Category Archives: People

  1. A masterclass from the man himself: David Kelley on Jobs and design thinking

    All startup creative firms want to grow up and be an IDEO. This enviably creative design studio has firmly embedded itself in the innovative strain of successful brands. David Kelley was the man at the helm of this movement. Here he talks about his friend Steve Jobs and design thinking as a concept.

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  2. Reporters without borders: Make the predators talk with QR codes

    This campaign is against dictators, or predators as the ad calls them, curbing freedom of press. This is an innovative use of QR redirecting you to videos that ‘complete’ the picture. Take a look.

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  3. Paula Scher for Behance: Irreverent and respectable doyen of graphic design

    She has always been an inspiration and I was lucky to meet her a few years back at Kyoorius Designyatra. Paula presents a set of stellar brand work that have been done by Pentagram and her.

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  4. Tilt Shift Love: A short homage to Bangalore in miniature – Little Bangalore

    I met Anup Kat of 1stDecember at Limoge, France while we were there to participate in a 24-hour web design challenge. Anup and his team are a smart group of youngsters with a great sense of aesthetics and a cohesive worldview. They are the new wave DIY, dirty-my-hands creative team and this homage to Bangalore is a perfect example. So, watch this lovingly made voyeuristic short on Bangalore – a sunny cheerful Koyaanisquatsi set in our own beantown. Incidentally, 1stDecember did win the Limoge challenge.

    In their words: “Every great city in the world has a story that has been passed down the ages. The garden city of India is one such city. A home to countless people from all over the country, making a lifetime of memories. It may not be the best city in the world, but the spirit of its people is unmatched.

    This film is our take on the Bangalore we have grown to love. A tribute to our city and its people. This is the story of our ‘little Bangalore’.”

    Kudos Atul, Anup and team.

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  5. The Wizard of Woz: Steve Wozniak in line for iPad3 at Apple store

    I have always admired the co-founder of Apple for his humility and of course, wisdom. I found this interview where he is waiting outside an Apple store in LA to buy himself an iPad3. Interesting conversation. Watch and enjoy!

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  6. Flash Dev: Nordstrom Innovation Lab builds app in the store

    Nordstrom Innovation Lab created a sunglasses try-out app for shoppers at their flagship store in Seattle, WA. This was done with user experience designers and developers in situ at the store. They tested and tweaked with live user feedback over a week building the ‘just right’ app. We would love to be a part of such process in India. Anyone game?

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  7. Apple and I: A long love affair

    In early eighties small town India, like my hometown, had not seen computers. The closest that you came to one was when you booked a railway ticket and it was across the glass in the booth. It was most often operated by bored mid-size government workers in synthetic bush shirts, buttoned down till the vest and a handkerchief dipped in talc around their neck. Or by women nibbling fried snacks from their cold press molded stainless steel ‘eversilver’ tiffin boxes next to perennially plastic covered keyboards.



    I have to describe these machines to you. They were behemoth grey boxes with a pixel screen, slightly larger than a Tamil pocket crime novel encased in an oversized dull monitor. The CPU looked like a part of a menacing Russian tank and the monitor was made of discarded plastic buckets. The keyboard had their tab keys jammed often and the lady operator was screaming for help in a fit, kicking her snacks of her table while the cursor did a wild tra-la-la jig across form fields on that minuscule window. And I was waiting with my filled form. Always.

    I never understood how they can make us more productive.

    A little later when my father bought an AppleIIc for a publisher friend of his from Singapore (the farthest idea of a foreign land for a Tamil boy) I was amazed that computers can look good. My dad had meticulously unpacked and assembled it with great care. The machine, if I can call it, looked like million suns of gypsies’ ice a la Marquez.

    Call it love at first sight. Apple it was – hook, line and sinker. I was a convert, a self-confessed fanboy and hopelessly smitten for life.

