Interact with these doodles to jump to the topic in the video

00:00:09 Hi everyone I m Kadambari Sahu. I'm the head of design at Value Labs. Design Inspire is

00:00:14 the web series of passionate innovative and young inspiring designers. The web series

00:00:20 dive into their passion inspiration and what makes them go. It's an effort to understand

00:00:25 how they are navigating their career path and how they are investing their creative

00:00:30 energies. We believe hearing their bold moves and inspiring stories that will ignite interest

00:00:34 and inspired the next generation of bonding designers across the globe. So let's go forward.

00:00:40 Our today's guest is Gaurav Patekar. Gaurav is designer and maker, working at the intersection

00:00:46 of art, design and technology. Is currently working as a research assistant at the MIT

00:00:51 Media Lab. There is a part of future sketches and fluid interfaces research groups. He had

00:00:57 studied design and engineering prior to coming to MIT. His current work focuses on creating

00:01:02 experiences and object based on climate data in order to bring the issues of climate change

00:01:07 to people's attention. Some of those interests are data visualization, kinetic sculpture,

00:01:13 interaction design, digital fabrication and craft practices. He believes that bringing

00:01:18 together disparate approaches and skills can lead to normal and unusual outcomes. So welcome

00:01:24 to the show Gaurav how are you doing today?

00:01:27 I'm good. How are you?

00:01:29 So Gaurav the format of the show is that the first we go with your presentation where you

00:01:36 would share with us. Anything that inspires you motivates you or your journey for that

00:01:40 factor. And the second part of the show would be that I'll be asking you questions. So all

00:01:45 of these questions are actually compiled by the designers at user experience group at

00:01:50 Valuelabs and we'll go forward from here to that then. So, over to you excited to see

00:01:57 your presentation.

00:01:58 I'll start with my journey, like how I came to where I am. And yeah so I think I'll start

00:02:10 with the engineering. Like, I went into mechanical engineering at an undergraduate level because

00:02:16 I was really interested in making things and that's something I had been doing since childhood

00:02:21 and based on at that time mechanical engineering was the best fit and the four years of engineering

00:02:29 were pretty interesting. But they were also like there were a lot of things that I realized

00:02:36 that I did not know before were engineering kind of fell short one of those things, was

00:02:42 that. I felt that engineering is not like the engineering the way it was taught at that

00:02:48 time and the place I went to was not really about making thing that's more about like

00:02:56 handling things and I did not really want to do that and. so during like the end of

00:03:02 my engineering. Fortunately, I came across this place called an NID and they seem to

00:03:07 have the single product design and new media design and that seemed to make a lot of sense.

00:03:13 So after like a year of working somewhere and trying to get into NID I was in, I got

00:03:22 into a new media design in 2012 and So the two years of an NID were really interesting

00:03:30 and I would not really go into that because I believe a lot of us know what that is, by

00:03:36 but but what I want to talk about is the two years after that. So, so I think like the

00:03:44 two years of an NID were like the most Common condensed amount of learning. I have had in

00:03:51 my life, like it was just like a lot of things back to back and I think I learned a lot and

00:03:57 I met a lot of people who I wouldn't otherwise and but, but one of the issues that I had

00:04:05 with an NID was that Like it was it was a bit too fast for my liking. And like I'm a

00:04:13 pretty slow person so I think I took like the two years after an NID to just like uncompressed

00:04:18 and I just the two years and also like when I came out of NID. I did not really know what

00:04:26 is a wireframe like it's not really something I did at NID and that's a good thing. Like,

00:04:32 I didn't really want to do that, at the end of time. But yeah, so the point I'm trying

00:04:40 to stress is that while I learned a lot. At NID. There were a lot of skills that I did

00:04:48 not have. And so I think that do is after that were really good time to kind of gather

00:04:55 all these skills and become a designer. So when I think about my design education. I

00:05:01 think of it as these four years and not two years and so these two years were really interesting

00:05:08 like I was pretty clueless about like what is design. And what do people do and what

00:05:14 do I want to do. And I kind of ended up doing a lot of things like I did freelance visual

00:05:20 design for the United Nations, and I did some interaction design projects. I also did some

00:05:26 kind of the sculpture that I exhibited in Maker Faire and like some other places. And

00:05:33 so I think that has like a good like a good learning period where I go to try a lot of

00:05:42 things. And yeah, so at the end of those two years I was kind of comfortable calling myself

00:05:50 a designer. And at that point of time, I was already working as an interaction designer

00:05:57 in the company and things are going pretty well, but I had like a sense of Like something

00:06:05 is lacking for me like I wanted to do something, but I was not able to do it and I always had

00:06:12 a vision of working as a new media designer, whatever that may mean and so I am like I

00:06:22 wanted to work on making interactive installations are like I thought that my like day to day

00:06:30 life would involve like using our dinners and processing or things beyond that and I

00:06:37 was not really able to actually like turn that into reality and that point of time.

