• Women In Design

Anahita Kayan

Monthly Feature // August 2021

Through years of experience, this mother of two has honed her abilities and aesthetic sensibilities with a practice that is an amalgamation of deep-rooted research and mindful design.



Anahita Kayan, Founder and Creative Director of The Space At 9/2, entered the world of design with a vision to challenge the status quo and constantly make people question established norms. Through years of experience, this mother of two has honed her abilities and aesthetic sensibilities with a practice that is an amalgamation of deep-rooted research and mindful design. This strongly reflects in the works of The Space At 9/2 — her multidisciplinary design studio that has been consistently changing the way we view design in India.


On building The Space At 9/2


"The idea of The Space At 9/2 was seeded at our first show titled G//A//P - the Guerrilla Art Project, where we wanted creatives from all fields and practices to interpret an old colonial Bungalow complex as a mural, which a year later ended up housing our gallery — The Space At Chowringhee."


Building from there on, Anahita shares their story of evolution and says, “People have trusted and valued us through the work we've done across different fields and levels of expertise. This allowed us to expand our offerings to consulting, design, and also research work overtime. However, what has remained consistent from the very start until now is our intent to build experiences with impactful strategy and design, without being hindered by trends.” Based on this philosophy, while they elevated their skills as brand consultants and designers working across different disciplines and mediums, they also hosted and curated some very experiential exhibits and events like The Social Experiment: Dinner With Strangers and The Alternate State.


The Protagonist: Photographed at an empty theatre, partly on film and partly using a DSLR. Brand: Maku; Models: Ciara Burbridge, Shaireen Butt, Diti Saha, Tanisha Mukherjee; Photography: Tito; Styling & Direction by The Space At 9/2



Acknowledging the importance of a strong team behind the success of all their work, Anahita shares with utmost pride that The Space At 9/2 is an all-women’s studio. When asked if they had experienced any challenges due to this, Anahita says, "We've always managed to be headstrong with our opinions, and put our points forth very successfully. There have been a few learning curves but people have been very appreciative of the fact that it's a completely women-run enterprise. I actually find it interesting how every person who comes to the studio is always challenging themselves to make sure that there is a balance in their lives. No matter what's going on in their personal life, when they step into The Space At 9/2, when they are at the studio, it is all about quality work."


On Design processes & Leadership


Anahita further shares how their processes are key to the quality of outcomes they create, “Before going into the visual style, our approach to any project begins with a collaborative understanding of the theme or the problem statement from different points of view. The aim is always to be informed of the external environment and factor that in any design decisions that we make. The reason behind this detail-oriented approach is to make sure we understand the underlying sentiments of the target audience and connect with them. While our structure and processes for every project remains consistent, our perspective depends on our research and the medium of communication.”


One of our more playful branding projects is for a food truck based out of Zurich, Switzerland. Crazy Belly brings crazy good food for any mood. The identity extension brings different characters seen around the area imagined through off-beat illustrations and catch phrases describing moods and their dishes using a combination of German and English such as 'Insane for Haanschen', Loco for Koko



As an example of the process, Anahita recollects a project that the studio undertook in May, 2020 when people across the world were restricted to their homes because of the pandemic. “There was a longing for people to move out of their spaces. Tapping into this emotion we conceptualised a campaign called ‘A World Through My Window’ where we reached out to our network to send in videos of the world through their window. These videos were then curated and edited to be in tune with the visual language of the brand, Duet Luxury, hoping to immerse the audience into experiencing someone else’s world.”


When asked about how she evaluates the work that the studio does, she says “One thing that helps us create work which is original and experimental, is never to get comfortable and follow trends. It is important to be informed about trends but it is also important that we as designers are more forward-looking and make sure that we deliver outcomes which resonate the same philosophy.”


