“Take that extra mile, make it count”
Tell us about your journey from being a student who decided to take up art as a career and to working independently as a successful graphic designer today.
My journey has been a bit different from the usual ones. I am an engineering dropout (second year) who started working as a self taught designer initially and then after working for a while I decided to join college. From then I have been moving along with the life of a student and simultaneously working as a Design Consultant, looking after a Design division of a startup and working on freelance projects. The best part of this journey are the people I have worked with right from the beginning, I remember my first client project was interface design of a Canadian Automotive Marketplace which taught me several new things. Starting with a project like that is not an easy task but it was the people who had faith in me and my work which helped a lot in growing further as a designer.
All this has added a lot of experience, working with amazing people in the industry with the projects ranging from web, print, Identity, packaging, signage etc. and the ability to manage things in pressure from both fronts. Sometimes people just break managing one, and here I am in front of you happy and running. Not to forget I am still to graduate in coming few months.
What kind of formal training have you undertaken to become a graphic designer and what role has it played in your growth as a designer?
I am in my final year of B.Des. (Fashion Communication) at NIFT, New Delhi. The course structure introduces us to Graphic Design, Exhibition Design, Design tools and various other subjects. For me most of the in-depth study done is based on the resources on the internet, books, research studies and working closely in the industry and hands on experience.
The truth about college is that it is not meant to spoon feed you everything. In college you learn the basics, tools, how to manage time following a brief etc. In short it is a controlled environment of what you are going to face once you graduate. The good part is the freedom you get to experiment and fail, that’s how you learn some important lessons. All the failed experiments made me happier as I was getting a lot out of them while rethinking about what went wrong and the feedback from the faculty members, taking notes from them and making sure I don’t repeat my mistakes. Immense amount of satisfaction was there since that failure happened at that point of time when nobody’s time and money is at stake.
Some of my college projects have been featured on popular design portals and ended up getting me commissioned projects. I never design with a mindset of making things just to be used during exams and then end up in trash. My aim always has been to put some extra effort which sometimes is days or weeks to make it meet the industry standards if normal class project takes 20-25 hours I am ready to put in extra 10-15 hours so that the value is for years rather than those 5-10 minutes during the jury exams. This mindset has helped me a lot with my professional projects as well, spend some extra time but make it worthwhile.
How would you describe your personal style? Also, how is your workflow pattern or your approach towards a project?
From past two years my work has been type oriented but I am in my exploration phase of trying new styles and mediums to express my ideas. Started as a Interface designer then explored my way into print and packaging and now working with type and illustrations. Soon you might find me experimenting with some unconventional and bizarre mediums as well.
In projects I follow a structure which starts from receiving a brief from the client or to make one based on the client’s request (This happens a lot while working with a lot of Indian clients). Next step is to do an extensive research to put the pieces together and get a clear picture of the project and the approach to it. Then its time to pick up the pencil our WMC (weapon of mass creation), sketching several ideas then finalizing which ones to share with the client. I restrict the number of concepts since as Designers we are supposed use our expertise to help people and not to confuse them. Once final approach is decided I move on to refinement and iteration phase (limited iteration mentioned in the agreement) This phase includes feasibility testing of ideas and many designers ignore this but I have learned that it is a crucial one as impossible is possible on screen, blindly people use mockups on web to just showcase to the clients and without even knowing their feasibility and the clients are usually awestruck at that time but face problems later while trying to execute them.
I recall a project, Identity design of a new line of a fashion House for which I sat down in their workshop working with the people to test the feasibility of selected designs using different embroidery techniques. Finally, after working for several hours we figured out a way to make it work from design and execution perspective. If a design doesn’t serve it’s purpose then it is a waste.
Which has been your most memorable piece of work that you have created? Can you give us a brief description about it and the tools you used for the same?
My favorite one is a packaging project for a footwear brand called ‘CHUPL’ which has been featured on best of packaging design galleries worldwide. The footwear uses junk tires and the revenues generated goes to Himalayan Hope Children’s home project. For me this was an Ideal project as I loved the idea and the story/ purpose of the project. Simply stating it what they do is “It’s doing good by doing good.”
The deliverables which were mentioned in the brief were box packaging, hang tags, display stand (POS display), and posters. As a designer it was my responsibility to comply with the brief but I had something else in my mind, totally redefine the brief so that it conveys the brand message in a responsible manner- this is what CHUPL is all about, being responsible for your actions. My solution was to zero down the whole thing into the essential elements since we were talking about sustainability and if we are ones who don’t think about that then we had failed as a brand and our promise. The shoe box was the need since it is supposed to be shipped to the US so I had to make it into a packaging which is complete in itself.
Two boxes kept together convey the story and existence of the brand, it also gives a direct access to the shoe so that the customer can look, touch and feel the product without even opening the package. The Hang tags are the part of same box piece as they are cut out from the window which is there on both sides, hence reducing the amount of material used and waste generated.
It is our job to think about to multiple aspects rather than just following the brief blindly. After all brief is made by a human only and at times we tend to skip a few aspects and that is where we Designers kick in to full proof those loop holes and design an experience instead of good looking box.
Full project here
What do you prefer, hand-sketching or digital designing?
I am fond of getting my hands dirty as it is way faster, you can just do it on run, while eating on a tissue. We never know when the idea might pop in. Once the ideas are sorted then only I hit on the screen to design it digitally. When you make things physically there is strong bond that is established. How often that smile comes on your face when you go through your old drawing books and now compare that same thing with an old folder on your desktop.
Below is one of the initial sketches made while designing for landing page images of Art & Found Co.
Among various designers/artists, who have been your most important influences?
Stephan Sagmeister has been my favorite since I became design sound. Its not just because he is into typography but the overall way of how he works, the execution of ideas fascinates me to a next level. Other favorite ones are Alex Trochut, Milton Glaser, Faig Ahmed. In Indian Design scene really like the work of Kriti Monga, Mira Malhotra, Rishidev RK.
What challenges do you feel a designer has to face on the job front?
Working as a Graphic Designer the first and foremost challenge is to get in sync with the client and vice versa. Resonating at the same frequency is very important otherwise the whole project might go back and forth. Another thing which we face is variable project requests, sometimes a lot of project requests bombard at the same time and we have to prioritize which ones to accept (choosing the right ones is a task in itself.) Also you find yourself standing in Thar Desert at times waiting for that one project but treat it as a golden period of refreshment, start your own personal project or just take a break to rejuvenate your creative juices.
Which skills, technical or otherwise, does one need to be equipped with to become successful in this field?
Skill to be a “student forever”. Design maths changes every now and then. The things your are known for today might get out of trend soon so it is better to keep on learning and being in par with the changing design scenario. There is a timeless design approach but it is not applicable to all the scenarios and restricted to a few design domains. Rapid evolution in tech has forced us to be life long learner. If you are ready for the commitment, you are in the right place.
What message do you have in mind for the students of Design?
This answer is slightly biased towards the students in design school as there is dire need of raising this issue.
“Work for quality not for grades.” You might complete the assignments and get satisfying grades and even good grades at times but do you feel the work you have done is in par with what you see out there (I am talking about the ones you look and feel inspired.) Now is the time when everything is one click away from galleries for inspiration to the learning resources, take that extra mile make it count and please refrain from copying.
Getting feedback is an important part of the design process and never run from negative feedback, ask questions and be happy that someone is putting in time to analyze it. Same applies when you are working with the client situations when you receive a feedback always ask for reasons rather than statements like “I don’t feel it is right.” This way you are going to save your time trying to satisfy your needs just by hit and trail. Feedback is supposed to narrow down and help your project move further, not to make more complex and aimless.