Website for Leena Kejriwal, one of India’s leading fine art photographers, was designed around a fairly understated, structured and elegant look that allowed the artist’s work and related information to be showcased and yet was neutral enough to allow the artist to display a variety of styles of work over a course of time.

Information architecture and development of static and dynamic sections of the website was done by Crossover Technologies.

Above: Leena Kejriwal website home page design.

The home page layout consisted of a simple collage of Leena’s work, a brief introduction and a (latest) news feed. A black bar positioned between the main content area on the left and navigation on the right added an extra dimension to the layout and performed a variety of role across pages: displaying information or images or holding navigational links.

Above: Leena Kejriwal website ‘Galleries’ landing page design.

A dark grey background best suited (in terms of contrast) both black and white and coloured photographs displayed on the website and a subtle white border held the layout together.

Above: Leena Kejriwal website gallery lightbox/thumbnail page template.

A variety of templates were created for the website to display concise information, detailed information, thumbnails of galleries and details of images.

Above: Leena Kejriwal website image detail page layout.

Overall, the website design was highly personalised to the photographer’s requirement and seemed to be a refreshing change from the typical flash-based, animated and dark background websites that many photographers tend to have or like.

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A poster announcing Mayank’s fine art photography show Water was put up at select art galleries and institutions in New Delhi, India, in July 2009. Its design was dominated by a square composition of crops from two abstract photographs to be displayed at the show on top of which the name of the show, in large type, was superimposed or reversed to attract attention of passerby’s. ‘Water’ in large type size also became the focal point of the poster. The collage of two images, complimentary in terms of both mood and colour, aimed to arouse curiosity by only revealing some parts of the photographs and yet gave a good impression of the (abstract) imagery to be displayed at the show. The vertical axis formed at the meeting point of the two images was used to centrally align poetic text about water on the top and show details at the bottom. Joanna was used as the typeface for all poster text.

Only 20 copies of the 13″x19″ poster were printed in digital offset (maximum size that the digital offset machine allowed) on Cordenons 145 gsm Natural Evolution ivory paper. The non-bleed, white background aimed to maximise printing area and minimise paper wastage. Use of Cordenons environmentally friendly, chlorine-free paper also supported the photography show’s underlying message of water (or nature) conservation.

Overall, the poster design met multiple aims of arousing curiosity and conveying information about the fine art photography show, being environment friendly, minimising paper wastage and keeping printing costs low.

Pravartak meaning innovator or one who brings about improvement or change (in Hindi), was the name of a contest organised in 2005 by Roots Education Pvt. Ltd. that aimed to motivate students in select engineering colleges in the National Capital Region (NCR) of India to come up with detailed, brilliant or powerful business ideas. Keeping with the spirit of the powerful Hindi word, a quick research on Hindu symbolism was done basis which logo for the contest was based on the form of a Yantra.

Above: Pravartak contest logo unit

For the logo, the geometric Yantra form was modified and fused with bar graphs, rising steps, geometric illustration of a businessman running up the steps and a central human eye form symbolising vision or visionary. The font used to write Pravartak had a calligraphic and somewhat traditional feel which contrasted with the geometric visual unit and they together constituted a strong and elaborate logo through which the contest could be identified.

Use of neon green and dark blue colours was mandatory as a part of Roots Education’s brand identity, Maroon was used as the third colour to add a dash of vigour to the logo. A star burst, placed as a watermark behind the logo, conveyed the excitement of a contest and added movement, energy and an extra dimension to the block-like unit. Pravartak logo unit was strong or loud in overall appearance, befitting of a contest.

Above: Contest form showing usage of the Pravartak logo

All communication pieces for Pravartak 2K5 contest were printed in offset in three special colours for the sake of achieving optimum brightness and to save on printing cost.

Logo for Vivitsa, an e-learning company based in the National Capital Region of India, was designed around the ‘V’ letterform as a bold, horizontal and composite unit with large typography to be used predominantly on the e-learning portal’s user interfaces. The visual unit consisted of simple geometrical forms (inspired by Vivitsa’s strength in maths and science) arranged in a way that looked like a student working on a computer. The somewhat loosely placed geometrical forms symbolised freedom of learning (or easy and flexible learning through the internet) and the red dot (also the student’s head) symbolised a ‘gift’ of knowledge and growth. Bright colours were meant to appeal to young (high school) students and to also define a bright and young corporate colour scheme for the brand. This colour scheme was chosen as the most appropriate out of many options presented to the client. The slightly traditional yet intelligent and geometric feel of the font represented an adherence to the roots of the subjects offered.

Poster for MBAguru, now a hugely successful MBA preparatory program in North India, was designed at the inception of the program in 2004. Text for the poster was written by the client, the ‘countdown to MBAguru’ was treated as the dominating text and visual element in the layout. Starting from numeral 6 on the top left, a series of steps lead the viewer’s eye to the MBAguru logo, followed by concise text that summed-up the program and then to the tag line at the bottom. The strong geometric or block-like look that the steps got into the layout was used further on the bottom left (block containing text about the mentors) and top right (block containing the company logo). A watermark of the company (Roots Education) logo was put in the background to prevent the layout from looking flat and to subtly reinforce the tree logo that symbolised growth, learning and knowledge. White arrowheads, used as design elements at a few places, also helped to enhance eye movement around the layout.

Trebuchet MS, that went very well with the feel of a young education institute, was used as the typeface for all poster text (barring the logos, of course). The 17″x22″ poster was printed in two (special blue and special neon green) colour offset on 170 gsm matte paper and was put up on notice boards at colleges campuses around New Delhi. With use of only two colours, brand colours in this case, the poster also acted as a strong branding exercise for the company which was barely a few months old then.

