A ode to my beloved yoga mat

A Lost Gaiam

“Relax, breathe, you are in a safe place.”
“You will not hurt me, will you?.. Will you take me to my buddy? I can’t find her, I am not home, this is not home. I am .. I am lost.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you? What’s your name?
I am Gaiam. I am a yoga mat. I live with my buddy and now I don’t seem to find her anywhere. I remember it was a chilly day in the winter of 2015, she walked into the Earthbound store at Broughton Street in Savannah, Georgia. I had just arrived a few hours back, barely breathing after getting that plastic off my body, my journey was long. I heard them say they will wrap me again if they don’t have a home for me.
I saw her walk around, she looked so poised. I knew then that I wanted her to take me home. She walked past me, turned back and touched me. We had our first touch. I was the happiest that night, my cheeks flushing red. The blocks, the belt and the blanket, they all teased me and were envious of my future. She looked through a couple of my fellow travelers until she finally picked me. And here I am now, why am I here? Where is my buddy? Could you please find her for me?

Why did take you home? What’s your use to her?
I remember her telling her friend how much she is attached to me. Her mother had called her one day, worried as she was, she wanted buddy to take some time off for herself. She wanted her to start yoga, they are Indians you know. I am an accessory to her, she keeps me rolled inside her cupboard when she isn’t using me for yoga. I like it when it’s cold and I am bundled up but I tend to get really warm in summers. She makes sure she keeps me cool. I usually don’t travel with her when she has school but I go to her studio at least twice a week. I love it! I get to meet Jade, Manduka and other Gaiams. We have the best conversations. We all love our buddies a lot.
She is very possessive of me. This one day someone asked her if they could borrow me and she said no. I like that about her. She keeps me clean and in shape. In return, I make sure she doesn’t slip when she doing her asanas (poses). I supported her in her first headstand and she still owes me that.

What is so special about you?
Unlike her earlier purchases, I am a long-term friend to her. I have never judged how she looks. I always support her in all circumstances and make sure I am there for her when she is having mood swings. I have always been there for her, in her highs and lows. I have always given her positive vibes. She says I make her feel closer to the earth, closer to reality and closer to her inner self. I have never let her know when I am feeling depressed, she doesn’t need to know that. This one time I fell in her room, hit my head on the floor and I was lying there all day till she got back home. I even got into a fight with the blue Gaiam at SCAD Studio last week. She had taken my spot and was in my way, laying around at a wrong angle, blocking my view of the instructor.

What is the one thing you want to tell her which you never could?
I want to tell her that she has changed my life. My life was all about traveling in boxes from one place to another. I spent most of my life in warehouses, wrapped, hugging five other strangers in the box. She gave me a life, an identity and made me feel like I was a part of her life. She valued me like no one else did. I remember being thrown around when no one had a place for me. They sold me to different buyers until that lucky day when she found me. I love to be owned by her.

We are trying to find her for you. Do you remember the last place you saw her?
It’s a faded memory. I don’t remember exactly where I was. I remember she was wiping me, harder than usual. I had a ton of scars but she was bent on trying to fix me, unknown to the fact that my scars were permanent. She spoke on the phone for long hours, I think she was arguing with her mother. She carried me from room to room. I did get an awkward feeling, I just didn’t think it would be the last time I would see that house. We drove to some place which did not look like her usual studio. She touched me while driving, caressing me from time to time. It felt like a short journey but I believe it wasn’t one, only because I enjoyed her company, her being there, for me, only for me. I had all her attention. We got out of the car. I do not remember anything after that. Do you know where I could possibly be? Maybe she just forgot to take me with her.

*After a few minutes, another stranger walks in and whispers something in his ear*

Gaiam, are you here with me?
Yes, I am here. What did that man say to you? Did you find her for me?

I want you to come here and hold my hand. I know this is tough but it’s okay. It’s a part of life.
What is it? Why don’t you tell me clearly?

Gaiam, you are not lost. You were donated*

The End.

 Giga mapping a yoga mat

Giga mapping a yoga mat

Five things I learnt this Fall

a. There is much more to Service Design than just tools and frameworks. We’re in a world where we Servies are trying to devise an understanding of Service Design to the world and hence our contribution is really valuable.

b. The more you read, the more you want to read. Reading is addictive and it makes you hungry for more knowledge unless you’re just a useless idiot wanting to lay down all day watching Netflix.

c. It is important to share knowledge. Trust me, it’s the best feeling. Sharing what you know of and getting extra perspectives is always a plus point.

d. Never complain. There are things that will happen even though you might try your level best to stop them so don’t complain. Take the hurricane for instance.

e. Have fun in your projects and get the most of them. Ask and argue. Argue till you are convinced that it’s time to let go of the argument.

Hoping for another year filled with learnings and excitement. Stay healthy and stay happy. 

Happy Holidays!

Escape. Run. Evacuate.

Escape. Run. Evacuate. 

