Ashish Deshpande

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. 

Paperboat

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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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

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.”

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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Incident at a fort!

Incident at a fort!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

4.     CA is the short abbr. for Chartered Accountant

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

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

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

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

9.     Bund Wall is a small retaining or edge wall


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

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Experience Design: Dr. Kallam Anji Reddy Memorial

Experience Design: Dr. Kallam Anji Reddy Memorial

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

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

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

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

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

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

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

Inspiration layer

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

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

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

Together, these two fonts made for a classic combination.

Entrepreneurial layer

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

Reflection Layer

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

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

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

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Red to Blue: Mark of differentiation

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Red to Blue: Mark of differentiation

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

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

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

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

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

Customer focus ≠ Host of Features

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

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

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

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

Setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

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

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

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

Making it happen

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

The development work resulted in two product formats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Start Up & Design Thinking

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

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

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Award for Paper boat design

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

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Design with Responsibility

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Responding to local Needs

There are numerous challenges that emerging economies like India face today. Where do we find answers to these complex problems? What do we learn from our past, our present?

What is the role of a practicing designer? 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. 

How do we apply our learning to the future of 1.3 billion people in India and how do we align it to the challenges facing our “One Earth”.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE, Co Founder Elephant, Member of India Design Council, Jury for India Design Mark & 

VP - Association of Designers of India

Man has always been a creator.

Be it for anthropological reasons or certain survival instincts, creation is not new to us. We have been creating objects for a few millennia's. From creating for survival and local day to day needs, we have moved towards a rampant phase of object creation, stocking, consumption and refuse generation. The question that creeps up is how much should man create. What led us go get into an overdrive mode of converting every possible resource that we could mine into not an object of survival but that of desire? It is question every environmentalist is up in arms with the powers that be in our world.

According to the author, economist & environmentalist, Ramchandra Guha, “there was no environmentalism before industrialisation”. The term did not exist and came into existence only in the post industrialization period. Industrialisation itself came to India 30 years after it engulfed Europe in a bid to produce more, consume more post the discovery of oil & especially after the proliferation of mass production factories and later the plastics1. Designers and their self-serving employers in their greed & enthusiasm to scale up slowly drew into the web of global consumerism, forgetting our immediate environment concerns & local needs.  

Design as sensible

Design as a profession in its modern definition came into existence almost in parallel to the Industrial and the post-material phase contributing significantly towards creating innumerable objects of desire. Design has been ever present in our society.

The question is and always has been if designers are focusing on needs that are most relevant to us? Not always. If we focus on local context and we can see how examples from our past and cultural heritage have been contributing in creating objects of daily use.

Lets us take a deeper look at a traditional container that is used as an everyday object of use. In India we call it LOTA. It is a simple container found commonly in Indian homes as a traditional object, many a times handed down for generations.

Amazingly, it took the great American Design couple, Charles & Ray Eames to look at this ubiquitous object, to so very eloquently describe it in their now famous India Design Report which laid the foundation of present design in India.

Lota is a product that is very simple in shape and can hold water, milk, grain. It can act as a measure of volume and weight. It is very comfortable to hold, ergonomic, can be carried in hand, affords being carried at waist, or on the head. It can be stored one on top of other. When poured it makes a nice sound. The shape counters fluid dynamics during motion and at the same time is simple & beautiful. It is truly multi purpose. It is locally produced and when made in clean copper, even purifies water. It has taken our society years to perfect this object into a very sensible product.

Lota, however traditional, establishes principles of good design. Good design is the one that addresses needs of our immediate surroundings, is multipurpose, made from local resources, lasts long and is adaptable over the period. As an object, Lota has not lost its relevance after centuries, nor has it contributed to our over growing refuse and land fill problems. It teaches us an ancient lesson of beingsensible in our approach to adding objects into our present day daily existence.

Design as emotionally durable

However, sensibility cannot be restricted to functions alone in the personal lives of people. Like in Korea, in India too, people love their food and cooking traditional recipes is a national passion. Traditional cooking is on a slow flame so as to retain flavors, ingredients and so on. However, the traditional pots presented a problem of reuse and cleaning. Additionally, such pots get soiled during cooking and are not useful for serving as tableware. This practice is getting lost over time.

The Slow Cooking pot range was completely redesigned and recreated using organised process of Earthenware manufacture. This way the dimensions and stability of the product can be controlled. The new pot was design with a system of lid and pot. The unique feature of the new pot was that the exterior as well as the interior of the pot is coated with food grade teflon. This is interesting as it makes the pot reusable and very easy to clean. The pot draws from the traditional form of the pots but adds convenience of an integrated carry and serve handgrip. The shallow dome shaped lid traps the steam and the detail allows it to snugly sit over the pot improving efficiency of cooking over heat. The lid handle is actually a small container for water to help condense the steam. The knob handle becomes a convenient resting place for the spatula. The product is called Bhoomi , which means Earth. The motif, which is glazed on to the surface, is derived from the Devanagri2 script letter “Bhaa” of Bhoomi and is simply a calligraphic expression reinforcing the products connect with earth.

