Designwala In Your Inbox

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Thanks to Ria Rajan, I keep up to date on the latest and greatest fun, social and educational initiatives in India which come together because of good design. Another such informative project is the Menstrupedia project. Started by Aditi Gupta and Tuhin Paul, Menstrupedia aims to dispel the misinformation surrounding menstruation. Good illustrations are always a great way to get ideas across and this website has some great graphics and communication design. I was also impressed by the clear site organization and calls to action. This project is a great example of information design. Menstrupedia is our design inspiration for today.

Perch Project

Perch Project comes from Hazel Karkaria & Somesh Kumar, two communication designers. It is a project aimed at people looking for information around amateur animal rescue or upkeep. Ever found a pregnant stray cat or an injured bird you wanted to help and didnt know how? Perch Project is the place to go. The platform is at its initial stages and has information around helping out certain animals or birds. The information available is thorough and the diagrams are beautiful. There is huge opportunity here to leverage user generated content in order to grow the project. Thanks Ria Rajan for helping out again. This is surely inspiring.

The red swing project

Ria Rajan sent me a fun project. It is called the ‘red swing project‘and is a way to positively impact under-utilized public spaces with simple red swings. The swings have appeared all around the world including USA, India, Thailand, Brazil, Taiwan, South Korea, France, Spain, Portugal, Haiti and Poland. The project originated in Austin, Texas in 2007. Incase you plan on hanging your own, here is a ‘how to‘.

NrityaDhol : Dhol in form of ghungroos

I came across NrityaDhol this morning while looking over the Interaction design people’s choice award shortlist. It is a fascinating project created using the arduino, force sensing resisters and processing to name a few physical computing components that seemed to have gone into the project.

Here is the description of the project from the IxD site:
NrityaDhol is a music instrument which combines dance and music experiences of Ghunghroo and Dhol. Ghunghroo is a musical anklet tied to the leg of Indian classical dancers to produce music out of their footwork. Dhol is a drum which accompanies rhythm of foot tapping in many Indian dances. NrityaDhol is a transformation of Dhol in the form of Ghunghroo. It is a pair of musical anklets which translates foot tapping patterns of classical dancers into a rhythm of Dhol with the help of motion detection technology. It produces Dhin (low frequency bass sound) and tak(high frequency treble sound) of Dhol on tapping left and right leg respectively.

Vote for the project here

Swaang – Ma Ni Meri Main Nai Darna

This ode to the victim of the Delhi gang rape was put out by actor Swara Bhaskar and her group of friends under the name – Swaang Mumbai. Swaang is a folk dance drama or a theater form popular in some parts of north India. It accompanies songs and dialogues. This swaang is aptly titled ‘Maa Ni Meri’ which means ‘Mother of Mine’. The English translation of the swaang can be found on You Tube. I am not publishing it here because the narration holds more weight in Punjabi and Hindi. Swara’s facebook page dedicates the piece to the women of the country – “This song is a token of protest against the increasing violence against women in India”.

Brinda Project

image courtesy Brinda Project

The Brinda Project is a street art project created together by an Indian and a Brazilian artist – Harsh Raman Singh Paul & Sergio Cordeiro. The Street Art Project is supported by the Brazilian Embassy in the Capital called Brinda – Brazil and India in Art. Three different pieces in different neighborhoods of Delhi have been scoped out and created. Each piece talks about the similarity in Brazilian and Indian culture literally in broad strokes. More on the project on the Hindu. Thanks Ria for the lead.


It is a pleasant surprise when designers send us their work. I can’t stress this enough, if you love doing what you do, you need to make sure others get to see what you are making. I was sent a project called Vichar – A thought a day for one whole year by a graphic artist Karthik M. His wife Archana is a poet and an essayist. She wrote the thoughts and he did the graphics. The combination of collaborative art/verse is whimsical and fun. I enjoyed going through it and hope you do too. See the full series here.


Bangalore Rickshaw

Designwala’s inspiration section has been on a bit of a hiatus. That is primarily because the people who write this blog are designers and when there are design projects to be finished, design writing needs to wait. However I see all of us designers as a big community of inspiring people so when one is at a loss for something fun to share then others help out. Ria Rajan sent me this very fun animation by a German visual storyteller called Xaver Xylophon. His animation on the rickshaw driver does not have a beginning or an end. Its a very real perspective of a day in the life of a rickshaw driver. It is so real, that at moments one forgets that one is watching an animation. The cacophony of Indian streets, hawkers, flies, squabbling over money, traffic, old hindi songs, all help deliver a very well put together experience. The eye of this storyteller doesn’t miss any details. Our inspiration for the day is also a vimeo staff pick!

