The first note in my office book comes under the title ‘Prakash Gyaan’ and goes like this: “Buy a set of screw drivers to explore and analyze everyday products”. Turn a couple of pages and the title changes to ‘Manoj Gyaan’ with a note saying: “Story telling ability is the most important feature in a product”.  Such experiences and innumerable sentences make up the person I am; 2011 a year when I finally made it from a roll-call to a pay-roll.

A Thoughtful Desk

So what are the two best things I learnt in 2011? Let’s start with an everyday example at work. I had designed a very good looking product, rendered in three different angles and presented on five different slides. I thought the work was good enough until the pros came up with a twenty slide presentation showing quality stuff. As the brainstorming session heated up with strong arguments, we soon found ourselves slipping into an act of ‘Ashtray Speaking’. Ashtray Speaking is an act of sharing a number of thoughts and possibilities without jumping on to the conclusion. Unlike Lateral Thinking where the emphasis is to generate more ideas, in Ashtray Speaking you pick up incomplete sentences, enrich them with your own thoughts and pass it on to others and generate more keywords. It’s more like a debate where you try to build on other sentences without ruling out the possibilities. The exercise is a holistic approach to get the most out of a cross functional team.

As the brainstorming session came to an end, few keywords triggered the debate about the strength of our company. “As a design company, we stand out by… (I like the new client logo but the colors could have been a little more vibrant)…and work with the management to propagate design thinking.” I seem to have missed out the most important part about our company. With no more thinking, I pen down a note under the title ‘Manoj Gyaan’: “Propagate Design Thinking”. Design Thinking is the second best thing that happened in 2011.

Design Thinking (DiT) is a global buzzword coined by the well articulating designers. As the standard definition goes, Design Thinking (DiT) refers to a philosophy where design transforms the way products, services, processes and even strategies are developed. Unlike Strategic Thinking (SiT) that is mainly governed by analysis, DiT takes a creative approach to problem solving. A number of companies have demonstrated sizable growth by channeling DiT into their core decisions. Apple is a superstar example of transformation using DiT but then Apple is perhaps the best example of everything under the sun. Now if are thinking that DiT is the next big thing after Steve Jobs, hold on. What DiT utterly lacks is Steve Jobs.

Apple launched a number of mind-blowing products thanks to Steve and his team. At the front end, what looks like a good product is also a perfect blend of DiT and SiT. A number of times, Design insights and Strategic Solutions cross each other in decision-making. Strategies have been well institutionalized in the core management that has strong analytical skills while Design lacks a holistic approach and is not at the core of the business. So while every other cell phone manufacturer was busy designing the perfect keypad for the upcoming models, Steve had a different question: Why do we need a keypad? Its companies like Apple that blends the conventional management system with aspects of ‘Thought Leadership’ to design products that sell across the segments and redefine strategies.

Onio Design

With a number of design firms practicing Strategic Design Management, it would not be surprising to see design have a say in business. Early 2012, with the arrival of top international design houses like IDEO, Frog Design and Landor Associates, Indian companies will have a good time shopping. What works for Onio Design is our understanding of India, an international client experience and we stand out (you know I missed out those sentences) by propagating design thinking.

~ Krishna Nair




Since it’s very first project about 14 years ago, Onio is known for introducing
game-changing innovation into the products it touches. The game-changer elements
appear in both – macro & micro contexts and it’s a pleasure to see how users
and customers recognise the innovation bits, although it’s hidden under the ‘design’ tag.
This obsession with innovation has made Onio cruise the territories effortlessly
from consulting on products to brands to strategy & business innovation.
For us at Onio it has been evident that innovation is necessary,
but certainly not a sufficient condition for customer / user delight.
At times, the efforts needed to make a product better are much more
than product innovation. From the numerous (and often unsuccessful) assignments,
the factors surrounding a successful design story appears to be quite diverse and
distinctly specific to each case. However two ingredients have always
surfaced in all successful cases.

A clever idea and a touch of fun!

In hindsight, these two factors have always guided the design team in ways like-

  • Getting more empathetic to the users, since the cleverness and fun
    claims have to be validated from users’ perspective

  • Getting emotionally involved with the product and saving ourselves
    from making drab & dry runs of ideas

  • Keeping the mind open as there is no such thing as ‘final’ design,
    if one is pushing for clever & fun ideas

  • Inadvertently keeping the boring concepts at bay, and saving ourselves
    from pushing ‘workable’ design ideas into client presentations

Keeping positive pressure for constructive feedback on ‘just critics’
within us and within the clients’ teams Continue reading


led light redesign

In a nation growing at a scorching pace and facing increasing
energy shortage, a visionary idea is to deploy energy efficient 
light emitting diodes or LEDs for lighting needs. A prominent
Pune-based company approached OnioMax to conceptualize and
design luminaries for a solar-powered LED lighting system
that they were launching.

OnioMax designed the LED luminaires in various configurations
for multiple applications. These luminaires will play an important
role in lighting up advertising billboards in India as also many
other applications. A team of innovative product designers and
engineers from OnioMax also redesigned an entire range of LED
lamps for a global player in LED lighting systems. 

With a major segment of conventional lamp replacement market in sight, 
this MNC client was very pleased with the project delivered by OnioMax.


car design

car sketch

In a world of nuclear families, studio apartments and virtual realties;
some cars are legendary machines that benefit from unrivalled heritage,
crafted with fantasy and driven by opulence. At OnioMax, we are pushing
the limits of Design and Prototyping for a historic makeover to some
classic models in the Indian automotive market. In collaboration with the
core engineering team and OEM’s, this project has further strengthened
our expertise in the field of Automotive Design for the Indian market.


mobile phone

A large multinational company mandated Onio Design to conduct research
on energy consumption in the Bottom of Pyramid segment of rural India.
For this challenging and socially relevant project, a team of
design professionals and ethnographers from the OnioNxt vertical
travelled to four states in India for an elaborate design research.

The research revealed interesting insights about rapidly shifting
economic and cultural parameters and various segments within rural India.
The team later took this learning to the drawing boards and came up
with user-centric products and future-ready strategic
business models for rural India.


Onio has been working on the mega-trends for India for almost
6 years now. Yearly research that connects us to more than
200 consumers and trend-hotspots in India culminates into
Trend report and a workshop. Onio’s design research and
innovation strategy practice relies heavily on yearly updates
from this research. Here is a snapshot of what’s new in
India-Working out at gym is nothing new to those connected with IT.

Shifting the activity to break the monotony of break-neck
pace of life is the new mantra that borrows a few hints
from the IT set-ups. It is not a lazy Sunday afternoon
and nor it is a running away to weekend jaunt that is ‘unwinding’.
It is not a seamless switch of activities, change of rhythm,
mix of micro and macro, home and hotel, work and fun that will
create a soothing new energy. Expect hybrid product characters,
mixed zone spatial treatments, advanced versions of quick connect
technologies like QR codes, DIY multi-role products and airport
like accents will dot the design directions or 2012-13.