Whether it is about spreading awareness on health issues, creating engaging content or providing a rich and interactive experience, sectors like Healthcare, Education, Gaming and Food have strikingly similar challenges. How do you communicate to your audience in a meaningful and interesting way so people take notice?  

In the recent years Visual design has emerged as a powerful tool, breaking down abstract concepts into compelling graphics that communicate the message in a clear and concise manner.

Akash Saxena, our next pathbreaker, talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his work across diverse sectors where he uses his creative skills in Graphic Design to create visuals that deliver an impactful message.

For students good in Fine Art, Graphic Design is now a mainstream career that has become an integral part of every business that wants to deliver messages through interactive storytelling!

Akash, tell us about your background?

I was born in Patna. From my school days I was very much interested in sketching and painting. At that time I didn’t realize that I would make a career in it one day. I was doing almost everything from making portraits of friends to watercolor paintings, rangoli and mehendi designs. Different arts & craft stuff attracted me quite a bit. 

My father never liked my hobby as I was a science student interested in fine arts. According to my father I was wasting my time because there were not many career options in Arts and everyone wanted their son to be an engineer.

What did you study?

I did my studies and graduation (B.Sc. electronics) in Kanpur, U.P. Although I wanted to graduate in fine arts, due to lack of knowledge and other circumstances, I took admission in B.Sc. 

I also did short term courses in hardware & networking, php and MySQL. Currently I am doing MCA via distance learning.

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

In my teenage years i used to watch a show named “Splat!” on Discovery channel. It was based on art and animation. That channel used to showcase the best creative works in animation or design from all over the world. That is when the idea of becoming a Graphic Designer started taking shape in my mind.

After graduation I tried to do jobs in different types of fields like water purifier salesman, inverter technician, part time teacher etc. I even joined my family business temporarily. But none of the jobs made me feel complete. I didnt feel like I wanted to do this job for my whole life. During this time I learnt Photoshop and illustrator from my aunt, who is a graphic designer. I also did some short courses on web designing and networking so i could make my career in this field. 

How did you get your first break?

After college I was not getting a job in Kanpur, so my aunt suggested that i do freelancing on an online website. My journey as a graphic designer began with my work on that website.

I used to make logos, removing background or retouching images. Later on I started doing concept sketching of characters, creating mockups of products, tattoo design, digital painting, colouring of line art for comics. I had some good international and Indian clients. I got to know different types of graphic work being done around the world. I had 4.5 rating out 5. It was a kind of achievement for me. This rating also helped in my first job interview. From there I began my journey as a graphic designer. After 3 years i decided to expand my horizons.. 

At a family gathering I got a chance to meet a relative who had a software business in Mumbai. He liked my qualifications and told me to join his company. But though it was not graphic designing but business development, I was happy that I was getting a chance to do something. I started working there and kept practicing on my graphic skills and looking for opportunities. After working with them for a few months my resume got shortlisted in a gaming company, “Big Leaps Studio” at Charni road at Mumbai. And here I got my first big leap. 

At that company I used to make stages, menu and other screens for the game. It was basically a matte painting type of work. There I had to first create a theme and then place objects in such a way that they looked a part of it. To be able to do that you should have a good understanding of light , shadows and perspective. Thankfully I already knew sketching and painting, so understanding the perspective and environment was not a big issue for me. 

Tell us about your career path

After game designing I got job in the e-learning domain. It was a whole new experience for me. I learnt how e-learning modules are made and how they worked.

E-learning modules are basically interactive courses where a student studies the content with animation, narration and quizzes and small inbuilt games. It makes learning very exciting rather than just reading a book. E-learning modules are popular in foreign universities. It’s also getting popular in India in the form of online courses.

I would be given a storyboard and content from content writers and the instructional designer. They used to guide me on the look and feel of the course. Adobe captivate, Lectora and Articulate storyline are the software applications used in e-learning. To work on these one should have good working knowledge of PowerPoint. Knowledge of Photoshop, illustrator or any other graphic software would be an added bonus.

I also learned how to work in a team, which includes a project manager, visualizer , content writers and instructional designers. I learnt how to work in a timely and systematic way. If you slow down the whole team could lose the pace. 

After that I joined a pharmaceutical company. It was a big manufacturer and exporter of medicines. There I had to learn about printing terminologies and how to target Indian customers.

