Tag Archives: Daljit Singh

Designing for good: the D+AD White Pencil

We’re big believers in the capacity of design to improve the world. Of course, all design should do this, from a coffee cup to a piece of architecture. But some designs are more virtuous than others.

D&AD White Pencil

The D&AD White Pencil award exists to honour the crème de la crème of virtuous design – designs submitted in response to a brief, that help make the world a better place. Appropriately enough, the awards are based around Peace One Day, the global peace day held every 21st September.

This year, the brief is to grow support for Peace One Day itself:

“Grow awareness of and engagement with, Peace Day, establishing September 21 as a global, self-sustaining, annual day of peace, when everyone can take action to end conflict in their own lives and in the lives of others.”

Peace Day is about far more than just kind words: in 2007, its potential was proven when Peace One Day led a ceasefire in Afghanistan, and 4.5 million children were vaccinated against polio.

Peace One Day

Anyone can enter the White Pencil. Winners will prove the value of their idea by acting on it: raising as much awareness as possible in the run up to and on 21st September, and explaining how they’ve done so. There are more details here.

Daljit Singh, head of Conran Singh, is a D&AD Ambassador, and has this to say:

“The White Pencil presents a unique opportunity engage the grey matter towards good, a chance to point our collective energy and skills to do something better for society.”

Off you go!


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Pixels are forever

Last Thursday, Conran Singh hosted a debate on the use of digital technology by luxury brands.

Precious Pixels event

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Conran Singh on Luxury: Luxury without ostrich leather

Luxury designers have been slow to embrace digital technology, and those at the very top have been slowest of all. Super-luxe brands revel in the mechanical and the material, in burnished dials and ostrich leather sleeves. Where does digital technology fit in? Continue reading

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Conran Singh on Luxury: Can money buy a better interface?

As promised, we’re following up Daljit’s Wired article on Monday with the first of Conran Singh’s thought pieces on how luxury and digital mix.

Conran Singh phones

Today’s question: can money buy a better interface?

Designing by committee

Received wisdom dictates that, in the digital design world, iteration is king. Tech needs to be built, tested, torn apart, and built again, and it it this process of iteration that makes good interfaces.

The same holds true for most design, of course – except that tech naturally lends itself to crowdsourcing. When Facebook wanted to translate its interface into every language, it used a crowdsourced development process: users could submit translations for the 300,000 words which comprise the Facebook interface. These submissions were voted on, and translation was done by consensus, in the blink of an eye and at negligible expense.

Much more than other companies, software makers design by committee: user feedback is collected, collated, and used to improve the product. It’s tricky to do the same with a toaster.

This is a blessing and a curse. A software company knows better than any other what its customers want – or at least, what they think they want. As Henry Ford probably didn’t once say, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. In other words, crowdsourcing may actually limit the possibilities of software design, pushing designers to refine the old, rather than to invent the new.

On luxe

Most areas of design have a luxury end: Bentley cars, Bang & Olufsen speakers and Hublot watches. These manufacturers design to the highest standards, making products that are not just sold on their name, or the expense of their materials, but also the beauty and refinement of their design.

Luxury design takes time, money and expertise, and the iterative R&D that typifies designing for the mass market doesn’t take place. Perhaps because of this, such manufacturers design groundbreaking things. Why doesn’t the same apply to digital design?

For digital, too, there is room for a high end – and, as computers become embedded into just about everything, doing digital well becomes an imperative for luxury brands.

There are two roads to a great interface. One is the mass market: designs honed by the collaborative will of thousands or millions of users. The second is less travelled, but no less valuable: deep investment of time, money and expertise to create truly sublime digital experiences.

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Conran Singh on Luxury: Luxury + digital

The luxury sector treads carefully when it comes to technology. Luxury designers focus on materials – brushed aluminium and leather panels – and as such digital elements, inherently material-free, are seldom included.

Is this a missed opportunity? Can luxury products be infused with digital technology, to make them all the richer? Daljit Singh thinks so.

Daljit on luxury

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Daljit Singh on Conran Singh, Interaction Design and getting rid of ‘buzz words’…

Last year saw the launch of our digital agency Conran Singh.

Headed up by its eponymous director Daljit Singh, a luminary in the field of interaction design, they have  already completed exiting new projects for Your Square Mile and luxury mobile phone brand Vertu.

But what’s he all about? And what’s the future for digital? Last week  the team over at Creative Social decided to find out a bit more about him…

Terence and Daljit

CS: How did you get to where you are today?

Daljit: I studied Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University. After graduating in 1991, I went to work for IBM as an Interaction Designer. Two years into the IBM job I decided that actually the next thing to do would be to set up my own business, and that was when Digit was born. From its inception, Digit grew to about twenty people in the first five years. We were in Soho to start with, and then after Soho we moved into East London and were one of the first companies in Hoxton Square. In 2005 we sold and became part of WPP, so in total I ran Digit for about fifteen years. I left in March 2010 and thats when I started Conran Singh.