    At college they taught me BASIC on an Apple. I met a Macintosh at a design school. Not that we were allowed to use it freely. We used to set type in Aldus Pagemaker, take prints and paste it on our artworks with rubber cement. That was quite a promotion from hot metal where we have to set type laterally inverted or phototypesetting where we pretended to solve a thermodynamics problem on a blue screen and got a small piece of photo paper with type exposed on it. We loved and grew on Macs.

    Then came the candy colored eMac at home, a Powerbook G4, an early iPod, more Macbooks, an iPhone and a strong affinity for a brand that thought of people who used their product more than the machine itself. An affinity to the creator of this brand – Steve Jobs.

    More on Mac and me soon.

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  8. Cottonworld campaign 2011: Entrepreneurs’ comfort zone – II

    We do not do advertising at Apparatus. I always thought advertising as business promotion with short shelf life. It does not work along the entire lifecycle of a product or services as a brand.

    We got associated with Cottonworld as a brand six years back. We did an identifier refresh, lightened the brand to make it younger and distinct. We also elevated Cottonworld from an image of a family-run business to a substantially large pan-Indian mark. Our association with this brand has been so strong that we did all their advertisements too. You can see our brand work for Cottonworld here.

    Last year we discovered a new plank that can promote the brand – young entrepreneurs. We interpreted it as ‘Comfort is about doing your thing in your terms’. We shortlisted a set of unique businesses and got the founders to model for Cottonworld. You can see the 2010 campaign here and glimpses of 2011 campaign below.

    Aadore Sayani runs a Sleight of Hand that specializes in delectable brownies served at your doorstep in Mumbai.

    Spiga is a Med-style restaurant in the heart of Bangalore run by Aparna Suri.

    DJ Suketu is a big name in the party circuit and runs his academy for youngsters with a penchant for mixed music.

    We enjoyed working on Cottonworld over these years. Today we are working with them on their social media strategy, ecommerce plans and of course, a younger brand. We have been very minimal with the backdrops and sets this year with a focus on entrepreneur and clothes. If you are a young businessperson with an interesting story write to us to. If selected you can get featured in the next campaign.

    See Cottonworld on facebook and follow the brand on twitter.

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  9. Conversations with a pedagogue

    Manoj Neel heads Interaction Design and Information Design faculty at National Institute of Design, Bangalore. He is authoring an interesting paper on the future of design education in India. This is an excerpt from his conversations with me as a practicing designer.

    Manoj Neel: It’s been over 18 years since you began practicing as a designer. What do you think (very broadly speaking) are the significant changes in ‘requirements’ as clients define them from then to now?
    Shiva Kumar: Earlier it used to be too specific; it was an extension of advertising. So clients looked at graphic design as something that ad agencies might not do (or do badly). So they’d come and say, listen can you do the corporate brochure or the annual report, it was very specific. But today they come in with a problem, they don’t come with a solution. Earlier they came with a solution and then we window dressed it in a sense. They say this is what we are getting into – help us. Which is nicer; when I started my career ‘graphic design’ was a standalone term. There was only print as medium; electronic media had just evolved, you know with TV and commercials. We were away from it anyway – it was not something that you could travel to easily, being too much of a niche. It was not even like today where using the same machine I can do both – there was specific hardware, all that kind of stuff. So probably people knew what they were going to get; so they’d come and say – hey, give me this calendar (and that kind of stuff) which doesn’t happen now; the number of media that people can have today are quite a few.

    MN: So you’re saying they’re not clear what media they want – they want advice from a designer on what media is right…
    SK: They are not even thinking media, which is a fabulous thing. They say this is the problem that we have; now it need not involve the media either, like there are solutions off-media too.

    Things have evolved over a period of time, there are multiple different channel options available, specializations within a creative team. And somewhere there was one generalist who was looking at it from the perspective of a solution set, and putting it down to customer experience or nodes of interaction between the business and customer – I think that’s the real deal.