 Designer as a creator

As Designers, we usually tend to distance ourselves from taking responsibility for the negative impact of our creations to our society, economy and ecology. It is important that we introduce metrics that would guide us measure such an impact. It is also important to create an environment & team that is amiable and sensitive to being responsible.  

“Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical – says Victor Papanek.3

Victor Papanek, an Austrian designer was rebel with a cause. 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? 

One rarely comes across corporates & producers with genuine concern for sustainability. 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. 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. Products 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. 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 regained popularity. 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)

·       Finishing substrates (Reduce, Remove, low carbon rating, low pollutants)

·       Logistics (Reduce distance, time, space)

·       Functions (merge, eliminate least desired)

·       Retail (Reduce touch points, strengthen story, share)

 

New development process based on Design Thinking leading to Radical impact within Resource limits. Illustration by the author.

Mahindra Reva’s e2o is a good example5. 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. E2O and its predecessor REVA since inception has been a green focused business and so it is not surprising. That will be a remarkable example of “green impact” at an affordable price tag of US$6,000 compared to say a TESLA3 at US$35,000.

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 )6, design & design thinking are still good enough to ensure a “greener” tomorrow.

Design for Larger impact

Let us look at another product from recent times. Like Republic of Korea, India is a large democracy and people voice is important. People express their voice & choice through voting. We are a country of 1.3 billion people and the numbers in India are staggering. We have 815 million registered voters. In our general elections we have 8000+ candidates in fray from 1600 political parties. People cast their votes from urban to remote corners of India through over 93 thousand polling stations. General elections used to consume more than 8000 tonnes of paper, accounting for over 200 thousand trees. This use to take days and days of laborious counting and bogus voting practices.

The design and introduction of the Electronic Voting Machines heralded a revolution in the voting process for the common people. Designed by Industrial Designers A G Rao & Ravi Pooviah from Industrial Design Center, IIT Mumbai7, along with Electronic Corporation of India8, they were first Tested first in 1989, the EVM’s have been used in total since 2004. The system is easily portable, takes less space to store, easy to use, makes the voting process quicker and results are available within a few hours. The communication and interface is highly simple and algorithms used are fool proof against erroneous voting and even frustrate bogus voting attempts.

This is another effective example of how sensible design can have a great impact on common people.

So, design must lead to a larger impact.  By sensibly addressing the needs of our people and by being relevant to the immediate social environment, it can bring about true improvement in life of a large number of population.

Design for community opportunities over luxury

India is changing. For people in an emerging economy to survive, local job creation is extremely important. About 800+ startups are set up every year. By 2020 there will be 12000 startups employing over 250,000 people. These start ups are looking at local business opportunities based on local needs. This is where design needs to focus.

Lets discuss the work of two enterprises working within local context. First example is work of Designer Laxmi Murthy and her organisation UGER9. UGER is a social enterprise. Lakshmi Murthy was very concerned with poor menstrual hygiene among socio-economically backward populations, women as they were not able to afford synthetic pads manufactured by Multi National Companies.

The existing pads were not friendly to the skin due to use of bleach and once thrown, due to synthetic materials, disposal was big issue contributing to land fill problems.

Eco friendly Pads being sold online, picture by Author of Uger online promotion

Uger has designed sanitary pads for women that are made entirely in cotton. They can be washed at home and hence can be reused. This makes use of sanitary pads affordable to low income group women. And improves hygiene amongst these women. The pads come in pleasant colours and patterns. The inner stuffing is cotton that does not add to disposal and landfill issues. Pad making has given employment and work to women from the region. Laxmi Murthy has created value for women who are socio economically backward while mitigating environmental risks.

The second project is by Promethean Power Systems10, a start up. This project was done for the benefit of milk farmers in rural India. It demonstrates as to how technology led solutions can be created for people with lower resources and means.

Operation flood that was launched in India by the government has ensured that milk production has substantially increased at rural levels. Over 100 million gallons of milk is produced each year in India. However, milk requires immediate chilling otherwise in hot, humid conditions in regions like India, the milk quality diminishes in less than 4 hours. In India 10 million US$ worth of agricultural produce is lost due to inadequate cooling. In rural areas there is power only for 10 – 12 hours.

This affects milk chilling and the quality of milk, which in-turn reduces the earning by the farmer.

The new solution by Promethean Power Systems uses a Thermal storage battery that uses a phase change material to store and transfer chill energy. The battery charges up whenever the power supply is present and is ready to chill even when there is no power. This system ensures that there is chilling charge available in the system 24 hours, even when there is no electrical supply. Costly diesel set and stocking of fuel is avoided. The components are Modular and hence they can be easily transported in a small commercial vehicle. The bodywork is Stainless Steel, is hygienic. The loader platform ensures ease in pouring milk. What has this product achieved? It has made Making milk chilling affordable at community level. The farmers do not loose milk produce. The dairies get better quality of milk and the consumer gets healthy milk product.

Empowering communities to add value to their produce helps local communities grow and prosper. When we provide more value using fewer resources for more people our design efforts can be said to be truly working.

