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The doctors of design

Varun Chawla talks about what it takes to create Star’s design language across mediums.

Say it differently

Star believes in disruption and ideas that push the needle. ‘How can we do something differently?’ is what forms the DNA of Star, and we are always our biggest competitor.

On most days, Star’s sought-after designers are scuttling about with papers bearing doodles and scribbles. They have probably just came out of a briefing meeting with channels heads, marketing teams, and leadership to come up with the best design ‘solve’ for the project at hand.

Welcome to the BAD team at Star, short for Brand and Design, who work towards unlocking our core design language for various projects across mediums. The team of 12 graphic designers and motion designers led by Creative Director Varun Chawla are the ‘custodians’ of the look and feel of the brand.

“I call designers doctors. Just like doctors know best, the designer knows best about what the common man needs. It’s his job to get into the common man’s head and realize what he requires.”
Varun Chawla, Creative Director, Brand and Design

From graphics to design strategy

Until two years ago, BAD was known as the ‘graphics team’, a term that Chawla was allergic to, as graphics was just a part of what they did. He paved the way for the team to grow from graphics to broadcast design to a platform-agnostic design strategy team that works on projects for broadcast, print, digital, and space design at Star using a methodical approach. They now consult and work in tandem with teams and channels across the board and are the final word on all things design at Star.

“Channel branding in this form is new in India. Most organisations still prefer to outsource the work to external agencies. While our brand teams partner with agencies, we believe, nobody other than the people working inside Star, can truly understand the DNA of the brand,” he says.

As a student of art, design and animation, Chawla has grown to understand that the right environment is what offers a designer to thrive in his/her creativity. The environment offers a space to learn and – more importantly to unlearn – and interact with versatile people working on diverse ideas. And at Star, he feels the same drive in creativity, as every project is different and demands the team to exercise different mental faculties as they move from channel identity to app design and event branding initiatives, often in a single month.

But the lens remains constant.

“We see everything from the point of the viewer. A design narrative is one that connects a brand and its story with the viewer or customer. Therefore everything can have a design narrative today – a product, a film, a fashion designer etc.”
Varun Chawla

Design is a solution, not a craft

At the heart of everything we do, we are communicating and reaching out to our viewer, customer, or employee. Hence, the key difference between art and design is that the former is subjective and the latter is a functional ‘solve’ for an existing problem.

Therefore for all BAD projects pre-production is vital. At this stage, we ask all the right what-why questions, look at research learnings and ask channel heads about the brand position they have in mind for their target audience. We then arrive at a direction, discuss ideas, and finally choose a design route that we all see fit. Finally, we pitch our work to channel teams.

“The exploration exercise is most important. And that’s what has really come to define BAD. This is where we have taken the leap from being a broadcast design team to a design strategy unit,” says Chawla.

No two days for the BAD team are the same. The team grapples with varied assignments for varied target audiences that induce a steep learning curve in skill, creativity and intellect, and the diversity helps break the monotony of a job.

With each brand, we have a new story to tell. “Design is the entry point of a brand in the mind of the viewer. We help define perception and create visibility, and with each brand, we work with a different target audience and a new set of values,” explains Chawla.

For example, with the launch of Star Movies Select, we were positioning the brand to premium viewers, whereas with the launch of Star Bharat, we were communicating to the broader heartland of India. For the former, we used a minimal less-is-more approach, and for Star Bharat, we created aspiration by narrating a story of kid leading others to a promised land of no fear.

Instinct is key

The most disruptive idea may not be found in market research findings. The design process is organic, and ideas could come from anywhere. There is logic to the process, but at the core level, design is also based on a lot of intuition.

Therefore for Chawla, passion is an important criterion he uses while hiring designers on his team. Interests come next, and he prods them to find out more about their experiences, likes, dislikes, and how much they are willing to explore. “When you go beyond what is to be done, pour your experiences into something, you can really go wild.”

And lastly, he checks for an alignment between what the designer wants to do and what is expected of him by the organization. When there is a match here, often the best work happens.

We Change

We are constantly changing, challenging and doing totally new things. New formats, cutting-edge technology, with the highest quality standards – one of our key principles is to challenge status quo.

We Connect

We have an incredible connection with our people. We are always working to understand their loves, their dreams and how we can help them do and be more.

We Create

Imagination is the heart of everything we do. We create new possibilities and open up new ideas. We pride ourselves on being a hothouse of creativity.

We Care

We care for our colleagues, our communities and our country. We believe in the power of using media as a force for good by creating content that has a positive impact on society.

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