We design

We design books, book covers, catalogues, brochures, reports, posters, logos, visiting cards, office stationery, calendars, mugs, diaries ... and more.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

A Year of Dsgn Unplugged . . .

It's been a little over a year since the two of us got together and formed Dsgn Unplugged. It's been an awesome (as Mish would say) year . . . we have had a steady stream of work, we have done some good designs, some designs could have been better, we have been heartbroken about designs that we loved but didn't get through, we have pulled our hair (I am going bald!) through 'difficult' projects, have been underpaid and overworked at times, worked with some amazing people, battled personal crises and much more. Through all this, we have learnt some lessons (some require relearning though and more heartache), built relationships, and realized how much we love designing and doing this together.

The other day, at a meeting, our new clients (I have to come up with a better term) asked us if we were related (they thought we were twins!), remarking that we had the same eyes and smiles and that we completed each other's sentences. I guess that's what happens when one spends a lot of time together . . . working and otherwise . . . But it got me thinking of our journey together as Dsgn Unplugged and how it all began.

So how did it begin? May be the beginning was the last day of my job at Oxford University Press (5 December 2013), when Misha (as promised) came at the end of the day to the office with a bunch of huge and bright balloons and a big grin on her face. She had quit her job with OUP a year back . . . we had worked together for four years there . . . collaborated on many projects, shared a great working rapport, and had tried hard, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, to make academic books look beautiful. She was one of the few people who did not think I was stupid about wanting to quit a well-paid job in a prestigious university press because she had gone ahead and done exactly that before me. I missed working with her terribly (and I badly wanted the balloons), so I quit my job. It was this that marked the beginning of something new and exciting.

When we met a few days later at my place to discuss what we wanted to do . . . I remember we spent a lot of time just giggling stupidly and being super-excited about the fact that I didn't have to go back to a job.  We weren't really focused on what we exactly wanted to do, knew that it had to do something with design as that's what connected us at many levels, and we wanted to have fun along the way. I think at that stage we probably thought we would paint and sell bottles (our obsession at that point of time) and make a living out of it. Some people think that's what we do, but to tell you frankly we haven't sold a single bottle till date (we have gifted many though).

We came up with the name Dsgn Unplugged after much agonizing over several cups of coffee and conversations. The other name that was in close competition was Marmalade: Not Just Jam, which we loved, but gave up because we suspected we would get tired of explaining it to people. The first thing we designed together as Dsgn Unplugged was a calendar for 2014, using photographs from our personal collections. We then bullied and cajoled all our friends to buy it and at the end had to gift away several. (There are some people who think we only make calendars!) The calendar carried the first logo we had designed for ourselves, using a fat hand-painted 'd'. The logo was changed later for the sleeker current version, which is playful and modern at the same time.

By early 2014, we had designed and printed our visiting cards, got ourselves registered, started a Facebook account and blog, and opened a bank account, and we were set to face the big bad world and try and save it with good designs.

In June 2014, I went away to Kolkata to do a three-month course in Book Design run by the Seagull School of Publishing. Misha very sweetly (and bravely) gave me company in Kolkata for a month. I had no formal training in design and the design course gave me the skills, knowledge, inspiration and confidence that I needed to make a more real contribution to running Dsgn Unplugged, as also a much-needed break from my life back in Delhi.

When I got back to Delhi in September, we started slowly creating our small studio . . . collecting odd bits of furniture, getting them painted, getting the walls done, putting together our books (and of course our growing collection of painted bottles), getting the coffee machine started, buying cushions and so on. A lot of friends who have dropped by our studio have remarked how it looks and feels like home! Well, that was intentional . . . and that's really a reflection of our philosophy. We take pleasure in blurring the lines between work and play . . . our homes sometimes look like workspaces and our studio looks like home. We work well with good coffee and good music, and we hate ugly office furniture.  There is nothing typical about our workday. We could be working at our studio or at our homes (together or separately). The day usually revolves around coffee and what we will have with coffee and later for lunch. We have the freedom to start and end the workday as per our requirements. Some days we dress up for work, and other days we work in our pjs. The workday has interludes of walks, yoga, cleaning, reading, watching TV, doodling, chatting and much more we'd not like to reveal.  So how do we manage to ever finish anything? Well, it's quite simple. We usually have a checklist of things we have to complete in a day and we somehow always get around to ticking them off. Our work and our attitude towards it are shaped by (and, in turn, shape) our lives and the spaces we inhabit. Professionalism, discipline, hard work and creativity are a way of life. They have nothing to do with long hours of drudgery, boring office furniture, power dressing or such like.

In this one year, we have designed books, book covers, catalogues and publicity material of various kinds. We have chosen to focus on books at this stage because that's our forte given our many years in publishing and, more importantly, we love the creative process of making books. We hope to continue doing more of that apart from designing other print products. But we have many plans . . . we hope to start designing and creating our own products some time this year, we hope to have an opening for our studio (and invite all of you), we want to learn pottery, continue painting bottles (ah yes, and start cajoling you to buy them) . . . and more.

No matter what we are up to, we hope to continue blurring the lines between work and play, and have fun in the process. It is a constant struggle, but we will keep trying.

Congratulations to us for keeping at it.


1 comment:

  1. Sam n Mish. Yes u both r twins in many ways. At least there is some eternal connect. I am very very bullish about your venture as its heart driven n heart is the best sourse of inspiration for mind. I wish you all wonders in the new year.