Interviews

Deepti Sunder, Illustrations

I’m an artist and illustrator who works across multiple mediums, both 2D and 3D. I would describe my work as colourful, whimsical and highly imaginative with a strong focus on storytelling. I draw and paint to tell stories, and enjoy transporting viewers of my art into a world of whimsy and playfulness. I also have a deep love for tactile art and objects, and the other side of my creative work lives in this realm – creating murals, sculptures and crafty objects. 

Deepti Sunder is an award-winning illustrator, muralist, sculptor and educator based in New York City, originally from Bombay, India. She works across both digital and traditional media. Whether crafting giant animals and plants out of papier-mâché, making whimsical clay sculptures or creating illustrations to bring a story to life, Deepti finds great happiness in using her hands to create. She has received the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the children’s book Bonkers!, and appeared on Viceland’s The Untitled Action Bronson Show as a featured artist. As she continues to share her art with audiences across the world, she hopes to help viewers connect with the childlike wonder and enchantment within themselves. 

Why are you an illustrator?
As a child, I spent most of my time making art or reading. Illustration is kind of my way of combining both those passions, since the core of all of my artistic work is driven by storytelling.

Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I did my undergraduate studies in architecture (from Manipal School of Architecture & Planning), but then veered away from it. I set off on a bit of an exploratory phase after graduation, and sort of stumbled into illustration. It felt like something I would enjoy doing and be good at. Since then, I have gotten my MFA in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where I am currently based.

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Aanchal Lodhi : In Conversation With An Illustrator

Aanchal Lodhi is an independent illustrator and surface pattern designer from Delhi, India. Her work consists of bright, whimsical, and oh-so-cute illustrations! In the last two years, she has illustrated over 5 children books and worked with a wide array of clients. Apart from client work she works on a number of passion projects allowing her to explore and experiment beyond her comfort zone.

Outside of work, Aanchal finds joy in exploring new art or craft forms and loves a cozy night in.

Why are you an Illustrator?
As someone who was NEVER good at drawing, I find it quite amusing that I ended up here! My journey into illustration began after graduation when I discovered surface pattern designs by Bonnie Christine. This led me to fall in love with the boundless possibilities,and made me slowly transitioned to creating illustrations.

Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I have completed my formal education in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College, DU. Along with that, I pursued a certificate course named “Design Innovation in Fashion and Textiles” from NIFT, Delhi.

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Urvashi Dubey : Illustrations

Award-winning illustrator Urvashi Dubey has a knack for creating imaginative children’s picture books. To date, she has illustrated over 12 picture book titles, including a self-authored book about world-famous artists called ‘Grown Ups Who Never Stopped Drawing.’ She has worked as an Art Director for a Mumbai-based children’s publishing house called ‘Daffodil Lane Books.’ Known for her delightful, enticing artworks that appeal to kids and adults alike, Urvashi has always aimed to evoke feelings of nostalgia and relatability through her art, seeing it as a powerful tool in storytelling.

She lives in Mumbai with her cookie-maker husband and a very naughty ginger cat.

“Hi, I’m Urvashi. I specialize in kid-lit illustration. Just like all little boys and girls, I started my journey by participating in an art competition in school to make it into an actual career. I have a personal interest in working on stories that bring social-emotional development to little readers, especially the ones that talk about self-esteem, deforestation, mood management, and empathy.”

One of my latest title is called ‘No is a Good Word’.

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Abhinai Srivastava : Graphic Designer

Abhinai Srivastava is an independent Graphic Designer with an experience of 14 years of commercial work in India and United Kingdom. He has been involved in providing visual communication solutions to clients like Pepsi, Wizcarft, Vango, Yamaha, Sahara Star etc. while during his stint at multiple corporate agencies in the past. Currently, he is working on his upcoming start-up in home décor e-commerce category. In his leisure time, he enjoys automotive content and mobile gaming*

Why are you a Graphic/UI Designer?
Since I can remember in my childhood, I always observe things in minutest of details whether it was the typographic logo on Limca & GoldSpot bottles or the colour composition in a mural ad. on the city street wall. The way things were built and designed in my surroundings intrigued me. I always loved to scribble at the back pages of my ‘rough copy’ in school and never ran out of ideas on what to draw.

I see myself as a ‘visual storyteller’ who loves to create things for an audience to see and respond. Producing original and unique prospective to any project is highly influential to why I design commercially.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or online classes?
I have done Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) from Lucknow University and then went to University for the Creative Arts, Surrey, UK for Masters in Graphic Design and Communications course, followed by 2 years of agency job there.

