Sustainable Furniture

Furniture Design is a complex equation between Human Interactions, Material, Technology & Technique, Form and Function. There is a strong overlay of character and quality of build. Each piece is a product of time and at the same strives to be timeless. Each piece complements the space is sits within and yet holds a conversation on its own. The design of the table and stool is an interplay of all the above.

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Treetem Pole - Honouring a Memory

Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.
— Herman Hess
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We planted our happiness way back in the early 2000’s and started listening to trees. Both, the trees, and us were in our formative stages. We’d moved into this new space and wanted to make it our own and one of them was a 2 feet tall Silver Oak right near our entrance on the south east side of the lot. The silver oak grew more than 45 feet tall, and as it grew, it became the essence of our workspace. We’d sit underneath its shade for impromptu meetings and chats over coffee. All our photos featured this tree, just like it was a part of our family. It was tall, majestic and every now and then dropped a few leaves, lending an autumn character to our staircase. 
At some point last year, our silver oak became sick. It was taken over by a disease and had started showing signs of giving up. We tried a lot of remedies, but nothing seemed to work. Once it ran dry, we decided to pull the tree down ourselves, before it fell and accidentally hurt someone. We kept a portion of the trunk intact at the bottom, as a way of preserving its presence. 

It was never the same. Our space felt hollow without the Silver Oak’s charming aura. We were itching to pay homage to the tree that had given all of us so many memories. After much thought, our Design team came up with the concept of a Totem Pole installation. 

Traditionally, totem poles are a significant part of Native American culture. They’re carved out of large trees and serve many purposes beyond their beauty. Some of them represent stories or important event or pay respect to the departed. With these poles, each figure represents a part of the story. These are not worshipped, or even considered to be God. Instead, they represent traits or characteristics of the tribe or story. 

We decided to adapt this concept to honour our fallen tree, and thus was born the Tree-tem pole. This Tree-tem pole would celebrate the memories of our tree, and overlay with values shaping us for the future. 

At Elephant, we pride ourselves on a strong set of values which we abide by in our lives and work. Each figure engraved on our Tree-tem pole would embody a value that we stand by today. The face of a human being at the top depicts Empathy, something we strive to incorporate into all of our actions. The bee represents Expertise, as we endeavour to offer the same level of proficiency as she does while constructing honeycombs. An Eagle personifies its exploratory nature, and Honesty mirrors the kind face of a dog. We chose a cow to depict Value Addition, considering how selflessly she gives to our mankind. The Tree-tem pole is interfaced near the top by a large Elephant head, crafted with a sheet of aluminium, embodying the spirit of Design at Elephant. 

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Life sprouts on to this inanimate structure through creepers planted at the base of the pole, which now have started winding their way upward. The old Silver Oak trunk stays visible through the mesh at the base allowing each one of us to get a glimpse of the original tree. 

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Startups are the best!

Another year. Our 30th actually. 

We were a startup once. And in a sense we still are. Because almost every challenge that lands on our laps feels like a fresh start. Old constraints ready to be busted with new ideas. 

Honestly, ever since paper boat happened in 2013, startups and established brands alike reach out and ask us to work up the same magic for their brands. But being a notoriously stubborn team that we are, we start with a strong refusal. We refuse to repeat. We are against “same same”.  But we promise to match your passion & appetite for “new” if you have it. We believe brilliance of our work is directly proportionate to the faith you place in us. It always works that way. 

In 2018, we saw brands being far more inclined towards health & sustainability. What’s in it became a bigger concern for the consumer and food thus became more engaging even before it got consumed. 

Some of them are taking their first steps as you read this and some have spread their wings rather wide. 

So here is a list of five fresh brands we helped build in 2018.

Swing 

A fresh, fun & approachable fruit juice for the joy of its pure & unadulterated taste is how we would describe swing from paper boat! Packaged in signature doy packs, swing promises to bring alive the wind in your hair & spring in your step with its juicy fruity beat. 

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On the Run 

As they say, there is only one life! Our big insight? We need to maximize and shine through every role we play. Be it work or relationships, travel or entertainment, we need to be able to give our best. Because life is a sport and we can all be winners. On The Run packaging is a reflection of multiplicity of our lives and how to stay positive through it all by consuming food made with conventional wisdom & goodness.

