Have a design-related question? This prof has all the answers
What should students entering the field of design must know? How has the industry changed over the years? What is the process of creating a design like for an established professional? Soumitra Bhattacharya, Associate Professor, UPES School of Design, and a prolific writer, answers these questions and more
The following is the full transcript of an email interview with Soumitra Bhattacharya, Author and Associate Professor, UPES School of Design. He gives a glimpse of his book ‘Soulflight: Reflecting light and life’, talks about his process of creating, why UI/UX is here to stay, and what every student entering the field of design must know.
What is your book about? What prompted you to start writing?
I am a photographer and filmmaker with a Communication Design background from National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. I was planning to publish some of my work, photographs in particular, for some time, and finally I got to put together a book. The idea was to photographically narrate my story, my journey, from external to internal, in the last two decades.
I have been travelling in and outside India, either for work or for pleasure and photographing vigorously at the same time. However, I haven’t really been sharing them with a wider audience except for a few close friends and family members. All my photographs have been buried deep in hard drives and never really saw the light of the day. It was as if people didn’t really know me well. I had this urge to share my stories with the world. It was this urge, this feeling that led to publishing a selected bunch as a book.
The purpose of this book ‘Soulflight: Reflecting light and life’ is to offer readers a glimpse into the breath-taking landscapes, vibrant cultures, and unique experiences that I have had while traveling to different parts of India and the world. Through a combination of captivating imagery and witty and expressive prose, I hope to transport readers to some of the most scenic and culturally rich places on earth.
The book is presented in a coffee table format, which makes it perfect for casual browsing and sharing with others. The stunning photographs and evocative descriptions of the various destinations featured in the book are meant to inspire readers to embark on their own journeys of discovery and exploration.
What sets this book apart from other travelogues is the fact that it is not just a collection of pretty pictures and superficial observations. Rather, it is a deeply personal account of my own journey, both as a traveller and as a human being. I have included not only descriptions of the places I visited, but also reflections on the internal transformations that occurred as a result of these experiences.
Through this book, I hope to convey the message that travel is not just about seeing new places, but also about gaining new insights and perspectives on life. By sharing my own journey, I hope to inspire others to embark on their own adventures and to see the world in a new and more meaningful way.
Here is an excerpt from the same:
“As I walk down memory lane, in a nostalgic search of silence, moments from the past and present unfold before my eyes. They are caught through my lenses and get frozen in time. The silence captures my memorable conversations with mountains, trees, stones and all living creatures.
Their stories are etched in light and shadow. Each page of this book remains a living witness, a slice of life and time, a timeless tale of a traveller caged in an urban context at times and freed under an open sky during others.”
Were you always interested in design? What drew you to this industry?
As a kid, I was always tinkering with whatever I could get my hands on. I had an insatiable curiosity about how things functioned, how materials like clay behaved, and how the world appeared differently at different times of the day. The natural world held a particular fascination for me, with its varied colours, textures, smells, sounds, and tastes. In fact, my fondest childhood memories are from the time I spent in the backyard of our house, which holds a special place in my heart even today.
Creativity seems to run in my family, as evidenced by the various talents and passions of my relatives. For instance, my mother embroidered a large tiger when she was younger, which I grew up with and still have today. Additionally, my eldest sister has a talent for sewing and cooking, while another sister pursued Indian classical music for many years.
Then, one day, I read about design school in a Bengali magazine called Ananamela, and everything changed. It felt like the perfect fit for me, and I knew that this was where I was meant to be.
Communication Design projects human experiences through different mediums. Where do you look for inspiration? What is the process of creating a design like for you?
Communication Design is a creative process that involves expressing human experiences and ideas through various mediums such as print, digital, or interactive media. Inspiration for communication design can come from many different sources, including personal experiences, current events, cultural trends, and historical references.
My biggest inspiration for communication design comes from the people around me. I am always observing and listening to people, their stories, and experiences, which inform my creative process. Human behaviour, emotions, and interactions with the world around them provide a rich source of inspiration and ideas for communication design projects.
I believe that personal accounts and stories can be more engaging and impactful than generic communication. Intimate stories have the power to connect with people on a personal level, creating an emotional connection that goes beyond the message itself.