Talking about her experience leading a design studio Anahita says, "I always ensure to let every single member of the team have a voice and a room for expression and exploration. Each team member has a different skill-set and way of thinking and the success or failure of any project depends on how we hone these skills and apply them to the project. So the delegation of work has to come from a deep understanding of your team and clarity of vision for the project. ”


On Exhibition design


"Exhibition design is one of our strongest forte’s. As a practice, it is truly multidisciplinary – aptly reflecting all our skills and expertise as a team."


Exhibit Design & Visual Identity Design from Elemental Shift by Devina Salarpuria. The exhibit manifests a crossroads of fashion and indigenous craft to discuss the future of fashion. The post-modernist sheetal patti pieces created by Studio Moda India / Devina Salarpuria, are used as beacons to talk about fashion as a system and how the process of making the pieces can be a wonderful parallel to what the fashion industry could become in a more sustainable light.


Expanding on all that the practice of exhibition design entails, Anahita says, "We like to understand the topic from different angles – we want to know everything about it before we conceptualise the narrative. When we're working on an exhibit design project, or curating one, it's all about building a concept and a narrative. We express it through the spatial medium and build interactions within it using multiple other forms like print, 2D-3D play, generative art and more.”


On asking her to elaborate on what it is like to be hands-on when it comes to Exhibit Design, Anahita says, “While designing the layout you have to be extremely conscious of how a visitor will interact with the place, so you also end up working with behavior and psychology on some level. But when you deal with production, it's a different ball game altogether that requires the understanding of how certain materials work with each other, what kind of signages are you putting, where and what height are you putting them up, and so much more."


A single page ‘Workstation’ developed as part of the website for Drayp: A SaaS engine that helps visualise designs by creating mock-ups, within just a few clicks. We added a toggle between the two sides of the Workstation to let the user divide the screen to fit what they wish to see more of.



Contrary to popular belief, an exhibit doesn’t end at spatial media, it rather translates into a holistic experience beyond it. Elaborating on this, she says, “What we are putting out on digital platforms like the website and what kind of graphic design elements are you bringing in; they all are important questions to answer when working on exhibit design to ensure that the tangible experience you build in physical reality translates onto an ongoing experience over time. Besides the events that take place during the exhibit, it’s the conversations that spark from it and persist even after it ends.”


Despite how challenging Exhibit Design sounds, Anahita shares what she loves about the experience of building one, "It is the act of creating something intense and meaningful. Finding out that the viewer experienced the exhibit exactly the way we had intended is what makes us feel content. It boils down to what the visitor takes away from that particular exhibit. For me, that makes it a wonderful niche to be in.”


Takeaways for creatives


And lastly, a word of advice for all the creatives out there, "Always have your own voice, and make sure it reflects in the work you create. It's great to have idols and styles to look up to, but at the end of the day, the way you express yourself is yours alone. The industry is always going to throw different hurdles that you just have to face with strength. Also, never forget the planning and strategic side of things because as much as we are creatives, and thinkers, it's always important to look at what you do as a business – it should always make sense. You can always create for yourself, but if you're going to be a professional, or run a studio or an agency, make sure it always makes business sense and if you can do it without compromising your vision, I think it's nirvana!"


One of our more playful branding projects is for a food truck based out of Zurich, Switzerland. Crazy Belly brings crazy good food for any mood. The identity extension brings different characters seen around the area imagined through off-beat illustrations and catch phrases describing moods and their dishes using a combination of German and English such as 'Insane for Haanschen', Loco for Koko



A little more about Anahita


Favourite Art Movement?

Dadaism, Art Deco.


A city you've enjoyed travelling to?

New York.


What are you reading currently?

A lot of publications and articles about fashion & Technology.


A popular TV show you recommend binging?

Game of thrones, ZeroZeroZero.


A font you swear by?

Schnyder.




Interview edited by : Sakshi Mundada, Ashwini Muralikumar & The Space at 9/2 team.





We're always open to other perspectives, opinions, and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!


With 🧡 Team WID.



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