of the statement of who you were, included brightly colored, printed  ragged clothes, tie-dyed t-shirts, beads, sandals (or barefoot), and jewellery, all of which served to differentiate them from the “straight” or “square” mainstream segments of society.

So next time you see someone wearing this leaf-like ‘ambi’ as we all call it, decorative colorful pattern, take a moment and think about its rich symbolism and rebellious aura which has kept the charm of this mango look alike motif prevail through the generations and making a strong impact on the culture (more like counter- culture). But the secret behind Paisley s journey through the centuries is its rebellious attitude and its diverse interpretation in our culture and around the world.

References & Notes

1.     Mangoes is the plural for Mango, a tropical pulpy fruit
2.     Gyan, Indian, noun, meaning knowledge, esp. spiritual or religious knowledge
3.     Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, High St, Paisley PA1 2BA, UK (Renfrewshire)
       Kairi is unripe mango, Indian reference, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairi
5.     Kashmir, Region in the northern part of India
6.     Pashmina is a shawl made from fine quality goats wool
7.     Persian, relating to ancient Persia or modern Iran or its people, culture or language
8.     Mughal, belonging to Muslim dynasty of Mongol origin founded by the successors of Tamerlane, which ruled much of India from the 16th to the 19th century
9.     Humayun was the second emperor of the Mughal empire
10.   Lucknow is the state capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India
11.   Rajasthan, a state in western part of India
12.   Tamarind, the tropical tree which yields tamarind pods, cultivated throughout the tropics and also grown as an ornamental and shade tree or used in Asian cooking
13.   Mahabharata, an India epic
14.   Ramayana, an Indian epic
15.   Amritsari Phulkari is embroidery technique from the Punjab region of India
16.   Juttis is a type of footwear common in North India and neighboring regions
17.   Khandi, coarse cloth from Nepal region
18.   The Beatle are an English Rock Band, 1960’s
19.   Prince, Rogers Nelson, American Singer, song writer, dancer
20.   Mahesh Yogi, the guru who introduced the Beatles to transcendental meditation
21.   John Lennon was an English singer and songwriter who co-founded the Beatles

·       Handemade In India- Aditi Ranjan/ M P Ranjan

·       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Telecaster

·       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paisley_Park_(song)

·       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Mystery_Tour

·       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rolls-Royce_Phantom_V

Acknowledgments

Ashwini Deshpande, Mayuri Nikumbh, Meenakshi aka menu, Nayantara aka billo, Book- Handmade In India- Aditi Ranjan/ M P Ranjan

PRATYANCHA PURI is an alumnus of Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore and is a Graphic Designer at Elephant, a multi disciplinary Design Consulting firm. The views expressed in this article are her own and supporting material provided by her for this blog article.

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Incident at a fort!

Incident at a fort!

27 summers ago, moonless, it was a night for Elephant and we had our own tryst with destiny.By ASHISH DESHPANDE

The year was 1989 for certain. Yet, it is unclear when Elephant1 started. No one is sure. Perhaps it was that Design Management module in our fourth year. It could have been one of those countless discussions that excitedly took place on the stair leading to the auditorium or those precious wasted hours at NID2 gate over Chai3. Maybe, a hard date can be inscribed as April 16th. 1989, the day pioneers of the herd landed in Pune with their trunks, hold all & drawing boards. Another date that probably is hard coded is 02 May 1989, date the firm got itself registered as Elephant and a working deed was drawn out by a bemused CA4, who wondered the point of making the deed when Design itself was questionable in his mind.  

As fresh graduates, we saw the bleak landscape that Design in India presented as an opportunity. We were friendly, eager to learn, connect and people around were more than willing to help a fledging professional practice. Elephant survived, and a year later, excited, we plotted to celebrate our one-year of existence in the Indian design landscape. May, 01 1990 was pegged as Elephant Day, maybe it helped that 01st of May was a public holiday5 or in most probability, it was the most convenient average of various dates. 

We finished working late on the 30th. April. Yes, we worked hard those days as we continue the tradition even today. The plan was to pick up five Chicken Tandoori 6 portions, half a dozen bottles of Pilsner beer, hire a Fiat Premier 7(big deal those days, since we has 2 scooters between the five) and head to Sinhagad 8, a 1400AD fort that towers over the city about 30 km from Pune.

