Sharing Vision

Notes from Future: When Nobody Dies

(“P” and “N” are kind of long-distance friends residing in two time zones 30 years apart. “P” stays at year 2050 and “N” at 2018. These are few of the many notes '“P” wrote to ‘N”: )

Warning - PURE FICTION 

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Inspired from the book "Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari

IIn the past, war used to be a big killer but in last few decades there is no big war. The chance of a real war is only getting slimmer as time passes. In the past, hunger used to be a cause of death. Today we already have enough food for all and in future there will not be any death due to famine. In the past, disease was a big cause of death. Today we already have knowhow and mechanism to control any deadly outbreak. Disease is no more a cause of large-scale death.  

In future, we will live a very long life, may be we will have no compulsion to die.


Hey N,

You seem to be curious about how life seems at 2050. I will try and describe some of the things happening around here. Future is nothing like you see in Sci-Fi films but there is a rapid change happening. Let me try and describe few of the interesting things, which are noticeable. 

Today let me tell you few examples of things happening because human beings are almost not dying anymore.  At 2050 we can extend our old bodies to the maximum. Most people these days live beyond 100 years. There are no diseases or other external factors, which endanger health. Our body does become old and frail but there is no suffering due to sickness. 

Scientists are now doing research for keeping the body young at very old age. In few years, we will see our mind maturing with time, but the body remaining at 20 years only. 

Now let me quickly tell you some of the interesting things, which I see around myself. 

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There are lots of Exoskeleton shops in the city these days.  There is even one at Bavdhan. This Exoskeleton centre make interesting attachable smart mechanisms which are attached to the hands and legs. They help frail bodies to increase strength of their limbs for heavy lifting and speed walking for long distance.  These are individually customizable depending upon the specific weakness. It is a very helpful service, which keeps elderly people active so that they are able to take care of themselves quite well.  Most of the elderly are now working and have very active life.  These Exoskeleton parts come with various colours and styles. They are now considered fashion accessories. Even young people are using them, so that they can enhance their physical abilities considerably. 

Next, let me tell you about Gene Therapy Clinics.  

Most of the older hospitals have transformed into these clinics. They ensure long-term wellness and provide whatever medical help we need.  Treatments these days are focused on gene issues.

Looking for Right companion for elderly has become a big business. Dating, live-in, changing partners is a need these days.  People experiment living in various kind of relationships, as time is not a constraint any more. Relationships like commune, robo-companion, contract relationship are norms these days. Marriage is a forgotten practice now. 

Now I need to go and change my body Exoskeleton. It needs more strength to keep up with my adventures world-tour journey I am planning. 

With love 

P

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

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

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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

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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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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.”

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

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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

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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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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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Packaging Design: An Arranged Match*

  Suraja Kotnis ,&nbsp;Lead Designer, Communication Design, Elephant

Suraja Kotnis, Lead Designer, Communication Design, Elephant

Packaging design is very demanding yet interesting. It is like someone looking for an arranged marriage match. With just 3 seconds to impress, the design needs to speak the buyer’s language, or else, it gets thrown out of the consideration set.

Designing anything with such a small real estate and high expense requires a lot of thinking, understanding and planning.

* a marriage planned and arranged by the families of the couple

Here are some thoughts to consider before embarking on a packaging design exercise.

1.    Inside the closet or outside the closet:

Does the product have a show-off value, will the brand enhance the buyer’s image or is it a regular habitual product. This helps understand the purpose and mindset of the person buying a brand. eg: a glucose biscuit vsChunkies cookies –

Graphic language and messaging attitude follows smoothly if the answer is clear.

2.    Target Audience:

Who, when, how and why is the brand being bought.

I believe there are 3 kinds of TG – the influencers, the decision makers and the end users. And we have to impress all :) at every stage

Sometimes the end user might not even get to see the packaging. But what if she/he does and doesn’t get impressed?

3.    Brand – Is it a Leader or a follower

As communication designers, we might think of a completely out of the box idea but if the brand has an established legacy it will just be a great idea without any connection to the brand or its loyal consumers. eg: MTR Foods: The idea in revisiting the packaging was not to alienate its existing consumers. The task was to simplify the information in the exact manner that as consumer seeks it while taking the design a level ahead as a leader & trend-setter.

4.    Building an exclusive brand experience at 3 levels – attracting, buying and end usage

At every touch-point, we need to think of creating small but impactful experiences. That is the only way to create a continuous cycle of loyalty for the brands.   

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Want to join Elephant?

Want to join Elephant? Read these super tips by Vinita Jakkal who landed herself a place in our team!

 Vinita Jakkal

Vinita Jakkal

As most of young designers dream of starting their career with the top studios but dreaming is not enough says Vinita Jakkal, a Post Graduate in Graphic Design from MIT Institute of Design, who is currently working with Elephant Design, Pune. She shares the tips, which may help you make your dream come true. 