 Most of the work was related to making artworks for cartons and tubes , foils , LBL, posters, visiting cards, calendars, banners, booklets and many other types of printing works. 

I worked on different types of medicines, cosmetics and contraceptives. When working I was given details from the Managing director or a Medico person. I had to be very careful because once the designs are made they are sent to QC and legal team of company, after which no mistake is allowed. All the work was to be done by legal guidelines.

I learned about printing techniques like matte finish , hot stamping, etc on different types of papers and their thickness in gsm.  

Here is some of my work in Pharmaceuticals :

When I joined Monginis foods pvt ltd, I had to work more efficiently because it is a respected brand famous for it’s cake and pastries. I was making creatives for all India marketing and production. 

I joined the head office of the company. I already had knowledge of printing techniques and the role of legal guidelines in design, so that experience gave me an edge when I joined there. Here I had to work according to the guidelines of FSSAI. 

I had to work according brand guidelines when it came to marketing. I used to work on posters, banners, leaflets, stall designs for marketing and other shop or outdoor activities as well as making artworks for new/existing products and other packing materials.

I had to work with production and procurement for product design. They guided me on FSSAI guidelines and I made designs or amendments as per suggestions. Then we would get it approved from Directors of the company. After finalizing the design I give the design to print. 

Some products were specially made for Diwali, Christmas and New Year. We used to have meetings to discuss the details with managers and directors. We would discuss previous and upcoming trends and how we could introduce something new to our customers and what would be the impact. I learned how product categories work and how specific customers are targeted so that we have something for every type of person. All these discussions were a great learning experience for me. I was very happy to be part of this. 

In marketing activities I had to work according to the Brand Manager (my boss). We had brand guidelines for everything from shop interior to exterior advertising. I worked on seasonal activities and events, making creatives and distributing them to all franchises. I had to work 1 month ahead so all activities like distribution and printing could be done within time. Sometimes i also designed stalls for outdoor activities. 

I also worked for Mongini’s Facebook page, making cover design, posts, gifs, carousel etc. I also made 2 animated videos for Republic Day and Christmas.

What were the challenges? How did you address them?

Initial challenges were getting adapted to a fast moving city like Mumbai. And then I realized that I needed to refine my skills a lot. I also had to keep learning new things to survive.

Where do you work now? 

Currently I am working at 6sigma healthcare communications at Kandivali. Here I work as Senior Graphic Designer.

I make concepts for medical marketing for various big pharmaceutical companies. They give me an idea about the required creative. So first I start to make a concept sketch and if it looks good then I move on to decide the color scheme and feel of the creative. After that I proceed to graphic software like illustrator and Photoshop for the final artwork.

Skills needed for my job are concept building and knowledge of designing software.

I start my work with a concept idea and try to find the best possible way to represent that idea. Usually I make 2 or 3 options which we refine in later steps.

I am happy to get an opportunity to work on different types of concepts for some big brands of the pharmaceutical sector. So everyday is different and starts with what new I can do to today. 

How does your work benefit the society? 

Currently I work in medical advertising which helps doctors or their patients understand the situation in a much better way, graphically. Making  concepts helps connect with the doctor and patient in an emotional way. Generally people are not aware of the disease and how badly it can affect their life. So when they see the issue in an emotional representation they get connected to the topic.

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

In my current company I made a digital awareness program for breast cancer. It was first of a kind project for me and my company too. When it got delivered to premium hospital, it was a proud moment for me and I got awarded for that too.

And in Monginis there were few moments, when my creatives for the kala ghoda art festival, and my animated video got published on official Facebook page. These were some good memories for me. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Try to understand what your heart wants and think if you want to do this job for your whole life. Analyze all the pros and cons. 

If you want to choose graphic design, keep in mind that it’s a very open field. Even if the client wants something that even they don’t know they still want it to be the best. You have to be patient and listen to their requirements properly. Try to deliver something that matches the client’s thoughts. You may have a creative thought or concept in your mind but it will not matter if your client doesn’t like it or if you can’t convince him. 

Keep learning new technologies, tips & tricks, new software, new plugins etc. Watch tutorial videos etc. Do smart work. Be ready to take new challenges. 

Future Plans?

After completing my MCA I want to go ahead in the field of gaming or e-learning or Interactive learning. There are lots of possibilities in these areas. 

Check out Akash’s work on Behance: