Postcard from Mumbai
Kurnal Rawat, creative director of brand agency Landor & Fitch India, speaks to Transform magazine about the distinctive aspects of brand design in Mumbai and more widely, in India.
What is distinctive about brand design in Mumbai? How does the city’s history and culture inform your work?
Mumbai city has played a key role in shaping my design aesthetic and point of view on branding as well. Apart from the huge influence of the British era, a growing number of people migrating to this city from various parts of India looking for a brighter future have brought along their own culture. So, in a way, Mumbai represents the best of Indian culture in this beautiful melting pot. Its rich history of architecture, cuisine, music, fashion, art, cinema, literature, and business has a lot to contribute.
My design research project ‘Typocity’ done at the start of 2000, mapped the cities through the lens of typography by documenting the signs on shops, hotels and buildings. This ultimately has heavily inspired my design philosophy of mixing vernacular with modern and progressive design aesthetics. The eclectic nature of the city is also a strong influence in my work.
How is branding in India different from other countries in South Asia?
India has been the land of entrepreneurs and visionaries; and the country is at an amazing stage right now. A healthy balance of legacy brands and startups has led to the development of a creative hot bed. As compared to other brands in South Asia, brands in India have to deal with a target group that is extremely diverse, but at the same time, shares a lot of common sentiments. This makes it a very exciting challenge. How a brand connects with people in Kolkata, Kanpur or Kochi has to be different.
What brand design trends exist in South Asia that are not present in the West (Europe and U.S.)?
Some trends are universal in nature – they appeal to various people with different mindsets and some are specific to a regional culture. For example, the use of diverse local languages and script is one design element that Europe and U.S. won’t be able to use even if they want to. South Asia is extremely rich in language, and modern type designers are creating some stunning regional typefaces thereby giving rise to more contemporary hyper local designs.
Landor&Fitch has offices all around the world. How much of an agency’s work with brands is informed by where the agency is located? How do the projects you cover in Mumbai differ from those in other countries?
L&F we have a cross border working style. We bring in the best minds for the project from different offices across the world. Our internal knowledge sharing platforms help regional offices to learn and develop solutions that are informed by global best practices along with local expertise. This allows us to deliver world class solutions for our clients. All offices work across all the services we offer under L&F.
In what ways do you make your branding work relevant for the very diverse audience that makes up India’s population?
Yes, that’s the true nature of India, and it also brings with it a very unique challenge and opportunity. One has to be very cognisant of being culturally relevant and respectful, being inclusive, yet moving towards being progressive as a large part of the Indian audience is under 25 years of age. Legacy brands need to be progressive and start-up brands need to be inclusive. Naming, colours, type design, photography, tone of voice – these are the brand arsenal and they need to work towards your branding need.