A Designer of Everyday Objects

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We live in a country which is packed with art, craft, colours and everyone relates to design. When we see a beautiful dress or attractive chair or abstract design bowl, we tend to appreciate the creator or designer. A designer narrates a new perspective through his/her design.

Odisha groomed Paul Sandip, is an international award winning product designer, alumni of National Institute of Design, Electrical Engineer and a Cartoonist. His unique creations blur the lines between design, art and craft. All his intuitive and useful design serves both a purpose as well as narrate a story, balancing between form, function and cost, making it desirable to its user. He is the only Indian Designer who has won international Red Dot Design Award (twice), along with other numerous international awards. He has designed many iconic everyday objects in varied product categories for clients across the globe.

Observation punched with the idea of creating a ‘useful art’ is what drives Mr. Paul Sandip to introduce an awe factor to what he creates. Team Coffee Bytes spoke to renowned designer, based at Noida, about his journey and connectivity with Odisha.

You are termed as a designer of everyday objects, how do you identify an opportunity for design?

Why does your soap dish look the way it looks? And why do you hold a spoon the way you do? You probably wouldn’t have lost any sleep over these questions, not even when they didn’t work, right?

Everyday products are numerous and ubiquitous. They form the material framework of our existence, enabling it to function, not only in practical or utilitarian terms, but also in ways that give pleasure, meaning and significance to our lives. But why don’t we notice them? Most of us travel by the same route every day, do similar tasks every day, go to same places and although we are awake and seeing things around us we are not actually looking at them consciously. Hence, such products are frequently taken for granted. Design, to my understanding, is much about having an eye for such details and bringing back life to mundane objects. I would like to emphasize on the act of ‘Observation’ as a necessary tool to design useful products.

I was a professional cartoonist before I donned the designer avatar. As you know, the observation skill of a cartoonist is very critical, yet subtle. I notice everyday life situations very minutely that others may miss and focus on problems as design opportunities. I notice everything around me, from door handles to multi-plugs to kitchen tools and try to come up with better designs. I always say, don’t just see, look. That’s the key to innovation.

My designs are guided by user expectations, which are often felt but never fulfilled. Peeling down to the heart of the (sub) conscious human behavior helps me reveal the magic of effortlessness with design, creating a comprehensible, delightful and character-full product.

You are an award winning product designer, what is your process of defining your style and how to locate a product of your design?

I am a designer of everyday objects and prefer not to impose a ‘fit-to-all’ aesthetic language to my projects; however, the common thread is the utility that I add that brings the wow factor to the user. I believe in voluntary simplicity. It is about wanting less. It permits one to spend less time on adding superficial clutter and more time bringing in less-intimidating experiences, fresh insights, and more comfortable relationships between the product and the user. Since, there is nothing more uncommon than common sense, my solutions are mostly already in your mind but you have not seen them yet! That is what has a sticky effect on the user’s mind and you tend to remember it for a longer period of time, making the product iconic.

From an awarded cartoonist to an eminent product designer, How has been your journey till date?

Since childhood I had inculcated a habit of writing anecdotes about small events such as school picnic to Nandankanan, sightseeing of Khandagiri, visit to the Science Centre, or to the Circus and the likes. I was completely unaware that gradually my observational skills were getting an expression through my essays which I would write in my personal journal called the ‘rough book’. My hobby took a professional turn when I was in the 9th grade and started writing short stories and illustrating them for ‘The Statesman’, Kolkata. In 1998, I went to Nagpur to pursue Electrical engineering and on the side started my own pocket column ‘Not as you see!’ for an English daily, ‘The Lokmat Times’, where I commented on the current affairs of the city with my cartoons. While I was struggling to keep up with my engineering studies with barely passing marks, I was awarded as ‘Cartoonist of the Year 2000’, by Nagpur University. One day, on my way back from work at 3:30am in the morning I noticed something that made me think in a very different way. I saw these young delivery boys with rolled up newspaper struggling with all their might to aim and send across paper rolls to the second and third floor balconies in the apartments. I felt empathetic and decided to do something. I designed a spring loaded newspaper launcher, which eventually won me my first design award in 2001.

That was the point where I felt, what if I could put my observational skills to not just draw cartoons and make remarks about problems in everyday life, instead become a solution provider to those problems which I have identified.

In 2002, I was selected by the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad to pursue my Post-Graduation in Industrial Design. While studying I applied for my first patent for the design of a coconut cracker.

During a small stint with Whirlpool in Pune, I designed the ‘utility drawer’ to store onions and potatoes beneath the refrigerator. This utility was much appreciated by the consumers, so much so that the idea got replicated by not one or two, but the entire trade. Today, most of the brands have a refrigerator with a bottom drawer.

