Best Design Practicle

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.




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.


 “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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The Missing Esslinger

The Missing Esslinger

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


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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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 


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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Being Woman

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Being Woman

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

By Ashwini Deshpande

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here are 7 insights that I found to share ;

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

The list can go on… 

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

Published on Jul 31, 2015

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

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Design for Common man

Design for Common man : A missing link in the new agenda

What are common people’s right to better design when it comes to Public Services, spaces and amenities? How can common Indian’s benefit from traditional geography based assets? Is there a way of creating a favorable environment to bring design to masses ?

Researched, compiled & authored By Ashish Deshpande

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India is the second most populous country with the fourth largest spending power. After the slump of 2012, India saw a surprising 7.17% YOY GDP growth in 2014 and is expected to marginally improve to 7.46% for 2015. The Indian stock market recovered much quicker since the US financial meltdown and continues to be up despite the Eurozone Greek crisis. One sees the Indian industry rallying to come up with new innovative products and services ranging from baked potato chips to a service to transfer money using virtual currency on a mobile phone targeted to the fast growing middleclass. NASSCOM says, there are 3100 start up’s in India and as the third largest base, we are adding 800+ new businesses annually. The marketers have no problem understanding the rich and the middle-class of India and designing products for them. What we don’t see is many innovations catering to the people at the bottom of the pyramid. The question! Is there is a role for design to improve life standards of lower two rungs of the economic segments in India.

India has demonstrated a huge potential for growth. Yet, what good is growth if it does not take into consideration the aspirations and needs of the common people of India. We can achieve all this by fulfilling the dreams of people.After over a decade of rapid economic growth in India, the biggest challenge facing policymakers at both central and state levels is to ensure 'inclusive growth’ so that the gains from increased national income are shared by all sections of society. In particular, it is imperative that a high quality of basic services such as health and education be provided to all citizens, and encourage ‘local’ development of traditional assets , since these are not only ends in themselves, but also play a critical role in enhancing individual capabilities to participate fully in the growth of the economy. 

There is a strong necessity to create a frame work to reach out well designed public services and amenities to common people in all walks of life. Isn’t that a birth right as citizens of India? India must take care of its own, whether rich or poor, whether urban or rural. In a country where investment in Public services runs thin, do we entertain expectations of common people to have a basic standard in experiencing public transportation, health care, education, social and personal amenities, traditional livelihood crafts and products based around Indian geographical indications?

Public Service challenges

Successive governments have always highlighted the need for these reforms but have failed to induce imagination. Limited resources spread over a large mass of land and people, has always been a barrier. The way to overcome these age old hurdles is to create a frame work which allows design innovation to foster in public areas and this can be achieved by creating mindsets, sensitized policy makers, implementers and a plan of action using design thinking as a driver.


Design is key to the challenges of public service transformation. And those challenges are daunting. Former government established National Innovation Council, and set the scale of what lies ahead. (Bharat Nirman Innovation Fund was set up to encourage innovations in India. Its nodal agency, the National Innovation Council is presently creating a gram swaraj portal that will link 2.5 lakh panchayats and address core development issues).

This has been followed by the Saansad Adharsh Gram Yogana by the present Modi government. Great initiatived coaxing the elected representatives to reach to the common people in model villages but without any reference or framework towards design. Design of efficient & safe low cost homes, homes that can be energised in elctricity underserved areas, toilets, drinking water, accessible healthcare, affordable transportation & retail as part Adarsh Gram’s. 

The Make in India Program was launched in 2014 with great fan fare but forgot the key prefix ofDesign & Make In India.  Another great initiative is Digital India, where our PrimeMinister made a fleeting reference to design. Are these references going to make policy makers & executers working for the government sit up and take a serious look at design? New and revised approaches are needed to be inserted in BOLD within these new initiatives which give impetus to designed approach & thinking,which connect the public into the centre of both policy and action, all this through the conduit of Design.

