Women In Branding #KunalSpeaks

Posted by ABND on March 8, 2019

When an article is about women who are an inspiration, it’s almost mandatory for it to start with the mother, the wife and maybe even the daughter. But not this one. This is about the women in branding who have inspired me and in many ways set the foundation stone for ABND.

Before I get to the women who have inspired me, let me tell you something about myself. I love working with brands, nothing excites me more than the idea of creating new brands right from scratch, or solving challenging brand related problems. But before I arrived to branding, I’ve pretty much explored everything under the “creative” sun – product design, packaging, manufacturing design, signage and way-finding, retail design and so on. Hence, years back when I co-founded ABND, it was because of my love for branding which streams because of the following three women.

Paula Scher

Paula’s 1.5-million-dollar logo-on-a-napkin story is something that I can never stop talking about, it’s the coolest move by any brand designer ever. Yes, 1.5 million dollars for a logo may seem like a lot of money, but for an organization the size of Citi, the value of the logo justifies the cost. Like all branding projects, this one too started with a discussion between the Pentagram team and Citibank. While they were giving the project brief and discussing their expectations, Paula was busy doodling on a napkin.

Somewhere during the discussion, she said “This is your logo” and showed the sketch. That was it. That sketch is what eventually became the Citibank identity. This was the starting point of a massive branding exercise that followed. All in less than 5 minutes for $1.5m!

Her years of experience, immense talent and most importantly her confidence is what translated as that napkin sketch, a doodle that helped solve a problem. This is what I love about Paula Scher, her attitude towards branding and design. Everything about Paula is inspiring – whether it is her impressive body of works (The Public Theatre, Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Opera, Microsoft are the few that come to me on top of my head), or her saying no to projects that don’t fit with her ethos or her attitude towards working for free as being a powerful thing or her eccentric yet stunning hand-painted “maximalist” maps. Paula is one of the greatest liberal designers of our times and she is the reason I fell in love with design in the first place.

Thank you, Paula Scher for making me love visual identities.

Sujata Keshavan

Every brand and design consultancy in India including us need to thank Sujata Keshavan for literally creating us as a business category! Sujata Keshavan should be credited for developing the brand design industry in India. Almost thirty years ago, she founded Ray+Keshavan, India’s first and most influential branding company which was acquired by WPP in 2006.

Back in 1989 when Sujata Keshavan along with Ram Ray started Ray+Keshavan Design Consultancy – it was a category which did not exist in India. Up until then, agencies and brands did not bother about design, their focus was ads. In a time like that, selling design was an uphill task. But she did it.

She is responsible for creating so many brands across every sector thinkable. At one point of time in the early 2000’s, she was the one every bank wanted to run to for rebranding. Some of these brands include Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank, Kotak Mahindra, Trident, The Titan Company, ACC, Vistara, international airports (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad) Ceat and Shoppers Stop.

Sujata strongly believes that design holds a level of power and advocates it in any way she can, either in the boardroom or through her practice. Design according to Sujata can impact business and alter their fortunes.

Thank you, Sujata Keshavan for showing me the business in branding.

Shanoo Bhatia

Shanoo has years of experience in strategic design thinking and design management. She is the Chairperson, National Design Committee of ASSOCHAM and President of the Mumbai Chapter of the Association of Designers of India. Shanoo along with Harkaran Singh Grewal co-owns Eumo, a leading design company in Mumbai. Shanoo’s approach towards design is different. She looks at design as an experience, she can take a brand from a two-dimensional space to an experience in three-dimension more effectively than anyone else I know.

Her ability of visualising the brand across all possible mediums is what makes her amazing. And she has been doing this way before “experience” became a buzzword in the industry.

I can write the most about her because I’ve worked with her. Back in 2008, when I was clueless and exploring everything under the creative sun, Shanoo was the one who gave me the opportunity to work at Eumo (Eureka Moment then). I had no title, neither was my job profile defined and there was a good reason for it – she gave me the freedom to explore, learn and grow. The few years that I worked at Eumo, I did everything – design, strategy, business development and project management. I don’t think I could have done that anywhere else, that’s the kind of freedom I had and I loved every moment of it. At Eumo I had the fortune of working with Shanoo and Gary on several prestigious projects for clients such as TATA Capital, J&K Bank, Reliance Retail, IL&FS, etc. There were no formulas, each brief was born with its own destiny and every brand / space was designed keeping into consideration the overall experience. Even if the project was as simple as creating a visual identity, Shanoo’s design directive was to ensure that every brand touchpoint and end-user engagement was kept into consideration. Working with her cemented my passion for branding.

Thank you, Shanoo Bhatia, for making me see branding as a 360-degree experience.

While these three amazing women made me love branding and inspired me to start ABND, one never really stops learning or getting inspired. There is also another set of women who continue to inspire me every day – the women I work with, the women at ABND. Priyanka Shahra, Ekta Banodkar, Nikita Mathur, Poornima Badwe, Maghan Varkey, Pradnya Ghag, Keren Benjamin, Florie Dsouza and Sveta Vora are the wonderful women from the ABND team. Their ideas, enthusiasm, innovation, hard work and courage is what makes ABND what it is today. These are the women who are always up for a challenge, who bring their best to the table and most importantly work like entrepreneurs.

Lastly, to close this post about women on women’s day, I will not make the mistake of saying Happy Women’s Day because I believe most of the women I’ve mentioned here do not doubt gender equality and they definitely do not need a Women’s Day.

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