Aakriti Kumar, an alumnus of Parsons The New School for Design, New York, is a strong advocate of sustainability and sustainable product design. At the age of 24, Aakriti began Differenture, her own company in India. At the Forum, she took the audience through select furniture and lighting pieces designed at her firm, which showed us her different approach to design. Her pieces combine the beauty of art and sculpture with the functional approach of design – using salvaged wood from shipping containers, naturally fallen trees or trees that are interfering with the electricity cables. Aakriti believes that this kind of wood has a past life, and making furniture with all the imperfections (“perfections,” according to Aakriti) makes it all the more unique.
As a product designer, she has the strong belief that it is important to be sensitive to our environment. Every object we produce affects the environment in turn. Apart from sourcing materials from a sustainable point of view, she also uses non-toxic modes of finishing and polishing. It was truly inspiring to see this kind of deep commitment to sustainability when many organizations and people speak about being sustainable at a superficial level. A strong point of view and application of one’s beliefs while doing something they love is a mindset we increasingly see in many young entrepreneurs and designers. Aakriti shared her experience about working at a car company for sometime in Europe and how she concluded that it was something she did not want to pursue. This kind of decision making on her part created a sense of confidence in many people who attended the forum – that we can make our own informed choices.
Almost all Differenture’s products are made of exposed wood. Aakriti likes to let the material speak for itself and does not hide its natural beauty by covering the surface with a thick coat of paint. Today, many product and communication designers share similar points of view: that when materials speak for themselves, it is the best part. At her graduation ceremony, Aakriti Kumar had a choice between a regular tassel or a green tassel. The green tassel symbolized that graduates will follow sustainable design practices throughout their professional careers. You can guess which one she chose.Written by Manav Dhiman