Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Diploma Project Proposal

Project idea

To create a brand identity for the keystone foundation and explore retail experience possibilities through packaging design for all the products within the brand.


The Keystone Foundation is an NGO which has been working in the area of eco-development and rural livelihoods for almost 14 years. They are based in Kotigiri in the Nilgiri Hills, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Their mission is to “enhance the quality of life and the environment for indigenous communities using eco-development approaches”. Interestingly, it is called Keystone because of the nest-building behaviour of some birds in nature. These permanent nest structures built by the birds serve as a habitat for several life forms and these “keystone” species become crucial in providing opportunities for other associated species to grow and evolve. Thus, the Keystone Foundation is born out of the simple ecological principle of the interdependence of natural systems.

They aim to promote local trade and marketing in local / rural areas with indigenous groups and establish a chain of Green Shops in urban areas. Through which, they can generate income at the village level through products brought out from projects and produced and gathered traditionally in farms and forests.

Need & Intent

1) The indigenous tribes of the Nilgiris have, in recent years, been experiencing many changes to their livelihoods. As a result, traditional gathering activities and linkage to forest ecosystems have gradually been diminishing.

2) In trying to understand the present context and the socio-economic situation of these communities it is evident that lack of relevant opportunities for these tribal families and failure of “mainstreaming” are causing isolation and creating a situation of great fragility in the social system in what is rapidly becoming an increasingly skewed natural resource base.

3) Over time these communities have become more and more distant and peripheral to development issues and decision-making concerning the ecology and conservation of indigenous communities.

4) There is therefore a need to make positive interventions in the tribal livelihood system of hunter-gathering, subsistence farming and non-land based activities, thereby bringing these issues centre-stage.

5) Market interventions in traditional activities such as honey gathering, non-timber forest produce collection and value addition of homestead products is one of the key ways to address these livelihood, conservation and enterprise issues.

The Foundation markets and distributes the tribal products via their shops located in the region. Organically grown products available from these areas are: Honey-Sweet & Bitter, Mace, Bees Wax Candles, Arabica Coffee, Nutmeg, Silk Cotton Items: Mountain Pepper, cinnamon, Clove, Nellikai(Gooseberry) Mouth Freshener; Nellikai Pickle etc.

They help them diversify food, craft and artisan products for larger benefits to primary collectors and producers and build their stake in the enterprise.


-Increasing the availability of viable natural resource-based livelihood options for indigenous people such that they provide sustainable livelihoods and lead to greater self-reliance

-Enhancing economic status of indigenous people, based on organic and fair trade Principle.

Even though there is a diverse range of products available and a lot more resources for future products, there is a lack of structure/hierarchy within the brand itself. Consequently, there is a lot of confusion regarding the brand. Thus, arises the need for an all encompassing brand identity which integrates all aspects of the brand into a cohesive unit.

As an artist and a visual communicator I find this task really challenging and intriguing at the same time. There is a need for a new brand identity that would target the local population. Therefore, it is imperative to study the system from their perspective and then come up with a brand which they will trust and identify with. This project interests me because of the values and goals of the organisation. For the last 14 years the Keystone Foundation has been working with these tribal communities on just such projects, to help improve the quality of life of the people in the area and the opportunities available to them, while at the same time striving to conserve and enhance the natural environment.

I have been interested in and have had the chance to be part of a few socially relevant projects in my last four years. In the process I have tried to explore different mediums and was exposed to different value systems. This project provides me the opportunity to use my visual communication skills for a socially relevant project where I can provide the audience with a visually rich experience.

Research Questions

1) How to create a new brand identity that communicates the spirit of the organisation and encompasses all its aspects?

2) How do I go about creating an identity that will allow for future changes and new products?

3) Can I create a design solution that can actually build confidence and boost the self-image of the indigenous community?

4) How did this organisation come into being? What kinds of programs does the organisation undertake in order to serve the same bigger purpose?

5) Will a new identity be able to retain the trust and brand loyalty of the local populace?

6) What are the essential/core characteristics of their culture/traditional practices which need to be reflected through this identity?

7) Will the new identity be able to reflect their unique cultural identity?

8) What goes in the making of each product? What kind of value/belief system lies behind each process?

9) What makes packaging research fundamentally different from other forms of research? What special factors need to be considered?

10) How can I gather feedback on packaging options? How will I know if the new packaging will get positive returns?

Approach & Possible Outcomes

Direct interaction with the target group to gain information about their livelihoods and cultural practices.

Using direct observation and interviews to gain insight into their manufacturing and production process.

Research about the organisation’s programs.

Packaging research (examining each and every product, market value, shelf value, kinds of retail spaces, target audience, message, presentation, structure)

Problem solving approach- Attempting to tackle loopholes in the existing brand identity

Taking inspiration from the material and visual culture of the community- their environment, values, etc.

Create a hierarchy within the brand so as to allow for every product that exists or will be introduced in the future.

Resources & Materials

-information from the organisation

-organisation’s help in interacting with the tribes and locals

-information regarding existing identities for such organisations

-market research

- camera- digital SLR

-printing facilities

Other Expenses

-cost of travel

-cost of production of final output and documentation

Learning Outcomes

- to demonstrate skills in the area of social interaction/communication, brand management, design aesthetics

- to identify the role of visual communication in the design process and enhance it using my skills

- to identify the needs of the target audience as well as the indigenous community with the help of the organisation

- to be able to create a successful brand identity which conveys the message in an effective and socially responsible way

- to use the design processes and principles effectively

- to explore different forms of retail experiences

- to create a completely new and sustainable marketing experience for the communities

- apply design thinking to introduce structure within the brand

- experiencing the culture/traditions of the tribes and understanding their belief/value systems

- understanding the core mission of the organization by being a part of the process

- gaining a better understanding of my role as an artist and a visual communicator in the society/ bigger picture

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