The herd started from Pune at about 10:30 in the night. It was a lonely drive up the hill to the base of the fort. There was no one around and we hiked up the fort to find a great spot overlooking the city in the distance. The plan was to see the sunrise from the fort ramparts and celebrate our first year as Elephant.

We celebrated nonetheless, consuming beer, the chicken tandoori, and talked our way through the night. There was no good shelter and we were lying in the open on the wild grass looking at stars.

That night, at that moment, life taught us one of our first lessons. Around 3 am., as breeze grew stronger and a chill set in. It was difficult to remain in the open. We had come unprepared, there was no torch or matchstick and we were in our light summer Tees. By 3:30am, we were shivering.  Rattling our way back to the parking lot, we woke up the cab driver and started our descent back to Pune. The driver, poor soul was obviously sleepy and lost control of the Fiat and the car scrapped against a Bund wall 9 over the valley below. The fiat lost its headlamp, side panel & trims and the driver lost his sleep. We were lucky to be alive.

We never saw the sunrise. I guess, Pune had acquired a new sun, for the next 28 years, all thanks to the lesson at the fort and our bone rattling experience. We got back and laughed. We laugh every year when this incident is remembered and how close we were to having no Elephant in any room at all.

The journey that began so carefree goes on and each year we remember the lessons learnt, adapt and shine on. The Design landscape has flowered and the herd has grown. However, what remain is that spirit, that took us on this carefree journey, and till this day, we get rattled, we learn, most importantly, we laugh and move on. 

Notes

1.     Elephant, is India’s premier design consulting firm

2.     NID, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

3.     "Chai" is a local term for Indian brewed tea

4.     CA is the short abbr. for Chartered Accountant

5.     01 May is celebrated as Labour day and also Maharashtra Day in India

6.     Chicken Tandoori is grilled Mughlai cuisine recipe made in a traditional open coal oven

7.     Fiat Premier “Padmini” is a version of Fiat 1100 Delight

8.     Sinhagad, a martial fort 30 km south west of Pune

9.     Bund Wall is a small retaining or edge wall


ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a past member of India Design Council & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others. Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the International Design Congress and is the Product Design Jury, Cannes Lions 2017.

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Experience Design: Dr. Kallam Anji Reddy Memorial

Experience Design: Dr. Kallam Anji Reddy Memorial

How does one pay tribute to a man who is an institution? A space experience designed to inspire people with thoughts & legacy of a life devoted to leadership, development & giving.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

“Everyone has a purpose in life and an unique talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate spirit of all goals.” – Late Dr. Kallam Anji Reddy

Dr. K Anji Reddy had a dream, to make bulk drugs available & affordable to common people. With zeal and an inspiring life journey, he made the impossible a reality. A shade of his dream, enterprise and dedication is presented at the 1.2 acre site located in Miyapur, Hyderabad, Telangana, India.

The site is a subtle weave between the location, the architecture, landscape and the story of Dr. K Anji Reddy. Conceived to celebrate his life, the memorial architecture is the work of Mindspace, Ar. Sanjay Moghe and the experience layer has been created by Elephant Design.  Architecture is a non-building, nestled within the natural surrounds, preserving the serene atmosphere. At Elephant, the design team had a challenge to build a layer of tangible experience in the memorial over the architect’s cognitive approach toward the design of the space.

The story of Dr. K Anji Reddy unfolds through distinct vistas and journey paths within the space. It begins at an inspirational level as the story unfolds in layers over the chiseled Mont Blanc stone used at the memorial, leads down a path of enlightenment & discovery, unfolds as an entrepreneurial journey inside a series of pavilions and settles reflecting over a linear water body ending as a meditative Samadhi.

Touch points were woven through the space keeping visitor journey in mind. There is always a take away whether it was a 1st time or a regular visitor.

Inspiration layer

This layer brings about the strength of character and the calm through inspiring quotes and text chiseled into stone-clad spatial dividers. These inscriptions tell the story and bring forth very subtly those words of wisdom that drive the spirit of human achievement through Dr. K Anji Reddy’s mind.

