Abhinav Anand
Design Digest

"Jumping into the world of the unknown is like second nature for designers": Tanay Kumar

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 Tanay Kumar, co-founder, CEO, and CCO at Fractal Ink Design Studio, has to say:

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

Fractal Ink has always been about its people, and the culture around them. So much so that we've had clients spending weeks in our offices because of the vibe they got from the people, as well as the physical space. The current crisis has brought that aspect to a screeching halt.

The transition to technology wasn't all that smooth as we were trying to come to terms with the 'new normal'.

As far as designing goes, it's all about collaboration. The thinking process is embedded within user centric principles. With the users missing, the process became hollow, and we needed to innovate to bring this aspect back to the table.

More so when we're working in the service design business. Each domain here requires us to join hands, and experience what our clients have been experiencing.

Design research and opportunity to go into markets shrinked. We were only able to do online surveys, which isn't the best way to build insights. It was difficult to manage processes like contextual inquiries and focus group studies, which impacted the product development process.

However, the crisis has brought about new dimensions. The initial days were all about connectivity, Internet speeds, and file exchange. People who didn’t have their homes completely equipped for 'work from home' did struggle, but it was a short struggle. People got used to the 'new normal'. Some enjoyed waking up late for office, and appreciated the ease with which work got done.

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

Acceptance. Acceptance. Acceptance. For a long time, we had been evangelising the power of digital. We had seen the reluctance of legacy companies, family businesses, manufacturing, and FMCG to accept the change which was looming over.

This pandemic has brought about a change in the mindset overnight. We are witnessing positive moves from incumbents as well as new players. Both are moving towards digital adoption - without fear and with optimism.

Digital is firmly in the front seat. Today, the briefs have expanded to accommodate ease of transaction, logistics, and internal process change. This has now allowed the designers to leverage the full potential of user centricity and bring hyper personalisation to the forefront.

Even large conglomerates are now thinking about going more granular in their research to build disruptions at Ground Zero. They're no longer hung up on yesterday's legacy.

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?

Jumping into the world of the unknown is like second nature for designers. We are trained to start (off) with a clean slate, and then build our way up. For me, the process of unlearning the strongly embedded behaviours as a professional is going to be a challenge.

While the demand for disciplines like design, which are strategic in nature, will grow, the competition among designers will also grow. Often, we have seen this competition result in a steep change in the development (graph) curve. We're counting on this to transform ourselves to build the building blocks of the future.

'Post COVID (PC)' is now seen as an era change - from BC to AD to now PC. The world is going to become smaller, with integrated views.

While we had already started seeing traces of responsible behaviour from Gen Z, Gen X and Y were still rolling back to bad habits. Suddenly, the sense of making this world a better place has kicked in equally in all genres.

We're also seeing a lot more aggressive and socially responsible moves from most organisations, which will push the skills to disrupt the norm. The need to think out of the box, will be more than ever.