Saturday, December 13, 2008

I for Innovate

We were recently approached for designing certificates for an award function. But then whats in designing an odd piece of certificate?!
I understood first what our client had to say and asked if he was open to having an identity for these annual, industrial awards for in-house talent. He liked the idea.
Time for design is always a rarity with many projects I have learnt. We were a week away from the event day. But good ideas always come under the pressure of time!

Two days later when we met the following concepts were rejected...

However, this one gladly made it through.

The plus of this identity is that each year different objects can be used to form the word "INNOVATION".
This was adapted to certificates to felicitate the winners.

Since this was a small budget project we had to opt for digital printing only however we chose special paper for the three positions.
Wish there was a budget to do more experimentation and implementation. But like they say there is always a next time...

Project Closure : November '08

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In a good way

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals respond to the world's main development challenges. Our answer to some subjects close to our heart as well.

AIDS awareness amongst the urbane

"Condoms are for your own safety. It's not big or clever to not wear one"

Water is scarce, use it judiciously

"Clean water from a tap in Africa brings health, prosperity and development. Water is precious. Use it carefully"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Identity Crisis

All businesses are like individual identities, living, breathing, growing, with their unique individual characteristics just like us. Then how can a logo of a company as we so talk about, be just another mark?
Even we get bored of our looks so we go to a saloon to get a haircut or buy a new wardrobe that suits our persona, similarly when the ideologies of a company get old and are replaced by new and fresh ones, its identity gets dated and it needs to go for a makeover that can suit its current goals, aspirations and achievements. A logo for its company, is thus not just a mark, it is its identity. It speaks for what the company is and does, positions it correctly and at times, is a silent salesman.
More and more companies and individuals are rising to this fact today. While others are confused what to say, a creative must have the ability to step into the shoes of the client to understand what is required and bring out 'the big idea' (this has to be in not more that one single word or phrase!) and build around it. The result (not necessarily the design process), in all probability would surely be simple, classic and hopefully something that works in the long run.
Recently at DesignMembrane, our cohesive efforts (us+client) have resulted in a slight shift in brand positioning at Kale Consultants, who are a leading solutions provider to the global Airline, Logistics and Travel industry. The company's identity, though a well-respected and identifiable name failed to show the precision and quality that one can see in their activities and work culture. The Kale globe did not look well- integrated as a form and held no meaning as such for the people associated with the company.

Kale's previous identity

Here's how the new identity was arrived at, altering the form to an extent that it looked evolved and still be identifiable.

Integrating infinite possibilities/ opportunities/solutions

Evolution of form to the final look

Colour scheme became a modern palette, type was also changed to suit the new look. The orange and blue hues represent the horizon. We used Helvetica Nueue for the tag line. The characters for KALE also in Helvetica Nueue looked taller and were streamlined to overcome the weight imbalance. Other variations in colour and black and white for web, print, for screen viewing and in reduction were also created to maintain consistency across all media.
This change in identity has called for an overhauling of all corporate stationery and collaterals. Here is an example of the corporate brochure from what it was in the past to its fresh new avtar.

Then and Now

A kite being used as a metaphor for aspirations and an extension of the horizon (between sky and land) in the identity. The catalogue opens with these words by actor Lauren Bacall: "Imagination is the highest kite one can fly"

The new look certainly positioned the company a level above "the me-too" clutter of other companies within the segment and is more appealing to its staff and associates. The pride they take in owning this new look gives us the belief that it is here to stay and resonate what Kale Consultants is as a brand.

Project closure: June '08

Design Instantly?!

I was both nervous and excited to be at Mahindra & Mahindra Pvt. Ltd., a leading automotive company for a project briefing.
The brief was simply to design a poster for an annual campus recruitment event. I suggested we would need more articles for visibility on the ground like the stall backdrop, the stall itself, give-aways, the works. The client gave two clear phrases to comprise for the basic message,
1.Freedom at Work
2.Opportunity to grow
The target audience was young graduates and students from various engineering colleges. Besides M&M, there would be other companies with their promotional stalls as well.
Little did I know that I had been given precisely 24 hours to come up with a concept so that it could be presented to the head honchos for final approval.

I thought the deadline was crazy and wanted to turn it down.

Can I really do this?

I was already getting ideas on my way back from our briefing. Obviously there wasn't a chance of a mistake to make as there was no back and forth possible here.

Here is what was presented at the end of 24 hrs.

I said-
"Grunge often referred to as the Seattle sound is a sub genre of alternative rock that was created in mid 80s by American bands. Inspired by hardcore punk, heavy metal and indi-rock, grunge is characterised by heavily distorted electric guitars, contrasting song dynamics & apethetic lyrics. Many grunge musicians were known for their unkempt appearances. It continues to impact modern music.
Indian college youth today listens to such music as this, together with Indi pop and raga at the same time. This is often reflected in their lifestyle in the form of clothes, accessories and hairstyles they sport."

