Best Design firm

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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Want to join Elephant?

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

Vinita Jakkal

Vinita Jakkal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Best of Luck peeps.

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

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

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

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

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Life of a Problem

 Life of a Problem

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

By ASHISH DESHPANDE, Director, Elephant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(*The above story is a summary effort based on  Author unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(*The above story is a summary effort based on wonderful stories shared on Author, Unknown)

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

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

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

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

ASHISH DESHPANDE is an Industrial Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a keen Design Thinker, a member of India Design Council & Jury for India Design Mark. He has worked on several design programs, notably, Titan Eye+, Ceat Tyres, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank, Symphony, Paperboat and works on medical & healthcare devices amongst others. Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the International Design Congress, 2015.

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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





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.


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”.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.   

Trophy Design: Sublime interplay of craft & emotion

Trophy Design: Sublime interplay of craft & emotive sensibilities

What is the reason to give trophies at events? Some learnings from our past and a few examples from our present.


“When I won in 2003, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would win Wimbledon and have my kids seeing me lift the trophy, so this is pretty surreal.” – Roger Federer

I am sure it was the level of the game, the competitive spirit, ability to win that mattered the most to the world numero-uno tennis champion; however, the trophy represented a chiseled memory of all that effort in an iconized form.

The word trophy is derived from the Greek word Trapaion, which represented spoils of the battle collected by the victorious. TheseTrapaions were proudly displayed at the battle field and even back home to celebrate & etch into memory, defining moments of a battle or an event. The trophies in this period were battle arms, body parts, amphoras, columns and in later years, Chalices. Hunting trophies were animal heads adorned on plaques and hung on walls.

The word trophy coined in English in 1550, was derived from the French trophée in 1513, "a prize of war", from Old French trophee, from Latin trophaeum, monument to victory and many were dedicated to Gods. Chalices were given away since 1600’s as trophies at sporting events.

The Loving Cup at Wimbledon is a cup shaped trophy, a human figurine iconizes the Oscar awards. The FIFA World Cup is another famous trophy, designed by Italian Artist, Silvio Gazzaniga, who described the trophy thus, "The lines spring out from the base, rising in spirals, stretching out to receive the world. From the remarkable dynamic tensions of the compact body of the sculpture rise the figures of two athletes at the stirring moment of victory."

A trophy today, represents a miniaturized sculpture, an exclusively crafted, unique embodiment of emotions, brand values all brought out through immaculate craft work, materials and finishes. A trophy design represents the dual nature of design wherein, design as a craft, and design for emotive response takes precedence. 

There are a few other themes under which trophies are designed for a variety of intentions;

Activity Icon

Overdrive Awards, celebrates excellence in the automotive world. The trophy iconized the gear-shift knob in an elegant poise. The shaft that bears the knob is more human in expression than mechanical. The trophy was originally conceived in brass but later versions have been created in aluminum investment casting, with shot blast finish. The crystal is polished, faceted glass.

Overdrive Awards

Overdrive Awards

Pursuit of Excellence

Nobel laureate and founder of the Grameen BankDr. Muhammad Yunus was conferred the “Person of the Year” award by Sakaal Group. The award trophy embodied the prestige through a lotus, representing quest for knowledge in mud and a crystalline bloom that reached out for the sky as a symbol of excellence. The trophy was handcrafted in copper sheet and the glass crystal is hand polished.

Theme Building

Brand values and themes need to be distilled to celebrate those who strive hard to achieve the values through their work. Many of these are professional achievements or corporate motivators.

The Suzlon One Earth award represents sustainability concerns. The award encompasses a fragile Earth represented by a transparent globe surrounding by a hand-crafted universe of all that we stand for in this world. The trophy is crafted in copper with engravings representing a humanized effort.

Mobility Vision is a program to design a transportation solution for emerging economies. The trophy highlights the logo of the completion, a visionary eye. The trophy is machined using aluminium block, shot blasted and anodized for the final finish & effect.

C Mission trophy

C Mission trophy

The “C-Mission” Compliance Award is an annual recognition of those who excel in legal compliances by Legasis. The trophy form is indicative of excellence and precision towards 100% compliance while 3-dimensionaly projecting the “C-Mission” brand logo.

Form factor and materials play a key role in evoking the right response from the beholder of the trophy. Design plays a key role in establishing keen understanding of theme, brand play, materials, finishes & production processes.

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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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.


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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Brands in 2k Crore club

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Congratulations Britannia Good Day and Britannia Marie Gold on being part of the 2,000 cr club! Elephant has been a proud design partner to both these brands since 2007.
Watch out for more from them & from us.

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

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

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

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

Excerpts from the interview:

What did you want to take up as a career? 

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

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

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

Did your views towards design change after going to NID?

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

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

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

Who is your inspiration?

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

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

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

What was the first assignment that the company got?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you nurture your creativity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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