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Ram Sinam on taking ColourNext from an idea to reality

  • Colours
Mar 08, 2024
Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes

Co-founder of design studio Wari Watai, Ram Sinam gets into the weeds about the exhibition-sized undertaking, the processes and the challenges of building stories in 3D at ColourNext every year

“This project is not for the faint-hearted. It is only when you are completely invested can you do something like this. For an exhibit like this to happen, people test out various components over months. For us, the event is like our first big prototype. ColourNext is when we’re first able to see all of it together,” says Ram Sinam, co-founder of Wari Watai. The Bengaluru-based graphic design studio that works across print, exhibition, web and product design first got on board for ColourNext 2011. Sinam steered the marquee event from a presentation-like revelation of trends to crafting art-exhibition-like experience spaces. The goal was to use compelling design to craft the trend stories and ignite interest in an important initiative. In this 14th year of the collaboration, he delves into this year’s immersive installations that wove a memorable narrative of colour, design, form and texture.

Beautiful Homes (BH): How would you describe your overarching approach to designing the ColourNext exhibits?

Ram Sinam (RS): A comprehensive understanding of the story is the only way to start. Without that, you cannot formulate a cohesive narrative, or get into the storytelling aspects of the products, furniture, textures, forms, etc that emerge out of the trends. Then it’s an entirely separate exercise when it comes to telling that story; you have to tell it interestingly in a way that captures attention. That is a journey in itself. You understand the story, then work out the communication devices and work with the tools to articulate the story—material ideas, techniques, colours, forms—so that people experience its relevance and uniqueness.

Soil installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 – Beautiful Homes

Soil installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.

BH: What was the overarching objective of the exhibition design?

RS: Materials and colour impact the way you experience things, so we leveraged both to make the guest experience information. Most people start with a rational concept, so one walks through a certain set of ideas with their mind rather than feeling them at an emotional, instinctive level. Experience precedes everything else. Experience needs to be aligned towards a feeling or an emotion with which you intend to engage the guest. If you don’t provide that rich experience to guests, they won’t be interested. So the idea was to construct a story that would make an impact on the guests’ understanding of the narrative. So, they experience what they see, form an opinion and imbue it with their memories.

 

BH: How did you envision the different spaces for the exhibit?

RS: Every component was thought through. It began with the thematic discovery as the stories were revealed. Through that came the discovery of the colour, materials, forms and textures. The next step was making all those things come alive in a decor space. We designed every bit of the ColourNext exhibition this year, right down to the chairs. When you entered, you saw a very composite idea and within that were different experiences.

Colour of the Year, Terra sculpture at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes

Colour of the Year, Terra sculpture at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.

Soil installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes

Soil installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.

BH: Was building a cohesive narrative with the individual stories possible?

RS: For the sculpture created for Terra, the Colour of the Year, and its peripheral environment, we gave it a very strong visual quality. You walk in through the installation at one end and come out at the other. Terra also tied in well with one key trend forecast, ‘Soil’. The whole space is in that colour, so it all looked like one big family of ideas. The objective was to create a seamless, inviting space, meant to invoke ideas of homecoming, being cocooned in nature.

 

BH: Were any of the stories more of a challenge than others?

RS: As a theme, we found Indofuturism difficult to understand— to visually and intellectually imbibe the theme—in the context of re-articulating it into plausible decor and product ideas. AI was a point of beginning in that the key inspirations came from the AI-generated gaming landscape. We formulated two key contrasting visual cues that became the defining character of the theme—western-inspired retro-futuristic visual forms, and typical Indian mahals, havelis and busy streets (as backdrops) to stage, fashion, decor and product ideas with colourful Indian crafted techniques.

 

Another one that proved a challenge was ‘Into the Deep’. While we had the earliest idea for it, the story’s execution was super-complicated. We were looking at various layers of woven fabrics in different textures and colours. Just to weave one surface was extremely time-consuming; we needed to weave 40 layers of fabric. Then there were numerous discussions about how to hang them, which layers go where, where should we max out density, is the density enough. The lighting too was important. There were only two vendors in the entire country who had what we needed. So yes, it was incredibly challenging to put up.

Indofuturism installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes

Indofuturism installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.

Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes

Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.

BH: Broadly speaking, what does the process of creating the ColourNext exhibition look like at the studio?

RS: Once we understand the theme and its nuances, we work on our interpretation of what the ColourNext research team has shared. We go through their vision board to point out and bridge over any discrepancies. Then we make our mood board which we share with Asian Paints to ensure we’re on the same page. We have several internal discussions while working through these steps, including sharing word clouds to discover the feelings certain words associated with the stories might evoke. We then apply it to generate material and colour boards as well. Then comes the story to expand on that theme. Once we have a storyboard, we get an idea about the basic colour, material, form, texture (CMFT)—essentially an ‘experience’ design of the CMFT—then the CMFT itself. We also often create prototypes internally before moving on to the actual design.

 

BH: Have ColourNext trends impacted the studio output in any way?

RS: Not so much in our other verticals but it happens when we design products. Our starting point became the forecast stories. The products have to feel like they are emerging out of a belief and contain the essence of the forecast. That was a big discovery for us. We made furniture pieces based on a ‘Bot is Human’ forecast a while ago; the design outcome of that story was curvilinear geometries but perfect curves—design that tended towards perfection but gentler.

Goblin Mode installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes
Goblin Mode installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.
Goblin Mode installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes
Goblin Mode installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.
Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes
Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.
Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes
Into the Deep installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.
Indofuturism installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024 - Beautiful Homes
Indofuturism installation at Asian Paints ColourNext 2024.

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