About Zubin Pastakia

I’m an interaction and service designer at IDEO Mumbai. In 2012, I graduated from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) with a Master’s level degree. As part of my time there, I have worked on conceptualizing products and strategies with companies such as Volvo, Novo Nordisk and VELUX.

Where I come from
I have a background that is both practice-based as well as in the social sciences. On the one hand, I have worked in film-production and documentary photography, which makes me particularly attuned to the power of storytelling in visual mediums as well as detail oriented micro-level production. My personal photographic work, which has been exhibited and published in India and abroad, explores the contemporary urban context of post-industrialised landscapes. Professionally, I have worked for Indian and international publications such as Tehelka, Elle, Le Monde and Wallpaper.

On the other hand, my undergraduate education was in economics and the liberal arts at Bard College in the United States. It instilled in me the need to think critically and the desire to understand the complexities that underlie socio-cultural systems. In 2009, I spent a year at the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS) in Bangalore with the aim of refining my understanding of South Asian social and critical theory.

The kind of design I like to do
I think that my strength is my versatility in adapting to different contexts and a willingness to explore unchartered territory and learn from it.

Some of my projects include:

Designing the experience of a potential in-car messaging service with Volvo
Generating concepts for new digital grieving practices
A tangible music player that allows you to scrub through your listening-history (Shortlisted for the IXDA Interaction Design Awards ’13)
Concepting a tool to smoothen the transition phase for people freshly diagnosed
with type 2 diabetes with Novo Nordisk
An exploration through storytelling into what it means to live more closely with nature in an urban context for VELUX.
Designing solutions for improving local governance in Mumbai.
My approach is whole-heartedly people-centred and I enjoy rapid and early testing out of ideas through probes and prototypes. I am comfortable with the different stages of the design process such as concept generation and development, user research and documentation, tangible user interface (TUI) and graphical user interface (GUI) design, time-based prototyping in various forms, scenario building and creating compelling narratives to achieve proof of concept and to communicate value.

My point of view on design
Design today is not just about problem solving, but a way of “prototyping the possible”. Designers can and should act as technology brokers, mediators and interpreters for the near future; foreseeing innovation opportunities, creating meaningful relationships between people and artifacts and communicating that value in the marketplace.

Where do I want to go?
I tend to think of myself as perpetually in beta, and I’m interested in learning from industry peers and developing myself as a versatile and empathetic designer. I am particularly interested participating in the design discourse in India as it makes its way into the 21st century. In my opinion, India cannot merely inherit a foreign model of design but will have to fashion its own blueprints based on local cultural contexts.

Other interests
I am a fan of new wave science fiction by writers such as JG Ballard, William Gibson and China Mieville. Bruce Sterling has also greatly influenced my thinking. When I’m not working, I like to spend my time tinkering with music. I’m currently fascinated by analogue synthesisers and ’80s new wave bands.

Read more
Zubin Pastakia's Projects on LensCulture