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Picture perfect

If you're an aspiring graphic designer bubbling with ideas, then the sky's your canvas. Rahat Bano reports.

education Updated: Apr 24, 2012 16:48 IST
Rahat Bano

In her words, Ajanta Guhathakurta, 35, gives a "face to text". So, one moment she's creating a cute teddy bear or lily for a story book, next she's designing the jacket for a non-fiction book.

Winner of a certificate for her illustrations at the 2002 International Board on Books for Young People Congress in Switzerland, Guhathakurta has lent her creative touch to Letters from a father to his daughter (collection of Jawaharlal Nehru's letters), and done the jackets of books like MG Vassanji's The Gunny Sack and Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi's The Last Song of Dusk.

Like in many walks of life today, the computer has become her easel but this graphic designer and illustrator also does oil paintings at her studio.

"I did five years as an illustrator. I struggled in those five years as an illustrator only (at The Children's Book Trust). Then I got a break in Penguin where I started designing books," says the Senior Design Manager, Puffin and Ladybird Design, Penguin group.
Today, Guhathakurta says, "There's immense scope" in this field.

The canvas has exploded for those bubbling with ideas. It stretches from book jackets, broadsheets, magazine leaves, print ads, billboards, to stationery, promotional pamphlets, posters, CD covers, corporate merchandise, technical catalogues, packaging, to designing exhibition stalls.

Academics and professional practitioners vouch for the tonnes of work available in the market. M Vijayamohan, Principal, College of Art (COA), Delhi, says prospects are very good for students of applied art. "Our students start earning even when they are in the second year." Advertising agencies lap students up during the college's annual exhibition in March. Most students go to the industry - publishing houses (like Guhathakurta, a COA alum), advertising agencies, design studios, and media outlets including television channels. Many people freelance. Teaching, of course, is also an option.

Adds illustrator Atanu Roy, 59, who has his art studio in Gurgaon, "The sky is the limit. It's a vast industry." He, however, adds you should know the difference between the art, that is ideas and craft, meaning skills. "It's ideas that matter. Your awareness should be very high."

Guhathakurta cautions that aspirants shouldn't "leave practising. That's what's happening. They forget the basics. That's what I've been observing for the last 11 years. They get into computer thing so much that they forget manual drawing."

Career: Graphic designer

What's it about?
Applied art is used to convey a message. It could mean pushing the miracles of an anti-ageing cream, simplifying and explaining a complex process for readers/viewers, making a user-friendly map for easy navigation, a logo which captures the essence of a company, an amusing animation film, creating for poster, just to give a few examples. As an illustrator, you might make an illustration manually and scan it for use or use one of the different softwares to do the task.

The Payoff
Rs 10,000 a month to Rs 2.5 crore for a logo.

"A good designer designs his or her own growth by evolving with changing times and trends," says Rupam Borah, Founder & Creative Director, VIRUS. "Sky is the limit commercially for the deserving."

Clock Work
An average day in the life of graphic designer Ajanta Guhathakurta

6.30 am: Get up and go for a walk in the park (no gymming) where I get to see visuals - the birds, animals and people.

7.15-7.30 am: Return home and prepare breakfast and lunch.

9 am: Leave for office

9.30 am: Make a to-do list, Do creative work as well as managerial duties like supervising and coordinating with freelancers.
Reply to emails, put schedules in order. Search for fresh talent. Read manuscripts which are in the pipeline. Attend planning meetings

1-2 pm: I choose to have a working lunch during which I browse the net to keep myself updated. Reply to emails.

2-5.30 pm: Finish work

6.30 (if work is pending it can be up to 8 pm): Head back home. Three times a week I go for yoga classes.

8.30 pm: Freshen up, play music, cook dinner, sit with a book or watch TV.

11ish: Go to bed.

In her words, Ajanta Guhathakurta, 35, gives a "face to text". So, one moment she's creating a cute teddy bear or lily for a story book, next she's designing the jacket for a non-fiction book.

Winner of a certificate for her illustrations at the 2002 International Board on Books for Young People Congress in Switzerland, Guhathakurta has lent her creative touch to Letters from a father to his daughter (collection of Jawaharlal Nehru's letters), and done the jackets of books like MG Vassanji's The Gunny Sack and Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi's The Last Song of Dusk.
Like in many walks of life today, the computer has become her easel but this graphic designer and illustrator also does oil paintings at her studio.