Parallel Journeys by Nike

Creative Roots is one of my favorite design inspiration blog. I often go there look through creative ideas from various countries. Today I stumbled across a rather fun Nike commercial around cricketing in India called Parallel Journeys. Created by JWT India, the video has been shot in multiple locations that span across the nation and include Jodhpur, Varanasi, Ladakh, Delhi, Indore, Mumbai and Pondicherry. The video circles around various young men in various places getting ready to play a game of cricket. They sneak out of their houses, grab their scooters or a ride on rickety bus, wear their cricket uniforms with pride and play the game. Nike ends the commercial with – Just Do It #Bleed Blue. It is quite stirring, the music has the right pacing, the branding is perfect for Indian markets.

There is something missing though.  I miss seeing girls in the video. As a girl child growing up with two very athletic brothers in India, I wasn’t encouraged to play any sports or was too scared to participate.  I wonder if a Nike commercial in the US would have been totally devoid of women. I think not. In removing any semblance of women in the ad, maybe the point proven is that women don’t buy Nike in India. That said, one could say that Nike is trying to leverage the only sport that the country is really good at and has a mass following in – cricket (which is totally male dominated). That fact is sadly as demotivating as the video is uplifting.


Hurricane Sandy has forced a lot of us New Yorkers to stay indoors and wait out the storm. I have been trying to collect some design inspiration to get motivated to work. That means massive twitter trawling. I came across these cool matchbox images from a book called Matchbook by Shahid Datawala via one of my favorite blogs – Brainpickings. Growing up in India we always used match boxes to light up the gas stoves and candles. The design on these match boxes never failed to amuse me, very much like the kitschy design and paintings on auto rickshaws, trucks and bollywood posters. These matchbox designs are a bit different though. They are more modern, almost like the Russian constructivist posters (as brainpickings points out as well). They have a level of sophistication maybe because of the the European roots of the Indian Match Industry. Here is to inspiration on a rainy cold day.

TYIN Architect’s Toolbox

We’ve been working on a couple of urban intervention based projects. Most of them have tight budgets, schedules, teams and limited resources. Today while reading through my twitter feed, I stumbled across the work of Norway’s Tyin Tegnestue. The principals Andreas G. Gjertsen and Yashar Hanstad specialize in locally sourced and built projects in the developing world and recently developed a toolkit to help other architects and artists doing similar work. This month they came up with a downloadable kit that will let other designers learn from their extensive experience building with underdeveloped communities. Architects are not really known for their openness and sharing. The peeps at TYIN would beg to differ.

Fastcompany article on TYIN work.

Minimal Movie Posters

We’ve had a week with no design inspiration because we are trying to design cool stuff on our own. We are also trying to bring in more design writers to bring to you diverse opinions and ideas around design thinking. Today’s design inspiration is Jonathan Pimento’s minimal film posters. They relate the main idea of the film with simple graphic work. I went through all the posters and they tickled my design senses. What makes this an even more interesting exercise is the fact that all these movies/series are old and new and from different places and periods. Here is Jonathan’s self imposed project brief : What I have done is basically taken 25 movies and 5 series and designed a poster for  them. Each of the poster have one element that clearly portrays the story of the movie. Thus picking the most relevant scene, object or character. Also I have tried to incorporate colors that are relevant to the movie.

Macho Men and Flirtatious Women

I came across the work of Matt Lee, an illustrator from the UK who is also a faculty at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. His photographic series around torn and dilapidated posters from the South Indian film industry is interesting. A two minute film titled ‘Ink’ captures the printing process of these posters at Balaji Lithographers. The film was done in collaboration with film maker Smriti Mehra. Looking at the highly commercial film industry with an artistic lens is quite riveting and an inspiration for Friday.


Speak-er by Thinkofthe

My friend and work partner Valeria Bianco introduced me to the work of Thinkofthe, a Taiwanese and Japanese industrial design duo – Sherwood Forlee and Mihoko Ouchi. They design whimsical fun products that tickle your sensibilities. I went through all their work in a moment of minutes. The anti theft lunch bag is hilarious and the Speak-er’s are beautifully designed. The unfinished name is attributed to their sense of short attention span. Their work inspired me on a dreary, cloudy thursday evening and I hope it inspires you too.

