After brooding over my choice to watch the Baahubali films (BB) for years I finally garnered the motivation to catch up on the series yesterday, both flicks back-to-back. Frankly, I have become sceptical to watch mythological/historical period films with the current spate of drab historical Bollywood offerings not providing any entertainment value per se. And then BB fell into the category of ‘dubbed’ Hindi cinema, the ones made in the South but rarely given its due production importance for its Northern masses. It does remind me of the LOTR series but being made in India on such a grand scale (the CGI, et al) made this series that much more compelling to watch. Here’s the funny part – back then I couldn’t wrap my head around the whimsical Internet memes on “Katappa Ne Baahubali Ko Kyun Maara?” (Why did Katappa kill Baahubali?), but after watching ‘The Beginning’ that question came to haunt me too as it did millions of fans in 2015. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait for a year for the sequel (‘The Conclusion’) to get my answer.
I have often had conversations with clients and designers who have a difference of opinion on the virtues of ‘market research’ and ‘user research’, sometimes even using the terms interchangeably. In one such recent interaction with a marketing executive from a large Canadian company with whom I was associating for a consulting project, I was told that ‘user research’ was not necessary for the current circumstances since his company was perfectly cognizant of its customer base. He was referring to the marketing research his team was involved with, and rightly so. In all this, I believed, his goal was to expedite product development by paring down the number of hours and the expenditure required for the user research phase. It should come as no surprise for designers and managers, that a large chunk of their product design commitment relies on a comprehensive overview of the customer base gained from research studies at different times, and any form of research which could serve various purposes during a product’s development journey.
An ardent proponent of the UCD methodology, I firmly believe in the potential of research data in gathering an informed opinion about the motivations of the actual users which would enable me in developing a product’s design strategy, this includes presiding over focus group sessions, moderating personal interviews, or conducting a contextual inquiry study.
The user research exercise is not just relevant to the current state of the product analysis, but as the audience evolves and the product begins to feel redundant, the overlapping data from the market research and user research becomes that much more critical in the product’s design goals. Incidentally, some experts believe in the difference between market research and marketing research though I would like to set aside that debate for now. Instead, the question which I aim to examine in my article deals directly with the significance of market research and user research from the context of a product’s development lifecycle.
It’s quite natural to speak about weather systems in Canada, and especially about its infamous winters. So at the time of this writing as I welcome 2018, the area of Southern Ontario (including Toronto) is under a spell of extremely cold temperatures with a warning to this effect also being issued by the Environment Canada. With the mercury dipping staggeringly over the past holiday season and moving towards the new year, the temperatures now feel anywhere between -26°C to -30°C. It would come as a surprise that I am writing about the cold temperatures in the middle of the winter season, but trust me when I say this, that the winter hasn’t been so severe over the past 2 seasons. A few layers of warm clothes was all that I needed to step out in the chill which didn’t last long, however, this season has come as a wake-up call in which I have had to even cover my face from getting ‘burned’ by the frigid cold air! For now, I am eager to see some warmth, and even the slightest indication of a rising mercury would make things better.
This is madness. THIS IS SPARTAAAA!! pic.twitter.com/7xoVGIHd6e
— Bhooshan Pandya (@Bhooshan) December 28, 2017
As 2017 draws to an end, I had resolved from the beginning to make this a productive year, and more than anything, it turned to be a remarkable one as far as my reading goes! At the onset, there was sufficient appetite to read academic books on design and venture on a learning spree with the sole aim to pick new stuff and refresh my knowledge, challenge some preconceived notions, and change some of my perspectives and help me to go beyond the typical ‘design’ paradigm. In my search of knowledge, I also didn’t realize that I was unknowingly being influenced by the experience and writings from IDEO’s brilliant books and I was lucky to have found some lying on my shelves (that I would refer once in a while) but never got myself around to reading them completely. Now was a good opportunity then!
This is my short review of the magnificent and insightful books on design thinking and innovation this year!
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace / Publisher: Random House) [Book Website]
In this fascinating essay, Ed Catmull charts his career graph alongside the founding and management of Pixar. From his childhood dream of working for Disney to becoming the current President of Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, Catmull recounts his love for animation, leadership, and creativity. In all that, he became instrumental in developing the technology which enabled a newly co-founded animation studio ‘Pixar’ in the 90s to create award-winning movies and disrupt the animation industry forever. In general, this book explores various perspectives in successfully leading initiatives that range from collaboration to communication, and in trying out new ideas fearlessly even if they’re destined to fail. I particularly cherished the chapter, ‘Afterword: The Steve We Knew’ that is dedicated to Steve Jobs – he bought the niche Graphics Group from Lucas Films and spun it into Pixar. My impression about Pixar from reading the book was reinforced, not just as a path-breaking studio but for spearheading the use of technology and collaborative efforts in bringing the finer details of the movie characters on the big screen. And that’s not all, it was most humbling to read about Catmull’s humane qualities as an inspiring leader and an entrepreneur in leading Pixar/Disney’s teams on the large movie projects. It’s an exceptional book and a must read for innovators.
Why Should You Pick This Book?
Having read extensively about Pixar and Steve Jobs’ contribution I was already convinced on getting an ‘insider’s look’ into the processes of the studio. So, just like me, if you are curious about Pixar’s legendary mechanism of making their animation movies that create box-office history over and over again then this book is for you. It’s also inspiring to discover Ed Catmull and his humble beginnings as a computer scientist and leading up to his current standing at Disney. There are some valuable insights to have here. Besides, if you have read the several books on Steve Jobs, you will enjoy reading more about the legendary entrepreneur from a newer perspective.
I literally grew up watching this wonderful symbol around me, the logo of the State Bank of India (SBI), a renowned nationalised bank in India and pretty famous too. And personally, I love researching about how icons and logos come into existence.
I always admired the blue logo for its simplistic design and deduced from my own observation & contextual understanding of the business that it depicted a ‘keyhole’, which signified ‘security’ and ‘preservation’. Whatever the case may be, as I advanced my career in design I was even more curious to know who the creator of this elegant logo was. Then in the 90s, Sudarshan Dheer published the first version of his book ‘The World of Symbols/Logos and Trademarks – India’ which had the best logo artworks along with the SBI logo, but credit was given to the National Institute of Design and the original designer continued to remain anonymous. Until recently, when my pursuit ended with a Quora post from the designer himself which I discovered quite accidentally. And his name is Shekhar Kamat.
Here’s what he had to say about the SBI logo, in his own words:
I had designed this logo in around 1970 at NID. State Bank of India was then and even now the largest bank in India, hence it had many branches in rural India. My thought was to design a simple logo. In those days bank counter had round token with hole. So the idea was to shape logo as simple as the token. Round blue shape was to signify strength, protecting your wealth. Also simplicity of circle could help even one man bank manager in remote part of india to put sign drawn by any painter on mud wall. All you required was a nail, tread and circle can be easily drawn. Colour blue was selected to match indian sunny blue sky. Of course I didn’t write this (my inner idea) at the time of presentation of this design. Certainly inspiration didn’t came from kankaria lake. Sorry to disappoint those who thought it did. But it seems like it has lasted 45 years and i think it looks pretty up to date. Simplicity has it’s own charm!