    MN: How does the practice of design work in your organization? Is it a multi-disciplinary, collaborative act or is it guided by a sort of Mr Know-all to whom all defer? And how do you see this dynamic changing over the years? (am referring to the ‘no-one-of-us-is-better-than-all-of-us’ dictum).
    SK: In terms of skill sets, we’ve got people whom we loosely call ‘information architects’. They are usability professionals. But that does not mean they cannot deal with visual design. Then there are visual designers and the content people. Again, ‘visual designers’ does not mean they cannot handle usability, just that the complexity of the task will be lesser. Like for example apps on iPhone – we don’t even go to the information architects. We do it at the visual designer level, it’s simple as you’ve got a framework, you’ve got to work with the stuff and put an emotive quality to it.

    MN: And the style guidelines are also clear…
    SK: Importantly the criticality is less; if something fails, it is not a show stopper. So it’s okay for visual designers to look at the user experience as a whole. On the other hand, we’ve worked on large business intelligence and analytics projects which are data critical; they are decision aiding tools and the complexity involved is immense. That’s the kind of stuff that IAs work on. Most often they do the visual design for the app – because here it is simple ‘branded-ness’. It doesn’t need to emote heavily. So I say again that graphic design is a mere tool that is used intelligently where needed and how needed.

    MN: Do you agree that there are uniquely Indian challenges for us as designers? If so, are we as design professionals doing enough to address this – any problems in this scenario (not enough money, prevalent sensibilities/attitudes to design in our context)?
    SK: There is a lot of reality fear in designing with/for vernacular. Speaking for Apparatus, we were rudely awakened when we were designing a newspaper in Telugu, Sakshi. There cannot be a project that is more Indian, more rooted than that (and it’s not the language alone). The context is Andhra Pradesh, 21 centers, each as varied as they come. The northernmost centre is closer to Orissa and people are comfortable with Oriya along with Telugu and southernmost center is Nellore District where people are comfortable with Tamil along with Telugu – and here we are defining a newspaper for all those centers.

    MN: Within a small area there is so much of diversity…

    SK: Exactly. There are graphic design problems that are specific to using vernacular, I’m talking about simple elements of graphic design. The anatomy of Telugu script is all about compound characters. For example there are many characters that can fuse to one character, almost like a ligature, by sitting one on top of the other. The standard concept of leading does not work anymore and working with the baseline grid is a bit of a nightmare! So you got to know these nuances. It actually took us about a month to get into the groove of designing for vernacular- and designing within the context.

    Working with many parameters at one time – one, the kind of fonts you’re going to choose because it’s going to be bilingual. Two, it’s going to be web and print so you should know your technology very well. Three, you got to understand the Content Management System (CMS) that is deployed and the CMS templates are done in Quark 3.1 and so you better go back in time. Fourthly, the CMS pushes to the web, which means that you need to know that linkage from a tech perspective.

    This is also the 1st time a newspaper is doing 32 pages all in 4-color offset – and do they want to push that envelope really hard! So what it essentially means is that we got to get a palette that’s wide. Scream color the way Andhra Pradesh loves.  All this was the reality for this specific project.

    That is what I call an Indian project. If you look at the product at the end of it, it looks extremely contemporary – it is no longer about doing decorative motifs. We are imbibing a problem area that is Indian rather than defining a solution that’s superficially Indian. It demands a phenomenal amount of learning in a short period and we had to unlearn to wake up.

    General graphic design today is very pan-Indian, pan-global; it’s very culture-neutral right now. But micro culture and local contexts will be the new black soon.

    Continued in the next post.

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  10. 7am Inspiration: Ralph Steiner

    Yesterday as a part of my morning ritual I picked up my tablet and ran StumbleUpon on it. The first stumble was a quote.

    Ralph Steiner was one of the early American photographers who worked along with Paul Strand in and around New York City during early twentieth century. Later he was a part of the avant-garde cinema movement. There was an inspiring quote that I read of his and this resonates with my personal creative goal.

    Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for creativity: Be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be a success; don’t try to do pictures for others to look at – just please yourself.
    ~ Ralph Steiner

    He does not prescribe mediocrity. He suggests that you can be your most constructive critic if you choose to. And that is his path to glory. Moved me.

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