If you really want to get placed in your dream company, you need to be on your toes from the very first day of your college. Dreaming is good but doing nothing for that dream every day is not. No matter how philosophical or boring it sounds (even I felt the same when I was in college) but it’s a truth that I learned over past 6 years of my design experience.

Start by choosing the company with a must do basic research on company portfolio, it’s market reputation and most importantly what you want to learn from it. Also understanding the scope for individual growth and aspirations.

Your design portfolio is going to act as a mirror for you and your skills. So be thoughtful while choosing a work. Only select the best & unique, as viewer will be interested in the quality and not the quantity. Now a days everyone is techno savvy so try to make an online portfolio or your own website.One of the most important part is showcasing the design process of your work.

If it is a face to face interview, along with your resume & online portfolio try to present some of your best physical models or works as well. It will add interest for the reviewer.

When you aspire a dream opportunity, it can come to you in any form and at any time, so do not wait for vacancies of studios. Just participate in public events, contribute on global or national level design platforms so that many studios can notice your work and rest assured if you are good at your skills, they will pour you with opportunities and offers.

Also, be confident about your work while presenting. Try to highlight the process & thought behind any creativity and specially avoid saying that I have chosen this colour because that’s my favourite one.

When you’re trying to sell yourself as a conceptual person, you need to be able to validate your decision-making because interviewer want to see how you think and that you understand the purpose of design from a business & end user perspective.

Studios always want people with multiple skills. So sell your skills correctly!

So Best of Luck peeps.

http://www.creativegaga.com/articles.php?act=details&aid=371

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Life of a Problem

 Life of a Problem

Extract of my talk this Monday at Elephant about Design thinking and its role in problem solving. Based on 3 stories from authors unknown, stitched together to highlight critical nuances in innovative problem solving.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE, Director, Elephant.

Life of a problem_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

Ask a room full of Designers; if they thought themselves as problem solvers, almost all will raise their hands. However, quiz how many are problem creators? Some hands may go down. Then if one were to ask, how many are problem spotters, what would be the answer?

One day, a fox trundling along a jungle path came across a rabbit typing away on his laptop. Intrigued, the fox asked the rabbit, "What's up?"

"I am writing a thesis on how a rabbit eat foxes", said the rabbit.

"Obviously, you must be joking." said the fox with disbelief.

"Not at all" said the Rabbit and invited the Fox to his burrow to prove the point.

A while later, the Rabbit emerged from his burrow licking a piece of Fox bone.

The scene repeats itself with a wolf and then with a Bear.

The Bear rolled on the jungle floor laughing at the very thought behind Rabbits thesis. Rabbit again nonchalantly invites the Bear into his burrow to prove the point and introduces him to the Lion. *

(*The above story is a summary effort based on http://shortstories.co.in/corporate-lessons-part/.  Author unknown)

The genesis of any problem solving lies in problem spotting and for designers’ problem identification is the key to problem resolution. Many a times, like our fox, wolf and the bear, we fail to see the problem. We fail to generate empathy with the situation to spot the problem.

And what happens once you spot a problem, where does the solution lie? My math teacher would have said," Answer lies in the question itself!” However, sometimes the answer requires a catalyst from out side, to help bring the solution to surface, as became apparent to the herd of 17 camels awaiting their fate.

These 17 camels belonged to a successful tribesman from the sands of Arabia. Nearing completion of his life journey the tribesman wrote a will dividing his wealth of 17 camels amongst his 3 sons.

After their father’s demise, the 3 sons read the will. Their father had willed 1/2 of the 17 camels to the first born, 1/3 to the second son and 1/9 to the youngest. The sons wondered on how to meet this strange request by their father and not sure how the division would take place. Soon their bewilderment turned into arguments and quickly into quarrels. The village elders fearing more trouble referred the siblings to a local Saint.

The wise man thought for a while, then called the 3 brothers and told them that he would like to give them one additional camel. Now the 3 brothers had 18 camels. The eldest could take home his share of 9 camels, the middle one got 6 and the youngest was content with his 2 camels. Since 9+6+2=17, there was still one camel left which was promptly given back to the Saint.

Many a times, the solution to a problem lies outside. We need to add to be able to divide. In design, realigning existing set of elements may not solve all problems. Sometimes value needs to be added to bring about a workable solution.

The obvious solution is not always the best solution. Some one famously said , " Most problems are created by a solution". If Ratan Tata (past Chairman, Tata Motors) had focused on a better scooter his solution would have been different. Instead he chose to create a safer, comfortable transport solution and NANO was born. Most of the times, our restricted understanding forces a solution. If we change our perspective, our context changes and so does our solution.

