Taarika John’s The Malayalee Alphanet, a series of posters she created, illustrating Malayalee characters for every letter of the alphabet, was a hit on the social media networks recently.
We caught up with Taarika and asked her a few questions:
Why are you not in nursing or engineering? At least civil engineering? 🙂 When did you know this is what you wanted to study and pursue?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My parents always kept me occupied with books, crayons and sheets of paper. In school, I was always more interested in History and English, than in Science and Math. I always knew I wanted to be in the arts but I didn’t know much about what careers were available to me. I love reading so initially I wanted to be a writer. But when I was in Class 10 my mother learnt about Graphic Design on the internet.
People were surprised that I opted for Humanities rather than Commerce or Science in my Class 11, but my parents always encouraged me to follow my heart and not just follow the crowd.
If there is a six year old girl right now in Thrissur looking at your drawings and saying, “I want to do this” what would your advice to her be?
I would tell her to go for it! I am grateful to wake up every day and go to class to learn and work with what I am passionate about. There are so many opportunities in the design field today – one can work with Illustration, Product Design, Interface Design, Advertising etc
The options are endless and there are several design institutes of repute in the country. Design resources are available to everyone with internet access and with platforms like Behance, the global design community is accessible to everyone. My father used to tell me that the biggest blessing one can have is to wake up every day and go to a job that didn’t feel like a job. I feel like I am on the way there.
The Malayalee Alphabet is great work. Will you be making posters, calendars, wedding invitations, rubber flippers, umbrellas based on the characters? In short, how can one make money out of this?
When I created the Malayalee Alphabet, I did not make it with the intention of commercialising it. The response was quite overwhelming; I did not expect to get so much traffic on Behance with this project. It was just an idea I had been nursing over the summer that I decided to carry out. However I started getting a few requests for prints of the posters, so currently there are prints available for sale. Yes, I did consider making a calendar with the same characters, but since I am a full time student, college work has to come first.
Grown ups question: Have you come across design, typography or branding elements that is unique to Kerala? Something one can glance at and say, “that’s very Kerala inspired”? Kerala has a lot of illustrators and painters, people who have great understanding of typography and design, what do you think should we to become a hub for design?
I think there is a lot of design talent coming out of Kerala. There are so many Malayalees running prominent design studios, and working in top positions in the design industry. But unfortunately none of these firms are based in Kerala. Perhaps because the design market in Kerala is too small. When you look at the size of the market in Mumabi and Delhi, then our market here is definitely too small. There is exciting Kerala centric design and illustration work coming out of studios like Bombay Duck Designs ( I am a huge fan of Sameer Kulavoor and his work), and I think the Kallu Toddy sign is a piece of typography unique to Kerala.
I think the Kochi Biennale was also a very exciting time for the contemporary Kerala art scene. People from all over had gathered together for their common interest in art and culture. I loved all the murals, and I think the best part of the Biennale was that it made art truly accessible to the public.
Our text books, especially history, is really boring. You think illustrations can make learning better. How can this be done?
Yes definitely. I think illustrations in a text book captures a child’s visual interest, and feeds the imagination. When illustration aid enhance the content in the book, I think it make the information more engaging. My favourite books from childhood are the most beautifully illustrated ones, I’m sure we could encourage the same feeling with textbooks as well.