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Interview with Sruthi Yathindradas

Home > Designer Interviews > Sruthi Yathindradas

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Sruthi Yathindradas (SY) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Sruthi Yathindradas by clicking here.

Interview with Sruthi Yathindradas at Wednesday 26th of April 2017

FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
SY: I did my Masters at Domus Academy, Milan in Visual Brand Design and prior to that, I co-founded an illustration based design collective called Illustration Much with a few college buddies of mine from Symbiosis Institute of Design, India. I have always shown a keen interest in illustrating and visual story telling. This interest enabled me to find my own design sensibility and that which I continue to apply ever since.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
SY: Flo is the brainchild of four interdisciplinary designers from Domus Academy. It was envisioned as part of our academic curriculum and even then, showed exemplary potential to be developed outside of school. My team included Bingyi Tian (Product Designer), Jiawen Lian (Interaction Designer) and Jyothsna Joshi (Interior and Living Designer).

FS: What is "design" for you?
SY: Design is not only problem solving at its best, but it ties in the factor of whether it is relevant for that time, if it has ability to adapt and become flexible and whether or not it can tell an honest and good story, of any sort, to appeal to our emotional sensibilities.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
SY: Currently, I'm working on a publication that captures the essence of identity and transformations based on personal experience. I wish to release it in the form of a graphic novel in the coming months. But apart from all the personal projects like rebranding of the collective we started, to setting up the processes and language for a new virgin coconut oil brand in India, I think I like to take up diverse kind of work. Anything inspiring and to keep me busy.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
SY: Philadelphia's Magic Garden, envisioned by Isaiah Zagar, could easily be one of my favourite design experiences. It is essentially a mosaic garden created from statues, pieces of ceramic, bicycle wheels, glass items and beautiful tiles that can leave anyone spellbound. Designed with an intention of beautifying a neighbourhood in Philadelphia, it now functions as a nonprofit art museum and gallery space located amidst a labyrinth of beautiful household items. Every item embedded in the walls and the floors are so diverse in material and thought, but tied together by Isaiah's vision of beauty that truly speaks of the neighbourhood. I often feel that one must tell stories born out of context.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
SY: The most memorable one was a wedding invitation I had done in collaboration with my design partner, Taaneya Balaji. We did this as part of the collective that we had started in 2012. The final product was unique in its own sense but more importantly, it helped me understand the relevance of collaboration.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
SY: I stick mostly to designing digitally. Adobe Suite is my go-to for any project.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
SY: When I'm inspired. This could be right after I watch or read something exciting or simply walking around in Kerala, India (current residence).

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
SY: The conceptualisation and presentation of ideas are the most exciting bits for me. I also like to deal with print production if the project requires it.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
SY: It depends on the project I work on. Sometimes, if I land up on a great idea, the excitement drives me to take immediate action without wasting too much time. When this happens, I let go of the concept of working hours and can really push forward to achieve my goal. I rely on the project and its scale to drive me, really.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
SY: Ecstasy. Period.

FS: What makes a design successful?
SY: It should represent the what, where and who you stand for as a brand or an organisation. Once, you're able to do this through a powerful and meaningful narrative, your design automatically becomes a success.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
SY: Context. Context. Context.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
SY: Observe what's going on in the world and use that authority to make what you do beneficial to the society and to the environment. A designer has that moral responsibility to keep making objects or processes better for sustaining in this world.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
SY: With the expansion and understanding of design seeping into societies that are generally not design-centric, there comes a lot more exposure. For example, studying in Milan helped me understand how inherently Italians have a knack for good design. You can find it in the smallest of places which is different from a small agriculture-oriented place in India, where design is probably not what they're known for. It is interesting to see how with this new exposure can help understand what the underlying fabric of each society is. When more and more people travel and later return, they hold a little piece of the present state and the foresight of the future, that they can integrate into their society. Slowly, and steadily, this piece may help small villages, towns and even cities evolve and become more self sustainable. This is what the future of design should be. Embracing of roots and evolve into something better for the world.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
SY: The last one was held through my earlier design collective at a local flea market, in 2014, at Bangalore. Currently, there are no plans of exhibiting in a physical space.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
SY: Designers that I look up to and follow religiously- Paola Antonelli, Neri Oxman, Jessica Walsh, Javier Mariscal are amongst a few in a long list. I get inspired through people I follow on various social media platforms and various other blogs and talks that I've subscribed to, that I spend every day reading or viewing. Inspiration could also come out of a simple walk around the beautiful canal nearby, overgrown with hyacinth. Literally, anywhere. You just need to keep a look out for it.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
SY: I stress a lot on delivering complex ideas using simple illustrative story telling. My design involves basically understanding who I am catering to, whether it is the client or the consumer, he/she should instantly be able to relate to my message. I find illustration to be the best method to tell brand stories and I try to include it in whatever small I do.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
SY: Like a lot of kids of my generation, I belong to a more global environment. Growing up in Oman, moving around in different cities within India, I do not particularly associate myself belonging anywhere and yet, belonging everywhere. There is a bit of Oman, a bit of Pune, Bangalore, Milan and Kerala inside of me. It's quite complex an idea to break down your identity based on the country you come from. You belong to the world. Sometimes, your peers in the design community may not understand who you are but as long as you keep designing for the world, none of it matters. What matters at the end of the day is the message you send out through the skills and knowledge you acquire from being part of a global community.

