Design Thinking

Is ‘Empathy’ really that difficult?

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

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

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

Emotitude* scale

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

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

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

Story 1  - Role Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story 3 – Decode Imagination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotitude* term is coined, for this blog purpose

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

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

Bibliography:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideation!

Ideation

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

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

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

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

#1

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

#2

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

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

#3

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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Entrapped!

Entrapped!

Glimpse of the ugly side of Design assignments professionals need to be wary of, while they quench their quest for the best.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

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Mac: What's the job? 

Gin: Like the wise man said: first we try then we trust.

Catherine Zeta-Jones (Gin) in 1999 American film, Entrapment, lures Sean Connery (Mac) into a high profile robbery, building a mysterious appeal to the “Job”. Now, Designers are not con artists, but as a professional species, they do get lured now and then into assignments that seemingly appear exciting, but the full picture is never to be seen or shown.

One of the definitions about fresh Design is creating the “new” and for design professionals this is always an exciting proposition. As professionals itching to contribute with better design, we are always looking for challenges. While seeking opportunities to design is a fundamental trait of a good design professional, there are few situations that one must be on the look out to avoid.

Carpetbaggers

“We would like a full presentation,” said the corporate manager on the phone call, “Please submit your understanding, strategy & design creative. Our MD will personally select the Design agency. We have called 7 firms to present & pitch”.

Brand & Product managers do have a need to evaluate design firms, choose the best their business aligns with and it is their right to do so. However, it is difficult to understand full scope presentations that are not paid pitches. In their bid to garner projects many design firms fall prey to such requests.

The biggest resource in possession of a design team is “consulting time”. By participating in unpaid work, a design team takes huge risk with its most precious resource, “Time”. Beyond bleeding the firm of its earnable time, such risks end up providing opportunist clients with a bag full of free approach options and most importantly encourages a culture of free work, lowers respect for effort & intellectual property rights.    

Comatose Client

Any designer or Design team’s worth is the projects they have managed to successfully complete. Key to such successful execution of a design project is the quality of decision making from stakeholders.

Family feuds, multiple project ownerships, inter-department rivalry, not involving other teams, changing roles or business focus, financial woes and such other conditions can stall decision making at crucial junctions and simply hang seemingly good projects.

Though design effort may get compensated financially in such conditions, there is low satisfaction with design teams and usually it is a wasted design effort. Stalled projects disturb team schedules, lower morale and usher a general disinterest as time flies along. Since such projects see partial execution, there is little learning and takes a toll on meaningful design experience that one may have gained.  In the long run, such projects start bleeding finances.

 

It pays to evaluate & understand the decision maker while signing up for a project. How strong is the involvement of the decision maker? Which teams will contribute to the success of the project? What is the level of support the design team can expect? Are there any possible party poopers to be expected along the way? What is the level of control on the project to see the project through?  Commitment to time, budgets, approvals, business vision of the project itself needs to be evaluated right before the start. It is Ok for the designer to ask a few questions and spell out any emerging gaps or concerns.

Startup Hiccups

Last few years has seen a proliferation of startups. Most of the startups are design aware, are open to new ways of doing business and looking to differentiate. Designers do find startups as exciting opportunities to work and help them differentiate. Energy of a startup is contagious and working with smaller teams is always engaging & fun.

However, startups do display a few shortcomings especially with funds, resources and limitation of network. Major investments into a project are expected during product execution, launch & promotions. This is one area where most startups stutter to a stall, drying up reserves and most conceptual projects experience prolonged suspension periods. For young designers this is a moment of frustration & disillusionment and for an experienced team it is a loss of productive time & opportunity.

Any professional will tell that time is precious. Time adds to our learning as well as earning. When projects make a designer lose both, time & money, one hopes that the experience gained on the project was worth its while. When projects don’t see light of the day, when success does not surface at business level, in markets and with the user, experience remains on paper.

“It is your job to deliver the project”. This is a favorite punch line of most business managers or CEOs to design teams. It is equally important for designers & design teams to question the stakeholders if they have the wherewithal to support the project from concept to market. Any ambiguous answer to this question must raise a red flag.