Public Service Design

A good example to demonstrate is the reform carried in the core electoral process of choosing local and central governments in India. An electoral process that affects millions and  which was plagued by the sheer size of ballot paper printing, booth capturing, huge queue’s, time to results was all made easy through a series of reforms in the process as well as introduction of the electronic voting machines and process. 

A 12 second delay and a system of checks built into the machine prevent abuse of the electoral process, the electoral effort is just a press of a button, has reduced use of paper and printing, the machines can be reused for years, whole process is faster so less time in a queue for people and by the end of the day the people of India have a result. This is a great example of innovation in public space where design, technology and smart policy thinking all together played a crucial part in creating an efficient workable system for one of world’s largest democracies.

Will such “Design for People” examples inspire us to look through design for public transportation, energy, sanitation facilities, roads & walkways, accessible drinking water, accessible & reliable healthcare and livelihood ?  Can we achieve a seamless alignment between the Smart Cities program and our Adharsh Gram’s (model villages) ?

Building capacity to design in public services

Design in the public domain will not occur at the flick of a switch. It requires public services to build the capacity to think design. That means supporting public servants and staff to develop some of the skills required; ensuring that they are aware of and able to deploy some of the tools – not least the design tools – which are available such as prototyping, needs based user segmentation or customer insight and journey mapping; building an understanding and appreciation of key disciplines such as service design and growing effective risk management at all levels of the organisation.

Bandung, Indonesia hosts a Design Action event which looks at design accupuncture through creative activation. It is focussed action based workshop between 100 odd policy makers & government employees and Designers to re look at prevelent issues surrounding Bandung. Issues which matter to common people, issues which will de congest, improve water, sanitation, lifestyle and safety. Bandung Design Action presents a perfectly scalable model to approach our common people issues in India with design.

And people are important – design innovation demands people with a wide range of experience capable of applying that to new settings so the regular recruitment, on whatever basis, of new people and new ideas is critical to success. In the private sector, the GOI & NID’s “Designing Clinic for MSME’s” programme is already proving a powerful route to innovation for many small – and medium-sized businesses  by making available design associates to work with industry sectors. There is no reason why that programme could not be translated into the public sector with equal success.

This may be translated in action through a design sensitisation program in various GOI  ministries, secretariats’, municipal councils & corporations and the Gram Sabha’s. The overarching idea would be to create ‘informed governance’. The establishment of a policy innovation program can act as a stimulus to innovation across various departments and send strong messages that senior administrators and the political leadership become open to new ideas.

The program as this level can be made mandatory course material in Public Administration service colleges and institutions.

This can be followed by a Design audit program which would evaluate the functioning of various public services and prepare a road map towards improvement. This road map can be put in a design action program through active participation between various design professionals and public service stake holders.

A good example here is the Ahmedabad BRTS for public transport. Compared to say the the first BRTS in India, Pune, an examplry failure program (2006-2008) , which was closed down after a few mishaps, the revamped BRTS in Pune has has still not been revived in 2015. The difference between the two programs lies majorly in the approach through design thinking apart from political will. Pune Bus Day, India, was a public event to highlight the apathy of public transportation in Pune through a Design led event & public participation.

Creating favourable environment through community movement

Whether we examine present public services & spaces or traditional assets, any co create , co develop program will require a serious amount of buy in from local communities.  Without buy in and participation by the intended beneficiaries, the entire design effort will be a waste being a one sided exercise.

Developing champions within local communities and creating design leadership at people level is crucial to the success of any design intervention program.

Sensitizing local leadership towards design thinking and making them program managers for such initiatives may be one way of creating community acceptance. Focus must always remain on tangible and direct benefits to the communities in question and this can be reinforced through rhetoric and actions of such Community Design Leaders.

Laxmi Murthi, Designer, founder of Uger, a social enterprise was concerned about hygiene and affordability issues with synthetic sanitary pads in socio-economic backward populations in India. Uger has designed sanitary pads for women that are made entirely in cotton. They can be washed as per usual home processes and hence can be reused. This makes use of sanitary pads affordable to low income group women. This in turn improves hygiene amongst these women. The pads come in pleasant colours and patterns. The inner stuffing is cotton, which does not add to disposal and landfill issues.

