Redefining Design to Make an Impact

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Time to Read: 4 minutes

Sonia Manchanda, Founding Partner,Spread Design and Consulting (India) Pvt. Ltd.

In an environment where design firms find it tough to survive and thrive after a while, Spread created a model which enables conversation and co-creation between diverse talent, putting human experience at the centre while integrating design, new technologies and media to showcase the result.

With evolving times, evolution is required in the way we perceive design. To bust the myth of design being only about the beautification of brands, we recently caught up with Sonia Manchanda, an entrepreneur or more aptly a designpreneur. She believes that

Design has traditionally been seen as a way to add beauty and charm to the brands but to her, design is about creating a difference.

Spread and the Concept of “Design Sense”

Sonia Manchanda, with 20 years of experience in design, set up her new and independent transdisciplinary design firm Spread in October 2015 along with Girish Raj Nair and Mohammad Javed and gave thrust to the concept of “design sense”. The concept as explained by her is about, “authentic intent and creative action”. In other words,

Design sense is a deconstruction of the design process, an understanding of human psychology, a holistic and approach to reframe challenges as opportunities, arrive at an idea and strategy before giving it a creative shape.

Sonia calls Spread a “transdisciplinary design firm” which converges new disciplines and quotes “culturally sensitive thinking” and “communication design” as its secret sauce. Spread believes that to simplify complexity, we must keep human experience at the core of design and hence, they developed the holistic discipline of experience design. In an environment where design firms find it tough to survive and thrive after a while, Spread created a model which enables conversation and co-creation between diverse talent, putting human experience at the centre and integrates design, new technologies and media to showcase the result.

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What also makes Spread unique is their Spread Design Barn which is a consciously designed free-flowing, reflective and multifunctional space, with an organic and artisanal aesthetic. Sonia believes that quality of life is equivalent to their quality of work and hence, both at the Design farm and Design Barn, design is strategy, craft and quality of work and life.

The aim of the Design Barn is to make design accessible, to bridge the design gaps and create opportunities for everyone to learn, create and spread design.

Technology and the Design Space

“Technology to a creator is like a brush to an artist”, said Sonia when asked about the role of technology in the space of design.

Also, as technology becomes the synonym of a brush, she says that it has become easier for someone to become an entrepreneur or a creator. Technology has enabled every creative person to take the baton of their idea in their own hands, without being dependent on any other external stimuli.

She concurred that new age technologies are penetrating everywhere and design space cannot be left untouched. Since human experience lies at the core of Spread, the key technologies adopted by them include augmented reality, virtual reality, drones, artificial intelligence and big data. However, she is also a firm believer of the fact that technology’s role is that of an enabler and it would not bring innovation on its own. Quoting her, “If technology is the brain, design is the heart and innovation can be brought only if both work together in tandem.”

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Bringing Changes at the Grassroot Level

Although Spread has done a number of projects exhibiting their concept of “design thinking”, but the best manifestation of the same along with their desire to create an impact with their design can be seen in their project of “Open defecation free” Karnataka.

This is an ongoing project executed in the rural parts of Karnataka in collaboration with the government of Karnataka. It aims to create long term behavior, change around the topics of waste, water and ODF, going beyond infrastructure and create a movement: Swachhamevajayate!

To make Karnataka and even India Open Defecation Free is a huge challenge as it is difficult to create a shift in behaviours, rituals and culture. Hence, the change has to be from the inside out, instead of percolating top to bottom.

Swachhameva Jayate

Spread designed the movement and named it as ‘Swachhameva Jayate’. The on-going research and design initiatives focus essentially on children and families as their agents of change and the message is spread in many lateral ways. They used their strength of design in multiple ways like instructional, vernacular graphics, videos to create cultural shifts with the desire to bring the change, essentially behavioral change and this is the finest sum up of what Spread stands for.

Village children of Karnataka played the key role in spreading the awareness about the project and as a consequence, lakhs of those rural families have taken the pledge of Swachhameva Jayate to keep their villages clean.

The Future of Design

When asked about the future of design, Sonia says that 5 years down the line, everyone is going to be a designer.

Sonia says that the new generation, which is tech savvy, is keen on doing everything on their own, finding their own business idea and running it and have a deep desire to turn their creative side into projects, products and outcomes for themselves and everyone.

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We may not be able to envisage the market size for design thinking but as digital transformation has a market of $500 billion by 2022, as per a report by Markets and Markets, this leaves a huge space for design thinking to creep in.

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