Design, Review & Opinion

The New Mint: Not a Story on Demonetization

16 Min Read

The New Vision

It has been three months since the business daily, Mint launched its new design and format for its newspaper. The redesign and rebranding was undertaken by Dr. Mario Garcia and his team at Garcia Media, along with the in-house design team at Mint led by Abel Robinson. Both of whom were involved in designing the paper when it was first launched in 2007.

While I do question a bunch of their decisions, this appears to be a calculated move made not just from a design point of view but also from a strategic and business point. Mint has repositioned itself to become be far more relevant for its current and future audience. They want to be the newspaper for the digital age. A lot of newspapers around the world have reworked their content structure and format for similar reasons. This has a lot to do with how people have begun to access content on a screen. As someone who reads Mint as well uses internet abundantly for gathering information, I have to agree that some of these changes were much needed.

Mint identifies a large section of its readers to fall under the well-informed middle-income to affluent urban milieu. They want an easy-to-read financial daily that also has thought-provoking pieces on economy, politics, culture and lifestyle. They are also reading tons of content online; therefore their nature of accessing and absorbing information is shaped many a times by how content is laid out on the web or a mobile platform. In an attempt to make the paper’s printed version relevant for this group of readers, Mint has adopted some features from the digital media.

While I do agree that this has helped in pushing for better design, content structure and typography, I am yet to see what makes them digitally superior to other news dailies in India. Also, it must be kept in mind that most of the time, the medium also dictates how the content is presented. A lot of attributes can be adopted but ultimately it is a printed newspaper.

One of the key new features of this new digital initiative is a small column break with a Mint logo medallion that has a news article title and a Bitly link below it. It is referred to as an Online Pointer and it flags readers’ attention to an additional online news article. While reading from the printed paper, the reader will have to key in this address on their browser to access this article. For the urban Indians who are quickly getting accustomed to digital products and services that makes modern life convenient, I wonder if this is an effective solution.


When the entire paper is converted into an e-paper, these web-links become active. They take you to an article that supports or is related to the article next to it. But here is something that is rather unclear, how often would someone read from an e-paper, when it is far easier to access information on a website? In an attempt to find an answer, I tried using Mint’s e-paper. The interface is clunky and it feels dated. It was almost as if I went back in time to a digital version of an old library archive where you shuffle through index card catalogs to locate the right shelf with the corresponding serial number to pull out the book that you were looking for.

On the desktop version, the e-paper has multiple drop downs, buttons and links to click. News articles open on a pop-up window when you click on them. There is an option to listen to the audio version of every article, which is also a rudimentary version of an audio assistant. It would have served well as a decent archiving tool that gives access to old articles and news stories but it just stores about 90 days of data. As a current-day online platform, it certainly begs for improvement. Although, it is unlikely that it would replace the printed newspaper in the near future. The mobile site version of this e-paper also uses a dated UI/UX system but it is a little less cluttered when compared to the desktop version.

Almost all newspapers with an e-paper edition have the same issue, as they use the same platform to upload their content. Mint could have stepped up and carved a unique space for themselves had they improved upon this existing system for an e-paper. In doing so, they could have served their ambition of being the paper for a digitally-forward India.

Unlike many western countries where people have begun to exclusively use smarter platforms for news, Indians still largely depend on printed newspapers. If an Indian newspaper wants to be digitally forward, it has to develop content that are mobile or web platform specific as well as content that can create a bridge between what is on print and what can exist on digital. Cross platform experience is what newspapers should aim for if they want to keep print alive and at the same time cater to an audience that is slowly shifting to online media for their getting the latest news. Digital media certainly has some advantages over print. Content can be accessed and engaged with in real time. It can be customised, feedback can be received and responses can be sent instantaneously. Many reader groups can form forums and sub-groups. An online platform can allow for interaction between readers as well as between readers and news reporters, writers or citizen journalists. Content need not restrict itself to being static. The newspaper can add video and audio clips. This would also mean that the newspaper will have to hire people with a different sets of skills, previously not present in a print-based environment.

