#stayhome with Kunaal Kyhaan

'Nothing is in our control. It's time to rethink new philosophies oriented towards serving the community'

14/04/2020 - Another episode in our series about the thoughts and reflections of designers during the lockdown. This time it's Kunaal Kyhaan, the Indian-born designer and trained in New York, with past experience as a Bollywood actor and the soul of a globetrotter, to answer our questions about personal experiences and life under lockdown.

His aesthetic is a melting pot of cultures and languages, full of life yet always well-structured and coherent, capable of blending the deeply spiritual traditions of India with an elegant, ultra-contemporary approach to design for an absolutely unique visual effect: a fascinating dialogue between Indian identity and the expressive codes of global design and architecture. 

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How is the current situation affecting your life and work?
I initiated self-isolation for my studio a couple of days before our government interventions, allowing for my team to take necessary actions to operate remotely. A completely novel idea for us, though it has been difficult to be productive with the stress and emotional weight.

This year started off very busy as we were preparing for the Milan design week. The lockdown just came and overtook everything, reminding me that nothing is in our control. I decided to take it in my stride, as a sign from nature to embrace and adapt with time.

This allowed me to think and reconfigure my design philosophies oriented towards serving the community by sharing ideas, other works, and learning. I have started thinking about our new world and the differences it is going to bring about in people’s lives, how we relate to consumer culture and the act of production as a whole. 

How did you organize, or reorganize, your workspace?
Home is my happy place and my work desk has always been the place where I design. However, during this lockdown, I introduced an analog desk as an alternate workspace, free of technology, an idea I learned from Austin Kleon’s ‘steal like an artist’.

The analog desk is filled with markers, sketchbooks, and stationary. It allows you to ‘create’ like an artist. We rely on computers for information and fast-paced work, having the time to create with your hands is extremely rewarding and original. It is where most of the creative work happens, something I had lost from my everyday practice as a professional. 

Could this “makeshift” be transformed into an opportunity for planners and designers? And if so how?
I see this as an opportunity to realign my thinking and purpose as a designer. With the audience being more self-aware and facing financial burdens, consumer behavior will alter its preferences drastically. A consciousness of sustainable design will evaluate manufacturing processes and indulging in bare essentials with greater value propositions. Designs that blend sustainability with functionality, while celebrating in artistic forms. Personally, ergonomics, conscious materiality and production will guide the future of my design. 

Are there new projects born in this particular situation?
The studio is constantly designing and producing, but due to this situation, the thought process has altered. The new project is to evolve myself and my studio to cater to the future.  I will organically trace this journey and create a new story for my brands studioHAUS and KOY. I find myself deeply attracted to finding the value in creations and to review everything with a filter of consciousness.

How do you spend your spare time?
I am blessed to be surrounded by family and pets, in a beautiful haven. I use this time to appreciate this wholly. A lot of internalizing and adopting holistic practices have given me clarity in different ways. I spend time with my young niece and nephew being creative and learning from their curious innocence. I have also adopted a regular practice of Yoga from friends who share live online sessions which have made a great impact on my thinking and mental state of mind.

Do you have any suggestions for your colleagues and others?
As each one of us is uniquely placed in this situation, yet tied together with a common thread of empathy. Every individual is ongoing their personal journey. I would urge my colleagues to foster community sharing.

I have learned a lot in the past couple of days by listening to people, being inspired by their journeys and teachings. I began utilizing my social media channels to share the works of other Indian designers and in turn, was overwhelmed by the community spirit of cross-sharing and uniting. It introduced me to a lot more people within the design network who, like me, have a vision and a passion to create.

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