Ashwini Deshpande

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

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

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

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

Edited excerpts:

Q :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Q :

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

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

Q :

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

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

Q :

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

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

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

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

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Q :

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

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

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

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

Q :

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

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

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

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Q :

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

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

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

Q :

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

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

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

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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

Incident at a fort!

Incident at a fort!

A moonless midsummer night of 1990 when 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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Relaxo Rebranding

Relaxo brings alive the wave of transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Emerging Role of Design(ers) in India

Emerging Role of Design(ers) in India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

socio-economic fabric. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Award for Paper boat design

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

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Packaging Design: An Arranged Match*

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

Suraja Kotnis, Lead Designer, Communication Design, Elephant

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

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

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

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

1.    Inside the closet or outside the closet:

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

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

2.    Target Audience:

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

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

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

3.    Brand – Is it a Leader or a follower

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

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

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

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Tata Salt, Olympics & Elephant

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Tata Salt partnered with Elephant to reach out to over seven crore households across the nation with a limited edition packaging. This specially designed pack not only displays the athletes proudly on the tricolour background, but also has a call-to-action where consumers can give a missed call to register their wishes to support the Indian Olympics

FINGER LIX - Ready & Accessible

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Highlighting food that is ready & accessible 

Using design, adding enriching experience and communicating the delight. Check out our latest intervention with finger licking food Start Up !

yes. we are excited to work with start-ups. especially if they happen to be a crack team of marketing consultants we enjoy working with! 

Here's to every success... from Team Elephant to Team FINGER LIX!

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Tata CLiQ - Branding in Ecommerce

And this is how a contemporary ecommerce brand gets launched! 
Tata CLiQ selfie moment of Mr Cyrus Mistry, Mr Noel Tata & Mr Ashutosh Pandey. 

Brand naming, brand identity, visual language, visual assets by Team Elephant!
 

MTR foods - new identity, packaging & story

About the refreshed MTR visual identity: 

MTR, the brand with the outstanding legacy, global outlook and millions of happy consumers was looking at realigning its visual identity to the core purpose of rooted transformation. 

We decided to retain the basic visual equity of red roundel with white fence and worked on improving the typography for ease & clarity in reproduction across variety of substrates & sizes. We created a bold sans serif brand-mark for cleaner & contemporary presence. We also reduced the picket fence elements around the logotype to de-clutter the identity. Natural ingredients being the core of all MTR products,  a fresh green was added to the roundel to announce meaning & mission of the brand.

About the packaging strategy & design: 

With changing roles within new family structures and new working patterns, women are not burdened by the need to prove their expertise in kitchens. They see their role as a family manager & look for ways to keep the family happy & healthy. Buying ready to cook, ready to eat & even ordering-in food is seen as a great way to ensure quality time with family. They are open to experimentation & introduce their family to new cuisines with ease. But they want to do this with knowledge. They want to be aware. They want to know the source, the ingredients, quantities, accompaniments, consumption occasions? basically everything. 

So when we were given the responsibility of designing packaging for the entire range of MTR products, we decided to dive deep into finding out what the changing consumer will be delighted with. 

With a portfolio as large as 140+ products, first thing to do was to discover what works as an equity for MTR and preserve or even enhance that. Next step was to question & evaluate existing information architecture & remove redundancies to make way for cleaner, user-focused bytes. Though it sounds like the most obvious thing to do, we brought in a strong product nomenclature that would catch the eye and remove any ambiguity. We decided to retain the strong red associated with the brand and build upon that by devising a colour code for each category for ease of purchase. We created three strong visual pillars for the product portfolio ? pure authentic, confident contemporary and everyday celebrations. These moods were created within the master visual template to further accentuate the brand expertise and its involvement at every need and stage of the modern consumers' life. Since products like Sambar are available in multiple formats like masala powders, ready-to-cook mixes & ready-to-eat meals, we brought the category descriptor right up followed by the consumption occasion & announcements like time for cooking, whether anything needs to be added etc. A product shot is one of the most important factors for an impulse purchase in foods and our team planned each shot meticulously, keeping in mind time of the day, occasion and accompaniments. Authenticity was built through right serving sizes, ingredient depiction and serving bowls. 

Since there is lot of curiosity about food from other regions, we have added a very interesting background of region of origin for every dish. It is a subtle addition, but one we hope will be discovered to the delight of consumers and strengthen the brand's expertise pan India. 

http://www.campaignindia.in/Article/401709,mtr-foods-adopts-a-new-identity.aspx

Sanjay Sharma – CEO, MTR Foods, said, “Today’s consumers have evolved quite a bit – both in terms of their food preferences as well their consumption patterns. They prefer Indian food but perceive it to be cumbersome and time-consuming. Our brand is the flag bearer of innovative, easy-to-make, nutritious and authentic-tasting products that take away the time dimension from cooking and make Indian food more accessible to consumers."