According to an article published on the Harvard Political Review, newspapers have attempted to change in recent times, as they have noticed that the attention span of their readers was becoming slimmer. These readers were slowly getting accustomed to the the shorter content structure found online. In addition to this, there is a global concern regarding newspapers’ inability to attract younger readers, or more importantly, a pool of readers who could help sustain their business for the future. Therefore, there was a rising need to make content equally engaging for this younger audience. But this was not just a content-related problem. Both The Guardian and the Independent, felt that the size of the papers needed to change to make it easier for people to take newspapers with them. Therefore in 2003, The Independent and later in 2006, The Guardian, moved to a Tabloid and Berliner format because they felt that these sizes were a convenient format for modern life.

Whereas, Mint has taken a step back and has gone from Berliner to Broadsheet. Garcia Media in their blog explains that the Indian audience is more attuned to reading serious news from a longer format newspaper. But while trying to attract the digitally savvy urban crowd who regularly uses Kindle and other smart devices, a smaller paper format would have seemed more appropriate. Also, Berliner uses less paper, therefore less impact on the environment. The Guardian cites multiple reasons for shifting to a smaller format including convenience, easy navigation, broadsheet values and differentiation. Mint’s new format has easily let go of two of these.

When it comes to differentiation, financial and business dailies are famous for using salmon pink newsprint sheets. This was a practise that The Financial Times had introduced in England in 1893. It made these newspapers stand out on newsstands. In India, The Economic Times, Business Standard and The Financial Express are all printed on a salmon pink newsprint paper. But on the other hand, Mint’s deliberate choice of the standard newsprint paper and the smaller size has helped differentiate it from these newspapers and allowed for it to cover more than just financial and business news.


This time around, Mint continues to use the same paper tone. But the older substrate has been replaced with a better quality one. The first sheet used for the front and back cover is now a thicker newsprint that is less grey compared to its older counterpart, making the colours vivid and print sharper. As with most newspapers, as you go further into the paper, the substrate changes to a lesser quality, thin and grey newsprint. Yet, on the whole, the quality of the newsprint used in this version appears to be much better than what was used for printing Mint earlier. However, there is a sudden shift to a grey as you move from the cover sheet to the first sheet on the inside, which looks rather abrupt.

The page count remains at 24 which was the same when the format was smaller, but the price has gone up by 50%, perhaps to accommodate these changes. The size change would have also been implemented to generate revenue by selling space for advertisements. According to Len Kubas who is an expert in pricing strategies, said in the context of American newspapers that, there is an innate fear in shifting from a broader format to a compact format. Advertising in newspaper is sold on the basis of space and not based on impact. Prior to the launch of the new format, Mint was finding it difficult to attract the growing advertiser base. So there was speculation within the Hindustan Times Group of a possible format change to counter this issue.

Such a business strategy cannot simply be implemented, it would require some justification and a communication of the same to its regular readers. Also, in order to attract more advertisers, it would need to find a clever way to rope in more readers. This process would have begun by identifying a key brand value that Mint can embrace and one that would be attractive to its current and future reader group. In this case, Mint has chosen to adopt digital media values as its new direction. This decision led Mint to commission the redesign of its newspaper, a task that has culminated with the brand creating advertisements to communicate all the new changes and the new goals of the newspaper. In most cases like these, brands tend to create catchy taglines that reiterates its new vision. Unfortunately, the tagline of the new and improved version of Mint is reminiscent of a certain underwear brand. The new line, “The Most Awesome Daily There is: Mint or Nothing”, felt like a lazy attempt to sound impressive. It’s hollow, does not work with the intelligent audience that it wants to connect with and certainly does not do justice to its new digital aspiration.


Having pointed this out, it is highly unlikely that any of us are familiar with taglines of other newspapers or are bothered by their existence. But when Mint has attempted to redefine itself and all its communication is plastered with this new tagline, it is hard not to question the rationale behind it. The rest of the content in these ads are informative. It focuses on all the important changes that the newspaper has made. Interestingly, all communication layouts have a header device with an image of a rolled-up Mint newspaper. The new masthead stands out quite well when rolled. Although in reality, in India, newspapers are folded and left on our doorsteps. Luckily for Mint, the four-column grid of the masthead, ensures that the logo that occupies two of those columns stand out when folded. It is not sure whether this was conscious design intervention but it has worked in favour of Mint.