00:06:42 So, so I was getting a little demotivated during that period, but so one of the really

00:06:49 good things that happened during that period was that I had somehow, like I had really

00:06:56 good people around me that I found really meaningful relationships with and I think

00:07:04 that was like a place like that was one of the most important things that happened during

00:07:09 that point of time. So Kadambari being like one of those people and like a couple of other

00:07:15 people.And so I think it's really important to have a few people around you that you really

00:07:24 relate with and that understand you and your interest in what you're trying to do and what

00:07:29 are your struggles. So that was a fortunate thing that happened during that point of time

00:07:34 and so many of those friendships were also collaborative partnerships, where I ended

00:07:41 up working on really interesting projects that I'm still very proud of and these were

00:07:48 like pretty big projects that were a lot of fun and a lot of headache, at times, and but

00:07:56 yeah, it's so that was again like a very good period of time, like, looking back and yeah,

00:08:04 so one of the like domain thing that I had in the, like, if I could, like, say one thing

00:08:10 for those two years is the meaningful relationships that I found that I still value. And I think

00:08:17 I will always value those relationships. And yeah. And during all this time so

00:08:25 So media lab has like always been something that I will looking at and it's it always

00:08:32 was something that I wanted to be part of. And I had applied a couple of times before

00:08:40 I got in and around like 2019 I applied to this group called poetic justice and It was,

00:08:49 it was more like I applied and I was not really like, I didn't really know if like that's

00:08:58 like a realistic possibility or is it just like a waste of $60 once again. But, but,

00:09:05 yeah. So, somehow it worked out and I I do want to like emphasize on the role of

00:09:14 chance in that in that selection, because Media Lab gets a lot of applications for like

00:09:22 two seats. Yeah, like 300 people applying and it's not always about like how good you

00:09:27 are, or how Sometimes it just like there is a good role

00:09:33 of chance that that exists there and yeah so side like I consider myself very fortunate

00:09:43 that it kind of worked out. And I was being able to go to MIT Media Lab and Yeah, so that's

00:09:51 where I am right now and I'll be finishing next year and had the second is a very again

00:09:59 like similar to an NID, it's like two years of very condensed thing where there are like

00:10:05 a lot of things flying around, and I'm still trying to make sense of what is going on.

00:10:10 And that, but then I have faith that it really makes sense. Like later. Like, it's not just

00:10:16 previous probably to take me three, four or five years to kind of really understand what

00:10:23 is happening. And yeah, so after like 2021 I didn't really know what happens or yeah

00:10:30 so that's that's the current timeline. And yes, I think. So it's I even though, like

00:10:46 this is like a linear timeline. Like, I don't feel it's linear, like it a lot of going back

00:10:53 and forth. And a lot of times of confusion that I was pretty clueless. And then it made

00:10:58 sense. And then I was again clueless. And I'm still a clueless about a lot of things.

00:11:02 And one day, it makes sense and it doesn't. The next day, so site. So this is like a like

00:11:08 there are a lot of struggles there and I have picked up a lot of small thing that have somehow

00:11:14 worked out for me and I thought I would like to share those things for people who are kind

00:11:20 of starting out in the field. So yes, I go to that three four thing that I would suggest.

00:11:33 And so I want to use the word submission, rather than like Advice or guidelines, because

00:11:39 that's not really what I can do. Like these are just something that have worked and I

00:11:46 would suggest doing those. But again, like, it, it, it's different for everyone. And it

00:11:53 might like maybe it might not work for you. Maybe it will Yeah so. So I want to start

00:12:03 with this. It's like a weird statement, but I like I've been hearing it in some of my

00:12:09 conversations with people at the lab and so there are like two sides of this statement

00:12:17 and it's important to acknowledge that making art is hard and it applies to any creative

00:12:24 endeavor. Like if you're starting your own project if you're starting your company or

00:12:29 if you're trying to do something that they have not done before and you're not really

00:12:35 sure. So, so that is a hard process and and it's hard to like one is on starting anything

00:12:43 new or creating anything new is like, firstly It takes a certain amount of courage and certain

00:12:57 amount of For example, like I have like a lot of anxiety

00:13:03 about making new things and it's It's sometimes difficult to like push to that

00:13:09 and be able to make something and put it out into the world and yeah, so that's often something

00:13:16 that gets lost in the the narrative or the documentation. But yeah, so for people who

00:13:25 are starting out, I just want to say that it is hard to do these things and its okay.

00:13:30 Like, it's not a bad thing in this, how it is. And of course, it's like 2020 so of course

00:13:38 is going to be hard. It's like we all know how things are so, so yeah, so going after

00:13:47 this. Yeah, I'll just go to the first. So I'm looking at like a wheel making sharing

00:14:00 and learning to go there because of like a cyclical thing and

00:14:06 So, so this is again something I did not learn at an NID, because NID has a structure like

00:14:17 any educational institute has a structure where you are making things because you have

00:14:24 to and because we want to because you have the environment, but then after like when

00:14:30 you're on your own. When you're in the industry or when you are paying rent and taking care

00:14:35 of electricity bills. It's difficult to have that mindset sometimes and It's very important

00:14:43 to have a habit of producing something and and it can be like It can be a lot of like

00:14:57 it can be a lot of things like it doesn't have to be. Like the work you're doing right

00:15:02 now. It could be also a side project that you're starting out just a skill that you

00:15:07 want to learn, but it's important to have a habit or develop like some sort of mechanism.