Design that helps sustain

There is an emergent need to shift the focus of design from the top 1% of the world population to the needs of rest of the world. This majority portion of the world faces complex problems in healthcare, energy needs, education, basic food & sanitation. Design has the potential to connect people with technology, people with people and businesses with people to reach out appropriate solutions that not only make lives better but help our planet to breathe.

Remote health care has started gaining importance in emerging economies. In countries like India, which fall short on resources, modes of travel, presence of primary health care, design and technology can come together to reach solutions and care to people who till today do not have access to good healthcare and diagnostics services. SynPhNe11 and Healthcubed are two such examples of new companies that are employing cutting edge technology and design to provide low cost, portable healthcare and diagnostics solutions to common people. Their design & technology may be based on local context but the solutions can help bring access to cutting edge healthcare and diagnostics to any person on our planet.

Talking of our planet, it is important to highlight the work of Daily Dump12, a Bengaluru, India based design led enterprise that has been using design to create eco friendly compositing solutions for organic waste. Daily Dumps work has helped change mind set of urban citizens towards waste segregation through effective use of design, local solutions and in the end it is a big step towards helping sustain our planet.

There is enough to be done for our planet and its habitants. As designers, we need to keep asking where we stand. I believe, It is our responsibility as a designer to sensibly keep giving more, by look for opportunities and understand that we can help make a large impact with design to the lives of common people, while sustaining our precious eco system.

Notes:

1.      How much should a person consume? By Ramchandra Guha, 2010, Hachette India. Ramachandra Guha is an Indian historian and writer whose research interests include environmental, social, political and cricket history. For the year 2011–2012, he held a visiting position at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramachandra_Guha.

2.      Devanagari, a script based on ancient Bramhi script family that has forty seven primary characters and is used for over 120 languages, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devanagari

3.      Victor Papanek, Victor Joseph Papanek (22 November 1923 – 10 January 1998) was a designer, author and educator who became a strong advocate of the socially and ecologically responsible design of products, tools, and community infrastructures. http://papanek.org/about/victor-j-papanek/

4.      Design for the real world, Victor Papanek, Academy Chicago Publishers (Preface to the first edition)

5.      Mahindra & Mahindra is an automotive manufacturer, India, Reva & E2O, are all electric vehicles with zero tailpipe emission claims, http://mahindrareva.com

6.      Tim Brown, CEO & President, IDEO, https://www.ideo.com/people/tim-brown,  HBR Post, https://hbr.org/2015/08/when-everyone-is-doing-design-thinking-is-it-still-a-competitive-advantage

7.      IIIT, Mumbai, Industrial Design Center, is a premier design school established in 1969, http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in

8.      Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) is a Government of India Enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy (India), established on April 11, 1967 by Dr A S Rao at Hyderabad, to create a strong indigenous base in electronics, http://www.ecil.co.in

9.      UGER, means “new beginning”, UGER is a movement about women's empowerment and menstrual issues, http://ugerpads.jimdo.com, a brain child of designer, Laxmi Murthy

10.    Promethean Power Systems, designs and manufactures refrigeration systems for cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. http://www.coolectrica.com/#productsCoolectrica

11.    SynPhNe is a Singapore based bio medical initiative, http://www.synphne.org

12.    Daily Dump helps manage waste and garbage for home, http://www.dailydump.org

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Lean Check - Elephant & a Start up

Hospital-acquired infections result in over 100,000 patient deaths every year* LeanCheck is India’s first system with a mission to reduce hospital-acquired infections significantly through a holistic approach. 

Elephant is happy to support this start up. 

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Symphony partners with Elephant to makes ‘wall-mounted’ air cooler

Key function of design is to improve life for its user and CLOUD from Symphony does exactly that. Team Elephant designed CLOUD, world’s first Wall Mounted Evaporative Cooler that frees you from monstrous air cooler boxes that block windows. 

CLOUD uses innovative details and clever packing that enables a fully functional, remote operated cooler including water tank right up there on the wall! In a red ocean cooler market, this design effort is a great example of “Human Centred” product innovation. The cooler draws hot air from top of the room and sends down cool air exactly as desired. The product is a power saver as it consumes about 10% of the power that air-conditioners require and is designed with robust construct in engineering plastics that are recycle grade.

Symphony has filed for a global patent for this unique product, making it the first air cooler company in the world to file for a global patent.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/companies/symphony-makes-worlds-first-wallmounted-air-cooler/article8556455.ece#comments

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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.

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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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How does Design affect business ?

How does Design affect business ?
 

"Design is as much craft as it is insightful thought."


Like we say at elephant, doing a cool design for "limited edition" is alright, but what can we do it for a mainstream product that sells in excess of a million every single day! 

Britannia breads packaging needed to reflect the positive & healthy change in recipes. With misconceptions around brown, wheat, whole wheat & so on, we wanted to give each variant a distinct identity so that consumer is fully aware of what she/ he is picking up. With a conversational tone and cheerful illustrations, this sure is a welcome change for these loaves… about 1.5 million of them are selling like hot breads now...

How does design affect business?_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg.jpg

Bready affair... 

Centre of Excellence, Elephant, Team, Pune.

 

 

 

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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