Pad making has given employment and work to women from the region. Projects like those undertaken by Uger demonstrate that design can address multiple issues for common people.

People participation is about putting people first & designing together

The expectations of the public are rising and they would sooner than later expect more intelligent services that are responsive to their personal, family needs and circumstances. The evolution of Indian Posts in terms of their services and Indian Railways from making train tracking, scheduling and ticket booking a pleasure is a great example of Public service improvements through smart thinking. Setting up of a design lab with NID is a step closer to bring design to common commuters (2014 Rail budget and following action).  Getting people to participate in the improvement of services will be a big step to include those “ little but crucial suggestions” into any improvement plan.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO says, “Over the years and through IDEO’s product design heritage, I’ve come to distil design thinking down into three key steps, a daily mantra of sorts:

_ Inspire.

_ Prototype.

_ Execute.

When it comes to looking for inspiration, here’s no better place to start than with people in real situations, struggling with real problems and questions. Public servants need to get out of the confines of their workspace and learn to recognise customers’ needs. They need to engage with local authorities, customers and staff to harness design thinking for innovation.”

Think what can happen with well thought out public health care systems, a system of well thought hospitals, clinics and outreach programs all designed with people and for people. The implications are gigantic for a country like India. We are revising the future of India. 

Barriers blocking Design in public space. How do we overcome ?

Acceptance of failures in public area is always problematic and any new design thought led innovative public service effort is fraught with failures and is intrinsic to the process itself. Rapidly absorbing lessons from prototypes & pilots, the experiences of early implementers and emerging research findings, and making this accessible to the sector. This means a different approach focusing not just on what works now, or has worked in the past, but what will work in the future. This thinking needs to be reinforced to both traditional products as well as public services.

An as a process new Public services can promote design thinking through heavy reliance on improvement spread and top-down dissemination (for example creating national guidance and toolkits that can be distributed through focused programs managed by the India Design Council).

“ But simply exhorting everyone to copy the latest bright ideas – imitation as innovation – ignores the fact that every local area has different needs.” This is especially true when dealing with traditional crafts, products and processes. “Sometimes innovation is about making old ideas work – or combining them in unusual ways – not coming up with endless new initiatives or continuously seeking the next “big idea. In public services, it may be that we need a concept of reinnovation (reapplying existing ideas in new ways in different places), as well as innovation (the first use of a new idea)”, says, Julie Jones, CE, Social Care Institute for Excellence.

This calls for creation of  a Public Services by Design initiative, which would offer a template by publishing a ‘rough guide’ to organising such activities, which would translate the rhetoric of policy into the reality of better outcomes for people. This can be followed up by a series of specialist briefings for different target groups within the identified sectors by collaborators from design and other fields outside the sectors.

Incentives & rewards

In the private sector, the pressure to achieve profitability & competitive advantage provides its own incentives, but these are not as strong in the public services. Organisational leaders need therefore to compensate for this deficit via systems and their own behaviour. But we also need to become better at designing incentive regimes which do not merely reward the highest performers but recognise successful Design innovation or design improvement wherever it is found.

This also helps highlight efforts where public services and traditional asset design incubation programs are highlighted for others to benchmark and be inspired.

Creating networks with knowledge sharing

Several new avenues for improvement, new stories of efforts will be thrown up in the years to come. Several champions for design leadership in people space will be created.

A national network which helps connect design champions, communities, professionals, administrators, NGO’s with each other to share and learn can be the new “Design Innovation” temple of tomorrow.

Like China. South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Spain , UK and many more countries, India must build destination centers that celebrate design & innovation effort, provide platform for people, craft & industry & policy makers to understand need, process & application of design. Contribution to a national design data that feeds research and acting as aggregators for various centers of excellence that can reach design to common, can be objectives of such centers.


