An artist at heart, Namrata comes from an extensive background in Graphic Design, having worked with the best names in the industry in houses such as JWT, Channel [V], Rediffusion DY&R, and Fisheye Design. The wisdom gained from these experiences led to WAG Design. WAG stands for Wisdom, Art, & Graphics. With a long standing track record and an international client base, Namrata’s work is an extension of her philosophy, values, and work ethics. She enjoys experimenting with styles, typography, and mediums and brings passion and excitement to every project. Over the last few years she has almost completely switched to creating handmade art. Namrata also loves delicately flavoured darjeeling tea, calm people who don’t constantly multitask, and receiving thoughtful notes by snail mail. She might actually be from the 1950’s. But we can’t be sure.
Why are you a Graphic Designer?
All my school life, I was pretty confident I wanted to be an artist. But I also resisted all fine art training or classes, because I felt art cannot be taught, it has to flow from within. However, when it came to choosing a career, I was told art was for the crazy and broke people. And I didn’t want to be either. I wanted to do art that was relevant, interactive and fun. I loved watching MTV and Channel [V] and kept critiquing their designs in my head and loving them too. So I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer. It was a pretty clear decision at a time when no one around me had ever heard of the term ‘graphic designer’. (It got pretty tiring, long after I became a graphic designer, to keep explaining to people what it meant. Some elderly people would think I was saying I’m a ‘traffic designer’. It was a weird time.) Did you attend school for fine art or design?
I went to National Institute of Design at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
You have a distinct style of Design. How long did it take you to develop your style?
It evolved over the years. I do have a very me style, but I do have a wide range of styles both in design as well as in my art. Which is why some people think I have a multiple personality situation. I’m usually flattered when they say that. I feel just having one style is sometimes boring and I’m all about variety being the spice of life. I like to also surprise myself with what I can do next.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
My mother, who would paint and do all kinds of hand made things. The smell of Oil paints and strange papers, and mediums would intoxicate and mesmerize me no end. Once she let me paint the gold bits in a huge Chinese dragon painting, and as a 3 year old I couldn’t believe I was being allowed to mess with such a huge and important painting. I think that may have been the moment I had this thought, that I could spend my whole life doing this. My dad who was always reading, hardworking, ambitious and yet satisfied with life and what he had at any given time. And my brother, who was always super disciplined and meticulous. He also used to be the one safeguarding and encouraging the artist within me like its some precious thing that will one day be famous! I think most or many artists are always underestimating and second guessing themselves, especially when young. Having the right environment that gently encourages and nurtures them is a very special thing.
Who was the most influential personality on your career in graphic design and art?
I had this really cool lecturer in my university. His name was Andrew Ashton. And he broke the mold so completely. He would be the only teacher that would discourage us to use so much computer, and gently open us up to being more free flowing, use our hands, be slick yet be messy. He always had a kindly smile, a gentle demeanor. All of us were so smitten by him and his work and wanted to hug him and impress him. I had a hard time that year trying to use less computer and more hands. Now I am almost 90% just hands and mess. Much less technology involved in my processes. I’m glad he sowed the seed of that thought in us, when everyone else was telling us it’s all about getting ready for the real professional world, where time is not a luxury and we were busy having deadline related panic attacks. I’m glad he taught us to slow down, take out time and be lost. It was so refreshing! Teachers are powerful beings, and can wreck or make lives without realizing their own power and significance.
When did you start freelancing?
About 9 years ago.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit graphic design?
Yes. Each time I had to explain to my Indian clients the significance of a logo and visual communication. Why it costs that much. Why it is such a significant and monumental part of anything they will ever do with that company or brand. I feel like our country needs a serious education in the value and importance of aesthetics and design as a culture and as a visual cue. I feel like the role of a designer is becoming more and more insignificant as some of us keep lowering our rates, and allow clients to get away with unethical behavior. And it gets worse when the client starts to take over the design process and proclaims himself a designer. It’s a slippery slope when that happens.
Are many advertising agencies hiring graphic designers? Do you work more with agencies or publishers or direct clients?
I’m sure they do. But I haven’t worked with an ad agency in a very long while so I wouldn’t know. I work more with direct clients.
Do you have clients who give you steady work or do you advertise for new clients often?
I do. Although lately I’m on an indefinitely long sabbatical from design projects as I’m focusing a lot of my time on creating new art, travelling, and growing my headspace in the direction of art. I have only always received a steady stream of work and great clients from India and all over the world purely through word of mouth. No advertising whatsoever.
How do you market yourself?
I don’t actually. I love to hide a lot. But sometimes people tend to find me. It’s a constant game of hide and seek.
Any other Indian graphic designers or artists who you admire?
So many. But mostly my contemporaries and friends, many of who are graphic designers and artists. I have always found their work inspiring, fresh and funky. I love the work of Saumin Suresh Patel, Dipannita Dutt, Kunel Gaur (Animal), Saunak Shah (Pursuit of Portraits), Jiten Suchede (Jugmug Thela), Ishan Khosla Design, Kriti Monga, Miranda Costa (Melbourne), Jit Chowdhury, Kavita Arvind, Prashant Miranda, Jasjjyot Singh. The list really goes on.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on graphic design as a career option?
Yes, we need many more kick ass ground breaking, record breaking graphic designers. I would say to them, be clear about why you want to do what you want to do. Experiment. Be humble, even if you’re insanely good. Use your hands to draw and write more, and less gadgets – especially initially (and ideally long after). Drugs and alcohol wont make you an artist or a designer. This is a lot of hard work and dedication, which requires a lot of self care. Without which you can be pretty ungrounded and lost. Find and have good role models and inspiring people around you to keep you on track and sane. Be lost. Have fun with it. Play. Have a curious mind full of wonder and openness. Meditate. You will need the inner peace to help deal with clients yet stay peaceful, respectful and creative.
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?
Clients may do so based on the company ethos and awareness. Sometimes even individual clients have much larger budgets than huge corporates and vice versa. It’s all about meeting the right people and not settling for ridiculous budgets or timelines. We have to set the bar higher and take the responsibility of educating our clients (without loosing our minds.) But Indian clients by and large still have a very long way to go with their understanding and respect for good design.
Mac or PC?
Mac for sure.
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj or Megan Mullally & Sean Hayes
What’s on your iPod?
Everything from Frank Sinatra, Awolnation, Jazzhop, Johnnyswim, Rufus Wainwright, One Republic, The Pogues, Brooke Fraser, Chinese Man to Josh and some sufi music. I have some embarrassingly filmy music as well.
Whats your Twitter Handle?
@Healwithnamrata (because why not). Namrata Chattaraj can be reached via her website here. (this may change soon)