Women In Design
Monthly Feature // May 2022
Shweta Malhotra is a Graphic Designer/Graphic Artist based in Bombay, India. With 16 years of experience, Shweta currently works as an independent graphic designer/graphic artist and has a keen interest in design for lifestyle, fashion, and music. Her overall design aesthetic is minimal, bold, and graphic — a response to the maximalist visual language prevalent in India.
Shweta Malhotra is an independent artist and graphic designer from Mumbai as well as a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AIGA). Her minimalist aesthetic is characterized by geometric patterns and abstract designs, with a diverse color palette that contributes to her individual style. With about 16 years of experience as a designer, Shweta collaborated with numerous renowned brands before she began her journey of freelancing. Apart from her precise and intricate practice in graphics, which is the result of years of experience, her zealousness in learning and growing as a designer is quite captivating.
On her journey, learning, and exploring
Just like any of you would have wondered, we too wanted to learn what shaped and grounded Shweta’s incredible design journey "I went to an art college in Bombay — Sophia Polytechnic and studied commercial arts for five years. From then, I got into advertising. I didn't know what I wanted to do back then, but I had won a gold medal and was touring various agencies. So I did that until I decided to join McCann as a visualizer. I worked at McCann for roughly a year and a half before moving to Contract advertising as an art director for another year and a half. After that, I went to Ogilvy for a year. After an adventurous journey into advertising, having worked with some renowned names in the industry both back then, and now, Shweta realized something that could possibly — indefinitely — change her path in life “I realized that advertising wasn't my cup of tea.” A realization that put Shweta on the path she was meant to be on. Amidst her realization, she received an opportunity that may have helped nudge her onto the right path “I had the pleasure to visit this location at Italy's Benetton research center, Fabrica. They have a rather rigorous selection process — however, I made it through the second round and spent a month there. I enjoyed working on Colors Magazine, and they were doing some very cool design work there. Then I simply chose to return and transition to graphic design, applying to a number of design studios before landing at Grandmother India Design. I stayed there for a couple of years. After that, Re-diffusion design for another year again.” After what felt like a valuable yet long journey experiencing the ins and outs of the design industry Shweta began her iconic journey as a freelancer. “ I began freelancing in Bombay and spent five years in Delhi — where I built everything from scratch and gained a lot of influence and inspiration. It felt like a part of me as I grew more into designing. Soon after—five years later—I returned to Bombay. And I've been on my own for approximately eight years now." And that folks, has been Shweta’s journey up until now! Full of experiences that shaped her as an individual today, probably filled with ups and downs along the way. Despite all, she was motivated throughout, just as she is today.
When it comes to motivation, whether you're an entirely composed creative or just commencing, we know it's not simple to conform to a constantly shifting reality full of varied ideas and concepts, but for Shweta — it's a completely different process. "I feel that you have to be aware of what's going on and read up.” Switching, learning, and exploring new tools and technologies that enter the industry on a constant basis is vital, as Shweta knows — however in her quest to evolve into a better designer daily she crosses hurdles and takes it a day at a time “I honestly want to learn new tools since I've been dabbling with motion graphics, and I also want to start utilizing Figma because it's an excellent web tool that most designers use. So, I guess, coming from a slightly old school, the longer journey it takes a little longer to absorb and get into it. But I strive to stay informed, such as right now in the NFT space — where I've been researching, reading, and exploring."
On navigating her design career
We all occasionally struggle with balancing personal projects with our professional obligations. Maintaining a healthy relationship between the two can be challenging, when asked Shweta explained "I mean, obviously, client projects take precedence. However, on weekends I work on personal projects and during the week, if there's time or less work, I can squeeze it in during that time.” She goes on to tell us “Working on my website or doing things that I'm currently attempting to achieve, such as exploring NFTs and Motion Graphics. So I haven't done many personal projects in a long time. During the pandemic, I also undertook pro bono work for social causes and related projects. Personal projects require time and attention, but perhaps scheduling your responsibilities, such as client assignments on other days and personal tasks on Saturdays or weekends or whatever works for you." A proper balance between personal and professional pursuits is essential to keep everything in order (something we all know but find hard to follow), and Shweta understands this better than anyone.
What was a significant turning point in your design career? We asked Shweta. "This happened very recently!” she expressed joyfully “Two years ago, I was inducted into the AGI - which is the international body for Alliance Graphique Internationale. When I got selected and inducted as a member of the team, it was a great feeling of being on par with some of the best designers in the world. That was my most recent accomplishment and a career highlight." What an achievement to have strapped under your belt. We’re so happy and excited for Shweta and all that she’s yet to accomplish — congratulations!
The Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) is an organisation that houses some of the world's top graphic designers and artists. There are 527 members representing 43 different countries. Its members have designed the identities of most of the world's leading organisations and institutions, as well as countless examples of widely recognised packaging, publications, graphics, and posters.
Artists enjoy crafting stories, and the elements they employ are in line with their vision. It's always fascinating to see how each shape or linear pattern contributes to the overall picture. The use of geometric shapes by Shweta gives us a similar impression. She adds, "If you've seen my work, you'll notice that it's minimal and geometric, with a distinct color palette. As a result, I enjoy experimenting with various shapes. I try to start at the top and remove elements one by one to get the most minimal shape that still seems like what it's supposed to be.” She goes on to explain “This applies to my professional and personal work. Many clients come to me because of my personal style. So that's a win-win situation. Otherwise, if you're working on a commercial project and following a brief, you're obviously solely considering that project or brief. However, this is how my personal style has evolved over the years."
On Overcoming Barriers and reaching out to new clients
"Having worked in the industry for such a long time, I have a lot of relationships and I’ve always been a part of a community. As a result, everything works out. There's also Instagram, which has been quite beneficial to me. I would host my work and share my website, or if I had a client I wanted to work with, I would just write to them in various ways. As of today, I would say that Instagram is the most effective marketing platform, but it also depends on your actions, such as networking." to which we absolutely agree. Placing yourself strategically and correctly could benefit you in various ways; as proven today.
Instagram has evolved over the last few years from a simple photo-sharing tool to a hub for professionals from all sectors, creating multiple opportunities for everyone. Shweta prefers to contact individuals by a phone call in addition to using the app "And you can also sometimes connect through a phone call. I frequently call my former bosses to say "Hey" to discuss my new website, or just to stay in touch with everyone. It's simple to share the data on the internet with relevant clients or people, so there's some recall value."
For some experienced designers, collaborating with companies or networking with them is not necessarily a win-win situation. Almost all professionals struggle with networking, therefore direct texting or sending lucrative emails comes in handy. Shweta shares her thoughts on the relevant subject of cold-emailing. "I haven't given it much thought. I simply write whatever comes to mind. I consider the brands I'd like to collaborate with and only write to them. They occasionally respond. Sometimes they don't, or they'll say something like "maybe in the future," but I like to try and see, If my first thought is "Oh my! I love this brand. I'd love to collaborate," then I'd sit down and start writing. So that's how I go about doing things and sharing my work. I'll probably include a couple of images if there's any relevant work. I don't follow a template or something. I haven't done so far in that regard, but it still works for me."
Lastly, we asked Shweta what she sees as the future of design "NFTs, in my opinion, are basically a game-changer for everyone. So, based on what I've learned, I'm assuming it has a lot to do with your luck, your network, and who you connect with, and you'll have to figure out how it works. And I believe NFT is altering a lot of things, such as the fact that you can now share your artwork without the need of a gallery to display your work. You can also make a lot of money and get some recognition for your efforts. So I believe that is something that everyone should be aiming for."
What's next for you
"I've always wanted to do an actual art show. And that's something that's on my mind. I haven't done anything yet other than think about a theme. I've always wanted to do one, perhaps in the form of a panel. Because it's something I'm enthusiastic about, I'll continue to work by reaching out to individuals who share my interests. Things were going great with two brands in the pandemic, but it was all thrown out because of what was going on. So it was frustrating, but there is clearly something in the apparel industry that I would like to explore. I also want to pursue a career in motion graphics. Maybe later, as I mentioned after the fact I understand and get into web design. Those are smaller objectives, but otherwise, I think NFT and will absolutely do an Archer at some time, but I'll have to think about it and then get started. The less, the better."
Takeaways for upcoming creatives
"Lately most young designers are just starting out on their own. I believe you should work first and gain experience for a period of time. You must have industrial experience. For example, you can't just start doing your thing and branch out. I've seen a lot of people who work for a year or two and then become frustrated and start freelancing. However, for me that the experience has been beneficial. I'm not sure, because obviously, my time was very different from the present, but regardless I still stand by it.”
Get to know Shweta
A font that you swear by.
Accidents, Grotesque, or New Trophy
The key trait that every designer should have.
Which artist(s) are you listening to right now?
Roosevelt, Drake, and Jackets
What are your thoughts on cosmic sounds?
I will never use it.
Interview edited by: Dhruti Soni, Srijana Ghosh & Shweta Malhotra
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.