| Thoughtscape

Welcome to my Thoughtscape!

I initiated "Useful Art" my pursuit of excellence in turning daily-use products into desirable everyday objects by imagining and implementing creative methods and approaches to product design. The products thus created were aimed at bringing that philosophy to fruition.
The objects designed ranged from Electrical Accessories, Lighting, Furniture, Kitchenware, Tableware, Children/baby products, Toys, Stationary, Bath accessories to Footwear.

Differential Design is my philosophy of being the differential factor -"Use Less Do More". The products showcase the pleasures of imagination of the Industrial Sculptor...in me...and have won  27 domestic/international design awards including the Red Dot Award in 2007 and 2010, the world’s largest and most distinguished design competition.


Design: the Differential Factor
(Architecture Updates_Aug'12 issue)

“Good design is good business”- Thomas Watson of IBM, 1950.  
This thought still holds true, but how?

It is becoming increasingly clear that design well conceived and well executed can make the world a better place. Design is emerging as a critical strategic component to establish corporate identities, to develop brands, and to differentiate products from competition. As a consequence of this heightened sensitivity towards design, the ability to lead organizations to strategically sound design decisions is beginning to be recognized as an important and highly dependable innovation tool. But all this is still restricted to the “design literate” corporate biggies. Since, there aren’t enough local success stories of design in the India market yet, there is still a bit of hesitation from those in business to find them being benefited by design. 

I have been lucky enough to be able to create few “Best Sellers” in the trade both with local and corporate big shots. Hence would like to share my bit of the journey and what thoughts I gathered along the way.

Stage 1: Think about the box.

Technical Skill is the mastery of complexity...and one of the major tools used by designers or creative engineers for technical innovation is vertical think-ability. Vertical thinking helps one to analyze complex situations and is headed towards looking for the right approach. It is sequential in nature and one must be correct at every step to reach the desired destination. This is what most professional designers tend to resort to after they have gathered some experience working in the industry.

One of the major drawbacks of such kind of thinking is that one always opts for the “right” solution and subsequently settles for an adequate solution rather than exploring a better solution.

Lateral thinking is much about creativity. Rightly said, lateral thinking is like a reverse gear in a car. When caught in a blind alley it helps one to find a way out. However, one amongst several drawbacks is that it is an aimless journey in search of a “desired destination”. Most fresh design graduates are stuck with this thought! Hence miss out on the business opportunity at times by not being able to deliver on time.

Our basic education teaches us vertical thinking, our design education teaches us lateral thinking...but the industry wants us to give them an edge over their competitors who will help them gather more revenues and also establish their brand as innovative. In short they are looking for that differential factor!

Thinking up new things all the time and creating objects out of one’s whims and fancies is not difficult if you are a creative professional and also trained as a product designer. However, creating a differential factor which will propel the business of your client with the power of design is a much more meaningful challenge for an industrial product designer. I believe “differential thinking” is the most effective form of mental activity which if practiced, helps one reach the desired destination on time. 
It’s not about creating the absolute design, but empowering a mundane object with great design to be able to attract a customer towards itself…the shelf! 

Fig: This unique shape of Bulb holder was given by PAUL SANDIP to hide the screws, normally seen in the other holders. No one ever thought about designing the aesthetics of this mundane object. Now it has been adapted by almost all manufacturers as it has become the most fast moving product off the shelf. PAUL’s design has changed a stereotype and is now a standard in the trade, both in India and China. 

Stage 2: Identify your customer!

A consumer can be a customer but it doesn’t mean the customer is always a consumer.

Such is the case with electrical accessories and this was an interesting insight which eventually led to the design of the bulb holders with invisible screws! It is mostly the electrician who picks up the mundane electrical stuff like the plugs, sockets…lamp holders et al from the nearby store. Hence understanding his priorities will selecting a product was of utmost importance. The electrician gets a return call if he has made his job look neat and the unique shape of the bulb holder always fetches him appreciation for selecting a good product for your wall.

Stage 3: Cost effective solution.

The cost of a product lies at the tip of the pencil. So it is very important for a designer to think through the complete process of manufacturing the product even before it has been given a definite form or function. Cost reduction is not required most of the time. What is required is cost optimization, meaning if the perceived value of the product can be communicated to the customer as much more than the actual cost then the design is considered cost effective. The new design of the bulb holder had increased the RMC (raw material cost) a little bit but the perceived value was increased manifolds which eventually led to huge revenue generation. The product is a best seller since 2004.