As a corollary to the design process it may be prudent to prototype or pilot the overall thought for making design reach out to the common people. 
Following activities can be undertaken as a pilot by present Indian government or the India Design Council;

1.    Launching the ‘Public Service by Design’ initiative

2.    Design Sensitizing module for public service administrators and community leaders

3.    Starting design incubation programs for artisans and frugal innovators

4.    Pilot design evaluation and ‘re-innovation’ program for one public place or service

5.    Pilot design evaluation and ‘re-innovation’ program for one traditional geography based asset

6.    Feedback research

7.    Fine tuning of a policy program

8.    Representation to a relevant ministry in GOI for national introduction of the program

9.    Creation of a nationwide network

Strongly articulated political will, design sensitised policy makers and program approaches will incentivise designers in India to look at design in Public service and one that will affect the life of common people. Design is meant to improve life and the profession will make sense only when it uplifts the life of a sizeable majority in India.

E Biblio;

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, ranging from energy saver appliances, healthcare products, dairy process machinery and energy products amongst others.

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Automotive brands in India : Matter of pride, passion & purpose


Automotive brands in India : Matter of pride, passion & purpose

What should be the attitude of an automotive brand in the context of Indian sub continent? Regional economy and people needs drive the way automotive brands emerge & behave.

By Ashwini Deshpande along with Ashish Deshpande

World over automotive brands have stood for finesse, luxury, hi end functions, if not more than often, for speed, power & vitality. In India, majority of transportation solutions serve the purpose of work commutation, people & goods transporters, and most importantly as a means of livelihood. Whether global or Indian, automobile brands get a cult following and people take pride in the badge of their choice.

It is important that brands are targeted towards the people who are going to be experiencing them as products & services. Brands need to reflect their aspirations, connect on an emotional level and build confidence by associating positively.

When a vehicle becomes your lively hood, people look for answers on more than one axis of their lives. The design team was faced with a challenge to create the visual identity with all its manifestations for Eicher Polaris, who recently launched India’s first multi-purpose personal utility vehicle. The answers lay in understanding people who would use these vehicles. The progressive Indian entrepreneur has no concept of boundaries as he is often multi-tasking personal chores with business needs. He is living every moment & making the most of it.

This range of vehicles is named “Multix” reflecting its extreme versatility aligned with the users’ lives. As a ground-up innovation, Multix is designed as a concept that brings about a positive multiplier in the owner’s life, be it home, business or power.

Multix brand is inspired by the local regional concept of zindagimultiplied” (translates as life multiplied) as a visual language clue. The badge has been designed as a perfect geometry, and has layers to discover & identify with the person for who the vehicle will be a livelihood partner. At the first glance it is a happy bloom in cheery yellow, which is also the primary brand colour. It also serves as an elegant enclosure to the multiplier symbol, which really is the essence of this brand. Multix brand is designed to be an enabler for unlocking & multiplying potential opportunities resulting in prosperity for the target consumer.

The answer again lay with the way people saw the brand highlight over a score of well-settled existing truck brands. The word, “Bharat” (India ) brought around a sense of pride with the commercial vehicle operators, made them feel special that a truck has been created for Indian needs. “Benz” infused that sense of technical expertise & confidence of a global brand.

Bharat Benz typestyle demonstrates expertise, and is contemporary with an emphasis on the word BENZ. The badging is a balance of legacy of shield & wreath from the older Benz identity and clean circular forms representing the global nature of the brand.

Adding to the Benz palette of black, grey & steel, the design team decided to bring in warmth to connect with people through a brilliant deep red. This also helped pushed the style & power quotient across retail & communication.

Old Bajaj Auto Ltd Identity

Old Bajaj Auto Ltd Identity

 People like change not due of its novelty but because the change speaks to them. When brands connect, they tend to ease into the mind space of the users. Connect in such cases is not just a seasonal trend, rather, an endearing sense of attachment.

Next time you re-look at an automotive brand in India, look from the eyes of its users’, feel from their heart and understand how they see their future reflected in the brand of their choice.

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.