As someone said that we must learn to choose our battles that we want to fight, those that are worthy for dying. Similarly, a designer must carefully choose the projects she should be betting design skill & time. And there will be times when on a time trap project, as designers, we must learn to say, thank you, but NO!

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

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Incident at a fort!

Incident at a fort!

A moonless midsummer night of 1990 when we had our own tryst with destiny.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

4.     CA is the short abbr. for Chartered Accountant

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

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

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

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

9.     Bund Wall is a small retaining or edge wall


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

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Red to Blue: Mark of differentiation

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Red to Blue: Mark of differentiation

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

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

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

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

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

Customer focus ≠ Host of Features

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

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

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

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

Setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

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

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

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

Making it happen

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

The development work resulted in two product formats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Start Up & Design Thinking

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

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

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Emerging Role of Design(ers) in India

Emerging Role of Design(ers) in India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

socio-economic fabric. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Design with Responsibility

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Responding to local Needs

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

What is the role of a practicing designer? Are designers, architects waging a lone battle when it comes to Green Products & Practices? With Paris agreement looming large, it is a good time to do a reality check on how businesses should approach the problem. 

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

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

VP - Association of Designers of India

Man has always been a creator.

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

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

Design as sensible

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design as emotionally durable

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

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

 Designer as a creator

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

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

Victor Papanek, an Austrian designer was rebel with a cause. He relentlessly campaigned for designers and product manufacturers to make their articles relevant, meaningful & sustainable. This father of responsible design was even critical of the design fraternity, beginning his seminal book, Design for the Real World with, "There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few… following up with ... by creating whole species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breath, designers have become a dangerous breed."

 

Though designers are crucial to the creation of products & environments, they do not constitute the sizeable decision making machinery in corporate juggernauts. Whipped into being morally responsible many designers have fallen into line, however do they have control?

The Paris Agreement on climate change saw 195 nations give it a nod. However, notably 5000 businesses from 90 countries have agreed to align and support the global agenda towards a properly sustainable & low carbon world. This is a recognizable outcome of COP21 and will call for a fair bit of transparency framework and practices to be adopted. Against this backdrop where do producers of products and services stand today? What is the degree of practice shown by business concerns today that is environment friendly and sustainable? As designers, it is important to take a hard look at the playing field.  

Who is thinking Green? 

One rarely comes across corporates & producers with genuine concern for sustainability. Corporate structure necessitates several point of views getting channelized into the decision making process. Designer’s concerns have a tendency to lose itself in a deluge of constrains from all stakeholders. Green concerns have always been secondary. Most producers are motivated by long term monetary savings, or operational benefits that green products bring to their business.

The “green & good for environment” part is a by-product of fiscal decisions. So, the priorities today can be stated as;

·       Operational expense savings

·       Company law regulations, environment policy mandates

·       Competitive advantage

First is the prime mover for “green decisions” in corporates. The second is a legal necessity and the third is the story. However, all require a Design Thinking approach to make the impact stick with people, deliver monetary & habit change and be good enough to bear the “green edge”. Design is one such asset capable of enabling a “green edge” within a production setup, provided design teams start dropping their blinkers and business leaders open their minds.

Stepping beyond singularity, design teams tend to stick around creative ideation as their strength. A large part of this creative energy goes towards focusing on the Product or Service, form, function & experience. Products or services are interaction cores of a larger engine that makes solutions happen. Design needs to enlarge focus beyond the fuzzy elements of product solutions. Rarely do Designers concern themselves with manufacturing processes, materials with reference to its impact on our environment. Most follow the producers set up as an overriding constraint to design. It is interesting to bear in mind that a product or service is not alone. It comes heavily loaded at one end with manufacturing systems and on the other end with logistics of market access, retail & consumption. A sum total of this value chain is the impact of a “Design” on environment. This value change can no longer afford to be linear in thought process and remain in isolated silos of excellence, rather play like a football team with a unified objective.