00:15:13 So those could be that you sketch for like five minutes of every day and how you have

00:15:20 like weekly or monthly challenges where you try to do something for 30 and Yes like a

00:15:28 couple of things that I have been doing so. So, this I started like during I guess the

00:15:33 beginning of pandemic, where I was, I found myself like being at home and with like a

00:15:41 lot of time and I wanted to do something and I have been working with Zach, who is one

00:15:50 of my advisors who is also the creator of open frameworks and he is like the master

00:15:57 of daily creation, like he started, I think in 2006 when he started like hosting one sketch,

00:16:06 everyday. And now we like, it's like his timeline is filled with these things that he creates

00:16:12 and you can really see like how he has progress like he so he has kind of perfected this art

00:16:24 of making things every day and it's and it's it's really beautiful to see like if like

00:16:32 what you will make in 2016 and how like those really simple ideas have calculated into his

00:16:39 work and now they are really important part of what he does. And similarly, if you look

00:16:45 at, like what he's doing right now like sound. Those things are part of his word. What's

00:16:51 on those things are just iterations and I'm sure like those will work it into some the

00:16:57 future work and that's very beautiful because one of the powers of creating like this in

00:17:07 a systematic way is that you can just play with things and you're not really trying to

00:17:11 filter out things or you're not really trying to cure it. You're just like you're just starting

00:17:17 with you want to make something to the end that's as long as you do that, that's good

00:17:21 enough. So so I am still practicing this. I'm not

00:17:27 really able to do this every day right now but but yeah it's it's good to have some sort

00:17:34 of like a daily or weekly and yes, I want to go to the next point related to that. So

00:17:43 yeah, so the summer. So this is like my first year in United States, and I suggest like

00:17:50 during quarantine I started taking a lot of walks, because there's not much to do and

00:17:58 And it's the area that I live in right now in Massachusetts. It's very beautiful outside

00:18:04 and all the seasons that I'm experiencing are the first time I'm experiencing these

00:18:09 in this weather. So it's really nice to see how the summer starts or how the spring starts

00:18:16 or what fall is like and so during my walks over like last few months, I've been coming

00:18:24 out of these like leaves and the seeds, which I don't really see in India and and they they

00:18:34 all have their the way they move when there is wind or the way they fall is very beautiful

00:18:41 than unique in a way that that have not seen before and. And so during all these walks.

00:18:48 I was looking at these things and I wanted to do something with them. But I didn't really

00:18:52 know what to do. And during the time I happen to acquire a 3D printer and I thought it might

00:18:59 be interesting to just try to like put those two together and try to like replicate that

00:19:05 movement in some way and I started this without any agenda, like I didn't really want it to

00:19:11 be like a series or anything. But I thought it would be good to have like a weekly thing

00:19:15 so I put it on myself to like make one of these a week. And yes so I think having doing

00:19:26 that for like the last couple of months and like seven of these little things which don't

00:19:36 make any sense. But like they're kind of whimsical they are not all of them. Like I don't even

00:19:45 like all of them, which is nice because if I was consciously like trying to create this

00:19:52 I would reject like lot of these ideas on their own, and I would not end up making it

00:19:57 but through the process of making it like it makes sense. After making some of the things

00:20:02 it makes sense. During making some of these things. And that's again, a very beautiful

00:20:09 thing that happens when you have these routines of daily or weekly making yeah. So, so now

00:20:21 the second thing after making is to. So this is a quote by Austin Kleon show you what he

00:20:29 also has a really good book about it. And so I I look at showing your work in in context

00:20:38 of people like us who are in the In Design field or in like who are makers and So it's

00:20:49 really important to be I think I mean like getting it has really benefited me to do this

00:21:00 thing where you try to like your let's try to apply for some competitions are some conferences

00:21:08 are some open calls or just let go to an event that is happening around you go to the Maker

00:21:15 Faire and just try to show what you're doing. And I think nowadays it's really good to like

00:21:26 have things like Instagram, but you have a very good community of people who are doing

00:21:32 very similar things and you can connect with people across the world. If you are doing

00:21:37 that say processing our country also really good online communities that are extremely

00:21:42 encouraging and helpful when you're doing something with that and so I think sharing

00:21:52 is like making and sharing is like a very important thing that has helped me a lot.

00:21:59 And I'm yeah and yeah. So the third thing is to kind of find your tribe. So this is

00:22:10 again a very Important thing that that have learned over the last few years.

00:22:19 which is related to the sharing part where it's not It's sometimes it's scary to like

00:22:25 share what you're making because it can also go in a bad direction because It's, it's kind

00:22:33 of tricky like I fortunately how had people around me who have kind of Understood what

00:22:43 I was trying to do and helped me in that way. And now I'm like now at MIT Media Lab. There

00:22:50 are really good people who really take the time to, like I said, with my advisors, like

00:22:56 every week and they take time out to kind of understand what I'm trying to make and

00:23:03 then help me out with that. And that's a really big privilege or two how like friends who

00:23:09 you can talk to and who understand what you're trying to share, is it is a great privilege

00:23:18 and it's, it, it doesn't happen automatically. But it requires some effort to kind of find

00:23:26 the people who you want to share it. And it's it's worthwhile taking that effort to find

00:23:34 who, who are these people do you, for example, if you look at conferences, maybe you might

00:23:43 go to a UX conference and you might feel that. Okay, so you really relate with what is happening

00:23:48 here. You might go to Maker Faire and then you will feel that. Okay, I really understand

00:23:54 these people and and that's important to take the time out to kind of see where you want

00:24:00 to be. And Yeah, so this is so this so this circle of making sharing and learning has

00:24:13 worked really well for me and it's It's something that I'm constantly trying to practice and

00:24:19 I do believe that if I can keep doing that. It's like it. Everything else can kind of

00:24:27 fall in place. And yeah, so as a I mean I would really like to know this, like maybe

00:24:36 five years back when I was when I had a lot of doubts about should I like why am I making

00:24:42 Kinetic sculpture, should I be doing this at my time. Does it make sense? It would have

00:24:47 really helped to like know at the time that just like doing this as we go into make sense

00:24:53 and somehow like fit together later on. So that's something I would like to leave you

00:24:59 with that somehow makes sense like this, try to like, yeah, just like make whatever you're

00:25:08 making, even if it's like water colors are processing or coding or pottery. It's fine.