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Subhabrata Bose : Illustration and Graphic Design

Why are you into Illustrations and Design?
I always wanted to be a fine artist as I studied painting in Art College. But through a friend of mine who was in advertising, I was introduced to the world of advertising, design and illustration. We are witnessing such a time where the definition of fine art and applied art is getting blurred day by day. Here, you get a lot of opportunities where you can show and nurture your creative talent. So, I started doing illustration and design as an alternative of paintings. I explored a lot and got an ample chance to create something new every day in my advertising career. That is the beauty of this profession.

Did you attend any school for fine art or design or Communications?
Yes, I did a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Drawing and Painting form Govt. College of Art & Craft, Kolkata.

Tell us about your journey as advertising art director and then illustrator?
I have been lucky enough to work with some of the finest creative directors in the country. They know how to take best out of someone. I have learned a lot from them as well as got the opportunity to use my full potential. Besides doing my design jobs as an art director, I got a lot of opportunity to do illustration on several projects, be it a campaign or a pitch or a social media post. After a point of time, I realized to give more time on my illustrations. So, I quit my job and started freelancing.

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Akshita Bhalla : In Conversation With A Creative Brand Strategist

A hopeless brand romantic with over a decade of experience in digital marketing, Akshita Bhalla is all set to create her own space in the industry as an independent professional. She has worked with brands like Dabur, OPPO India, Domino’s, Bajaj Finserv and more.

Why are you into Advertising/Brand Strategy?
Because it is the most exciting world, full of imagination, ingenuity & impact. People rarely care about the business but they will connect with a brand. They influence everything, from our basic daily choices to pop culture – so I enjoy being a cog in the system, and taking a brand’s vision and purpose further. The thrill, the challenge – I love it all!

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did, in Communications. Bachelors in Mass Media & Mass Comm (BMMMC) from Delhi University.

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Not necessarily. There definitely must be impact on sales, but most brands don’t look at award campaigns as a tool for selling, they look at it to highlight impact on society or to take a stand or simply for brand love. If we take the example of Cannes Lion winner ‘The Swedish Number’ definitely did wonders for its tourism numbers, but what Visit Sweden truly got from the campaign was a chance to showcase the nature of hospitality, their personality as a country. That’s what made it tick, really.

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Pooja Dhingra: Conceptualiser

Pooja Dhingra is an independent conceptualiser, art director and a graphic designer and has previously worked with Play Clan- India’s first graphic design store, as a creative lead.
She is also the founder of Compassion Contagion, an online archive that has been recording acts of compassion, hope and resilience through art, collages and graphic narratives.

Her work at Play Clan was mostly research and travel based bringing tales from Jodhpur, Banaras, Japan, Nagaland, Bhutan and other places to the forefront. She has also
worked on various collaborations with Paul Smith, Oxford Bookstore, India Art Fair, Tokyo Fashion Week in India, Mehrangarh Museum Trust etc.

As a freelancer, she has designed for non profits such as National Foundation for India; Pravah; Barefoot College,Tilonia; Apnalaya; Room to Read; Communities for Conservation, Khoj Foundation, Communities for Conservation, Canada; WNCB: Work:No Child’s Business; PSBT to name a few. She has worked on projects that address the issues of discrimination and social exclusion, campaigns designed to address early and child marriage, child labor, women’s nutrition, health and reproductive rights of adolescent girls. She has also been designing and art directing festival graphics for India International Centre’s The Festival of Arts for the last six years.

Her personal work revolves around waste management, sustainability, and addressing the patriarchy through humour and satire.

Her work has been featured in the Ladies Finger, Asian Age, The Better India, Khirkee Voice-Khoj Foundation, Mint Lounge and in British Council’s campaign ‘She Leads’ as one of their most favourite women creators from India.

She has exhibited her zines and comics at Bombay Underground Zine Festival ; Gayzi Zine Festival ; The Zine Show at MIT Institute of Design ; TIFA Working Studio, Pune; Art Book Depot, Jaipur.

Why are you a Conceptualizer/ Art Director?
I think I enjoy being a conceptualiser because I like to work on projects that allow me to be experimental in my approach. I have converted lengthy case studies into folk inspired artworks, made graphic novels for annual reports and have researched and simplified Mughal history to create a pack of playing cards. I rely heavily on research to design and feel that a strong concept and good storytelling are essential components for good
design.

As an art director, I get to work on a project from start to finish which involves researching, storyboarding, creating the vision and the visual language based on clients’ brief. I also find it exciting to put the team together- finding artists I can collaborate with to translate ideas into illustrations. Once the illustrations come in, I do the final layouts/ design and also handle the production- choosing the materials and techniques, working with the printing press etc.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did my B.A. from Lady Shri Ram College and then studied Fashion Communication at NIFT, Delhi. In the course, there was just a short module on Graphic Design. After the course, I joined a design studio and that’s where I learnt everything I know about design.

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Janardhan Pokala : In A Chat With A Multi-Disciplinary Creative Director

Janardhan Pokala is a multi-disciplinary Creative Director based out of Chennai. With his primary practice firmly rooted in copywriting and brand strategy, he helps some of the world’s most well-known brands navigate, create and lead meaningful change.

