Kruti Saraiya is a graphic designer/ typographer based in Mumbai. The focus of her practice has been to allow for a contemporary Indian design narrative to emerge to fill the gap between mtv kitsch and traditional Indian crafts.
As a typographer, she sees her role in infusing context into letters and bringing the written word alive. Her strengths lie in working with scripts of Indian languages to create an equal space for them alongside English in urban India. Her commercial and experimental work celebrates the Indian aesthetic in a fusion of east and west. ‘The key’, she says, ‘is to change our mindset from an either-or to an AND.’
Besides this her portfolio includes branding, packaging, editorial and web design across verticals. She has been a speaker at the Indian Design Forum – IDF 2013 and a part of the core team to set up Design Museum Dharavi (2016). Her work has also been published in International design magazines like Creative Review (UK) & Visible Language (USA). She has exhibited in a group show ‘Pushpa Patha: The Flower Trail’ in gallery BMB, Mumbai.
She graduated from the London School of Printing. She has worked with Rabia Gupta Designs, Mumbai and taught at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru for several years.
She currently has an independent practice and teaches in the Visual Communication Department at the Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI) and Ecole Intuit.
Why are you a Graphic Designer?
I actually identify more with being called a typographer – I love words. I’m super excited by words of all languages – what they mean, how they sound and especially how they look.It is an immensely satisfying feeling waking up each day and infusing context in to the words.
Did you attend school for fine art or design?
Yes – i started my design education in Srishti school of Art, Design and Technology and went on to do my Experimental Typography at London College of Printing (current day LCC). And then life went a full circle and I ended up at Srishti again, this time to teach.
You have a distinct style of Design. How long did it take you to develop your style?
My biggest distinction I feel is that I’m able to imagine everything as type – I think in type. In my first month at Srishti, we had a course where we had to make a poster on a designer. At this point the word typography was not even a part of my vocabulary. I intuitively picked Herb Lubalin, who I later discovered was a very famous typographer. This marked the start of my love affair with type. In another course, I ended up making a still life collage using text from newspapers and magazines and using kerning, leading and weight of the different articles to achieve light and shade. In London, I developed a keen interest in vernacular languages and a large part of my portfolio is bi-lingual identities and explorations with various Indian scripts. For many years identified myself with that. A few months ago, I started to keep a typography sketchbook and saw yet another style emerging from that. And who knows what I dabble with next. So to answer the question, I don’t think I can define a time period. My style is always evolving and I would hope it stays that way.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I’ve had many – My art teacher Ravisha Thakkar – She was a student at J.J school of art that time and I would want to do all her assignments. It was because of her that I had clarity that I wanted to pursue graphic designer from grade six. David Carson was my first type god- I landed up in a hotel lobby in NY where he was staying just to be able to intern with him , Rabia Gupta, my first boss was the best teacher anyone can hope to have. My current role model is an Iranian type designer, Reza Abedini. I would give an arm and a leg to go train with him.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in graphic design?
There is an interesting story to this one. Back in 2001, Martha Scotford, a Professor at the College of Design in North Carolina State University was in India to teach a course at NID. Unfortunately during the same period, NID had to shut down for a few weeks due to the earthquake and Martha landed up in Srishti to teach an advanced type course to a senior batch. Events took an unexpected turn, my original class got cancelled and I found myself in Martha’s class. She opened up a world of typography for me which was beyond creating fonts. I started to have so much fun that I ended up with twice the amount of assignments due. Somewhere in between justifying kannada type for a curd rice recipe and hearing Martha talk about ‘il pleut’ (a typography poem), I knew my path ahead. I had to be a typographer. So the way I look at it is that it wasn’t just the person but the entire chain of events that influenced my career path and led me to do what I do today.
When did you start freelancing?
I worked for about 5 years at a design studio (rgd) after I graduated. I was ambitious and eager and could not get enough of design. It was amazing and my learning curve was steep but after 5 yrs, I felt a need to pause, take stock and push my boundaries further. I quit without a plan. The next few months were spent trekking, going back to my flamenco training and travelling around the country. This gave me fresh new creative energy and suddenly I was teaching design and freelancing. It’s been 7 years since that and I have no itch 😉
Was there any time when you wanted to quit graphic design?
I think there are many times when I’ve had a designer’s block for a few days and started to question in my head if I can still design. And there are other moments when I’ve contemplated being a dancer, studying psychology, even a fashion designer. So yes, it does get tired, but that is why it is important to keep re-inventing yourself. My last project was about setting up a mobile design museum in Dharavi – I was out and about meeting people, finding hidden courtyards and sticking posters. An interesting typographic logo did emerge from this but the whole experience was far stretch from a typical month in the life of a graphic designer. So I see myself continuing to be a graphic designer as long as the definition of graphic designer keeps changing.
Are many advertising agencies hiring graphic designers? Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
Advertising is a very different beast. Graphic design is the understated cousin of advertising. I’m very happy in this camp and have never felt the need to venture to the other side.
I tend to work most with start ups and boutique firms as I find that they are most open to new ideas and experimentation.
Do you have clients who give you steady work or do you advertise for new clients often?
I’ve usually had long working relationships with most clients. There is a great advantage to this as there is trust and understanding that can only come with time. I am guilty of not being able to advertise myself. I see young designers making use of social media and blogs and really getting places just by being out there and I think it’s awesome. I wish i could be like that.
Any other Indian graphic designers who you admire?
I feel the streets of India are a treasure box for design. I admire every unnamed person out there who has painted a cool shop sign, created a crazy matchbox cover or decorated the back of a taxi.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on graphic design as a career option?
I have been teaching for the past six years so there are some common themes that start to emerge from students across colleges. Laziness, addiction to the computer and money being the most common ones. So here are my three bits:
1. Become a designer only if you want to change the world. If your interest lies in making money than go become a financial consultant. It’s easier, faster and world could do with a little less visual pollution.
2. There are no text books for designers. The inspiration comes from what you do with your life outside of design. Travel, dance, sing, cook …whatever sails your boat. But go beyond google, pinterest boards and instagram pics and lead that interesting life. That is where the great ideas are hiding.
3. Do.Do.DO. A great idea will remain just that if not manifested into an outcome.
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?
The average client today is more evolved and willing to pay for good design. It is really easy to blame clients for being stingy but I feel a shift needs to happen at an individual level first. How many designers actually pay for music, photoshop the watermark on a stock image or not buy a cleverly designed simple product thinking that they could create this at home. If we as designers are not sensitive to the creative process than can we blame the client? I buy all my music and pay for my fonts. I am happy to pay for good design because those are the standards I hold for myself.
Mac or PC?
PC..euvvv!! I’m an apple snob! I believe the world would be a nicer place without them PC’s!!
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Elizabeth Gilbert. She is an author more famously known for her book Eat Pray Love, but has some really insightful things to say about creativity and fear in her TED talks and her new book – Big Magic.
What’s on your iPod?
A mix of Pop, Bollywood, Flamenco and Jazz.
Whats your Twitter Handle?
I don’t tweet, I sketch.