00:25:18 It's good. And Yeah, so the last thing I have kind of learned is, is, in a way, a very positive

00:25:27 thing, but it can also be very scary is that there are no rules and then of course there

00:25:33 are rules, but there are no absolute truth so so this is something I learned by like

00:25:41 going from engineering to design and design to Art and Art technology and all this mixing

00:25:47 of things like I come across a lot of people who have very diverse backgrounds and and

00:25:55 I think like in design field like we learn a lot of these things which we think of as

00:26:03 rules and often they are like frameworks or guidance, which are very valid, but they are

00:26:09 not valid in all cases like they're always cases where you can break the rules or you

00:26:15 can disregard that will send and it's good to I find it helpful to kind of know that

00:26:24 in the background that these are kind of structure that someone have built up and there are always

00:26:31 flaws in those and especially when you're trying to mix multiple disciplines, which

00:26:36 interaction design is mixing up like a lot of different disciplines. It's difficult,

00:26:41 it's important to be able to have that skeptical mindset and to be able to see where the rules

00:26:50 can be broken. But it's also yeah it's also a negative part of like this statement would

00:27:02 be that it's very scary to know that there are no rules, because then how do you function.

00:27:08 So part of the journey is also to find your own rules like you how to create your own

00:27:14 framework and that's something I'm still struggling with and learning from like other people like

00:27:22 what are their books and it's yes I think it's that kind of my

00:27:27 task right now to kind of make my own framework of something.

00:27:33 Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today. It's really really profound and there's

00:27:40 a lot of wisdom involved in it. And I really think that a lot of people have gone through

00:27:45 these things where they did not know how to start. First of all, even coming to design

00:27:49 is something that people generally don't know That, you know, for reasons like that field

00:27:55 exist and that has been like one of the recurring themes that I've asked people that you know

00:28:00 how did they come across design and how did it start for you. So, and those have been

00:28:06 these these answers, where they did not know it was accident. It was chance and things

00:28:11 like that. So yeah, I mean, in a way, it all makes sense. What you've just spoken to us.

00:28:17 And now let's go forward with some of the questions that people have, you don't compile

00:28:22 for you. And the first question that I'll ask because the same one. And that is, when

00:28:26 and how did you think of becoming a designer and how did it start for you.

00:28:31 Yeah. I said, like during so I went into mechanical engineering because I was already like into

00:28:42 robotics and making things, whether it be like craft or and then and then I like I thought

00:28:49 at that point of time that mechanical engineers meeting, then, That made sense and and during

00:28:55 mechanical engineering, I did end up making things but they will not really part of my

00:29:01 academic education. They were mostly thing that I was taking up on my own. And I think

00:29:07 it's different in a place like MIT where I see a lot of undergrads, making things that

00:29:13 go into space and lead deep ocean. So, but yes I that's kind of what I wanted. At that

00:29:22 point of time and and so I was do towards the end of my engineering. I was kind of confused

00:29:30 and looking at, like, what to do now. And I think almost by chance. I came across this

00:29:40 video of a person from MIT Media Lab.It's, it's this device called six and which was

00:29:47 kind of going viral. At that point of time, and everyone was watching it and I was like,

00:29:52 What is this, like, how do you do this thing like I like what is are you an engineer. Are

00:29:59 you like an artist or but what I you and so I kind of looked up this person and I saw

00:30:04 that they went to this place called IDC which is like in Mumbai, where I was at that point

00:30:09 of time. And but I didn't know like this existed. And then I saw that there was a single product

00:30:14 design. And I was like, what is that I Before that, like I was, I was pretty ignorant. Like,

00:30:19 I came from a small town and I went to engineering and so so yeah, I didn't really know there

00:30:27 was this whole field of design that existed and so somehow like watching that video and

00:30:32 looking up at this person and then going into the rabbit hole of hyperlinks. I realized

00:30:40 that there's this place called IDC in Mumbai, which has things called product design and

00:30:47 interaction design. And I also came across this place called an NID. And I was like,

00:30:52 I didn't really know like this seemed a little sketchy like I didn't really know anyone goes

00:30:57 there. I've never heard of this place. But, but, yeah, I was only able to find like two

00:31:03 places in India at that point of time, who offered design. So I ended up applying to

00:31:09 both And so this was like one like a fortunate accident that I came across these things and

00:31:20 other ones that I during that time, I ended up attending a workshop by again, MIT Media

00:31:27 Lab India initiative where I met a person from an NID nickel Doshi, you go, that's my

00:31:37 plan.And so he almost like convinced me to not go to product design. He were like what

00:31:43 you're saying. Like if you're like, You want to make things and you want to make tech devices

00:31:47 and things, then you have to go to New Media design like that's what they do. And so, like,

00:31:52 Okay that makes sense. So, so yes and applying to new media design and and yeah, so that's

00:32:01 how I came to an NID and I was yes, I was pretty clueless even like after coming to

00:32:06 an NID as to, like, what is new media design and I still can t define like I don't know

00:32:13 anyone knows how to describe it. But yeah, it does. It does. Like a series of accidents

00:32:21 that kind of led to that and yea it's a difficult to like this. I don't know how things are

00:32:29 now. But yeah, there is not a lot of Information about like design schools and also because

00:32:35 of the fact that there are so few design schools in India and it's such a new field.