Once a talented carpenter walked into a rich landowners farm. The landowner was in a dispute with his younger brother over share of their ancestral land. Seizing the opportunity of a good carpenter having walked his way, he was quickly hired to erect a strong fence between him and his brother’s land along the river that flowed between their properties.

"I never want to see my brother’s face. Build a fence that will isolate him from me." Saying this the landowner traveled away to a distant place on work. The carpenter was sharp to pick out the problem between the two brothers and set out making a fence. On his return, the elder brother was amazed to find an exquisitely carved fence waiting his sights. However, our carpenter had created small bridges inside  the fence stretching across the river.

The younger brother thought that his elder brother had created special bridges for connecting with him and eagerly walked across to embrace him and ask for forgiveness. The elder one though flustered, was moved by the event of his younger brother coming over. In short, the dispute dissolved as emotional bridges were enabled by a solution that was not the obvious. *

(*The above story is a summary effort based on wonderful stories shared on http://www.rajivbajaj.net/ Author, Unknown)

Design is all about feeling, thinking as well as doing. In a manner of process, design begins by sensing a problem or spotting an opportunity to inflict change.

Some solutions are apparent and common sense, but when dealing with issues like disruption, differentiation, wicked problems, part of solution may not lie inside the box. There is no end to the change a solution can bring about. There will be possibilities and spin offs. The way one changes the perspective of looking at a problem will always result in a different end to a problem solution.

Design effort is always towards being receptive to an emergent problem, adding positive value to the process leading to a solution and changing the context to look in a new light helps see new solution enabling a novel lifecycle of problem resolution.

Elephant is India’s Best Design Practice (ET-Brand Equity 2012-2014 ranking) with a multi-disciplinary experience of 27+ years having presence in India & Singapore and has been transforming brands, organizations & businesses using Design led Innovation.

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. Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the International Design Congress, 2015.

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Battle of Greens

Battle of Greens: Different approach

Are designers, architects waging a lone battle when it comes to Green Products & Practices? With Paris agreement looming large, it is a good time to do a reality check on how businesses should approach the problem.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

 “Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical - Victor Papanek

Victor Papanek, was rebel with a cause. An Austrian designer, he relentlessly campaigned for designers and product manufacturers to make their articles relevant, meaningful & sustainable. This father of responsible design was even critical of the design fraternity, beginning his seminal book, Design for the Real World with, "There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few… following up with ... by creating whole species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breath, designers have become a dangerous breed."

Though designers are crucial to the creation of products & environments, they do not constitute the sizeable decision making machinery in corporate juggernauts. Whipped into being morally responsible many designers have fallen into line, however do they have control?

The Paris Agreement on climate change saw 195 nations give it a nod. However, notably 5000 businesses from 90 countries have agreed to align and support the global agenda towards a properly sustainable & low carbon world. This is a recognizable outcome of COP21 and will call for a fair bit of transparency framework and practices to be adopted. Against this backdrop where do producers of products and services stand today? What is the degree of practice shown by business concerns today that is environment friendly and sustainable? As designers, it is important to take a hard look at the playing field.  

Who is thinking Green?

In my entire retail & product design experience & career across clients, across domains, I rarely encounter clients with genuine concern for sustainability. Mostly, it has been designers and architects, who bring the focus on sustainable development or Green Design into play. Corporate structure necessitates several point of views getting channelized into the decision making process. Designer’s concerns have a tendency to lose itself in a deluge of constrains from all stakeholders. MNC’s and large corporates take the cause of Green Design based on requirements of statutory regulations, audits & company law compliance reports. Others do it to satisfy & earn green point awards like Energy Star, Design for Environment, Watersense certifications by EPA, EPEAT, Greenguard-UL, GRIHA or LEED certification, more propelled by market driven competitive spirit than any genuine concerns. Green concerns have always been secondary. Most producers are motivated by long term monetary savings, or operational benefits that green products bring to their business.

The “green & good for environment” part is a by-product of fiscal decisions. So, the priorities today can be stated as;

·      Operational expense savings

·      Company law regulations, environment policy mandates

·      Competitive advantage

First is the prime mover for “Green decisions” in corporates. The second is a legal necessity and the third is the story. However, all require a Design Thinking approach to make the impact stick with people, deliver monetary & habit change and be good enough to bear the “green edge”.

Design is one such asset capable of enabling a “green edge” within a production setup, provided Design teams start dropping their blinkers and business leaders open their minds.

Stepping beyond singularity

Design teams tend to stick around creative ideation as their strength. A large part of this creative energy goes towards focusing on the Product or Service, form, function & experience. A product or services are interaction cores of a larger engine that makes solutions happen. Design needs to enlarge focus beyond the fuzzy elements of product solutions. Rarely do Designers concern themselves with manufacturing processes, materials with reference to its impact on our environment. Most follow the producers set up as an overriding constraint to design. It is interesting to bear in mind that a product or service is not alone. It comes heavily loaded at one end with manufacturing systems and on the other end with logistics of market access, retail & consumption. A sum total of this value chain is the impact of a “Design” on environment.

