Ananya Pathak
Design Digest

"Overall, we are seeing a shift to simplicity": Ambrish Chaudhry, Superunion

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 Ambrish Chaudhry, managing director, Singapore, India, Indonesia, Superunion (a global branding and design agency with a consultancy offering), has to say:

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

This crisis is a real point of reckoning for design and brand consultancies. Those who focus on creating genuine impact for their client’s business will thrive. Warren Buffett famously said, “Only when the tide goes out, do you discover who's been swimming naked.” Well, the tide is well and truly out, and only businesses that have treated design and brand as crucial to business growth are well placed to weather the storm.

It is also incumbent on the industry to showcase its true value. As years’ worth of behaviour change gets scrunched into weeks, there has never been a better time to be in branding and design.

How has the client brief changed? How are they looking to leverage design to gain customer trust, especially at a time when the overall consumer sentiment is quite low. What role does design have in helping a consumer trust a brand?

The pandemic is getting businesses to ask fundamental questions around sustainable growth models, and it’s pertinent to have the brand be part of such crucial discussions. We’ve had clients approach us for multiple reasons. Some to identify feasibility of different pivots, some to maximise the efficacy of the brand and ensure it is working as hard as possible, some to lay the foundations of the future, and some even to figure out the best ways to respond to an unexpected growth spurt.

The one thing in common for all these businesses is the need for a partner that understands the dynamics of their industry, can inspire stakeholders to create a compelling future vision, and ensure that that brand is fit-for-purpose to live up to that vision and can use design to bring it to life.

How has the visual tone of communication changed since the pandemic started? Are brands turning to a new set of colours/visual markers of hygiene (such as foamy hands)?

It’s horses for courses really, and different brands have different approaches. Overall, we are seeing a shift to simplicity where the message and the tone of voice is coherent with the brand’s beliefs and focuses on the benefit for the customer. Fortunately it’s not a great time for the flashy ‘design for the sake of design’ type of work.

The pandemic has accelerated habit formation in a few sectors, especially personal hygiene. How can product design and the visual language of communication help accelerate habit adoption in consumers?

As we were seeing in multiple categories, particularly technology and online businesses, the customer was already getting adept at new ways of doing things and forming new habits. The pandemic has only exaggerated trends that were taking shape. For example, we were already seeing rapid adoption of both digital behaviour and the focus on sustainability well before the pandemic hit.

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?

I think the pandemic puts into sharp focus the strengths of winning businesses. The essence of a thriving design practice is having people who are passionate about creating great work and are not afraid to push boundaries and create their own briefs; all in close collaboration with their clients.

The pandemic has only reinforced the need to genuinely commit to client relationships, fight in their corner and take great care of your people. At Superunion, we’re lucky to have that as our ethos, and it will continue to drive all decision making post COVID, too.