"I did five years as an illustrator. I struggled in those five years as an illustrator only (at The Children's Book Trust). Then I got a break in Penguin where I started designing books," says the Senior Design Manager, Puffin and Ladybird Design, Penguin group.
Today, Guhathakurta says, "There's immense scope" in this field.

The canvas has exploded for those bubbling with ideas. It stretches from book jackets, broadsheets, magazine leaves, print ads, billboards, to stationery, promotional pamphlets, posters, CD covers, corporate merchandise, technical catalogues, packaging, to designing exhibition stalls.

Academics and professional practitioners vouch for the tonnes of work available in the market. M Vijayamohan, Principal, College of Art (COA), Delhi, says prospects are very good for students of applied art. "Our students start earning even when they are in the second year." Advertising agencies lap students up during the college's annual exhibition in March. Most students go to the industry - publishing houses (like Guhathakurta, a COA alum), advertising agencies, design studios, and media outlets including television channels. Many people freelance. Teaching, of course, is also an option.

Adds illustrator Atanu Roy, 59, who has his art studio in Gurgaon, "The sky is the limit. It's a vast industry." He, however, adds you should know the difference between the art, that is ideas and craft, meaning skills. "It's ideas that matter. Your awareness should be very high."

Guhathakurta cautions that aspirants shouldn't "leave practising. That's what's happening. They forget the basics. That's what I've been observing for the last 11 years. They get into computer thing so much that they forget manual drawing."

Skills
Oodles of creativity and imagination
Technological savvy
General awareness

How do I get there?
After 10+2, you could go for a BFA programme in applied art, painting, animation or visual communication or even sculpture, depending upon your interests and abilities. The programmes are available at College of Arts in many cities. The well-known National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, also provides training in this field. The entry process usually involves an aptitude test. Many private institutes and academies, too, run relevant courses.
A humanities background is good and science all the better, says illustrator Atanu Roy.

Institutes & URLs
College of Art, Delhi University
www.du.ac.in

Sir JJ School of Art and Sir JJ School of Applied Art, Mumbai
http://www.mu.ac.in/colleges/finearts/mumbai.html

Banaras Hindu University
www.bhu.ac.in

Government College of Art, Kolkata

Madras College of Art

CAVA, Mysore

Indicative list

Pros & Cons
Mentally stimulating
Plenty of career avenues
You may have to work "eight" days a work, says illustrator Atanu Roy.
"Work is slow if you are into it," he adds.
If self-employed or freelancing, may have to run after payments.

'You should be open minded and unbiased'

Noted 'visualogist' Rupam Borah on the DNA of a good visual communicator and more

Rupam Borah is former executive creative director, Leo Burnett and now founder and creative director of VIRUS, a design company in Delhi. Excerpts from an interview:

What's expected of a good graphic designer or visual communicator?
A good graphic designer or visual communicator is expected to be open minded, unbiased by religion, aesthetics or politics.

What are the best routes to be a successful graphic designer?
Education in graphic design or visual communication from a reputable institute is important to understand the basics on the subject but all along that process one needs to keep one's eyes wide open to 'see' design that is changing everyday and shaping people's lives, their behaviour, sensibility and psyche. It is therefore, important, to 'see' beyond the drawing board and think design for humanity, design for the environment and design for peace.
By design, sometimes making pots and pots of money becomes the primary objective for many young graphic designers or visual communicators and that is a concern area in terms of growth for anyone who wants to be successful in this profession. Plenty of money is out here and everyone earns it according to his/her contribution towards great design.

What are the new opportunities and challenges for graphic designers or visual communicators in India?
Opportunities are wide open in India today and there are equally huge challenges too. I think the biggest challenge is to rethink design to contribute towards the growth of the country economically, environmentally, visually and spiritually.

What are the pros and cons of this profession?
Creativity is almost like a curse (smile). When one designs passionately and gets too involved with one's work, they tend to sometimes get labelled as the "designer types" (smile). But on the positive side, good designers have the power to make the environment beautiful, enjoy themselves in whatever they are creating and get paid for it. Gosh! The regular office job is such a bad design (smile).