Samia Singh is an artist, designer and musician based in Chandigarh, India. Her artistic interest lies in effective communication of new knowledge and research that may help create positive understanding and response to the emotional, social and political landscapes we live in, in order to live fuller happier lives. Creating effective moments of interaction through art and design is powerful as the experience you have is unique and stays with you – lingering and resurfacing at different points in time. Samia works across illustration, graphic design, sculpture and music to create these lucid moments.
Why are you a Graphic Designer?
I have always been fascinated by colour, light and nature. I like to capture fleeting moments in time. I like graphic design because it is a way for me to capture a feeling and play with it.
Did you attend school for fine art or design?
Yes I studied Visual Communiciation at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology for 4.5 years in Bangalore. I also got a scholarship to study printmaking at Il Bisonte Instituto del Arte Grafica in Firenze, Italy.
You have a distinct style of Design. How long did it take you to develop your style?
Happy to answer that. When I see my work from the last ten years, I can recognise that an innate sense of humour (sometimes dark humour) and lyricism shapes my work. I look for the quirky, imperfect & innocent elements which strike a chord.
How did you focus so much on graphic illustrations? When did you realise you loved doing it and wanted more of it?
Fortunately I grew up in the countryside and I had close exposure to nature in all its forms. I seem to have always been conscious of lines and outlineS. I started drawing and sketching while I was in school at Lawrence School Sanawar – mostly to see how different mediums work. I then studied at an alternative school right in the middle of a jungle in the mountains. Sholai School in Kodaikanal even had a river running through it & I couldn’t help but try to catch the beautiful moments in time while I was there. A lovely elder couple saw me drawing and gave me a book in French about light and shadow, I still have it. It had a few exercises and I spent my days trying to do those exercises again and again. My favourite one was to draw the Silver Oak trees outside my room at different times of the day and night and see how the light and colour would change. By the time I finished my schooling I was pretty sure I wanted to draw and study drawing, come what may. This made attend Srishti, an art U& design school. A few years ago my dear friend Shruti Debi also lent me her book on Haren Das’s incredible woodcuts and this opened up further explorations for me.
Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
My family runs a Punjabi literary journal called Preet Lari. My great grandfather started it in 1933. My siblings and cousins – we were all born and brought up in Preet Nagar, an artists and writers community where great writers and actors such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Balraj Sahni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shiv Batalvi, Amrita Pritam and Sobha Singh would visit or have lived. I have observed Preet Lari being printed on letterpress, screen prints of the illustrations being printed and the smell of paint, the discussions on literature and on quality work with my parents and grandparents have been my role models. We run an artist residency in the same village now http://preetnagarresidency.in/
Who was the most influential personality on your career in graphic design?
In my journey so far it would be my teachers at Srishti: Geeta Narayanan, Ramesh Kalkur, Raghavendra Rao, Geetanjali Sachdev, Rustam Vania, Kumkum Nadig, Ampat Verghese, Ampat Koshy, Julie Fairless, Michael Joseph, Matt Lee and so many more inspiring people. Questions they put forward still inform my work. The belief that I could continue to do this work for a living comes from there.
My teachers in Il Bisonte helped me to look at my work from completely different points of view and base it in the times we live in. I also had a chance to attend Typo Berlin in 2013 whilst studying in Firenze, and listening to Neville Brody, Kate Moross, Erik Spiekermann & Jessica Walsh that year along with so many talented designers really sparked my mind to the future possibilities I could manifest if I thought clearly and with more confidence.
I sometimes go to Uttarayan Foundation in Baroda to work on my etchings, my teacher and friend Purushottam Dhumal there also helps me think in new ways about my work.
Working recently with the think tank Door to Asia in Tokyo has also had a deep impact on what graphic design is capable of when viewed through the lens of community impact. We will hopefully host a Door to Asia residency in India soon.
I’m currently working with researchers such as Churnjeet Mahn and Yvette Taylor from University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland along with other leading universities in the UK. With University of Strathclyde, in partnership with my family run Preet Nagar Residency, we host artist residencies and a festival called Preet Nagar Mela where we are looking at what we can collectively offer to the marginalised arts and crafts as well as rural communities.
When did you start freelancing?
I started my Freelancing Version1 after coming back from Florence in 2014 but after two years I joined a job again as I found I was too young and naive to take on the unpredictable nature of freelance life. I started my new and improved version of the freelance life in 2018.
Was there any time when you wanted to quit graphic design?
Yes, in a sense of going to an office place where I could sense after a few years that no growth will happen in my work anymore if I stayed on.
But never in a sense of the curiosity and love that I have for graphic design.
Are many advertising agencies hiring graphic designers? Do you work more with agencies or publishers or direct clients?
I have worked with a few advertising agencies and publishers but I find that the marketing team mostly drives the thinking of these places when it comes to design. I do not want to be dictated too much by what is considered fashionable in the industry at the moment. I find that cuts away my inspiration and edge. I like to aim for a certain timelessness in my work. I like to work with my clients directly and try to capture the magic at the source. To do justice to it to the best of my ability and to learn from each interaction.
Do you have clients who give you steady work or do you advertise for new clients often?
I have some clients who give me steady work. I also try to find people or places I’d like to work with.
How do you market yourself?
Usually it’s a conversation over a coffee!
Any other Indian graphic designers who you admire?
My former bosses (alumni of National School of Design, India) now also my friends: Anand Naorem, Uzma Mohsin and Sudeep Chaudhuri. My fellow classmates Nikhil More, Hazel Karkaria, Prarthana Gandhi, Somesh Kumar, Shyamli Panda and Pia Alize.
What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on graphic design as a career option?
At your own risk, haha. I really feel it’s something you do for the absolute love of it. All the arts are. To forge your own path, there is a lot of solitude and a lot of strength needed. Surround yourself with good people and stay true to your passion. I think it’s the only way to live a happy day every day. It’s amazing what the universe aligns for you and what opportunities and people are brought to you by life when you stay on course with what you love the most.
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 do not have too many Indian clients at the moment. I’m working mostly with researchers and designers in the UK, Japan and hopefully Thailand soon too. India is still opening up to design. Aesthetics are still considered a luxury, although it seems to be shifting at a good pace. I hope clients can see how much of a difference good design and design thinking can make in the daily quality of interactions with their brands or your ideas. It would be nice to cut the clutter.
Mac or PC?
Who would you like to take out for dinner?
What’s on your iPod? Spotify?
I’m obsessed with music: That Boy Roby (a brilliant band from my neighbourhood in Chandigarh) 21 savage, Drake, DJ Khaled, Alicia keys, The blaze, Paradis, Talvin Singh, Sunny Colón, Erik Satie, Khruangbin, Mulatu Astatke, Florence and the machine, KOKOROKO, AP Dhillon, London Grammar and more
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