Interviews

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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Anoorupa Bose : Optimist

Anoorupa Bose is a fearless Creative Director. Give her a brief and she’ll come up with an idea that is so bold yet effective, that you’ll want to take the leap with her! Anoorupa is also a fearless human being. She has always fought for her rights and the rights of her teammates at previous agencies where employees were overworked and systematically exploited.

Why are you into Advertising?
In advertising, you get to be an artist, a filmmaker, a craftsman, a hacker, a revolutionary for social causes, a public speaker, a writer, a storyteller, a strategist, a musician, a startup incubator, a data analyst, a psychologist, it´s a field that enables you to express your creativity in so many different ways and that’s why I love it!

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I studied English.

You have been a highly awarded Creative at a very young age. How has that impacted your career?
Feels a bit awkward to brag, but yes, in school I was always the most-awarded student in theatre, writing and public speaking competitions – all of which has greatly helped me hone my skills in advertising. Especially theatre, because even before you get to publish your campaign to the public, you need to first pitch that idea face to face to your client, and that’s when all the drama, stage training and public speaking experiences from the past unleash.

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Kaashvi Kothari : In Conversation With A Graphic Designer

Kaashvi is a visual designer based out of nowhere specific. She works full-time at Studio Ping Pong and is a part-time freelancer. She works in both print and digital mediums and enjoys branding, typography, data viz, illustration and editorial design. In her free time, she likes to window shop fonts, play with recipes, thrift clothes, read books and browse supermarket aisles for hours. You’ll most likely find her making long lists, cleaning obsessively and thinking about her next meal. She takes a lot of photos, without any permission from fellow humans. She gets bored too quickly and needs constant change.

Why are you a Graphic Designer?
I was quite sure I wanted to pursue graphic design since high school.
I have multiple interests and design does give me a lot of freedom to explore and learn new things everyday. I love the nature of our work too. No day is ever boring, it has a lot to offer.

Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I completed my graduation from MIT Institute of Design, Pune in Communication Design.

Read more: Kaashvi Kothari : In Conversation With A Graphic Designer

You have a distinct style of Design. How long did it take you to develop your style?
I love to experiment with different styles and mediums, and just simply create. It’s important for me to take out time for practice every now and then- let it be lettering or drawing florals or studying color and composition. I think over the years, working on a variety of projects has really helped me apply these skills and develop my style

How did you focus so much on graphic illustrations? When did you realise you loved doing it and wanted more of it?
I find it very fascinating how something, for eg. a fish- might have been drawn differently a million times in the past, but we still come across an illustration of it which leaves us in awe. There are new ways of seeing and newer ways of communicating visually what you see. Everyone has different influences and perspectives. And I think illustration gives you so much room for experimenting and creating, I really enjoy that. It gives me a lot of joy.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
Can’t recollect anyone specific but I’ve always looked upto female designers running their own show.

When did you start freelancing?
First year in college. I did small gigs I got through friends and the college in the start. I had reached out to a couple of places for internships in my first year and I eventually started freelancing for them.

Was there any time when you wanted to quit graphic design?
Nope never. There are some days when the motivation is low and sometimes when I feel burnt out, but I’ve never wanted to quit graphic design. There are a lot of other interests I’d like to explore though. I’d love to study/ learn more about behavioural economics, child psychology, food science, nutrition, natural medicine, photography, textile to name a few. I do hope to possibly work at the intersection of these + design in the future.

Are many advertising agencies hiring graphic designers? Do you work more with agencies or publishers or direct clients?
I have worked with agencies/ studios previously but lately I’ve been working more directly with clients, brand managers or collaborating with other designers.

Do you have clients who give you steady work or do you advertise for new clients often?
I do have a couple of clients who give steady work or direct me to newer clients through word-of-mouth. I also get new ones through Instagram and Behance sometimes.

How do you market yourself?
For Illustrations, Lettering, Wedding Invite Design- Instagram works well for me.
For Branding, Packaging, Editorial- its through word of mouth and past clients.

Any other Indian graphic designers who you admire?
Kriti Monga, Shiva Nallaperumal

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on graphic design as a career option?
I’d say if you enjoy it, don’t give up easily or switch to other professions. Stick around for a bit, it’s quite fulfilling.

Do you think Clients are opening up to keeping aside a decent respectable budget for design work? Do you think clients are understanding that they need to invest in Design as a communication tool and also to cut the clutter, and that good design comes at a price?
I think there’s definitely change and more awareness now than ever.
There are lot of clients who understand the value of good design.

Mac or PC?
Mac.

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Hmm so many people. But I would call them home for a themed pop-up dinner.

What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
Lotsa podcasts.
Freakonomics, Unexplainable, Sporkful that I can remember on top of my head

Whats your Twitter Handle? Instagram? Behance?
@type.nerd
www.behance.net/kaashvikothari

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Swati Kharbanda : In Conversation With An Artist


Swati is a self-taught artist, who believes that learning never stops. She learns from the nitty-gritties of her everyday life, her friends and even from her 7 year old son. In her words “every designer should be like an innocent child, naive but imaginative”. Growing up, her inspirations were Walt Disney, Pixar and sci-fi movies that have stayed relevant through the time.

