I have always been fascinated with products used in everyday life. Understanding the purpose of their existence, the way they work and how they can be improved, sparked my interest in product design. It is the perfect blend of functionality and analytical reasoning combined with art and sculpture that I enjoy.
I was on the lookout for a career choice that dealt with such aspects. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in product design and working with the design industry, I realized this was indeed the right fit for me, and I went on to do my Masters in Industrial Design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.
Being from a varied cultural background has provided me vivid insights into different cultures. Having been exposed to schooling and a semester of studying design outside the country helped me gain a wider perspective.
Some projects are driven by cultural contexts, needs and problems to solve. At other times, projects were driven by different goals, like material exploration, innovation and aesthetics. Adapting to these diverse requirements is essential, and thus has led to an ever-evolving design process.
Technology, social change and design drive each other. We experience moments together with people who are miles away but also connect with our immediate environment in new ways defined by technology.
‘Pi’ encourages people to work around the countertop, aiding social interaction and distribution of work, while making the experience joyful. This kitchen is based on the concept that social cooking promotes a healthy food habit.
‘Pi’ is accessible from both sides and if cooking alone, one can stand within the unit, thus bringing all the utilities within reach. This increases productivity and cuts down time.
Sharing also happens by virtually cooking with friends and family, or sharing recipes of meals, thus inspiring a collective effort to eat healthy. ‘Pi’ can analyse the quantity of food that you require, assess its nutritional value, and suggest foods to balance one’s diet. It remembers previous meals and can suggest the exercise one would require to burn calories.
It can also read out recipes while you cook, suggest healthy dishes to cook based on the ingredients available in one’s kitchen, adjust details based on the number of people one is cooking for, set up a cook-share and centrally control all appliances.
The form and structure of ‘Pi’ represents togetherness. The space around the countertop converts into a casual dining area, celebrating the time spent making the meal, and saving space.
‘Presence’ is a public seating concept based on the premise of fleeting human interactions. The person sitting on the bench leaves behind a notion of their presence that lingers for a while and then disappears.
People directly impact the environment around them and this dynamic surface adapts to people’s actions. The seating explores the use of thermo chromic touch sensitive glass as a material, as it retains alluring patterns after the bench is used.
My other design is for a device used for insulin delivery that uses needle-free technology. This makes frequent use by diabetics a relatively comforting thought. There is constant monitoring of the blood glucose level, providing the user with feedback through alarms and reminders when required, helping one have a carefree day. The reading can be discreetly monitored and insulin administered as required.
Then there was this project done for the high speed trains of the German railways. Here, culture provided a very strong stimulus in defining the outcome. The changing German demographics and its social implications, the needs of the elderly and the basic requirements of hygiene and ease of accessibility shaped the space.
The universal design of the room adjusts to the variety of users – business people, tourists and regulars, as well as those with special needs. It is easy, intuitive and has a quick learning curve and requires less physical effort and maintenance. The experience is hygienic, requires minimal touch contact and is assistive when required without being intrusive.
The conventional air cooler has been redesigned to solve the current issues faced while using the product. This evaporative air cooler can be placed against a wall without affecting air intake. Outlet for the air is from above and can be directed towards any side of the room.
The form provides good surface area for better cooling through the panels. The elevated translucent water sump acts as a visual indicator of the water level, while making it easier to drain out the water.
Text By Malvika Sainath