Sonia Manchanda, Co-founder of Idiom Design, gave the keynote address at the PROUD kick-off conference – With What Design Can Do – on Friday, 28th  October 2011, at Design Cooperation Brainport, Torenallee, the Netherlands.

Sonia was invited by Ingrid van der Wacht, Project Manager, Design Cooperation Brainport, for the Proud kick-off conference. A sunny and bright day was marked with a series of global lectures, conversations and pitches on the topics of ‘Safety and Accessibility’, ‘Mobility’ and ‘Health’. And closed with an introduction to Idiom’s unique practice and the Dream:in project.

The text of Sonia’s keynote speech is given below:


Design realizes dreams

Thank you Ingrid and Design Cooperation Brainport  for the opportunity to absorb and admire Dutch design from within.

You have asked of me that I introduce you to Idiom and Dream:in, both within 30 minutes. So, we are going to try the impossible, which is to visit India in 30 minutes.

In India, there is no real Indian Idiom of professional design. And while design lives within us, we have also grown up looking towards the west, a bit too much. Idiom, our firm was created 6 years ago to find and define the Indian Idiom of design. Or what design can do for business and life in India.

I would like to take this opportunity today to dwell on the idea that design is philosophy first. Before it becomes practice. And why it’s important to dream!

Every day is a new day. Every moment, every action, every person we meet creates a new thought and changes us in tangible ways. That is probably more true of design. We have the opportunity to meet new people continuously, develop new thoughts and prototype them with a new partner. And to develop a unique philosophy all our own.

Design is philosophy

Patterns of thinking that reflect in actions. That create cultures. Artefacts. Brands and businesses. Some cornerstones of our philosophy:

A. Skill, speed and imagination
B. Mind to Market: the flow of an idea is best natural, from mind to Market, with skill speed and imagination
C. To expand markets or create them
D. Transform lives and leave a legacy
E. By leapfrogging several developmental steps
F. This can only happen if you learn from the world but create your own oath with ingenuity
G. Inspired minds come together to create passionate teams
H. Who can create value
I. And impact
J. Don’t seek problems but find opportunities
K. And the biggest opportunity is shared dreams, vs human needs

In a relationship, you always give more than you take. And very quickly, learning together, in a market like india, design can acquire believers who benefit by the belief system and go on to create tomorrow.

Philosophy informs process. The three pillars of which we propose are
Insights: or a deep understanding of cultures and people and business
Ideas: that challenge the status quo
Implementation: the integrity and detail that bring the idea alive.

At Idiom, we are convinced that design is what will create new value and therefore new meaning for India and the world.
Every idea created by design will evolve and grow in an eternal cycle of creation, preservation, destruction. In a balance between continuity and change without ever losing the soul, the essence or the core philosophy of the idea.
Design is Live or a living process.

Design is practice

Thought design is where our practice starts from, before becoming resilient businesses, brands, experiences. Design is philosophy, brought alive/expressed as practice.

Where we have created national phenomena and global brands. There are transformative journeys that design and business have taken together and then, there are projects.

Smart entrepreneurs and seasoned funds in India are discovering that the best brands and businesses can be ‘designed to succeed’. The holistic nature of the design practice future proofs them while the idea is expressed in the most simple, clear way.

Idiom – the space itself is designed like a bunch of ripples in a still pool. A calm open reflective space with hints of disruptive activity.

Future Group and the Soney ki Chidiya…an idea for the future aspiration of every Indian – to soar higher. A philosophical business solution and a successful unique model. With stores, a unique workspace – designed for disproportionate growth and even a new model of mentor entrepreneurship.

Manipal: or the story of how a place became an idea in education and healthcare. With proposed 5 universities globally and 5 nationally. And a plan to be the 3rd largest education services provider in the world.

Most examples are dream realization stories, where design was the catalyst for an audacious dream.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said – I took a long journey just to come back home. We examined the starting point of design and found that looking at human beings as subjects under a microscope, to understand their needs was somehow shallow and unequal. A collaboration with Carlos Texeira, where he was the catalyst…leading the way in sharing the design methodology in India, resulted in the unique discovery that dreams are perhaps a better starting point. Where we topple the pyramid and assume that there is no static bottom and top. And everyone, equally wants to progress. Suddenly, there is no problem to solve and all we need to do us listen to people, stir up their imagination, then go within to find answers.

