Ananya Khaitan

Ananya Khaitan is a Freelance Graphic Designer from India who's passionate about book design, brand identity design, typography, illustration, and writing. We caught up with Ananya and he talked to us all about his struggle with admin tasks, the brilliant advice he received from Michael Bierut, and how 2020's been a year of self reflection!

What are the best and worst parts of your job, day-to-day.

The best part of my day is always the design work itself—be it coming up with ideas, executing them, or even, say, conducting workshops with a client, or collaborating with my printers.

The worst parts are keeping up with emails, coordinating meetings and calls, invoicing, chasing payments and doing accounts. Basically the stuff that requires a dispassionate mind and a thick skin, neither of which I possess.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve had the benefit of more than a few brilliant mentors over the years, each of whom has given me great advice. However, the most recent piece of advice that stuck with me came from Mr. Michael Bierut. I have a tendency of getting embroiled in really long-drawn, intense projects. He suggested I break that up with smaller, more fun projects, just to mix it up and keep myself fresh and engaged. Now, full disclosure: it’s been over a year and I’m yet to actually implement this, but I definitely intend to!

Are you involved in any mentoring or teaching, and if so, how does it shape your practice?

I can’t say I’m involved in such things in any sustained manner, but I did teach a short module on Typography at the National Institute of Design, India, last year, and I gave a TEDx Talk to a bunch of tech students earlier this year. Sharing my insights/experiences with students is definitely something I’m passionate about, not least because I vividly remember how valuable I found such interactions when I was on the receiving end of them. I also like taking such things up because they make for great opportunities to do some extra reading, brush up on theory, and articulate my thoughts on matters of design (and life!).

That said, I’ve also turned down many teaching opportunities because it’s something I’m wary of doing too much of, so early in my career. After all, I still have a lot more to learn than I have to teach.

The best part of my day is always the design work itself—be it coming up with ideas, executing them, or even, say, conducting workshops with a client, or collaborating with my printers.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

Right now, I’m designing a book on the ‘101 Best Movies of the 2010s’ in collaboration with a film podcast that I love, Battleship Pretension. We’re literally on opposite time zones, but it’s shaping up to be a great project and experience.

What’s on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?

Only a fool would attempt to plan his life beyond perhaps the coming week in these volatile times! I am a bit of a fool, though.

On the professional front, I have a few projects that are on the verge of completion. The gestation period for them has been very long, so I’m really looking forward to finally seeing them out there in the world.

On the personal front, I’m hoping to start working less erratic hours. I’m also hoping to start travelling again (fingers crossed). And, as tends to be my yearly resolution, I’m hoping to watch a lot more films. Oh, and here’s something that straddles both professional and personal: I’m currently in the process of setting up my new apartment + studio/workspace—I’m really quite stoked about that!

2020 for you in a sentence.

Professionally: unrelenting—which I’m grateful for, of course, but work-from-home has dissolved all boundaries, which isn’t entirely healthy.

Personally: introspective, given this is the most amount of time I’ve spent with no one for company but myself!

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