MA Graduate Arpita Hajare describes how she created a 'simple, crisp yet meaningful piece of design' for London Met's NSS campaign.
Date: 06 February 2024
Each year, a London Metropolitan University student or graduate is commissioned to design the university’s National Student Survey (NSS) campaign. This year, the spotlight is on Arpita Hajare, a talented graduate from our MA in Visual Communication: Graphic Design / Illustration course.
Her distinctive style, forged in her home city Mumbai and developed during her studies at London Met, not only resonates with the University’s ethos of social justice, but also mirrors the vibrant diversity of its student community. In this feature, we delve into Arpita's journey, examining her creative inspirations, her experiences at London Met, and her aspirations for the future.
Arpita, as this year's designer for the National Student Survey campaign at London Met, what was your main source of inspiration for the project?
It fills me with pride and happiness to be chosen as the designer of the NSS Campaign for the year 2024. As a designer, I feel content for being recognised and chosen for this project based on my Dissertation Project displayed during the MA Art Show and my project 'HORN OK PLEASE: Trucks making Indian roads colourful' itself has been my inspiration for designing the NSS Campaign.
I hail from a diverse and colorful city known as 'MUMBAI' aka 'BOMBAY' in India. This city offers an infinite variety of colour palettes as it is a home to people from all the states of the country. Out of these palettes, I have always been fascinated by the bold, colourful typography on trucks, shop fronts, sign boards and walls hand-painted for attracting the attention of people.
Therefore, the colourful typography with vibrant and eye-catching colour palettes seen around the city is the main source of inspiration for this project. The idea behind this approach is to artistically shape the letters so that they convert into visual aspects, capturing the students' attention and luring them to read the posters.
Such bold artistic letters are hand painted on the trucks and boards to attract attention of the people passing by. I tried to implement this style here in this project, giving it a complementary touch by making it minimal and considering the given brief. The chosen style is purposefully simple but amazingly effective in motivating students to participate in the survey. The aim was to make the posters simple by just using letters in their original form.
Minimal visuals act as minor decorations to the lettering. The ultimate purpose of asking opinions from the students are achieved by using a ‘Dialogue Box’ which represents the act of stepping forward and providing input to the University.
Could you describe your creative process? How do you translate initial ideas into the final designs, and in what ways has your style evolved during your MA course at London Met?
I believe in 'Less is more'. Minimalism has become my style, my identity as a graphic designer in these eight years of my career.
I feel that if you've followed the design process thoroughly to reach up to a final piece of design, without skipping any step, you don't need to add extra elements to put forth the idea, making it direct and simple. A simple, crisp yet meaningful piece of design makes it easier and interesting for the audience to understand.
I have loved designing identities for brands since my undergrad days and since then my love for Typography and graphics has evolved and is still evolving. I've made the most of the chances I've got to explore and experiment during my MA Course.
The open-ended design briefs of the modules at London Met have let me develop as a Graphic Designer and polish my skills. The assignments helped me use my knowledge and ability, and all that I've learnt in these years of experience to create a change and add finesse to my work and emerge as a distinct designer in the industry.
How do you start your designs?
My weapon to create wonders has always been a pencil. I make notes and mind maps while working, followed by sketching thumbnails, colouring them and then developing them digitally. A combination of research and sketching gives an opportunity to explore and have iterations of designs to further work on.
I have crafted each and every letter manually in detail with color pencils and later developed it digitally with the help of Adobe Illustrator. Each and every creative designed is unique as it has come a long way from a lot of scribbles and thumbnails.
Reflecting on your journey through the MA Visual Communication course, what aspects of the program at London Met do you feel were most influential in shaping your design approach and philosophy?
Modules and Peers: The modules especially helped me improve on my research skills and work on outcomes that could be multi-disciplinary. I was able to work on my copywriting skills and developed a style of 'minimal copy' that would support and go along well with ‘minimal design'.
The peer discussions and appreciation-critique sessions have been beneficial in having diverse feedback on my design from a diverse group of classmates and faculty.
Faculty: I feel proud to be a student at London Met, I was blessed with some really amazing mentors who identified my plus points and weakness and helped me work on them. I usually used to talk about my projects and ideas to faculty from different disciplines, I'm grateful that they are always happy to chat and discuss. The motivation and inspiration from them and their work is the biggest takeaway I would cherish and learn as a designer.