The font chosen for the inscriptions is Gotham, which is a rare san-serif font that is new & assertive and yet feels familiar & non-imposing. It is geometric, but also friendly. It has just the right quality of timelessness we were looking for in weaving the memorial story. 

Constantia is a transitional serif font with less contrast between thick & thin, making it ideal for readability in various light conditions as the installations; panels & wall engravings were open to direct natural light in the day. 

Together, these two fonts made for a classic combination.

Entrepreneurial layer

Unfolding inside a series of 6 pavilions, this layer tells the story from the beginning of Dr. K Anji Reddy’s life and travels through space over several key milestones. The story is told as a series of flowing panels, maintaining a serene tone. A motorcycle display marking the humble beginning of Dr. K Anji Reddy’s struggle, his favorite car and his workspace towards the end of the path reflects his quest for achieving the higher.

Reflection Layer

This layer forms the key experience and allows the visitor to reflect upon a series of inspirations and the philanthropic vision of Dr. Anji Reddy. The flow encourages visitors to walk down this path through a colonnade of trees, sit on a bench and reflect. The benches are designed using hardwood and casted architectural concrete and that would age well & blend with the natural surroundings.

Dr. Kallam Anji Reddy memorial has seen a steady stream of visitors since it’s opening in 2016 and continues to inspire young minds in the spirit of giving, every day and design continues to highlight the relevance & meaning of his work.

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a member of India Design Council & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others.

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Red to Blue: Mark of differentiation

 

Red to Blue: Mark of differentiation

Biggest challenge facing businesses fighting in red ocean zone is ability to effectively differentiate. How does design help deliver business advantage?

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

“Differentiation is the essence of strategy, the prime source of competitive advantage. You earn money not just by performing a valuable task, but by being different from your competitors in a manner that lets you serve your core customers better and more profitably. The sharper your differentiation, the greater your advantage.” - Chris Zook & James Allen, The Great Repeatable Business Model in hbr.org

The air cooler market in India is estimated above Rs.3000 Cr and 70% of this is the unorganized sector. Soaring summer temperatures, longer summer months, rising aspirations of the Indian middle class & accessibility to global markets have made every appliance manufacturer turnout products, to take a share out of the air cooler pie.

Evaporative cooler technology, over years, has improved incrementally and relaxed Intellectual Property compliances makes it hard to place Air Cooler products that are differentiated from the me too & rip offs flooding the consumer space. In this context, how does an appliance manufacturer stay above the waterline? What role does design play in helping companies take a hard look at their product line up? An interesting case of design at work asElephant teams with Symphony Limited, world’s no.1 cooling company.  

Customer focus ≠ Host of Features

Many cooler manufacturers believe that providing a host of incremental benefits is a way to the customer’s heart. Little more pad area, a few cubic feet of more air throw, a liter more of tank capacity is no better than running a race at the discount store.

Differentiation begins with empathy-based observations of what people do when they buy your products. Design team at Elephant spend hours observing people in their homes, looking at their habits and noticing their real time concerns. During one such visit, the design team observed that coolers were always being shunted to balconies, lofts or were pushed under wall units. People need space, and when they don’t need a product, they try and get it out of their way. Coolers not only consume precious floor space but also block airy windows in case of window mounted versions. Air Coolers inherently carry volume and are bulky. Instead of focusing on increasing air throw or the next best remote control, the design team focused on “reclaiming space” for customers. 

Pictures taken by Elephant Team during actual home visits showing Air Coolers stowed away. 

Pictures taken by Elephant Team during actual home visits showing Air Coolers stowed away. 

Setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

Once a challenge is identified, it ends up providing the design team with a sense of direction. However, challenges are not easy mountains. The design team at Elephant & Symphony set themselves a couple of goals.

First was to design a full size cooler that fits on a footprint of 1’ x 1’ tile. This was not as easy as it probably reads, since the entire air throw mechanism was to be reconfigured and reengineered to fit into a compact, yet, tall space. This itself was not enough since the product was to deliver a better cooling performance and air throw than conventional models.