Why are you a Visual Artist?
Like they say “you should always turn your passion into your profession”, I think art is a form of communication that can reveal your innate desires. I always loved to paint and draw. As an artist, I try to create a canvas of all my hidden emotions and watch them interact with each other thereby telling my story without speaking a single word. As a child I loved to paint and draw. My work gives me an opportunity to create new things everytime I pick a pencil or hold a brush to paint an exquisite picture of a brand. It’s a form of expression for me – ‘Speaking without uttering a single word’. I have made the walls of my home my canvas, my thoughts my paint brush and my emotions my colors. And I don’t see any difference while creating exquisite art forms for any brand. Today, when people appreciate my work, I can’t help but think of the times when my parents supported and encouraged me to become an artist.

Did you attend school for fine art or design?
No, I had no formal education in design. Although I did complete a course of 2D animation from Escotoonz, a venture of Escorts Group. It was the first to be introduced in North India about 2 decades ago.

You have a distinct style of Design. How long did it take you to develop your style?
I feel learning never stops, I am still learning but my focus, dedication and patience towards my work and the zeal to always try something new has brought me here. Geometric, hand-drawn, organic, I like to create art in every way possible. The geometry of life pushed me to become an artist. Perhaps, that is why I like creating all types of design, be it hand-drawn or graphic illustrations.

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Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative

Maria Diaz is a full-time Art Director based in Dallas. She specializes in conceptualizing and creating visuals for branding and marketing campaigns. Originally from Honduras, Maria has worked in agencies like BBDO Honduras, BBDO Atlanta, LERMA/ Dallas, and the Honduran Institute of Tourism. She has recently graduated from Miami Ad School in the Art Direction program and has a Master’s in Global Strategic Communication from Florida International University. 

In her professional career Maria has worked with world renown clients among: Revlon, Mitsubishi, The Home Depot, Pantene, Hyundai, Honduran Government and tourism, Avocados from Mexico, Georgia Lottery, Honey Baked Ham, Bayer, Dove, Nivea, Durex and others. 

Maria also enjoys creating art and illustration, which was a hobby she acquired during lock down, and it has been giving very fruitful work. 

Maria hopes to open her own creative boutique and keep creating more award-winning work in the future.

Why are you into Advertising?
My passion for advertising goes back to my days in university, I took a class called creative advertising and that sparked my interest in pursuing creativity.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did one Bachelor’s in Communications and advertising, with a specialization in communication for development, I got another Bachelor’s in Graphic Design. 

Read more: Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
My parents have always been a great role model. My mom I learnt how to pursue things with passion, from my dad the rational side of things, from my stepmother she always taught me to be responsible and from my grandmother her willingness to help in whatever she could 

Who was the most influential personality on your career in Advertising?
I think one of the creatives I came across in the early stages of my career that just impacted me was Stefan Sagmeister, from him I learnt that advertising can be much more than just selling. His eye for detail, his use of organic elements. It inspired me. 

Where do you get your inspiration from?
When I am looking for visual inspiration, I go to Behance, Pinterest, good old google, social media. If I am brainstorming for a specific concept or an advertising campaign, I like to ask people who know nothing about advertising their opinion, you get very good insights from them.

Tell us something about your current place’s work environment. How do you keep motivating yourself and your team creatively.
I really love the place I am working at currently, LERMA/ is a great agency the people around me make the agency feel like a family. I have counted with their support since the first approach we had until now, that I am about to have 1 year working. 

Do you think brands whose advertising wins awards, do well in the market?
I think that they are not always related, brands who win awards are not always doing well in the market but sometimes it is correlated. Awards help to validate your work.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals?
I would say work on your portfolio, learn and practice your networking skills they are so important.

What’s your dream project?
I really love art; I would enjoy working with a museum like the MoMa or any other museum. I also enjoy working on social campaigns, using creativity for good is a great way to put our gifts and talents to good use. 

Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
Wow. We are getting deep huh! I see myself working in advertising, hopefully having my own shop. Mostly I want to see how much more knowledge and experience I can achieve. Knock on wood hopefully score a Cannes. 

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
My family and friends, I like to celebrate big moments in life and be surrounded by the people who have helped me achieve them.

What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
I am a Jack of all trades when it comes to music, I can go from classical, to latin, rnb, reggae, reggaeton and rock. I even have a Hindi mood playlist. But if you want to check out more look for me on Spotify: MJ Diaz Diaz 

Mac or PC?
My first computer was a PC, but my last computers have all been Macs, I enjoy it. 

What’s your Twitter Handle? Instagram?
My Instagram is @mjdpinkreative but also my portfolio is a great way to follow my work mjdiazdiaz.com

Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative

Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative
Maria Diaz : In Conversation with An Advertising Creative

Sandipan Deb : In Conversation With An Advertising Creative

Sandipan Deb is an advertising creative who also happens to be one of the youngest minds in the industry, bending its creative norms and pushing its hard-set boundaries – one idea at a time. At 25, he already had a Cannes Lion to his name and went on to secure another, during just his 3rd year into the mad ad world.

