They say “God is in the details” and for Bangalore-based designer Michael Foley it is a thumb rule that he swears by.
After graduating from NID, Michael started working with Titan Industries, rising from the bottom-up he dramatically changed the face of the brand in the thirteen years he worked there.
In a quest to broaden his scope of exploration, Michael chose to start on his own in 2006 under the label Foley Designs. The team’s work spans much beyond just industrial design, they cover a panorama of creative platforms ranging from environment design, packaging identity, to space design.
Foley Designs had the honour of designing the baton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Indian Grand Prix trophy for two years in a row, the designs of which had been termed as path-breaking by many in terms of its execution of thought and avant-garde design.
From working on traditional Channapatna wooden toys to creating cutting edge smart watches, he has done it all. The secret to his success in a short span of seven years lies in the fact that Michael seldom applies a cookie-cutter approach to design and yet the discipline and enterprise put in each design is the same. Industrious research, collaboration with several skilled facilities and perfect understanding of client requirements drive the creative energies of the firm.
Design is an all encompassing experience and not an isolated state of mind for Michael and that shines through in this interview. Here he talks about the firm’s future plans and the rapidly evolving design scene in India.
Tell us about your journey from choosing design as a profession to finally setting up your own practice?
My interest in water colours and building models as a child did stem a part of my inclination towards design and architecture. I finally felt the best fit with product design as it intuitively seemed right. I joined Titan with the motivation of changing the perspective of watch design. Watch design gave me an opportunity into collaborative creative practices. I spent about thirteen years building the design studio, working on diverse product innovations and understanding the importance of ‘attention to detail’ with everything one designs in a watch fitting into a small real estate on the wrist. This multifaceted experience was key in setting up my current practice ‘Foley Designs’.
Your quest for exploration is evident through your body of work – through different materials, techniques and technologies or the various mediums of design you have worked in. What drives you to risk venturing into new territories?
I believe embracing challenges gives me a unique opportunity to explore and push boundaries, in the hope to find and establish new benchmarks, ideas and processes. I look at these as windows to new avenues, sometimes successful but with a lot of persistent effort.
Is there a person or a medium (not related to design per se) that has inspired you in some way?
Inspiration has evolved with my career; it was originally awe for designers, sculptors and artists who were able to break boundaries in their disciplines, be it artist/explorer Leonardo Da Vinci of the Renaissance period or designers and sculptors like Ron Arad, Alexander Calder to name a few.
From designing Channapatna toys to working on futuristic technology, you appear to effortlessly handle all sectors of design. Is there a design constant you follow or is there always a new approach to every assignment?
I do believe every project needs to be seen with originality of approach; we try and make the effort to reinvent these approaches. What really transcends projects is the thought and sensibility behind them.
You have worked with wood, metal, ceramic, etc. Is there any one material or technique that you wish to explore in the future?
A greater focus on natural materials apart from exploring new manufacturing processes to transform commonplace materials, as well as on innovations in surface quality of materials to transform their apparent qualities.
What are the challenges while designing for the electronic industry? What part of it thrills you?
The idea that technology today can be seen from the lens of a platform for integration is invigorating. This is bringing together a whole new world of relevant yet unusual and smart, intuitive engagement with devices.
Tell us something about the Hot Smart Watch. What are the salient features and how has the feedback been so far?
The hot watch brings a simple innovation of using one’s body to project audible sound from the watch to the ear, making ‘private calling’ possible, a big challenge in wrist devices. The watch has withstood challenges from much larger technology players primarily due to its apt functionality and versatility to adapt to various smartphone platforms.
You have designed the baton for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Indian Grand Prix trophy for two consecutive years. How was the whole experience, especially when your design, in a way, underlines the pride and prestige of the nation?
The projects have been very fulfilling, as it gave us an amazing opportunity to express a nation’s perspective towards sports and build global visibility of Indian design. The design fraternity in India does need such opportunities to make Indian product design more apparent on the global stage.
Tell us something about your collaborative venture TLV and your product brand TILT.
TLV was set up to take ideas into execution. The company was a natural extension of Foley Designs, bringing greater control on projects that required an end to end solution. We built TILT as a venture to express our vision in the home experience space; a brand of lifestyle products that looks at unique Indian insights and opportunities within homes. We have designed smart and thoughtful products that accessorise our personal experiences. TILT explores interesting interpretations of everyday objects with a twist.
What are you currently working on?
We want to explore the domain of public design. As a studio with multi-dimensional capabilities we have started developing concepts in the sustainable energy space, low cost housing and attempting to solve traffic flow in cities by sensible design. These are projects on the anvil and hope to see the light of day soon.
Any new Indian designers’ work that has come to your notice and you have really liked?
I think as a creative fraternity we really need to be a lot more entrepreneurial; the design capabilities in India are exceptional and will soon reach a threshold of impetus for large scale impact.
On a lighter note…When you are out of your design zone what do you enjoy doing?
Quite erratically in an out of the design zone! My current challenge is to try and make enough time to spend with my family.
Interview by Shweta Salvi