00:32:43 So with all the cluelessness that you have. Now, how do you define your practice?

00:32:50 So I always find like defining things a bit difficult because.Yeah, I mean I I don't know

00:33:00 if I can like define it, but I can maybe describe it, so and it's again like a reaction to where

00:33:08 I am. So, for example, like when I went to an NID I felt like an engineer, because I

00:33:16 like computer design like I was more on the engineering side. And then when I come to

00:33:22 MIT, which is, which has like a lot of people who are into like hardcore science and engineering.

00:33:27 Then I feel more like a designer and and but I wouldn't like I'm still uncomfortable calling

00:33:34 myself like an engineer or a designer. So because it's like I don't think I like exactly

00:33:42 fit into any of these categories but but yes right now my I if I describe like my practice.

00:33:50 I'm just trying to make things like that's making things is something that has been consistent

00:33:55 and then some of those things can be thought of as design some of those things can be thought

00:34:01 of as engineering sound those things, hopefully will be thought of as art. And that's, that's

00:34:07 nice. One thing I want to keep making things and

00:34:14 right now I think they will mostly fall within the domain of Art and Design, but will involve

00:34:22 a lot of technology.

00:34:24 So would you call yourself in that case Maker?

00:34:29 Yeah

00:34:30 So you you are so then you confirm with the maker culture, right, like where you make

00:34:35 things and show things. And is this part of that culture as well which is picking up,

00:34:41 it really

00:34:43 Yeah so so maker culture is again like a pretty broad field so I mean, I definitely like feel

00:34:56 part of it. Yeah I consider making like the maker culture, not as the early the current

00:35:14 trend that you see, which is often like around like Hackathon certainly the deal maker spaces

00:35:23 like it's I mean, like we have a lot of graph practices that we have been doing. And some

00:35:29 of those we learn as children, and that is also part of maker culture, not in like the

00:35:36 meaning of the new world, but in like a broader sense. And if you look at like I seen the

00:35:43 West, like in schools, some other people have learned how to do woodworking. And that's

00:35:48 really great. Like I never learned that, and that is also maker culture. And if you're

00:35:54 into embroidery or stitching things or if you crochet at home. That's also maker culture.

00:36:01 So, so any act of making things I would consider as part of maker culture and sometimes it

00:36:09 could also be like making cakes. That's, that's also maker culture

00:36:13 That s great to hear. So you've also worked on. Like there's like repertoire things that

00:36:20 you've worked on. You've tried lot of things. And I also see that there's also this whole

00:36:25 thing that you try a lot of different stuff which is nontraditional so is that by choice

00:36:31 that trying to keep away from something which is quite traditional.

00:36:37 I mean I wouldn't say it's a conscious choice, it's more of like where the interest go and

00:36:48 and yeah, so it's it's a combination of like what I find appealing. And then what I find

00:36:53 most valuable at that point of time. So, for example, like I'm really interested in digital

00:36:59 fabrication and I use that a lot. In most of my work. Like, I can't imagine the world

00:37:07 without digital fabrication and that's and part of it and just convenience, like It's

00:37:15 easier to have like a 3D printer. Then have a full workshop that I can machine things

00:37:20 in and yeah and I think at this I mean, I think it's going to be like the default like

00:37:34 in a few years. And yes I but I also have like a lot of interest in traditional practices.

00:37:45 And yeah I mean I don't really practice them like professionally but. But it's not really

00:37:54 something that like I would not look at it as like a choice between like going towards

00:38:00 unconventional things or like new things versus traditional practices.

00:38:08 In these different mediums that you've experimented. Can you talk about some of your work in these

00:38:15 different mediums?

00:38:17 Yeah. So I think I can talk about like one of the projects called Data delivery part,

00:38:25 which I did in I think 2017 with two of my friends Deja and Shubham and the one and I

00:38:34 think I really like. It's one of my favorite projects because it kind of has a lot of interesting

00:38:43 aspects and the process of how the project came about is also interesting. So see, I

00:38:50 think I just started like a story about that. So, so before like that, but I was kind of

00:39:00 in that state of mind where I was confused and I was I was working as an interaction

00:39:06 designer, but then I will like I want to do something and it's again, going back to like

00:39:12 find your tribe find like it's difficult to like always do things on your own and again

00:39:19 by accident, like this person put this thing on Facebook or where he was like, I want to

00:39:26 do, like, I want to participate in some Event. I'm looking for collaborator and collaborators

00:39:33 and and he put luckier put that thing on Facebook pretty seriously but I kind of have jokingly

00:39:39 responded to that. And then he reached out to me. And so I think he was also at home

00:39:46 feeling similar things that he wanted to do something and he wanted some people to work

00:39:51 with. And I wanted the same thing. So we kind of started talking over phone. And so he was

00:39:59 in Delhi at that point of time, and I was in Hyderabad and I think we had like a lot

00:40:04 of conversations, which somehow like sometimes like when for like two hours a day and and

00:40:14 that like very slowly, because we are I think both kind of slow in anyways so and So we

00:40:24 went through like a very, very long process of like talking a lot, and going towards like

00:40:28 what we want to do, and we went to a lot of ideas and just like talk about talked about

