There is this big myth about the design profession in India.
For far too long, design in India, has been perceived as an elitist profession. It deals only with large corporates with larger appetite for risk and rewards. It is relevant for capturing huge markets and imagination of large volumes of users. Small industries can, however, make do with old design that caters to a loyal, but limited markets.
This is farthest from the truth. Design is applicable to any industry, big or small, as long as they have achieved strength is manufacturing or marketing.
Small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) in India are hesitant to venture into design projects, because they believe in this myth. This only leads to stagnation and dwindling returns for the small entrepreneurs.
This is just one of the myths about design and designers in India.
I have listed a few here. How many do you believe in?
Design is a luxury
No, it is not. It is an absolute necessity. Manufacturing and marketing organisations of all sizes need design to keep their business afloat and keep their product lines refreshed. While some designers work with large lifestyle corporations, a sizeable number of designers, service the SMEs.
Design is expensive
While entry-level costs may be high in some cases, design can help in reducing costs, cutting on inventory and ends up paying for itself. When Eveready, an industry manufacturing flashlights, approached us for a new design of a product, we not only made an attractive product, but combined parts that saved extensively, the manufacturing costs, resulting in enhanced market shares at a lower cost.
Design can be pinched from the internet
There is a large section of industries that believe that copying from the internet is alright. They believe that it goes un-noticed. Besides, being illegal, it is also foolhardy to apply somebody else’s design on to our products. The attractive design that you see on web pages is the result extensive understanding of the user experience as well as manufacturing constraints. What is applicable to one industry will most definitely not work for your situation. Besides, why copy when you can get products custom-designed for your customer requirements, to be made in your factories, at a cost that is applicable to you? And, be a law-abiding citizen, too.
Design calls for extensive changes in the product lines
Designers are trained to solve problems. We are also trained to understand constraints and design for the situation. Hence, designers give solutions that are most suited for your product lines, in keeping with your philosophy. This means that it is possible to get new products designed without ruffling existing product lines.
When Creatives, a small industry, approached us for a new range of children’s products, we kept in mind their product lines and designed a new range that complimented them.
Designers do not understand your requirements
Designers are professionally trained to understand constraints. All projects begin with an extensive understanding of requirements. A design brief is evolved and agreed upon, which forms the basis for new product development. This is done so as to avoid misunderstandings.
Designed products are difficult to manufacture
Design is not about pretty products. It is about making products that fit your brief and suit the market. Designers spend extensive time in trying to understand and articulate your requirements. This would include understanding manufacturing constraints, materials and process requirements, user comforts, aesthetic requirements and costs.
In our studio, we work with all levels of manufacturing: handmade products to high-production and develop concepts that suit that level of making.
We designed packaging from Kashmiri handicrafts, using local materials and crafts, so that the packaging could also be locally sourced and made.
Design takes time
Design is a pre-manufacturing investment that needs consideration. In trying to find a solution, you may spend more time in developing than correcting mistakes post manufacturing. All factors need to be considered, which may seem like a longer time but it is worthwhile.
When HERO MOTORS wanted a new engine cover, we designed it in record time predominantly through emails and calls, reducing valuable development time from mind to market.
Design means large investments
This is also a myth. Small design changes like introducing new product colour schemes, substituting materials, doing product graphics, refreshing the packaging, reducing parts are all small but effective way to introduce a design culture into your organization. These can be done with minimal or no new investments. It also brings quick, but desired results.
So, you still believe in these myths?
Design is no magic wand, but it comes close to it. It gives you the confidence of a new, original product that is functionally perfect, aesthetically appealing, easy to manufacture and sustainable. It helps you create new markets for your products and extend old ones. It helps in positioning your product amongst the clutter of ‘me-too’ products. It helps you rationalize your investments and cut costs. It will help shatter all the myths about design for SMES in India.