An Interview with a Young, Up-and-Coming Designer: Shaivalini Kumar
Shaivalini Kumar is a young designer who has been featured in Adobe’s 25 Under 25 program for her fantastically colorful and humorous work. We have an interview with this young artist for your reading pleasure.
How did you first get interested in design?
I feel I was artistically inclined since the time I was young. As a child I loved doodling, illustrating or making characters and constructing stories around them. I loved inking out my thoughts and even making things with various materials. I hoped people would find the quirks and oddities that I would embed in my work. Due to my strong inclination towards illustration, I initially started off with wanting to step into character design! I would regularly join online character design portals where various artists would upload characters and get a certain amount of feedback and exposure. Eventually, I felt the urge to learn about this discipline and find a path that would allow me to explore Illustration and design as a profession.
Did you struggle with any skills and tools when you were first starting out? What skills have you developed now that you have more experience?
When I was younger, I created more hands-on illustration and design work – even though the digital realm of design always fascinated me. I always had ideas but not enough digital skills to execute them. I used Photoshop first when I was only 16, and the experience was extremely fascinating. The endless possibilities that Photoshop offered allowed me to experiment and incited me to practice and constantly create work. I went from having very minimal knowledge to now understanding how to use the software for crafting designs and establishing my own unique style. Earlier I would use these tools in isolation, however now I combine tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign to create final output for a wide range of design work such as posters, custom typefaces, illustrations and even editorial and publication design work.
Describe your workflow: what’s your process for design – from capturing inspiration to finalizing your projects?
I spent a lot of time over the years evolving my process. I practiced a lot and got a better understanding of brushes, tools and textures. I watched tutorials and did a lot of trial and error. My inspiration comes from almost everything around me – be it a conversation, an event, or even memories from the past. It usually starts with a sketch, a scribble, or a brainstorming/mind mapping session. Then I work on digitizing my rough draft, and creating color palettes. After that I experiment, and explore, and step by step build on my designs. When it’s character design I use a little trick – I write a small story about the character which helps me build its personality. When it’s type design – I love using basic shapes to derive my alphabets. Once my base structure/basic sketch for illustration has been digitized, I spend a good amount of time rendering the artwork. I love taking feedback at every step from fellow designers, to help me notice things I otherwise wouldn’t have.
How much of your creative process happens at your computer vs. out in the field or sketching?
Since I work independently, I’m on the move a lot; I sketch wherever I can and often use the Adobe mobile apps on my iPad to help facilitate my work. It’s easy to make digital sketches on the move with Photoshop Sketch. Even while I’m working on type design projects – I can’t predict when inspiration will strike me. It’s great to have something capture my sketched out idea – such as the Shape feature in Capture CC. Even when I get stuck with color themes, the color option in Capture CC to bring in themes that I spot in my surroundings. I create my final artwork on my computer.
Are there any graphic designers or illustrators you are inspired by?
So many – I was fascinated by urban vinyl toys and all the artists who would create those – from Tara McPherson to Andrew Bell, Gary Baseman and so many more. I love type design, and have started exploring and learning the same – so many type designers have inspired me – Jessica Hische, Seb Lester, Sabeena Karnik. And when it comes to Graphic Design – Aaron Draplin, Paul Rand.
How would you describe your unique style as a designer?
I’ve always found my self being drawn towards urban style art and contemporary art. I love reading and learning about artists from different parts of the world, and what would incite them to create their art. Growing up in India, my culture, dialect, people and food have definitely also impacted my style in some way. The result of this mix of cultural influences of my birthplace and urban art, and contemporary design sensibilities is my current vibrant style. My style aims at finding the magic in the mundane, and making the ordinary seem extraordinary.
What would you consider to be the best moment of your career up until now?
There have been two major benchmarks in my career until now – the first is definitely my affiliation with Adobe through the 25 Under 25 program, and the resulting exposure and opportunities from being involved. Being able to connect with talented young artists has been wonderful, and has also influenced me as an artist. I got an opportunity to speak at Adobe’s CREATE NOW event in Mumbai and share my work and process with so many creative professionals. Seeing people, especially students being able to relate to my work and me was indescribable. The second moment would be when I was able to design for education and the kind of response the project got. Both my parents are teachers and I always wanted to contribute to that field in whichever way possible. I art directed and designed chemistry and math guidebooks for students (part of many more books yet to come) and constructed a system, which could be used to better display and organize information in academic books in a better manner. It was fantastic to see students and teachers respond to this!
What advice would you give to your fellow young designers?
Trial and error is an important part of my process. I make sure that whatever I do, I take away some amount of learning from it. I would advise young designers to try many things that are both within – and sometimes not within – their comfort zone. Only then they will know what they are best at, and in that process they will continue to learn more skills. Always keep adding to your body of personal work. Personal projects have always driven me.
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