With design thinking increasingly being recognised by brands as a necessary brand tool for positive differentiation, Elephant Strategy + Design, India’s largest independent strategic design outfit with a presence in Pune, Delhi and Singapore, is experiencing a steady increase in the number of new clients. Last year, Elephant Pune added over 15 new clients from diverse domains, which included Axis Bank, BCCI (CLT20), Essar Steel, General Mills, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, Heinz, Mars International, Piramal Realty, Promethean Power, Reckitt Benckiser, and Wagh Bakri Tea, while Elephant Delhi added over 10 new clients, including Delhi Duty Free.
In conversation with exchange4media, Ashwini Deshpande, Director, Elephant Strategy + Design, spoke about some of the significant work executed over the year. She said, “Over a hundred projects of varying sizes and impact were executed between Delhi and Pune. The Complan re-launch, Britannia NutriChoice snacks launch, Suzlon One Earth experiential branding work, Experience Strategy, Design and visual language for Axis Bank, strategy, identity and communication for Delhi Duty Free, visual language for Champions League T20, and two innovative cookware ranges designed for Nirlep would be the highlights.”
The year was lucrative on the awards front as well. Elephant won Merit Award for retail design for Venky’s Xpress chain of quick delivery chicken outlets. The first edition of the Designomics Awards recognised examples of excellence in strategic design for the year 2011. Nirlep won the first ever Designomics Award for Strategic Brand Identity Programme done by Elephant.
Mukund Bhogale, MD, Nirlep, said, “Nirlep has partnered with Elephant for product design, product innovation, branding and package design since 1990. The newly launched brand identity, freshly defined brand values and a sharper brand vision has helped the company to streamline internal as well as external image and processes, which in return brought in 50 per cent more revenues. We couldn’t be happier.”
Britannia was conferred a Special Designomics Award for Outstanding Package Design. Britannia has been partnering with Elephant for branding and packaging work since 2006. Elephant created/ rebranded and packaged Britannia brands – NutriChoice, Marie Gold, Bourbon, 50-50, Treat, TimePass, Tiger, Tiger Zor, Pure Magic, Choco Decker, Cakes & Breads.
At the CII Design Excellence Awards, Elephant’s work done for Suzlon One Earth Global campus at Pune was recognised as the best Environmental Design. Elephant was also given a special excellence award as ‘best of the best’ across several categories for the same project.
However, despite winning several accolades, standalone design firms still don’t receive as much recognition for their contribution to building a brand’s image when compared with ad agencies. Agreeing with this, Deshpande said, “Design is a much younger profession in India. We believe sound design thinking is the foundation of good, user-led product or service. What advertising agencies do very effectively is to communicate about that product or service. But designers rarely are able to iterate the impact of good design as we still don’t have measurement tools. As the developmental and exploratory nature of work that necessitates confidentiality, design agencies do not speak about the process or details before or sometimes even after launch. And once launch happens, media is in a hurry to write about campaigns. So, design agencies do not get their due for sure.”
As for the focus areas for the year 2012, Service Design will see a lot of action at Elephant. Deshpande added, “Ongoing practices of product innovation and branding will continue to grow, but with a broader focus on Asia as our Singapore team is ready to bring in richer insights. As for adding a location, it is a strategic decision. Pune will always remain the centre of excellence for innovation and design at Elephant. We started Elephant Delhi in 2008 to be able to offer stronger strategic connect for national clients with base in North India. The Delhi team has also gained business from the East. Elephant Singapore was started in 2011 for global businesses, being handled from Singapore. There are no plans of adding a location in 2012.”
Deshpande divulged that the firm might be strengthening its operations with the addition of a research team this year.