“Become so good that they can’t ignore you”

An Interview with Sharad Chauhan, Co-Founder and Principal Designer at GDD (Gaia Digital Design).

Sharad at the studio

Sharad’s passion is product design. This young co-founder and principal designer of GDD (Gaia Digital Design) believes in constant skill building and simplifying the design process to incorporate global aesthetics into local products. Gaia Digital Design, based in Noida, India was started in 2015 by him and his partner Saibal Datta. Since then they are regularly interrogating the themes and fixations that drive contemporary society by creating good looking, effective products (both digital and physical) that can constantly reduce effort and fully use the potential of next generation technologies. For the past two years this studio has worked for clients such as Adobe, Tata and Flipkart and worked on products to help outsiders recognize and support the benefits of good design in their world. Their latest offering is industrial design and we spoke to Sharad a little about how he decided to take the path of having his own design studio from being a corporate design veteran.

1. How do you define your role at GDD?

My role at GDD is that of a principal designer, I help my team realize the needs of our clients and help the designers deep dive into the design process. To define my role better I look into Product Design (Physical and Digital), Design Aesthetics, Brand Language, Strategy, methodology and mentoring.

2. What did you do before you decided to establish this studio?

I started working as an industrial designer at Whirlpool, Global Consumer Design in 2008. Post that I worked for Samsung at their design centre in Noida, looking into advance design and closely working with their Korean HQ.

3. What made you take the leap of faith to have your own venture when you were already so established in your job?

Me and my partner Saibal have been friends since our days at design school. We had decided from the very beginning that we would team up to start our own studio. If you ask me, Saibal actually took the first step, I just knew he was right. Apart from that I thought I could work on a variety of projects / platforms in a studio space. Some of us are programmed to work hard no matter what the stakes are and with a mindset like that it makes sense to be on one’s own.

4. Can we get a glimpse of the work that you used to do?

I was always working on advanced design projects hence my work was usually the type you would need strict access to. But yes you can walk into any Whirlpool or Samsung brand shop, There I can point out at some of the products I have worked on.

Concept sketch for a microwave oven done by Sharad.

5. What have been the highlights of your two year journey at GDD?

Thankfully we have had the pleasure of working on twenty five completed projects over the last twenty four months. Our clients have had the confidence in us to drive their vision in the digital space. With the ever diminishing product delivery timelines, we have got leaner with our design process without actually compromising on the quality. There has been a good amount of mentoring for the junior designers and interns along with regular design discussions on varied topics and movements.

6. How is the future looking for GDD?

Our vision of the future is constantly evolving. As for now we are holding steady within the digital space but with our experience we plan to merge the physical along with the digital and provide unified and holistic solutions as a design consultancy. Being a product design consultancy we see ourselves being category and platform independent so as to nurture our problem solving approach.

7. Any tips or tricks for the young designers who wish to apply for a position at the studio?

If you think you are a rockstar designer then Gaia Digital Design is certainly not the place for you. We are a simple, hardworking, passionate group of learners and look forward to meeting people with a similar bent of mind.

8. Can you take us through your day at the studio?

I am at the studio by 10:30 and begin my day looking into what the team is doing. I sit with each of my designers and look at their individual design journeys . After the client updates and day to day discussions, i get to the drawing board (wacom) with the most critical which require my attention. It’s important for me to stay connected with the craft side of design, this helps me sharpen my design skill and guide my designers to achieve the desired quality.

Concept design of a doorbell

9. Lets talk about Industrial Design your new service offering.

I graduated as a product designer with Industrial Design being my core design skill. At design school me and my partner Saibal were always tinkering out of the space of our individual specialisations. At GDD we have a strong team of model makers and ace mechanical engineers to make our dream products a reality. With all the skills in place and the government providing a boost to the manufacturing sector, industrial design is the need of the hour.

An afternoon in the studio

Sharad appears calm, collected and brimming with new ideas. It was a pleasant surprise to meet a design entrepreneur with vision and humility. Also a constant smile on his face despite answering questions on a scorching June afternoon.