Born and raised in Jaipur India, Vibhor Sogani grew up soaking up the richness and cultural heritage of Rajasthan. His father, a geophysicist, was tasked with research assignments in western parts of the country, which in turn gave Sogani the opportunity to travel alongside him – often staying in camps and tents in different locations for months at a time. As a result, he witnessed diverse landscapes, rural scenes and indigenous cultures.
“As an adolescent I loved playing with forms and materials, creating a lot of mindless and imaginary stuff, which perhaps triggered a creative thought process, supplemented by the knowledge acquired from my travels with my father,” Sogani tells darc.
Perhaps, this is why mainstream education didn’t appeal to Sogani… After finishing high school in Jaipur, a careers advisor suggested a career in design after noticing his visualisation skills. This suited Sogani’s way of thinking and encouraged him to pursue design as his primary vocation. And so, five and a half years at the National Institute of Design ensued, transforming his outlook on life and giving the designer a more definitive direction to his creative indulgences. “This is where I gained multi-disciplinary exposure to creative fields such as films, textile, furniture, ceramics, graphics, engineering and machining, as well as insights into arts and crafts. Design was seamlessly integrated with my way of life, way of thinking and way of observing the world around me.”
Post NID Sogani worked in various R&D centres for a number of large organisations, gaining knowledge on the industrial production processes, management, operations and logistics. However, he found the environments too structured and lacking in creativity and so pushed to set up his own practice. “I started with a small studio in New Delhi as a consultant; for the first few years I picked up a range of projects in a deliberate effort to expose myself to the industry and all the opportunities it has to offer. I consulted on a variety of projects covering graphics, communication, retail, exhibition and industrial design. Those were years of immense pressure because I was learning about different aspects of the profession and practice, while meeting the expectations of my clients. It was crucial and served as the catalyst in opening up my canvas of design practice combined with an interdisciplinary thought-process. This period marked a decade of assignments that laid the foundation of what I do today, albeit in a subconscious manner.”
2006 was a turning point for Sogani, when the opportunity came to work on an event showcasing international lighting brands – this was the beginning of his lighting design portfolio. “I began playing with both light and art in the form of light installations and have worked in this area of industrial design ever since – it has been an engaging and rewarding journey so far.”
For Sogani, light in a sense is formless and acquires its form from the source and material it is reflected from or refracted through. Therefore, trying to mould light into a particular expression is like trying to give shape to air. “The form of the luminaire provides a tangible story, but it is always the quality of light that guides the experience of that luminaire and surrounding space,” he says. “The process of designing with light as the guiding principle is enriching and the wisdom acquired from the process can be applied to other forms of design as well, which makes it even more important to understand.
“Lighting is an interesting domain in product design and also the fourth dimension of architecture. Light is a crucial aspect that reveals the materiality, depth, expanse and warmth in a space; thus, it is extremely important to have good lighting within spaces; that enhances their utility and reflects the personality of the people inhabiting them. With the layering of lighting, one can enhance the utility of a space in an intelligent manner.”
Talking artistic influences, for Sogani, there isn’t one single icon or designer, yet many whose work has inspired him during his career. The likes of Zaha Hadid, Marcel Wanders, Phillipe Starck, Archille Castiglioni and Richard Serra to name a few. “Their work represents powerful ideas in a simplistic manner that I appreciate the most,” he says. “I feel we all come across innumerable sources of inspiration in our day-to-day lives, especially when we are in a relaxed state of mind. I derive my leads through observations from natural phenomena, forms in nature, and the physical environment, or a story that has an emotional appeal.
“There are certain inherent thinking methods that guide those observations, and I get my triggers which help me formulate my thoughts in a manner that help me translate them. This journey, which starts with a random observation or a thought, and triggers a chain reaction in the mind, is very exciting and gives me a tremendous adrenaline rush. This is always the best part for me in the journey of a specific design process or project.
“As I acquire new observations and sources of inspiration, my thoughts evolve, thereby adding layers to my design language. Over the years, the pursuit of simplicity has seemed to work in my approach as a principle design argument. ‘Simple is Beautiful’ and ‘Less is More’ are the fundamental principles that guide me to work towards timeless designs that one does not get bored of. I try to make forms that appear effortless.
“Simplicity is beyond fashion or individual interest, it is revealing of truth of the subject in question. It is often difficult to achieve, as it requires extensive deliberation with oneself, and a particular mastery over the craft. Maybe that is why it’s timeless, because it portrays a pinnacle of design process. Whenever I manage to strike a simple cord with my creation, be it designs or an artwork, it gives me a sense of achievement, and it is this feeling that defines my ‘style’.”
A designer has to play a multi-faceted role. Right from the understanding of the project or product, to creating a tangible three-dimensional object that has a definitive function. In the process, one has to thoughtfully combine technology, ergonomics, aesthetic, function and many other factors while leading it to the market. To be able to design successfully, each time, a designer has to literally get under the skin of the client / subject and comprehend the requirements in a pertinent context.”
In terms of changes within the design industry, for Sogani, a lot has happened in the last few years in the sphere of design and technology and at a supreme pace. “In the past, lighting and associated technology was very limited compared to its present avatar. Today, it is very effectively acting as the fourth dimension of architecture and rightly so. The fact is, the impact of this medium can bring about a dramatic change in the quality of architecture and its relevance. This realisation and availability of suitable alternatives is leading to the rise in demand of quality lights, energy efficient sources and even lighting consultants. It is a highly positive trend and the industry is growing; there are new developments every day, in terms of material and technology. With the changes in materials and technology, one must update their methodology and practice. Also, it is the era of smart technology. The interactive interface in products is something I’m fascinated to explore.
“On the other hand, with the fast paced changes in technology, and therefore design, somewhere the romance of regional diversity is lost. The cities change, the regions, even the countries change. But the visual quality of the architecture and the associated aspects have started looking so similar. At times you can’t tell where you are because it all looks so similar. I feel a loss of diversity is a byproduct of technology.”
Sogani’s path in design so far has been somewhat of an organic one, with the designer taking one step at a time…however, looking ahead his intent is to continue growing the collection and make his mark on the global design industry. “The collection is growing in an interesting way and a very distinctive quality is emerging in the range. Design per se has to be functional yet aesthetically stimulating with products having a meaning and not just produced for the sake of it. While remaining honest, products must convey a character to their users, and resonate within their ideology or personality. They must have a meaning of their own, which shuns the idea of mass consumption and ensures minimum use of resources. I believe this is the very least a good product design should carry forward.”