Elephant has helped build two significant automobile brands in its rich history of 25 years; rebranding of Bajaj Auto and then a distinction of being the only design consultancy outside Germany to have created a new brand for Daimler Group called Bharat Benz for their India-centric trucks. Multix by Eicher Polaris is the newest bloom and makes Elephant perhaps the only team in India to have three automobile brands on the road.

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.

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+, Bajaj Auto, Probiking, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Krusty's, Symphony, Paperboat amongst others

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Creating New Auto Brand

Creating new auto brand_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg.jpg

Automotive brand for India’s first Personal Utility Vehicle

While developing India’s first multi-purpose personal utility vehicle, Eicher Polaris approached Elephant to create the visual identity, it’s 3D avatar & livery.

The range of vehicles is named “Multix” after its extreme versatility and is being launched across 30 cities in India starting Jaipur this month.

As a ground-up innovation, Multix is designed as a concept that brings about a positive multiplier in the owner’s life, be it home, business or power.

Multix brand is inspired by the Indian concept of zindagi multiplied” aesthetics. The badge has been designed as a perfect geometry, and has layers to discover & identify with. At the first glance it is a happy bloom in cheery yellow, which is also the primary brand colour. But if you look again, it is an elegant enclosure to the multiplier symbol, which really is the essence of this brand. Multix is designed to be an enabler for unlocking & multiplying potential opportunities resulting in prosperity.

Typography is clean & contemporary, yet the lower case “m” starts the conversation on a friendly note with emphasis on technology & ending by reiterating the multiplier effect.

Colour palette is largely built around bright colours evident everywhere in India.

Elephant has helped build two significant automobile brands in its rich history of 25 years; rebranding of Bajaj Auto and then a distinction of being the only design consultancy outside Germany to have created a new brand for Daimler Group called Bharat Benz for their India-centric trucks. Multix by Eicher Polaris is the newest bloom and makes Elephant perhaps the only team in India to have three automobile brands on the road. 


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, organization & businesses using Design led Innovation.

Design Thinking in Retail

Value of Good Design Thinking in Retail? Effective 'Point of Purchase' Displays

How does a designer ensure all the goodness and efficacy behind Point of Sale touch points across retail environments? 
A few principles at work.


“ Few years ago, when my son was still a toddler, I took him one day to a candy store. It was his first visit and he was thrilled & squealed with delight. He ran about the store for a while with the intension of grabbing every bit of the colour feast unfolding before him. Eventually when I mentioned to him that he had to make a choice, he was confused for a while. He could not let go all that he was seeing in front. Finally, he settled for the brightest, biggest and the most accessible jar of candy.”

Concerned by the state of the world, revered German Designer, Dieter Rams, Chief Designer for the brand, Braunonce stated, – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Any modern retail or even a corner high frequency store presents a marketing & retail nightmare for creating an effective sales pitch at the actual point of sale. Customer may have been drawn to a store for a product brand through an effective advertisement campaign. Advertisements many a times are dramatic visual aspirationswhich present the products in a utopian manner.  The same products inside stores are a different story. They are lost amongst myriad of other products, store environments and simply too many people in our country.  

Retail thinking at point of purchase must be smart & effective. Purchase aids get fleeting seconds to engage the customer about product benefits. These rare moments are the one’s that determine whether your point of purchase merchandise is successful or a waste of valuable time & resources.

Modern retail today is a jigsaw of shelves with piles & stacks of merchandise.  Each is bolder & brighter than the other. If you are lucky to spot the product brand of your choice, you may as well clap and give yourselves a pat on the back. It is in these conditions that effective purchase displays create a breathing space for your products.  A well conceived product purchase display can very easily focus entire attention towards the product it is displaying, engage the customer (not entice!). There is a thin line separating a successful point of purchase and the ones lost amongst the packs of time. Good design thinking and smart application is the base of the few lessons that I have learnt.

Be innovative.

Great Point of Purchase displays are always differentiated. They present a new solution to display the goodness of the product in a manner not seen every day. Wow! moment’s can be built within innovative displays yet they must never overstep the product. 

Right position.