Creators & producers need to proactively look beyond ideas into product optimization, cleaner production, life cycle assessment, cradle to cradle, extended responsibility and environmental impact assessment as part of their design process & tools, both in development & route to markets. Green Innovation will happen, provided the thought is holistic and across the value chain. Newer practices will add up to the expenses, however, eliminating waste, sharing resources may be light weight methods of lowering costs and offsetting any new“green” expenses without business disruption.

It is sad to see that most “green energy” transport solutions today, are the most “expensive” transport solutions.  Herein lies an opportunity for “creative” approach towards ensuring both “green” (environ & monetary) returns on investment made. Many a times policies can be binding, like take the case of restrictions on use of thin plastic grocery bags. Prior to the bags coming in market through grocery chains and standalone shops, cloth & paper bags were prevalent. Years after restrictions were executed, the industry has not been able to promote alternatives. Paper bags are laborious to manufacture, not sturdy & have their own issues, cloth bags have not regained popularity. The industry has invested huge into plant, materials, machinery & markets that prevent it to see a linear solution in sight. Solutions at present are incremental or too expensive and need a creative thought from a different viewpoint. This calls for a mind & process shift by creating a new development process based on Design Thinking.

So, Industry focus must shift and businesses can start investing in co-creative development teams to make the future greener. New areas of focus for redevelopment can be one or all of the ones stated;

·       Power & Energy (Reduce consumption, Green source, increase efficiency)

·       Resource consumption and waste (localize, Reduce, Share, Reuse)

·       Production materials (low carbon rating, low pollutants)

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

·       Logistics (Reduce distance, time, space)

·       Functions (merge, eliminate least desired)

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

 

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

Mahindra Reva’s e2o is a good example5. The design team went beyond the traditional indulgence of vehicle design into adapting efficient green production process, unconventional materials, solar charging and regenerative braking technologies and even new ownership programs to make buying affordable. The effort resonates of all round contribution at various levels & verticals. However, the car still leans on government policies & subsidies and has not yet managed to make the end price attractive for making box office hits. E2O and its predecessor REVA since inception has been a green focused business and so it is not surprising. That will be a remarkable example of “green impact” at an affordable price tag of US$6,000 compared to say a TESLA3 at US$35,000.

The way to do this is to work with cross-functional teams as a start point with Design Thinking as a primary enabling tool & framework for development. This presents a new challenge for designers as well as an opportunity to create more relevant, holistic & eco-friendly solutions. Moving focus away from traditional playgrounds for design development teams to new areas for innovation is a route with guaranteed success in the “Battle for the Greens”. Though, Design Thinking may “no longer be a competitive advantage” for companies, as questioned by Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO ( HBR Post )6, design & design thinking are still good enough to ensure a “greener” tomorrow.

Design for Larger impact

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

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

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

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

Design for community opportunities over luxury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design that helps sustain

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

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

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

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

Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tata CLiQ - Branding in Ecommerce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MTR foods - new identity, packaging & story

About the refreshed MTR visual identity: 

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

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

About the packaging strategy & design: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Life of a problem_Blog_Elephant Design.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(*The above story is a summary effort based on http://shortstories.co.in/corporate-lessons-part/.  Author unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(*The above story is a summary effort based on wonderful stories shared on http://www.rajivbajaj.net/ Author, Unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

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Innovation for the road

Innovation for the road: how design works with new business & technology

Roadside auto repair is a huge unorganized business in India. How do innovative business modeling, technology and design create radical impact?

By Partho Guha, Director, Elephant

Roadside auto repair shops are mostly run by small entrepreneur mechanics, located in every nook and corner of Indian roads. They tend to serve neighbourhood car & two wheeler owners for simple and quick repair jobs. With the advance of auto industry these small-scale entrepreneurs are constantly redefining themselves and finding their unique proposition. Overall there are a huge number of road size auto repair businesses facing tremendous challenge in staying relevant in today’s market.

Repair Mechanic business is neighbourhood oriented. They are small scale operations where the owner usually is the chief mechanic playing multiple roles like procurement of parts from market, accounts, trainer, liaison and such.&nbsp;

Repair Mechanic business is neighbourhood oriented. They are small scale operations where the owner usually is the chief mechanic playing multiple roles like procurement of parts from market, accounts, trainer, liaison and such. 

