Technologies such as 3D Printing, Virtual/Augmented reality & Robotics Manufacturing will revolutionize the way we think, the way we design and the way we produce !

Kavitha Mohanraj, Founder at INTO Design, delivers design solutions based on Computational & 3D Modelling techniques through the use of advanced technologies in creative industries.

Kavitha talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her masters in Advanced Design from SAC, Germany (Städelschule Architecture Class), a small school with just 16 students from 12 different countries, with a focus on an experimental approach towards Advanced Design practices.

For students, designers are no longer constrained because technologies such as 3D Printing have eliminated the practical limitations associated with traditional manufacturing. Your imagination is your only constraint !

Kavitha, Your background?

I am Kavitha Mohanraj, I grew up in Chennai with a lot of friends and family. My Father is a Statistician, a friend and a problem solver while my mother sculpted us into better beings. 

We are an extrovert family, travelling & socializing energizes us. My exposure to the built environment and the world outside kindled the eagerness to design and analyze the space around me, which slowly led to interest in Architecture. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I did my Bachelors in Architecture at School of Architecture, Anna university, Chennai. I practiced architecture for 3 years, but after a point, I felt there was more to learn and my interest was more in the Digital Technologies in Design. So I went on to pursue my Masters in Advanced Architectural Design at Städelschule Architecture Class, Germany. It was a small school with just 16 students from 12 different countries. My perspective towards life changed after my experiences and travel in Europe. 

What were the drivers that made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

A key influencer was travel, and seeing how the fabric changes from one city to another, across different cultures, languages & geography which helped me to understand the importance of the spaces around us and What if ! – I have the power to redesign that space for a better living. 

After graduation, I worked with Mancini Enterprises, a boutique design firm, which helped me in understanding the practical approach to design and construction. There was a lot of exposure to client handling , designing and site supervision. My experience in these design firms made me question, “why the Architecture field does not embrace technology unlike other design fields”. This led me to pursue my masters in Advanced Design which involves bridging technology and design.

While I was working in India, I felt that the use of technology in design & construction was not explored much. In order to learn more about this field I did a research of all the universities across Europe. I found that SAC, Germany (Städelschule Architecture Class) has one of the best professors and an experimental approach towards Advanced Design practices. Another thing I loved about this school is the selection criteria of students where they pick only one student from one country which was a very huge exposure in terms of cross-cultural experiences. 

In order to get selected into the Masters Program i had to prepare myself based on 3 levels of selection criteria: 

  1. Minimum 2 years of Design Practice
  2. Design Portfolio which should reflect your style and skills
  3. Online Interview with the Professors

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

The Masters program in SAC had a very different teaching methodology. Since it was a very small school, the idea was to understand every student’s personal interest and help build the same. The first year goes into understanding more about digital practices in Architecture along with theoretical references and preparing us with 3D Modelling and Visualisation software. 

The second year was dedicated to working on our personal interests and evolving it into a thesis project which was later exhibited and presented in the Deutsche Architecture Museum in Frankfurt. My thesis revolved around the idea of utilizing computational tools in the design process to evolve a space through movement of people. 

After completing my masters, during my work at Kyoob Architects Singapore, I was involved in designing condominiums, factories and commercial projects where I could test a few of my skills that I learnt during my masters. 

I believe the first step is to have a dream, a goal and then walk towards it. My family, including my network of friends and mentors, have helped me throughout my career. 

I developed an interest towards Designing for Advanced Manufacturing (3D Printing, Robotic Manufacturing etc..). Since it is an upcoming technology, my masters was not sufficient. I enrolled for multiple courses, both online and offline, to upskill myself. Every day, I would spend 1 hour of my time to upskilling myself. 

After upskilling myself with various courses and projects, I am now an Ambassador for Womenin3DPrinting, an international organization (Promoting, supporting and inspiring women in 3D printing.)

How did you get your first break?

During my time in Europe & Singapore , I would always wonder, what If we could incorporate and enrich spatial experiences for people via designing a better environment and products in India. It would make living simpler and the experience richer. This thought repeatedly occurred to me which led to the start of my entrepreneurial journey.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Every day is a challenge in the life of any entrepreneur. It takes time and patience, in order to identify core problems & solve them step by step, which is the mantra of my life. 

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

My partner- Malli Saravanan, and I, have been building a company, INTO DESIGN since 2015. We design and deliver Industrial Design solutions for other companies. 

Having a background in Architecture and masters in Digital technologies allows us to design any product or space around us.

A typical day starts with a creative discussion at the office , meeting new clients and factory visits. 

The most interesting part of our job is meeting new people & learning new things, identifying their problems and solving the same.

With the advent of the 4th Industrial revolution, the way we think, the way we design and the way we produce will drastically revolutionise. 

Especially with technologies like 3D Printing, Virtual & Augmented reality & Robotics Manufacturing, designing and 3D modelling becomes a very important factor. Even a complex form becomes easy for construction. My specialization of working on Advanced 3D Modelling forms with Rhino 3D software helps to provide solutions on Design for Advanced Manufacturing. In the traditional process, 2D drawings are required for production of a product, but with Advanced manufacturing like 3D Printing , a 3D Model file is all that is required for production.

How does your work benefit society? 

We design products and spaces around people by addressing and redesigning the everyday problems they face around them. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

I have designed an Electrical switch for train interiors. My most interesting milestone project was when we were commissioned for the designing of a Driver’s cabin for the Indian Railways. We have now designed three different Train Interiors for Indian Railways – Vande Bharat Express (Drivers Cab), Vistadome (Conceptual Coach interiors) (Bangalore to Mangalore) & a sleeper class train.

My entire childhood revolved around travelling in trains and i now have the opportunity of designing an enhanced, safer and better travel experience, which is my most memorable project

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Build a positive space around you, and fill them with a lot of friends, family and memories.

Future Plans?

To design a healthier future for the people via products they use and spaces they live in.