Our guests for the next Huddle, Mohor Ray and Rajesh Dahiya, are founders of CoDesign, a design studio well-known for producing thoughtful, creative and top-grade work consistently. The duo has been defining the designscape in the country with their inspiring work, and not just for the brands, but also with projects that were initiated for the love of design, like an out-of-the-box creative event, and a deciding book chronicling works of Indian designers. They have always placed a firm step in the direction where none have ventured. Tomorrow, on 29th August 2020, this creative couple will be taking over our Instagram. Be ready to spend an especially curated day full of creative inspiration, design-talk, and much, much more, with Mohor and Rajesh.
Here we talk to Mohor and Rajesh, about their practice, and Indian design, especially in these times.
What has been the best and the most challenging part of running a design studio as partners?
The best part about being partners at work is knowing you have each others’ back and can allow yourself the vulnerability or adventure or madness, needed from time to time. We are possibly quite alike in our patience to build for the future, but also simultaneously in our impatience to learn/do new things constantly. It’s been a balance that continuously shifts between the two of us, but always anchored by brutal honesty and respect. So it keeps things lively 24×7, makes us braver.
How did you decide your roles at the studio?
Everyone always starts off with their core strengths individually, as did we. But some sort of a blurry shared picture of the kind of practice we wanted to build, meant we were working together from the get go and learning both how to bring our strengths together and also learning from each other. Therefore, over the years our roles have become much more fluid. This is also true of the studio team and their roles in general; while people joined with a specific strength but over time develop new ones working closely with each other and grow into new roles.
You have been witnessing the Indian design space for more than a decade. How has this space—the work, perceptions, briefs and understanding—evolved over the years?
The good news is that ‘design’ features as a ‘good-to-have’ or even a ‘must-have’, in important conversations today. This is a great move from its general perception, from another decade ago, as non-essential or frivolous packaging. But this is only a start. We still have a long way to go in terms of really understanding how and where it needs to be woven into practices of business or social impact. Design is still considered as a short-term solution for goals that serve a foreseeable future, whereas it needs to be embedded as a long-term strategy and commitment that can take on an unknown future. In India, both the design community and the industries it serves, are still trying to figure out, how to really engage.
How could the design discipline in India better itself? And what kind of support/platforms would help?
Finding a voice and advocacy for design at a government and policy level will be crucial, if we are to really gun for impact. It can open up access to good design at all levels, from public infrastructure to all sectors of the economy. It can build access to quality design education for starters, making the design community itself more inclusive and diverse.
How has the pandemic affected your work? What has been your pandemic work schedule?
Most of our work in brand identity involves long-term engagements, for strategic shifts that are also long-term. So we haven’t seen an immediate reaction, and the queries at present seem to indicate that there is hope and things are picking up. However it might be too soon to pass a clear verdict.
In terms of the work schedule, like most studios, we’ve continued to work remotely with our team and clients since the pandemic broke. We start the day with a 9:30 call, and then plan our respective project calls with team members for the day. We’ve always been a close-knit team, and all know each others’ responsibilities outside of work at this time. So we plan and work around them, and that flexibility has helped make sure that we are able to balance work and personal commitments sincerely.
As an industry how could we prepare for the near, not-so-promising future?
If there’s anything this year has taught us, is that there’s no telling of what the future will bring. Therefore it becomes critical to think about internal practices and culture deeply, without pegging them necessarily on what’s working/selling today. You don’t start to google where-to-buy-a-fire-extinguisher, when a fire breaks out. Maybe the future is tougher or maybe brighter—we can never tell. The best possible thing we could do today, is factor in the idea that everything might change, anytime.
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