Why are you into Brand Building?
I’ve always been passionate about understanding people’s behaviour – why they act a certain way, what makes them tick and things of that nature. 10 years ago, when I got the opportunity to use that understanding to solve complex business challenges daily, I jumped at it and haven’t looked back ever since.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or communications?
No. Like most people in India, I graduated with an engineering degree.

You have worked for some very diverse and interesting places. Can you tell you something about this journey.
If I’m being honest, what I am today is a result of these diverse experiences. Adwants gave me the space to sharpen my craft and mature as a creative. Be Positive 24 made me reevaluate my benchmarks and step out of my comfort zone every so often. And ampersand taught me the importance of timely action.

Throughout my career, I was fortunate enough to work with some of the most accomplished leaders in the industry. And sharing a work desk with them meant learning from their experiences instead of making my own mistakes every single time.

Read more: Janardhan Pokala : In A Chat With A Multi-Disciplinary Creative Director

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
Not always. Burger King is one of the most awarded brands in the world, but their market share reflects a different picture. At the same time, brands like Apple and Nike have managed to make award-winning work work for them.

While I do not believe in awards, I do believe that they play a crucial role in getting good work discovered and the people who created it recognised. Beyond that, I don’t think one is, in any way, dependent on the other.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Quite the opposite. I grew up watching a lot of poorly-written films and ads being made in our country. And I told myself – I’ll never create one of those.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in brand building?
Without a doubt – Bill Bernbach, Paula Scher and Rory Sutherland. Bernbach’s approach to advertising, Paula’s principles on graphic design and Rory’s views on behavioural economics have pretty much shaped my career.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
From the world around me! That’s why I never allow my creatives to wear headphones inside the office. When we tune out, we miss so much of what could potentially become inspiring work.

Tell us something about the work environment at Engadgetly Inc.
Having worked in agency settings for nearly a decade, I didn’t know what to expect of Engagedly. To my surprise, the work culture has been one of the best things about the organisation. Very open, friendly and supportive.

Do you have any kind of a program to nurture and train young talent?
A mentorship programme is in the works. More on that very soon!

What about new and young filmmakers/photographers? Do you consciously keep looking for newer talent and try someone completely new?
All the time. As a creative, I’m always looking for new ways to solve old problems. And working with someone new almost always opens up so many possibilities.

What is your typical brief like?
No two briefs are the same. But most of the time, clients reach out to me because they’ve tried something, and it didn’t work. So they want a fresh and more refined approach to their brand.

Essentially, brand transformation.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
Understand what good work is. Develop a thicker skin and never settle – even when your agency leaders ask you to compromise. Especially then.

What is your dream project?
Any brief that has the potential to have a positive impact on people beyond just monetary measures is a dream project for me.

Mac or PC?
Mac, all the way.

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Marshall Mathers. His music has had a profound impact on my life, and his journey has been one of my biggest inspirations.

What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
Mostly hip hop – Eminem, Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, NF and some old-school artists like Tupac, Nas and Biggie. And some classical music, of course.

What’s your Twitter Handle? Instagram?
I don’t use Twitter much. You can follow me on Instagram @janardhanpokala

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Tathagata Ray : In Conversation With A Creative Strategist

A destined art director who bent fate and chose to pursue copywriting, Tathagata is now 13 years old in this industry. An Advertising and Public Relations post-graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication, he has had notable stints at The Glitch, Jack in the Box Worldwide and Dentsu Webchutney. He is currently a part of the Creative Shop at Meta, India (previously Facebook).

“As a 12-year-old child, I was always fascinated with my father’s professional world, advertising. I would accompany him to the agency, print studios (OG 90’s advertising) and see him control shoot sets as an Art Creative Director. Safe to say, advertising was fated to be my love and kryptonite. Unlike my father, a bhodrolok from Calcutta who never felt like exploring the world, I wanted to work in advertising hot spots like Delhi and Mumbai. It started off by chasing his mad dream, but after spending 12 years in the industry, I believe I’m writing a totally different story, my story.”

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I attended the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in 2009, after a rigorous all-India entrance examination. The path after that was easy peasy, I would hang out in the canteen during the marketing classes and attend the print and creativity classes from the front row. Lazy, or laser focused on what looked like my journey.

How do awards impact the creative career?
Awards is what fuels the beginning of one’s career, in my opinion. You want to get a few awards as soon as possible and have the upper hand in deciding where you want to head next. There are two ends of the spectrum I have seen in my career, A) being obsessed with winning awards, or B) not giving a capital F about awards. Both could be toxic. It’s important to settle somewhere in between as a creative individual. Awards for oneself and worth in the market, but profitable and effective business for the overall health of the agency.

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