Let Your Design Openly Speak Indian!

Let Your Design Openly Speak Indian!

All that is glitters (read foreign) is not gold. So believes, Studio Kohl, a boutique studio, founded by Mira Malhotra, that reflects the Indian culture and heritage in all of its works. After all, home is where the heart is, isn't it?

CG. You use a lot of Indian symbolism in your works. What is your idea behind that?

Studio Kohl. It isn't an idea, as much as a result, of a conscious decision to be inspired by what is around. Years ago, when I found myself fighting the urge to mimic western music artists, I realised that I needed to 'think local', and only then it'd be convincing to others. I am mainly influenced by local products, novelty items, the bazaar and folk arts. There is little use in re-doing what other people have done before, in a market that is not ours. We also have a pretty rich visual culture and a unique approach, so why forgo it? Instead, Americans and Europeans seem to value it more than we do. My biggest influence in this regard is Japan. They have a range of unique contemporary aesthetics and treatments; a visual culture all of their own, grown independently from western influences that are ever-changing

CG. How do you apply these traditional elements, such that they suit contemporary styles of presentation?

Studio Kohl. I think of it as 'global treatment; local content'. I am not oblivious to the steady stream of modern inspiration around me, but I like to tweak it a little; we either use content that's local, or scripts, or even inspiration from folk art. It could be switching around a colour palette; smoothening outlines that are usually brush-stroked, or being minimal. A lot of unknown illustrators from India in the 50s to the 70s, that get little credit today, are also responsible for the influences – such as Deenanath Dalal – and make excellent sources of contemporised Indian work.

CG. What are the challenges that cause a hurdle in balancing the Indian and modern feel, and how do you tackle them at Studio Kohl?

Studio Kohl. I think it comes rather naturally to me, as I am practised in it, but it was tougher earlier. I think, just by the fact that one can use digital modes of reproduction and interpret what you have already seen through these modes, one can create something really interesting and balanced. We don't realise it, but a lot of the so-called visual trends are actually inspired by how one uses software or technology to achieve a visual concept. It later defines what we call 'new' or 'trendy'. So, by simply using vectors, or by a certain photoshop brush or print method, the demands of those technologies contribute to something age-old and seen before, but giving them a contemporary look.

CG. How do you see Indian elements contributing to modern-day design?

Studio Kohl. I try to insert Indian elements to revive a dying culture and to preserve it. Cultures cannot be preserved in glass cases; they need to be moulded, continued and extended to remain relevant; otherwise, they are certain to die out.

CG. What would be the Studio Kohl's advice to other designers who are trying to create a similar style of work as yours?

Studio Kohl. 'Don't just create your own work'; instead, delve into history, local crafts, etc. Let your inspiration be a journal or camera you take on your travels around India or your everyday lives. Invest in learning more about the Indian approach. You might find it rather fascinating and nothing like you've ever seen. Don't continually repeat the work of foreign illustrators.

Creative Gaga