CS: Why was Conran Singh created?

Daljit: The Conran Group is run by  Terence Conran, they’ve been around for almost two decades and the businesses include the Conran Shops and the Conran restaurants, of which there are about thirty around the world. There is also a publishing arm to the business, called Conran Octopus, and then there are the actual design studios which are based just behind the design museum. Within those businesses there are Conran and Partners, which is an architecture and interior design business with about sixty people in the practice doing jobs all around the world. There’s Conran Studio which is product design and branding. There is also Conran and Company, which is involved with product developing and licensing. The one thing which they have never had was a digital division. I started speaking to them and they asked if I would be interested, and here I am a year on. It seemed like the right thing to do and quite an opportunity, so I guess that’s the straightforward reason for it being born.

CS: What work have you been involved with that you are most proud of?

Daljit: Throughout my career there have been lots of things. I suppose some of the highlights have been in the Digit years. The stuff that I have always been very passionate about is  R&D. I think Digit was one of the very first companies to really invest in doing research and development. We developed lots of our own projects, non-commercially, which ranged from looking deeply at interactive design and seeing what you can do with interaction on screen, and then physical interaction, which lead to some really interesting commercial projects. We did the redesign of the Habitat site many years ago which at the time was very groundbreaking. In more recent times, some of the physically interactive work that we did for Motorola has been really interesting. There’s also a project for the National Gallery which we did in collaboration with The Partners, it won a Black Pencil at the D&AD awards, I am very proud of that.

The National Gallery Grand Tour project

I think now, being with Conran, I am really looking forward to applying a kind of design sensibility back into what interactivity really means. There are a number of very interesting things we are doing at the moment, none of which I can talk about. Its fascinating because it is maneuvering away from straightforward marketing and advertising, into the realm of actual design and solving problems, and that is very exciting in terms of what the future holds. More importantly, I think our clients are very interested in that kind of attitude, they need it for their business.

CS: What major changes, in your opinion, can we expect to see in the Digital Communications industry in the next ten years?

Daljit: That’s a big question. I think the multi-platform world will become less multi-platform. We will be doing much more than we already are on the move, as opposed to being tethered somewhere. I think there will be a significant change in our notion of entertainment and the way that we view it. Look at television and you can see this is already happening. Up until now it has always been in the corner of your living room, this is fundamentally changing. I think our engagement with information will become simpler because we will get rid of all of the noise that is in the market place at the moment. I also think that strong, creative ideas will have to become more prevalent and more important to cut-through, because I think that brand and business can only survive where they have a very strong notion of what they’re trying to say and what they are trying to talk about, and actually the technology will need to become better designed. Apart from looking in a crystal ball I don’t think I can do anymore than that!

Read the full interview with Daljit here on Creative Social including the buzz words Daljit would like to erase forever and what he thinks is the biggest challenge for the advertising industry at the moment.

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2011: what a year

As we turn the corner into Olympic year we wanted to reflect a little on what’s happened here at CONRAN in 2011: it really was quite a year.

We began working with Marks & Spencer, for whom we designed our beautiful branded collection of home products which launched this Autumn. Our new Spring Collection hits the shops any day now! Watch out for fabulous wicker lamp shades , elegant bedroom essentials and an Alfresco collection which will make waiting for summer even more painful…!

Everyone's favourite...the segment clock

Our range instore...

Terence celebrated the auspicious occasion of his 80th birthday  celebrated in part by a wonderful Terence Conran retrospective exhibition at the Design Museum – which runs until the 4th March and was designed by our graphic & interior design teams.  Did you know Time Out also voted Terence as one of their ‘people of 2011’ ?

The Telegraph liked him quite a lot too….

The Conran Shop have been doing all number of gorgeous and interesting things including some fab seasonal window displays and – of course – developing new ranges of product like the Barton & Pavilion furniture ranges, designed by Terence, manufactured by Ercol.

Conran Contracts worked on one of the most exciting new developments of the year at Westfield, Stratford (more about that next week)

We also launched new collaborative designs with Alessi and original BTC lighting and our brand new beautiful Bath & Body range designed by Conran Studio.

Architects Conran & Partners have been busy planning the development of a huge eco housing estate in Ealing and the redevelopment of the Astoria Cinema in Brighton and London landmark Walthamstow Stadium…and that’s just here in the UK!

2011 also saw the launch of Conran Singh, our interactive agency dealing with all things digital who have already completed exciting projects for community organisation Your Square Mile and luxury mobile phone brand Vertu. More to come from them with a Q&A with founder Daljit Singh next week.

 And that’s just off the top of our heads….

We predict 2012 will be even more action packed!

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