(Yuva Magazine; April'10 issue)


Re-defining the Ubiquitous
(Newsletter of Design For All Institute of India, June 2008)

For quite sometime now I have been deeply intrigued by the everyday mundane objects lying all around us. The market is flooded with a plethora of redesigned products but very few redefined objects.
When one re-designs a product, one tends to retain the essence of it’s being…the soul.
However gives its body a complete make over…without even hitting on the mind.
When we re-define, as the word itself suggests, we work on the soul of the product, we question its very existence. Thus, giving the product a new mind and a fresh body.
Body attracts!
A beautiful body is as important as a beautiful mind.
An aesthetically balanced product drives the customer close to itself. “Form-material” relation is one of the demanding parameters of a good-looking product. It makes it desirable.
Color adds the oomph factor!
Mind is that aspect of the product, which interacts with the user/customer.
Sometime it directs the user to handle the product in a particular way and sometime it doesn’t.
(context: democratic design!)
Soul is the essence of its being, its purpose, satisfying the user’s wants/needs.
It brings about the WOW! Factor. A good product is which is a perfect balance of BODY – MIND - SOUL.

I believe in voluntary simplicity. It is about freedom. It is about wanting less. It permits one to spend less time on innovating features (which land up adding clutter) and more time bringing in new experiences, insights, and relationships between the product and the user. It is rather difficult to say much about my approach towards design, but I have a fascination for monolithic, mono-colored ‘organo-mathematic’ forms and whatever needs I have felt and observed I have tried to translate them into products.
Redefining something as ubiquitous as the clothes line clip was a risky thing. It is one of the few rare objects whose integrity, practicality and sense of purpose has remained intact over the years. Although various shapes and materials have been explored, none have an emerging brilliance of a perfect match of form and function.
‘Clip’ is the manifestation of my imagination of a world with interesting artifacts…which not only look good but also have a definite function to perform.
I call it - utilitarian design.
To whatever modern life style we adapt to…the need for clothes peg would still be there…especially in India. But as we are moving toward more and more eco-concerned social structure…the need to think of green design has taken the front seat. The basic aim of my design was to create a single piece product with recycled plastic with no metal components.
Regular clips cling tightly onto the cloth as well as the line. Hence they are always under stress-strain situation. However, the Clip, which I have designed, rests in equilibrium once it has been slid onto the line. Hence more stable and more durable, apart from having a dual jaw which increases its life two folds.
:Integrity of purpose:

It is a cloth line clip to be used as a daily life utility product for both indoor as well as outdoor application. Clip fulfills more than it promises – not only in use, but the perceived pleasure is far than expected.
:Technical Uniqueness:

The product is a single piece injection molded component in recycled plastic with reduced number of components. Its primary innovation is the possibility of being hanged by both of its extremities. Hence, the user does not need to check the jaw side every time he/she is hanging the laundry. Moreover, one needs to only slide this clip over the cloth, hung on the line, and does not require applying any pressure. The geometry of the Clip + the flexibility of the material (LDPE) allow it to do so. This attribute is of great help to the aged / arthritic people.

The fundamental configuration of the common cloth line clip has been altered in this design.

In the ordinary clips, the clamp and hinge goes parallel to each other where as in this case the area (surface) which is holding the cloth and the area (cross section) which is acting as hinge is perpendicular to each other, which acts as a stiffener.

It leaves no rust marks on clothes, as there is no metal component.

:Advantage by design:

How does it stay in one place and not slide along the washing line?

It is intended that they slide over the garment and cloth line, rather than open and close spring-like as most clips do.

During any heavy wind flow, a regular clip will try to come to equilibrium and hence may jump out of the line. But my clip will smoothly slide over, but will never leave the line.
Clip is simple, no moving parts, suited to less dexterous fingers and made from recycled plastic.
:Longevity (USP):
Indian customer has an irresistible propensity towards stretching the usage of any product more than its expected life.
The dual jaw design of this clip not only creates interest in it but also doubles up its life.
If one jaw is damaged, the other jaw still remains functional.
:Fair cost-fair price:
Less priced than the existing clips. Due to reduced number of components and subsequently lesser number of operations involved in production process.
:Commercial viability:
‘Clip’ is a desirable, useful and long lasting everyday object. It has the potential of being locally manufactured, hence being available to every household!
CLIP is the winner of Organic Award 2007, San Francisco, CA

# Look!...don't see
(Newsletter of Design For All Institute of India, April 2007)

Why does your soap dish look the way it looks? And why do you hold a spoon the way you do? You probably wouldn’t have lost any sleep over these questions, not even when they didn’t work right.
Everyday products, they are so numerous and ubiquitous. They form the material framework of our existence, enabling it to function, not only in practical or utilitarian terms, but also in ways that give pleasure, meaning and significance to our lives.But why don’t we notice them?Most of us travel by the same route everyday, do similar tasks everyday, go to same places and although we are awake and seeing things around us we are not actually looking at them consciously. Hence, such products are frequently taken for granted.Design, to my understanding, is much about having an eye for such details and bringing back life to mundane objects. I would like to emphasize on the act of "Observation" as a necessary tool to design useful products.

