For Sumangla Bishnoi, one particular moment in her past made her realise that graphic design was for her. Just 14 at the time, Sumangla – born in a historical Indian town named Meerut – received the creativity award at school for the fourth year running.
"That was the first time I envisioned what it would be like to pursue creativity for the rest of my life," she explains. Aged 18, she enrolled at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Hyderabad, where she won the Best Graduation Project Award. "And yet, this was just the start."
Later, Sumangla worked in Mumbai, India, at the advertising firm VGC, onboarding projects for brands ranging from hospitality to fashion. She still had the itch to learn more, though, and decided to pursue an MA in Design, much to her parents' insecurities; her mother is a mathematics professor and her father a financial manager. However, Sumangla took this as a challenge. In 2017, she was accepted into Maryland Institute College of Arts with a scholarship. A handful of placements later, Sumangla landed a full-time designer role at Landor and led projects for Train Technologies, League of Legend, Hyundai and Wanda.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 affected her working visa. Sumangla was soon laid off, encouraging her to apply for an O1 visa instead, "which is given to individuals who possess extraordinary ability in their field". It meant she could say in the US, and she decided to start her own company as an LLC, working as a visual designer and building a roster of clients, including Adobe, TikTok and Google. Besides freelancing, she also works as a senior visual designer at AKQA, San Francisco.
Sumangla is utterly thankful (and deserving) for her placement in the industry today. She's earned a vital spot in the design world, filling it with functional graphics and bold, crisp typographic layouts. Back in the day, Sumangla was largely interested in still graphics, which left her "feeling restricting" in her approach to finding design solutions. "So, I prefer being multi-disciplinary over finding a niche," she explains. "This approach allows me to look at a problem from different angles. I also believe in applying dynamism and multi-dimensionality to my designs through different software while staying flexible to fulfil clients' vision."
To date, the designer has released countless projects that present a harmonious mix of legibility and craft. Unight is a recent one, where she combed her interests in fine and performative ats. She spent eight years training under Bharatnatyam, which ultimately inspired her to present a series of illustrations that bring "unique Indian ethnicity language in the colour palette and intricacy in the illustration style". In doing so, the designer projected gestures of Bharatanatyam through a vector style, building a joyful and honourable project that nods to the oldest form of Indian classical dance. It was also selected for the long list in this year's World Illustration Awards.
As you can see, Sumangla's work is far-reaching and diverse, peppered with conceptual meaning, personal narrative and an eye for structuralism solutions-based design. We're excited to see where she takes things next, and we're pretty sure there's no hurdle too big for her unique graphics eye.