Over the course of my studies and one year in Auroville,
these are some of the lessons I’ve learned..
They have become an important part of my process:
- Create with, Not just for others
- Visualize Scenarios
- Don’t talk green, Do something
- Do, It’s ok to suck
- Fail, It’s ok
It has become evident to me over the course of a few projects
that it is important to create with others, this means many things
- Let the user have a say in what the product looks like even after they buy the product,
such that they can exercise their own creativity with the product aesthetic or usage
- Working in teams means giving up ownership of ideas, so that it is truly a collaborative effort
For eg. The ‘little piggy’ project that will kick off over the next month is a project where much like
‘the gnomes in that french movie’ I will send these clay pigs to friends all over the country and ask them
to answer the question - ‘Where did this Little piggy go?’ ‘What did this Little piggy do?’
with photos and videos which would make their way onto a blog.
This first year project was to design a lamp for children between the ages of 8 and 12. It became clear
after a bit of research that children need lamps less for task-lighting on a desk and more for ambient
lighting. After much iteration the product became a lamp that was also a toy. The idea was the
beginning of a constant attempt to include the user in forming the product. In this case, the child
builds the form using LEGO-like blocks to reflect light from the base box learning the basics of light in
Pass it on
In this project I sent out a book with the illustration of the first cell of a story to a friend, who
illustrated the next cell and then passed it on to somebody else by post/courier. Although this
would have been immensely simple to do over the internet it was interesting to see how collaboration
could work out by ‘snail mail’. The books have been out there about a year now, and it’s moving very
Generally defined as the ability to understand another person’s feelings or situation,
This word takes on a broader meaning in the sense that not only is it to understand a user’s true scenario,
but also to create an environment in which I can really test a product under development to see if and how it works.
Chompers - Scissors for Children
The brief of this project was to design scissors for children in the age group of 5 to 8. Early attempts
at redesigning the scissor didn’t really work until the innocent gesture of cutting made by the fingers
gave our group of four the spark to come up with this idea. The entire detailing and conceptualisation
was a team effort unlike any I had participated in before (nobody in the group can still say who came up
with the concept). This product was iterated by building mock-ups and then testing them.
Delivery Aids for a Postman
With this project, it was the first time that I was faced with a user scenario that was completely new
to me. Following two postmen around on their beats over a few days really put into perspective the real
issues faced by the postman. Nuances like removing of bundles while on the cycle/bike, security of
the post, of the cycle, methods of fastening, became much clearer. This led me to develop one
standard product, with a modular strap system that could be used by a postman irrespective of mode
As the project went forward, I found that making paper mock-ups that worked much in the way the
final product would really helped my process as it helped me envision dimensions (volume of
bundles) and usability. This was the first time with one of my projects, where a completely functional
prototype was created and then tested and critiqued by the user. As shown in the images the final
product can be strapped onto a cycle frame, and used as a messenger bag. An accessory was also
developed to help the postman carry and segregate into bundles.
‘Design is in the details’
This statement really hit home when I started realising how much of the concept could be dictated by dimensions,
- I found that I started enjoying and liking products which had these hidden details that really made the product
a delight to use without bringing attention to themselves.
- The idea of using standard consumables (or parts that wear out easily) for ease of replacement has now become a mainstay
in most of my projects.
Cooking Kit for Low Altitude Trekking & Camping
The brief of this project was to try and provide a casual weekend camper/trekker with a single
cooking unit that consists of a stove, utensils and storage for cooking materials. With this project the
point about dimensions dictating the concept became clear as the idea came about from the way in
which the curves of different utensils fit together with the curve of the stove. This was the first
time that I used standard accessories (burner, fuel knob etc.) for easy repair and replacement.
Modular Mounting Systems
This project was my final diploma project where the brief was to design a universal mounting system
so that accessories such as street lights, seats etc. can be mounted on light poles of different
diameters and varying sections. Even though the initial brief covered only mounting, my mentors
urged me to research the entire process in detail, from putting up the pole all the way up until taking
down of these street light poles. By looking into the entire lifecycle, I picked up details about the process
of mounting as a whole and all the tools that were used by the workers.
Towards the end of the project thanks to my mentors, I learned that the beauty of the product lies in its
details. With this product, they had me focus on forms of parting lines such that even the smallest of
lines mimic and match the form. For cable passage, we worked out forms in the mould in such a way
that the cable just needs to be pushed and it finds its way through the complicated innards. Overall
during the process, a lot of attention was paid to undercuts and wall thicknesses.