This value change can no longer afford to be linear in thought process and remain in isolated silos of excellence, rather play like a football team with a unified objective.

Creators & producers need to proactively look beyond ideas into product optimization, cleaner production, life cycle assessment, cradle to cradle, extended responsibility and environmental impact assessment as part of their design process & tools, both in development & route to markets.

Existing development process leading to incremental impact

Avoiding white Elephants

Green Innovation will happen, provided the thought is holistic and across the value chain. Newer practices will add up to the expenses, however, eliminating waste, sharing resources may be light weight methods of lowering costs and offsetting any new“green” expenses without business disruption.

It is sad to see that most “green energy” transport solutions today, are the most “expensive” transport solutions.  Herein lies an opportunity for “creative” approach towards ensuring both “green” (environ & monetary) returns on investment made.

Many a times policies can be binding, like take the case of restrictions on use of thin plastic grocery bags. Prior to the bags coming in market through grocery chains and standalone shops, cloth & paper bags were prevalent. Years after restrictions were executed, the industry has not been able to promote alternatives. Paper bags are laborious to manufacture, not sturdy & have their own issues, cloth bags have not become re-popular. The industry has invested huge into plant, materials, machinery & markets that prevent it to see a linear solution in sight. Solutions at present are incremental or too expensive and need a creative thought from a different viewpoint. This calls for a mind & process shift by creating a new development process based on Design Thinking.

So, Industry focus must shift and businesses can start investing in co-creative development teams to make the future greener. New areas of focus for redevelopment can be one or all of the ones stated;

·      Power & Energy (Reduce consumption, Green source, increase efficiency)

·      Resource consumption and waste (localize, Reduce, Share, Reuse)

·      Production materials (low carbon rating, low pollutants)

New development process based on Design Thinking leading to Radical impact within Resource limits

 Mahindra Reva’s e2o is a good example. The design team went beyond the traditional indulgence of vehicle design into adapting efficient green production process, unconventional materials, solar charging and regenerative braking technologies and even new ownership programs to make buying affordable. The effort resonates of all round contribution at various levels & verticals. However, the car still leans on government policies & subsidies and has not yet managed to make the end price attractive for making box office hits. Reva since inception has been a green focused business and so it is not surprising. It will be interesting to see the learning from recent projects making their way into the diesel guzzling SUV platforms from the Mahindra stable (recent diesel SUV ban in Delhi, NCR area). That will be a remarkable example of “green impact”.

The way to do this is to work with cross-functional teams as a start point with Design Thinking as a primary enabling tool & framework for development. This presents a new challenge for designers as well as an opportunity to create more relevant, holistic & eco-friendly solutions. Moving focus away from traditional playgrounds for design development teams to new areas for innovation is a route with guaranteed success in the “Battle for the Greens”. Though, Design Thinking may “no longer be a competitive advantage” for companies, as questioned by Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO (HBR Post), design & design thinking are still good enough to ensure a “greener” tomorrow.

No better time to start the change, than now!   

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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Asia Meet: A Dialogue in Bangkok

Asia Meet_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

Asia Meet: A Dialogue in Bangkok

The Design Alliance Asia recently held an “Asia Meets” event in Bangkok. The meet saw a sharing of thoughts and discussed the flow of design in Asian countries. Design team from Elephant reflects on a few insights learnt from the meet.   

Designers In conversation

ASHWINI DESHPANDE, ANAND PALSODKAR, MAYURI NIKUMBH, SHRISH TILEKAR, PRASAD KENKRE, PARTHO GUHA & ASHISH DESHPANDE

 

STATE OF DESIGN IN ASIA

Anand:

As I think about state of Design in Asia at a larger level, one wouldn't agree more with Thomas Friedman when he says that 'The world is flat' and perhaps becoming flatter as we head towards the future.

Prasad:

If one utters the word design, none of the Asian countries actually come first to our mind. Mostly European countries like Germany, The Netherlands are strongly associated with design. Design as a field in Asia still largely remains misunderstood to the vast amounts of population. “Design is vast and covers everything from ceramics to aeronautics is Design”.

Shrish:

Since the Asian culture is deeply rooted with history of several years, it vastly differs in religion, language and beliefs. Most of the design, hence, is a result of very long evolution within each of these diversities. This evolution and diversity of design is very evident in all its forms, like architecture, town planning, products and so on. 

Partho:

The economy in South East Asia is presently in a depressed state and design profession and projects are affected by it. Design projects around real estate development are on the rise and interesting design projects are happening there. Asian Designers are quite evolved in terms of new principles and expressions in the cutting edge of design. Be it use of Design Thinking process or innovation in social media expressions, Asian

Designers are more vibrant and much extent leading the world.