00:40:33 random things and what makes sense and somehow settled on making a data visualization

00:40:46 and yeah so so that was how the concept came about through like three months of talking

00:40:54 on the phone and and I think though the process like we kind of made it a bit too complex

00:41:05 for like skill set. It was like it. It just I'd like a lot of different aspects. So so,

00:41:14 for example, it is Food printer. So it's like painting jalebi so there's like Jalebi batter

00:41:23 is like pouring out oh thing and there is like a frying pan with the induction stow

00:41:28 and like a 3D printer on top of trying hard frying pan and there were like some new metrics

00:41:36 involved. And yes, it was like it was pretty messy for for a project to be done remotely

00:41:44 because we're both in different cities. So, so that is like a lot of fun to like play

00:41:51 around with all these things and to put all these things together. And again, that's something

00:41:58 I really like and value to be able to put like a part of cooking with digital fabrication

00:42:08 thing with like data visualization and some design skills. And so what you can literally

00:42:15 it by mixing all these weird thing. There's something that in a way, is pretty unique

00:42:23 and something that is that maybe only that sort of people can create and that's, that's,

00:42:32 again, very beautiful for me to be able to have that.

00:42:35 How did you like take this part of creating Jalebi first of all how did you arrive at,

00:42:44 you know, starting with Jalebi and second thing is Data visualization. Right. So how

00:42:50 did you think about this algorithm or like you know how this Jalebi would be transformed.

00:42:54 When you know you are fixing the data and part of it.

00:43:03 Yeah, So the project was like we started it as something that we wanted to exhibit in

00:43:09 this conference that was happening in India called interact 17 which is a, it's a conference

00:43:15 pretty famous and it was happening in India for the first time and I think they had I

00:43:23 forgot the theme, but I think it was about like the traditions of India or culture of

00:43:28 India. And so we were brainstorming about like around that a lot like what it means

00:43:36 for an extra confidence to happen in India and what part of Indian culture. Do we want

00:43:43 to do we want to highlight within that and what me and Karan we're pretty Interested

00:43:54 in data visualization as a field like I think he has worked a little in that he had worked

00:44:00 in between that in the past and so, and so it was kind of part of it like reverse engineering

00:44:10 like trying to see, like, what the context of like it's an it's a conference. It's a

00:44:18 design thing. It's a word culture of India. So, and then what are our interests. So our

00:44:23 interest well data visualization and some other things and and so what could be what

00:44:28 could we do around that so also one of the things. One of the other things that kind

00:44:36 of triggered the data visualization part was that these conferences, get a lot of people

00:44:41 from different disciplines and how do we kind of show the diversity in the people. So, so

00:44:49 what if we could make a data visualization of the people who are coming to the conferences.

00:44:56 Because like you always go to these events and there are so many people who come from

00:45:02 different fields. And it's kind of difficult to understand, like, what is happening. So,

00:45:08 so we thought of, like, making a data visualization for a person. So let's say you as a conference

00:45:13 attendee what, what is your visualization and and the Jalebi part more of like a whimsical

00:45:22 thing that we just said in like one of those calls like what if you make a Jalebi like

00:45:27 that's like a strange thing to do. We also had a data atta concept, which we rejected,

00:45:35 but it was like one of the almost like at the same level as be data Jalebi to make atta

00:45:45 with data. So, so, yeah, it does so. So the Jalebi part came as like a whimsical idea

00:45:51 that then made a lot of sense because it touched upon a lot of aspects of HCI community and

00:45:59 It just made sense at the time.

00:46:03 So my next question is more towards to do with your the like where you are, which is

00:46:11 introvert and I've seen that being introvert also means not being very vocal. So how do

00:46:17 you make sure that you don't hurt?

00:46:21 So, so I don't really make sure like every time. Like its but I think what I have

00:46:31 Ended up doing is to like choose where I am. So, for example, like I can go to certain

00:46:37 places like my voice is not valued and or not good, but fortunately I have come across

00:46:44 like I have ended up at places which do value my voice and or like places that have structures

00:46:51 that make sure that, like, just because you're an introvert. Your voice is not like that

00:46:58 doesn't happen. So I think MIT media lab has done that pretty well where I don't feel like

00:47:05 it's like being an introvert is a disadvantage in any way. And that's not really a credit

00:47:12 to me, but to the structure of the institute and all have done is like I have managed to

00:47:20 like be here and I think the same with other community that I've been part of, like, the

00:47:28 friends I have the NID community where an NID is not really a community that like Shawn,

00:47:35 so he introvert voices. And Yeah, and I think like sometimes I mean, I think there are ways

00:47:48 of like even if you're an introvert like making your voice heard. Is not that difficult to

00:47:52 just try to find what works for you, like,Like to be heard. Like sometimes speaking less

00:47:58 is good. Like, it's not really like, you know, always have to like speak more to be heard

00:48:05 more it's actually better to speak less sometimes. And and yeah I think now, like everything

00:48:11 is virtual then they can zoom calls, it's a lot easier to like speak of them.In a group,

00:48:17 full of like 20 people.

00:48:19 And some of your advice to people who are introverts are also not very, very conducive

00:48:27 for, you know, networking and all how you've talked about sharing. But then how do you

00:48:32 go about making those you know connections. Any advice for those people.

