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Mira Malhotra
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Mira Malhotra distinctly classifies the nitty-gritty of Indian design, and the reasons why it is so different from design that comes out through most of the other parts of the world. To provide perspective, she uses the contrast of European art to display the difference in the two approaches.

Anything that is distinctly from the Indian subcontinent makes a design Indian. Motifs, forms, colours and or visual treatment; putting paisley on something, and so on, can make a design Indian. From colourful folk items of Kutchh to earthy colours of block prints, or to certain organic elements like depictions of lotuses, all constitute ‘Indian-ness’. Yet, it can be just the content that makes something Indian i.e. what something constitutes and not just the way it is represented. A broad example of this would be the many numbers of symbols that India has in its culture, and which represent this part of the world – such as the cow, the lotus, elephants, a little oil lamp and so on.

Illustration for JSW Forma

The most important thing to develop Indian design is to stop looking at design from the west, and instead embrace what we see around us. It will automatically translate into your work, and your work will ultimately feel more Indian because it is genuine, honest and truthful. We have a tendency to glorify design and art in the contemporary western world while overlooking the ancient and powerful design of our culture and history. It’s time to openly and consciously acknowledge their strength and impact, which have kept them eternally relevant.

It can also just be an approach. Art in India differs from its counterparts in the West greatly. European art (derived from Graeco Roman canon) is ‘perceptual’, and ours is ‘conceptual’. Both classical and folk arts in India (as it is in many other eastern countries) subscribe to this. For e.g. in Indian classical arts, the human figures were drawn as an ideal, rather than based in reality.

In rural and folk arts like Madhubani, the approach is less academic or rooted in studies of actual objects, and is purely based on the ‘Draw what you know’ approach, rather than the ‘Draw what you see’ approach of Europe.

Illustration for British Council India

Indian art pays little heed to perspective, regardless of whether is it is a one-point perspective; two-point perspective or other such devices that make drawings look ‘real’. And, a lot of Indian art is also non- representational i.e. It is more abstract than based in the physical world.

Personally, I feel that European and Eastern practices differ in what is quantifiable, the former focusing more on it, while the east does on what is not quantifiable, which is why, for Indians, developing the mathematical concept of ‘Zero’ was also easier.

Issue 39

Published in Issue 39

Indian Design Special! As the festivity is all around, every brand or business is trying to impress the Indian audience. But what really works for us Indians? What is an Indian design? And how we can make designs for India? To understand it, we interviewed some Indian creatives who are successfully creating designs for the Indian audience. Neha Tulisan, the founder of NH1 design, highlights to understand how we Indians live; how we grew up; and what moves us emotionally. Whereas Mira Malhotra, founder of Studio Khol, emphasises on the difference between Western and Indian Sensibilities. Also, we support keeping ourselves connected with Indian cultures, languages, history, aspirations and more, will help find the Indian context in everything we create.

 

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Packaging has been for long an ignored discipline of design. But the trend has changed nowadays, and it is becoming an exciting space for designers to showcase their artistic and innovative skills. Graphic design studio, Impprintz, derives inspiration from the products to add to the experience of the buyer and user. Here, Simran Sahi and Rahul Sureka talk to Creative Gaga about how they successful packaging!

Packaging for Gift Boxes Blue Tokai

CG: Your designs seem to follow a geometric formula and are pretty systematically arranged. Is that your design style, or does packaging follow a standard formula that clients ask you to apply?

Impprintz. The idea is to keep things simple yet delightful. With packaging, it’s not an anomaly to face a series of variants within the same product range. Therefore, the challenge lies in creating something different while maintaining a strong cohesive visual family. Another vital element for packaging designers to be mindful of is information architecture which helps buyers navigate systematically through the communication.

Packaging for The Little Pondicherrian
successful packaging
Incense Gift Packs.
successful packaging
Incense Gift Packs.

CG: According to you, what makes a successful packaging design? You use a varied sense of bright and attractive motifs. Is that what you feel makes a product stand out on a shelf with other competitive brands?

Impprintz. The inspiration for packaging is more or less derived from the product and its unique attributes. Packaging design can be successful on various levels and often requires a combination of attributes like its ability to attract, engage and inform. Simultaneously, it must also deliver a tactile experience with the apt choice of material and optimum fabrication, a well-thought-out functionality, and the difference and joy in it. Of course, the well-designed and attractive packaging on the shelf is going to grab your attention.

successful packaging
Pondicherry Collection Incense.
successful packaging
Pondicherry Collection Incense.
Seasonings by Milagro

CG: How is packaging different in today’s times? Apart from just a pack that people throw away, how do you get your designs to serve a greater purpose? Or is the purpose only to lure people and then packaging design loses its purpose as soon as the product is purchased?

