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February 20, 2013

More posts of mine are now at design extents



Car of the future

July 3, 2010

(In response to the question “What will the car of the future look like?” at )

I would imagine the car of the future will be much like the car of the past. It may not run on petrol though and would have to be old-age friendly but will probably be the means for personal transport. We think otherwise only because of the present congestion on the roads and the rising population growth coupled with the oil crises etc. But as trends in most parts of the world show, population growth will level off in the next few decades and will decline thereafter as is happening in much of the western world. (Take a look at The Depopulation Problem by Philip Longman ) We could be in a situation where public transport is the more expensive option with fewer people to distribute costs. Besides, public transport alone will never fulfill all transportation needs.

In a way aren’t we asking, ‘Would it be better to replace private enterprise with State alternatives?’ Well, so far such models of governance have not been satisfactory. Besides, Nature would prefer variety and difference to sameness?

Not a Typical Day!

July 3, 2010

A mother and son visited us this morning. She must have been in her sixties. She was slender, bespectacled and dressed immaculately in a silver grey sari. She had a presence which made you respect her immediately. The son was young, tall and extremely respectful towards his mother. He seemed to be charged while at the same time hesitant about impending changes in his life.

That is why there were here. They want to start a business. Actually, the son wants to get into business and his mother is planning to fund him seed money. They didn’t look as if they were rolling in money. Which meant they would be using up most of their savings. The new business better be real good.

Well, how good can a ‘roti maker’ be? Yes, a gadget to make rotis for the over worked Indian housewife. You put in atta on one side and you get garam garam rotis on the other. I have heard this one before. In fact, I have discouraged two other budding entrepreneurs with similar intentions.

What is a designer’s role really? Is it to question what the client wants to do or is it to do a good job of whatever comes your way? Well, you have to restrain your initial feelings and give an unbiased ear to the client.

“So, how many prototypes have you made so far?” I wanted to know.

“Well, we haven’t made one yet” said the son, “But, what do you think of the idea?” he asked.

I took a deep breath. So many great ideas never find a life. It is a long and treacherous journey from bits to atoms. I too generate a lot of good ideas, myself. In fact I have a collection of them filed away in lots of sketches and notes. All waiting for the right amount of funding of both time and money. And one prototype is never enough. James Dyson claims to have made five thousand prototypes before launching his vacuum cleaner. We cannot afford that many. We have got to do it in a lot less – fifty maybe? Even that is a lot of time and money without counting the effort that goes into all the frustrations and ecstasies of conceptualising and detailing. It is not that I don’t have the patience to nurture and find the right iteration that could find a life for itself. But they haven’t even started yet. And it just felt like such a long climb.

So I told them “Don’t put your money into this or in me. It will take a long time and a lot of money to develop a decent product.” A cloud lifted. They relaxed. The mother even gave me the hint of a smile. They thanked me profusely for the advice and left. Yes, they did save a lot of money for the hour they spent with me. All the money they never spent.

Now here I am. Another client lost. Another project gone. And both had come seeking me out. This is becoming a habit with me these days. How I long for that typical day when a client lands up and says “Mr. Korjan, I have always made at least a hundred times of what I invest in you. I don’t know what to do with all this money, now. So here’s a million dollars – give me whatever.”

Wicked, but I like it that way.

Design Thinking is different in the way design solutions are different (from, say, management solutions) while engaged with the same problem. Invariably, design always throws up a new creation (tangible or intangible) or re-creates an existing entity that redefines the problem state altogether.

(comment in response to Don Norman’s article on Design Thinking at


December 13, 2008

I have about three working definitions for design which I am reluctant to reconcile into one – not just yet. They go like this.
1. Design is meaningful creation. There is always creation in design whether you are dealing with tangibles or otherwise. You always end up creating something or non-thing that did not exist before. Meaningful – because it is a conscious, deliberate process. The process is always meaningful even if the end results turn out to be meaningless.
2. Design is a process of increasing Contrast or Uniqueness. Whether visual or otherwise we always add value in such a way that it is different from all that exists. Therefore all the attention that a new creation gets could be explained like the flow (of electricity) that happens when you have a (potential) difference.
3. Design is about re-arranging information flows. In order to bring about change it is necessary to change the relationships i.e. the various interconnections which determine the qualities of an entity (an object in our case). These interconnections are the structure of the object and are primarily channels of information flow. When a connection is altered the information flow is altered and the behaviour / output is altered. Lovers getting married, clubbing a camera with a cell phone, adding GPS to traffic navigation, count-down units at traffic lights, changing the seat height of your chair etc. etc. are all examples of such structural alteration and therefore alteration of information flows leading to change in behaviour / quality of experience.


June 15, 2008

Yes, there is a middleman in the practice of design, who filters what benefits are passed on to the ultimate beneficiary and how much the designer should get rewarded in return. Yes, the client is a middleman – we ought to be able to get to the people more directly.


August 30, 2007


Does the future happen
or is it made?
it happens
each of us
or do not make
our future?