Autoji, is a young start up with a vision to create a differentiated business by making these auto repair shops to reinvent and be relevant. Taking up the role of being their support in re education, in-time doorstep supply and marketing their services. It is a technology based, scalable model to upgrade this demanding business.

Elephant worked on a Design led process to create “Autoji” along with R Sriram of Next Practice Retail & the AMG team. The team lent a language to the value proposition, brand, communication framework and design of retail space & expressions.

The process began with a deeper understanding of the auto repair shop and eco system. The team spoke with several repair shop owners, workers, fleet repair  workshop owners, existing retail to look at gaps in the needs, gaps & aspirations.

The final solution was a combination of tongue in cheek, street smart identity that lent respect to the service and was bold enough to be looked upon as a reliable service & supply partner, enlarged toll free connect, an application, a delivery van and an efficient supply space.

Trust was build through a series of icon-based communication. Many repairmen have low education or are used to local language & scripts. Using strong sense of visual icons and local script helped connect with the main customer base.

It is important that the language that is used and facilities for service connect with the key user segment.

Elephant_Autoji 3.jpg

The retail proposition was kept simple and functional with a emphasis on organized appeal, appropriateness and lower cost proposition. Autoji is a good example for how design can be an enabler for the business and is not a cost heavy investment.

“Design is not always about fancy store fit-outs, flashy neon lights & marbled floors. Design is about creating a user aligned business proposition, its is about new, relevant and differentiated service offering that uses technology as a enabling platform. Core focus remains the user.”

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.

PARTHO GUHA is a Visual Communication Designer, Co-founder & Director at Elephant. An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he regularly conducts workshops on design thinking & strategy. Partho is a passionate painter and divides his time between design process application, design led business strategy & roadmap and innovation.

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Battle of Greens

Battle of Greens: Different approach

Are designers, architects waging a lone battle when it comes to Green Products & Practices? With Paris agreement looming large, it is a good time to do a reality check on how businesses should approach the problem.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

 “Design, if it is to be ecologically responsible and socially responsive, must be revolutionary and radical - Victor Papanek

Victor Papanek, was rebel with a cause. An Austrian designer, he relentlessly campaigned for designers and product manufacturers to make their articles relevant, meaningful & sustainable. This father of responsible design was even critical of the design fraternity, beginning his seminal book, Design for the Real World with, "There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a few… following up with ... by creating whole species of permanent garbage to clutter up the landscape, and by choosing materials and processes that pollute the air we breath, designers have become a dangerous breed."

Though designers are crucial to the creation of products & environments, they do not constitute the sizeable decision making machinery in corporate juggernauts. Whipped into being morally responsible many designers have fallen into line, however do they have control?

The Paris Agreement on climate change saw 195 nations give it a nod. However, notably 5000 businesses from 90 countries have agreed to align and support the global agenda towards a properly sustainable & low carbon world. This is a recognizable outcome of COP21 and will call for a fair bit of transparency framework and practices to be adopted. Against this backdrop where do producers of products and services stand today? What is the degree of practice shown by business concerns today that is environment friendly and sustainable? As designers, it is important to take a hard look at the playing field.  

Who is thinking Green?

In my entire retail & product design experience & career across clients, across domains, I rarely encounter clients with genuine concern for sustainability. Mostly, it has been designers and architects, who bring the focus on sustainable development or Green Design into play. Corporate structure necessitates several point of views getting channelized into the decision making process. Designer’s concerns have a tendency to lose itself in a deluge of constrains from all stakeholders. MNC’s and large corporates take the cause of Green Design based on requirements of statutory regulations, audits & company law compliance reports. Others do it to satisfy & earn green point awards like Energy Star, Design for Environment, Watersense certifications by EPA, EPEAT, Greenguard-UL, GRIHA or LEED certification, more propelled by market driven competitive spirit than any genuine concerns. Green concerns have always been secondary. Most producers are motivated by long term monetary savings, or operational benefits that green products bring to their business.

