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In conversation with Michael Foley

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Explore the innovative but oft overlooked world of industrial design with the country’s leading designer

His approach to design—creating products that are as covetable as they are inspirational—is self-motivated and inspired by the early works of French designer Philippe Starck as well as legendary duo Charles and Ray Eames. After he graduated from National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Foley moved to Bangalore and worked with Titan. During his decade-long stint, he became best known for his contemporary watch designs for Titan ‘Edge’ and ‘Fastrack’. He then set up Foley Designs in 2006, which, aside from a number of products, is credited for designing the iconic Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games 2010 held in Delhi. He speaks to us about how much he enjoys designing, challenges and translating his designs into tangible creations.

What drew you to design?
Painting for others and building things with my hands were probably what drew me to design. I did sell several paintings for my parent’s friends’ homes as when I was just eight. The decision of being in the design world came later in my teens.

What do you like most about your work?
I enjoy challenges that push the level of design intervention. When it comes to material innovation, I look for opportunities to embed intelligence and harness functionality that goes beyond just the intrinsic material properties.

And which phase during projects do you enjoy most?
The ideation stage is probably a sweet spot for me, but I have come to like the phases of translating ideas into reality a lot more, as this is where one is beginning to define a physical manifestation of those ideas.

The project you consider the turning point for Foley Designs?
Designing the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games in 2010. It brought a completeness to design innovation through actual execution. A very challenging yet exciting collaborative project, where we attempted to redefine processes and techniques to achieve the final baton design intent.

What inspires you?
I do believe nature around us is a great example of ecosystems that we can reflect in our own lives, be it about phenomenon that define sustainability, aesthetics, coexistence, materials and principles of living life itself.

Do you have a mentor?
I consider the late Xerxes Desai, who built the brands Titan and Tanishq, as my most influential mentor. He innately understood design and believed in its power very early on. He set extremely high benchmarks that taught me to take leaps of faith in my own capability.

How would close friends describe you?
Quite amenable to change, inclusive in collaborative situations and dedicated!

How do you start your workday?
I start with a little time to myself to retrospect and plan, most of my time after that is spent on conversations with team members at work.

An occupational hazard is...
There is no end to work. Thoughts and ideas linger in one’s mind literally everywhere.

Your pet peeve is...
There's never enough time!

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