Point of purchase element must present itself at the right moment in the customer journey through any retail environment. This is that moment in the journey of the customer when her mind should not be occupied by other engagements. Catching her attention at the right moment is crucial to creation of an engaging share in the customer's mind.

Product placement.

It always helps to present the product at a convenient eye level. The product must be approachable and within easy reach. The visual access to the entire product must never be blocked in the line of sight. View must be the best view of the product.


Clear message.

When a customer understands benefits and key differentiation presented by the product on display, it is an example of good Point of Purchase. Message is dispensed quickly & effectively. Key points of the message are boldly presented and secondary information is segregated to areas where it will be most effective.

Visible aesthetics.

Shopping is an experience and a good display must appeal to the customer senses. Well-designed & executed displays add to the customer delight and general well being. They help create a positive attitude towards the displayed merchandise. Yet a display designer must always make products stand out through their presence or absence. Choice of colour, form and material must take into account the environment, competing products, shelf colour and lighting conditions.  

Tipping point.

Display designers must be aware of the unique selling proposition of the product on display. An effective display is a culmination of a series of events that take place in a flash, the moment your display catches customer attention. All these events must lead to effectively closing the deal by clearly indicating the unique benefits of buying the product. It must provide sufficient inputs to the customer to make an informed decision based on conviction and assurance. The display must help close the sale.


Point of Purchase must never attempt to manipulate a customer with promises that cannot be kept. Displays should never portray a product in a manner that makes it more innovative, more powerful and more valuable that it really is at present. Very quickly customers can lose trust built over years in the product or even worse, the mother brand.

Design is Detail.

Great modernist designer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, once said“God is in the details.” Execution of your Point of Purchase idea is as important as the idea itself. Don’t leave details in the display to chance. Good detailing shows respect towards the customer. A well placed screw or a tacky sticking attempt can spell disaster for a good product launch. Remember the quality of your display rubs directly on the quality of your product and brand.

Life and reuse.

Many times the displays can be reused to display products over a longer time period. Displaying other products from the range makes the display proposition cost effective. Make the display last even in today’s use & throw social norm. Be aware of the life cycle of the product display. Think if the structure can be reused or recycled.  Can it double as packaging? This way your rupee runs longer and so do the resources on our Earth. Don’t add to the waste already being created. Think environment ( No client or boss will tell you this ! )

Keep evolving.

Prototype. Prototype. And Prototype. Point of Purchase is not a onetime exercise where you fire & forget. Build in a step in your process of taking feedback from customers and field workers. A designer must understand what works and what does not work. This is critical to creating flawless displays, which relate to the customers.

I have always enjoyed displays that interact with me, educate me and say, “Hey, the choice is yours.”   That is what I call, a great Point of Purchase display experience.

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 retail design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Bajaj Auto, Probiking, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICi Bank amongst others

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Need to gain disruptive insights

Changing consumer standpoint: Need to gain disruptive insights

Design research is gaining momentum for establishing good human factors. What are the trends that will impact the design research, how does new technology play a role in this new evolution and how does one reach out to the concerns of the new age end user.


‘Design Research’ is one kind of proficiency that uses an eclectic approach to understand deeper consumer needs. Empathy helps designers create products or services, which are best suitable for people needs.  It would be half a truth, if we consider Design Research as a tool used only by Designers. Consumer centric businesses also have the requirement to learn their user needs, which ultimately leads to a greater business opportunity.

There is a noticeable trend that more and more corporate brands are adopting Design is a tool to serve various business requirements whether it is about developing a new product or entering into a new consumer segment. This has also brought in more challenging opportunities to both designers & design researchers to create & refine methods to dig deeper and extract useful insights.

Buying is not just about buying

Working on a product, designers were looking out for a key question. Why does this consumer buy that product? A standard interview approach was not helping. We stepped back and realized that today buying is not about buying for a need, it is also about getting the best deal. Consumers are aware of the plethora of options available today. This is playing on their mind all the time.  We applied an interactive play tool for our research, which helped users to configure features that mattered the most, were willing to pay, why and what they valued as the best deal.