A change in the style guide

The new design for Mint has retained some recognisable bits from the older version and has mixed that up with a whole lot of functional as well as stylistic changes.

Over the years the orange band has become a recognisable entity of Mint’s visual language. It’s good to see that this orange is still the brand’s main colour. Changing it would have resulted in spending more on advertising and creating another set of communication exercises to help people make a connect between the new Mint and its new colour. Interestingly, it is a differentiating brand colour within the Indian financial media segment. But apart from that, a lot of Mint’s visual language has changed. Everything from the masthead, typography to grids and infographic style has been changed.

There is something very satisfying about the typefaces that were chosen as a part of this redesign. These two new typefaces are Austin and Sanomat Sans. They create a pleasing combination as they complement each other effortlessly. Austin is an elegant serif typeface by Paul Barnes of Commercial Type. It is slightly condensed but has these beautiful, calligraphic thick and thin lines that form each character. Sanomat Sans, on the other hand, is a geometric sans serif typeface. It is from the same foundry as Austin and it was designed by Miguel Reyes, Christian Schwartz and Vincent Chan. There is very low contrast among the geometric lines that form each character. But at the same time, it is not a bland sans serif typeface. It has characteristically large apertures and angled terminals.


Since both Austin and Sanomat Sans have a wide range of weights, a combination of the two can create various styles for various sections of the newspaper or news article. Thereby, giving every information its due importance and identity. The type styles along with the new grid system is able to break down content for easy and quick reading, much like how it is done on online blogs. The only thing missing would be a mention of the time taken to read each article. On the whole, it has helped elevate the aesthetic quotient of the paper.


If you look at the typographic form of the earlier logo, it was rather weak. The branding exercise has helped create a formidable looking slab-serif logotype. The letters are from the typeface Algebra. Unlike the previous logotype, this is hard to miss. But the letter spacing and the use of shadow on the type, doesn’t help the forms m, i and n. The block-like serifs of the these letters tend to get too close to the each other. The coin from the previous logo has also been retained, it holds fort as the tittle of the i. Although the contrast between the coin and the orange background has improved with the new version, it still looks like it is blending in with the orange behind. The logo looks far better on the Live Mint website against a white background and without the harsh shadow.

In addition to the new logo, all the section headers, column logos and even the Mint Lounge logo have been refreshed to ensure that they are an integral part of this new visual language. They are all simple type-led identities. Some have dividers or lines to support them.



The new Mint masthead is more impactful with its new and imposing slab-serif logotype and with the presence two photographs from two key news stories of the day. The date finally gets a lot more prominence than it did the last time around. The identifiable Mint Orange continues to be the background for the logo. On the whole, while it retains brand recognition and has become purposefully loud, minor features like the shadow underneath the logo and the double line device below the masthead does not add much value to the design. The main website address and the social media page addresses are no longer a part of the new masthead. Social media links were initially present under the logotype when the new design was launched. But it made the masthead look cluttered and was taking up too much space. It was a good decision to remove these as it is not hard to find and follow Mint on social media.

Unlike other newspapers, this masthead is not unique to the front page. It is also present on the back page of the newspaper along with two other key news headlines of the day. According to Garcia Media, this unusual intervention was the result of a study that concluded that most people read the back page of a newspaper before they proceeded to the second page of a newspaper.

The new masthead of Mint Lounge, the Saturday edition of the Mint, has also gotten a lift with this redesign. The type for Lounge is from the letterforms of Sanomat Sans. In addition to the orange, the masthead now has a large strip of purple. This has helped in creating a distinct identity for Mint Lounge with colour and type as differentiators. Mint’s primary masthead repeating on the back looks rather awkward against the new masthead of Mint Lounge.



But on the whole, the new design has helped accentuate the magazine-like style of Mint Lounge. Its front page is far more visual and less text-heavy compared to the earlier version. The cover article occupies almost two-thirds of the space on the front. On the inside, much of the credit goes to its bold typographic style and the new colour palette that makes every article, section and call-out complement each other with the styles prescribed for each. This new look ties in well with the kind of content that Mint Lounge prints and the kind of audience that it caters to. During the week, the design style and colours match with the serious business news that Mint covers. On the weekend with Mint Lounge, it takes on a far more relaxed visual tone to lay out articles on culture, politics, technology and lifestyle.