Second was to free the window. Windows are a relief in urban apartment environments and the design team set itself the second challenge to create a product that doesn’t need window mounting. The product could be mounted high on the wall like a split AC. Again, this was easier said than done. The design team had to solve the problem of water tank, water filling and cooling.    

Making it happen

When design team under takes new direction or challenge, they come across unknown obstacles. Some of them are known spoilers like weight of the product, cost of parts, number of parts, assembly, quality of manufacture and size for shipping. All these obstacles need to be sorted out from the regular functional issues before a cooler can be realized. As a new format of product that is deviant from the traditional, it is imperative that the product carries no bugs.

The development work resulted in two product formats.

First, was the creation of the ultra compact and tall range of next generation cooler range “DiET”. This product connected with people due to its floor saving footprint, low power & water consumption and was an instant hit. DiET today retails across 40 countries with over 1.2 million units sold. This product for its design & innovation quality was awarded the “India Design Mark 2013”.

DiEt cooler with ultra compact foot print, tall delivery and “intelligent” controls.

DiEt cooler with ultra compact foot print, tall delivery and “intelligent” controls.

Second, resulted in the creation of world’s first wall mounted air cooler, “Cloud”. A cooler that has completely freed window and floor space for people for whom space is luxury. This product for its design differentiation and innovativeness has been recently awarded the India Design Mark, 2016.

Cloud Cooler, mounted on wall. This freed floor space and windows.

Cloud Cooler, mounted on wall. This freed floor space and windows.

When development effort focuses on people, appreciates and acts on unsaid needs, product innovation can take place. The two efforts for Symphony are good examples of moving from a crowded orbit to an elevated plane. This orbit shift is what creates powerful brands, those that rise above the red ocean and make business sense.

Design led Innovation is a powerful tool however needs the courage from corporations and a resolute design team to undertake lofty challenges. Challenges that are not a figment of someone’s imagination or sales target but rather drawn from the latent needs of people.  

All successful product categories get crowded, what matters in time is agile & continuous people based design & innovation effort.   

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a past member of India Design Council & President of Association of Designers of India. He has mentored several start ups, conducts Design led Innovation workshops and has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others.

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Relaxo Rebranding

Relaxo brings alive the wave of transformation

In the highly dynamic world, Relaxo is one brand that has made steady inroads into the world of emerging India. Whether it is through basic flip-flops that they pioneered in India or the active & young brands like Sparx & Bahamas, Relaxo has led the way for about 40 years. 

To align with the evolving consumer & state-of-the-art offerings, Relaxo has unveiled its rebranding.  

Explaining the reasons behind the rebranding exercise, Gaurav Dua, Executive Director, Relaxo Footwear Ltd said, “ With a strong legacy of success & leadership, it was our responsibility to build a future-ready brand Relaxo. We are an ever-evolving brand that has stayed true to the core values of being reliable & approachable across India. With the rebranding exercise, we have also infused youthful & transformational spirit that is important for the growth of internal & external stake holders of the brand. Elephant, our brand building partners have played an immensely significant role in bringing our core values to life. I can proudly say that we collaborated with the right partners who understood our ethos and our brand's value proposition. They will continue to help us deliver seamless brand experience to our customers in times to come.” 

Ashwini Deshpande, co-founder & director of Elephant, the rebranding agency says “Relaxo rebranding exercise involved validation of current values of being reliable & approachable while seeking newer dimensions to reiterate the brand’s leadership. In keeping with the evolving consumers & new-age products, we have built the new Relaxo visual identity with a wave of positive transformation. 

Brand’s dynamism is embodied by forward slanting letters in Berry Blue with Sunny Yellow swoosh flowing across. The swoosh stands for wave of transformation, optimism and positive growth. 

All brand applications are being created with an ownable visual language and will be evident in the coming weeks across products, print, retail & online presence"

"The new Relaxo visual identity signifies effortless movement towards progress. ” added Mr Dua. 

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Start Up & Design Thinking

Select START UP teams of The Intel & DST – Innovate for Digital India Challenge 2.0 underwent #designthinking workshop Elephant Design Learning Centre yesterday. 

As a mentor adviser Ashish Deshpande spoke to top teams at #T_Hub earlier this month. 

