24 September 2013

Notes from Kyoorius Design Yatra, August 2013

By Divya Sharma, Account Planning Director (JWT, Gurgaon)

The atmosphere has changed only slightly since I first attended in 2008. Slickly organised as always, the projection screen actually stood out as impressive; rectangular with two wings, the slides were made in these new dimensions and could build sideways or as one long strip; gave the speakers interesting possibilities for telling their story. 

The theme was “Create Change

Paul Hughes spoke of the difference between 'change' and 'transformation' and almost every talk displayed the responsibility for change at the creative industry, right from where each of us sits. Not clients. We bring the change through our beliefs. Laura Bambach of Dare UK said “there’s no such thing as a bad client - only a difficult one.”

Highlights for me were Bart Kresa of BartKresa Design and Melissa Weigel from Moment Factory both working in video mapped projection on buildings – stuff of dreams; Dharamveer Kamboj a farmer and inventor who got a standing ovation for his machine that can process any fruit, flower or vegetable into pulp, juice or extracted oil at the change of a setting – he has enabled farmers to process tomatoes right at the field for the freshest ketchup, make rose petal oil or aloe juice depending on the crop, created 200 jobs for wives in his village making strawberry jam; then there were font designers from Ek Type who developed usable indigenous font families out of truck and juice shop graphics; Karin Fong from Imaginary Forces, Laura Bambach from Dare UK, and people from Cinimod, Fitch, Facebook..

Sharing bits and pieces noted down; in parts. Starting with Margaret Stewart of Facebook. The room was packed to the rafters. She spoke some good things in a quiet way. The cynical lot who can’t show they’re impressed by anything of course sniggered about how she 'said nothing’; as if she could have shared FBs algorithm with us. I liked “Design for people where they are, not where you are or where you wish them to be”

Director of Product Design, Facebook
What does it mean to make change happen?

It’s easier to think of change slowly, over time. Or as sudden with design that calls attention to itself.

But sometimes change is slight, small, unseen.  

There was an exhibition at the MOMA in 2004 later made into a book : Humble Masterpieces (Everyday Masterpieces of Design)by Paola Antonelli that made me think about the things we live with every day and not notice. They are so perfectly designed, we don’t see them. They are human centred at the core. Useful. Easy to use. Effective. Things like the band aid, an ice cream cone, the brown paper bag. They don't call attention to themselves.

In the same way, there are digital platforms that are not about high design. In fact they almost look bland. But they change the way people live with each other. Interact.

Facebook. YouTube. Twitter. Instagram. Google search.

These platforms have engaged and impacted a huge number of human beings in the last few years. They affected us all. And they all had people, and people’s content at the forefront.

So what do these platforms have in common?
  1) They are open and adaptive
- they are living organic systems
- evolve through time
- depend on the world
- they don’t resist change, they are extremely sensitive to change

  2)  Human centred
- all focused on people
- trying to solve some need – information, connecting

  3)  Human driven
- don’t depend on an elite group
- discovery and creation is by billions of people around the world
  On Facebook, everything in the world is seen through the lens of your friends.
  You see the world through people.
  4)  They are invisible
- the technology is massive, the algorithms are powerful, but they heighten the
experience without being there (visible) 

5)   Neutral aesthetic
- makes all content come out looking good
- all of the world feels welcome

6)  Lastly they’re beautiful
National Geographic: Life in a Day (produced by Ridley Scott) : a crowdsourced documentary film that selected clips submitted on YouTube in one single day July 24 2010


Be open to change
- all these platforms had a different plan when they started
- they stayed adaptive, watched how their design was being used by people

Be a facilitator
- co-design with the world

Make it about people not technology
create change with humanitarian design
- empower people

Design for people where they are, not where you are or where you wish them to be
World changing design must have a lot of humility.

19 September 2013


By Divya Khanna, AVP & Regional Planning Director (South Asia), JWT Bangalore.

“I am the one in ten,
A number on a list.
I am the one in ten,
Even though I don`t exist.
Nobody knows me
Even though I`m always there –
A statistic, a reminder
Of a world that doesn`t care.”
- Ub401

Anyone who has ever expressed an opinion has felt the pressure of showing proof to support that feeling in the gut that tells them it’s true. There has to be an example to prove the opinion or at the very least to refute its absolute opposite. And when the opinion will impact the direction of where large sumsof money are to be invested, nothing less than statistical data will do. But why does this data automatically get the air of authority that trumps the most impassioned and gut-felt belief?

I do get it – a belief, by definition, could be different from what’s actually out there.

Similarly, by definition, a probability is not necessarily a certainty.

And extrapolation of data is, evidently, an extrapolation.

Let me explain what I’m trying to say. Just because “only about 15% of C-suite jobs” in America are held by women, it doesn’t automatically mean that without the alleged discrimination they face, women would be proportionately represented in these jobs. Such an assumption, and it is an assumption, would not take into account the other factors at play. For example, as Sheryl Sandberg mentions in her book ‘Lean In’, the tendency of women to downplay their achievements and give credit to other people versus the opposite tendency of men. Or the evidence that many women, as they move up the corporate ladder and simultaneously raise their children, start to make career choices that don’t head towards earning them a C-suite job.

When we reduce a person to a number, we feel more certain as numbers give the illusion of certainty.

But there are 2 caveats to keep in mind:

1. Numbers too can be misinterpreted and manipulated. Just ask anyone who’s ever committed or detected an accounting fraud!

2. We are losing the nuances of the person behind the number. Every woman of the 15% in C-suite jobs is not like every other, there are bound to be differences that may not allow a one-size-fits all approach in any decision regarding them as a group.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe statistical data is useful. But we must always remember its context. The language of data is just as uncertain as the language of gut – the terms probability, extrapolation, assumption, levels of significance, etc. are evidence of this. There is anecdotal evidence to support (but not confirm) every side of the argument between qualitative and quantitative based decisions. This suggests that we can either side with one and take our chances or combine both sides to improve them – but at the end of it, no matter what we do, we are still taking a chance and cannot be absolutely sure of any definite outcome, except in retrospect.