In both the main newspaper as well in its weekend edition, the columns have become thinner and are now separated by thin black lines. From a functional point, it makes for easy reading and from an editorial point, it makes it easy to add more content. Some dividers take on a revived art deco form, they are commonly seen bracketing author names in columns. But below the masthead and the section headers these look a bit contrived.


This new version also makes use of large empty spaces to separate out content. It is important to bring this up, as most newspapers tend to fill up every space available. In print media, every square-inch has a price attached to it. It certainly shows the value that Mint has for good design. Large counter space is again a visual tool that helps with quick reading and quick access of information.

Another features that is working in favour of the redesign is Mint’s new system for information graphics. It uses typography for creating hierarchy in the content and flat colours to create simple flat graphics. The new palette of colours give each infographic piece a unique look while unifying them under one colour system. However, it doesn’t look unique to Mint as a brand. It is well-designed and makes information accessible.


In conclusion, this was an attempt at learning more about newspaper design and about Mint’s redesign. The paper produces a great mix of serious news articles and well thought-out opinion pieces from industry experts and analysts. This redesign was undertaken to give its content the visual quality that it deserved. To a great extend, Mint has achieved this. But we are slowly moving to a world where most people with smart devices depend on online media for their daily news. Therefore, Mint has to stay digitally relevant in order to keep up with its readers’ lifestyle choices. As a print media, it is not an easy to task to take on this new positioning. A lot of newspapers have redesigned their paper to make it look good visually. They have changed their paper substrate and the quality of printing. But no paper in India has done a complete overhaul as Mint has in the recent history. It is nothing short of challenging the times. Literally!

PS: Dear Mint, could you please go back to Berliner though?


Here are some additional links, if newspaper design interests you:

The glossary section from The newspaper designer’s handbook by Tim Harrower

The future of newspapers in the digital age

Why a smaller format creates a bigger future for American newspapers

The news is big. It’s the papers that are getting small

Key points about newspaper format conversion

The Daily Telegraph redesign review: Does it achieve its ambition of high-end elegance?

How the Independent’s digital-only strategy can thrive

Newspaper Death Watch (Yep! This exists too.)


Reading between the lines: On Indian Printmaking

It has been a while since I wrote on art. Here is an account of a recent show that I visited.

Last Saturday, I went for an exhibition of prints from the Waswo X. Waswo’s collection of Indian printmaking at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore. As much as I love the medium, I was almost clueless about the history of Indian printmaking before I got there.

Anyway, let me give you an outline of this show. It is called Between the Lines: Identity, Place and Power. As its curator Lina Vincent Sunish explains, Indian prints are not merely made of lines, with a meaning that can be easily assessed by identifying what you see immediately. Instead, one has to read ‘between the lines’ of the print to understand the deeper significance of each works of art.

The collection has been divided into three main themes – identity, place and power. Identity represents how the artist identifies himself or his subject through his work of art. Place focuses on the place that has influenced a particular work. Power, more or less, seeks to project the politics of power, either through symbolism or the artist defines his power by controlling what the audience might interpret from his work. At least, these are what I gathered from looking at the works on display and the text that accompanied each theme.

The exhibition showcases prints from the 1930s to 2010s. But nothing was displayed in its chronological order. Alternatively, by categorizing them based on themes, Lina shows that these themes constantly reappear in the works, irrespective of their age, region or school of origin. Each artist has interpreted them using different printmaking methods and styles. Some styles are characteristics of the region of its origin. The work of artists belonging to the Bengal school have similarities that make them easy to identify.

The other interesting side of this exhibition is that it has managed to democratize the exhibition for an audience who may not be that well-versed in Indian art history or printmaking. This will be an interesting aspect to look at and maybe write about in detail a little later. Establishments like art galleries that used to have an elitist appeal are slowly changing their ways to attract popular sentiments. I’m deviating.