Mayuri:

If one considers professional design practiced by Asian designers, the scenario is very promising and there are clear indicators of intense & original thinking, well-set processes and excellent execution being carried out. However, design percolating in everyday lives and its environment, is still a dismal situation. There is an absence of sensitivity towards the visual landscape. There seems to exist a parallel set of worlds, where design on one hand is shiny, digital and larger than life world heavily influenced by modern Orient and on the other hand there is the imagery and essence inspired by traditional elements, architecture and practices.

Ashish:

There was a period in Asia when internal consumption was limited, mainly, due to poor economic conditions. Countries had to look west for technology & markets. Today, Asia is changing. Asian markets are strong & local consumption can sustain economies. Most Asian countries gave up their habits, customs, and traditions in the period between 1950-1990 and aligned themselves to the developed world. However, there is a noticeable shift seen. Design in Asia seems to be aligning itself back to its roots and the results are astonishing.

Shrish:

While it is great to see and experience such diversity in design, at times it can also become very selfish. It gets too restricted to a particular type of people or a section of the society, while in its true sense it should be enjoyable by all. Coming from cultures with such deep roots, we often lack the vision to look beyond all these boundaries to create a holistic and global design.

Ashwini:

Design as an organized, professional activity or service is nascent in most of Asia. In places it has taken shape from strong cultural art such as calligraphy or traditional materials such as bamboo or handloom textiles. However, all the mass produce design took its inspiration from the west, which as that part of the world was a front-runner in industrial development.

 INFLUENCE OF LOCAL CULTURE

Mayuri:

It was heartening as well as inspiring to see a lot of influence of local culture and traditional forms in modern day design. The Arabic typography projects shared by Designer 

Tarek Attresi, drew a lot of inspiration from local calligraphy & markings, yet is global & contemporary. Traditional objects from local culture creatively inspire designer Pham Huyen Kieu’s, Haki Craft objects.

However, the corporate work done is very much global in approach & appearance. The bank branding done by Color Party, Thailand or the

products designed by NDD Design, Taiwan are truly global.

Ashish:

Yes, Design inspiration can stem from traditions & customs. However, in Asia, it also draws from local needs & economic conditions. That is why many times to make economic sense, design needs to have a universal appeal. Design & Designers in Asia tend to play a dual role. You see this prominently in Colour Party, Thailand or NDD Design, Taiwan work. However, William Harald Wong, Malaysia museum design draws sensibly from local folklore & crafts. The same can be said about the Book project shared by Subrata Bhowmick.

Shrish:

Evolution is still continuing around the same factors like traditional habits, religion. The original essence of the design is maintained to a certain extent making it very local and specific to particular region or country.

Prasad:

Design needs to solve problems. If a designer does not understand the culture of the people for whom he or she is designing, then it is sure to end up creating more problems. Understanding local culture, language, lifestyle of people and its nuances is critical. A designer fails if he is Insensitive to this and does not make a genuine attempt to actually understand culture and the people in context of the problem.

Shrish:

Though the problem would remain the same it is simply astonishing to see various solutions we would have in different parts of the country or the continent. These solutions are derived form the local culture, behavior and beliefs of people. The long-term solutions that would require a global and holistic approach often get neglected resulting in local design and design approach.

Partho:

It is still a challenge for Asian designers to align their solution to the cultural ethos and principals. Most of the culture led design, incorporates certain traditional motif and patterns in their solutions very successfully.

Anand:

Profession of Design has always functioned as a reaction to the needs

& aspiration of people, markets and technology. Aspiration of people is still largely driven by what happens in the Western world.

Developed countries have always been on the forefront of technology and design. Design in Asia seems to follow “the west”.

Leading brands today develop their markets based on the 'economy' of the geographies and design simply caters to that. So in such cases, I see very little or no influence of culture or region on Design in Asia at least as far as Industrial Design goes. Not sure if this is a point of concern or not, but it surely is reflection of The Flat World.

Ashish:

Let me take a few examples. The Rattan chair designed by late Irvan Noe’man, BD+A which received Good Design Mark, Japan and the Bhoomi pot series designed by Elephant, India are good examples of Industrial Design drawing influence from local crafts, customs. Freeman Lau’s chairs and much of the package design work by KL&K, Hong Kong are classic contemporary interpretations of regional crafts and customs.

Anand:

In 50s, Honda developed a motorcycle ('step through' segment) for SE region catering to the local needs of traditional clothing (read culture), muddy &

bad roads and affordability. This was a huge success. Today after many years the segment is still very popular, albeit people who do not dress traditional, have smaller families and road conditions are far better than in the past.

FUTURE OF DESIGN FOR ASIA

Shrish:

The problem of integrating local design with global approach must be taken up very seriously and in a very effective way.