Project Darshan

Last year, a photography project on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter had caught my eye. The artist had decided to take photographs of hindu gods and goddesses. This wasn’t just a regular photography gig. The sets for the photographs were elaborate. From Ma Laxmi’s makeup to the lotus she sits on, everything seemed highly detailed and well thought out. The artist Manjari Sharma surpassed her goal of $20k and has since created other photographs for Ma Durga, Lord Hanuman, Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha. More on Project Darshan.

New uniforms for KV

Growing up as an Army brat, I changed a lot of schools, lot of friends and a lot of uniforms in the process. I went to convent schools, public schools and army schools. I skipped going to Kendriya Vidyalaya or Central Schools. Army schools had the same uniforms as KV but they had nice ties and belts to adorn the uniforms. Apparently the first KV uniforms were put in place by the central government in 1963. Its 2012 and KV has new uniforms.  Here is what ‘Times of India’ has to say about the uniforms.

The new uniform designed by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), New Delhi, has check-patterned shirts, dark grey check-patterned frocks and trousers for girls and boys, respectively, from classes I to VIII. For students of classes IX to XII, check-patterned kurtas and shirts are to be worn with trousers and waistcoats. During winters, cardigans and sweaters in dark grey colour with red borders can be worn along with grey coloured hooded jackets with the KVS logo embroidered on the back.

I do not particularly have an opinion around the look of the uniforms but kurtas for girls in senior classes still baffles me. The kurtas will need to be worn with pants versus salwars now which is pretty absurd. These uniforms are in the inspiration section not because they are inspiring but because there is a certain kind of change and shift in the thinking around educational institutions. Maybe the educational syllabus would be considered for a redesign next time round.

More here from telegraph India.

Happy Cardboards

Image courtesy NPStudio

Image courtesy by NPStudio

As my work gets more digital, I have been trying harder to look for tangible examples of design and art to draw inspiration from. My end of the week design inspiration is HAPPY Cardboards by Niti Parikh Studio. HAPPY Cardboards are laser cut and etched reclaimed and recycled materials transformed into fun and interesting interior products ranging from wall frames to cut letters. All the products are created at the SF TechShop. Here is their wonderful etsy shop.

The Golden Triangle

After the Oxelo skateboarding video, another skateboarding video in India has been doing the rounds of the internet. Created by Mofoprod, the video is visually stellar. There are mixed feelings around using India as an ‘exotic’ background with little to offer by foreign filmmakers but that is a discussion for another time.

Thukral & Tagra

Our late Monday design inspiration is the work of Jiten Thukral and Samir Tagra. Their work is a mix of mediums that includes painting, installation, product and graphic design that addresses consumerism, product placement and media hype. Here is their artist statement as stated on their website – “Their works comment on the globalization of consumer culture and the repercussions of this as it is being experienced in India today. While both playful and humorous, their works express thoughtful questions about the nature of Indian identity as it is articulated by Indians themselves and projected on to India by the rest of the world.

The Humble Jharu

Image from The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections

Sweeping Change: Transforming Attitudes Towards the Humble Jharu – this was the title of the exhibition that was held in Gandhi Smriti a couple of years ago designed by Ishan Khosla. The project involved telling the story of the humble Indian broom, its significance, history, impact and creation. A mundane object of daily use in the Indian household, the broom has been used in reference to untouchability in India, Mahatma Gandhi used it as a symbol of freedom and equality.

I’ve found myself looking for an Indian jharu a bunch of times in New York when the swiffer or vacuum refuses to go into the nooks and crannies of my loft. The jharu is not only sustainable (unlike a swiffer) but also flexible. Its success can be paralleled to the Indian matka. The exhibition is fascinating and a great tribute to the an object/tool that will never go out of fashion. Meena Kadri was a research collaborator on the project. Read her blog post here. See Ishan’s flickr feed here. This is my Friday design inspiration posted on a Saturday.

Button Masala

I came across Button Masala while looking at Tadpole, an online platform that facilitates consumer, designer interaction. Button Masala is an interesting apparel concept created by apparel designer Anuj Sharma. The concept allows the person wearing the garment to play around with the shape, folds and fall of the dress by experimenting with buttoning the dress in certain ways. The above photograph outlines Anuj’s one hour trial with various iterations using one dress. He also tries the same experimentation with rubber bands and buttons and then goes on to chai cups and balloons. The idea is to customize your clothes based on mood, preferences, weather and such. Apparently, a model showcasing his collection at fashion week created her own dress since she was unhappy with the original dress, all by buttoning and rebuttoning. All in all extremely inspiring and fascinating. I would recommend watching his TEDX talk here. It made my day and I am sure it will make yours.