Between the Lines doesn’t just take you through a quick run of Indian art history by showing you the works of famous artists. The show tries to educate its audience about the technique of printmaking as well as its history. There are videos at the exhibition hall explaining the different methods of printmaking. The tools for these are also on display in a glass case. In order to make the exhibition informative, engaging and enjoyable for a younger audience, there is a pamphlet with questions and puzzles on the works displayed at the show. Families with children could take these with them as they walk around the exhibition hall.

I find all these additional applications in line with the fundamental reasons for the existence of printmaking. Printmaking helped printers make multiple copies of an image. This contributed to a larger purpose. It made information accessible for all. Similarly, Between the Lines, tries to cut down the barriers of elitist art by being approachable. There is an effort put in to help its less-informed audience understand the medium of printmaking and how it has evolved over the years.

The irony lies in the subjects that these artists have printed. A few were easy to understand. Some could be interpreted in many ways. Some were just indecipherable. I saw that most people just skimmed through what was on display. Only a handful, spent time to look at them. The rest, I assumed, were either bored or the images were not compelling enough to tickle their curiosity. The dividing of the exhibition space physically, by themes, did help to an extent but more than half of the work on the floor were from a period or a place that seemed to hold no importance to most of the audience who were at the show. You could say the same for any permanent exhibit, at any gallery in the world, I suppose. Nevertheless, I must say that the collection was thoughtfully put together in the best possible manner.

Waswo’s collection is an extensive one. It has prints by the Bengal school artists like Mukul Dey, Nandalal Bose and Ramendranath Chatterjee that are straight-forward and easier to understand. But as the medium catches on with the Baroda school (Bhupen Kakkar, Laxma Goud and others) and the Bombay-based Progressives (Ram Kumar, M.F Husain and others), they begin to experiment with themes and techniques in a far more layered manner. By the time we reach 2013, things get larger and more complicated. Newer artists like Viraj Naik, Jagadeesh Tammineni, Praveen Goud and Preeti Agrawal, explore far more complex themes and techniques. In total, the show has on display the work of about 70 artists. Interestingly, only 13 among them are women. This is because, for the longest time, printmaking was considered a labour-intensive field and not many women ventured into it.

In addition to being a relatively tedious medium, printmaking requires utmost discipline and care. First, the image conceived has to be transferred onto a metal, wooden or linoleum surface. Depending on the different colours that need to be added on the print, different plates are etched or engraved on. After the plates or surfaces are made ready, they need to be coated with a layer of paint. Using a press, the image on the painted surface gets transferred onto the paper. If the artist is using multiple colours, he will have to make as many surfaces as the number of colours used, to transfer the colour onto the paper. Each time an image is transferred onto the paper, the registration needs to be checked, the print has to align with the previous print that was already transferred on the paper. The print might look simple but several hours and days of planning goes into creating each print.

Electro Sapiens by Praveen Goud

Electro Sapiens by Praveen Goud

Aguia by Viraj Naik

Aguia by Viraj Naik

I could not understand some of the works of the contemporary printmakers, however, their technique and sense of discipline is remarkable. I particularly liked the works of Viraj Naik, for the fantastical creatures that he created and the semi-whimsical series of Electro Sapiens by Praveen Goud. The works of Jagadeesh Tammineni and Too Much of Anything is Good for Nothing by Prathap Modi were powerful and commanded close inspection. These younger artists appealed to me as I could relate to and appreciate what they were trying to convey.

This show is a celebration of Indian printmaking, but for me, it was also a quick rerun of the Indian modern art history. Overall, it is a great show as it encourages a public that does not engage with art to look closely and associate with the art of the past and the present. It is a reflection of a world that was and the world that is. Ultimately, it is a kind of introspection that leads us to think about what the future may hold.

This exhibition will be on at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bangalore till the 28th of May. Also, go to for more information. I have not written an art review in a while, so feedback of any kind will be much appreciated. I would also love to hear about the other interesting art events that are happening in Bangalore. Thanks for reading!

This is in response to the comment below by Archana. I had forgotten to mention that there are other events that are being organized as a part of this exhibition. There is a Curator Walk by Lina Vincent Sunish on the 18th of May, a bunch of film screenings (the next and the last one is on the 19th of May) and a workshop on woodcut print technique on the 19th of May. For more information go to:


Faith vs Funding: On Kickstarter and Independent Movies

Jim Parsons & Zach Braff, from the pitch video for Wish I was Here

Jim Parsons & Zach Braff, from the pitch video for Wish I was Here

When Zach Braff first sent out the link to his Kickstarter page for his movie Wish I was Here, the movie had six backers who raised around $200. Today, three days later, the project has 27,430 backers and they have, in total, pledged $1,937,483*.