 

Soon I was spotted by GM Modular in Mumbai to design innovative switches and accessories. I designed about 69 products in a span of 6 months. The most iconic ones are the Spherical Bulb holder with invisible screws, the angular multi-plug with gravity lock and the switch plates with 90° rotational possibility. Both the bulb holder set and the switch plate idea caught the attention of the entire Indian Electrical Product Industry. Now it has been adapted by almost all top Indian companies apart from a plethora of medium and small scale manufacturers. These designs have changed the stereotype and are now seen as standards in the Indian electrical accessory trade. Also hugely exported to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

I was awarded by Shri Narendra Modi as a ‘Designpreneur’ in 2005 for designing a disposable folding toilet mug to be used in the Indian Railway lavatories. The same year I was hired by LG Electronics to identify latent consumer needs in the home appliances segment, where I devoted 9 years travelling across the country, visiting over 200 homes and identifying consumer pain points to create unique selling propositions (USP’s) which got successfully implemented in refrigerators, washing machines, microwave ovens, televisions and air conditioners.

My journey so far has been one that is completely unplanned and I wish to continue with my quest into exploring, developing and presenting concepts and ideas that do not yet exist, but can. I love this unique relationship I share with uncertainty.

At the outset of a career in product design one is bound to be lured by the glamour of creating elitist objects of desire. By doing so, you start selling the ‘designer’ and not the design. You would then be focusing on mere superficial differentiation and not innovation. Industrial designers are meant to bring good design at affordable prices with their strong technical know-how of mass manufacturing techniques. The cost of a product lies at the tip of our pencil. It is very important for a designer to think through the complete process of manufacturing the product even before it has been given a definite form or function.

Which is your personal favorite design from your list of over 300+ creations?

It will be rather unfair on my part to pick one design as all ideas are like my babies. But, if you insist…the Angular multi-plug will get my vote.

Design was common interest, how did you meet your better half who is an eminent toy designer?

I met Suhasini in Nagpur. She was instrumental in getting me introduced to the editors of a couple of Marathi Newspapers where I later contributed as a caricature artist. We were classmates in engineering and she joined NID a year later to specialize in Toy Design and Development. I’m happy that she has carved out a niche for herself to an extent where her name is imprinted onto the toys designed by her, which are sold in more than 14 countries. Together we design products, toys and lifestyle objects for clients globally.

How did Paul Studio take shape?

Paul Studio is our creative den where we live and work from. It’s a home office managed by just 2 of us who are extremely dedicated to our profession, so much so that we live a creative life 24X7 and feel that every product we design has a part of us in it. Of course, we are supported by our large network of vendors and suppliers whom we engage with on contract basis depending on the expertise required for specific projects.

Sandip you belong to Odisha, How do you keep yourself rooted to Odisha?

One way that I keep connected is by revisiting my memories of Odisha through sketches, I make of the various places I have travelled within the state. Secondly, I cook Odia recipes once in a while and thirdly by not losing any opportunity to speak the language whenever I meet an Odia person.

What do you miss about Odisha?

I was brought up in Bhubaneswar. I really miss the short trips made to tranquil destinations such as Taptapani with my parents or a day trip to Puri and back. I miss my childhood friends, whom I have not met in person since I left St.Joseph’s High School in 1993.

Odisha then in your childhood days and Odisha now. How do you perceive the growth in designing  opportunites in the state? 

Well as a child, I did not even know that such a profession existed. Nor did my parents know about industrial design. It actually is a very rare profession. I accidentally happened to chance upon an advertisement from NID about the Product design course in an English newspaper. There are not many practicing innovators in the country. In my 14 years of design career, I have not come across any manufacturing company from Odisha seeking design and innovation intervention. It could be that there is still not much awareness and I see that as an opportunity to create design sensitization programs with the state government to benefit the MSME’s and the Start-Up community.

As a successful son of Odisha how do you intend to give back to your homeland?

Being a registered design and innovation consultant with the Central Governments Design awareness programme which focuses on exploring activities to develop a holistic map of MSME clusters and units, I would like to initiate design sensitization workshops which can generate design information about products, market scenario, technology, communication, research and development, and various allied functions along with human factor study for ergonomics, safety, convenience, learning and skill up gradation through design research. The programme can also provide design remedies for identified opportunities through the design clinic workshop.

If you are bestowed with power for a day, what would be the thing which you would like to change for the betterment of Odisha?

I believe, change is impactful only if it is a continuous process. I would like to bring about awareness about the power of creativity to improve everyday life.

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