And this is what I had on my slide,

The two posters that lay emphasis on the phrases given in the brief, to which we added some copy of our own. We also suggested two lines from our side,
1. Clutch the opportunity and accelerate your career
2. If you have the drive in you, we'll give you the wheels
They bounced it with their internal team and reverted saying that they'd prefer these over the phrases.

The posters went ahead with only slight changes in copy. We made bookmarks for give-aways and had the illustrations for the stall backdrop up in the next three days.

We are flattered to see these very illustrations on the M&M official t-shirts as well. They still read "If you have the drive in you, we'll give you the wheels" !

Project closure: Dec '07

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The first client will always be special to us. This was an architects' firm based outside Mumbai, in Hyderabad which meant all communication had to be over phone and online. I had met the proprietor of the firm Mr. Suresh Manikonda at a friend's wedding reception where we had been first introduced. A young dynamic entrepreneur, at that time I so totally related with him and what he planned for his new venture. I thought it would be very exciting to work for him.
A few days past he called in to say that I had been hired to do an identity for his company that he called Archism. I really liked the name as it almost sounded some sort of an art/architechture movement.
I was hooked...

Initial sketches

This led to four different directions that were presented.

Directions taken

1. The basic emphasis here was on the alphabet 'A' from ground zero view. This would symbolize higher goals, aspirations and more literally, high rises.

2. This one was smarter than it seemed! To give you the complete picture this one is ARCHIS.M., 'S' and 'M' being the initials of the man who coined the word Mr. Suresh Manikonda himself.

3. Archism brings a change to the skyline.

4. Alphabet 'A' in dark and light, play of negative and positive spaces, some draft lines added to give it an under construction feel.

First feedback

We were most certain that option 2 is what would catch our client's eye. It was to be, however he wanted to have a symbol and not just a logotype even after sighting some real logotype examples from existing brands. He insisted that it would look too plain and would go amiss.

Usually when a concept is designed it is presented there is a core idea which at that point I strongly felt would get diluted with another symbol being added. After a few more days of trying to leave behind what was attempted and looking at things afresh we concentrated on why the client wanted a symbol at all. Probably his clients were ordinary people who would miss the dots of the initials, probably at a construction site he would need to have a symbols for uneducated laborers to identify...the reasons were many...

Further Engineering

Of the basic five elements, Earth is represented with a square. Square also represents stability and thus a solid foundation. This is where the basic structure of a yantra comes from and temples are constructed on this basic principle.

In the drawing above one can see how the symbol is arrived at. It constitutes a square (symbolic of earth), Four arrows (cardinal directions) and Five dots (elements: earth, fire, air, water, ether). The light and the dark shade of the blue represented day and night.
The logotype was Futura (a typeface well known for its geometric proportions) which was modified slightly letting the alphabets go from light to bold (L-R).
Suresh loved it!

The symbol and the logotype were integrated and further fine tuned for production of basic office stationery for our client.

The Final Run

Here is how the final artworks looked like. We were also given the freedom to select paper of which the sample was couriered across for approval.
Since the symbol was appreciated so much we even thought a tesellation might add some bling and colour around the white.

Here is how it finally turned out.

I was thrilled when Suresh received the shipment and called in to say he loved it all...

Project closure: Oct '07


It's been an year of highs and lows since DesignMembrane took off. This being my first post on this blog, I would like to share how I came about a name for my studio.

What's in a name?

At first there was a constant debate within self whether to give it my name or another name and identity of its own. I was tempted to use my personal name and was not unaware of Chermayeff & Geismar, Sagmeister Inc., Macnab Design etc. However I faced two main problems in this regard,
1. I had tied the knot and was still undecided about my own identity ( Swati Chandak, Swati Chandak Sharma, Swati Ankur Sharma?!)
2. I also believed a studio ought to have an identity of its own as it stands for not just one person but is a cumulative effort of sorts, including its clients.
And hence the search for a befitting name began. Some names eventually got rejected as no domains were available.
I concentrated on the main activity of the studio "Design"; design, I believe cannot be an activity in isolation, it percolates, engulfs and embeds everyday things, strengthening, supporting and consolidating ideas, constantly acting like a membrane, if one was to objectify the verb. And so, why not call it DesignMembrane. This is the reason why I never give space between the two words!

The Grill

Once the core idea was in place, I began with the first process of sketching out what I wanted. People in the same profession would agree with me on this that designing for own self can be the toughest task one could put oneself to.

...Then began some initial doodling on the computer.
I also designed some mock business cards to see if the logo could work when extended to different collaterals. It really helped in the elimination process.

...And the three finalists are...

The first option was rejected majorly on the basis of legibility issues when reduced to small size.
The second option carried forward the ideology well however the type and the form somehow did not fit-in well together.
The third option was cool and I loved it, though I couldn't help agreeing to the fact that the word 'Design' was totally lost.
I worked around the basic concept of the second option and here is what I achieved...

I knew this was it! I bounced it off with friends and took their opinions as well. The next step was to fine tune the logo for print at first as I needed a business card instantly to give prospective clients.

A labour of love

The final logo extended to basic office stationery...

The next important step was the website that I shall share about in another posting soon.