Abhinav Anand
Design Digest

"I feel liberated to hire talented people from anywhere": Ashwini Deshpande, Elephant 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 Ashwini Deshpande, co-founder and director, Elephant Design, has to say:

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

As designers, we are trained to navigate uncertainty and ambiguity to arrive at solutions for challenges. You have to know that Elephant is located in Pune, with absolutely no client in sight for about 150 km for all of its 31 years of existence. Which means our teams and clients are used to communicating and working with each other remotely, with minimum number of in-person meetings.

So, we have no challenge on that count. We adapted to individuals working from home rather smoothly, as we were already using the right tech platforms. However, design is a highly collaborative, co-creative process. Designers are used to building on each other's ideas in a very spontaneous manner.

Not being able to meet your team for 'chai', or gossip, not being able to discuss a tech, or design trend, not being able to absorb the group energy at our Monday morning meetings... all of these are the new challenges. So, the biggest change is the lack of vibe that creative people thrive on.

"Elephant is located in Pune, with absolutely no client in sight for about 150 km for all of its 31 years of existence. Which means our teams and clients are used to communicating and working with each other remotely."

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

Some very interesting and unprecedented future scenarios are being discussed, that reflect in the brief that follows. We are working on a few new initiatives and ideas that are born during and because of COVID. If these probabilities were given to us before March, it would have been difficult to empathise and find actionable insights.

But we are all living those scenarios, and experiencing them first-hand. So, they make for an immense potential to come up with solutions for a better world. However, the biggest challenge is to bring the ideas to life under extremely accelerated timelines, so that their impact starts showing immediately.

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?

Looking at the positive side, the fact that we can work from home efficiently and effectively has been proven. So, I feel completely liberated to hire talented people from anywhere...

Once businesses settle into the new reality and start looking at innovation and future, strategic consultancies like Elephant can expect exponential growth. But that may happen in 15-18 months. Till then, we will continue to look out for ways to add value.