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A Design Pro and her Surface Pro

She’s a self-confessed ailurophile and typoholic. She features in Photoshop’s 25 under 25 – Adobe’s list of 25 of the best visual artists under the age of 25. She’s the face behind some of the quirky illustrations at Chumbak. She has a slew of design projects under her belt including Taxi Fabric – a forum for designers to showcase their ideas and talent, through fabric for taxi upholstery. And, hardly two years after graduation, her work has made it to The New Yorker and Creative Gaga Magazine among many others.
She’s Shaivalini Kumar – a young visual communication designer whose work with typography and illustration has taken her from being an India-centric graphic designer and illustrator to a visual communication designer of international acclaim. She has bold dreams for the future and a desire to shape the world of design in India. Best of all, she loves designing on her Surface Pro 4. We caught up with her to know why.

Finding magic in ordinary things

Currently working independently and based in New Delhi, Shaivalini enjoys starting her day with some morning inspiration. “I love reading design magazines, design blogs and generally keeping myself up-to-date with the on-goings in the world. For each project, I spend a good amount of time ideating and brainstorming. Stylistically, my art is vibrant and inviting, and attempts to find the magic in ordinary things. I like coming up with ideas while being outdoors, taking a walk or even in a cafe. It need not be physically around my workspace. While working, I also ensure that I get feedback from my peers, share my work on platforms such as Behance and Instagram, and build on my process. Finally, I aim at ending the day with some practice sketches. Skill building is something I always prioritize, along with personal projects. I recently spent time teaching myself Cinema 4D to create more dimensional typographic applications and structures.”

An Indian design star whose work translates internationally

Being a denizen of the digital realm, she thrives on being able to connect and communicate with people from all over the world through her work. Apart from being selected as part of Photoshop’s 25 under 25 team, her work has also been recognized on various international art platforms such as Adobe Inspire Magazine, POOL Magazine, Colorado Poster Biennale, The New Yorker, Creative Gaga Magazine and Pictoplasma Berlin to name a few.

“Design in India has been growing and my goal is to be able to contribute to the process that accelerates that growth.”

Design as a career

So, how did she come to choose design as a career? “I was always artistically inclined as a child,” she explains. “I would often find myself illustrating and creating characters, and loved building stories around them. Having the ability to ink out my thoughts and put them onto paper was something I found incredibly exciting. I hoped that people would discover the quirks and oddities that made their way into my work and discover a part of me that otherwise remained concealed. People, pets, family and pretty much everything around me inspires me to create, illustrate, and personify. I found myself drawn towards contemporary and urban art. I would love reading about artists from all over the world and learning about their motivation and inspirations for their personal practices.” Has her Indian ethnicity helped shape her design aesthetic? “Being from India,” she expands, “my culture, dialect, surroundings, food and people strongly influenced my aesthetic and style that is an amalgamation of inherent cultural imagery and new age design information and techniques. I therefore decided to take up design as a career.”

The pro and her Pro

Being a design professional means that Shaivalini works across devices. She works extensively with her Surface Pro 4 and is thrilled with how it lets her work on the go. “The best thing about the Surface Pro 4 is the fact that it is extremely compact, yet the most powerful device I own.” She adds, “It allows me to be flexible, and work while traveling. Thanks to the Surface, I have my workstation on the go!”

On the go with her Pro

Shaivalini also finds her Surface Pro Pen extremely intuitive and travel-friendly. “I sketch on it a lot,” she says. “And you never know where you will be when an idea strikes,” she adds. Shaivalini also finds it handy when she has to bring her hand-drawn sketches alive. “My essential base structures for most of my illustrations are constructed using the Surface. When I have to use a hand done sketch, I simply use the Surface camera to directly upload the image and add detailing to it using Photoshop or Illustrator. It has made my entire process much more streamlined and efficient. I am able to create fully rendered illustrations using the Surface Pro 4 as it has the power to run Adobe Photoshop- one of the apps I use for illustrations – with extreme efficiency. I am able to create artwork that I would usually create using my desktop – with the Surface Pro 4, on the go.” The Surface Pro 4 has also helped her be more productive. “It has reduced my overall working period and helps compress my process too,” she adds.

On its 4 best features

Having been habituated to using a pen tablet for really long, her favorite feature of the Surface is its Pen. “The grip, the sensitivity and even the ergonomics of its structure make it a lot of fun to use,” she adds. “The second feature is the magnetic strip on the Pen. It ensures that I never leave it lying around,” she elaborates. She also loves the look and feel of the tablet and its size. “It matches the size of a basic notepad making it extremely compact.” The well-spaced-out keyboard also gets a thumbs-up from her. “It helps me transition my Surface from a tablet to a tablet with a keyboard – according to my requirement,” she explains. She also finds the camera great to work with. “It’s extremely high resolution and helps me capture images of my sketches in a more faster and productive manner,” she adds.

Her top apps

Not surprisingly, considering her use of the Surface Pro 4 as an illustrator, OneNote gets listed among her top apps. Pre-loaded on the Surface Pro, OneNote is a note taking and quick sketch app which launches immediately when you press the button on the back of the pen. Shaivalini agrees, “I think OneNote is great. It helps me capture all my ideas efficiently – making notes feels like using an actual notepad.” With OneNote, all her notes are collated and automatically organized and digitized. This way, she never misses out on ideas, client feedback or any other input. “Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are my other essential design apps,” she goes on. “Instapic is another app I use to edit and upload photos to my Instagram account. I am able to manipulate photos using the built-in editor, or take pictures using my device’s camera and then upload them. I run my artist page on Instagram and it helps me get my content ready.”

Handling design apps

Surface Pro 4 with the 6th Generation Intel® Core™ m3, i5, and i7 processors is not only more powerful – it’s quieter and runs cooler than ever before, and Shaivalini appreciates the same. “The Surface has the power of my desktop. I am able to achieve the same results, and even better if I may add, using the Adobe apps on the Surface. My device has 4GB RAM, Intel Core m3 and runs my apps flawlessly.” She’s used the Surface Pro 4 extensively on a lot of current projects including an exploratory illustration for a character design project. She also used the Surface Pro 4 for the branding for the Adobe APAC Conference. “Using Isometric grids in Adobe Illustrator, I was able to create 3D type and add detailing to my artwork. I also created precise process work to demonstrate the peripheral work I do before moving onto the final illustration,” she elaborates.

Her favourite design apps

Shaivalini’s top 5 design apps are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop Express and Fresh Paint. Since she’s primarily into illustration, she prefers using Photoshop for all her character design work that requires rendering, texturing and detailing. “It helps add more life to my characters,” she says. She uses Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for graphic design, editorial design, typography and branding projects. “Photoshop express allows me to edit photographs and has an extremely easy-to-use interface. I use Fresh Paint to doodle, make roughs and draft my illustrations,” she adds.