Spontaneous Architecture

Other than running designwala, I am also a part of an artist collaborative that works on interventions in unused urban spaces. As a part of our latest project, we plan to host a speaker series on spontaneous interventions. I came across the children’s corner for Center for Rural Knowledge while doing some research around the topic. SABA or Spontaneous Architecture at the Bezalel Academy empowers its students to create these interventions using local material, labour and technologies. This was one workshop that they organized where 3rd year students were asked to create a children’s corner in the Center for Rural Knowledge in Gujarat, a non profit organization that empowers farmers and local women. The basic program for each classroom was “one floor, one wall, one roof”. A total of four classrooms 15 sq m each needed to be designed and built. The rough patchwork that these students came up with is nothing to write home about but they serve a purpose and provide a quick solution in form of spontaneous interventions. More here.

Kaagazi : handbound books

Kaagazi is our design inspiration for today. From what I could gather remotely sitting here in my Brooklyn studio is that the founder is still in school trying to wrangle an e-commerce website for her product. Kaagazi is a handbound collection of notebooks, sketchbooks and journals etc. The other items on the roster like the calendars are absolutely beautiful. Here is a link to an online shop carrying some of the Kaagazi items. A website might do this young enterprise a whole lot of good but I am sure that is in the making. The founder is Kavya Agrawal, a graphic design student at NID.

Aditya Dev Sood on design that can make possibilities happen

I would like to start the week with Aditya Sood’s overview of ethnographic research and design analysis to create innovative design solutions in the developing world. I was led to this video by a tweet by Design Indaba. This video is a part of the ‘What Design Can Do’, an international yearly conference held in Amsterdam, around the subject of impact of design to better the world. Their mission is – Real solutions for real problems. Aditya Sood is the CEO of CKS (Center for Knowledge Societies), a think tank and design consultancy in New Delhi. We have covered their work before here.

Mr Singh’s Hot Punjabi Chili Sauce

As we eat popsicles at the studio today with the temperatures in NYC hitting 93 deg F, I think of all the hot and spicy food we Indians eat in the sweltering heat of India.  My design inspiration today is the identity campaign for Mr Singhs Hot Punjabi Chili Sauce. The rebranding for this UK based sauce was done by the design agency Pearlfisher. The logo primarily looks like Mr Singh’s turban. Its a fun take on the family and what it embodies. Mr Singh’s Hot Punjabi Pesto comes out next. Being a Singh myself I relate to the love of spicy punjabi sauces and curries but also like the clean and simple packaging that showcases the brand. As one would say – zor ka dhakka dheere se lage.

Aakash, a lesson not an inspiration

A few weeks ago, I published the Akash tablet as a design inspiration. Weeks later Aakash has not made it to the market. Apparently there has been a feud between DataWind, a Canadian company, that successfully bid to produce 100,000 Aakashes for $4.3 million and IIT Rajasthan, the director of which Prem Kumar Kalra was the project lead for Akash, Both parties are sueing each other for thousands of dollars. The home of software engineers, India has never been able to do anything groundbreaking around hardware. Kapil Sibal, the Indian minister responsible for the project replaced the leadership on the project and appointed Deepak B Pathak, an IIT Mumbai engineering professor as the new project lead. The amazing thing about Akash was not the technology but the pricepoint. At $35, it seemed like a device that was affordable for students and educational organizations. Unfortunately, that dream is still to be fulfilled.

Akash is not an inspiration today but a lesson. Lesson that when there is bureaucracy, self interest and control involved, innovation and design suffers. Read the full article about the Akash debacle and its potential resurrection on fastcompany.

The Hinglish Project

I have been looking at a bunch of South Asian fonts in order to create designs for a limited print series for designwala. As I struggle through the process of what is called developing a design concept, I came across ‘The Hinglish Project’ which is an initiative of the ‘Incredible India‘, a ministry of tourism project in India. ‘The Hinglish Project’ is a unique font design where one can tell the phonetic sound of the hindi character by looking at the corresponding Roman letter superimposed on it. Its easy to download it and play around with it (which I did). The web interface allows some playing around as well. The concept feels a bit flawed to me personally since the hindi words don’t seem to correctly correspond with their english counterparts but the idea is beautifully executed and I encourage you to check it out and play with it. The project’s mission is to make it easier for non Hindi users to get familiar with the language.

