Exploring Collaborative Content-making at the UnBox Festival 2013

Writing for Design

by Ruchita


By Rohan Patankar

This happy yellow afternoon, the second day of UnBox, on the lawns of  Zorba, as we sat together for a Vino Picnic lunch consisting of yummy sandwiches, salads, sangria  and cake, blaring Bollywood music from a family party  in the neighbouring farmhouse gave us some surprising company. We turned to our firang friends with embarrassing smiles. ‘Hey, welcome to India: this crazy mash up of juxtaposed realities that we smile at irrespective of what side we’re on!’ But how would it be if even our neighbours were playing progressive EDM and classical music collaborations between the harp and the Indian cello. Hipsters would never remain hipsters if they were too many of them, would they?

Cities are crucibles of transactions and hence, opportunities. Wikipedia tells me they are “large centres of high density”. It is often in this largeness of the city that people turn into numbers on census data and volumes on the Metro and buses.  In the busy business of urban life, we often forget about all the opportunities of conversation that this density brings and, in contradiction, yearn for the little easy place ‘back home’.

Does it reveal something about creative professionals that they are often found seeking joy in the bylanes of transforming urban villages of Delhi? Is this where we see the potential of positive urbanity harnessed at the right scale? Nostalgia for what home would have been like, or an inkling sensation what home must be like. What is this elusive comfort in the smallness of things that fills the void in our everyday urbanity?

UnBox, among many other things, sparks local and global conversations that are possible only in the physicality of this pop village of people. Insulated as it might want to be in this urban oasis of a farmhouse, the Bollywood music next door only puts us back in context and reminds us that that this conversation could be very every day, everywhere.

The Festival doesn’t grow any bigger every year. It only triggers a million other unboxes that could potentially spring up in neighbourhood parks and street intersections every day; local surprises that we could uncover every day in our little big buildings, in our small city homes, in cities that could become large homes.


Rohan Patankar is a final-year student of architecture from SPA, Delhi. He participated in the Writing for Design workshop led by Teal Triggs at the UnBox Festival 2013.

Writing for Design

by Ruchita

Identity Crisis

by Gauri Sanghi

“The first person with a ‘specific design ‘ tag in two days. The world ought to be like that.”

This is one of my log entries at the end of the second day

Of the unbox festival which is a three day festival bringing in a lot of practitioners from various fields together who are working out there in all spheres the social, the political and the economic. Walking into the festival I actually left behind a group of people back home in Alwar, a small town in Rajasthn ,asking me every second, what is it that you are doing? what did you specialize in in your design school? What did you become by the end of all that work and “money” put in in your education? What kind of design you do?

Besides not knowing a lot about design as I understand it today after being in an art and design school for 5 years. I think the way we categorize people into disciplines and specializations also leads to me needing to answer these questions. Spending two days here what caught my attention was the word practice. People here have their individual practices, which might be very specific to a particular geographical location or a particular community, yet can be applied to another context, another space. A team of a singer and a sound recording artist from the Travelling Archives have been travelling in Bengal and Bangladesh for last ten years archiving folk songs from the area, and they believe that language is key to such a project.  Another team of practitioners is trying to work with a group of folk artists from Hariharpur near Banaras, trying to build a school which can double up as a cultural center which can become a local platform for these artists to perform. The Bespoke project is working on low cost technologies to empower a community giving them a space for social and political expression. Now when we look at such practices, the key is not the discipline that these individuals associate with, but it is the intent and the creative energy being spent on moderating these larger ecosystems. Each of these practices is as valuable and relevant in each of the different spaces they are working in. At the same time there is a need and a space for each of these practices to come together. To use each other’s skills, borrow methodologies, critique each other’s practice, test and try what each other think in our own contexts.

So walking out of the festival, I would still be in the identity crisis of what is it that I actually became after putting in all the work and money in that design school. But I rather choose to always live in that identity crisis. Probably I need to re-imagine the role of my practice itself. Probably it is about identifying these spaces for dialogue, it is about creating networks that can function in and mess around with these larger ecosystems. But also, as I walk out, I know its not making it easier for the people back home, to navigate through these ideas, but I guess that is a challenge I took on five years back.


Gauri Sanghi is an art and design practitioner. She participated in the Writing for Design workshop led by Teal Triggs at the Unbox Festival 2013.