‘Design is storytelling’
I first heard this statement made by Mauli Maroor at a workshop at Designyatra.
But I didn’t quite understand it till I did the Nokia project, where research was in the form of stories,
representation of the research was in stories, and finally all conceptualization and presentation was
in the form of scenarios.
Swayam - A future scenarios project for Nokia
This was a project that was done as part of a team of twelve. It was to look at domains of
human interaction such as gyms, retail, banking, event management and to see what role a device
could play in these areas such that the environment is totally connected one that always adapts and
reflects a person’s personality. The concepts in this project were products & technologies that were
presented in the form of stories and scenarios.
Being an obsessed reader of blogs and design newsletters online while in college,
I read a lot about ‘sustainability’, issues of ‘climate change’ et all.
But, on my first trip to Auroville itself, I realized that I didn’t know anything about these issues.
What started as taking up a job to rework an exhibition soon turned into a number of smaller projects
- The eco-exhibition needed more then just some exhibits, it needed an overall vision and a system for
volunteers to participate and contribute.
- Mission Tejas, an initiative for rural lighting, required a rethink in its strategy and a new website.
The website, which will become a platform for rural lighting agencies in India is now under development
- I have had, over the last 7 months, a front row seat in the development of policies and products towards a
more sustainable future.
In my first trip to Auroville, I was part of a workshop that endeavoured to create products and sys-
tems to create a bicycle friendly environment to promote the use of cycles over fossil fuel based
UNDP MNRE Solar Water Heater Study
This was a project that I worked on while in Aurore (Auroville) that was a market assessment study
all over south India to understand the current position & perception of solar water heaters in the
market and to make recommendations to strengthen the market penetration for the same.
This is a nugget of wisdom that I chanced upon while reading a blog.
‘Do, It’s ok to suck’
This is a big shift for me, in the way that I work,
because since then I have taken on things that I would only talk about
like, doing a play in the role of Duryodhana,
Becoming Clown BigMole,
Attempting to learn the Harmonica.
My Porcelain Throne - A photo series..
Happened across a porcelain WC dumped on the sidewalk, so I took it for a ride around Vimannagar.
What started as a gung-ho attempt to revive a student activities platform single-handedly ended
in failure. The reasons for this varied, from a misunderstanding of the dynamics of students in the
college, to having created a situation where the whole initiative was so dependant on me that there
weren’t successors to take it forward when I left.
Resumè ‘Vichaar Station’ at Fundamental ‘08
Model United Nations
2005 – ICJ, Dhirubhai Ambani International Model United Nations
Name: Akshay Roongta
2004 – General Assembly, The Hague International Model United Nations
2003 – HSC, Mumbai Model United Nations
2003 – General Assembly, HR Model United Nations
Positions of responsibility
2003 – 2004: Games Captain at DAIS
2000 – 2003: Prefect at BSS
Final Year, Graduate Diploma in Product Design
2009 – 2010: Aurore (Auroville Renewable Energy)
Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune
Projects: UNDP-MNRE SWH market assessment study, Eco-exhibition, Mission
International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme
2009: Bikescapes Project, Auroville
Dhirubhai Ambani International School (DAIS), Mumbai
2009: Internship at Cluster-One Design Consultants
Project: Modular Mounting system for street light poles
2008 – 2009: Nokia Research and Conceptualization Project
Bombay Scottish School (BSS), Mumbai
2008 – 2009: Samas Media Lab
Copywriting for hoarding design
Editor of Samas Satellite (Ongoing)
Leadership, Oration, Teamwork, Motivating other people, General Proficiency at
2008: Nokia Conceptualization workshop
using the computer
2007: Workshop by Kirloskar and Elephant Design + Strategy
Summer of 2007: Internship at Ticket Design
Projects: PLC, Refrigerator, User Interface for dryer
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Indesign, Adobe Illustrator, Rhino v3.0, Bunkspeed
Summer of 2006: Internship at Interactive Avenues
Profile: Copywriting and Keyword generation for Search Engine Marketing
Summer of 2005: Internship at CA firm
Summer of 2003: Job at vintage car restoration workshop
2009 – 2010: Clowning Workshop by Ashwath Bhatt
2009 – 2010: Theatre in Auroville: Played the role of Duryodhana
2009: Participated in ‘In a planet of our own’ workshop and conference at IDC
2007 – 2008: Managed Design Gupshup
Brought together students in college to form a community for discussion and
‘Desi Tadka’ at Fundamental ‘07