agency JWT has put in place an independent design unit called Honk. Honk will be based in JWT's Gurgaon office and will focus initially on the agency's Delhi clients.
Set up as a brand design studio, Honk is looking at designing every consumer touch point. It will focus on graphics areas such as corporate identities, packaging and retail in the first year, and enter into 3D areas such as product and space design, probably even sound and fashion design, after that.
Ad veteran and longtime JWT hand Syed Usman will be the head of Honk. Usman, who has 18 years' experience in the advertising business, has worked with agencies such as O&M, Dhar & Hoon and Cheil Communications. He freelanced for a year before joining Honk to prepare himself for the world of design.
Bharti, Bharti Retail, Pepsi, Unitech and GSK are some JWT clients for whom Honk has already done or is doing work. Frito Lays, Nestle and Nokia are among its prospective clients. However, Honk will also seek clients outside JWT's roster. It has begun work on projects for Indus Towers and Rajdoot Paints, both of which are not on the JWT roster. Aiming to become a profitable business centre, Honk will pitch for new businesses as long as the brands don't clash with existing JWT brands.
Honk will function as a unit of JWT Delhi and add to the bigger picture of creative and strategic solutions offered by the agency. Extending its services to other cities will be considered in the second year.
"Honk is a startup with big ambitions and being a unit of JWT is one of its biggest strengths. It has access to the knowledge, tools and infrastructure that the JWT network enjoys worldwide. If a particular project demands the involvement of experts from another region, they are just a phone call away. In terms of quality benchmarks, JWT's clients know what to expect from us and we are ready to surprise clients further," says Ohri.
Design requirements have always been there in India and the clients were aware of this - there were just not enough solution providers in the market. Considering the demand-supply gap, Honk seems to be on to a good thing. Other well known design houses in India are the nearly two decades old Ray+Keshavan and Umbrella.
"We in India are lagging way behind the evolved market when it comes to modern design and execution. But that also means we are working overtime to catch up, and catch up soon. Historically and culturally, we are already extremely design rich. Now the time's come to adapt and evolve our own indigenous designs which the world will recognise and appreciate. All this means a big impetus for the Indian design industry."
"India is the next potentially largest market for almost every multinational brand. With 50 brands of soaps available at a grocery shop, and each soap as good as the next one, it will be left largely to design to make a particular brand noticeable in the shop. Right from the shape of the soap to its packaging, the way it is dispersed and possibly even the way it smells will be largely design led. Soap is just one example. We are talking everything from cars and homes to bulbs and pens - all will need design to help them be more efficient, more practical and more noticeable," he says.
With the Union cabinet approving the National Design Policy, design is looking to get support in India with the aim of making 'Designed in India' a whole new benchmark for quality, internationally.
Ohri and Usman chatted with afaqs! about the various markets across the world that understand the concept of design and are familiar with its execution. According to them, there could be no one correct answer to which is the most evolved market in design. Europe has always been considered the most 'ahead of its time' region as far as design is concerned, but Japan is no less in any way.
In fact, any region with a rich historical background has an evolved sense of design, they say. The detailing and acute sense of design that is seen in Indian handicrafts is unbelievable. Africa, China and the Latin American countries also exhibit a similar sense of design. The techniques of executing design differ from region to region, but it's only a matter of time before technology puts everything at par everywhere in the world, they say.
In conclusion, Ohri and Usman say, "It would be fair to say that if design were a religion, it would be so vast that no one god would be able to head it."