He added, “However, as a brand we needed to change to reflect who our key consumers are today. While the new brand identity better represents where the company is today, our detailed growth strategy will make MTR ready for the future. This is the new beginning for MTR Foods and we are confident that the changes we have undertaken and our new brand identity will make us a part of our consumers’ everyday lives.”

Ashwini Deshpande, co-founder and director, Elephant Design, noted that the re-branding exercise involved defining renewed purpose, creating visual identity and packaging communication, evolving portfolio strategy and packaging design for over 120 products, sold as 350 SKUs. 

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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...

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Bready affair... 

Centre of Excellence, Elephant, Team, Pune.

 

 

 

Asia Meet: A Dialogue in Bangkok

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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.

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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.   

Intimate Hygiene: Story of a package brand & dispensing solution

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Intimate Hygiene: Story of a package brand & dispensing solution
What makes an intimate hygiene product connect to women? Evolving touch points for the product system, where perception, communication & feel are critical.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

With mass urbanization, longer commutes and longer hours away from home, personal hygiene issues are no longer a rarity nor taboo in urban India. There is a growing acceptance of new age grooming needs and solutions are being sought to take care of all eventualities.

However, there has been very low awareness on intimate hygiene and the fact that regular cleaning products are not suitable for the purpose is not known. Also, most women reached out to curative solutions when they faced issues and they were not even aware that there were preventive products. With years of strategy & action by FMCG majors, sanitary pads have managed some visibility at the shops. But intimate hygiene products are nascent in India and retailers were not willing to allocate any display space to these products.

How does one get modern urban woman’s attention and communicate that intimate hygiene is an essential part of her everyday grooming? What does design do to contribute to her intuitive yet informed decision-making mind? 

We interacted with potential users, women who were able to make their own grooming choices based on their needs. The central idea of these interactions was to understand their sense of comfort, apprehension and engagement. They were open to new ideas, however, there was complete lack of awareness about de-merits of using regular soap & water, changes in PH balance during cleansing for maintaining hygiene of vaginal & uterine parts of the body.

A medicinal bottle structure was considered an embarrassment, as she would not want to wrongly communicate any medical condition. 

Design research team keenly looked at her bathroom to understand the kind of products she was using. They deducted that women would be comfortable if the product matched aesthetics & usability standards of their other products like conditioners, body lotion, hand-wash etc.

Outer packaging also needed to play triple role of;

1. Attract

2. Engage

3. Educate the right set of values.

The design team created ideas that explored colour, form, communication & materials. Ideas were repeatedly tested with user groups to understand comprehension, apprehensions & acceptance.

The form of new bottle dispenser design is asymmetrical yet smooth. It is intuitive the way it is held and aligned for use. The form is focused towards a woman of elegance standing tall and with poise. The bottle cap is like a crown quickly moving the product from a curative to a personal grooming category.

It was pertinent to make the brand come alive for the smart & confident woman who makes informed choices. Brand logo is clean, contemporary & no-nonsense.

Cuing reliability & efficacy along with personal-care codes was an important decision that the design team took. While staying within feminine pinks, pastels were avoided to get away from any undue cues since this product has no unnecessary additives like colour or fragrance. Brand palette was dialed up with a dense magenta. Metallic substrate and silver added to the expertise & efficacy. 

In terms of communication, the team decided to focus on PH balance of V-Wash, the single most point of distinction to educate the user with a simple & easy to understand infographic.

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a practicing designer, a keen Design Thinker, member of India Design Council & has been a Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably in consumer appliances, medical & healthcare products, packing & display structures, furniture amongst others.

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Service Design : Looking at Clues

What does the mini bar tell you about service design? A peep at how the hospitality industry could focus on customer experience.

By ASHWINI DESHPANDE

At some point, in some city, most of us have landed up checking into a hotel at an hour when one is too tired to order & wait for the room service, but could do with a tiny sip & snack. 

All hotels know this. And so they have the mini bars! Yes. Those tiny refrigerators that hold juice boxes & soda cans and also the cookies & chips in the vicinity outside. And then there would the most un-miss able list of all the items with prices that look like you could have bought five of those in that money. 

It seems Siegas, a German company, first invented a mini-refrigerator in the 1960’s. Some luxury hotels in US used the mini fridge in some of their suites. However, it was Hong Kong Hilton Hotel, which first institutionalised this idea in the mid seventies. It was based on a unique user & business insight. It made such sense to the guests that the hotel is supposed to have recorded 500% increase in their in-room beverage sales in just a few months. Every hotel followed suit and it soon became a standard fixture in all hotel rooms across the world. 