1 One In Ten lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group
2 Harvard Business Review, September 2013, South Asia edition

11 September 2013


By Siddhant Lahiri, Account Planning Manager, JWT Gurgaon

A wise man once told me that change cannot be inflicted upon people – it must be infected. A head-on confrontation will invariably face resistance from those who are set in their ways; for change to truly occur, it must be seeped in gradually, pushing the envelope one inch at a time.

I was reminded of this last weekend, when I was watching the delightful Shuddh Desi Romance. This is a film that, even if it doesn’t create change, will certainly create ripples. This essay is not a review – rather, this is a discussion about films (and this one in particular) as a barometer of changing attitudes amongst young Indians. Films are often said to be a reflection of society – but films need not limit themselves to mere reflection. When done correctly, they can lead, they can teach; they can force society to think, to believe, to question and sometimes even change.

This film is remarkable for the way writer Jaideep Sahni and director Maneesh Sharma create a world in which daring, revolutionary events occur, but so subtly and casually do they take place that instead of affronting sensibilities, they seem like the only natural course of action.

Prima facie, this is a film that deals with live-in relationships – which is hardly revolutionary new ground. An increasingly common phrase being brandished about today by mass media, advertising and TV serials, live-in relationships were introduced to mainstream Bollywood seven years ago, via a reasonably entertaining rom-com called Salaam Namaste. It was the story of a couple who were in a live-in relationship simply because, due to their different work schedules, they had no other way of spending time with each other. Since then, many films have shown couples who chose this lifestyle out of willingness, not as the last resort. However, Shuddh Desi Romance pushes this to a whole new level, and in the process challenges a lot of the classic Bollywood conventions – as well as those of the traditional Indian mind-set.

Live-in relationships in this film are approached with a refreshingly frank casualness. This becomes doubly important because this story, unlike Salaam Namaste, is not set in Australia. It is not even set in Mumbai or Delhi. The story takes place in a very middle class neighbourhood in Jaipur. The couple embarks on this living arrangement with an incredibly nonchalant attitude, wasting no time in bunking together literally from the second time they meet, and not for a second are they concerned about society, parents, etc. Sure, he is officially still introduced as her ‘brother’ in order to not offend some social fabric, but the film acutely observes that this fools no one; while simultaneously pointing out that the couple do not let the society comment on or intrude into their living arrangement. It tells us two things: living in is only as big a deal as you make it, and society will only matter if you let it.

The film is traditionally mainstream in that the characters eventually do succumb to love and progress towards a happy ending – however, these characters don’t necessarily believe that their happy ending should be the same as yours, or any of the ones we have been fed by films. Once all the romantic complications are resolved and the central couple has decided to settle down with each other, the film casually, almost inevitably, threatens to veer towards a ‘they-get-married-and-live-happily-ever-after’ conclusion – and then, in a reassuringly, blessedly confident ending, it shuns the entire notion of marriage as the only eventual destination. This is behaviourally consistent with these characters: after all, both the parties in this commitment-phobic couple have run away from weddings earlier, and the film thankfully does not try and accommodate a traditional happy ending by piling on a last-minute reversal of beliefs for them. This modern couple sees no reason for a marriage – they are in love, they are together, they are happy: where is the need for a big, exhibitionist wedding or the impositions of a marriage? If it is argued that the eventual aim of a marriage is to live together happily, then this couple is already doing that, without all the other unnecessary trappings.
The boldness of this ending cannot be understated. In all the films that have ever depicted a live-in relationship, it is viewed almost as an apologetic precursor to the eventual wedding. However, to this couple, and perhaps to many urban lovers in India today, living-in is not a rehearsal for marriage: it is the real thing; an equally valid life choice. The argument is simple: get married because you want to, not because you have to.

It must be remembered that this film comes from the house of Yashraj Films. Yashraj Films, in the world of Indian cinema, is effectively the embodiment of the establishment. It is a company which, for over thirty years, has fed us one wedding video after another. It is impossible to go to any wedding today without feeling like an actor in a ‘Best of Yashraj’ music video. Then again, it was this company that also brought us Salaam Namaste.

People often believe that Hindi Cinema will change because of the wild, experimental film-making of the outsiders in this industry: the Anurag Kashyaps, the Dibakar Bannerjees, etc. But that is a misconception – these film-makers live on the fringes on the industry. Those on the fringes can never bring change at a mass level. If an industry must change in anyway, change has to happen at its fulcrum, by people with substantial mass, and who can genuinely affect things – people like Yashraj Films. The fringe players at most are the missionaries – their task must be to convert, to infect; they must inspire change at the fulcrum. Arguably, this is starting to happen – not only are their films starting to affect the films of the Goliaths (be it in terms of actors, technicians, subjects or story-telling techniques) but the fringe players are increasingly collaborating with the latter to create change at the fulcrum. In fact, Dibakar Bannerjee’s next film is a co-production with Yashraj Films, starring Sushant Singh Rajput.

Thus, rather than the harbingers of change, the fringe players and the outsiders must be the missionaries – because real change will only happen when those in the fulcrum have been infected.

Someone told me that for a film that is so eager to severe ties with the conventionalities and coy-ness of the traditional Hindi film romance, it is ironic that the film is called Shuddh Desi Romance (Pure, Indian Romance). Perhaps. Perhaps it was intended as irony. I see it as extremely acute: when India is changing, why should the definition of the pure Indian romance stay the same?

(For more details on the complete study, please write to siddhant.lahiri@jwt.com)