It is vital to make subjects think and reflect on their needs, a little play, story, a scene can open out people to a level of preparing prototype scenarios wherein consumers can make real time buying decisions based on their wishes.

Online vs. Offline

If we ask a present day consumer, how do they buy, they talk about online purchases, price & features comparison. People rate the best deal for them, and then they either buy online or offline. Today, consumers want a comparison between prices and products before they buy; but through a singular interaction, the way it happens online on a PC screen. In retail spaces, sales people help to compare but that is not always efficient. This learning was another eye opening trend that we observed.

People as consumers are changing. Online shopping has made them accustomed to make quick and sound decisions – purchase is just a click away. The greater responsibility for design research and designers is to explore these decision-making patterns used online and how it can be replicated in a brick and mortar scenario along with an enhanced experience.

Reassurance syndrome

If an alien were to visit a modern retail store, what will it see? People with their shopping carts, looking through numerous shelves and buying things for themselves. If one takes a closer look at this scenario, people are not only looking through the shelves, there is a lot of reading people do on and off the shelf.

One can imagine several hypotheses in such a scenario; like modern retail spaces are designed in such a way that products are more visible, readable even from a distance.

Clean up the space, make the product accessible to the consumer.

Another hypothesis could be people rely on their own subconscious thinking which keeps on alerting them while in a public space - “Am I getting judged because my shopping cart is looking less heavy than others”, “Am I picking the right pack or people around me are considering me an unhealthy junkie”, “I need to look smart so I must read carefully before any purchase”. Such thoughts are output of natural human behavior like; Mrs. Responsible, Mr. Righteous, neighbor’s envy, be no fool and so on. However, environments are also catalysts to evoking such reactions. And therefore, even while buying a regular brand, a shopper in a modern retail will not just look for a brand, but will read the Front or Back of pack to reassure herself about the content, health benefits, calorie contents etc. Yet another perception could be increased consciousness around health and appearance, which has led consumers to read a lot on the pack before buying. This is a trend; we cannot turn a blind eye towards. What is the story your product is telling, which will reflect reassuringly on the target consumer’s mind?

The new age consumer

Some of these consumer trends that we discussed, such as looking for best deal, online buying models or drivers to understand a product gives us a deep insight that the choices and preferences for buying have changed pragmatically. Influencers to these changes could be many like increased awareness, exposure, connectivity etc.

Here the interesting part is diversity and ambiguous patterns of consumer behaviors. Today’s consumers are loyal to brands at the same time, they are not afraid to express their opinions against it, if need arises. Even a basic experience about a product or service is shared or tweeted for increasing personal social quotient. Review based websites are flooded with feedbacks on minor inconveniences, not only for making use of the social platform but to express people opinion. It is the arrival of an aggressive age for consumers!

A consumer no longer is the unsung meek but rather a roaring warrior with multiple faces of expressions like the mythology figure, Ravana ( epic Ramayana ).

Marketers, researchers or business strategists have to become more sensible to understand the deeper grieve and eventually win people by addressing best solutions tailored for their needs but also value at affordable prices.

To understand today’s consumer and to dig more into their minds one has to take a diverse approach in the study. It might not be enough to make few handful people sit in a discussion and probe them for feedback. Such practice may or may not lead to unfeigned insights. One has to customize methods that are best suited to the intent of the study, right from clustering consumer cohorts by their behavioural patterns or to deploying interactive tools, which will help consumer express themselves freely. The social presence of the consumers cannot be ignored. Articulations based on people opinions on social media will provide added knowledge about people’s both offline and online life. A disruptive insight is a denouement, which is best achieved with help of tailored user centric approach and tools.

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

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What works in Design consulting

What works in Design consulting? 

Ashish Deshpande takes a pause, to reflect upon the journey of 26 years at Elephant and describes the 3 parameters that keep Elephant to remain relevant & a value creator across years, for itself and its clients in Design Consulting.