My designs are guided by user expectations, which are often felt but never fulfilled. Peeling down to the heart of the (sub) conscious human behavior helped me reveal the magic of effortlessness with design, creating a comprehensible, delightful and character-full product. I would like to highlight an issue, identified and fulfilled with voluntary simplicity.

The Mug story…

It all started at the railway compartment. This might have been the umpteenth time I was traveling with a wait-listed ticket, sitting near the lavatory. Well that’s quite a common sight in this part of the sub-continent.

Indian Railways is the second largest network in the world and every day millions of passengers travel by its trains; with 27% of them being long distance travelers and it has been doing a spectacular job not withstanding the various kinds of pressures and obstacles it faces. But one area which needs significant improvement is the lavatory.

Presently The Indian Railways does not provide anything in the lavatories except water to wash after defecating. People in the sleeper coaches use all sorts of ‘jugaad’ (read contextual innovation) in the lavatory, e.g., plastic mug, plastic tea/coffee cups, empty mineral water bottles or plastic glasses. Given a choice, most of the passengers would prefer products which are portable, disposable and eco-friendly to be used in the lavatory. Indians prefer water to toilet paper.

“This is the context which needs design intervention!” – I said to myself.

The Indian consumers are price sensitive and prefer to buy value for money products. I was informed and inspired by people's behavior and experience — physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and cultural. Hygiene and ergonomic issues (both physical and cognitive) were my major focus areas. User survey pointed out that a handle is a must in a toilet mug and that the user’s hand should not touch the toilet floor in any case. The thought of universal design had already started haunting me. With all these insights in mind…the task of creating an appropriate solution had only just begun.

One month later…
I was in Kolkata and had happily forgotten about the issue I had identified in the railway lavatory. Busy munching on a grub of ‘jhaal muri’, which I had just picked up from a ‘chaatwala’ across the street, I was intrigued by the construction of the paper containers (locally known as ‘thonga’ in Bengali) which the vendors gave out their food stuff in. They were folded when stacked together and were made out of reclaimed news paper! These were perfect to hold dry stuff and could be disposed off easily. Eureka! ...I had found the answer to my contextual analysis: Disposable – Foldable Toilet Mug.

Rushing back to my studio with a couple of these thonga’s I started peeling down their geometry. Believe me…I had no knowledge of origami either! Finally I came up with a product which is made out of a single sheet of handmade paper by a technique called surface development. The mug is foldable and occupies insignificant space of ones luggage. It easily fits into ones pocket!

This product of mine shows a gradual transformation between two basic end shapes; a square and a triangle, held within a cubical space. The gradual transformation also gives the mug its inbuilt handle. The square base allows the mug to rest in equilibrium and the triangular rim gives the mug its double snout. The double snout makes the mugs usage easier for both the left and the right handed. No synthetic adhesive has been used to make it completely eco-friendly. Instead, organic glue has been used. The mug disintegrates after about 15 minutes to avoid its reuse.

The mug meant for washing after defecation in lavatories in the train compartments. It can hold about 1.2 liters of water, which is quite an amount of water to fulfill the task. Disposal of this mug would not create a nuisance in and around the train as well as the railway tracks.
The mug has been selected from over 100 entries all over the country in a national talent search conducted by National Design Business Incubator in 2003.
It has been vetted by an eminent panel comprising NID and IIM faculty in areas of Product Design and Operations respectively. I was honoured by the chief minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi in 2004 for showcasing the power of context in product innovation.

Indian Railways can maintain the hygiene of the lavatory in a major way by introduction of this disposable mug made of paper. The mug is yet to be mass produced…but this project taught me one thing: Genuine needs are often felt but seldom spelt.

This video was shot by Mr. Farooq, a Film & Video student of National Institute of Design who felt Disposable Mug reflected a sense of "Freedom" when you need it most!

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