Faculty Speaks

Starting Monday

with Pratish Mepani

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A Branding professor at Ecole Intuit Lab, Mumbai, and the founder of Starting Monday Design and Branding Co. – Pratish Mepani is a charming individual who’s always lights up the college corridors with his quirky wit and meaningful insights on branding and design. From having a high client profile like Foodhall, Le 15 Patisserie, Whisper, Mad Over Donuts, K Raheja and many more to housing over 30 cats and 500 plants at his home – our professor’s story is worth a read! In conversation with Pratish Mepani.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

Born in Vashi in 1980, the only things that grew around me were creepers and crops. I lived in a world which had no boundaries and limits as opposed to the life I experienced when I shifted to South Bombay in my teenage years. No doubt the comfort and infrastructure in town was better but the block buildings, structures and confinements were something I couldn’t wrap my head around. I missed the open spaces and boundaryless lands that gave me freedom to think beyond the horizon and experiment.

WHAT HAS THE INDUSTRY TAUGHT YOU?

After completing my higher education from Rachana Sansad at Prabhadevi, Mumbai I dived into the music industry. From Yaadein and Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai at Tips Industries to Metallica, Bon Jovi and game design like Counter Strike at Universal Music Group, working internationally gave me a lot of insights into how music albums smoothly convey concepts and emotions. I further learnt that design can be a verbal equivalent of a song or an emotion. I relished the learning curve I got, however I found a clear lack of design processes.

This gap gave birth to the idea of establishing my own design agency. In 2012 I got married “twice” – one was to my present (and super talented) wife Nishita and the second, to the agency. It wasn’t easy at all in the beginning and I learnt how to truly value money but with time, the hard work did start to pay off.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

I came across a cobbler who sits right below the office. His work space was dark and he lacked resources (not to mention the mosquitoes) but he yet used his art and talent to not just repair but craft something wonderful out of a broken shoe. It was a classic case of artistic mastery – Minimum resources, maximum output. He inspired me to up my game as I went back to the office. Inspiration is not something static, I believe it’s something that can be found absolutely anywhere and everywhere – you only need to have the right eye for it.

WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE DESIGN DIVA OF YOUR TIME?

I love Paula Scher and her husband Seymour Chwast. Paula’s re/branding projects are something I’ve always appreciated and Seymour’s books have a unique appeal. Bra Fashions by Stephanie is one of my favourite ones – this hilarious cartoon book by one of America’s premier illustrators shows the reader stunning, never-before-seen variations of this popular piece of lingerie.

Online, my vote goes to jaen_jullien, a French graphic artist who always has a novice idea communicated excellently through a simple visual.

MISTAKES IF ANY?

Of course, who doesn’t make mistakes. In fact, when I look back, some of my biggest mistakes have been my milestones, that changed me for the better.

One that I vividly recall is my journey with a renowned Patisserie. I was too quick to understand the brief given to me. Listening less, assuming more, I went ahead at full speed to create something that absolutely not what the client liked. No one had ever told me I was wrong and didn’t like my design, so this came as a real shock. Luckily, my client was understanding, (not so) patient and gave me another chance. The next time around, I heard her, walked in her shoes and produced something she ended up treasuring. #Lesson 1: Listen.

 

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A PROFESSOR?

I’d say it’s a chance to weave change with changemakers. To influence young minds to be better than us so that they can then take on the responsibility once we are done. I’ve been a faculty member at ecole intuit lab for two years now, and there isn’t a day where I don’t cherish this choice I’ve made. The students are curious and we work with the EIL team to better their education, better their output so that they can ultimately make better, bigger changes to people’s lives, the industry and the economy.

 

WHO IS A GOOD DESIGNER ACCORDING TO YOU?

Whether it’s the person you’re trying to be or a design you’re trying to create – having the right value systems in place is essential.

I often (and sometimes, secretly) sow seeds at random spots in the city so that someday a hungry man can pluck a fruit from the tree and enjoy it. I grow my own food and house as many animals as I can so that the SPCA has space to treat one more life. I’m doing the best in my capacity to be a more empathetic person everyday because I truly believe good design stems out of empathy.

Whether it’s empathising with the client’s story to nail the design brief or making their success my responsibility – it’s never about what ‘I like’ and ‘my style’. And when you’re ready to let go of that conditioning and come up with new identity systems, you can be not just a designer but a catalyst to create magic.

Whether it’s the person you’re trying to be or a design you’re trying to create – having the right value systems in place is essential.

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