Simpoo Singh & Jolly Madam

Our Tuesday design inspiration is the work of Vaibhav Studios. I stumbled across them looking for storytelling and animation examples that showcased Indian stereotypes in an Indian context. I couldn’t stop laughing at the Simpu Singh series for Channel V. I would share it with my Italian co-worker who has been watching my laughting outbursts with a certain interest, if only she understood the cultural connotation behind these animations. Check out their youtube channel here.

Chumbak : Products based in and on India

I have been a bit obsessed with everything Indian and kitsch for a while now. That includes bollywood, Indian street food, chor bazaars, mumbaiya slang and the general bling that goes with growing up in India. The knick knacks from Chumbak embody a lot of that in their aesthetic. The ‘things Indian say’ video and collection made me laugh at work making my very American (and one German) studiomates wonder what was tickling me so much. Thanks Maitreyi for passing this along. Here is all the awesome stuff Chumbak makes.

Studio Incept

Studio Incept is multi-disciplinary design practice owned by my dear friends Nidhi Aggarwal and Jaisika Nagpal. They have been doing some fantastic work within the field of retail, hospitality, offices and residential interiors. What I love about their work is the earthy textures, materials and patterns they use which creatively combines modern design with the craft tradition of India. The result is beautiful, simple spaces with rich colors and contrasts. Their work includes the Fab India flagship store in Delhi, Almirah, Namrata Joshipura and now the Anju Modi label. Check out their work here and find them on facebook here.

Pardon my Hindi

Mumbai Smoke by Chiraag Bhakta

As I continue searching for cool Indian prints to get an idea around what we could do for Designwala limited edition prints, I came across another really fun blog called Pardon My Hindi. What caught my eye were not only the prints but the interviews and the overall kitsch aesthetic of the blog. I have eaten Thiru’s dosas a bunch of times and seeing his interview warmed my heart. Chiraag Bhakta runs the blog. Here are his awesome prints for “Pardon My Hindi’.

Annu te Mannu da flat

I stumbled across Shantanu Suman’s work while looking for Indian inspired letterpress work. Designwala will (hopefully) come up with its own limited print edition to sell and we wanted to scope out other talented designers out there who are doing great work. Annu te Mannu da flat caught my eye and so did Truckopoly, a game focused on the trucking industry in India. Here is an interview with the designer in a London design blog called ‘Its Nice That’. Enjoy.

Bombay Production

Tuesday design inspiration is ‘Bombay Production‘, a no fuss, all music, beautifully designed website about Indian music. I discovered it last year but got down to sharing it only today. Get those headphones out and start listening!

ThunkPack : Charge on the Move

Our Inspiration for the day is the ThunkPack which is a bag pack with a solar panel and battery that can charge your digital life ( aka mobiles, tablets, music players etc ). The bag was designed by these very creative people in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. You can buy it here.

India’s eye popping ad style

Buri nazar wale chasma lagale. Read about India’s eye popping ad style here.

Raag Rang

An innovative infographic on Indian classical music has earned Bengaluru student Pratyush Gupta a design excellence award at the Pune Design Fest 2012. see here

tablet vs tablet

Aakash – A low cost tablets aim to revolutionize education and access to technology across the world.


Kyra is a compostable, completely natural, environmentally sustainable, detergent powder made from certified organic soapberries- Visit Krya website here

Veronika Scott has designed a coat

Veronika Scott has designed a coat, that doubles as a sleeping bag for the homeless in Detroit. More on the Empowerment Plan.

Favela Painting Project

The Praça Cantão, Favela Painting project, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2009-10 /© Haas&Hahn

A school designed by architect Mohammed Rezwan

A school designed by architect Mohammed Rezwan for a flood-prone area of Bangladesh/© Abir Abdullah/Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha

Digital Drum

The “Digital Drum,” a solar-powered public computer kiosk in South Africa made from a recycled oil drum / © UNICEF Uganda/2010/Jean-Marc Lefébure

electric vehicle

An electric vehicle useful for developing nations.

A Surgical Light

A Surgical Light For The Developing World


BANG BUA CANAL: A renovated public walkway, top, along the canal in Bangkok, where residents are helping to design cleaner places to live.

The $7 Carryall

The $7 Carryall for carrying heavy loads in the developing world.

guerrilla urban works by Urfun

Anonymous, spontaneous, guerrilla urban works by Urfun