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Epigamia Smoothies

After the stupendous success of epigamia greek yogurts, it was time for smoothies on popular demand. What makes these greek yogurt smoothies remarkable? They are all natural, lactose free & above it all, very very tasty! The bottles are designed to practically twirl & emulate churning of smoothies. Globular shoulder & wider mouth makes it easy to grip & gulp from, whereas loaded fruit visual does justice to what’s inside the bottle. So if you are looking for a tasty protein boost, you know what to reach out for. 

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&me 

51% of Indian women are anemic and 70% risk getting osteoporosis due to various deficiencies! This happens because women always put others’ needs before their own & land up neglecting their health. Sad but true. 

&me as the name suggests, is a trigger to remind women that with everything else that is important in life, they need to give themselves equal priority. &me is a brand of Bio-active Beverages for Women. Developed with ancient Ayurveda and modern science to meet the fast-paced lifestyle of modern women, these beverages focus on specific needs. &me professes self-love & self-care. With strong imagery and stories, we intend to start a conversation and help break stereotype.

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hydron 

Its clear that functional nutrition needs of men & women are different. Here was our opportunity to turn that into a powerful hydration brand that helps men unleash their potential to the fullest in a healthy way. Hydron as we named it is not your regular thirst quenching water. It is hydrogen rich, anti-oxidant and and simply put, hydrates seven times faster. A highly functional beverage, Hydron alkaline water helps one recover from strenuous activity like workouts or sports very quickly. This is exactly what we brought to life on its packaging. Potency & science. 

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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

Elephant had three Interesting outings this October!

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TiE Pune Healthcare Summit

Anand Palsodkar delivered a talk on Design with Empathy for Patients at the TiE Pune Healthcare Summit that took place on 27 October 2018. 

TiE is world’s largest network of entrepreneurs that works towards fostering growth. The purpose of this Summit is to bring together like minded experts to promote thought leadership and exchange of ideas and to position Pune as the Healthcare hot-spot.

Organised by Pune Chapter of TiE, this annual Healthcare Summit was well attended by healthcare eco-system including Industry bodies, Incubators, Government and Public Policy experts as well as Investors. 

Anand Palsodkar is Design Director at Elephant and heads Product Innovation vertical.


Ladies Wine & Design

Mayuri Nikumbh shared her experiences as a Woman in Creative Profession at the Ladies Wine & Design Pune kick-off event on 27 October 2018 organised by a group of young designers & design students. 

LW&D is an initiative started by designer Jessica Walsh to empower creative ladies around the world after she realised that only a small percent of creative directors are women, and she would like to help change this through mentorship circles, portfolio reviews & talks. 

Mayuri Nikumbh is Design Director at Elephant and heads Product Innovation vertical.


DesignUp

Ashish Deshpande participated in a panel discussion on Leading Design at the DesignUp conference that took place in Bangalore on 25-27 October 2018. This annual conference is focussed on Design-intech & Design-for-tech. 

The panel also included Jurgen Spangi (Atlassian), Anjali Desai (Intuit), Amy Huang (RedMart) and Daniel Burka (Google Ventures). Discussions revolved around Ux, Product Innovation, Emergent Tech & more.

DesignUp started in 2016 with the idea of raising the design agenda within tech companies and tech-led businesses. 

Ashish Deshpande is Co-founder, Director at Elephant and leads Product Design & Retail Experience verticals.


We are in an Interesting Era of Creating Multi-sensorial, Multi-media Experiences

Printweek India talks to the co-founder of Elephant, a design led innovation company that’s been around for three decades

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2019 would mark the 30th birthday of Pune based Elephant which laid its foundation in 1989 with three NID (National Institute of Design) graduates as its co-founders– Ashwini Deshpande, Ashish Deshpande and Partho Guha. Elephant has had a truly phenomenal journey, marked by its work for some of the biggest brands in the country, various awards, and presence in some of the biggest forums about design across the world. 

For this month’s Design Dialogue, we have a conversation with Ashwini Deshpande about Elephant’s trajectory so far, some of their key projects including their recent branding and packaging work for Kurkure and Witlinger, their experience of working with start-ups, the benefits of having interns from different countries, and their Singapore operation. 

Edited excerpts:

Q :

Elephant has been in the Indian design landscape for three decades now. What are some of the most crucial changes you have seen over the years? 

It has been a long and exciting journey, every step of the way. We started Elephant with a dream to create the ‘big picture’ of design in India. 

When we started out in 1989, the Indian creative industry was limited to advertising agencies. The most challenging task was to demonstrate a genuine professional design practice that helps businesses grow. 