Writing for Design

by Ruchita


by Madhvi Nawani

Away from the main city, this year the Unbox festival was located on MG Road at a farmhouse called Zorba. Although I have lived in this city my whole life, this place seemed like a world of its own. There were people from various creative fields and creative people from not so creative field. What reminded me that I was in fact in New Delhi was the Indian wedding celebrations next door. The organizers at Unbox must have really picked their brain to change the whole experience of the festival and I would say it was a good attempt.

Instead of the seminars being held at an auditorium, there was an Amphitheatre. The chairs were cane stools which in Hindi are called ‘muddas’. Some of the participants were just sitting on the grass. It was interesting but the sun was too bright and the presentation was not clearly visible on the screen. However, speakers were enthusiastic and presented with zeal despite of the problems they faced. The day was divided in between seminars, workshops and electives that one could choose as per their interest. The topics ranged from brewing beer to printing on t-shirts to design writing. I liked how there were different spaces for each of these are they were designed specifically to depict that. I particularly liked the Absolut stall, which looked like a place to relax with colourful lighting, and white frills on the ceiling. The day ended with soft Indian music at the Amphitheatre.

As unique and interesting the workshops were, I would have liked a few to be specific of Graphic Design as the organizers are experts in the field and I would take make more value from the festival. I would love to participate in typography, advertising, more interative mediums. Another interesting workshop could be merging different disciplines of designs like graphic and textile or products.


Madhvi Nawani is a graphic designer from Delhi. She participated in the Writing for Design workshop led by Teal Triggs at the Unbox Festival 2013.

The UnBox 2013 Zine

by Abhijith

Download a PDF (20.9 MB) here.


by Ruchita

Zine template A4 grid

A4 Grid


Grids are tricky structures to design. They underpin the entire experience of a publication and yet function in an invisible kind of way. A well-crafted grid can enhance the content, giving it room to shine and do its thing. A poor grid on the other hand can be a difficult, rigid prison or worse, a production nightmare. How can we create something elegant and open and receptive to everyone’s perspectives?

Given the short time frame within which we want to create our content and publish the zine (4 days is ambitious any way we look at it), at the outset our most important consideration is production and paper. We will be provided with a very generous supply of Karess Wove Cream Laid and Alpha Wove Bright White in 100gsm stock from which the most practical sizes for the zine are A4 and A5. While the A4 size will give us a large, impressive canvas to work with, I wonder whether the A5 might not be better suited to creating an intimate, personal zine filled with personality. I’m sharing here 2 separate grids, built on similar proportions but keeping in mind different requirements for A4 and A5.


Zine template A4 01

A4 Grid: Application 1


Zine template A4 02

A4 Grid: Application 2


Zine template A4 04

A4 Grid: Application 3


Zine template A4 05

A4 Grid: Application 4


Zine template A5 grid

A5 Grid


Zine template A5 01

A5 Grid: Application 1


Zine template A5 02

A5 Grid: Application 2


Zine template A5 03

A5 Grid: Application 3


Of course, it’s still early days in our project and in working out the grid on which our zine will be based, I’ve come up against so many questions: What will our content be? Who will read it? How do we want to represent it? What is the experience that we want to share through it? Practical reasons aside, there is a lot to think about and I have more questions than answers for our team when we meet on Thursday. I’m sure the two grids options presented here will change and evolve greatly in the days to come. Looking forward to hearing your feedback. (I’m indebted to Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style for opening my mind to a completely new way of thinking about “shaping the page”.)

by Deshna

I am thinking of this moment, but when I type now,
the ‘this’ has passed to become ‘that’ moment already.
This thought seems to have initiated a chain of thoughts in my mind:

To be in it /or/ to be of it;
but is it possible to be in it \and\ yet to be of it.

To experience /or/ to document;
but is it possible to experience \and\ yet be able to document.

The observer from the observation /or/ the observation from the observer;
but is it possible that the observer \is\ that observation.

As a graphic designer and a visual artist with a passion for writing, photography and doodling, I have begun to wonder if I have really experienced what I intend expressing through that experience (in its entirety) in the presence of intimate inanimate objects (i.e. my camera, my sketchbook, my pen, my mac) without them changing the experience or being a hindrance in the act of ‘experiencing’. Expressing what one has experienced in itself is only a depiction and not the experience itself.

