Layering
CRAFTING IDENTITY

By: K. G. SREENIVAS             Dated: September 01, 2014

There's more to design than just being a symbol of association or identity. “An identity is a compact representation of who you are. Are you uni-layered? Are you as you appear to be,” asks Shanoo Bhatia, the Founder of Eureka Moment, says in a conversation with Creative Brands. Shanoo reflects on why design is, ironically, still regarded as a foreign notion in an aesthetically rich country like India.

A leitmotif — strong lines, sensuous curves, deeply rooted in Indian motifs — infuses a lot of your work. Then there is the lateral and transcendental, the abstract, and the stylised. When you work on the correlation of identity and design, what fundamental questions do you ask yourself and what are the answers you seek from them?

An identity that has no intellectual layering, is a wasted investment. An identity is a compact representation of who you are. Are you uni-layered? Are you as you appear to be? Is there no depth to your personality — I imply a person or a company. When I see visual identities that are purely aesthetic or cosmetic, I think of all the possibilities that were abandoned in submission to a first-principle solution. For Piramal Enterprises, for example, we shifted from a well-recognised, simple orange triangle, which was their existing logo, to an identity that is multi-layered inthe form of a 'gyan mudra'. When you see the 'gyan mudra', do you see a company invested in pharmaceuticals and glass packaging or would you visualise a company invested in a fundamental belief system of knowledge, truth, aesthetics and care? Visualise how this expands the potential for a business to grow and diversify, as long as their values remain distilled and clear. Design should work hard to craft with clarity the idea of who you are and how you wish to be regarded, in the visualisation of your identity.

In recreating a workspace ambience such as that of BCG, you took the humorous, funny, illustrative, and irreverent route. Here you sought to reinvent (at one level) messaging and revisit the organisation's messaging. At a fundamental level, how could we help transform messaging at a larger national level in the life of a community/society/nation?

Messaging for diversity must be responded to in a relevant manner. Our political classes have consistently used mass communication to voice the insights and the needs of the people they represent in a community, village, town or nation. During the recent election campaign, there was a shift from messaging for basic necessities to a rallying cry for development, tapping into the hunger and aspirations of masses. I believe that messaging on a broader level is about framing an active concept. For intimate projects such as BCG, we garner insights into the operations and personality of the organisation and its people and frame concepts around ideas that are motivating. At a national level, the breakthrough would be a cornerstone concept that captures the mood of the people and creates a communication idea which is responsive.

The challenge will be the tone of voice, the connotation of words and symbols, and the pursuit of semantics in creating communication with mass appeal. The additional challenges would be creating messaging infrastructure to ensure reach and sustenance of the communication.

Why, to your mind, isn't India a design and aesthetics driven country, especially when it comes to its public spaces and institutions — this despite India's deep civilisational heritage when it comes to the intricacies of design and aesthetics.

India has an unbelievably rich and diverse regional art and craft heritage, created by the people for the people. The focus of indigenous craft is functional as it is aesthetic. Craft and art tell stories of people and times. Craft is accessible, often created in homes by hand. Craft is typically affordable to the masses. As a corollary, the notion of design is that it is foreign to our people, it is western and unaffordable. The belief is that design requires systems and technology and is visually disconnected from the national aesthetic. There has not been enough done by our government or industry bodies to seriously support and promote mature design think-tanks, to develop design solutions and a national bank of design tools, images, ideas, and motifs that may be effectively drawn upon to be infused into our public spaces.

I believe that in order to utilise design thinking to create spaces and communications that serve our people better and make life easier, design and craft must converge. The intelligent engineering of indigenous art and crafts using design processes and methodologies to make them available for use on a mass scale, will help create aesthetically responsive and immaculately engineered public infrastructure. This should not be regarded as a threat to our crafts and heritage, but should, in fact, create awareness, support education, encourage knowledge and appreciation of our heritage. Our biggest loss will be the rapid adoption of western design solutions in our public spaces and institutions. That will sound the death knell of Indian aesthetics and craft.

CB

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