There was no organised, scalable, and professionally managed design consulting at that point. There were just two design schools (NID Ahmedabad and IIT-IDC Mumbai). The fact that ‘design’ and ‘design thinking’ could add value to a bottom-line was not experienced by any business house. 

I believe there are over 75 established design schools in India now and the number is growing as we speak. Every global media network has brought their design consulting arm to India; some of them have been around for over ten years now. Every communication agency has an in-house design team, all IT giants have large in-house design teams, and many conglomerates have design teams as part of their R&D set ups. There are hundreds of boutique design agencies mushrooming all around. However, even after 29 years since the start of Elephant, there are only a handful of design practices with any scale. So despite all our consistent efforts to demonstrate the value of design intervention for business growth, design is yet to become a mandatory, nation-wide phenomenon. 

I remember the fascinating lessons in blocks, typesetting and letterpress printing at NID in the 80s. A lot of the stationery used to be screen printed in the early days. Even short run brochures or exhibition panels used to be screen printed. Then came the large format digital printing in the mid-90s. From the time of cut and paste artworks to limited editions to personalised print-runs, one has seen a complete transformation of the print business. With digital distribution replacing a lot of print communication, we are in an interesting era of creating multi-sensorial, multi-media experiences. 

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Q :

As the studio finishes its 30th year next year, what has been the biggest achievement of Elephant so far according to you? 

I think our consistent efforts to establish the business of design in India for a sustained period is an achievement in itself. The large economic changes, liberalisation, recessions, presence of global agencies, mushrooming of boutique agencies, and rapid changes in technology and media – we have made the most of all these and have managed to create a positive impact through design in almost every business domain we have worked in. 

Q :

How do you choose brands/projects to work for? Are there any particular criteria you follow? 

We have a very simple method. Earning, learning and excitement form the three most important principles for selection. When we get a project or an engagement query, there must be a resounding nod against at least two of the three principles. Because we are a ‘learning’ organisation and we believe feeling excited about solving a certain problem directly reflects on the creative quotient of the solution. 

Q :

Packaging design has always been a very strong part of Elephant's portfolio. This year too, you did some interesting packaging design revamp for Witlinger beer and Kurkure. Tell us a bit about both these projects. 

To rebrand a craft beer was like a dream project for the creative team. While many craft beers try to keep their origins ambiguous, Witlinger wanted to convey its British origin unabashedly. We decided to leave the clichéd British iconography of the Tower Bridge or Big Ben and found a true hero in the British bulldog. To highlight the distinct personality of each crafted brew, we decided to bring various facets of the Bulldog's persona to life. The new design with British bulldog as a mascot characterises Witlinger's true British origin and conveys a message of being bold - with a lot of attitude and honest fun. 

Kurkure team handed us three significant tasks through the packaging revamp exercise. The first one was to enhance brand leadership, relevance and distinctiveness. The second was to build an architecture that can create a strong differentiation for categories. The last one was to help consumers navigate the shelf and pick the right snack of their choice. When you are working on one of India’s most loved brands, you have to listen to the fan base and understand the degree of shift possible. You also have to understand the nuances involved in designing for a very large print run at multiple locations with varying infrastructures. 

The concept was built around focusing on the ingredients to enhance the taste appeal with a larger than life shape of the product, providing the backdrop for a play between products and ingredients. Every variant is called out in custom designed typography that also makes it own-able. The back of the packs are brought to life with custom drawn illustrations about turning mundane encounters into fun moments by sharing the snack. Such large impact exercises become more interesting as we get to interact and learn from global brand custodians. 

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Q :

Could you tell us a bit about your Singapore operations? What kind of brands do you work with there? 

Our business model in Singapore is very different. In India, we have a mix of design research, brand and design consulting, product design and innovation consulting. In Singapore, however, we mostly take up consulting projects around insights farming leading to innovation strategy. Many of them don’t require pure design input. And the ones that do culminate into design projects are handled at our Pune studios.

(L-R) Partho Guha, Ashwini Deshpande & Ashish Deshpande

(L-R) Partho Guha, Ashwini Deshpande & Ashish Deshpande

Q :

You were recently announced as a jury member of the Young Guns 16 competition. What are you most looking forward to while judging? Also, in general, what are some of the key qualities you look for in the work of young designers/interns who approach Elephant for mentorship? 

I am always curious to know what young designers are thinking or doing. While judging any work, I am more focused on the idea. Is it outstanding, aligned to brief, original, and feasible? Once I am satisfied with these, I look for the degree of detailing and the quality of execution. 