Perhaps, the ‘process’ then aids in unfurling this depiction (as close as it can get to the experience itself) by depicting itself.

Insights of and from this process have great potential of expression at the various intersections in this conclave at Unbox. I know at some level this is a compromise and contradiction because what we are documenting isn’t ‘is’ but ‘was’ perhaps an hour before, a minute ago, or a mere second heretofore. But then again its the closest we could get to the experience? Perhaps.

Or maybe, just maybe we could dedicate and channelise our energies to create templates to re-create that experience rather than depicting it.

Possibly, experiment with both?

Mark Rothko said, ‘I also hang the pictures low rather than high, and particularly in the case of the largest ones, often as close to the floor as is feasible, for that is the way they are painted.’

Roadmap to Collaboration?

by Teal Triggs


Collaboration is one of those words you think you know what it means but how do you know how to get there? Is there a street map for collaboration – a way of navigation that indicates the most direct route from point A to Z? And, if such a map exists, would we want to follow the same route as everyone else?

Zine Press is a space for collaboration. The idea follows in the tradition of what many fanzines have been in the past – a forum for sharing a passion about a subject with other like-minded individuals. In this case our shared ‘experiences’, that of the UnBox Festival and the making of Zine Press, will be made ‘visible’ in the pages of the fanzine (and this blog) created during the festival itself.

Mohor Ray asks us in her earlier post, to consider the ‘how’ in our collaboration; how might we be able to create a new way to tell the story of UnBox? I love this challenge. Ours is a unique group of emerging and established voices in design and writing. I’d love to see the core team develop a critical-friendly tool kit – using their ‘design lens’ through which the stories of people involved with the Festival are documented and celebrated. Let us not forget that outside of the core Zine Press team, the opportunity exists to welcome other participants to share our perspectives, experiences, and ideas not only about the Festival, but about the broader debates and issues that will carry us beyond this four-day event. This is an essential part of our collaboration, too.


by Sameer

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 7.46.40 PM

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with talented craftsmen – screenprinters – block makers – binders – mudflap makers – zeroxwallahs – fellow designers – and my small team of designers over the last few years. Somehow, the ‘process’ has been most satisfying.

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 7.46.52 PM

Most often the end result has turned out quite different from what I begin with in my head. Accidents, mistakes, spontaneous discoveries in the course of work/research and jugaad – they bring a certain value that cannot be planned or designed. The process contributes a great deal to the outcome. I guess thats what is exciting about independent publishing.

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 7.46.58 PM

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 7.46.47 PM

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 7.47.07 PM

One of the major reasons why I’m looking forward to ZINE PRESS – the PROCESS of working collectively. A beautiful spontaneous mess.

Telling Tales

by Mohor Ray

There are stories unfolding around us all the time. More so, in a situation like the UnBox Festival, which brings together a vibrant mix of practitioners whose work lies at the intersection of several domains of knowledge and practice. In the past 2 editions of the Festival, I have been privy to (and eavesdropper on) many interesting conversations—growing both onstage and offstage. Traditional modes of festival reportage build stories, but in parts—the photographers take pictures, the filmmakers shoot footage, the writers pen their accounts. The conversations—exciting and sometimes just beginning—are often lost in singular mediums. The idea of the Zine Press starts here.

The core team of the Zine Press, each of them diverse in their viewpoints and expressions, will build the story of UnBox 2013 together. Astonishing things happen when people work together. The very fact that together we will be able to create a new ‘how’ to tell the story is exciting. Chances are that ‘how’ we tell the story will bring new meaning to the content itself.

And while I have been mulling on this post for the past 2 days, I chanced upon this blogpost by fellow designer and teller of tales – Soo Basu. It is a befitting addition to my current pondering on the medium changing the way we tell and consume stories.


by Ruchita


Digital and analog, old-school and avant-garde: as language and technology have evolved so to have the ways in which we document, record, remember and share. My own work in charting the conversation around design in India involves writing, drawing, talking, tweeting in multiple formats and so does the work of many of the members of our inspiring team. So what I’m really excited about in working with the Zine Press is how we’re going to combine our diverse and varied forms of expression into a singular book. I look forward to the multiple layers of experience that we’re going to bring to this project and can’t wait to learn from everyone’s perspectives. The excitement is building up and there’s only a week to go!