Design Can’t Be Taught. It Can Only Be Caught. By You.

Sugandha Mahajan and her round-rimmed eyewear designs
Sugandha Mahajan and her round-rimmed eyewear designs


What is common between Steve Jobs, John Lennon, and Mahatma Gandhi? Round-rimmed glasses, of course. But look around you. This is August 2015. Almost everyone with eye-wear perches a rectangular frame on their nose, especially when it comes to prescription spectacles.

Being able to spot a design trend is an art. It can’t be taught. You just have to know when the common consciousness of people around you gets “design-fatigue” from the “same old thing” which happened to be trendy only a few years ago. Even more challenging is the ability to anticipate when they will reach a tipping point, months or even years before it happens. More importantly, you also need to sense what ushers in the change in the taste of people towards design.

Put My Money Where My Mouth Is

So here’s what I sense. By the fourth quarter of 2015 the early adopters and trend-setters in fashion and design, will move towards more circular designs in frames. By the third quarter of 2016, this trend will become a little more mainstream. Am leaving my design-prediction published here on this blog, so can come back and check twelve months from today.

Ambling through DLF Promenade mall in South Delhi, I did a double-take when I saw an artsy wooden display with only round-rimmed eye-shades and eye-wear to sell. Wow! That is bold, cheeky, and fun. A young, confident Sugandha Mahajan introduced herself. When I quizzed her about her designs her eyes twinkled in merriment from behind her round specs: “Because I just like it!”

That’s it. A woman’s heart just knows. No need to conduct surveys and pour over market research. When I told her my design predictions, she nodded her head in agreement, which I found even more intriguing. Here indeed is a design-thinker. Surely, she must have studied design or fashion, I asked.

Turns out, Sugandha is a software engineer by qualification and profession. She has never studied design. After working in a few companies in IT and in telecom, she chucked it all and launched her fashion startup:

Software to Soft Wear

We discussed how, for the first time, the real-world has found design inspiration from the world of software. Look carefully at those folks with rectangular frames staring into their mobile and tablet screens. All the buttons in modern user-interface designs of smartphone apps are round, as are images masked into circles. That’s because smartphones have started to behave like computers, sans the mouse and the click of its sharp pointer. Instead, round-ended human fingers and thumbs are being used to tap around the screen. So buttons and visuals have to adapt to circular forms for the moment, to offer and suggest an immediate connect between humans and their machines.

As I walked away, I tried to imagine all the millions of Sugandha Mahajans in India, living in such a rich and vibrant culture such as ours. No wonder they can know without knowing. These are the women who need to express their innate sense of art and design. It’s for women like these that is my nurturing partner for the user-interface design and UX workshops that I have been conducting, almost every fortnight and now across India, since almost a year.

For these are the women who could kick-start a revolution in design from India that sweeps across the world.

How to Quickly Make Paper Texture in GIMP

Realistic paper-textures! They look so cool in the background of sophisticated website designs, mobile-applications, desktops, in brochures and print-production design, and for interesting user-interface design. Better than using just a plain white background, or a background with black-to-white gradients that often remind me of retro-1980s design. I prefer realistic-looking paper that is subtle, and use it with sensitivity to draw a viewer’s attention to the content.

GIMP is a free and powerful alternative to Photoshop software. When I say ‘free’, I mean muft and mukt. GIMP is available for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, from so get your copy and let’s get started.

Step 1: Launch GIMP, and select File-menu > New. Choose the height and width of your paper in pixels, and press ‘OK’.

Step 2: Select Filters-menu > Noise… and choose ‘RGB Noise’. Apart from ‘Preview’ make sure all other check-boxes are unchecked.

Step 3: Do you want your paper to be smooth, or would you like to have a texture that’s tad stronger? Take your pick as you slide the tab on ‘Red’ ‘Green’ or ‘Blue’ between 0.20 to 0.69. Do notice how all three values move in tandem. Check out the preview which may show granular dots increase or decrease in density. I prefer values between 0.20 to 0.32. Once you find a pattern to your taste, click ‘OK’.

Step 4: Go to Image-menu > Mode > Grayscale. This one step will make the dots appear more textured, and shrink your file to one-third its size in kilobytes or megabytes, which is a good thing.

Step 5: Go to Filters-menu > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Choose a value between 3 and 9 on the slider below. Check out the ‘Preview’ to see what suits your taste, and click ‘OK. You’re done. If required, you may re-apply Gaussian Blur with a different value, for an even smoother finish.

Save your file in the format of your choice, and you’re done.

Further tips:

Use the Color-menu > Brightness-Contrast slider to set the tonality of your paper.

I use the muft and mukt illustration-design software, Inkscape, for authoring user-interface designs. You may find it for free download and use for your platform here:

Import your paper-texture into Inkscape, then draw your interface elements over it using Inkscape’s tools.

Hope you find this quick tutorial useful. It’s a Christmas gift for a client.