Abhinav Anand
Design Digest

"Health, safety and hygiene were becoming critical keywords in every design brief": Neha Tulsian, NH1 Design

In our series 'Design Digest', we explore what the world looks like from the desk of brands' design heads, as they face new challenges.

Here's what Neha Tulsian, founder and creative director, NH1 Design, has to say:

How has the ongoing crisis changed the challenges design teams are facing? What is the biggest change?

The three main challenges include:

  • Engaging prospective customers online, and eventually getting them onboard.

  • Delivering on tight timelines, while learning to work remotely.

  • Building deep working relationships virtually.

With all our client communication, which used to be face-to-face, becoming virtual, building trust and relationship with new clients required a complete paradigm shift. Initially, we had some inhibitions, but eventually, we found our way through.

From a delivery perspective, we adapted to remote working early on, after focusing on putting the right process and systems in place. This ensured the teams could deliver on tight timelines, while learning to coordinate with one another efficiently.

But the single biggest overarching challenge was maintaining mental well-being. It’s real, and impacts all of us.

How has the client brief changed? We're sure it's more complicated than putting virtual masks on brand logos...

At first, in March, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the change in brief we were expecting was not having any brief at all to work on. However, we were pleasantly surprised.

Organisations across industries, from the new age startups to some of the traditional ones, took quick decisions and embarked on the journey to evolve, and repurpose themselves to solve their customer’s challenges. They were either quickly innovating their existing offerings for the 'new normal', or launching completely new services/products. And, the briefs reflected this urgency and evolution.

Second, health, safety and hygiene were becoming critical keywords in every design brief.

The other aspect we saw was brands were reflecting inwards to ensure they stayed true to who they are, and why they exist. And, they wanted to communicate all this to their stakeholders at various levels. So, even if the offerings were evolving, they were still true to their purpose.

Everyone is dividing time and reality into pre and post COVID. For a design executive and leader, what does the post COVID world look like, in terms of work, skill sets and related demands?

No one is an expert any more. For most companies, this is unchartered territory, and we all will be discovering things together. This creates both a challenge, and an opportunity. So, we need to be ready for a constantly evolving brief. The way I sometimes joke is we may have to fly an airplane, while still designing it.

The single skill set that will help us succeed is the ability to be agile. How fast can you understand the customer’s changing environment and respond to that.

COVID is here to stay for another 12-18 months. And, this will lead to behavioural changes in the society. As designers, we need to reimagine the brand experiences in the COVID affected world.

For example, look at delivery services. Never before have we been so excited to receive a package delivered to us. How can brands redesign the complete unboxing experience? How can brands delight their consumers, while reassuring them about their safety and hygiene protocols?

What is the future of dining out? What could a new dining experience be like?

The future of hospitality? How will the guest experience evolve with the pandemic?

How can FMCG products communicate their source and (product) journeys through their packaging stories? New problems will give way to new design solutions.

"Never before have we been so excited to receive a package delivered to us. How can brands redesign the complete unboxing experience?"