“Aajaa meri gaadi mein baith ja”… Part I

Saturday morning is generally quite lazy. After a few kilometers walk and a cup of beverage, it is more so. Rather than walking back, I decide to take a cab. Saturday morning at 8.00 am is in no way a good time to find a cab easily on Nariman point. Overpriced Merus and Cool cabs line against the street, waiting for an unassuming tourist to step out from Trident. I am in no mood to pay price of a Starbucks coffee for the short commute, so do what comes naturally to many Bombayites; hail a kaali peeli.

Kaali-Peeli , translated : Yellow-Black cab; comes in many versions. Gone are the days of the oversized Ambassador, the linear Fiat; now we see stout Korean brands, most newly bought; zipping past and stopping only if they like where you are going. (!)

So, when I spotted a kaali peeli, I got a bit disheartened.

“The old Fiat!” I sighed and waved to the driver.

He caught my eye and soon trudged down the road with his 1990’s engine roaring while I waited impatiently.

I almost shut my eyes while I mumbled out the destination.

It was just a moment, …then…Blink! Blink!

My seat was a canvas of colour. Bollywood colours and dialogues made me a captive audience.

Then I asked him about the interiors.

( to be continued tomorrow)

5 Myths of Design that don’t apply today!

Design is a relatively new field compared to Art. But with new technology and changing world there are 5 things that I learned (and later taught) at D-school which seem to have lost their relevance in today’s world and have become “Old School”.

1. If you can’t draw it, you can’t make it.

Nothing can be a bigger myth. This seemingly innocent statement that teachers use to encourage their fresh pupils to practice more drawing has lost its relevance compared to the Corel and Rhino equipped generation of today. Not only is hand drawing a skill that is used less and less, most exploratory work is done hands on or with CAM, rather than on paper.

2. Don’t use eraser, Don’t use scale.

Another Myth. It was fine till the first few lessons of drawings. Or in the era when you had ample time to sit and sketch endlessly by hand and communicate hand drawn designs. But beyond that, a clear representation of ideas is more important and so if it requires eraser and scale, so be it. Afterall it’s a now a “pre-sketch” for your CAD .

3. It should be your original idea.

It times of Co-creation, collaborative projects and open innovation; an individuals idea may be lacking compared to the richness a project gets from collaborative work which is designed by a community. A single individuals contribution could be worked upon and made better by others as well and no one person takes credit for the entire process. To think of it, an idea is only successful if others also believe in it!

4. Follow the process. Show the process.

While it may be a great idea to show a process in order to explain your final design to an international jury for getting an award and for other such events, Design methods can be very limiting and restraining, unless you allow them to be iterative and continuous. Most common people are not equipped to understand a design method, they can only appreciate the result and you can bring that to them any which way.

5. It’s all in the presentation

In a world of presentation , this is an understatement. The presentation is not a separate activity. It is not something you do afterwards, after the design process has ended. The presentation IS the design and part of the process and you don’t need to do many things to justify it if what you came up with is a great product!

How I used sequins to transform a Shell

Sometimes you just have to use what is available to come up with an innovative solution.

These are some designs from the metal sequin and shell collection that we had developed in Goa on our last visit. Its interesting how this came up. Mussel shells were the green shells that get generally thrown away as the locals found no use of them either in product craft or otherwise. The beautiful green color at the top had a tendency to chip. So most of the shells were lack luster at the top and green towards the bottom edge. We needed to give it a look that lasted. So after rummaging the local shops for locally available solutions, I developed this metal sequin look to cover the top area. The rest of the shell was given long lasting lacquer finish. We used some silken and cotton thread for the neck and voila, it was ready to use! The best part, half a dozen crafts women from Goa were trained to make a new kind of product which supports them in their livelihood.

I’m adding this post to Sue’s blog A word A week challenge: Metallic theme as it coincides with the topic.

BMW contest archive 2010


Amongst a lot of movement of the last few years, there have been a lot of computer crashes and data loss at my end. So I was surprised to see that my previous idea entry in BMW contest was still intact on the featured home page. I tried clicking on it, but the link was now gone. This was a great concept story I wrote a couple of years back for them which they had featured. It was about a parking concept for urban mobility. Wish I could recover my data back and put the rest of it online. but till then this is one reminder.