While looking at portfolios of young designers, I like to find passion bordering on obsession to convey the idea in its most powerful form. If I find someone with extraordinary skills, I may get impressed, but I rarely hire anyone for just their skill. 

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Q :

Elephant has interns from different countries. In what specific ways, is that beneficial?

Yes. We have had interns from France, The Netherlands, USA, Singapore, Mexico, Turkey, and of course every Indian state. The interns bring immense positive energy and manage to enliven the entire team. They also bring a taste of their culture, their educational ethos, and a sense of exploration. 

In turn, we believe that Elephant is like an institution that changes the way they think about the profession and creativity. Going forward, we offer full-time positions to some of our brightest interns once they complete their education as there is a familiarity that reduces their adjustment time.

Q :

Elephant also works with a lot of startups. How is the experience different from working with established brands? Personally, which one do you enjoy more? 

The Indian start-up landscape is very vibrant at the moment. And the founders who understand ‘design’ as a crucial differentiating factor tend to approach design consultants at an early stage. We have worked with quite a few start-ups in the past four to five years, including Paper boat beverages, Fingerlix ready-to-eat foods, Too Yumm snacks, Epigamia Greek Yogurt, ASAP Bars, Witlinger Beer, Plezmo intelligent play-blocks, SynPhNe stroke recovery system, and Healthcube Diagnostics. 

Start-ups are nimble, so they take quick decisions and are not worried about failing and starting again. On the other hand, established businesses tend to think in a linear but robust way; they take fewer risks and have long launch cycles. Both are rewarding learning experiences in their own way and we tend to transfer our knowledge to both sides as well.

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Rebranding a business with hundred years of legacy!

Incorporated in the year 1917 as a composite textile mill, Ruby Mills wanted to enter the next century with clear brand positioning, well defined values and a refreshed visual identity.

Ruby Mills teamed with Elephant to showcase its transformation with a new brand identity system.

Rebranding a legacy that has been a significant part of India’s journey from fighting for #Swadeshi to proudly #MakeInIndia for over a century was a huge responsibility. We were tasked with realigning the brand for today’s progressive aspirations while keeping the heritage & dignity intact. We drew inspiration from the brand’s core values of innovation, sustainability, ethical and responsible manufacturing and excellence in quality to build an ownable palette of visual expressions for various online & offline communication needs.

We designed a dynamic and vibrant brand-mark that was rooted in heritage yet had a very ownable & contemporary flair. The red heart in the logo stands for passion, one of the brand’s core principles. As per our advice, the brandmark retains only the name ‘Ruby’ while doing away with the full form “The Ruby Mills Ltd” that was present in the earlier visual identity.

New brand-mark and visual language were recently launched at a trade event. Ruby team is in the process of implementing the newly designed language throughout their portfolio and intends to complete the transformation in 2018.

Brand Makeover

Kurkure has a vast portfolio of multiple categories, flavours & sizes with varying preferences of tastes & shapes across the country. 

As some of the innovations in shapes & flavours had happened organically, this hugely popular brand needed a cohesive brand architecture and visual language. Indian snacks had added to the complexity of portfolio even further.  

There were 3 significant tasks for this redesigning exercise: 

  • Enhance brand leadership, relevance & distinctiveness.
  • Build an architecture that is able to create strong differentiation for categories 
  • And most importantly, help consumers navigate the shelf & pick the right snack of their choice

As echoed by consumers everywhere, Kurkure being the brand of abundance, crunch & quirk, design team decided to highlight these three axes on the packs. 

The concept was built around getting the ingredients in focus to enhance taste appeal with a larger than life shape of the product providing backdrop for play between products & ingredients. Every variant is called out in custom designed typography that also makes it ownable. Back of packs are brought to life with custom drawn illustrations of turning mundane encounters into fun moments by sharing the tasty crunchy snack. 

While harmonising the entire portfolio in terms of messaging, tone of voice and visual language the team was successful in creating clear distinction within categories of collets, puffcorns, trangles and Indian savoury snacks; taking the shelf visibility & excitement to next level. 

Time to grab India’s favourite Masala Munch! 

Is ‘Empathy’ really that difficult?

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While Design Thinking (DT) creating a buzz across industries or domains, there is a lot of overwhelming content on popular business magazines like Forbes, HBR, FastCo. etc. reinforcing its importance in businesses. However, there is one common element which everyone wants to stress in Design Thinking is ‘Human Centricity’ or ‘User Centricity’ or a more conclusivily ‘User EMPATHY’. This excites me to write on this topic that whether ‘Empathy’ as an emotion or as an act, really that difficult to inherent Design Led Innovation? 

