Tips for young designers from a former Pentagram intern and Sagmeister & Walsh designer

Simoul Alva, Defying Death

We've long admired the work of Simoul Alva, an Indian-born designer who in her short career has achieved a hell of a lot.

She’s previously worked with Pentagram, Sagmeister & Walsh, Wieden+Kennedy and
 Codesign Brand Consultants; and is currently at the Think Tank Team at Samsung Research America in California.

Clearly, she’s a mighty hard worker – most of these roles were taken on while still studying – and she refuses to be limited to one discipline or medium. she’s just as happy, for instance, working in sheen-laden, CG renders as she is bold illustrative linework and creating her own fonts.

“I think all of them have a common foundation in principles like composition, colour, form and narratives,” says Alva. “It’s then just a change of context. I enjoy working on design projects that let me think across mediums, techniques, touch points and work on the strategy aspect of the solution.”

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Simoul Alva, Branding Concept for Doodh Flavoured Milk

Simoul Alva, Branding Concept for Doodh Flavoured Milk

She cites the examples of her typeface Vixen Display; her editorial designs on the publication Form Follows Force; and her illustration series Defying Death.

“I saw all of these coming together in my design concept for the Kyoorius Young Blood Awards, Miss U Month and the NID Poster Archive,” says Alva. “I enjoy working on the art direction, strategy and overall concept for projects… I enjoy projects that start out as a problem statement or challenge than a set brief with exact deliverables. This allows one to look at solutions from different perspectives and leaves room for the unexpected.”

Simoul Alva,  Commissioned by Wieden+Kennedy Delhi For Indigo Airlines

Simoul Alva, Commissioned by Wieden+Kennedy Delhi For Indigo Airlines

Simoul Alva, Commissioned by Social India

Simoul Alva, Commissioned by Social India

As Alva’s portfolio shows, her work is very much a mixture of commissioned, client-led projects and self-initiated creativity.

Whatever the piece, though, she says the techniques and thought-processes are largely the same, but “with personal projects I let myself go and do things I probably can't experiment with on a client project with timelines and budgets,” she says. “So the personal projects feel like drawings in a sketchbook, that often influence my client work. A lot of time something I picked up from client work or working at certain places changes my practice forever.”

Simoul Alva, Kyoorius Young Blood Award

Simoul Alva, Kyoorius Young Blood Award

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Having only graduated this year, Alva’s graft is obvious, and she advises young designers and grads that there are a few basic things that are paramount: one, is to have a good online presence.

“That means having the discipline to maintain an updated portfolio, upload your work on social media and talk about your process,” she says. “Sometimes it even means going the extra mile and making work that you haven't had the chance to create but always wanted to try.”

Secondly, even though creative types are often those more along the introverted side of things, she reckons it’s vital to “always reach out to people you'd like to work with. The worst that can happen is that you may not hear back from them. But if it works out, the right mentorship can change everything,” she says.

Simoul Alva, Defying Death

Simoul Alva, Defying Death

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

Simoul Alva, Galaxy

“And stay persistent. For a job or internship to work out, it is always a combination of timing, vacancy, luck, talent and logistics like visa etc. It's important to stay in touch and reach out to people you want to work with or have worked with in the past.

"It is also a great practice to apply for scholarships or awards because they open your work up to so many people you probably wouldn't be able to share your work with. It also teaches you to curate your work and be more articulate because most applications are online, without you having the opportunity to explain it yourself.”