(This article was written for and published at the photography website Serious Compacts and written in my capacity as a graphic designer and photographer.)

As a graphic designer, I often design for organizations and NGOs (or Nonprofits) working in the development sector and frequently receive images from clients for use in communication material as varied as brochures, websites, flyers, annual reports, newsletters, fact sheets and technical documents. Am fond of the imagery the development sector uses and often find it more interesting and natural than the slick, seemingly perfect and utopian imagery used by the marketing (FMCG) and now even information technology sectors.

In the past couple of years, for dozens of design assignments undertaken for development sector clients, I have rarely received ‘technically perfect’ images shot by professional photographers using hi-end equipment such as dSLRs. Most images I receive have been shot by clients / volunteers / students using compact cameras. And by compact cameras here I mean the most basic or budget compact cameras running on ‘auto’ mode. Noise, highlight clipping, channel clipping, colored fringing, blooming of highlights, poor dynamic range, excessive use of flash (and therefore harsh shadows) and color cast are just some of the technical issues I frequently encounter while shortlisting and processing supplied images for print and/or web publishing.

For a large design assignment, I typically receive an assortment of images (usually about two dozen or more) which are then categorized to match with text / chapters / sections. Unless the technical quality of a particular image is unacceptable, am forced to make do with what is given and each relevant image is then optimized for print. Thanks to powerful image processing softwares, each selected image usually goes through the following process:
– Resizing (usually downsizing), size of technically bad or blurred but important photos is usually reduced a lot, sometimes as small as 2×1 inches, to make them useable and hide some of the flaws. I prefer to convert images to 240 ppi resolution for print purposes.
– Chroma noise reduction (usually applied to full-size images which are later downsized).
– Shadow and highlight recovery (using shadow-highlight sliders in Photoshop), adjustment of levels. Sometimes HDR techniques are used to process different parts of the image separately.
– Correction of color cast.
– Correction of horizontal plane, also barrel distortion and perspective in some cases.
– Correction of skin tones (often flashed faces come out reddish and are not easy to correct).
– Conversion to CMYK (for 4 color printing) or to Greyscale for one or two color printing.
Usually cropping decisions are taken at the page markup stage where I can see the image-text relationship accurately and crop images accordingly.

Images are almost always received as a part of the brief and for most development sector design assignments (with tight budgets), buying stock images or getting a professional shoot done is not an option also because many of the situations or circumstances cannot be staged. I think most reasonable graphic designers learn to work under constraints and make do with what they are given.

Above: A report cover and a newsletter designed for Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, New Delhi, India. (Reproduced with permission from Chintan.)

As someone also doing serious and fine art photography with compacts for the past couple of years, this is where I fall into a dilemma.. While on one hand I strive to capture technically sound images and am always on the lookout for the next compact that would raise the bar on my images, on the other hand as a designer I make do with images that I would reject outright for their technical flaws if taken by me. Images that are still used in important publications which may be read and used by top national and international organizations, governmental agencies, funding agencies, think tanks and the like, taken with automatic point-and-shoot cameras I would not even look at! Thus I wonder if it is the image (the subject, the moment, the interrelationship of elements, the light, etc.) and the purpose for which it was taken that really matters and that the rest is essentially ‘technical’ and ’secondary’, the bit photographers tend to worry too much about these days! Also, as someone who worked extensively with film / transparency scans uptill 3-4 years back, it feels great to receive compact digital camera images because they are far easier to process than traditional (drum or flatbed) scans and thankfully file sizes are much lighter.

One change I have noticed over the past couple of years with regard to imagery supplied by clients (for use in communication design) is that the ‘number’ of images coming in has increased dramatically and organizations that could earlier not afford expensive imagery or visual documentation of their projects now have enough ‘workable’ photos in their database. For this, a lot of credit should probably go to the recent boom in affordable, pocketable and easy-to-use compact cameras, which, in my humble opinion, are making a big difference for organizations involved in development work and perhaps indirectly in the lives of people for whom they are working.

About the author: Mayank Bhatnagar is a Jaipur and New Delhi (India) based graphic designer, illustrator and photographer.

Logo for Indian Spice, one of Jaipur’s best-known vegetarian restaurants, was designed at the inception of the restaurant. At Indian Spice, the emphasis is simply on serving high quality North Indian food prepared with authentic spices, in an elegant, nondescript and formal ambiance. The logo was created keeping these very aspects in mind.

The letters were set in the beautiful, simple and elegant typeface Optima the characteristics of which seemed to go very well with the characteristics of the restaurant. The typography was clubbed with a leaf graphic to constitute a logo unit. The leaf symbolised ‘vegetarian’ and use of authentic spices and ingredients and was traced from one of the many reference images of spices collected during the initial research phase.

Maroon and orange colours were used to dress the logo as both have strong associations with the colour of North Indian food (curries in particular) and spices. As both colours fall on the same side of the colour wheel, together they added a lot of strength to the otherwise simple logo and helped to create a strong visual identity for Indian Spice. The logo was often used on a maroon background (see above) in formal communication pieces like restaurant menus.

The logo was also used on orange background (see above) on communication pieces that had to appear bright, like outdoor signages.

Indian Spice logo was most often used on maroon background together with the description and a watermark of the leaf (see above) and defined a formal, elegant, strong yet simple look or brand identity for the restaurant.

Brief Introduction

Offering high quality, no frills, practical and personalised communication design solutions with a human touch to clients in India and abroad, Mayank designs for both print and web mediums and specialises in logo design, brand identity and information design. Mayank's graphic design solutions are backed by over a decade of work experience with top international and national brands and organisations.

This weblog features some of Mayank's favourite 'real world' design projects, articles and more. All designs and text featured here are copyrighted and showcased with permission from respective companies and/or clients.

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