“Try to work on things you truly care about, professionally or otherwise.”
Your specialization is Visual Communication. Tell us more about the same and why did you opt for this field as a career?
A lot of decisions in my life have been made through a process of elimination, for example, my choice to study design was fuelled more by my decision to not study economics! I studied design at the Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology in Bangalore and at the time we had two years of design foundation after which we had to choose a specialization. While choosing, I had put down visual communication as my first preference and textile design as my second but again, I remember that I actively didn’t want to study product or furniture design. I honestly can’t say what drove me to make the choice to pick visual communication at that point in my life but I currently really enjoy being in the design and education sphere as my work as a communication designer involves visual problem solving.
What role has international exposure in a place like the United Kingdom played in your growth as a designer?
Studying and working in Scotland introduced me to different ways of using my design skills. While living there, I was involved in several collaborative curatorial design projects and my thesis research was quite anthropological and looked beyond the commercial viability of a final designed product. I also had the opportunity to meet with designers like Vaughan Oliver, Eike Koenig, and Isidro Ferrer who inspired me to be a lot more playful and experimental with my image making. My experience with curatorial projects as a grad student helped shape recent collaborations with diplomatic institutes while I was in Colombo and also made me develop an interest in content curation which I hope to explore more actively in the future.
How would you describe your personal style? Also, how is your workflow pattern or your approach towards a project?
I don’t think I have a signature visual style, except maybe an aggressive use of colour. I like trying out different graphic techniques and constantly work on improving my typography skills. When starting a new project, I like creating mood boards for different design directions that the project can take, this allows for a visual benchmark that can help clients envision the end product. While I find this to be a useful tool, its important to ensure that you can deliver what you are promising.
While conceptualizing a project, I initially tend to work intuitively and then analyse if my intuition holds any weight and can be supplemented with background research. I try to be systematic with scheduling my time and work backwards while creating timelines and always leave room for errors and delays which are inevitable.
Which has been your most challenging project till date? Can you give us a brief description about it?
My most challenging project to date was to curate an exhibition in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in November 2015. The exhibition was for an event called “Fuse It”, a collaboration between the Academy of Design in Colombo and the Embassy to celebrate centuries of shared culture between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. As the curator, I focused the content of the exhibition on the Dutch influence on Sinhala language as this can be seen in everyday spoken words even today, 400 years after the Dutch colonized Sri Lanka. Upon their arrival in the 17th century, words were borrowed from Dutch to fill gaps in Sinhala. Advakat (lawyer) and balconiya (balcony) are common examples.
These initial Borrowed Words have effortlessly lingered on in the everyday spoken language of today. Fuse It 2015 celebrated these words inherited by Sri Lanka and paid homage to the island’s eclectic cultural heritage. The projects main challenge lay in conceptualizing art work and executing the exhibit in a very short time frame of 2 weeks. The second challenge was the fact that the students who would be working on creating the art work were in their first year of design school and had limited skill sets. Working with those constraints I decided to facilitate a screen print workshop so students could design single colour A2 posters and using different inks and coloured stock to create volume and visual variety. The graphic style was inspired by pop-art and translated well during the final execution. The students were also motivated to be using a hand skill that they had just learned to create something for an external audience.
You also are essaying the role of a lecturer. How do you feel education in the design industry is evolving and what needs to be changed?
I think design education is moving towards making graduates industry ready and bridging the gap between education and professional practice which is good. At the same time there is also a lack of attention to execution, craftsmanship and hand skills. Conceptualizing solutions and coming up with ideas is still paramount, but not being able to execute your ideas well isn’t going to get you far.
What are the tools/software that you regularly use as a part of your work?
I mainly use Adobe Creative Suite. I also take a lot of pictures of things that inspire me (on my not so great phone camera) and use them to fuel my image making exercise titled Tropical Tuesday. I like experimenting with analogue print methods and had set up a print workshop at my last workplace that I fondly called ‘ghetto studio’. Screen printing is a top favorite and mono printing is also a relatively simple but versatile medium that I enjoy working in.
What skills, technical or otherwise, are needed in this field to be successful?
Needing technical skills, whether its using software of physical tools is a given to excel in the creative industry. However, I think it’s important to have good interpersonal skills and a sense of humility. I’m sure a lot of my peers will contest this, but I personally believe it’s important to have a balance of confidence and humility, you need confidence to sell yourself and being humble makes a person seem approachable.
Any message for the aspiring designers?
Try to work on things you truly care about, professionally or otherwise. Passion is palpable.