Prasad:

Design in Asia has slowly but surely started getting recognition. Increasingly more and more governments have started noticing the changes that design can make. They are actively promoting design like the example we saw at TCDC in Bangkok. It also very strong in Hong Kong through Hong Kong Design Centre and various organisations & activities. This is a Positive step.

Mayuri:

The future of Asian design is on the right path of becoming a strong element in the DNA of big corporates. However, there is a need to stay rooted and retain our identity in design expression wherever possible. There are of course cases when design solutions are required to be more universal or westernized but eventually Asian designers are predominantly designing for Asian consumers and we need not ape western concepts blindly. Each Asian country has its own unique quirk and character. Designers here are trying their best to retain or imbibe these in their design solutions. If we keep at it, Asian design can really make its own mark and be recognized for its own brand of design, else the boundary between design sensibilities across borders and continents will keep merging and Asia will be seen as cookie cutters!

Ashish:

Asia presents a brilliant opportunity for designers. Take example of Hugh Hu of NDD Design, Taiwan, who has been curating design efforts by local Taiwanese Designers to draw from traditional habits & crafts to design objects with new meaning. Staying rooted with new meaning is one of the path.

Shrish:

As a result of being Asian, I see design making a great mark in the world. Asian design ranges from very complex and intricate designs to a very minimalistic design approach and this variety is gaining popularity worldwide. Strong traditional and regional influence coupled with a global approach will make the proposition very interesting and unique. This approach to use the power of design to create change may start a revolution that will affect the lives of each and every person in Asia in a very big way.

Prasad:

However, Design in Asia should focus on solving developing world problems e.g., Lack of Sanitation, maximizing with limited resources. Designers underestimate the Power that Design can make if it solves a single Problem. The implications are humongous as millions of people can be effectively affected by a single design intervention.

Design in Asia is definitely moving forward, albeit at a snails pace and lots still needs to be done to make design gets its due.

Partho:

The learning from the west is more or less complete and now there is a lot more respect for culture influenced design. Keeping with the overall cultural progression of Asian societies, expression around traditional mixed with western is emerging. Other cultural expressions like Music, Cinema, Painting, Writing in Asia is following a similar path. Overall Asian design is maturing and ready to take on a new path, which is culturally deep, technologically expressed and relevant to modern way of living.

AsiaMeets_Elephant_Team2.jpg

Elephant is India’s Best Design Practice (ET-Brand Equity 2012-2014 ranking) with a multi-disciplinary experience of 25+ years having presence in India & Singapore and has been transforming brands, organizations & businesses using Design led Innovation. Apart from being a thought leader in the field of design, especially in emerging markets, Elephant has made significant contributions through design to Paperboat, Symphony Appliances, Bennett University (TOI Group), Axis Bank, City of Pune, Britannia, MultiX, V Wash, VOOT and even social initiatives like Pune Bus day, Sakal Group amongst several others.   

The Missing Esslinger

The Missing Esslinger

As they say, the search continues, yet the journey stemming from an inspiration has yielded results.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

Hartmut Esslinger1 caught my imagination during NID2  days, way back in mid 1980's. As students, we would spend hours at NID's Resource Center (library), reading rare periodicals like DESIGN, ID and FORM. These magazines were our windows to Design in the western world (remember, there was no Google, those days). Esslinger & his firm, FROG, represented the epitome of design flow. He was enigmatic and the work being done by frog was an inspiration. Young FROG, a student initiative by FROG was to be ogled & drooled over, and the little haiku3 quotes were the seeds for our day to day philosophy & debates. 

As students, we would wait for the next periodical to arrive with the latest FROG creation. We dreamt of designing Skate Boots, Computer Work Station’s, Walkman's, all fired up by the 6 month old news provided by the “customs approved , imported & late arrival edition” of ID, Design or FORM magazine.

Stepping out of NID, armed with a graduate diploma in Industrial Design, I quickly discovered that there were no Skate Boots to design. There were no Macintoshes or Walkman's in India. India presented a different opportunity to look at design, playing to an unexplored field of functional needs of a developing nation. We had basic concerns about water, energy, health , hygiene, productivity that needed attention. Design business had to survive in a fledging economy by proving itself. The “Esslinger dream”quickly became an enigmatic inspiration of what an ugly Elephant4 could transform into one day.

 

27 years later, I was recently invited to speak at International Design Congress, 2015, at Gwangju, Korea. I scanned the list of key speakers and found Dr. Hartmut Esslinger, founder, FROG5 was speaking on day 2. This got me super excited. Listening to Esslinger was the closest, I would come to my Esslinger dream as a student. I grabbed my 2kg copy of Esslinger's latest book Design Forwardand lugged it all the way to Gwangju. The thought of listening to Esslinger live, getting my copy of his book autographed sentKimchi6 textured goose bumps all over me. I even included a quote by Esslinger in my talk at the conference.