Before I discuss further, I must say that I have not looked into any of the other independent movies that were made through Kickstarter. I heard about the Veronica Mars movie last week, which is probably why I decided to check this one out when I saw the link on my Twitter timeline.

On the page, Braff briefly outlines why he has decided to use Kickstarter instead of signing a ‘typical financial deal’. He then gives an abstract of the story, moves on to give a short description of the expected soundtrack for the movie, the cinematography and the production design. He is clear on whom he will be working with on this project and gives us an outline of their credentials. The images from the early sketches for Wish I was Here have also been posted in this page. There is also a column that details out what each backer would receive based on the amount that they have pledged. There is also a pitch video at beginning of the page which has Zach Braff sitting in front of a poster of Garden State and in between Jim Parsons, Donald Faison and Chris Hardwick join in to add their views about this project. Faison is seen stating his distaste for the “moneyed-people” very often.

Overall, I would say, it was a good pitch. It could also be why he has managed to get so many backers. But this project is already facing a bit of a backlash on the inter-web with people pointing out that Braff does not really need to depend on Kickstarter and that he could fund projects on his own et al.

But what I would like to bring into this debate is the larger question of what could become of independent movies if it has to source funding in this manner. It is a great way to help artists. But how much information should these movie-makers share with their prospective backers?

The following is the synopsis for Wish I was Here from its Kickstarter page:

“Wish I Was Here” is the story of Aidan Bloom (played by me), a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He and his wife are barely getting by financially and Aidan passes his time by fantasizing about being the great futuristic Space-Knight he’d always dreamed he’d be as a little kid.

When his ailing father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids (ages 5 and 12) and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to attempt to home-school them.

The result is some funny chaos, until Aidan decides to scrap the traditional academic curriculum and come up with his own. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.

I would say it barely gives enough information about the story. It might work for Zach Braff who is well-known and has a movie with a cult-like following to his list of achievements. But what about emerging movie makers, writers and directors? Would these backers have had as much faith in this storyline if it was from someone lesser known, creating a pitch-video with even lesser known actors? Does this mean that in order for a Kickstarter movie project to be successful it will need the backing of a celebrity?

Or does it mean that a lesser-known writer will need to give a detailed outline of his story on a public forum? Will that mean that public are exposed to spoilers even before the movie is made? But is the detailed storyline enough to judge the possible success of the movie? Does the backers have any role in observing the process, to see if everything is running smoothly? I’m only asking because I am curious to know how this process works and what the outcome is likely to be. Does it mean that movies that are not determined by market surveys and profits, can supersede the quality of movies made by larger production houses? But then again Kickstarter has seen projects with backers of various kinds, willing have faith in products and activities of different kind. So, there might still be hope for independent, new movie-makers. Yet I wonder, in a time, when being moneyed is difficult, will people have enough faith to fund art?


*As of 27th April 2013.


Kyoorius Designyatra 2012: Responding to Stories

Storytelling is an integral part of creating designs. But storytelling within presentations at this years Kyoorius Designyatra saw varying styles in how the narratives were constructed. But most of the stories that received extended and repeated sessions of applause were those with stories about human networks and responses. What is that makes human stories so potent in presentation narratives?

Speakers like Robert Wong, Josy Paul and Masashi Kawamura presented numerous examples of creative projects that had people at the centre of its creation. These were presentations that received a lot of praises. The presentation by Arunachalam was described by many as touching and unforgettable as the theme was encrusted in human experiences that was honest and heartfelt.

The interesting point about being a good storyteller as opposed to a person presenting his work is that stories about people easily to stay in our minds. Also it is easier for us to narrate the same to someone else. Good story tellers edit their stories well. They integrate them with compelling anecdotes.