Rather than going from the top down or diving down for answers, Dream:in is a way of going within by coming up for and reaching for the skies.

We have to demonstrate that design can realize every dream. The Dream:in project has been born from that confidence.

Design realizes dreams

Dream Nation

In Indian thought, there is an expression or a universally applicable thought ‘aham brahmasmi’. Which simply expressed, is the idea that there is no depth that is not within me, there is no height that is not within me. If I have explored myself, I have explored the universe.

Can we get billions to progress on this fearless journey?

So that they can dream unique and audacious dreams and be connected with those who believe, so long as they are willing to work towards realising that dream.

Can the social network online be replaced with an on ground and online imagination network?

So that a new stream of consciousness, meaning and most of all value can be created.

Can we prototype this thought? To find out if there is a way to bridge the gap between today and tomorrow, between thought and action, between what is and what can be, with skill speed and imagination.


DREAM:IN is a unique exploration within. Beyond needs. Beyond greed. Into a world of dreams.

An innovative design methodology to connect deeply with people everywhere. To create a positive personal vision. And an environment where dreams can be shared, as a nucleus of meaningful data. To find believers. To cataylse the process of value creation for society, enterprise and nations. To thereby enable and harvest dreams.

DREAM:IN was conceived in Bangalore, India, in January 2011, in a shared process between design academics and practice, between enterprise and society. It is spreading as an ambitious plan and a massive global network of practical dreamers everywhere.

DREAM:IN India 1.0

Created in India by a global team, the DREAM:IN project began on 8 January, when 101 students traveled more than 25,000 km across India to capture thousands of dreams of ordinary citizens. Following what we called the DREAM:IN Journey, our team launched the DREAM:IN Conclave, a gathering of more than a 100 leaders and students in design, education, business and government. The DREAM:IN Conclave was an opportunity to not only share the dreams of the Indian people with key decision makers, but also develop networks to transform these dreams into realities. In less than six months, the DREAM:IN project and methodology have been embraced in India, showcased in the US and adapted in Brazil.

By using an innovative methodology that changes the focus of human development from people’s needs to people’s dream, the DREAM:IN project gives everyone regardless of age, sex, caste or socioeconomic status, the right to dream and create a path toward achieving that dream. We have also recently launched an online portal where people can upload and share their dreams (

I hope that we will continue to demonstrate that design realizes dreams. Not just of entrepreneurs but of a every common person. Working closely with business and life, I hope that we have created a new paradigm or a new way of starting the value creation process. And a new idiom of design, business and policy.

(PROUD is the People Researchers Organisations Using Design for co-creation and innovation.

Co-design is a process in which designers create new contexts to have consumers or end users involved in the development of new products or services for value creation.

The overall aim of PROUD is to employ design as driver for innovation, economic growth and sustainable development. PROUD partners create cross-sectoral partnerships between public authorities, industries & businesses and designers working with new methodologies focused on co designing (with end-users) and will turn ideas into competitive products, services and spaces. Partners want to achieve that design thinking is taken up broadly by public authorities and businesses/SMEs to enhance NWE’S capacity for solving complex societal challenges in a valuable and sustainable way.

Dutch Design Week – 10th Anniversary: larger, better, and more in-depth than ever

DDW is a recognized international design event in the Netherlands. It is known as a platform for innovation through a sophisticated mix of up-and coming talent, established designers and renowned bureaus. This year, DDW celebrates its 10th Anniversary in collaboration with co-curators Miriam van der Lubbe and Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, this jubilee edition promises to be a balanced and inspiring happening that has no equal. More than 1,800 designers present unparalleled ideas, unique works and insightful solutions. With exhibitions, lectures, award ceremonies, workshops, food and festivities, all conceivable disciplines and aspects of design are represented for nine days, at more than 65 locations in one city. More information:

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