Design awareness growing in India?

Elodie Nerot discusses her new role as a lead designer at Elephant Design with Aultrin Vijay

27 Jan 2022 | By Aultrin Vijay

Elodie Nerot, lead designer, Elephant Desig

Pune-based design agency Elephant Design has bolstered its team with the appointment of Elodie Nerot as its lead designer. Nerot, an alumna of Strate, Ecole de Design Paris, brings over 15 years of experience across roles and organisations in India, Spain, France and Japan. After working with Atelier Pascalie in Paris for a few years, Elodie was a part of Elephant in 2012-13 before moving on to dabble in teaching.

In an interaction with WhatPackaging?, Nerot shares her experiences and views on branding, packaging design, design awareness and its challenges. Excerpts from the interview.

Aultrin Vijay (AV): Kudos on your appointment. How are you planning to leverage this new role to boost Elephant Design’s vision in India?
Elodie Nerot (EN):
Having worked abroad in different companies, I would like to bring my design experience and energy to Elephant Design. Additionally, I also want to share the alternative work methodologies and strategies that I’ve been exposed to because of my diverse experience. Eventually, I would like to help their talented team to not only improve their skills, but also to sensitise them and enable them to be more open to what they haven’t explored yet. This is a thrust to help them discover other designs that are predominant abroad.

Nowadays, we cannot just close our vision and limit it to what is being done in India, especially in a creative field like this. While technology makes this exploration even more accessible, I’d still say that travelling to different countries to experience their cultures is a far better option, if we are to deeply understand them.

AV: You have worked in many organisations from different countries. How are India’s packaging and brand designs different from other countries?
I was born in France and studied there. Then, I lived in Spain, Japan and India. India’s packaging and brand designs are linked to a lifestyle that, of course, is completely different from what one would see in Japan, or Europe for that matter. Even after nine years in India, I keep discovering new products where I need a “translation” to understand what their use is.

The way you eat, live and use a product is very different from other cultures and naturally, this also defines your branding and packaging industries. For instance, the use of Ayurveda/ Ayurvedic benefits is quite predominant here. We don’t expect toothpaste and lipstick flavours such as cardamom, clove or chilli in Japan.

The daily usage patterns for products are also different and are driven by Indian consumption habits – such as smaller quantities, or cheaper packaging for daily shopping purposes as opposed to European housewives who stock up on groceries for a week. Indian packaging and brand designs are also inclined towards the happiness- cheerful-funny category with ample use of colour. These are often humorous, easy-going and everything isn’t taken as seriously as it is in Europe.

Indian packaging and brand designs are also inclined towards the happiness-cheerful- funny category with ample use of colour

AV: Tell us about the design awareness in India.
Design awareness is growing day by day in India, but it will take more time before customers are more mature about it. And this is a huge potential for agencies such as Elephant Design, since there is a lot that is yet to be done – from designs to products that can be improved upon. The challenges are linked to the wide diversity of Indian customers. How do we understand and address the mixed demographic here with their individual cultural heritage through branding and packaging solutions? This is especially tough when design-based awareness is still to be developed.

For instance, in India, cleaning products are bought and used by cleaners that use them in others’ houses. How do we communicate the advantages of this product efficiently and visually, so that it becomes approachable to them? These kinds of constraints are new to me, as I assume that everyone cleans their home by themselves – as is the case in my culture. I can say the same thing about each country I lived in. To understand a new culture or country and their habits, you will need a lot of empathy. This, in turn, enables you to adapt your design answer and match customer needs efficiently.

AV: One work that inspired you the most.
I have no one favourite work; I find many designs interesting. I especially prefer designs that are well-thought and well-executed, where the purpose or meaning are crystal clear. What I call “free graphic design” or simply, the “nice and decorative” types don’t attract me. I do have some preference for colourful and bold graphics, though.

AV: One design that you feel very proud of.
I can say that I’m proud of two projects. The first is the Babylips lipstick by Maybelline, because it was a quick ideation-based project, created for an affordable product that became a big hit in the US and then turned into a worldwide success while also having a lot of ranges that had to be developed. So now, you can find them everywhere from small Indian street stalls to the trendy malls in Japan.

The second was developing a visual architecture for Garnier in the realm of packaging design. In the beginning, it was a small project with a brief that required us to design a graphical identity for a Garnier Face Mask pouch in China. Then, this design architecture was adopted for the packaging of this product on a global scale, turning it into a huge success.

AV: Where do you take inspiration for your designs from?
My inspirations come from many other graphic designers such as Morag Myerscough, Marina Willer, Paula Scher, Jessica Walsh, Shepard Fairey, David Carson, Malika Favre, Ikko Tanaka, Herb Lubalin – among others. But from a broader perspective, I tend to look at everything that surrounds me, knowing that it influences the way I work. Predominantly, these range from sources such as magazines and websites to sculpture or nature itself.

AV: Can you comment on your journey with Elephant Design?
Since this is a new journey that I have recently embarked on, it is difficult to talk about it in detail. I just wish that this journey shall be enriching, challenging and experiential in its scope.