Young Berlin-based communication designer Khyati Trehan has already been pointed out as a talent to watch out for
What drew you to visual art?
I studied in a school called Mirambika in New Delhi where we’d make bridges over ponds to learn about architecture, go to France to learn French, and do pottery and carpentry between math and science. Learning was free of structures and sounded more like ‘look what I discovered’ than
lines marked with highlighters in a syllabus textbook. I found myself spending a lot of time in the art room and here we are!
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, where I pursued a Bachelor’s in Design, echoed my time at Mirambika in the way that it relied on the Bauhaus methodology of learning through doing. National Institute of Design has given me the ability to think strategically and design with empathy, and also bring those ideas to fruition. When I’ve conceived an idea, I also have the ability to carefully craft it. This is because National Institute of Design lays a lot of emphasis on building a strong foundation and sharpening your senses.
What, in your opinion, defines good visual art today?
Good visual art is a combination of solid technique, a good sense of esthetics and good ideas.
Describe your style.
I think (and hope) that my work is independent of style and instead, driven by the brief. My personal work that lives outside of briefs is born from an idea that slowly takes shape. Since every idea is different, so is the illustration style it ends up belonging to.
What inspires you?
When I start a visual design project, words are a good place to start. Describing the problem in different ways also lets me paint a picture from different perspectives. This is a small exercise I’ve started doing to help me imagine possibilities even before putting pen to paper. I also get inspired from shuffling between tools. Exploring new disciplines in my pursuit of versatility has been fruitful, because I end up creating something I didn’t expect of myself.
What are the challenges you have to deal with?
I often struggle with balancing the intuitive with the process driven. What kind of project allows spontaneity and when should you adopt frameworks to work with?
When did you become passionate about 3D art?
I started dabbling in 3D art when I took a break from working at studios and managed to have a lot of time on my hands. Sanchit Sawaria, who’s also from National Institute of Design, was the first person I knew who worked with Cinema 4D. Designing in 3D gives a new dimension to the way I visualize ideas. But it has also worked the other way. I feel that there are so many concepts that surface just because of knowing the possibilities of a tool.
Which have been your most memorable projects?
For my second classroom project at National Institute of Design, I worked
on ‘The Beauty of Scientific Diagrams’, a series of alphabets and posters that merged initials of inventors/discoverers with the diagrams that they were responsible for. I spent more time in the company of patent drawings and scientific text books than I did stippling 23 out of 26 illustrative letters. The most challenging part of the project was figuring out how to distort the diagrams to fit the respective letter such that it wasn’t rendered useless, so that if a physical model was made in front of you, it would work as efficiently as the original diagram. This meant a lot of studying was involved.
Last year, I was honored to be named as one of Print Magazine’s ‘15 New Visual Artists under 30’ and was asked to create a cover for the issue. My cover was a 3D illustration of a window that invited people to peek into the work and playground of 2018’s new visual designers.
London (visa issues), Fabrica (rejection after trial), Google Creative Lab (visa issues) before Anne Pascual found me on Instagram, of all places. I moved to Berlin to join the Design Studio, a team co-founded by IDEO and Zalando.
The Design Studio is the unit that drives innovation in the digital experience of Zalando. As a communication designer, I define and design concepts for content design and brand expression and communicate product design vision to the rest of the company. My work spans from art directing films, creating visual narratives, and drawing identities to creating digital prototypes.
How do you tackle the cultural and professional differences there?
In India, as a visual designer who was used to specific briefs and tight constraints, I realized that ambiguity scared me. We’re so good at working with whatever little we have, and being accommodating, that being catapulted into the luxury of possibilities feels unfamiliar and daunting. The Studio has been a great place for working on this discomfort, as it’s a small team that uses IDEO’s human-centered design thinking process to ask and answer big questions that would have otherwise never landed on my plate.
I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in every part of the process, from immersing into the lives of people through in-home interviews, identifying patterns in the things we hear from them, defining opportunities, prototyping (the bit where all eyes in the team turn to me) to testing to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Working in Germany has also introduced me to the concept of work-life balance. Working in Indian studios often involves hard work, whereas working overseas where having weekends off and strict work times is the norm, pushes a culture of planning your hours and efficiency.
What took you to Germany?
A little over a year ago, I was weighing the pros and cons of doing a Master’s. Somewhere between the gazillion open tabs of college websites, I decided that instead of paying to study, I’d rather learn and get paid. Working in a new field combined with navigating through life in a strange country sounded like a good replacement for studying further. Of course, it was a series of unfortunate events including an internship at Sagmeister & Walsh (visa rejected), Saffron London (visa issues), Fabrica (rejection after trial), Google Creative Lab (visa issues) before Anne Pascual found me on Instagram, of all places. I moved to Berlin to join the Design Studio, a team co-founded by IDEO and Zalando.
The Design Studio is the unit that drives innovation in
the digital experience of Zalando. As a communication designer, I define and design concepts for content design and brand expression and communicate product design vision to the rest of the company. My work spans from art directing films, creating visual narratives, and drawing identities to creating digital prototypes.
The next natural step for me is to jump into the deep end of the human-centered pool and help build narratives that make people feel something. In February 2019, I’m moving to Munich to start working at IDEO as a communication designer and visual storyteller.
This article was originally published in POOL 101.
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