The “green & good for environment” part is a by-product of fiscal decisions. So, the priorities today can be stated as;

·      Operational expense savings

·      Company law regulations, environment policy mandates

·      Competitive advantage

First is the prime mover for “Green decisions” in corporates. The second is a legal necessity and the third is the story. However, all require a Design Thinking approach to make the impact stick with people, deliver monetary & habit change and be good enough to bear the “green edge”.

Design is one such asset capable of enabling a “green edge” within a production setup, provided Design teams start dropping their blinkers and business leaders open their minds.

Stepping beyond singularity

Design teams tend to stick around creative ideation as their strength. A large part of this creative energy goes towards focusing on the Product or Service, form, function & experience. A product or services are interaction cores of a larger engine that makes solutions happen. Design needs to enlarge focus beyond the fuzzy elements of product solutions. Rarely do Designers concern themselves with manufacturing processes, materials with reference to its impact on our environment. Most follow the producers set up as an overriding constraint to design. It is interesting to bear in mind that a product or service is not alone. It comes heavily loaded at one end with manufacturing systems and on the other end with logistics of market access, retail & consumption. A sum total of this value chain is the impact of a “Design” on environment.

This value change can no longer afford to be linear in thought process and remain in isolated silos of excellence, rather play like a football team with a unified objective.

Creators & producers need to proactively look beyond ideas into product optimization, cleaner production, life cycle assessment, cradle to cradle, extended responsibility and environmental impact assessment as part of their design process & tools, both in development & route to markets.

Existing development process leading to incremental impact

Avoiding white Elephants

Green Innovation will happen, provided the thought is holistic and across the value chain. Newer practices will add up to the expenses, however, eliminating waste, sharing resources may be light weight methods of lowering costs and offsetting any new“green” expenses without business disruption.

It is sad to see that most “green energy” transport solutions today, are the most “expensive” transport solutions.  Herein lies an opportunity for “creative” approach towards ensuring both “green” (environ & monetary) returns on investment made.

Many a times policies can be binding, like take the case of restrictions on use of thin plastic grocery bags. Prior to the bags coming in market through grocery chains and standalone shops, cloth & paper bags were prevalent. Years after restrictions were executed, the industry has not been able to promote alternatives. Paper bags are laborious to manufacture, not sturdy & have their own issues, cloth bags have not become re-popular. The industry has invested huge into plant, materials, machinery & markets that prevent it to see a linear solution in sight. Solutions at present are incremental or too expensive and need a creative thought from a different viewpoint. This calls for a mind & process shift by creating a new development process based on Design Thinking.

So, Industry focus must shift and businesses can start investing in co-creative development teams to make the future greener. New areas of focus for redevelopment can be one or all of the ones stated;

·      Power & Energy (Reduce consumption, Green source, increase efficiency)

·      Resource consumption and waste (localize, Reduce, Share, Reuse)

·      Production materials (low carbon rating, low pollutants)

New development process based on Design Thinking leading to Radical impact within Resource limits

 Mahindra Reva’s e2o is a good example. The design team went beyond the traditional indulgence of vehicle design into adapting efficient green production process, unconventional materials, solar charging and regenerative braking technologies and even new ownership programs to make buying affordable. The effort resonates of all round contribution at various levels & verticals. However, the car still leans on government policies & subsidies and has not yet managed to make the end price attractive for making box office hits. Reva since inception has been a green focused business and so it is not surprising. It will be interesting to see the learning from recent projects making their way into the diesel guzzling SUV platforms from the Mahindra stable (recent diesel SUV ban in Delhi, NCR area). That will be a remarkable example of “green impact”.

The way to do this is to work with cross-functional teams as a start point with Design Thinking as a primary enabling tool & framework for development. This presents a new challenge for designers as well as an opportunity to create more relevant, holistic & eco-friendly solutions. Moving focus away from traditional playgrounds for design development teams to new areas for innovation is a route with guaranteed success in the “Battle for the Greens”. Though, Design Thinking may “no longer be a competitive advantage” for companies, as questioned by Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO (HBR Post), design & design thinking are still good enough to ensure a “greener” tomorrow.

