Sheroy Katila, Innovation Design Engineering, Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholar 2014 – 2016
Sheroy is a Product Designer eager to explore the finer nuances of design and innovation vis-à-vis materials, processes, perception and emotion. His goal is to develop a user-product bond that outlives the creator of the bond. Sheroy aims to promote design thinking, innovation and inclusion that will in turn enrich lives by influencing policies, research, and education. He holds an undergraduate degree in Product Design from the MIT Institute of Design, India.
In Conversation with Sheroy
Q: Tell us about your work and your experience at the RCA.
A: The aim for me in 2014 was to complete a master’s course that did not just polish skills that I already had but pushed me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to new & different ways of problem solving. The Innovation Design Engineering course at the Royal College of Art gave me the space to do just that. After completing the first year that entailed a lot of eclectic design and engineering projects, I began my second year with an understanding and focus to take on design projects that are future based, driven by design and innovation but with a purpose. My final Graduating project FADE utilizes the concept of planned obsolescence to reduce unplanned waste. This was done by creating a series of “guilt free” disposable packaging products made from a bio material: sugar. A lot of objects today are disposable in life but durable in death. Once the function of the packaging is complete it simply disappears without any need for landfill or strain on recycling. This project is interesting as it challenges certain preconceived notions about sustainability and also pushes the boundary of the perception and use of materials and processes.
My main areas of interest are human-centred design innovation, materials and processes and design for inclusivity. Among several other projects this interest can be particularly seen in project SPARK where we developed a social enterprise and local manufacturing system to break the cycle of urban poverty. Using the process of screen printing to print light panels we combined a low tech process of screen printing with the high technology of Organic LED [OLED] lighting. In addition to my interest areas at IDE I also learnt that I was interested in building future concepts and innovation strategy. Overall, receiving a dual master’s degree from the best Art & Design College in the world has given me a broader perspective and deeper understanding of how design can be used as a positive tool for future innovation and change.
More importantly it has pushed me outside my comfort zone which has exposed abilities and talents I did not know I had. The diversity professionally and culturally here at the RCA helped me in becoming a more well-informed person.
Q: How has the Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholarship impacted your life?
A: The Abraaj RCA Innovation scholarship has been one of the most important milestones in my higher education journey. Being a recipient of this prestigious scholarship has put me into a different league and has given me an edge over several other candidates. At an academic level it has allowed me to solely focus on my work and not worry about any miscellaneous distractions. The responsibility that comes with this rewarding accolade has been a constant reminder to relentlessly push to do great work.
Through the vast network of the Abraaj group, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to showcase my work at Design Days Dubai 2016, an annual international design festival. Receiving a maintenance grant in addition to the scholarship has been extremely helpful. Living in London would not have been easy had I not received a maintenance grant. Subsequently the grant has also helped in procuring materials for work and projects. Being a creative programme, there is considerable expenditure on project materials.
Q: How instrumental has the diversity and community experience contributed to your growth?
A: Entering the IDE program, I knew I was setting myself up for a challenge. Our projects are intended to push the boundaries of our understanding of the principles of design and engineering. Our IDE cohort is a group of highly motivated and resolute individuals. Being a “self-directed” Masters program, it encourages independent thinking academically as well as professionally. Despite being from diverse backgrounds, the Abraaj innovation scholars share a strong bond and have become good friends over the last nine months. Each of us brings a different perspectives, which is helpful when providing feedback on our individual projects. We’ve even discussed cross collaboration opportunities.
Q: Overall, what difference you think an RCA MA degree has made to your practice? What plans do you have now that you have graduated from the RCA?
A: The Innovation Design Engineering program has given me a deeper understanding of industrial design but also the experience and breadth of collaborating with various professionals to create and execute innovative ideas. Post my degree I hope to be a part of an established organization and design team where I can use my knowledge of industrial design and innovation design engineering to make a positive contribution to the world. I am particularly interested in mass manufacture product segment that gives me the ability to affect a larger market. I will be constantly striving to use design innovation or inclusivity rather than exclusivity.