Making the World and thoughts on City planning

Being a designer, one of the biggest design assignment that you can hope to work on, is the world. However, that job has been already earmarked to “God” with special powers with none with as much talent! :). The rest of us are left to work on the habitable places and create cities, homes, things that go into the homes, things that we wear or how we travel. We can also design the processes which help us to live this life better or more comfortably.

Last week, we studied about five cities and how they developed. Cities, which are the physical representations of need of people to live and work together, create a safe and social environment; have today grown to some place other than that.We took Eixample, a district in Barcelona. Eixample means “extension”, designed by architect, Cerde.

Ildeforns Cerde succeeded in building a plan for a city in that has found itself today after a 150 years as one of the most dense in the world in terms of population (351 people per hectare), dwellings( 230 dwellings per hectare)  and car (140 cars per hectare), with the least amount of private space. His idealized version of a road with chamfered edges created to provide ease of movement of carriage ways, has been challenged by the behavior of the citizens and their growing need of parking spaces who use the open space provided by the plan for double parking of  40% vehicles on the street. He perhaps never imagined how the horse carriages, people & bicycles would be replaced by traffic so dense and the noise it brings to its millions of residents of its numerous apartment blocks.  But then forecasting for 100 years over itself is challenging.

eixample _traffic

The open space left by him intentionally has today become of sea of traffic separating each  mid rise apartment block from the other. Crossing a street from one block to another effortlessly is supposedly a challenge, much less amble or cycle effortlessly as depicted in this 1908 video. However, close by is “The Rambles”,a lively street, which is connected to Eixample.

arterial_roads_eixampleThen my mind wandered off to Renaissance fortress city Palmanova, which was designed circular. Mumbai too, which is extended linearly top and bottom and now is exploring eastwards. Its brought me strong appreciation for Lutyens Delhi. The New Delhi area here is rather well designed with a circle of greenery between each block. Whatever may have been the suburban catastrophe, is balanced by the “clean and green” design of Central Delhi. Just one wish, that they complete the metro work soon, so that we can live to appreciate it.

Snow and Superhero Grafitti

kang3Last few weeks has been unbearably cold for me. After a couple of years in the coastal belt of India and now in the opposite temperature . From hot and humid, its now cold and dry.  My smart phone camera was just so inappropriate for this journey, but it did allow me to document a glimpse of the fresh snow on the hills on this early morning drive.

kang2An Interesting graffiti at the back-wall of a Design school situated in the midst of this beautiful range.

The wooden horse of Innovation

A mechanical toy in which the horse collapses when the lever below is pressed, and the horse bounces back when the lever is released.

Gold consumption rate of China they say is around 700 metric tonnes compared to India’s 993 metric tonnes. China is poised to overtake India in gold consumption in 2012. It’s right now at the no. 2 position.

Are we really buying less gold? I guess so. For many years we prided ourselves as the largest consumers of the yellow metal. Enter year 2000. IT brings a revolution in our world. Do women pride themselves with a yellow shining necklace around their neck? Yawn! Do men really think they can woe a woman with gold? Double yawn!! 2010: Twitter. Facebook. I pod. I pad. I phone. Even the Mac is now the digital book and not the burger! Need I say more…..? the world just changed while you were asleep, Mr Jeweller!

Are we equipped for the next phase?

Let me tell you the story of a craftsman in a province in Punjab. For many years he had made a decent living making wooden toys. His expertise was making this wooden horse which collapsed when you pressed the lever. A fun toy for kids. Probably some input he received as a new design and that sustained him well for years. He had a  1500 sq ft workshop with enough lathe machines to craft each unit of the leg. He variated. Did better legs. Changed the colours. Then one day the orders dried up. He didn’t know why. And there was no body to tell him why as well. But that just it. There were no takers for the toy. Kids were a different breed now. A simple mechanical toy would not excite them as much as a video game. As for him, his machines lay rusted.

Where did he loose out?

On innovation.

He took for granted that a certain style will continue being popular because of its past history. But what he did not foresee was the changing trends that could affect his product, business and livelihood. He failed to innovate.

What is innovation?

Well, that’s another story for next time!


( This is a true story. He gifted the toy to my daughter few years back. She took it reluctantly in politeness, but has never played with it.)