This was the Frank Simoes era. Liberty Shirts ads which scorched the newsprint. Plus the first tiny steps towards creating the Raymond brand. Halftones were the in-thing.
Trademarks and corporate logos were in vogue. Two names caused the biggest ripples: Yeshwant Chaudhary and Sudarshan Dheer. Chaudhary with his HDFC trademark. On cue, Dheer unleashed the HP (Hindustan Petroleum) logo. This logo is entrenched in our minds. According to Dheer, "The HP logo is a circle within which the oil spouts from the bottom and spreads to the sides. The circle represents the distribution of oil across the length and breadth of India."
(Image courtesy: Zero Creativity Learnings)
This was the age of democratisation of commercial art. Design and artworks became the lingua franca. Logos had to provide a comprehensive outlook. That's when Dheer started to create multilingual logos. The last time we met at an Italian specialty paper event, he joked, "I created emojis before emojis were born."
Dheer was passionate about two things. First was print standards. He said, "Our print industry is not just about technology but also about putting skills and intellect to test. It's about keeping in view the communicative objectives to create a benchmark from the point of technology, selection of paper, ideal kind of finish, design, and overall aesthetics. All this put together, so that each and every print job becomes a piece of inspiration."
I had asked him at that time, are there any typical problems vis-a-vis designing in India? Since Dheer had lamented on the lack of colour coding and understanding of print application which ruined his HP campaign. According to Dheer, the devil in print production lies in the detail and many a time our famous 'Chalta hai' attitude makes us compromise. He embarked on a colour-jihad to improve colour standards, since then. He said, "The day we get 100% colour match that will be a day for nirvana."
The second thing Dheer loved was to talk about his days with Kersy Katrak at MCM. It was the "bestest adda on the planet" with the who's who of Mumbai -- Ravi Gupta, Mohammed Khan, Arun Nanda, Kiran Nagarkar, Arun Kolatkar, Panna Jain and Dheer.
More than the HP, Titan and the Kissan logos, my ever-lasting memory of Sudarshan Dheer is munching channa in his office. Besides art and typography, his favourite topics (in no particular order) were: the philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti; who designed the first shoelace?; why most clocks are round? He said, “Is it because the planet is round? Or is it because time has a circular continuous concept?”
And then it was time to step out for lunch. There were five options in Colaba: the Sea Lounge (whiskey sours and bumping into Dom Moraes by the window), Paradise (scotch broth and raspberry drink), Martins (beef and more beef), Kailash Parbat (chaat and dal pakwan). "This is India,” he said, "When will our designs be able to reflect this?"
(This article first appeared in Printweek India. Ramu Ramanathan is the editor, Printweek India.)