Toys, toys, toys, they make me feel so good!

A sick obsession for miniatures and action figures heightens during a macro photography shoot. One sees details which won’t show in normal view. Over the last 15 years, I have collected action figures from toy shops and McDonald’s happy meals. This is a collection of ‘two-of-a-kind’, cars from movies or just really loveable pieces – the DeLorean from ‘Back to the Future’ movies, the bike from Mission Impossible 2, the Mini Cooper from ‘The Italian Job’, batmobile from the TV series. There was a time I thought I’d get over this childish obsession till I realise today, its just obsession and there really is no need to grow out of anything. Really, or do you know if anything else is?

Before the 2008 recession, we saw really high quality McD’s toys. Spiderman toys came with McDonalds and what made most of these interesting is that the toys did something. The one on the right can stick on a smooth metal surface. The one on the right has a switch on the back which shoots off the web in front.

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If you followed the toys release, you could get your hands on the villains as well- Sandman shot the ball from his hand via a switch at the back, and Dr Octavias could stick on the fridge. After 2010, the quality of the Happy Meals toys really dropped. The plastic was lighter and well, not so desirable. These babies are gems.

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These two are the most lovable Lego characters. ACDC’s back in Black could play when batman steps out of the Mini Cooper.

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Creative, Functional, Wow: the three-headed dragon in our creative work

three headed dragon

In our quest to create that awesome product as writers, designers and content creators, we sub-consciously look at a checklist of three attributes – creative, functional and a compelling wow-factor. To represent these, this three-headed dragon toy is a favorite in my collection. It also inspires me at work. The three heads represent three attributes. All three together take the product to the next level. Your product may a physical product, video, animation, poster, written piece of work, or any craft.

Creativity is what makes your material look good. it gets you the eyeballs from the passerby or user towards you; be it in a social post, mall, magazine, pdf or a flea market. She is locked into the beauty of your design because its beautiful and has a certain aesthetic appeal to it. He may want to converse further about what it does, what it costs and how to get it instantly. But that conversation started because your product LOOKED great in the first place. She will pay for it instantly not because she needs it, but because she just wants it as part of her life. This is the reason $1000+ phones sell quickly.

Functionality is the on-ground problem-solving your product does for the user. It does the job. Its the reason the budget was okayed. No war room was created to make the product to tackle a major challenge. Then they decided to involve a designer. Or not. Aluminium foils, wires, paper cups, you get it.

Wow-factor: The tiara, cherry on the cake, which makes the product so amazing that users own it and make it their own. You didn’t have to do it, but you killed yourself a bit, immersed your heart in it to make the product special. It may come from some amazing collaborative effort from content owners, vendors and designers. The joint effort makes the product so amazing that no one can get enough of it. It gets talked about next year as well. People still want something ‘like’ that. It becomes the benchmark. The team sells it to kingdom come because the outside world, clients and customers also want it. But throughout its life-cycle, it looked great, was functional AND adorable. The world knows in a glance that you lost sleep, put your holidays, missed parties to make that crown shine. The wow-factor may be a sustainable solution which worked for everyone at many levels- budget, timeline and egos.

Getting all three right is the holy grail.

Challenges: Typically we end up creating the product which may have any two ‘heads’. It may be creative and functional but it lacks the ‘wow’ which could have made your product compelling enough for users to share ahead. Deadline based reports and brochures go through weeks of writing and editing, followed by many iterations of design. But when the report is launched, it fails to tell a compelling story to the reader or share unique insights.
Or your product may be functional but is simply not sexy enough to want to look at again. Content-heavy emails are a typical example. It does the job it was made for, then everyone forgets about it.
Sometimes, there is a wow-factor and it may be creative, but it doesn’t do anything after its initial release. So it lacks functionality. Users may not know what to do with it. Shockingly, many products are created without the end-use thought through. We have been in so many knee-jerk situations wherein business teams get a video scripted, shot and curated, but are unsure of where to screen them.

All great products look at getting the right mix of all three heads. That’s when you get to justify the price. The client wont care so much about the price tag that may not get in the way of closing. The user or client should be able to scream “shut up and take my money!”


cam toy

This is a sick act of indulging with a few of my favorite things: writing about an idea, toys, photography and finally putting it all together with my 10-year-old Wacom Intuos tablet. So to apply things here, I may have the idea, but  not an ideal visual icon to get it across. The toys are lying around forever but aren’t doing anything to communicate a thought. I may have the skills but may not have the inspiration to share the thought in a compelling way. Also timing plays a part here, considering our distractions, blocking out Netflix and putting the time into sharing the idea could be the 4th invisible head.

Elon Musk biography and more reading

It takes a bit of digging to find gems. Truly remarkable books are getting rarer by the day; more so if one is more into non-fiction like biographies and behavior sciences. It took me a while to read these good ones this year-

1. Elon Musk

2. How Google works

3. Algorithms to live by

4. Screenwriting by Syd Field

5. Predictably irrational

6. Nudge

7. No Logo

Some of these books have been on my shelf for over ten years (Screenwriting) till I decided to knock them off my to-do list. Ones that are quicker to finish are the behaviors sciences aggregators (Nudge, Predictably irrational). But it takes and amazing life articulated in an inspiring way that becomes a piece of work. Elon Musk will inherit from Steve Jobs the crown of stellar leadership in the technology space. Is bureaucracy in your office getting you down? Is your vision of your work being chained down by excessive processes, low budgets and non-believers? Read this book and then look at the challenges you face with your colleagues. Whatever it is, there is a high chance you may not have sacrificed as much as Musk has for his goals. Spanner in the works were tossed in by government, colleagues, collaborators, investors, short sellers, competition and cynical media. It’s not for anyone to come by with a vision for the future, a great idea for a product and funding to sustain the viability, and survive all the challenges Musk has.