Does this mean that presentations with the right amount of stories are not as good? Not necessarily. Rodney Edwards‘ detailed presentation on the editorial system developed for Microsoft did not have anecdotes or touching human stories. But it gave us a crisp idea of how the design could function so fluidly in that system. Yet, when I asked around the audience, most of them responded saying that the content was good but that this was not the forum for that kind of a presentation. Which makes me believe that we, member of the creative industry, are a bunch of romantics unable to wrap our heads around technical and factual content that is not laced in a story.

Even within presentations with a well-laid out narrative, most of the creative work that received compliments were those in which people were responding to situations. ‘Human response’ was beginning to emerge as the untold theme of the events. Most of the creative endeavours of Robert Wong, Masashi Kawamura, Josy Paul would not have been successful if people had not participated in them. Even at this years Kyoorius Designyatra, people participated in large masses through channels such as Twitter and Instagram. These interactions create a new platform for debates and discussions to continue. Although, it was rightly pointed out to me that social media cannot be moderated, both the appropriate and inappropriate tweets from this event documents the widely different groups of people who participated and responded. These are stories, within these three days of storytelling, truly validates that ‘human response’ has become very important in our online and offline lives.

This piece was written at Kyoorius DesignYatra 2012, as a part of a Design Writing Workshop that was conducted by the British Council.
video doodle

Video doodle: The Secret

Stop-motion animation makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. So recently, when I was playing with my eraser, I decided to make this little video with my Fujifilm S1800 and a rickety tripod. Hopefully, I will master this art form and make better stuff in the future. Probably pick up better equipment to work on some too.

Quote credit: Albert Einstein / The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.

Song credit: The Owl City / Fuzzy Blue Lights

Branding & Identity

The Kallu shops of Kerala

I like to believe that most of what I have learned in design is through observation. The same goes for how I have began to notice the power of branding. (Well, I guess when I put it that way, I tend to sound very capitalist. But you have agree a good amount of design done today is capitalist. I am deviating from my intended message. I will address this on another post.)

Anyway, this particular post is not meant for those who are knee deep in the design industry but for folks living in India and more specifically in Kerala. People who are in fields that have nothing to with brand management or design. When they ask me what I do, I find myself taking a very long time in explaining what graphic design is and then, what designing for brands is all about. What I have began to understand is, people lack basic knowledge about branding.

So I found an example that should not (cannot) be strange to anyone who has lived in Kerala for at least a month. This sign (pointing at the photograph below) is one the most familiar sights that you will find either as a permanent resident or as a visitor to Kerala. The large, bold black text reads as Kallu, the local name of the locally brewed palm toddy. In some places, the Kallu written in Malayalam is accompanied by Toddy written in a large, bold, black sans serif type. I wouldn’t really call any of this a typeface, they are almost calligraphic in style as they are painted on with a brush. The point is, this has become almost iconic as a symbol. Even if you can’t read the Malayalam script, its form gets ingrained in our minds.

Kallu Shop sign, Mararikulam, Kerala.

Unconsciously or consciously, this form has gotten painted in the same manner at all the Toddy shops that has opened across the state (Kerala). But this ‘brand’ if you may want to call it, is not a mere form. It is representation of of local brewing tradition, its history, local/street cuisine that one can eat at a Kallu shop along with a bottle of toddy, palm trees of Kerala and so on. It is an integral part of the larger identity of Kerala. Even though, over the years, alcohol has been portrayed as a negative social element, we can’t deny how distinct the identity of a Kallu shop in Kerala is.

This is a simple example for understanding what a brand is. It might mean different things to different people. But the fact is that it has certain characteristics that makes it stand apart. Even if you don’t fall within the target group of this so-called brand, it has managed to find a place in your head. From a designer’s point of view, the purpose of a brand’s identity is to offer the brand a visual that is easy for people to retain in their minds. The Kallu shops in Kerala has managed to do this by repeatedly copying the same form over and over at all the toddy shop signs. These sign will also have the toddy license number and sometime, the name of the place.

This is an example of an identity that has become familiar because of its extensive presence in the region. Additionally, all the signs look the same (except for the license number and other details, but the format remains the same), making it easy to recognize. This system of signage making could be beneficial for some brands and this is an interesting case study to look into.

(Personal Project Idea: If you are interested in collecting images of toddy shop signs in Kerala, leave me a message. Thank you!)