Impprintz. The primary purpose of any successful packaging is to protect the product. By using vibrant and positive colour schemes, artistic illustrations and imagery and durable materials, packaging can prove to be an informative, enriching and an educative experience even in the process of selling/buying the product.

Mason&Co Limited Edition
successful packaging
Indigenous organic boxer shorts.
Zuka Chocolate Bars

CG: How is packaging for an incense stick different from say, a bottle? Do you believe it’s the same thought process and concepts that need to be exercised or does packaging design vary from project to project?

Impprintz. In terms of process, all packaging design projects begin with a similar set of questions and critical analysis, but then they begin to take shape within their own parameters. Each project has its unique requirements, vision, communication, market segment, timelines and fabrication possibilities. What never changes is the spirit to deliver the best; more than what the client asks for.

successful packaging
Special Incense Packs.
MasonCo Diwali Packs

CG: And finally, what advice would you give people who want to take up packaging design and make a difference?

Impprintz. Packaging design is a field in itself. It is a container of creative storytelling where two-dimensional design meets the third dimension. It is important to promote people, products, and concepts that you believe in. Keep trying new methods and ideas; there is always more to learn.

successful packaging
Mason & Co chocolate bars.
successful packaging
Mason & Co chocolate bars.
Packaging for Herbs by Milagro
successful packaging
Massage Oil Boxes.

Published in Issue 26

Packaging is the first vital step towards enchanting the audience. Who doesn’t like a cute box or a trendy bottle? With this issue, Creative Gaga lets the cat out of the box to reveal the world of packaging design. Featuring various local and international designers like Petar Pavlov from Macedonia and Brandziac from Russia, Elephant Design and Impprintz from Pune, the issue promises to be a keepsake for many.

 

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Neha Tulsian

There are various ways to do things, and so also it is in the case of representing Indian-ness in Indian design – the reason for this being that there are tons of aspects through which one could find that connect. Neha Tulsian runs us through those aspects.

To create something fresh; something genuinely new, we need a real problem. And a real insight. That is something not only in the classic case of the hard or physical sciences, but also in the various forms of art in the world, and that includes design. People in different parts of the world have different needs, as the context varies based on many diverse aspects from place to place. And that is what sets the tone for approaching those needs further.

To make the work meaningful and connect with any particular audience, we need to understand the audience. In that respect, India, by itself, is one of the most diverse countries on the planet.

And, to understand this country, we need to understand its cultures, languages, history, aspirations and so on. In short, how they live; how they grew up; and what moves them emotionally. It is about connecting, and not selling. The design works best when commerce is a by-product of great design and not the focal point. Otherwise, the crux of the designing as an art form may be lost, and, as is rightly pointed out, the ‘earth’ without ‘art’ is just ‘eh’.

Indian design, in particular, reflects culture and tradition in everything – architecture, jewellery, graphic design, product design, packaging, branding, fashion, textiles, etc.

Global brands are adapting ‘Glocal’ strategies – aligning their business, brand and communication strategies to meet local demands and stay connected with their audiences. Designers need to find innovative and creative ways to make their work locally relevant, while maintaining the ethos of the global scene.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. Your client, the business idea, intuition, the way we live, our families, art, tradition, fashion, handicraft etc. all can be gateways to being inspired or finding inspiration.

India, by itself, is such a vibrant culture to draw inspiration from. The challenge is to find a thread that is contextual, relevant and connects with the Indian audience while solving the design problem.

Issue 39 - Indian Design Special

Published in Issue 39

As the festivity is all around, every brand or business is trying to impress the Indian audience. But what really works for us Indians? What is an Indian design? And how we can make designs for India? To understand it, we interviewed some Indian creatives who are successfully creating designs for the Indian audience. This issue of Creative Gaga is a light read for someone looking for inspirations or insights on Indian design and how the Indian audience can be enticed. So go ahead and order your copy or subscribe if you want to keep receiving a regular dose inspirations!

 

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Creative Gaga - Issue 49

 

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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?

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.

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

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.

GRAZIA YOUNG FASHION AWARDS 2013. A playful and trendy illustration for GYFA 2013.

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.

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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