No better time to start the change, than now!   

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

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The Missing Esslinger

The Missing Esslinger

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

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

Hartmut Esslinger1 caught my imagination during NID2  days, way back in mid 1980's. As students, we would spend hours at NID's Resource Center (library), reading rare periodicals like DESIGN, ID and FORM. These magazines were our windows to Design in the western world (remember, there was no Google, those days). Esslinger & his firm, FROG, represented the epitome of design flow. He was enigmatic and the work being done by frog was an inspiration. Young FROG, a student initiative by FROG was to be ogled & drooled over, and the little haiku3 quotes were the seeds for our day to day philosophy & debates. 

As students, we would wait for the next periodical to arrive with the latest FROG creation. We dreamt of designing Skate Boots, Computer Work Station’s, Walkman's, all fired up by the 6 month old news provided by the “customs approved , imported & late arrival edition” of ID, Design or FORM magazine.

Stepping out of NID, armed with a graduate diploma in Industrial Design, I quickly discovered that there were no Skate Boots to design. There were no Macintoshes or Walkman's in India. India presented a different opportunity to look at design, playing to an unexplored field of functional needs of a developing nation. We had basic concerns about water, energy, health , hygiene, productivity that needed attention. Design business had to survive in a fledging economy by proving itself. The “Esslinger dream”quickly became an enigmatic inspiration of what an ugly Elephant4 could transform into one day.

 

27 years later, I was recently invited to speak at International Design Congress, 2015, at Gwangju, Korea. I scanned the list of key speakers and found Dr. Hartmut Esslinger, founder, FROG5 was speaking on day 2. This got me super excited. Listening to Esslinger was the closest, I would come to my Esslinger dream as a student. I grabbed my 2kg copy of Esslinger's latest book Design Forwardand lugged it all the way to Gwangju. The thought of listening to Esslinger live, getting my copy of his book autographed sentKimchi6 textured goose bumps all over me. I even included a quote by Esslinger in my talk at the conference.

Dr. Esslinger never arrived. No one explained. I re-read a few lines from his book after two days of carrying his book in my back pack and set it down into my luggage for its journey back to India.

May be, I thought, the journey is still incomplete. It began 30 years ago as an inspiring dream, morphed into co-founding anElephant4. Till today, the search continues for the missing Esslinger.

Maybe, one day,

                    "The old pond,

a frog jumps:

                    Plop!” – Bashô 7

the sound waves & ripples might lead our Elephant to find the Frog.

1.     Dr Hartmut Esslinger, Industrial Designer, founder FROG
2.     NID, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India
3.     "Haiku" is a traditional form of Japanese poetry
4.     Elephant, is India’s premier design consulting firm
5.     Frog, is a global design and innovation firm founded in 1969 by industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger
6.     Kimchi, a vegetable side dish in Korea
7.     Haiku Poem by Bashô quoted by FROG

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

Recently, Ashish spoke on Design with Context : Design for Real Needs, at the

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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.


By ASHISH DESHPANDE

“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.

By ASHISH DESHPANDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outer packaging also needed to play triple role of;

1. Attract

2. Engage

3. Educate the right set of values.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smart City: Exploring the Myth

What is Smart City: Exploring the Myth

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

By ASHWINI DESHPANDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elephant is India’s Best Design Practice (ET-Brand Equity 2012-2014 ranking) with a multi-disciplinary experience of 25+ years having presence in India & Singapore and has been transforming brands, organizations & businesses using Design led Innovation.

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

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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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Background

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.

Demonstrate

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;

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0

http://business.rediff.com/slide-show/2009/jun/18/slide-show-1-top-10-challenges-for-india.htm

http://casi.ssc.upenn.edu/iit/muralidharan

http://www.cloudave.com/1044/india-needs-public-policy-and-service-innovation-and-not-web-2-0-companies/

http://indiagovernance.gov.in/news.php?id=3

www.designcouncil.org.uk

http://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/society/top-five-programmes-launched-by-prime-minister-narendra-modi-in-2014

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pune_Bus_Rapid_Transit

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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