Dr. Esslinger never arrived. No one explained. I re-read a few lines from his book after two days of carrying his book in my back pack and set it down into my luggage for its journey back to India.

May be, I thought, the journey is still incomplete. It began 30 years ago as an inspiring dream, morphed into co-founding anElephant4. Till today, the search continues for the missing Esslinger.

Maybe, one day,

                    "The old pond,

a frog jumps:

                    Plop!” – Bashô 7

the sound waves & ripples might lead our Elephant to find the Frog.

1.     Dr Hartmut Esslinger, Industrial Designer, founder FROG
2.     NID, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India
3.     "Haiku" is a traditional form of Japanese poetry
4.     Elephant, is India’s premier design consulting firm
5.     Frog, is a global design and innovation firm founded in 1969 by industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger
6.     Kimchi, a vegetable side dish in Korea
7.     Haiku Poem by Bashô quoted by FROG

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.

Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the

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Being Woman

Being Women_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

Being Woman

Ashwini Deshpande, Co-founder, Elephant, looks at her career journey as a woman, an entrepreneur, today as a motivator shares insights that she found on the way.

By Ashwini Deshpande

In my long work-life of 25+ years, I have rarely looked at myself from a gender lens. Partly because women have a natural acceptance in communication design and partly because I have been fortunate to be surrounded by equalists. Maybe the unequalists fell off the earth’s surface & I never noticed them!

In recent years, with experience & reach, I am frequently invited to speak to women at various workplaces, in various stages of their careers. First such opportunity was at a research organization that had over two dozen women scientists. I was rather excited to get to meet these highly accomplished women and looked forward to getting motivated rather than the other way around. So I did not question the occasion much though it was held on World Women’s Day. 

Many such opportunities followed. Each time I thought to myself whether it is right to be addressing women as a woman. I would question often myself whether I would be considered less accomplished if I was a man, whether my limited success is unfairly attributed to being a woman, whether being a woman is a handicap or advantage. There was no resolving these conflicts. 

I can’t quite articulate whether the discomfort was out of questioning my own ability to motivate people or whether I was in denial that women are differently abled at workplaces. 

I have now come to terms that I was in denial. Just because I was fortunate and could pursue my path unhindered by family responsibilities or other biases, I had no right to believe that every woman had it smooth. 

I started looking keenly at this issue this year as I was listed among "50 most Influential Women in Media" by Impact magazine, invited by "Microsoft Women in Tech” initiative as a motivational speaker and invited by Businessworld’s "Young Entrepreneur Awards" conference to be part of an all-women panel discussion. 

So here are 7 insights that I found to share ;

  1. Every single merit list of any exam small or big has girls topping the lists. Why they are not seen in equal percentages at leadership positions is an unresolved pain point. 
  2. Large percentage of girls take a break from work between 28 to 35 because of marriage, motherhood, husband’s career choices, health of parents or in-laws. Most of them get married without actually asking the crucial question about equal respect to each other’s work. So, I rarely see a father in his early thirties taking leave for his unwell child or mother. It is exactly at this point that women need to be counselled or mentored so they keep going. 
  3. Girls give up too early on themselves. They take the choice of opting out as a way to avoid conflicts at home front. In turn they give up on their own potential. Unfortunately, this is rarely acknowledged by the family members. They switch off before they can shine. 
  4. There are many flexi-options available today that border on entrepreneurship. Women need to consider options other than full-time job or full-time home-maker to discover their own place under the sun. 
  5. Despite education, urbanization, nuclear families, global exposure etc, family structures & expected behavioural patterns have seen very little change. The traditional definitions of a woman’s duties towards her household & family still remain what they were in the last century. 
  6. Even today, majority of girls are brought up to believe that working outside the house is a choice they will make and that their household will not be dependent on their income (fathers, brothers, husbands are there to do that). However, working inside the house is a given and that they will have no choice there. So what do you think the girl takes seriously? 
  7. Popular media glorifies the traditional roles & makes vampish characters out of those who defy them. 

The list can go on… 

Meanwhile, here is a link to short conversation between Sapna Bhardwaj of Businessworld and me… 

Published on Jul 31, 2015

Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder, Director, Head- Communication Design, Elephant Strategy + Design, spoke to BW Businessworld’s Sapna Bhardwaj at the sidelines of Young Entrepreneur Awards, recently held in New Delhi, India. Credits: Editing - Vijay Shankar, Ratnesh - Camera, Head Video Editorial - Sapna Bhardwaj      License- Standard YouTube License

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'Make in India' + 'Design in India' = Empowered creators

Make in India+Design in India_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

Not just Make in India, have Design in India to enable creators, says Ashwini Deshpande of Elephant Design

Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.