Appreciation and Motivation: During the initial days of the course, I was a bit sceoptical and overwhelmed with the new environment and diverse community at London Met. With time, I enjoyed talking and knowing about different cultures and the people and we exchanged our ideas on projects.
My exhibition display in the MA Art Show was the cherry on the pie. I was on cloud nine literally, as I didn't expect it to go so well. My work was accepted and appreciated by so many people, my mentors, guests, family and friends were happy by my work. It feels nice to peep from a corner and see guests smiling and enjoying your work. I still remember a guest telling me that she has never been to India, but looking at my display and the music accompanied, it feels like being in India itself.
What else does an artist want in life! I was happy that I could represent and portray my nation's identity and educate the world about the unknown wonders of India and I'm so grateful that it was enjoyed and appreciated and brought a smile on the guests' faces.
How has the diverse and inclusive environment at London Met influenced your work?
I can see a change in work over these last few months. I was able to bring myself out from the box and explore, go beyond my boundaries as a designer. I got to know a lot of new things from my classmates who were from diverse communities, it helped me enhance my design patterns and re-visit my past projects.
If we talk about my MA project 'HORN OK PLEASE', it itself is a journey that proves that a piece of art can branch out in infinite directions and contents. Right from drafting the research proposal to printing the posters at the Print Workshop, I've enjoyed and documented each and every step in my diary and through photographs.
How did you get involved with the NSS campaign?
I'm fortunate that out of the works displayed at the Art Show, I was approached to work on the NSS Campaign this year, it itself is a reward for me. Initially, I was skeptical about accepting the offer as I knew I would not be able to focus because of full-time shifts and time constraints. Yet, London Met's Marketing and Commuications team believed in me, co-operated with me throughout the project.
This project was a challenge for me as it's my first ever commission since I moved to London, but I made the most of it as it was Typography and Graphic Design together. It helped me develop my Typography skills and make use of my creative freedom throughout.
This is what I love about London Met, I could be myself and work on myself as a designer during the course and during the NSS Campaign Project as well. I could explore my capabilities and skills to bring out the best of the best creatives even while juggling with time and multitasking with two different jobs.
Now that you have completed your MA, what are your plans for the future?
To develop, sharpen and polish and skills and work on my style. I wish to emerge as a celebrated Visual Design Researcher and launch my brand soon. As a Designer, I keep challenging myself to think beyond boundaries every new time and set benchmarks for myself. Simultaneously, I want to work out and prepare myself for the project I wish to take up for my PhD in upcoming years.
I wish to work on projects revolving around Strategic Branding and Identity Design, Typography, Graphic Design specifically as these are my fields of interest. In contrast, I wish to explore more in the field of design beyond borders and learning from designers and designs across the globe.
As a designer, I wish to do something for my community. I wish to travel the world and know about the different artforms that are on the verge of getting extinct and help the artist-designer community from dying out and rebuilding it.
India has a rich and varied heritage, multiple artforms are being practiced throughout the country, a lot of them are on the verge of extinction. Project 'HORN OK PLEASE' is a small effort I made to introduce it to the global audience and bring back its identity. It's still on, I wish to collaborate with the truck artists and work on projects that would keep their tradition alive and generate revenue for them and their family.
In addition, I wish to guide aspiring designers and others who wish to pursue a career in design in India. I myself belong to a family which is into medicine, I'm the first and only person from my family to go against the grain and choose Design as a career. It was a bit difficult initially to convince my parents, but they have always been a strong suppport, from sponsoring me to getting my art supplies, to helping me set up my annual art show and now moving to London.
What advice would you offer to current and prospective London Met students who are looking to pursue a career in graphic design and illustration?
Believe in yourself and your work. Challenge yourself because you are your very first competitor than others in the market.
Give your best to sell yourself: Don't be shy-scared, just say it. Talk about your ideas confidently in front of your class and mentors and treat each Pin-up as if it was your Pitch and you've one chance to sell your brain.
Take a U turn and start again: There will be ups and downs, and times when you might go blank but always remember one thing, that :'There is no such thing as wrong design, it's either good or bad'. A bad design has gone through the same design process as the good design, which means every piece of design made has a room to improve. It is absolutely alright to go back and start from scratch, as it may lead you to different paths that you'd never thought of at first.
Sketching-Documenting: Keeping sketching and journaling regularly. It might be of help in referencing and generating ideas. As I mentioned earlier, a pencil can do wonders, use it!
Enjoy your dissertation projects, make the most of this opportunity as this might be your last chance as a student of working on a project without a client.