Elephant over the past 26 years succeeded in establishing Design Consulting into an important element of business growth in India. It was not as though design practice did not exist in India before, but Elephant can be credited to put across one of the most professional & scaled up practices to emerge. The practice has over years inspired design entrepreneurship amongst a generation of designers. What is it that worked? Was it the brand play at work, polished over years, was it the caliber of people who tirelessly over years lent their effort & wisdom to the pachyderm of design or was it age, was it a moment of opportunity or pure destiny?

If I have to isolate one value that has been the hallmark of Elephant, it has been the quality of delivery. Our quality benchmark has remained consistent across projects, domains, years and clients. We consistently delivered quality projects as per customer expectations. This ability to consistency deliver projects has endeared us to clients as trusted design & innovation partners in their growth.

There are three key parameters that we use at Elephant to manage the consistent quality delivery of projects.

#1 Understand Empathise

#2 Craft = Life

#3 Time = Great Value

#1 Understand is to Empathise

Most designers, by the very nature of their talent tend to be self-focused when it comes to delivery of design concepts, solutions or ideas. Designers rely strongly on their intuitive ability, many a times loose sense of client objectives and even comfort. A professional practice needs to understand its stakeholders. They are one way or the other, users of design.    

Understanding comes through keen listening of what people have to say, summary of what that has been heard and then sharing for response.

During a boardroom presentation of concept for a medical analyzer, a junior service engineer made a remark that the service opening needs to happen from the top. Since, placing screw heads on the top was definitely an ugly proposition it was quickly shot down by the design team. Later one day, when the concept turned into prototype and it came up for testing. The Jr. Service Engineer promptly upturned the device to access the screws at the bottom. The top surface of the prototype was badly scratched by the time he finished test of the assembly. We had learnt an important lesson that day. The product was modified but we should have listened on day one.

People are always saying, giving clues, feedback and a design team must go beyond passive listening to critical & empathy based listening, write down the learning’s and share it back with the stakeholders.

Key here lies in empathizing in someone else’s shoes. Design action on these learning’s play a “flippant” role in creating relevant & acceptable solutions.   

#2 Craft is your Life

Delivery requires knowledge of a craft and skills need to be honed all the time. More important is the effort, designers or design teams put in a project, day after day. Design is about extreme sensitivity to small details. The continuity of a surface, the spacing between letterforms, fineness of the texture or be it the specific tone of a colour. There is nothing short of perfect. Perfectness is that very moment wherein a sensorial assembly gives you the goose bumps.

Robert Staples, Staples & Charles, while working on one of Eames projects narrated the meticulousness that went behind one of the Aluminum office chairs. He hand formed and filed the handle master, a good seven times, before the handle form got accepted.

As designers and professionals delivering the new, striving for excellence has to be integral to our soul. The quality of our craft has to be the essence of our life.

#3 Time is of Great Value

When clients commission projects, they believe that you are completely committed 8hrs a day for the period of the project. When projects are commissioned on the basis of time bound value, firms & professionals are expected to devote to thinking 24 x 7 period of the project. Yes, clients want you thinking about their concerns all through the period of engagement.

Professionals in design need to manage time, utilize the timeline in the most productive manner.

There are 86400 seconds in a day. As a professional in practice, it is important to understand how we distribute the time and what is the level of output that we generate in this period. This is true at individual level and also with teams.

Ask a student the value of time for the 1 year she missed, or value of 1 month to a mother who delivered premature or 1 week to the editor of a weekly or a commuter who missed his train by 1 min or a pilot who averted a disaster by a second.

At Elephant, much of our praise from clients is for meeting time targets. Breaking down tasks, aligning timelines, checkpoints, clarity in responsibilities during team activities is critical for reaching timeline milestones. However, these are basic principles of time management. How do they differ for a design consulting business? Design, as we know is an iterative activity. Any timeline can be described at best as approximation. Design managers need to be sensitive to nature of the project and extent of iterations than may come into play. Design as processes gains from failures and failure mode needs to be built into the design timeline.

UCT is the basic philosophy of design practice at Elephant and something that has withstood the passage of time. It is simple three point rule that will ensure that your talent is always supported by great service and business sense.

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.

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