As a communication designer, I believe that storytelling is a powerful tool for conveying complex ideas and engaging audiences. Using personal accounts and intimate stories can help to humanize a message, making it more relatable and memorable.
It’s also important to consider the target audience and the intended message carefully. The story should be relevant to the audience and add value to the message. Additionally, the story should be authentic and genuine, reflecting the voice and perspective of the storyteller.
Over the years, what key changes have you seen in the industry, or communication design in particular?
The biggest change I would say is the shift towards digital. With the rise of the internet and social media, communication design has become increasingly focused on digital media. This has led to an increased emphasis on web design, social media graphics, and digital marketing campaigns and the likes.
There has been a significant shift towards user-cantered design, which involves designing products and experiences that meet the needs and preferences of the end-users. This has led to an increased emphasis on user research and usability testing in the design process.
UI/UX is the flavour of the day, month and the year. UI/UX design has become increasingly important in recent years due to the growing importance of user-cantered design and the rise of mobile devices and apps. With the rise of digital products and services, there is a growing need for designers who can create user-friendly and engaging interfaces that meet the needs of users. No wonder I am seeing a monumental rise in student enrolment in Graphic an Interaction Design.
Technology has become an integral part of communication design, with designers using a range of digital tools and software to create designs. This has led to the development of new design techniques, such as interactive design and augmented reality.
Communication design industry has become increasingly global, with designers working with clients and audiences from all over the world. This has led to an increased focus on cultural sensitivity and localization in design.
There has also been a growing awareness of the impact of design on the environment, leading to an increased focus on sustainable design practices. This includes designing products and experiences that are eco-friendly and have a minimal impact on the environment.
How would you describe your journey so far: in terms of the challenges and the achievements?
For me, the biggest challenge was also achieving financial independence as a designer. It took a lot of hard work and determination, but once I achieved that, I was able to pursue projects that aligned with my interests and values. Being financially independent gave me the freedom to take on projects that I truly believed in, rather than just taking on any project that came my way. It allowed me to focus on the work that I was passionate about and create designs that had a meaningful impact.
One such project was my independent film on the lives of salt workers in the Little Rann of Kachchh. There are of course many more.
My biggest achievement I think is that, today, I can live my life the way I want to. It means having the freedom to pursue my passions, make my own choices, and take responsibility for my actions. It’s about being able to chart my own course in life and not feeling constrained by the expectations or opinions of others.
In my search for ultimate freedom and independence, I was fortunate to have the unwavering support of my parents and sisters. My family has supported me in every possible way, from allowing me to study 2000 kilometres away from home to respecting my decision to remain single. Throughout my journey, I have always had their unwavering support.
Achieving this level of independence has taken a lot of hard work and perseverance. There have been times when I have faced challenges or setbacks, but I have always stayed focused on my goals and remained true to my values. Through my journey, I have learned that the key to living life on your own terms is to stay true to yourself, be willing to take risks, and never give up on your dreams. It requires a strong sense of self-awareness, as well as the courage to stand up for what you believe in, even in the face of opposition.
Looking back on my journey, I feel proud of the progress I have made and the obstacles I have overcome. While there may still be challenges ahead, I am confident that I have the skills and resilience to face them head-on and continue living life on my own terms.
What advice would you like to give to students entering this sphere today?
Design is all about problem-solving and finding creative solutions to complex challenges. Cultivate a curious mindset and always be eager to learn new things. Therefore, be curious always.
Design is a multidisciplinary field, so it’s important to have a diverse skill set that spans different mediums and technologies. This will help you tackle different types of design challenges and give you a competitive edge in the job market. It will help if you develop a diverse skill set.
Your portfolio is your calling card in the design industry, so invest time in developing a strong body of work that showcases your skills and creativity. Therefore, it pays to build a strong portfolio.
Design is a collaborative field, so it’s important to build relationships with other designers, clients, and industry professionals. Attend design events, join online forums, and seek out mentorship opportunities to help you build your network. Network, network and more network.
The design industry is constantly evolving, so it’s important to stay adaptable and keep up with emerging trends and technologies. Embrace change and be willing to experiment with new tools and techniques.
Ultimately, the key to success in design is a deep passion for the craft. Keep your love for design alive by pursuing projects that inspire you and push you to grow as a designer.