The playground is big enough

Jai Kumar
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Among the leading product designers in India, Mukul Goyal explored various media like metals, leather, plastic, glass and ceramics for design of products, jewellery and accessories.

An engineer from IIT Kanpur, Mukul found his calling in design. He then studied at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India and later at Domus Academy, Milan, Italy.

His repertoire of design includes objects for home – table, living area, lighting, home décor and functional products among others. His clients include the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (Govt. of India), Anand Bazar Patrika, Apollo Tyres and ITC Royal Gardenia Hotel, Bengaluru.

Mukul shared his design experiences with The Hindu Opportunities. Excerpts:

What inspired this shift from engineering to product design?

While design may seem an unconventional choice as a profession as I was from engineering background, I personally do not view it as a shift. In retrospect, it is a perfect dovetail.

My engineering background has been a tremendous strength in my profession of product design. This is because the technicalities of the medium, expression, and manufacturing are reasonably easy for me to comprehend and mould to achieve the best of processes and design.

I am an engineer with the soul of a designer; I cannot see one without the other.

What is the role of design institutes, such as National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Domus Academy, Milan, in designing your career?

While I was always inclined towards art, craft and aesthetics, my creative self-emerged more strongly after I graduated from IIT Kanpur.

I got clarity on my strengths and weaknesses and I was able to focus my thoughts and energies into finding something right to do.

National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad (NID) was like homecoming for me and I truly found myself in a place where I belonged to completely.

Domus Academy gave me exposure and a view into myself as a designer. I think both the institutes had very important roles in my life.

The sequence of events that led me from one to the other (IIT Kanpur to NID Ahmedabad to Domus academy Milan) was purely serendipitous.

What stages does a design undergo from concept to final product?

Each product has its own journey - the journey that I take with it! The seed could be an idea, a need or just an exploration.

Developing the concept, nurturing its essence, defining its existence and then giving it a physical shape, form and identity is actually how the journey unfolds in stages. Then comes the stage of commercial and manufacturing optimisation.

All the above processes go through various iterations before the final product takes shape.

What is your source of inspiration?

The inspiration could be many or none. There are products that one carries in one’s head and one fine day they become reality. While there are others which get inspired by a person, quote, slice of life, a moment in time, quirks, poetry, nature, life and the list goes on.

The source of inspiration is probably not important - it is far more important to remain inspired!

You walk into a star restaurant and see one of your installations or you see one of your creations at an award ceremony. Your feeling at that moment would be…

Pride, definitely, is the first and foremost feeling. Then the perfectionist that I believe I should be takes over and ponders on all the things I could have done better.

I recently attended the National Sports Awards Distribution ceremony at the Ashoka Hall, Rashtrapati Bhavan.

I had earlier redesigned the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Medal for the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs in 2009.

To see the same being conferred on our sports icons by the President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee was quite an honour for me.

How is the market for designer products from hardware to special designs like installations?

The markets for all these are very different, though the eventual patrons may be the same.

The market is growing steadily and has definitely come a long way since I entered the field.

When I started, we had to create space for ourselves. However, today the space exists, and the playground is big enough for all the talent that exists!

How crucial, according to you, is a formal training in design?

Formal training helps you to get a bird’s eye view of design and develop the skill sets and the knowledge required.

In today's world, I would say formal training is important, because one does not have the privilege of developing as a designer slowly.

The world has very little tolerance towards learning from mistakes! On the flip side, some of the world’s best designs have come from people with no formal training at all.

Are there any training institutes in the offing?

I am a designer first and last - I do not think I could be a good teacher; having said that, I would prefer one-to-one mentoring.

What are your tips for a budding designer?

Look into your own heart, see what is in it that you would like to share with the world and go about and show it.

What are the future projects in the pipeline?

There is always a long to-do list... but what eventually happens is a mix of the list and circumstances. I will wait and see if I can surprise myself!

Jai Kumar




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