This young creative believes in a loaded resume before a loaded wallet and his accolades prove it. With more than 60 national and international awards including the Cannes Lions, a Young Lion shortlist, Spikes, Effie, OneShow Shortlist, Promax, Abbys, Adfest, Spott, Kyoorius Young Blood, Young Shit (Droga5 portfolio award), he plans to add more to the kitty even before he turns 30. His phenomenal contributions also fuelled his entry as a shadow juror at the Kyoorius Creative Awards 2022.

In his 5-yr long journey so far, a passion for thinking and an ability to gather powerful insights have led him to shape the digital landscape while creating for some of the most-loved names on the internet like TATA, KFC, ASUS, EarlySalary, Aditya Birla Health Insurance, MTV India, Times of India Digital, BIG FM, Khatabook, Baskin & Robbins, Bosch, Amazon Prime Video, VISA, British Council, game.tv, and movie/show marketing projects like URI: The Surgical Strike, Thappad, Article 15, Men in Black and more.

When not busy leading with ideas, he leads a team of talented creative writers and art directors today. And when not brainstorming on the newest brief, he loves to pen down stories, screenplays and plans on channelling his love for filmmaking in the years to come.


A little about yourself:
Well, I’m a writer/thinker in advertising with a lot of hope in my heart that my ideas will see the light at the end of the day. I try to sleep well at night and wake up with the strangest and craziest ideas for the desk. By 8:30 pm, I stop taking myself seriously, and by 8:32, everyone else stops. I am a sucker for memes, and I think meme as a category or a creative field needs more acknowledgement and appreciation. I weigh above 80, and that makes me humble and keeps me grounded (pun intended). I like having a dessert even after a homely dal-chawal meal. Like other creatives in the industry, I aim to work hard enough till the day I no longer need to introduce myself. I breathe in, I breathe out and most often snort too. I’m as human as everyone. (Laughs)

Why are you into Advertising?
To be honest, I believe this is the only profession where you’re paid to have imaginations. Though, there are other creative fields which have the same perks like filmmaking, music, writing, painting, photography, and what not. But there’s only one profession where you get to do them all in one – advertising. It’s like a dating app for creative individuals to have a fling with different creative expressions and yet stay single and uncommitted forever.
Mostly, I’m in advertising because I enjoy it. Since a kid, I have always been a fan of television commercials. Later, while doing my graduation, I discovered it in depth and in an instant, I was drawn to it. It’s fun. It’s ever evolving. It’s contagious. And, it makes you proud of what you do.

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In Conversation With Debabrata Naskar : Advertising Creative

Born in a very large family in a very small village of Bengal. In his childhood, he fell in love with different forms of art. Sculpture, drawing and paintings are becoming the daily visitor in his dream. No wonder the very next destination was the college of art. After graduating from there, his next destination was Delhi where he started his career in a fashion house. But very soon he realised that another magic world was waiting for him. Then the epic journey started. He had worked in different agencies in different cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata etc. Seen different cultures, different people, different climates, different ideology. After sharpening different skill sets in different agencies like L&K Saathi & Saatchi, DDB Mudra, Dentsu and a few smaller agencies, he finally landed up in the world of Ogilvy, he loves to coin it “Ogilvy pathshala”. For the last 10 years he has been learning new things everyday here. He is a Football player, Theatre actor, Foodie, movie lover, traveller, photographer and still finds some time to do watercolour painting.

Why are you into Advertising?
I grew up surrounded by successful people like bankers, businessmen, politicians, lawyers, professors etc. So parents’ expectations were high. But I chose the opposite direction. I am madly in love with this profession because..
This is the only profession where no formal educational qualification is required.
This is the only profession where you don’t have to wear any formal dress and still you can go to the top.
This is the only profession where you get a chance to do new things everyday.
This is the only profession where you will face a new challenge everyday.
This is the only profession where you can create a song and sell it over the table instantly.
This is one of very few professions where..
I can keep writing.

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Aditi Sobti : In Conversation With An Advertising Creative

Aditi is a full-time Art Director based in New York. She specializes in conceptualizing and creating visuals for branding and marketing campaigns. Originally from India, Aditi has worked in agencies like RK Swamy BBDO in Kolkata, Cutwater in San Francisco, VMLY&R New York, and TEAM Enterprises Miami. She has recently graduated from Miami Ad School in the Art Direction program and has a Master’s in Global Strategic Communication from Florida International University.
Aditi hopes to open her own agency one day and create fearless work.

Why are you into Advertising?
Being in advertising is like being a jack of all trades but master of none. I enjoy the feeling of being able to dabble in many things. That possibility is why I am so excited to be in advertising.

Did you attend school for fine art or design or Communications?
I did my Bachelors in Industrial Arts and Design Practice at Srishti Manipal Institute of Arts Design and Technology. I later did my Masters at Florida International Univeristy in Global Strategic Communication and a degree in Art Direction from Miami Ad School. So I am trained in both design and communications.

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