Marvellously Designing Through Constraints: Swapnil Joshi

Marvellously Designing Through Constraints: Swapnil Joshi

N Manyata | Mar 18, 2019

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Roots 3.0 had the fortune to host a talk on ‘Design through Constraints’ by Swapnil Joshi, a product designer at Elephant Design (that has designed for some of the very popular products like Kurkure, Asian Paints and Paper Boat). He is highly enthusiastic, innovative and passionate designer who has taken the design to a different level at Elephant Design by believing that leaving the comfort zone helps in exploring new ideas and know quirky ways to challenge yourself. Having worked with a plethora of organisations like TCS, Videocon, Luminous Power Technologies including Elephant Design, his experience in product design speaks about his dedication, discipline and determination in all his designing endeavours.

Team Monday Morning had the wonderful opportunity to speak to him in person and know more about his life. Here are a few excerpts from his interview:

MM: Please let us know where do you hail from, and a little about your childhood.

Swapnil Joshi: I hail from Nasik which is a city well known for its grapes and also holds the famous Kumbh Mela. I have grown up as an introvert who loves reading. This particular habit helped me become more experimental with life and explore different aspects. I was a car enthusiast as a kid and this inspired me to see myself as a designer in future.

MM: Please share with us about your life at K.K Wagh Institute of Engineering and Research, where you pursued your B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology.

Swapnil Joshi: I knew that I wanted to become a Mechanical engineer even before my 8th standard, as I was always inclined towards the automotive field since the early days of my childhood. I have pursued a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering, before earning a Bachelor’s degree in the same from the K.K Wagh Institute of Engineering and Research. Having completed a Diploma helped me understand a special experience of helping others out by making use of the concepts that I had learnt. In this process, the concepts got more refined and were brought to a level where they were appreciated and gave a clear idea of what to pursue ahead in terms of their personal choices. I feel lucky to have been mentored by professors with whom I shared a good rapport. They in a way helped me gain a clear value of what I want to see and what I want to do ahead in life. Although they had completed their Master’s degree or PhD in Mechanical Engineering, they had an inclination towards other aspects in the creative field. This served as a guiding factor for me.

MM: What drove you to pursue your Master's degree in Industrial and Product Design from IIT Delhi after having pursued your B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering? Also, how do you see Designing as an important perspective for one's career?

SJ: A dual combination of a Diploma and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering helped me gain a deep understanding of various aspects of engineering. I was working in TCS in the same field back then when I got exposed to newer opportunities to explore other fields like Value Engineering, Six Sigma, shoe costing, analysis, etc. A Mechanical Engineer would love to die for these additional perks and dream of designing and creating a physical product after learning this aspect of engineering. I thought on similar lines that someone is going to me furnish me with inputs in the form of a brief, a drawing or a model or simply a question to answer in terms of engineering, to move ahead. Then I started to find a solution to understand how do they come up to that question or what do they do to get the question right. This led me to understand something more than engineering so that we can look into those aspects, critical in deciding and defining the problem statements for engineering. I have been lucky enough to be guided by mentors associated with the National Institute of Design (NID).

Design can be defined in terms of a holistic approach that goes beyond problem-solving to incorporate various aspects of the ecosystem in which a product is used. It is a confluence of technology, business and thinking that encompasses the whole aspect of design or product activity. One needs to consider all the aspects to develop an understanding of all elements that lead to a successful design. It is not merely about creating magnificent products or good experiences. A successful design is a by-product but understanding the little aspects and getting a clear idea of what leads to what is something the designers taught me and helped me become a successful designer.

MM: You have had worked at TCS as a Design Engineer for quite a few years before serving as a Leading Product Designer at Elephant Design Pvt. Ltd. How has been the journey and experience so far?

SJ: In a nutshell, TCS forms one of the most crucial part of this whole designing journey. It is the very first company that I have worked so naturally, it helped me learn a lot of new things. TCS actually gives a lot of emphasis on development in terms of its employees and their working levels. Being the first project trainee to who received a Value Engineering certification served as a driving force to push my boundaries and try out new things. I learnt how to get out of my comfort zone and think out of the box. One needs to put in the time, efforts and hard work (or smart work) to experiment at the early stage of one’s career. These attributes eventually laid a good foundation to how I am right now at experimenting with fresh and quirky ideas. My experiences of working at TCS actually paved the way for defining my work life at Elephant Design as I helped my team realise a product in terms of thinking, executing and seeing to what the people perceive. These three different stages form an indispensable part of every activity that you do, be it design or engineering. This is what needs to be looked at to be successful. I have always strived for inculcating these since the inception of my career starting with TCS to Luminous Power Technologies and numerous other companies.

At Elephant Design I have worked on numerous projects that I hold very close to my heart. The beauty about working here at a consultancy is the exposure one gets in terms of the numerous clients be it Symphony Air Coolers. They help me understand how a problem crops up, how it can be dealt with and how inflexible a system can be. Similarly few clients include startups that are so flexible that they give you the luxury to guide them, align them in the right direction so as to turn them into a successful venture. I consider ‘Plezmo’ to be one of the best projects that I have worked upon. The biggest achievement is to see your product get displayed in the market and the people give a critique which need not be good all the time. Plezmo has been widely appreciated in different countries and is picking up at an appreciable rate. We are currently working on new coolers in association with Symphony Air coolers which is its path-breaking flagship product.

MM: You have always believed in leaving the comfort zone to explore new ideas and finding quirky ways to challenge yourself. How do you manage to manifest these ideas and strategies in all your designing endeavour and also how do you think technology has been a driving factor for you as the lead product designer at Elephant Design.

SJ: Technology plays a large role in terms of Materials technology and manufacturing processes. It gives us a lot of exposure as it influences the way we look at things. The more I see people explore different aspects in their fields whether it is the gaming or the music industry, the more I get inspired to easily replicate it in my field. The only thing is that the context changes. In a way, it helps you to understand the context and see where the application lies.

People generally have an exaggerated bad habit of copying or relating to an idea directly. This actually does not serve the right purpose. We need to add ‘salt, pepper as well as other spices and cook it’ to our needs and then see what comes out.

Technology drives new trends in innovation and growth. I consider two questions at every stage, firstly if it is enough and secondly if something more could be done. I assign a ‘yes’ to both the questions. The next step is to understand the ways to do it. Creativity is always enhanced under constraints.

MM: How was your overall experience at NITR and interacting with the students?

SJ: It was a great experience interacting with the budding engineers of NIT Rourkela as these students were ready to understand and explore things. Although they belonged to different departments yet they had a desire to pursue their creative mind-sets. The next challenge lies in how do they take it forward as a single interactive session is not enough. They need to push the boundaries to see if they can have something more than that. As undergraduates, they have ample amount of time and opportunities to work around and experiment with fresh ideas.

Engineers can do a lot of different things. The key idea is to just focus on a couple of aspects and pursue it with 3 D’s: Discipline, Determination and Dedication according to their personal levels. They will eventually push in their limits and always do better.

MM: On a concluding note, what message would you like to give to the readers?

SJ: NIT Rourkela offers an excellent platform in terms of exposure and opportunities to found out different attributes of themselves. Engineers do a lot of different things. They just need to purse them. Just keep going and push yourself!

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