To begin with I tried to build up a scale on Human Emotions + Attitude (Emotitude*) with a scenario around a person who is trying to interact or approach another person. 

By ‘interaction’ I mean ‘Talking - setting up a conversation’ or ‘Observing - looking at other’s activities’ or ‘Immersing – participating in his/her activities’. 

Emotitude* scale

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Please note* - This scale is fixed up on a broader emotions along with commonly known acts/attitude which one use in daily lives. 

    Emotitude scale ranges from a “Don’t bother me” attitude i.e. ‘Ignorant’ emotion to almost feeling helpless for someone (like crying) which could be showing up extreme ‘Sympathy’. As one progresses from being ‘Ignorant’ towards ‘Sympathy’ there is some transition that takes place from being ‘Rational’ to getting ‘Involved in deeper care’.  This transition might be extensive with further varied layers, however, I feel this is where ‘Empathy’ lies or takes place broadly. 

    ‘Empathy’ might roughly start from “I understand you” and spread across to a more involved or an immersive emotion of “I can completely imagine your situation”. During this transition one person is trying to rationalise the other person’s situation and at the same time trying to get involved in his/her emotions to ‘Imagine’ or ‘Immerse’.  To elaborate this thought, I will further share some regular stories of User research on how ‘Empathy’ played a role from understanding a person to initiate imagination in his / her situation.

Story 1  - Role Play

Background – While carrying out a home visit, I was interacting with a lady who was obstinate in answering my questions. She remained inconspicuous throughout the conversation. Though it was a paid recruitment, she was unable to talk and she only had objective answers. Eventually, I was loosing my patience and had no hopes to get any fruitful insights from this visit.  One thing I realised, that she was unwilling to allow me to enter her kitchen for my study purpose. 

I somehow got inside and looked around to dig into the scene of her cluttered and messed up kitchen, to know why she was suspiciously reluctant. Here, I tried to put myself in her situation and started imagining why one would have such behaviour. I realised, any woman would have the tendency to hide a messy space in her home! And why? Because the tendency is to avoid getting judged on portraying bad picture of a sacrosanct space like kitchen even if the woman is getting paid for it. 

I guess ‘I was right!’. When I started the conversation around her kitchen, she expressed her concern about the muddle and slightly opened up talking about her experiences. 

Well, a long story, but few deep dive learning was about user behaviour and how ‘Empathy’ helped to break the barricade of hesitancy. 

  • Here, I tried to question ‘Why’ to a obvious behaviour, instead of assuming loosely. 
  • The only way to find the answer was to be like the other person (atleast do a short role play in your mind) and then self analyse.
  • Later part was to validate that analysis by probing those questions to the user. 
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Story 2 - Attentive

Background – Meeting a Quadraplegic Cerebral palacy (Specially abled) girl who was diabetic. To learn how she uses her blood glucose monitoring device on her own. 

We tried observing her interaction with the product. We also discussed with her Mother about her experince as a care taker.  For a long amount of time we were failing to understand that if at all there was any issue with the device. It is tough to do a role play in such case. We eventually, video recorded this meeting for our later analysis. While repeatedly looking at the video we realised that affordance of her thumb to operate few buttons on the screen was problematic to her, which she was unable to communicate. 

We learnt that not always a ‘role play’ or ‘putting yourself in other person’s shoe’ is going to be helpful. Here, ‘being attentive’ or ‘keen’ towards even minor observations can help ‘Empathise’ with the user. 

Story 3 – Decode Imagination

Background – In most of communication design projects, we want to learn from user their perception about colors or symbols associated with the brand and it’s attributes. 

Such exercises are usually tough to crack. ‘Color’ itself has a lot of individualistic perspective. One person might be in favor of something and the other may have differing opinion. 

However, colors or visuals are natural catalyst to grow fruitful conversation with the User.  As humans we are visually literate species. Human eye reads a word as picture and sound. Our saccadic vision help in scanning words, recognise them as pictures and immediately trigger its meaning to our brain. And all this happens in fraction of a second. Therefore, the challenge here is to learn what is triggering recognition in the User’s mind. 

A set of colors or cards or symbols can help in decoding User’s imagination as User’s tend to talk more what they recognize

Trick here is to study the pattern of comments made against choices and not the  pattern of preferences. 

