Alan Fletcher -Author of the book "The Art of Looking Sideways"

The Art of looking sideways

Everyday I face an onslaught of tawdry products, mindless logos,
gratuitous graphics, witless signs,institutional notices, impenetrable
forms,portentous job titles,dehumanizing rituals and impersonal
letters that have no expression, or life, or even competence. What
is it that generates this cornucopia of life threatening debris?
What suppresses the inclusion of delight, sensuality and even
suppresses the inclusion of delight, sensuality and even common

Why is environmental responsibility seen as cost and short term
expediency considered more practical than boldness and imagination?
Why is cool and reason more acceptable than passion?


For a long time I defined painting as an effortless activity of
applying color on a surface using a spray gun. As the definition
goes, all you have to do is prepare the color, pour it in the spray
gun and press the lever; there you got a beautifully finished surface
in your favorite color. In the stages of project planning we would
usually underestimate the time required for finishing and painting the
product which made the project run into extended timelines. Of the
many available solutions, I decided to pick the most interesting one.

Kiran, our Prototyping Manager, suggested taking up an activity of
try-out wherein I get a good grasp of the complete painting and
finishing process. I was waiting for such an opportunity to foray
my skills in the other verticals and what a way to learn from the
best people in the industry. No more deciding, Kiran gave me a brief
of the process and I set myself a deadline of one week to complete the
try-out.Now in one week what can you come up with, was a big question.

Around this time Jatin, our graphic designer, was working on a new
visual language for Onio. His work was impressive, graphic designing
as a community was brilliant and here I realized was a field that
speaks the language of the world. I soon found myself gathering bit
and pieces of information about graphic design. Jatin was also keen on
knowledge sharing and that is when he introduced me to a new font called
‘Harlow Solid Italic’. Being passionate about cars, I could immediately
connect the font to the famous Italian car maker – Maserati, though I
may be wrong. I decided to carve my name with this font and finally
paint and finish the product.

After an action packed first and second half of Monday, your brain
is drained of vital elements responsible for the creative process. I
was more than excited to start my new try-out and by the ‘third half’
I was ready with a plan and a scrapped sheet of MDF; a material
normally used for making Mockups. The plan seemed perfect: Ten
minutes for cutting, one day for finishing, one day for painting
and one day buffer for the Indian working conditions. Even after
considering the ‘chalt hai’ attitude, I should be done by Thursday.
No way should it extend to Friday. Saturday; who works on a Saturday?

I think the act of repeating the same lines in different ways will
speak measures of your fool-proof planning. My theories and
assumptions were soon to be challenged when I started working on
the materials. As the plan goes, cutting did take ten minutes;
after cutting, I applied a protective coat on the surface. This
coating should be feather smooth for that perfect finish and
that is where I took two days of carefully polishing the surface
with three different make of sand papers. My planning had gone
for six but it made me realize the classical tiff between the
boardroom and the shop floor. Planning is essential to make a
start but once you have faced the situation, planning needs
to evolve with the ground realities.

During the try-out, mostly after office hours, I was sitting at a
corner of the workshop moving my hands one centimeter per sixty
minutes. I was accompanied by Shyam who would have found oil if
he dig the ground instead of polishing at Onio. Working with the
workshop staff is a delight, especially when most of the sentences
sound like this:

“Now take sandpaper, dip it in water and repeat the process”

“Little bit of water, little bit more…that is too much of water”

“The edges are not rounded properly, try this file”

“It is good but the finish is not coming, make a new one”

‘Extra work’ sounds like spending extra energy and giving your one
hundred percent with full attention to details and ensuring customer
satisfaction. Let the management theories step aside and give way
to ‘effortless working’. Learning my lessons, I decided to work
independent of time and name my carvings as ‘Nuggets’, the ones
that enrich you with valuable information, precious and wise.
Finishing and polishing is the kind of work that demands high level
of patience. No doubt, at our workshop, these qualities are
demonstrated by people who are married.

One fine evening, let’s break the ice and make it Saturday evening,
the surfaces were almost feather smooth and I painted the nuggets
red. Red because it was available at hand and Red because color
theories come with certificates. Two days after the paint dries
up in natural conditions is the real test of your work. In my
case, some of the side walls developed micro cracks which indicate
the presence of water inside the base coat. Is the job well done?
Well, I think you won’t find me selling this at the next Apple
showroom but probably after learning my lessons, I can remind you
of a famous statement, a statement that goes like this:

“Do you think I run the country? Read a book on dignity of labor.”

– Krishna Nair