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A conversation with Priyam Doshi, furniture and product designer, Forma

Priyam Doshi’s fascination with putting together broken everyday objects gave way to his design inclinations very early on in life. The award-winning designer credits much of his creative approach to the combined learnings of Design and Engineering. Armed with a Master’s Degree from National Institute of Design (NID) Ahmedabad, Priyam now excels at blending form and function as he continues to build the Bedroom Collection for Forma as the brand’s furniture and product designer.

Shristi Singh talks to Priyam about his creative beginnings, his acclaimed Bedroom Collection, his source of inspiration, and much more. Read on:

Priyam Doshi

Could you tell us about some of the important moments in your life that made you want to explore design?

When I was growing up, I would often collect all kinds of waste materials and turn them into gadgets, accessories and vehicles for my G. I. Joes. By the time high school came around, I had made a habit of opening up everything that had broken down, whether it was a doorbell or a speaker. I was also into upcycling old products, making functional gifts from waste, etc. All this tinkering led me to Engineering. During college, I also ended up heading various college festivals and was often referred to as the 'creative guy' amongst my classmates.

This was also when I stumbled upon Product Design and became aware of design colleges in India. When I figured that there were only two good ones in India (that time) - National Institute of Design (NID) and Industrial Design Centre (IDC), I decided to go to the former.

You did your Post-Graduate Diploma in Lifestyle Accessory Design from NID. Were you interested in that particular discipline to begin with? And how was your overall experience at NID?

I knew I wanted to study Product Design and the closest thing I could find to it was Lifestyle Accessory Design. Both were classified under Industrial Design, which had a lot of other sub-categories like Furniture Design, Ceramics and Glass, Toy and Game Design.

Being from an engineering background, I initially felt very lost at NID as most people had come from a design background. There was a lot of talk about design jargons and Design Thinking. And my way of approaching things was more technique-driven.

I had always been more comfortable with function than with form, and I wanted to change that, which is also one of the reasons I chose NID. NID lets you be who you are. You get the chance to find your own style and get to work on your own terms. Having that kind of freedom really helped. Even though I’d always hated studying, I actually looked forward to it at NID. I changed for the better and I wanted to create better.

You also won the 'EDIDA 2018 - Bedroom category' award for your designs for Forma. Could you tell us a bit about what went into realising the Bedroom Collection that you envisioned for the brand?

In the beginning, we were focusing on creating a single bed design for what could be a hostel or a company accommodation. The only piece of furniture you find in such spaces is a single bed and a wardrobe - basically, something to store stuff in and something to sleep in. Usually, there is no chair/sofa to sit on, which can get quite uncomfortable if you have to work or read. And that’s when we came up with the idea for the bed to have an ergonomic, comfortable headboard. Secondly, we added a detachable tray function to store things so that it serves another purpose and provides even more value for money.

Another thing was storage, and in India, no amount of storage is ever enough! The usual bed storages are quite uncomfortable as you have to lift the mattress or have to pull and push a large, clanky under storage drawer to access your stuff. So considering the fact that we were especially designing our products to suit the evolving lifestyles of urban people, our concept for the Bedroom Collection revolved around creating both open/active storage and passive storage.

"The thoughts you get when you’re on your own, just being yourself, can be very rewarding. Shutting my phone for a little while also helps to steer myself towards new ideas and inspirations."

Could you take us through the making of 'BUD'? What were the challenges you faced during the design process?

In India, a majority of the population prefers wooden furniture traditionally. And therefore, coming up with solutions that take care of consumers’ every major and minor need became a crucial way for us to compete in the market. We focused on incorporating the brand language in our products - warm, intelligent, and light. The bed is certainly intelligent and visually light, with a playful form.

Three things I had in mind while designing the bud bed were to provide maximum utility and value, ensure that the bed does not take the typical boxy form one usually sees in metal beds, and is affordable.

The first prototype was heavy and the size was quite large, so we did value engineering to select the right sizes and gauges of the materials to make the bed affordable without compromising on the quality. I wouldn’t call any of this a challenge though as it was all a part of our creative and manufacturing process.

How would you define the target audience for your designs at Forma?

My designs at Forma are designed for two audiences – Generation Z or Millennials (18- 34 years old) and Generation Y and X (roughly 35-50 years old). Our research led to the insight that youngsters today do not want their furniture to be completely closed and they also do not like their spaces to be immaculately made up like a hotel room.

As we are modernising our customs and traditions to fit in contemporary times, there is a need to design products that will resonate with the changing lifestyles. Our target audience is looking for products that have great aesthetics, are highly functional and also affordable.

What are you currently working on for Forma?

Currently, we’re working on the entire Bedroom Collection which includes a queen bed, wardrobes, bedside table, and shoe racks. So far, we had been working around several ideas and concepts and also fine-tuning and value engineering the products based on the feedback we got from our internal team and target audience, and now we’re converting those into products.

"In India, a majority of the population prefers wooden furniture traditionally. And therefore, coming up with solutions that take care of consumers' every major and minor need became a crucial way for us to compete in the market."

What are the certain things or activities you can always count on to inspire you?

I usually get ideas when I’m not actively thinking about them, and mostly during my alone time. The travel time from my office to my house with my headphones on helps a lot, for instance. The thoughts you get when you’re on your own, just being yourself, can be very rewarding. Shutting my phone for a little while also helps to steer myself towards new ideas and inspirations.

I always hope to bring a certain amount of fun and quirk to my designs. My creative process usually begins by writing down the ‘what, where, when, why, how’, and at times, by coming up with words one associates with the product to be designed and trying to arrive at ideas from there. For instance, if that product is a bed, words like ‘comfort’, ‘dream’ and ‘lazy’ come to mind, followed by the different types and sizes. And at times, it can be just starting with doodles. So I take different approaches and explorations before finalising the one that fits the design brief the best.

Lastly, I work better in a more disorganised setting. Clean and perfectly organised surroundings don’t inspire me (laughs). Anytime someone points to my cluttered desk, I am quick to respond with - "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what does an empty desk signify?" Basically, I design best when I'm in my comfort zone, mentally or physically. There has to be a certain 'feel' in the space to help me design better.

Is there a piece of furniture created by you or any other furniture piece in your home that is of special significance to you?

I’ve been learning how to detach myself a bit from my own designs. It’s how I grow as a designer and move beyond my own work. I don’t think there is a specific design of mine I would really consider 'significant'. But I have always wanted a Planter’s Chair or a Rocking Chair in my house.

I do quite like the chest of drawers in my home. It’s made out of heavy acacia wood and has a metal base. Though it’s not widely used in India, a chest of drawers is the most convenient piece of storage. I use the top part of the chest to store the things I collect from different places and phases of my life, and then there’s a small corner for photographs of my family, the awards I’ve won, and the crafts I’ve bought from different places.