Creativity has no boundaries…and at Ajay Shah Design Studio (ASDS) it has no walls either. Steel grey floor to ceiling length curtains separate and merge spaces. Gleaming LEGO green and yellow chairs and tables lie scattered across the predominantly monochromatic studio. They are designer Ajay Shah’s own creations. “Designing furniture is what I love to do best…my kind of furniture. Not the chop-a-little-wood-here-saw-a-little-there carpenter kind”, he says as we step through one of the curtains into his office. Ajay has completed over twenty years in the profession but his newbie-like passion for design is unmistakable.
I caught up with Ajay Shah for a chat on his design philosophy and what drives the creative juices.
What is the one thing that you like most about being a designer?
For me, the best thing about being a designer is that I can work on a variety of subjects. I love the fact that I can apply design thinking to various scenarios and scales, be it a 4 or 5 lakh square feet mall or a pen. I love the challenge. Of course sometimes it can really also get to you!
Did you get formal education in design?
Yes and no. I studied furniture design at NID but the rest of it just happened by default. I started my first design company 4 years after graduating and took on every project that I was approached for from designing fans to touch-screen kiosks. We never said no…we still don’t. We have stumbled into various different design spheres because somebody found something we had designed interesting and approached us.
What projects are you currently working on?
Our largest thrill currently is our in-house stationery brand, Rubberband. We are focusing on expanding its scope by developing a range of pens, folders, document holders, etc.
We are also designing a mall which we are hoping will provide a completely unique experience to the visitor. We are trying to create the DNA of the brand, define it like a person and then transfer the attributes into the design, interiors, graphics, signage, etc. The goal is to impress our belief that architecture is not just about the buildings, it runs much deeper.
Whose designs do you admire?
Vitra, a German furniture design company. All my favourite designers design for Vitra. It has a fabulous campus at the German-Swiss border where each building is designed by a different architect.
Any driving principle on design?
The end result should always be profit for the client. I am not an artist and for me, designing is not about self-expression. If the design does not drive the profitability of the space or product then it is lacking.
Design is not about structures and materials, it is about ideas and the ideas that excite us are those that are most ticklish!
Do you have to generally work around the client’s wishes or are you able to mould the client as per your design sensibilities?
It works both ways. Sometimes the client trusts us to match their vision with our design sensibilities. At times, it has also been that client interactions have pushed us to stretch the boundaries and achieve a final product far better than what he had imagined it to be.
Of the various domains that you design in, which one is your favourite?
Furniture. Our furniture is modern, unique. You could say that we take an almost industrial design approach to furniture; it requires a real sense of precision. Sheet metal folded into chairs, fibre glass moulded and cast into tables and benches…lively colours. It has not been easy to market our vision of contemporary furniture as India is only now changing its perception of modern furniture. But we have plans for our furniture line in the near future.
What would you like to change about the city you live in?
So much! The list is endless! I strongly feel that everyone is focussing too much on the larger changes. Why not assign a small stretch of land, say a road from point A to point B, and let somebody re-organise it?