The Advertising world is a treasure trove of ideas ! But great ideas need a communication medium that transcends cultures, boundaries and languages through a universal appeal.

Our next pathbreaker, Nithin Rao, is an illustrator who creates thought provoking illustrations for ad agencies and other clients, communicating their ideas in a compelling way.

Nithin talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from the Interview Portal about his early interest in art and subsequent transition to freelancing which gives him the freedom to choose his work and create unique interpretation based on art.

Nithin, tell us about your background?

I grew up in a small town called Kumble in Kerala. As a kid I was always interested in sketching, clay modelling, drama basically anything to do with being creative. My father had a business which required photography and videography equipment. He always introduced me to new gadgets and technology and encouraged me to draw more. When I was 6 years old my school teacher said I could draw well and started sending me to different art competitions just to encourage me to learn new stuff and improve my skills. Unlike other kids I did not stop drawing even when I was growing up mainly because nobody interfered with my academic performance, not even my teachers. They always said that i needed to be good at something.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I did Bachelors in Fine Art (specialisation in applied art) from Karnataka Chitrakala Parishad

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

When I was 10 one local journalist told my parents that he knows an artist who can guide in choosing my career path. So we met the artist and he told us about a Fine Arts college in Bangalore. But he he also said that language is the most important thing, so it is good to study till 12th and then go to the fine art college.

After two years of foundation I had to choose a specialization among painting, applied arts, sculpture and lithography. Though I wanted to learn all of these we didn’t have an option for that. I was good at painting anyway, so I decided to join Applied arts where I can learn more about designing.

Unlike today, the internet was not widely available. All the knowledge and information was available mostly in the books and magazines in library. I referred many ad magazines and illustrators portfolio books. I knew’that in order to become an illustrator I needed to learn art direction and understand the work culture in advertising agencies.

I applied for an internship in a very small design studio because I knew I can learn more in a short span of time. Bigger agencies may not give the opportunities to the students. But we should never look at the size of the agency as our main intension is to gain knowledge about the industry.

How did you get your first break?

As I completed my internship for a month I had to go back to college and finish my final year project work. I worked hard and tried to learn different software as much as possible from the design studio which helped me in making my project work better. My creative director was impressed with my skills and offered me a job at the ad agency after my exams got over.

What were the challenges? How did u address them?

The biggest challenge in the advertising industry is to manage time. I’m the kind of person who loves to complete the work and then talk. But when you are working in a team it becomes difficult to manage time. As a result the work output doesn’t come out the way you have imagined. I felt other members of the team were not just wasting their time but mine too. I worked as art director with three major ad agencies in 5 years. Everywhere it was the same story. So I had to come up with a solid plan and solution for myself. It was the time when nobody in this country had any idea about digital art. I had already started developing a style of illustration. I kept saving money as a backup and after completing five years I quit my job and told everyone that I’ll be doing freelancing as an illustrator. 

Where do you work now?

I’m full time freelancers working from home for the past 10 years.

I help ad agencies and clients improve their basic ideas into beautiful and effective visuals. I work on Photoshop, and Wacom Cintiq touch screen monitor. You can learn Phtoshop in a month by joining any computer design course like Arena. But Art skill is something you need to develop on your own. I’ve been learning and developing my skill for more than a decade.

Each day is different. I don’t have a routine. When I have a brief, I work on it for more than 12 hours a day. And sometimes I take a break. I love the freedom to explore in my job.

How does your work benefit the society?

My work refreshes people’s minds and gives them a new perspective about the same ideas which everyone has. For example you like the transformer movie. But I personalised that concept and created Indian roads with a transformer kind of Rickshaw. This makes people connect more with the work I do. The idea is always there. But how you approach and improvise it in your own style is what makes it different.

Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!

My favourite works keeps changing with my skill. At present I love the “Indian princess” series of artworks which I’ve been creating for last few months. This is something which no other artists have thought of so far. So I’m more excited about creating these as I can create a new identity and a benchmark. Personal works are more close to me than commercial works. And so far that is what I have observed. People react more to my personal works than commercial illustrations.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Listen to all the comments. But take only those comments that you like. Being polite to everyone is very important. But that doesn’t mean you should agree with all the comments that you get. Saying NO is an art. Only you can improve your skills. So listen and follow what you believe is right for your work. Being lazy is fine, but only after you have completed the work.

Can you share some of your work with us?

For more illustrations please visit:

Future plans?

I’m planning to never retire. I love my work. So I want to keep creating new artworks for rest of my life.