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Emerging Role of Design(ers) in India

Emerging Role of Design(ers) in India

Design as an organized activity or practice is nascent in India and several other emerging nations. The journey or evolution of profession of design in India is merely fifty odd years.

In 1957-58, Government of India invited industrial designer Charles & his wife Ray Eames to give their recommendations for setting up design training programmes to serve small industries. It was upon The Eames India Report that National Institute of Design was set up as an autonomous institution for design education in 1961.

One of the most significant recommendations of the report was to look at design as an activity to solve the problems of our times with tremendous service, dignity & love. This was in keeping with the Indian culture & ideology. 

In the sixties, design was defined as a means to add value in the context of industrialization as India started focusing on manufacturing goods for self-reliance in the sixties. Early design education in India was geared towards preparing professionals to keep the quality of manufactured goods competitive. There was also an attempt to sensitise designers towards traditional crafts so as to not lose out on developing & nurturing use of local materials & skills.

Scope & intent of design intervention has evolved tremendously and we have moved from value addition to value creation by design. 

The next shift took place in the eighties when the government liberalised Indian economy and allowed for imports & exports to remain globally relevant. Quality was no more the benchmark of competitiveness as every business could access the same technology, materials & processes for manufacturing. At this point, the role of design in India changed from being at the periphery of development to utilising knowledge based on technology & markets for finding holistic solutions that worked towards affecting differentiation through design. 

Information technology created the following wave of change in design panorama. As one of the rapidly advancing economies, India witnessed large socio-economic changes in the last decade. Businesses started witnessing the power of design-led distinction or profit by design. User-led insights were the prerogative of designers till this point. Digital revolution changed that, as more & more businesses started depending upon user interactions for their survival & growth. Designers assumed the role of creating collaborative, participatory and even co-creative opportunities between users & businesses.

Designers were no more needed to just design objects, services or identities. They proved themselves capable of designing processes & systems to make better sense out of any eco-system. Design thinking was getting accepted as a progressive way towards creating value. 

Today, design is firmly rooted in empathy towards the user, the system and the environment. It has become a front-runner for achieving greater good in any    

socio-economic fabric. 

Design is not directly focused on sales or conversions anymore as that is understood to be a short-term strategy. For creating lasting value, designers are finding newer ways to induce conversations between users & brands or businesses. They believe that to be the only way forward for large, orbit-shifting impact.

Early designers were craftsman who created desirable objects skillfully. As they focused towards industrial revolution, they became “functional” designers. On riding the wave of manufacturing, they started creating distinction through form, surface, colour & even words and they became stylists.

Then came the age of innovation; of newer ways of doing things. The words design & innovation started being spoken in the same breath.

Were all innovations design-led? Not really. But could all designers become innovative? Certainly; as that was the need of emerging technologies & global communities.

All these skills come together to give a new edge to today’s designer. But what is really unique about the designer now is the emotional quotient and her ability to evoke emotional responses through design. 

What was once a self-expression by the designer has transformed into being the expression of the user today. In a seamless world, designers have empowered users to assume far greater responsibility of their future than the designer. 

Designers were expected to solve one problem at a time. Today, they are not only solving multiple, complex problems in parallel, but also managing to interlink the solutions in a way that creates previously unknown ways of living.

Designers are aware of that the power of design is far greater when democratised. They are finding ways to impart design thinking to create design-aware societies that will take right decisions for the future of this planet.

Posters: Concept: Ashwini Deshpande | Design: Nikhil Phadke | Elephant | India | These posters were first displayed at Global Design Network Symposium by Hong Kong Federation of Design Associations in November 2016.

Ashwini Deshpande is an author and co-founder/Director of Elephant, a leading multidisciplinary design consultancy with offices in India and Singapore. This article was first published by Hong Kong Federation of Design Associations at Global Design Network Symposium in November 2016.

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Award for Paper boat design

Paper Boat designed by Elephant Design was presented The India Story Design Award 2016 to applaud the emotional power and timeless nature of its design.
Elephant has been instrumental in shaping this hugely loved brand of drinks & memories right from the inception, contributing to its name, story, shape & visual identity.