00:48:39 So, so I'm not really good at networking. It's like I'm pretty bad. But what helps is

00:48:50 that so I'm not really good at like going to an event. And just like network with people

00:48:55 without anything but but it's but I'm really comfortable talking about what I do and like

00:49:03 sharing. Let's say there is a project and I like literally as a political leader delivered

00:49:08 that I'm happy to like, share with people and talk about it and then among the people

00:49:13 I talked to, like, some of them will find that interesting. And that will be take a

00:49:18 point of connect and so I find that to be the easier route to connect rather than through

00:49:24 words where I can For example, like I often post things on Instagram

00:49:30 that don't really have a caption, but then but in that like sometimes people reach out

00:49:37 to me and that's nice because when like they're reaching out to me because of the work, and

00:49:43 that's that's that's desirable for me. Similarly, like I would find it pretty intimidating to

00:49:51 go to a networking event but but it's less intimidating to I mean, it is still intimidating,

00:49:59 but it is easier to like give like a presentation or talk at that event. And then people will

00:50:05 reach out to you if they find your work. Interesting. And so I kind of find that like Drake of connecting

00:50:13 or work and I had gone to one of these talks like almost 10 years back where I think it

00:50:23 was one of the professors from MIT, he was so different suggesting this that they don't

00:50:31 I mean I don't completely stand by the solution, but his suggestion was that like, don't do

00:50:37 small talk like this and start with what you're passionate about and I think that works sometimes

00:50:43 but I I don't click advice, it but I mean, it's something you could try out is.

00:50:52 So I take it that some of the things is that sharing your work has really helped you connect

00:50:58 with people who are interested in work and you know like minded that as you talked about

00:51:02 the tribe and you know likeminded people with whom you feel comfortable coming to work right

00:51:09 now. So how was it working in an MIT media lab right now? How you working and what are

00:51:17 you working on?

00:51:20 Yeah. So, I think I'm working on like a couple of different things again. So, so one of the

00:51:29 things that I'm focusing on is a data visualization, because I think that's something that I really

00:51:35 enjoy and I, there is this artist called Georgia loopy, who has this idea of data humanism,

00:51:42 rather than. And so I think it could look like a look up her data humanism framework.

00:51:50 It's almost like a manifesto when she her approach of looking at data is very beautiful

00:51:55 like she's like when you think of data or data visualization. We often think of like

00:52:02 big data. And this network diagrams utterly connecting hundred points 200 different points

00:52:07 and her way of looking at data visualization is very like at your level or at how you're

00:52:14 feeling or how you're thinking, and it's a very intimate way of looking at data visualization.

00:52:20 And so that's kind of something I feel is very valuable and very needed right now. And

00:52:29 so, so that's why I think I chose to work with data visualization. And so right now

00:52:34 I'm focusing on two different things. One is to work with data that you collect from

00:52:41 the human body. So one of the groups that I'm part of a media lab is fluid interfaces,

00:52:48 where a lot of the work is about data from biosensors, it might be like EG or electrical

00:52:56 activity and I'm trying to look at how to visualize the data in a way that is more human,

00:53:05 and less of analytics and more more of intimate data. That you can understand

00:53:18 at a personal level. So, that is that is one thing I'm trying that I'm interested in. And

00:53:25 another thing is for my thesis. I'm looking at climate data because I mean climate crisis

00:53:33 like I didn't really talk about global warming and climate crisis, it's it is It's not a

00:53:40 matter of like happening or not. It's like, how bad is it and what can we do about it.

00:53:45 And so, so there is again there is like a lot of data already in the scientific literature,

00:53:52 but it's difficult to understand it and it's difficult to contextualize it and it's and

00:53:59 even after understanding and contextualizing it's It's difficult to use that in our lives

00:54:09 and some of it is also very dystopian, it's kind of like you often feel helpless looking

00:54:16 at like those figures and so I am looking at how the process of data visualization can

00:54:24 be used to take that complex and messy data and try to make meaning out of the data that

00:54:32 that at an individual level, you can consume. So I'm looking at data sculptures are no interactively

00:54:41 to experiences that will allow you to experience climate data in a In an interesting way.

00:54:50 Almost these climate data sculptures, or you know visualization that I've seen like the

00:54:54 the first one that comes to your mind is a polar bear. Right. And disconnect that I see,

00:55:00 so so have you found like anything that you find it intimately connected or what are your

00:55:06 strategies in terms of, you know, making sure that it is it's not scary. Its not dystopian

00:55:11 as you talked about. So what are your thoughts on that?

00:55:15 Yeah, so so having like a reading about these approaches and so there are, I think two things.

00:55:25 One is like the polar bear. It's like one piece of information, which is that like things

00:55:31 or bad things are going to get banned and then on the other extreme, we have like a

00:55:37 600 page IPCC report talking about what is going to happen and like 1500 different scenarios

00:55:44 and so I think if like if I get to know that like things are going to go bad, or like if

00:55:52 everything is going to go underwater like I didn't really know what to do with that.