Starting out in 1989, Elephant Strategy+Design was co-founded by Ashwini Deshpande, Ashish Deshpande and Partho Gupta in Pune. In a short span the company rose to the top with a distinct identity of its own and now represents India at the Design Alliance Asia, a consortium of design consulting companies across 13 Asian countries. Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder and Director, shares her continuing passion for work.

Excerpts from the interview:

What did you want to take up as a career? 

I grew up in Aurangabad, a small town. I was highly inclined towards art, creativity, advertisingand visual story telling in school. I was also good at academics. Towards the end of high school, I realized I was not interested in walking down the conventional career path of engineering or medicine. My parents were very supportive. So we explored options like commercial art, architecture and then we came across some information on NID, the premier design institute in Ahmedabad. Though I wasn’t fully aware of what a designer does as a career and there was nobody to find out from, the prospect of going through the professional design education seemed very exciting. In 1983, NID selected 24 students to join the undergraduate batch. Being one of them felt rather special.

How were your NID days? What are your memories of the place?

For many reasons, NID was a cultural surprise, even a shock. There was freedom, learning and exposure to global thought. There was a degree of social commitment. At NID, a student was only compared to his or her own benchmark or capability and never with anyone else. Years spent at NID taught me to think as an individual on a broader level and to be purposeful. It opened my mind, broadened my horizons. I also came out with a conviction that design is a team game.

Did your views towards design change after going to NID?

Honestly, I did not have enough understanding of design to form a view before I went to NID. But there, the first thing I learnt was the difference between art and design. I understood that design always has a purpose, a parameter, and a problem to solve.

 Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder and Director, Elephant Design+Strategy

Ashwini Deshpande, Co-Founder and Director, Elephant Design+Strategy

Who is your inspiration?

Companies like Frog Design influenced us in the 80s. There were some great professors, but they were not in the business. There were some peers and seniors who ran boutique design studios. But there was nobody ahead of us in the field with a dream of large scale, sustainable multi-disciplinary design consulting company. So the excitement was to carve a path, create a benchmark and keep raising the bar of design impact. The Elephant team is my inspiration. My teams are my heroes.

What was the genesis of the name of your company – Elephant Design?

Our name is inspired by the story of the blind men and the elephant. We believe design is a team game. We are always interested in adding another dimension to the process to form a richer, bigger picture. The name has worked well. It has had an excellent recall. It also becomes the icebreaker with most new teams that we meet.

What was the first assignment that the company got?

Our first assignment was a big break. I was in Pune working on my graduation project with the India office of a German multi-national company. As luck may have it, the global head of corporate communications happened to visit India during the time, saw some of the work and offered me a project to work on their international collateral. I took it up saying we will do it as Elephant. That project got us a 100,000 Deutsche Marks that roughly equaled Rs 13 lakh in 1989. In the initial days, a consultancy needs to pick up whatever work that may come its way. That money gave us the confidence to focus on meaningful work where we could bring about a positive impact with design intervention.

We saw decent double digit growth last year. Hopefully the trend will grow.

What are the changes in your sector that you welcome? What do you think needs to be done?

Design being a nascent profession, awareness about the impact of design intervention is very low.  There are no measurable tools or any documented case studies that explain how design helped increase profits for a business. Now that there are many design schools in India, we should be able to have better talent and awareness. When the Indian government promotes Make in India, it needs to start with ‘Design in India’. Otherwise we will become a nation of ‘makers’ and not ‘creators’.

I would like to see Indian products and brands becoming globally relevant and successful. I feel Indian design needs to focus on staying relevant to its audience and not get side-tracked by trying to showcase an outsider’s version of ‘Indian’ design.

What are your dreams for Elephant Design and how far have you come to fulfilling it?

We have always worked towards building an institution that transforms lives. The dream was to stay purposeful, make a large and positive impact and lead the way for establishing business of design in India. It took time, but we are quite there. The next dream is to put Indian design on the mainstream global map of design, to make design intervention meaningful to the masses and to use design as a tool for social impact.


How do you nurture your creativity?

The best virtue of a designer is to stay curious and to not be judgmental. I try my best.

You love travelling. Does travel for work give you Me-Time or it is only work?

There is a idiom in Marathi that I grew up with: Kelyane deshatan pandit maitree, sabhet sanchar, manuja chaturya yetase far. It loosely translates to: If you travel the world, meet experts, interact with others, you may become clever yourself!

I never see work as something I need to get away from. I love everything that comes with the profession. Who can complain about getting invited to Cannes for seeing the best work in one’s field and get to also have an opinion on it?

What is on your bucket list? How many have you finished on that so far?

I have travelled across more than 20 odd countries. And maybe 20 more are waiting. I edited a book called Colours of Asia last year, but now want to write one myself. I feel Elephant is an inspirational story that needs to be told. So I am hoping to complete that book soon. Other things from the bucket list will emerge as I go along.

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