Pushing the Design Envelope

Pushing the Design Envelope

Hemmant Jha Chief Design Officer Godrej & Boyce

Chief Design Officer

Godrej & Boyce has a far flung history in the designing and manufacturing sector. With the inception of , the company attempts to strengthen the field of product designing via mentoring, reviewing and showcasing the prototypes of young product designers

As the large french sliding door opened to Innovation Design Centre (IDC) of Godrej & Boyce, I was thrilled to discover the cradle of creativity of the company swept by idea notes and prototypes all over the place. In terms of structure, IDC holds multi-linguistic spaces of individual workstations, collaborative cubicles, an open-end platform for workshops and seminars, and material laboratory, to name a few.

As I walked along the trajectory of design ideation to prototyping workshop to the finished products, I sensed positive vibes resonating across IDC where the designers and engineers at Godrej & Boyce worked together at brainstorming ideas into reality.

It could be rightfully said that the whole of IDC is a workshop and a display arena. A plethora of diverse raw/waste materials stacked together to be put to a better use; a prototyping shop, although small, holding the capability of bringing any novel design to life; and a variety of pre-finished products which undergo an elaborate and vigorous design process – a far cry from anything my imagination could conjure.

A good product design is shaped up by a vigorous process of amalgamating art, science and technology. What’s a product with high functionality values but low aesthetics, or the other way round? According to Hemmant Jha, Chief Design Officer, Godrej & Boyce, “At IDC, a truly good design is a seamless amalgam of materials, manufacturing processes, ergonomics, comfort and environmental footprint. To us, good design goes far beyond aesthetics, yet is equally essential.”

Following the commitment to set a high bar in designing products and a selfless interest to pass on the wisdom to fellow upcoming product designers, the company introduced an invigorating platform – Godrej Design Lab – for young designers of India. “Young designers have great potential in sculpting a novel product. They have got creative ideas and share mutual interest to project them to the world. But lack of resources, money and influence holds them from achieving their ideas. The idea of Design Lab is to collaborate with these young minds and enable them to carry out an entire process of bringing their ideas to life. We will provide them our factories, manpower for prototyping their design and, possibly, have our vendors execute their prototype. And ultimately, introduce them to the large audience at the ID event,” he briefs.

With the company’s wide spectrum of products, it’s natural to witness hundreds of diverse waste materials – from locks, furniture to aerospace – amounting to a vast material laboratory. The designers of Godrej & Boyce look at these wastes as raw materials for their design ideation. They explore their possibilities – strength, versatility, textures and behaviours – to incubate new ideas, and prototype those to put them to the best use, which in turn leads to zero wastage. One of their recent projects, sculptures made out of typewriter parts, The Lotus and the Mandalas displayed at Godrej & Boyce, stands testimony to their commitment and vigour indesigning of the product.

Jha emphasises that with such vast resources available under one shelter, “if the young designers are given an opportunity to explore their horizon, it would open up their mind; broaden their thinking; and most importantly, it would communicate to them that anything is possible!”

Product designing sounds fancy and one assumes that it’s created to the whims and fancies of a designer. But, in reality, the designer goes through an excruciatingly painful process right from designing, procuring of materials to prototyping the ideas, in tandem with one another, before its mass production. So unarguably, there seems to be a slight hitch in projecting out the creativities to the masses. “If one has to mass produce a product, it is essential to have knowledge of materials and their availability, the process of mass production and availability of machines. The lack of exposure to the designers, in India mostly, makes it difficult to prototype their ideas to life,” he expressed.

The initiative of Godrej Design Lab involves a vigorous mentoring of the selected young product designers and meticulous review of their prototype – concept, material usability, technology adaptation and uniqueness, to name a few. But more importantly, “The designers are expected to be ambitious and invent incredible things. We want them to broaden their perspective as possibilities are absolutely endless,” he said on an encouraging note.

Product designing is indeed a niche field that has engraved a significant mark in the design field. Basically called industrial designing, the field covers a broad spectrum in a world where everything around us is ‘designed’! This initiative, thus, is an attempt to raise the awareness of good design in the world and further offer the designers a chance to establish themselves in this niche field.

With this I can only anticipate an increase in the product designers in the community and look forward to spectacular things to shape up our world! p

About the Spokesperson
Hemmant Jha, Chief Design Officer at Godrej & Boyce, has more than 18 years of experience in architecture and design. He has a Master of Architecture degree from Yale University and an undergraduate degree from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.
Hemmant is the Founder and Executive Director of Wheelwell, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the creation of products and technologies for physically disabled people.
Before joining Godrej Design Center, he was the Design Director at IA Collaborative and was responsible for conceptualising, designing and developing products and building environments for IA’s global clients.
He has also worked with Sony Electronics Design Center across Los Angeles and Tokyo, and with Harman International Advanced Research Group in Los Angeles.