FS: How do you work with companies?
SY: I like to work with companies in a more collaborative manner. If the client comes from a design background, explaining ideas could happen while you brainstorm with them. In most cases, when the client is not, there is a lot of back and forth in selling your idea. I tend to stick to the brief of who I'm designing for, to better understand where I could take my design.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
SY: Companies should try to understand what goes inside a design process, so that designers are not taken for granted. Designers have that unique power to create experiences for consumers, but they also need clients to help realise the projects. A good designer is someone who can evaluate the amount of work with a correct value attached to it. Companies must sought after designers who know what their contribution to the society could be, and what their actual worth is.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
SY: There are only few times that I set out to do exactly what I think of at the start. Usually, the initiation of a project involves a lot of quiet time at the beginning. I like to be left alone for a while, reading and researching by myself before I sit on a project with the team. After which, I seldom like being left alone or left out. The process of finding inspiration together, ideating and brainstorming on large white chart papers, is something that needs to be done as a group. Recognising what everyone's strengths and weaknesses are, are important from a team building exercise but also for realising a project to its maximum potential.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
SY: My oversized green full rimmed powered glasses Macbook Pro Turkish night lamp 2 of my Bialetti Moka pots Grandfather's antique reclining chair, built in the 1960s.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
SY: From waking up in the morning, to going through my daily online inspiration and news in bed, I start my day by assessing all that needs to be done through the reminders set from the previous night. Owing to my poor memory, creating a task list has become an integral part of how I divide my day. After which, it's mostly juggling between personal projects and client work. Since I currently live with my 95 year old grandfather, I also take time out in the day to simply engage in conversation or to have meals with him as much as possible, before getting back to work. Often, I step out to explore parts of the small town we live in, by foot and love to come across familiar places and faces.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
SY: Never stop. Design is a constantly evolving lucrative field that even societies that are less design-centric have started to embrace. We need not venture out looking for greener pastures when it comes to design. By watering this side and strengthening the roots, we can turn our pastures green too. That's a humble advice of a designer living with her 95 year old grandfather in a remote town in India.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
SY: As designers, we are capable of creating movements and impacting that which is bigger than ourselves. We should aim for achieving satisfaction through our creative abilities and not settle for something small and meaningless. Sometimes, due to time constraints and financial gain we tend to stray away from it. That's the sad part.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
SY: "Everything is a metaphor" - Source unknown My golden rule is to find what metaphor best describes a project and use that authority to build a narrative, keeping in mind who I'm designing for and what I'm trying to achieve through it.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
SY: You need to be able to observe what's around you, dissect it and create relations, empathise with the client and the consumers, to create a unique product or experience which in most cases will be the "obvious" answer to all problems.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
SY: I often look at UnderConsideration, Designspiration, AIGA, Computer Arts, Adobe and other online inspiration sites to stay relevant. Having subscribed to the Adobe CC has allowed me to make use of all softwares, especially Illustrator and InDesign when it comes to regular work.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
SY: By setting mini goals throughout the day, so that my brain is wired to only spend that much time I think is needed, for accomplishing a task. This habit of mine has been developed since I was a little kid and my dad used to make me write a timetable every day before going to bed to know how to evaluate and allot hours. Although I wasn't regular back then and did not seriously consider it when I was young, I've slowly begun to understand how this learning has seeped into how I view my life.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
SY: It depends on the nature of the project.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
SY: If what we do actually makes a difference.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
SY: Having worked with a political campaign was the most bizzare and refreshing thing I have done in my career, so far! I was able to run an entire campaign for a candidate wanting to win an electoral seat at the Parliament of India. By opting to take up a project of this nature, I was able to understand a lot about policy making and the kind of activities that go behind understanding the very nature of our society. Working with people driven to making social reforms, the horrible bureaucracy that goes behind realising it, did definitely do a number on understanding where we stand.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
SY: Some of my clients through my previous work experience have been a few multinational corporations like Mindtree, Cisco, Indian National Congress, Desmondji, amongst innumerable smaller start-ups and individuals.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
SY: I like branding of experiences or of objects in mediums that are obvious, that fit naturally to the context and also are intuitive to the user. As mentioned before, I like working on projects that provoke thought, cause impact and usually are big in scale :D

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
SY: Hopefully to realise Flo, as a product for the future and to make it open source to allow designers and developers to disrupt and innovate.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
SY: I like to work with a team that compliment each other based on varied skill sets and interests. There is always something you can learn from someone else. We must learn to acknowledge this.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
SY: I'm currently working on an interior design project for a new home for my family relocating to India. I've begun to realise how designing for space is very different from designing for a flat medium or a 3D object or anything of that nature. What you have to keep in mind is how you can connect every object in a room to a larger setting. It's strenuous but it's also quite rewarding. I look forward to bringing my acquired Italian design sensibilities and portray it by reviving our forgotten heritage in a more contemporary manner.

FS: How can people contact you?
SY: You can reach out through my personal email id thud.maniac@gmail.com or if it is with regard to the award winning project, you can write to us on teamflo.fish@gmail.com. We are also going to be launching an official Flo website on May 1 Reboot, 2017 as flo.fish

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
SY: I think this was quite an extensive and comprehensive interview! I hope I didn't go off-topic with all the rambling.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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