00:55:58 And if you give me the report I won't know what to do with that. So, so where is like

00:56:02 a good point in the middle where the message is not just that everything is going to go

00:56:09 bad, but like something that I can work with something that I can understand and comprehend

00:56:13 them possibly like share with others. So, so there is like a spark that I had to navigate

00:56:20 with It's it makes sense. So, that is, I think, one aspect of yes and that is another value

00:56:29 of data visualization where it ideally tries to find that place the other answer to your

00:56:39 question is about like the dystopian messaging. So, say, a lot of the dialogue was about how

00:56:47 everything is going to like everything to melt and so, and that was like the messaging

00:56:55 for the last 10 years and now some the research is saying that that's not really working because

00:57:00 if you give that to people, they just feel helpless and that doesn't result in like a

00:57:06 good outcome like like earlier, the strategy was to like use fear to kind of like get people

00:57:12 to change their behavior. But that's not working out so there is another strategy that some

00:57:21 research is suggesting of trying to highlight like good stories of restoration and how things

00:57:28 are working in that will give us more for like there is a lot of climate despair. And

00:57:34 if you look at like the wildfires in California right now it's and a lot of young people are

00:57:42 choosing to not have kids because they think it's not like a good idea to bring a child.

00:57:48 And so there is setting, like maybe 10 20 years back. It was like people are not believe

00:57:54 in climate change. Now we are at a place where we believe in it, but not enough hopeful place

00:57:59 so one strategy could be to bring back hope and like show how we could, like, make some

00:58:11 changes. So I'm still very new to this and I'm still evaluating different things and

00:58:16 trying to find my approach which which I don't know like not like what exactly it will be.

00:58:26 We will wait for that. And you know what you come out with them because it's the need of

00:58:31 the art. I believe climate you know, this whole issues are really something that is

00:58:35 now glaring in our eyes and we we can't really, you know, ignore it any further. But going

00:58:41 now to something which is very hopeful and that is what inspires you. I want to understand,

00:58:46 like, what is it things movies. Anything that inspires you.

00:58:52 So, so I think it has also like changes with time to time. So, for example, during quarantine.

00:59:00 I think I had like a lot of time for myself to collect for digging works and observing

00:59:08 things and I'm in a place which is very beautiful. In many ways, and so that so nature is very

00:59:17 inspiring. In that sense, because yeah, they just like a lot happening outside that that

00:59:26 is new for me and interesting for me. And it's also very comforting. In many ways, and

00:59:31 So, so I think nature is an important part right now like I have a lot of plants and

00:59:37 I really like having them and like taking care of them and growing them and So, and

00:59:44 I see that so that started like a while back, and I see like some of those ideas percolating

00:59:52 into what I'm thinking of. And I think like the whole thing of climate like working with

00:59:57 climate data came from that interesting nature. So that's one big thing that inspires me others

01:00:08 I think one of the things like looking at like not looking at really coming across other

01:00:15 people were like, I'm surrounded by a lot of people who are always working with things

01:00:22 that I, I am not really going to be working with. But it's very interesting to see people

01:00:28 working at AI and machine learning and communities and land art. And so that's always something

01:00:41 inspiring to see what other people are doing. And also, like if I go to Instagram. I see

01:00:46 a lot of good people putting out these things every week. And that's also like one of the

01:00:54 important inspiration.

01:00:56 You did give us like some of the pointers and you know your suggestions about how a

01:01:03 young designer, you know, can chart. The journey or you know what they, they can do that you

01:01:10 suggest, but not really recommend because it's up to them to take care of that. But

01:01:14 are there any, like, you know, some of the, you know, suggestions that you will or advice

01:01:20 or yeah I'll just keep it to suggestions that you would still give to people, young people,

01:01:26 people who are just coming out of the college, apart from the ones that you already gave

01:01:36 I mean more of like a general like a generic solution would be to like not really worry

01:01:41 too much about things. And that goes that goes back into the making thing like it. Yeah,

01:01:48 maybe I would like the iterate the making part but it's Where it's importantly, keep

01:02:00 doing something and like trying different things. A lot of them will not make sense

01:02:05 and did not work out. That's okay. But just like try something. And yeah, I think when

01:02:10 you're so I see like some people are just like out of college kind of stressing. A lot

01:02:22 of our like what to do and where the life is going and it's it's good to do that and

01:02:31 but it's also okay to like take your time and take a year or two is pretty small amount

01:02:39 of time. Like I know like when I'm out of college like six months feel like like a lot

01:02:45 of time and I think Adds like the more time progresses to smaller the years feeling so

01:02:54 so it's okay to like this do something else or not do anything take your time. Yeah, there

01:03:03 is there is time. I mean, I know, like other people talk about how there is so less time

01:03:10 and I think I mean, I'm not like old enough to say that that's not true, but I don't like

01:03:14 I think it's a very weird thing to like all this thing about like how time is running

01:03:20 out. Like, I think it's there is time. I mean,

01:03:24 Not to be like rabbit which translate the time. I think that's, that's something that

01:03:28 you would advise

01:03:29 Yeah, I mean, Yeah, especially now, like there are so many things happening. It's easy to

01:03:36 feel like you have to always be on like you have to always make sure that your time is

01:03:44 used most efficiently and there is value in that. But it's also okay if like that's not

01:03:50 really something you want to do for while learning sometime

01:03:54 So, Gaurav thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and I think it'll inspire a lot of

01:04:01 people and you know that this lot of work that you've done that speaks volume. And that

01:04:06 is how I think, you know, you'll also be able to make so much because you've always invested

01:04:12 your time and making things and lot if your work is exceptionally awesome and going to

01:04:17 these work and give the the thoughts that you shared today we would want to confer a

01:04:23 token of love and appreciation on you and that is we're confirming the title of inspiring

01:04:27 young designer. Thank you. And speaking to us. Thank you.


Gaurav talks about his interests in data visualization, kinetic sculptures, interaction design, digital fabrication and craft practices. He also talks about the intricate career decisions that a young designer should make.