Sabeena Karnik: Typography

Sabeena Karnik is a Graphic Designer from Mumbai. She is a freelancer specializing in paper typography and has developed her own style in 3D sculpturing using paper. Her recent works include a typography campaign for Tanishq jewellery and a title design for a short documentary for The American Cancer Society. She teaches painting, calligraphy and sells art in her free time.

Why are you a Graphic Designer?
Right since I can remember, art was chasing me. I always had a pencil in hand and colors were in plenty. I would be doodling all the time, even the walls of my house were not spared. So taking up art as a career was a very natural instinct. It was a hard choice to make between applied art and fine art. But I can never make something just to keep myself happy, I think that is what fine art is all about. For me creating something has to be for others be it a product, the way it looks, the way it is presented. That is basically the work of a graphic designer. Hence it had to be applied art. I do a lot of paintings too, but its again an idea that I am presenting and working around.

Did you attend school for fine art or design?
Yes, I graduated from Sophia Polytechnic Institute of Art and Design in Mumbai, with a typography major.

You have a distinct style of Typographic expression. How did you develop this style?
Its been a fascination ever since I was a kid. I used to cut out and collect alphabets that looked unique. I loved letters so much that I started drawing them out and developing my own style. Thats when I got immersed in Calligraphy too. In the meantime paper brought the sculpturor out in me. Paper has the most magnificent ability to turn into anything with the right technique and application. Each fold, bend and curve can be interpreted differently. It has so much of depth.
In a way now, I am combining the three, paper, typography and calligraphy. Typography being the skeleton while the inner detailing being calligraphy, just done all with paper. The photography is an integral part of my work. The end product has to be captured in the right kind of light, which can give multiple views to the viewer and thereby alter what is being conveyed.

Were there any particular role models for you when you grew up?
I haven’t had any one particular role model. Places and people in general have always fascinated me. My travels to Africa as a child have helped to find my own perspective as an artist. Stories I came across in people, nature, artworks I have seen have played a major role in bringing out the artist in me.

Who was the most influential personality on your career in graphic design?
Achyut Palav under whom I learnt calligraphy has been very influential. Im also inspired by Jen Stark a young paper sculpturer, her works defy the force of gravity.

When did you start freelancing?
I started Freelancing in 2008. I did a lot of logo and corporate identity independently, lived in Africa for a few years and worked for design houses, made paper products for an NGO, did paintings for an art store. Freelancing happened out of choice. It gives a me time and opportunities to discover my own potential everyday through the assignments I get. Over the last one year the focus has shifted to typography purely. The paper typography project that started as personal work, has now garnered so much interest by public and designers from all over the world, it made me take my capability of it more seriously, and to develop it further.

Was there any time when you wanted to quit graphic design?
I have taken breaks but never felt like quitting.

Are many advertising agencies hiring graphic designers/typographers? Do you work more with agencies or publishers?
Yes agencies are hiring designers with special skills all the time. There is always a demand for fresh new work and ideas that are out of the box. Your work has to be seen by the right people at the right time.
Unfortunately, type design is not given the importance it deserves in India.
I have worked with agencies, a tv producer and at the moment with a publisher too for a book cover design.

Do you have clients who give you steady work or do you advertise for new clients often?
Steady work is constant and clients change constantly too. The best way to advertise yourself to the world is to showcase all your creative work and keep updating your skills.

Any other Indian graphic designers who you admire?
I admire the work of Raja Sandhu. He is based in Canada. Strong typography, simple and stylish work.

What advice do you have for aspiring creative professionals? Would you advise them to take on graphic design as a career option?
I would advice aspiring creative professionals to not forget to draw. The computer is a tool. Find your own calling and pursue that. Do not hesitate to be different. Have the best work from your portfolio in design sites and promote your work in the right way. Keep looking for inspiration and keep sketching. The pencil is mightier than anything else. Also, I will add, designing and art isn’t everything. Travel, read, meet people, broaden and expand Syour horizon.

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 have a very big budget to advertise their brand. To an extent it depends on the brand also.
And if that involves good  design so be it. The agency gets the better of it and a small part of it goes to the designer thats been hired. Like I said earlier, very few campaigns in India involve good illustration and type design. The trend is slowly changing.

Who would you like to take out for dinner?
Leonardo Da Vinci. We would need an interpreter though.
Jeff Nishinaka. He is the most brilliant Japanese paper sculpturer.

What’s on your iPod?
From western Classical to pop, Bach to Backstreet Boys

Mac or PC?
Neither at the moment
But a mac as a laptop and PC as desktop.

Sabeena’s work can be found here.













16 thoughts on “Sabeena Karnik: Typography

  1. This is very nice. Lovely 🙂

  2. amey says:

    the fonts are very nice and it seems like you are lady with sheer positivity and loves to make good use of colours in life…cheers..loved your work

  3. Anand Bhandarkar says:

    This is too good ! A very different approach and a view point.
    Good work keep it up

  4. Francesca King says:

    I had the pleasure of having Sabeena create a lovely design for a Sorority Sister of mine. Her gift was the talk of the event, especially when it was discovered it was from Mumbai. Looking foward to working with her in the future.

  5. Shruti Sakhare says:

    Hi.. your work is so apt- clean – neat – perfect.. I am falling short of words to describe.. I would like to know if you take any quilling classes. I have just started with quilling and love it. I stay in Mumbai and working in TCS. Waiting to hear from you..

  6. saeedavril says:

    Very nice !! amazing works !

  7. Judith Anne Fernandes says:

    Dear Sabeena,

    Your work is truly wonderful, beautiful, puurfect and awesome… superb. I am so happy that an Indian girl, that too from Mumbai has carved an outstanding niche in the world of paper sculptor, calligraphy and typography. Do you take classes ? Do let us know – would like to learn this skill.

    Thank you once again for bringing such superb works of beauty to us!

    With Gratitude


  8. Kim says:

    what about W X Y and Z

  9. Mrudula says:

    Dear Sabina,
    Your work is very bright, beautiful and appealing. Very proud to see a Mumbai girl doing a lot in paper quilling. I would be very happy to learn some of the typography skills from you.

  10. Jatin says:

    Hi Sabeena, I have fallen in love with your outstanding work! I am a Creative Director who is also from Mumbai, but settled in Dubai. I have judged many international creative awards and I am always looking that fresh piece of creative idea which I found in your work. Keep it up! I can write so much more as I am so damn impressed by the simplicity of your work, use of colours, typography skills and above all the purity of thought which comes through in each of your pieces. There is no doubt that your work is of international standards, and I am sure that if you enter it for some awards you will win a gold.

    Now, that I have spotted you, I will keep you in mind for any suitable opportunity for us to work together on any of my advertising projects.

    I have just become a BIG fan of your work. SUPER! SUPER! SUPER!

    Wish you all the best.


  11. mouloud says:


  12. franceska says:

    Beautifull craft and artwork i love it thanks for sharing

  13. Suchit singh says:

    May u pls make something for 200th birthday of bahaullah …founder of bahai faith…ur work has real beauty …may u help us for blessed beauty…thanks

  14. Ravindran says:

    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!. Wonderful creativity and may God Bless yoi.

  15. samia says:

    Wonder full art….may Allah bless you……..i love it

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.