Though he is compared with the equally admired Steve Jobs, Musk has gone next level with the size of his ideas and execution with SpaceX and SolarCity. Making Tesla a much-loved and awaited product took ten years of hell.

The other books are great but not as inspiring as Musk’s bio.

Sariska 2019

सपने छोड़ो सामने देखो (Stop dreaming, look in front). Some truck slogans are forever.

Four of us took a few weeks to get our act together and do a road trip for a day. Things have changed now, since we are all married, and well… organized with little timeout for ‘nothing’. We drove down to Sariska and settled in Utsav camp. This resort is an enclosed patch of land with hutments  with attached toilets. We could hear nothing- not traffice nor people. It was fantastic.

Here’s a quick 48-second glance of the trip-

After lunch we drove down to Bhangarh fort. We walked to the higher balcony levels- a vantage point for the best view of the area. After an hour we returned to the resort. The roads here still need a lot of work. But then thats the whole point of getting away from it all! In the evening, the weather was pleasant and we could see a sky full of stars.

Sariska V Resorts Utsav Camp Map

Other bits of knowledge we cook up on road trips: The sight of food changes answers.

Golden Temple > Dalhousie 2018

25 December: We had to end the year with a road trip to… somewhere. The very thought of spending the last 10 days of the year at home was unbearable. on Christmas morning, we woke up at 4 am with the first goal- to get into the car in 2 hours and head out. We were on our way by 7am. When we reached the GT Karnal road by-pass, it was foggy and we decided to stop for breakfast at Amrit Sukhdev. After another 100 km at the McD’s in Khanna, we booked our hotel at Amritsar. We reached Ramada Amritsar by 6pm and walked down to Golden temple. It was cold and late so the crowd wasn’t too bad. Since we had the place to ourselves, we spent a good hour at the three levels of Golden temple. I bought a red turban from a shop outside for Rs 400. It was available for hire for Rs200. At the hotel, we booked our hotels at Dalhousie. All hotels were totally booked at Dalhousie for new year’s celebrations, so we were losing hope when we heard of one cancellation. We jumped on it and managed to book it by paying online.

26 December: The next day we logged out of our hotel and paid a visit to the Partition museum just next to our hotel, adjoining the Golden temple. We went next to Jalianwala Bagh. After a quick walk around, we headed out to the hills for Pathankot. Dalhousie was another 70km from here with a long and winding route on the hills. We reached hotel snow valley where we spent the night. All hotels and a heater pillar – a 4 foot tall thin rod heater. We parked on the slope outside the hotel which made us very nervous!

27 December: we logged out of here and headed out 7 km further up to Aamod resort. This area had snow on the roads and is much colder than town. This is a lovely eco-friendly resort. The place is much quieter than Dalhousie town. We stayed here for two nights.

28 December: The road was glazed with frozen mud so our car kept slipping on the road. Since we wanted to go to Khajjiar, we decided to hire a taxi – a Maruti Alto for Rs 1900. Our man took us to Khajjiar lake – also called mini Switerzerland. Though this place is beautiful my main thought was it needed lesser humans around. There should be a people filter to beautiful places like this. We got bored quickly of this place and drove up to Daikund. This place is also am army radar area. There was a separate route through the snowed out forest for tourists. Rubber shoes were on hire for Rs 100. We walked up to the temple -a 3 km trek. This was a much better experience since there were not many takers for treks like this. We walked back and headed back to Aamod resort. C;ick here for Google 360 photos:

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https://goo.gl/maps/BRiw64DWYMn

29 December: we checked out after a filling breakfast and headed for Jalandhar where we have family. Here’s the route we took that covered 1300 km-

DALHOUSIE TRIP

 

#Drawdinovember inspires

… to create the most useless project ever. I should be drawing everyday. Anything. Since the #DrawDinovember challenge floated this challenge to artists on instagram, I figured this could make me do something never attempted before. Drew one dinosaur for every day of the month through November and December. By the time it was over, there was this collection of 30 drawings. So here’s an infographic on 30 dinosaurs in chronological order- all hand-drawn.

Dinosaur infographic

 

Write now!

Here I am trying to write
something nice, satisfying, fulfilling
But the mind draws a blank
The masters advise- Write now! There is no particular time
No stars will align, nor an auspicious moment
No bells will ring

Write. Now.
So I scribble and tap hard
The words align and I struggle for inspiration
Do those last confounding words have to rhyme? Irrelevant.
Write now.

The mind and heart must work
with memory and imagination
cook, spin, concoct, stir
Create
churn rubbish, gold, slur, gems
hustle till in arrives, shines, glows, rises.

Staring at books I couldn’t read
A desperate resolve to learn spikes
Looking for words that work
Some work. Some resist.
Work the words
Wondering now if I can write. Try.

A distraction pings
Resisting hard
A task at hand
Like a baby’s grip
says ‘Write now’

But I am not trained to.
My profession is the graphic kind
True
But if a larger thought has to… become,
Then it must be shared with others
To collaborate with
So it can see the light and might
Of day

Nothing stays. All thoughts are butterflies
Flitting from shoulder to eyebrow
of all thinkers.
So write now
else its all a daze
And we are just dreamers who take instructions…
From those who write now.