Let Your Design Openly Speak Indian!

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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?

Prospectus `21 for Ryan International
Inside pages for Prospectus `21, Ryan International
Illustrations for Prospectus `21, Ryan International

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

MMMPop! Studio Kohl's Diwali greeting, 2015. The Diwali traditions of gifting sweets and playing with fireworks are combined in this little box full of crackling candy.
Diwali Lakshmi. A golden engraving of the Indian goddess, Lakshmi, also considered the deity of wealth. Depicted here amidst Diwali, the festival synonymous of light and prosperity.

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.

EAST INDIA DEZIGN CO. (2015). Proposed branding for EIDC, a brand of luxury Indian goods. The glory of the maharajas in a contemporary global format representing luxury.

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.

Illustrations and Creative Direction for Colours of Light | iCall
Illustrations for Colours of Light | iCall
Illustrations for Colours of Light | iCall

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.

GRAZIA YOUNG FASHION AWARDS 2013. A playful and trendy illustration for GYFA 2013.
ZOMBA.IN (2012). With the logo already in place, the visual language was built to showcase activities representing the B-Boying culture, with a distinctively old-school flavour.

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.

Published in Issue 35

The season of the festival has started and everyone is preparing to have a unique one this time with less cash and more fun. We interview many creatives who creates promotional or calendar design each year. As most of the thing around us had shifted to digital, even calendar design and the promotion has shifted. But Yorick Pintos, a strategic consultant at studio Kohl suggests that best option would be to a mix of both, the traditional and digital media. Digital Illustrator Nithin Rao Kumblekar also shared his love for the printed calendars and emphasis on the effectiveness of it. If you are interested in print design & want to understand the future of the same. So, go ahead and order your latest issue copy!


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Creative Gaga - Issue 55


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We are a bunch of enthusiastic creatives, designers and writers, who are committed to bringing forth the hidden Indian Design talent with an unbiased and unique approach to design.