Now, this solution has its own problems. Recording, tallying & collecting money against the sales has been a source of concern for most hotels. There have been various ideas to counter thefts or record consumption accurately. This includes weight sensors & infrared sensors. However, sensors can only record removal of an item from the fridge. They are not a proof of consumption by the guest. It is a fact that at the time of checkout, guests are always in a hurry. It becomes impossible for hotels to get the mini-bar checked before a guest departure. 

During a recent stay at Icon Hotel in Hong Kong, to my surprise, everything from the mini bar was free and was replenished every day. It was a sheer delight, which the hotel possibly managed in less than 20 HK$ a day out of the 2000 HK$ they were collecting per room night. Just last week, my travel bag & me, we found ourselves at a luxury 5 Star in Mumbai. And the surprise? Yes! Not a pleasant one. The mini bar was empty! 

Adonis Hotel, is a boutique hotel experience designed by Elephant, that focuses on the needs of travellers centered around business, journey & stay

Adonis Hotel pictures from www.hoteladonis.com

Well, this note is not just about mini bar. But about solving a wicked problem such as this one by using service design principles. 

First & foremost, service design needs to be centered about usersAlways. 

Besides the core experience, service design must take cognizance of before & after scenarios. For example, if a spa experience is being designed, the team needs to look into how the service would be reached & booked, how the user would get there, how he or she would park & identify the outlet and what will be the residual memory after the user has left the spa. This may start with an app and end with a branded product range to carry home or a loyalty program that offers discounts or an exclusive blog; depending upon where the competencies lie and what seems most valued by the users.

This brings me to the other important factor of team competencies. Empathy towards the user is very important, but a service must be built with empathy to service giver as well. There is no point in designing an experience if the team cannot be trained & motivated to deliver it. Impromptu dance by Hard Rock Café staff resonates only because they are motivated to deliver it well, day after day. So the experience is best co-created with all stakeholders. 

No matter where, people are bound to look for a tissue only after they wash hands. So sequencing of events & imagining every possible scenario from the users’ perspective is an essential component of building a great service. 

And finally, it is important to have an open & experimental mindset while designing a service especially, if it has to be pleasantly differentiated. Indigo airline’s I O U notes are a great solution to take care of awkward anxiety of passengers towards balance amount from the food orders. 

So, what does the mini bar tell you about service design?

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.

ASHWINI DESHPANDE is a Visual Communication Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, she is a prolific speaker at several international conferences & workshops on design. Ashwini has been a jury Cannes Lions, Design for Asia & Spikes Asia Awards. She is a subject expert on Brand Identity Programs, Package Design & Colour Trends and known for her highly effective work for Britannia, Paper Boat, Nirlep, Gillette and Daimler Auto.

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Smart City: Exploring the Myth

What is Smart City: Exploring the Myth

India PM, Narendra Modi, announced his vision of Smart Cities across India recently. There is also an announcement of 98 cities that will benefit under this initiative. Smart city concept explained through a series of info graphics 

By ASHWINI DESHPANDE

Indian Government’s definition of Smart City focuses on improving the conditions of Indian cities to make them more livable and friendly. This also includes improving infrastructure facilities and creating better environment for investors. While there will be large budgets allocated for the development, public participation and citizen voice will form the backbone of this initiative.

Policies & government initiatives always mean well, however, it is very difficult to communicate the extent of an initiative to ordinary people. Government programs are mostly verbose with a healthy sprinkling of legally safe lexicon. People need to understand these programs, their benefits and extents to be able to participate. Communication needs to be broken down and abstract concepts iconised to put across simple & quicker understanding.

How does technology simplify our lives? Demystifying technology and applying to examples from our daily lives communicates the usefulness of its application.

Others have done it ! Why can’t we do it? Info graphics helps create a picture of key benefits of smarter living in other parts of the world.

And finally, how does all this smart thinking, smarter living in smart cities, change my life as a citizen. It is important to talk to people and put across their thoughts on how smart cities will affect various facets of their day to day living.

 Elephant team worked with Sakal Media Group to create simple communication & infographics that explain the concept of Smart Cities along with a case study & voices of prominent personalities on their vision of Smart Pune City.

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.

ASHWINI DESHPANDE is a Visual Communication Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, she is a prolific speaker at several international conferences & workshops on design. Ashwini has been a jury on Spikes Asia, Design Lion Cannes and Design for Asia Awards. She is a subject expert on Brand Identity Programs & Package Design and known for her highly effective work for Britannia, Paperboat, Nirlep, Grandmaster, P&G and Piramal Industries.

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