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Writer: Priyanka Nair - Monday, Nov 19,2012 6:32 PM

Quick five with Tata Elxsi’s Shyam Sunder BK

In this age of recurring market uncertainties, a key challenge for organisations is to optimise costs without compromising on the customer experience. They are, therefore, continuously striving to create new products equipped with cutting-edge technologies. As the fervour of harnessing ‘design thinking’ for strategic advantage and innovation continues, more firms are looking to reinvent themselves by becoming design-focused.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Shyam Sunder BK, Chief Designer, Tata Elxsi explains the design process of Indian products and how clients are looking at this practice. Excerpts:

What are some of the key characteristics that one needs to keep in mind in the process of product designing?
The definition of a well-designed product is no longer limited to just how the product looks and feels. It has now come to include various other aspects such as ease of access, use and storage, while at the same time making the product more efficient and economically viable. And this is where design comes into play; design essentially refers to the process of putting together form and content, so that the product is not only appealing but also enhances the basic functionality that it aims to achieve.
 
A key feature that must be kept in mind while designing and packaging a product is that the design should be simplistic and un-obstructive in nature and in the process should help the consumer use the product better. Whether it is a luxury car or a smartphone, design acts as a key differentiator, synonymous with the brand. At a very basic level, it is important to understand that a good design is one that blends simplicity and complex design solutions to encompass ease of use for all kinds of users.

Thus, any design that leverages the benefits of latest technology available, is tasteful and has an aesthetic appeal instantly clicks with the consumers. A well designed product should also cater to the core requirement with minimal effort. Moreover, the device should be so designed that it functions accurately and consistently and at the same time should be ergonomic and minimalistic. Thus, instead of making design just one of the several steps in the production process, an increasing number of companies are now realising the importance of embracing the principles of design as a whole in order to create products that not only reflect the values of the brand, thus nurturing consumer loyalty, but are also sustainable in the long run.

Indian marketers today are very conscious about their product’s look and design. What are your observations on this?
The buying patterns have undergone a huge paradigm shift all over the world. The mobile and the internet revolution that has taken the world by storm have created a breed of radical consumers who are well aware of the purchase choices available to them in an international market scenario, as well as of the return on investment. An average customer scans the retails shelf in as less as 20 seconds.

So while the aesthetic appeal of a product is of significant importance, the consumer is bound to choose a product with certain attributes that are best suited to his needs/expectations. Consequently, there has been an increase in the spend on the packaging and designing of products, since marketers realise that consumers today have evolved from simply buying things off the shelf to studying the physical attributes or attractiveness of the container vis-à-vis understanding how a particular product can add value to their purchase.

Hence, a product that has done away with the unnecessary frills and has retained the one or two basic functions that the consumer is interested in will score higher over a product that merely looks good but does not allow for the ease of use, access or storage. This trend that is characterised by Indian consumers is also catching up with consumers across the globe.

Typically when does the process of design thinking begin? What are its various stages?
Design thinking today can’t be just driven by a client brief or a specific requirement. It is  an ongoing activity that encompasses people, economies and technology. However, design development can be classified into three phases. We have our own design process called icube. The first phase is about understanding the eco system of product that needs to be designed which includes understanding consumers, their unmet needs, the industry challenges, implementation challenges, to name a few.

Based on the understanding of these elements, insights are developed which serve as inputs to develop creative directions. Based on the creative direction selected, the design is given its due form and functionality in the ‘innovate’ phase. Aspects such as innovation in terms of shape, dispensing, material and stacking is considered and several design are created.
The final shortlisted one is fined tuned and any flaws are eliminated. The design thinking is also extended to the implement phase where the product is transformed from a digital image to a physical one through design engineering. The design of the product is  then shared with the client to be manufactured.

What role has technology played in revolutionising product design?
Technology has been one of the key drivers that has brought about a radical change in the product packaging process. With the evolution of newer technology every day, marketers are trying to provide consumers with products that assimilate the benefits of latest technology along with allowing for simplicity in usage.

Structural engineering has played an instrumental role in the evolution of packaging and design, whereby through the means of integrating the key technologies required for a particular functionality, companies have significantly reduced costs; thus, eventually creating more efficient products at more affordable prices.

A key role of technology in the evolution of product design and packaging has been to ensure that the products not only create a market pull of their own, reducing the company’s marketing-advertising spends, but also are reliable and do not invoke warranty through failure. Tata Elxsi has lent design expertise for several products across sectors, and implemented innovative designs to make the brands more attractive, efficient and affordable, through the collaboration of creative design knowledge and technology.

Please share some of the recent work done by Tata Elxsi?
Our recent key projects include brand identity and packaging design for Ocean Herbal, a premium Ayurvedic brand; packaging design for Servo range of lubricants, Navratna Cool Talc, and Bru Exotica and Bru Gold; graphic design for Danone range of yogurt products, etc.

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