Maanasa Mahesh

A big congrats to Indian Designer, Maanasa Mahesh, one of our 30 TDK Awards 19' winners'! Maanasa's work was chosen by Annie Atkins. Annie's epic feedback was: "In Maanasa’s Conscious Consumption project she picks some tricky, taboo subjects and spotlights them with a deft and refreshing touch. While it’s clear Maanasa is developing her own personal illustrative style, she also shows an aptitude for versatility. Her work is simultaneously socially conscious and visually pleasing: one of the products she has designed, a beautiful soap that turns into its own soap holder to reduce waste in packaging, is so beautiful that I want it to be put into production just so that I can buy it for my own bathroom. Great portfolio!" We chat with Maanasa about getting stuck into the design process, her passion for social issue design, and how grateful she is for feedback from her friends and peers!

What do you wish you’d known now when you started your design course?

There can be a lot of self-imposed pressure when you first start your design course. If I had to give myself a piece of advice back then it would be: don’t worry so much about what everyone’s doing and the onset about the final product and instead dive deep into the design process. I wish I knew how important it is to be patient and that it’s ok to do horrible work. Even the best designers of our time were bad at some point, and school is the best place to do bad work and get feedback. It’s just a matter of working hard, understanding yourself and the timing of things. It’s also very important to take a step back from your work and do other things. Whether it’s playing a sport, learning an instrument or collecting rare stamps, it’s important to have distractions and not let your work take control of you. I also think that seeing new art, watching movies and experiencing things not necessarily about design is so important to develop a rich repertory.

What originally lead you in to design, and how has that changed? What do you want to do/are doing now?

At age 10, my mother noticed my inclination towards drawing and asked if I’d like to join an art class. I said no, and that I’d rather do my own thing. So I grew up reading an unhealthy amount stories from my grandfather’s comic book collection, and would draw my own stories too. When I first heard about a course called graphic design, my mind was blown. I couldn’t believe that I could draw/design for a living. Before I knew it, I was immersed in the world of design and was exposed to all the various kinds of disciplines. I guess I always was secretly a graphic designer though, even if I didn’t know it. I would spend all my time picking out chocolates based on which wrapper looked the best, and I definitely did judge a book by it’s cover. Right now, I’m in my final year of uni and trying to learn as much about this wonderful subject as possible. I am leaning towards designing for social issues I am passionate about.

Any hot tips for getting ahead at uni?

– Don’t be too precious with your work – It’s important to put it out there, the quicker you are able to get a bit of a thicker skin your work can grow and in turn become a better designer.

– Making friends with the people around you is very important. I’ve received some of the best feedback on my work from peers.

– Take every assignment you get, and turn it into something that you would love to work on. Experiment and make mistakes, failure is good.

– Stand up for your work – although it sounds like a contradiction to #1 learn when to fight for your ideas if you believe in them. I think this has become even more apparent to me working with freelance clients.

– Enjoy work, enjoy play, drink loads of water and get enough sleep!

What do you love about the design scene in your city and what companies are on your dream list to work or collaborate with?

This is a dynamic time for designers and design companies in Chennai, India. While graphic design as a discipline is still relatively in its infancy, numerous young studios are popping up in response to an abundance of work and clients that are (slowly) becoming more receptive to the power of good design. India has always had a fantastically joyous history of graphic design, from fluorescent painted signs advertising goods on the walls of the smallest villages, to the practice of auto rickshaw owners adorning their vehicles in everything from flowers, birds and even popular actresses. I love watching the graphic landscape change and evolve. Jessica Walsh, Annie Atkins, Paula Scher and Lotta Nieminen have always been huge inspirations to me. They have done great work and are pushing the boundaries towards what graphic design can be. Hope I could have a conversation with them some day. I also would love to learn from and work with artists from other fields too, such as musicians or filmmakers.

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

This year I’ll be finishing off my degree and hopefully will be taking on projects that are both fun and challenging! For the coming years, I’m hoping to not lose momentum, and to continue pushing myself as much as possible by gaining more experience.

Where to find Maanasa:

Instagram: @maanasamahesh


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