The spectrum of ‘Empathy’ scale itself, has many shades of emotions and attitude one can use towards the User to understand him/her better. Yet, it is a natural asset to everyone of us to simply empathise and learn from the obvious.

Going back to my question “Is Empathy really difficult?” Well, my answer will be it is NOT! But it is Challenging, Demanding and Immersive! Almost like scanning one hundred thousand nuerons sitting inside human neuro system. One has to be extensively passionate to deep dive in the User’s world to really empathise and learn his/her latent needs or wants. 

People or organizations who are eager to weave in Design Thinking must learn ‘To Empathise” with their User or collaborate with people who are already fanatical about this subject.

Emotitude* term is coined, for this blog purpose

Please note* - Emotitude scale is completely based on author’s personal hypothesis and may not have a scientific / psychological relevance.

KRANTI VANJARI is a Manager & Subject Expert of Strategy & Design Research at Elephant. She has a graduate diploma in Mechanical Engineering, WCE and a Post Graduate Diploma in Strategic Design for Business, MIT Institute of Design, Pune, India.

Bibliography:

https://think360studio.com/what-is-design-thinking-and-design-thinking-process/

https://www.creativityatwork.com/design-thinking-strategy-for-innovation/

https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking

https://hbr.org/2008/06/design-thinking

https://www.forbes.com/sites/reuvencohen/2014/03/31/design-thinking-a-unified-framework-for-innovation/#7b5e8ba38c11

https://www.seeker.com/our-brains-see-words-as-pictures-1769641068.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-we-read-we-recognize-words-as-pictures-and-hear-them-spoken-aloud/

https://www.childbirthinjuries.com/cerebral-palsy/types/quadriplegic-cerebral-palsy/

Settling in a new ‘fun’ place

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Its my first month at Elephant and I’m still finding my way around. As a new face in the crowd, you tend to get swept away. In the midst of trying to find a rooting, I have been amusing myself with the little things at Elephant. The little things are quirky, fun and add an element of happiness to my dullness of solitude while I attempt to make new alliances. 

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On my first day, within the first hour, I am showered with goodies. A well illustrated coffee mug, a t-shirt, and a diary (there are a set of cool stamps which can be used to personalise your diary!). I am also given a little pink diary (yes, pink) which gives me contacts and guidelines that I may need while settling in. It also allows me to set goals to be achieved in the first few months. All this using unique comic-book type illustrations.

As I wander around the premises, I notice these little signages which add to my amusement. The conference rooms have names such as ‘Idea Bar’, ‘Think Tank’, and ‘Chat Box’: (REALLY cute displays). While going down the stairs in one of the buildings, the ceiling is a bit low towards the landing and here comes a little sign saying ‘Oops!’. That truly does put a smile on my face. There are coffee and lunch breaks at the ‘Palm Beach Cafe’ and it rightly holds true to its name. It is an open wide space giving you plenty of opportunities to mingle with the rest of the crowd. Even the disposable cups have been personalised by Elephant and have cute illustrations.

It is still my first month and as time passes, I am sure to discover more little things at this institute that believes in the power of magic!

Reema Mehta

Change is the only Constant !

Elephant No1-01.jpg

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

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

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

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

Anthropometry for wearables

Anthropometry for wearables

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

By ANAND PALSODKAR

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

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

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

Undertaking the challenge

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

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

Anthropometric study

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

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

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

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

Pain gain

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

Notes:

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

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

3.       Wearables is common reference to wearable technology.

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

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

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

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

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

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Client is ...

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

By Partho Guha    Co Founder  Director     elephantdesign.com

Client is a person

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

Relationship

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

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

Invent the future

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

Success

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

Spread the word

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

 

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

 

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

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Typefacets: My life measured in fonts

Typefacets: My life measured in fonts

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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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Behind every successful startup, there is Good Design!

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHALLENGES with Startups

1. MULTI-ROLE INVOLVEMENT

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

2. DISTINCT SOLUTION

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

3. INCREMENTAL APPROACH

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

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

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

ADVANTAGES with Startups

1. CONTAGIOUS ENERGY

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

2. WILLING EXPLORERS

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

3. CREATIVE SATISFACTION

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

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

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

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

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

Is the future of design industry collaborative?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideation!

Ideation

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

I haven’t failed. I have found 10,000 ways that won’t work
— Thomas Edison
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Innovators are supposed to think new. What do accountants do when they are faced with challenges?  Or, for that matter project managers or software coders? Is it possible to institutionalise creative thinking?

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

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

#1

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

#2

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

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

#3

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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