That's all I heard through my last few days in Savannah before the hurricane forced us to leave. 
Leaving is never too easy. It brings back all the memories. I was paranoid, I was sad. I did not know what sight I would come back to.
 
I have been jabbering about experiences and I must say, bad experiences always teach you more than the good ones. All thanks to Hurricane Matthew, it twisted all my work and travel plans, tossing me to another city. I lay back on my uncomfortable Greyhound seat heading to Atlanta, a million thoughts running in my head. It was my first time into this city, with one bag on me - precisely carrying two pairs of clothes. 

Life in one picture

I wasn’t prepared for this. No one was prepared for this. You don’t always have a plan B you know. Learning the hard way, here is what I learnt from this experience.

I learnt the importance of having good friends in life, to make quick life changing decisions, to have faith in God and to believe that good things will always happen to good people.

I am fortunate to be safe and sound, still typing away my notes, hoping this never happens again. On the other side, my heart reaches out to all those lives lost in Haiti and beyond. 

As for Savannah, 
Savannah is love, Savannah will always be love.

*Click* Open in a New Tab

Let’s accept it, we’ve all done it. I have been frustrated for the 71243423524th time today to click and open the page in new tab, always wondering why these websites cannot be configured to ALWAYS open in a new tab. The only reason I could think of all this while - if each page opened into a new one, our screens would get really cluttered up. 

In any case, browsing through n number of websites each day for research, it gets utterly annoying to lose the information on the previous page. No, I don’t want to manually open everything in a new tab (my fingers get tricked on the Mac’s trackpad). What they don’t realize is that they lose a lot of traffic because of the user losing track of their positioning and flow while navigating. I hate losing an important page when they keep directing me to new pages each time. It gets harder to get back to where I was, sometimes the back button’s mood adding to the misery.
Usually, before closing all the tabs, I would check for what is important to keep and what isn’t. That would make me revisit the information on that page, read it and hopefully find it more useful the second time I glance through it (badly designed websites don’t inspire you to read through). If I like what I see, I would bookmark the website for future reference even though the design was bad. It’s a struggle won by content over design, only because i stumbled upon it again. 

Moral : There is always a way to turn your shortcomings into wins. Just think it through. The right strategy for the right situation, at the right time to things as simple as these - that’s all it takes to design great experiences and gain audiences.

All hail Post-its!

Experiencing the world of post-its way back in school wasn’t as exciting as it is now. Back then, purposes were different, approach was vague and solutions were dynamic. Things have changed since, and so have us.

Diving into last week shenanigans at work, we carried out two extensive post-it-is-my-canvas kinda sessions for our ongoing projects here at the studio. Even though both sessions were very different from each other, there was a striking similarity in the way everyone used a post-it.
I never really questioned a post-its purpose of life and existence but what was interesting to me was the framing of this golden rule:

Always use a Sharpie Pen to scribble on the little canvas.
As my mentor would agree, we both came to discover that we have evolved the use of Sharpie Pens as designers.There are three reasons why we would stick to that connotation.

a. Readability
Being at the other side of the canvas, we researchers need to wind up sessions quickly and collate everything together for analysis. It is important that we capture, refer back and understand each word and idea expressed by you. Hence we need thicker strokes for clarity. (No bad handwritings!)

b. Uppercase Please!
How much ever we appreciate your participation, we just have one request - Stick to uppercase whenever possible. I know we all think we have bad handwritings - even when some of us are just being modest. Reading a post-it in uppercase makes our lives much much easier!

c. Limiting the content
We need you to be to the point. Don’t beat around the bush - write what is needed and chuck the rest. We don’t want to read break up stories on post-its.

Additional Rule:

Always and always, just write ONE thought/idea per post-it. No reasons but just makes lives easier for analysis. It really helps us ignite quick iterations knowing how effectively we have conducted the workshop.

OKthanks.

Craving sees no time day or night

Post-lunch hunger war begins again, I am fighting with my gut and it is answering back. It’s angry again. I am praying inside, asking it to stop cursing me *Blep* (and it goes again). I cannot give anything to it; I just ate lunch- I am thinking. My thought process has changed. I am thinking deep and blurry, I realise that I want something super sweet - It’s funny that the craving increases as you think more about it. Hate it.
It’s a really hot day and a pain to head out - just to shut my gut up. I decided to rush out, in search of the sweet-god - something good enough to kill this craving. What do I have? - I look around places specially bakeries and cafes, everything looks so filling yet tempting. I am not a sweet-"loving" person plus I don’t want to spend on some ridiculously expensive “sweets” right after lunch.

Talking about experiences.
Spotted - Baked By Melissa - perfectly designed for such mini cravings at odd times of the day (Keep an ice-cream tub at hand for nights). From their ultra-mini cupcakes to the super cute macarons, the bakery is magical. They serve you with these tiny joys for as low as $1 just to strike off that sweet-tooth at moments like these. Apart from that, there are bigger versions too and party packs and gift packs and what not.

