Paul Sandip is an engineer, writer, cartoonist, a cook by passion, and of course a designer…. (I dare not end that sentence with a customary full stop as who knows what this maverick designer would choose to master next).
A NID graduate, Paul has had an interesting journey from pursuing engineering in Nagpur to accidentally coming face-to-face with his true calling – design. This two time Red Dot design Award winner (the only Indian to achieve this feat so far) can safely be addressed as “a designer for the masses”.
The man believes in simplifying people’s life through design and that’s precisely what his products Clip and Disposable Mug do. He is on a mission to ‘de-elitify’ the design industry and reach every man’s doorstep by creating ‘best sellers’ and not ‘collector’s items’.
Read further to know more about how Paul, who prefers to be known as industrial sculptor, has been revolutionising the clichés and grabbing eyeballs with his simplicity.
How has design changed you as a person?
My ever-wondering inquisitiveness about “How things are made?” was satiated by this profession called Design. The humongous scope for design intervention at various spheres of life challenge me to make the mundane extraordinary. It’s a way of life for me now. I think design has brought out the best in me because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else for a living.
What are the basic skill sets that you think a designer should possess?
Necessary behavioural attributes that sets apart a designer from any other professional are: Observation – Empathy – Willingness to deal with ambiguity.
Good visualisation and representation skills are good to have but can be acquired through formal training at design schools. Design is an occupation where one is encouraged towards learning by doing!
An electrical engineer by education and a cartoonist by choice, how has this background contributed to your design?
I was born in Kolkata, a city known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. It was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. People here tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a ‘city of furious creative energy.’ For these reasons, Kolkata has often been dubbed as the ‘cultural capital of India’. I inherited the art of story-telling from my parents as well as grandparents here.
I was brought up in Bhubaneswar; a city with unique sculptural and architectural heritage, coupled with sanctity it is one of the five great religious centers of Orissa since early mediaeval days. I imbibed values of life and social concern from my teachers in pre-high school, where I spent ten years of my childhood.
The storyteller in me was noticed by Ms. Swati Ghosh, then the editor of a reputed English newspaper – The Statesman, Kolkata. I started writing short stories and illustrating them on weekly basis, while I was still in high school.
I graduated as an electrical engineer from Nagpur, a city which contains a large number of people from other Indian states as well as people belonging to the world’s major faiths. It was here where I was introduced to a host of varied cultural events throughout my stay…alone, away from home. This is also where I met Suhasini…my ex-girlfriend, now wife.
She introduced me to a host of local news papers, where I used to freelance as a caricaturist. Eventually I was able to start my own pocket column called: “Not as you see it!” with the Lokmat Times, Nagpur.
I was trained to be a designer at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. This is where I realized the potential of Plastic, a creation of human intelligence.
I started experiencing how a complicated product reveals the stupidity of the designer who designed it. This urged me to start thinking on how design should be used less for not to become useless!
Today, after 8 years of having survived several hurdles faced with new product developments, I have learnt to streamline critical processes while co-working with R&D, sales and marketing counterparts…to create impactful design stemming out of insightful observations!
What’s a design constant with you?
I believe in voluntary simplicity and buy unifying form and function I’ll constantly strive to create iconic objects.
It’s a preconceived notion that anything “designer” is expensive. You with your Clip and Disposable mug have slightly altered the notion. What will it take to instill the idea of good design being a practical and aesthetic requisite for all objects?
Once you start selling the “designer” and not the design, objects become expensive. I’m here to kill elitism in design.
The difference between a designer product and a well designed product is as simple as the difference between the price at which it can be acquired and the value which it has to offer. The cost of a product lies at the tip of your pencil. So be careful designers! It is very important for a designer to think through the complete process of manufacturing the product even before it has been given a definite form or function.
Cost reduction is not required most of the time. What is required is cost optimization, meaning if the perceived value of the product can be communicated to the customer as much more than the actual cost then the design is considered cost effective.
Work of your contemporaries that you admire?
Products by my friend Joe Paine in Johannesburg are conceived by innovation and invention, born through modernist ideals, learnt through prototype and experience they evolve into products that may be handsome or handy.
All products are made by hand and with all his love and attention. His work is very warm and affectionate. His ‘Forrester’ planter was nominated as one of the “Most Beautiful Objects in South Africa” in 2012.
Who is your best critic and why?
My wife, Suhasini is my best critic. She is an eminent toy designer, probably the reason why she always brings in a new perspective to my thoughts. Useful Art was initiated all because of her wish to see me exemplify my thoughts about design. She has been an integral part of my design process…which is very random yet simple.
A sustainable design to you is…. use of eco-friendly materials, shelf life of a product or the ecological impact it has?
Systems have to be eco-friendly…products alone can’t. Hence, primarily the manufacturers need to be concerned about the choice of materials, production processes and proper waste disposal. Most materials are eco-friendly, what converts them into sustainable or un-sustainable products is the sense of social responsibility which the producers take upon themselves as well. For example plastic and paper; they always fight against each other…and I love to make the “contextual choice” between them. The foldable mug could have been in plastic too!
Longevity of a product also helps in reducing its carbon footprint.
Realizing today’s and foreseeing tomorrow’s scenario, it was felt that howsoever people talk about eco-sensitivity, consumption of plastic house-wares would still be quite large enough to deplete our natural resources. My project Clip is an attempt to re-define a mundane object to breathe in fresh thoughts in the field of design for mass manufacturing: evoking ecological awareness and accountability.
One way to reduce consumption is to facilitate prolonged life of the same product. Improved longevity of Clip confronts the challenges of waste reduction and supports a productive economy by conserving the embodied energy that was originally used to manufacture it.
Clip is a ‘dual jaw’ cloth line peg with its average life increased two-folds…reduced carbon footprint, easy re-cyclability and better usability. Monolithic design in a poetic yet practical way doubles up Clip’s life! If one jaw is damaged, the other remains functional. It is not only made of post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled/able polyethylene, but further more encourages the use of old fashioned (solar-powered) clothes drying.
Two time Red Dot design winner, a feat achieved by very few in this industry, what does this recognition mean to you?
The Red Dot is a recognised international seal for excellence in design innovation. Winning a Red Dot is a highly effective way to communicate to the world about ones design and innovation leadership, enhancing mindshare and increasing ones brand value. This is the only award that evaluates the submitted entries purely on its design merit and not by who submitted the entries. Designers like me who design everyday objects live in the shadow of successful products.
Winning a Red Dot twice not only highlights ones existence in the global arena but also re-enforces ones competency. It made me feel, the world is my stage…India is my green room! Recognition brings a moral responsibility along with it. The aspiration to excel every time is my biggest inspiration.
10 years down the line, what would you like your work to be recognised for?
After 10 years, if someone reacts to my designs with “WOW! Why didn’t I think of it?” I’d love it. Simplicity is timeless. Being remembered for the ability to re-define the ubiquitous will be very satisfying. I would like my work to be relevant even after I am gone.
When you are out of your design zone what do you enjoy doing?
Design is a way of life for me now. I’m never really out of it…it’s my comfort zone. That’s why I feel: I don’t work…I only play! But of course, I love to cook and ferociously feed on things that swim, crawl, walk and fly.