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Experiences That Made Me Sharanya Ramesh | Imagination

07 December 2022

A bit about me…

Scuba Diver, serial meal prepper, world war junkie, horror film connoisseur. I love an excuse to discover a place through its food and I also think all our problems will be solved with therapy dogs.

The creative experience that’s influenced me the most…

My grandmother is a writer and journalist. All my life, I have wondered at how incredible her mind has to be, to be able to tell stories I can lose myself in whilst also being able to - equally compellingly - narrate the stories of others. We’d write stories together when I was little, and perform skits to an audience of one (shoutout to my wonderful but weary grandfather).

As I grew older, I’d keep her company in the wee hours of the night, watching as her thoughts poured onto paper, weaving magic into her narratives. I’d see the work that goes into writing scripts and would sit enthralled in the audience as her words were brought to life. I’d wait behind the scenes as she went on air interviewing and uncovering incredible stories of the guests she had on. The more I think about it, my love for a good story and the stories of the people that tell them seem quite obvious and remains one of my favourite things about my current practice.

I also went to theatre school briefly to see if I had any talent and that may have also been some sort of influence. We all know how that worked out because I am here now and not in an acting capacity...

Sharanya Ramesh's Grandmother

My industry hero is…

Brigit Marger, the godmother of Service Design, created value by simplifying (and unifying) a practice and community that have always held value.

Also Lou Browne. Their book ‘This is Service Design’ is just a gorgeous experience, right from purchasing, to holding it in your hand, to cracking it open to see these beautiful words on colourful pages talking loudly and confidently about service design. Everything about the book and its contents speaks to the value you can deliver just by prioritising your user.

Oh, and Mike Monteiro (of ‘Ruined by Design’ fame). He’s just so aware of the power of design and has really shaped how I think about the impact of great design interventions.

The piece of work I’m most proud of…

The piece of work we did for a large charitable trust. I could geek out on a deep-dive consultancy process. The most fun part of the consultancy process is the wide briefs - you never know what you’ll find when you go into a piece of work. It can uncover the most magical, simple opportunities. We also created these really great narratives that helped our clients empathise with their employees and see themselves in our stories.

Outside of Imagination, I did a piece of work with a great charity that showcased to financial regulators the reality of what it was like to live with the poverty premium (a brutal reality for 14 million people living on the poverty line in the UK who have to pay extra for basic essentials). It was the most rewarding piece of work I’ve ever done, and I am still basking in pride a few years on.

The piece of work that makes me cringe…

I tend to take this question with a pinch of salt because I do overthink most things…but I did a piece of work before Imagination where I refused to give up on an idea despite my inner voice (and everyone I spoke to) telling me it was not the way to go.

Long story short, it didn’t quite work out. Turns out tummy aches that keep you up at night are not always because your lactose-intolerant self decided pizza for dinner was a good idea. Either way, I should have listened to my gut.

Also, it’s never too late to drop something and look at it again with fresh eyes if you’re not convinced. If you don’t entirely believe in your work, chances are, your client probably won’t either.

The experience I wish I had created…

If I’m being honest, I wish I was the first person to think of drive-in cinemas. What a brilliant idea, rolling up to watch a film, picking up snacks and drinks and DIYing your own vibe, all from the comfort of your car. An experience with the perfect mix of content, value adds and personalisation (You even get to decide who you’re sat next to! )… All this because the creator of the drive-in cinema noticed his mother being uncomfortable in the movie seats at the time. It went viral really quickly for the time and created room for many add-on services (like playgrounds, food vending, even a ‘fly-in’ cinema! ). When the glossy air-conditioned cinemas began popping up, they died out a little, but they’re a great example of an idea that was designed for inclusivity and innovation.

Drive-in cinemas are great and I’m willing to fight you on this.

Also, anyone who has read “Narconomics” knows it is a great feat to design a drug cartel. Would have been nice to tick that off my bucket list.

Advice to my 18-year-old self…

You’ve got to work hard on what you’re good at so you can continue being great at it. Also, you should ditch those pink cargo trousers. (Spoiler: You never wear them again.)

What’s next?

I’m currently doing a cool piece of work with a big global commodities enterprise company to position their customer experience arm. We’re just kicking off but the prospect of being able to cut through the complexity is quite exhilarating to my very geeky service design work persona.

Also, the weekend. I’m looking forward to the weekend.