• Jackfruit: Design and Illustration, Part 1

    A couple of years after I graduated from design school by the very skin of my teeth - equipped with a diploma in fine arts that was recognized (then) by no known university, a terror of commitment and five years' worth of dilettantish dabbling - I became a professional loafer in Madras. I started hanging around at the British Council library all day, acting in the odd amateur play, taking on the sort of low-paying jobs that required only trace amounts of effort, watching thiruttu-DVD movies through the night, piling on flab like bones were going out of style and generally cluttering up my parents' home. It was like The Graduate, but without the scuba gear and Mrs. Robinson. Who am I kidding - it was horrible.

    And then there came shining through the murk a job opening at this tiny arts organisation in ye olde Bangalore, like a lighthouse in a rocky fjord of aimlessness. I think this came at the fag end of 2006, if I remember right. Jackfruit Research & Design / Art, Resources & Teaching (A.R.T.) - the 'design' firm - consisted of a library, two art historians, a DTP operator and no designer. It was a modest start-up run out of a teeny tiny dollhouse office in Cook Town, the salary they offered was time-capsuled from the '80s, and no one else in the business had ever heard of them. But it also offered a clean slate: I had no expectations, I desperately needed an escape route, the arts library was superb, and the office served a delicious and healthy lunch (with fried fish once a week!). So I took the job.

    And what a great decision it turned out to be, especially in retrospect. The advantage of working for a tiny-but-ambitious organisation - particularly if you give in to the prevalent delusions of oncoming grandeur and allow your situation, however modest, to expand and fill up your psyche - is that you will work and try stuff and create things like you have nothing to lose and everything to prove. At Jackfruit, I hustled to take on every kind of project that I could lay my hands on (even as Jackfruit hustled and entrepreneured their way into every kind of project that they could lay their grubby hands on). I designed promo material and collateral for art shows, helped curate and design travelling photography exhibitions, illustrated books and posters, researched, wrote and designed signage for a historic Rajasthani fort, and got to travel and engage with sundry creative types across the country. By the time I quit my job at the end of a year (the aforementioned synthpop-era salary became unsustainable, particularly in light of the rising costs of rent and beer), I had gained a portfolio, some exposure, a bunch of experience, and loads of confidence. Oh, and a cutely daft modicum of arrogance, even. I still look back on my time spent at Jackfruit, as well as my colleagues there, with endless affection.

    Below is a selection of the work I did while at JRD/A.R.T.

    |Disclaimer: much of the following work was either guided or art directed by Annapurna Garimella, the proprietor and lead researcher at the firm, who usually initiated the concept discussions on all the projects we took up. So I can't take full credit for the ideas represented here - only for the final visuals.|

    Poster for the Emerging Artist Award, 2007, commissioned by the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA)

    The following work was the collateral that I designed for a contemporary art show called 'Objects: Making/Unmaking', held at Vadehra art gallery in New Delhi. The invitation card design (below) was approved and used by the gallery, but they had printing issues with the brochure (below-the-below) so they had to ditch those designs, sadly. The designs of both the invite and the brochure involved the use of translucent paper as cover material. I no longer remember why. 
    I had a lot of fun with the brochure. Each artist's work was represented across two spreads - one containing a straightforward photographic representation of their work, and the other was an introductory spread in which I took the theme/meaning/aesthetic of that work and created my own graphic exploration of it. The first couple of examples given below (Aparna Rao and Subodh Gupta) show both sets of spreads, for context. The subsequent images (below-the-below-by-below, I say) only show my re-imaginings. I'd love to know what you make of them.

    Outer cover (translucent) for the 'Objects: Making/Unmaking' show brochure

    Inner cover for the 'Objects: Making/Unmaking' brochure

    'Contents' spread

    I created little concrete poems out of the artist/artwork descriptions for the 'Objects' brochure's introduction

    Graphical introduction to Aparna Rao's 'The Uncle Phone'

    The actual work, represented with simple captions, on the artist's second spread

    My graphics using photos of Subodh Gupta's work

    Subodh Gupta's actual work
     More examples of my graphical spreads:

    Intro spread for George Martin's work

    Intro spread for Sharmila Samant's work

    Intro spread for Tushar Joag's work

    Intro spread for Mithu Sen's work

    I made the designs you see below for 'Earth Bound', a travelling exhibition of photographs by Clare Arni (who was then a trustee at Jackfruit). The theme of the show was 'Land, Water and People'. The photographs and exhibition were commissioned by German Agro Action, in order to showcase the work done by various NGOs across India that they supported. While I was only one of the people who helped put together the Bangalore leg of the exhibition, I got to fully set up the one that was held at the Seagull Arts & Media Resource Centre gallery in Calcutta. I had never curated an art show before this event, so I was, naturally, very pleased at this new (and highly stressful) experience.

    Show invitation (front and back)

    Design for standee-mounted banner

    Standees on display at the exhibition in Hyderabad

    Information panels at the exhibition. These objects (foreground and far background) consisted of printed and magnetized strips that clung rather tenuously to clumsy frames made of metal rods. Please be advised that this is really not the most efficient/accident-free form of signage.

    Information panel for one of the participating NGOs

    Early design of another information panel. The introductory paragraph you see up top very obviously contains dummy text. My deepest apologies for this. This was one of the few images I could salvage from the show after all this time, and something's better than nothing, I always say.

    An example of the kind of infographics I created for the information panels

    Another infographic illustration

    A3-sized poster for the Earth Bound show

    The showcase of work I've done for Jackfruit/A.R.T. continues in part 2 of this post.

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