How did you get started as a designer? I always had a natural inclination towards art, but I never dared to pursue art during university, and I ended up choosing commerce instead. When I realized that I wasn’t interested in pursuing commerce any further, art became my new inspiration. I started painting, and, to my surprise, my family and friends started appreciating the creativity of my artwork. I also stumbled upon a few crash courses for digital art, and I found graphic design fascinating. Years later, I applied to a postgraduate degree in visual communication at CEPT University with my art portfolio, and brought my imagination to life! My creative outlet ended up paving the way for my lifelong passion.
How did you establish your design firm, Pocket Pixels? After completing my postgraduate degree, I worked at a Mumbai-based branding studio for a year. My designs received a lot of admiration, and it was that recognition and experience that made me determined to start my own design studio. I went on a journey to bring new perspectives to the design culture of Surat, India, where my studio is based. Setting up a new branding agency was challenging, but it was a fun learning process to grow as a self-reliant designer.
How did you arrive at the idea for the illustration picture book series Beyond Braille? While working on my master’s project, a tactile picture series for the visually impaired (VI) community, I realized that reading should be a more enriching experience for visually impaired children. They needed a better understanding of the world that was hitherto unknown to them. What started as a thesis project in 2014 became my motivation to bring the world of embossed images to the VI community. I designed a tactile picture book titled Ranchhod Sees the World. Fast-forward to 2016, and I resumed my research by visiting blind preschools. Thanks to the advancements in technology, and by exploring 3-D printing to achieve an effect similar to that of embossing methods and materials, I was finally able to launch Beyond Braille in 2019 with a range of tactile picture books.
Through creating Beyond Braille, what have you learned about graphic design? For me, graphic design has never been just about commercializing; I value the experience of working on every project. Similarly, Beyond Braille has helped me implement the design thinking methodology, including identifying the problem, prototyping, testing and problem-solving through a design-led approach. The project enabled me to explore more factors that make the end product genuinely inclusive, like empathy, social responsibility and user-centricity. I have felt captivated by the whole design process of making Beyond Braille rather than just the final product. Beyond Braille has taught me the art of minimalism, simplifying the composition and decluttering the design.
What are some ways that designers can use their skills to help support the VI community? Designers are crucial catalysts for social change. We shape the way people view the world. There needs to be a pivotal shift in design philosophy that emphasizes social conscience rather than consumer-driven marketing. As designers, the best way to support the VI community, or the full range of human diversity, is to create accessible and inclusive design. Being an inclusive designer is a win-win for both designers and clients. When designers produce different ways for users to engage with experiences, they also ensure that those experiences can be compelling for all. This can also expand the range of products that clients can provide, spark novelty and help brands take on a position of social responsibility. By incorporating inclusive design thinking into the design dialogue, we can create alluring visual and nonvisual communication.
What is unique about the creative community in Surat? Surat is remarkably young at heart, moderately populated but still close enough to find inner peace, and undeniably cultured, yet exploding with creativity. It is rich in the visual arts, music, dance, literature and architecture, with a certain artistic charm that doesn’t fail to please. The beautiful people, the bustling character-filled streets, and the ideal mix of cosmopolitan and heritage provide a strong base that designers can work upon. Every street has its own story to tell, and so do its people. And what designer wouldn’t want to get their hands on an original story or concept?
You also serve as the creative director and curator for CreativeHub, a creative and corporate gifting service. What new skills did you need to learn? I’m more of a brand curator, and by that I mean my interest lies in attending creative flea markets, minimal brand studios and Surat’s colorful pop-ups. Eventually, I created CreativeHub so I could curate products from unique brands under one umbrella. As I do with every branding project, I think about how we can enrich and add happiness to others’ lives. Working on CreativeHub has taught me how to listen to the fantastic story behind every brand we pick, motivate the brands to grow together and present them on our platform. For me, the entire concept of gifting is not merely about delivering a gift, but also about the pleasure of bestowing it.
What’s the most recent reading experience you’ve had? Reading a book is good when it offers insight, but it is excellent when it can actually make a difference to who you are as an individual. I would put the book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David and Tom Kelley in the latter category. The notion that creativity isn’t innate and that people can be trained and coached to be more creative, with the courage to try new ideas and fail, is well articulated in the book. Most importantly, the authors have also explained how failure is not only good, but also a fundamental stepping-stone to success. Historically, all innovators experienced multiple low points until they found their breakthrough. But what continues to differentiate them from others is their ability to persist during the failures—the simple fact that they did not stop trying.