Don’t you just love the idea behind it?
Loved the concept, the store and the minis. Check out if it’s there in your city for a melt-in-mouth experience.

They look delicious, don't they?

Magic.

Live concerts were never my thing - not because I was not a fan, but because I was never convinced that they were worth the dollars, until July 17th happened to me, Coldplay happened to me. I was lucky (no doubt), I was in New York City to be a part of the Head Full of Dreams Tour by Coldplay with my best friend Zuber (Alex, we missed you!). All things together = Happiest Day. Period.

Musicians are weird, they take your soul away and never give it back. Coldplay nailed it. The concert was magical, it moved us all. Most of all, it made me feel like it took all my fears, sorrows and shortcomings away, only to finally accept that music really hits you hard - right in the heart.
It was my hymn for the weekend, an adventure of a lifetime taking me to a mental paradise while I stood under a sky full of stars, my spirits went up and up and I left the arena all yellow, trying to relive the concert in my head. They took me with them. I did not feel like myself, I have to fix myself, I have to fix you.

I have no more words to describe my feelings. All I want to say is, get off your chair and go buy the tickets if you still haven’t, trust me you will not regret it.
Call it fun or call it tragic, I would call it magic.
 

P.s. Oh oh, and they gave us cute ‘Love’ badges.

This is the magic I was talking about - about over 62,000 fans at once in Metlife Stadium, NJ

Delivering Value through Service-based touch points

Rewind.

Giving a little sneaky peek into the past, remember when new products were booming in the market and experiences were a passion of the game changers? In the design world, change isn’t always gradual, it happens in an instant and we need to be prepared for it.

I leaped from designing products to meaningful service experiences just when I felt a void in my career choices. We no longer see innovations as unique, what’s rare here is to know whether we are designing these for the right audience, in the right way. With time, it is becoming more and more important to focus on these service-based touch points and innovations.

Having said that, we need to think laterally, we need to design for the gaps between these touch points. Mid July shenanigans - It’s a long sunny day, picture yourself standing in a long queue outside Chipotle (such a bummer, right?), what would you do while you wait to order? I already see you pulling out your phone and look through 9gag and Instagram posts (I never said you wouldn’t open FB, but let’s cut it out for now). Am I wrong when I say that these social media players have designed their offerings for such unintended gaps in the service touch points? What they offer is at your fingertips (literally!) and meant for such crisis situations.

What if, waiting in the queue was to get more interesting? Think about it. What if that very unproductive time became worth the wait (of course the food is worth the wait when you’re starving)? What if the product here is just a bundled offering to their holistic in-outlet service experience? The product is only as good as the service you back it with. Will we be willing to pay more for experiences vs what we pay for products? Worth a thought, they are offering you a service through these products as a medium and not vice-versa. This is exactly the change I am talking about. Wait for the time when you’d become so greedy for experiences, you’d reject unbundled product offerings because they will not be worth your time, money, maybe yes.

I can’t wait to see what lies ahead, while I try to visualize my future sitting on my thinking chair (JK, it’s a regular office chair).

Above: Long lines being a bummer. Mid July Shenanigans - Chipotle always makes you hungry!

I am a Designer. can I design experiences?

Sitting here, in my high-ceilinged agency office on a Tuesday Morning, sipping on some Lightly Roasted Green Mountain Coffee, I am still reminiscing the beautiful evening sky I saw last night from the Charles River, here in Boston, Massachusetts. Celebrations were planned for the July 4th. The sky lit up so gracefully, I wouldn’t have experienced it if I had decided to pass the day rolling in bed, just trying to live up to the definition of a holiday (my body still pained from the weekend’s hike in Vermont!)

I feel like I am on a permanent vacation with my thoughts. We both love being with each other, butt-stuck, almost always! Each day it wakes me up, pushing me to see something I have never seen before, never experienced before. I wonder why I never managed time to put my thoughts together - must have been the time-crunch (Thanks to SCAD!). But I must say, these 10 months in the US have been fab!

New cities, new people and new experiences have all transformed me, for the better. It made me realize that I crave for experiences! It’s the one thing that motivates me to start my day early. Be it an unplanned extended conversations with a stranger on the T-line, watching the skyline from a secret rooftop or playing with a peanut-sized turtle, every tiny encounter has been an experience for me, some things I probably just dreamt of, believed in and eventually achieved them. Those experiences, however small they might be, have made a remarkable impact on me. This constant back and forth thinking, overflowing thought processes and constant experience encounters are making me wonder, can I truly design experiences? True, I am working hard to be a Service Designer, but it all boils down to one thing, can you design experiences without experiencing a plenty yourself? Only time may tell, or wait, maybe more experiences will.

Let’s unleash those experiences together! So tell me, when was the last time you were Awed?

Oh and say Hi to Fenn!