Could you please introduce yourself?
For starters I’m a Creative Generalist – jack of all trades and master of many. Also known as a nexialist, I’m skilled in the science of joining the dots i.e. the knowledge of one field of learning with that of other fields. In the tradition of the old Internet – ASL – Age: 30, Sex: male, Location: India.
I began painting at the age of 4, winning contests at school and I won the prestigious Shankar’s International Children’s On-the-Spot Painting Competition at the age of 11. I had a penchant for language as well and often wrote about my experiences in a humorous ‘gonzo’ manner. I didn’t know it then, but they were my very first blog posts (which remained scribbled in my notebooks).
I had no formal training in painting either and I dabbled in oil on canvas, watercolor, charcoal, etc.
Apart from the traditional medium, the digital bug bit me hard. I got my first computer when I was 11 and since then have learnt everything I know by either trial or error. Mostly error! Having both a creative and technical bent of mind, I played around with hardware and networking as well and can setup a complete animation studio setup from workstation to render farm. On the software front, I’ve learnt basic 2D raster based tools like Photoshop, vector tools like CorelDraw (still ubiquitous in India) and Illustrator, 3D tools like Autodesk Maya and compositing and editing tools like After Effects and Final Cut Pro. I believe in self learning and have owe my skills to the tutorials and support offered by countless anonymous artists on the Internet.
With a bird’s eye view, I love to see the larger picture whilst working on the details as well. For eg. when I undertake the branding of a product or company, I work on the logo & other collateral besides outlining business strategy, marketing methods and project management. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, I also work on the web design and development, write content and craft a social media policy for the company. All this and more; single handedly! While many may argue about this one-man army approach, it works well for me.
My philosophy is very important to me. It is the precursor to my every action. I’m inspired by Bruce Lee’s philosophy of Jeet Kune Do which advocates the use of the 4 fold path – research, absorb, reject, tailor-make and finally apply! So every project I undertake begins with a research phase. I then proceed to absorb what works and reject what doesn’t on the basis of the principles of simplicity, directness, effectivity, fluidity, non-classical approach and open-mindedness. Then I take what is left and tailor make it to my situation. Finally I don’t sit on my ass, I apply and ship! My Jeet Kune Do teacher always says “A perfect job is an average job done in record time!”. I strive to reflect that maxim in my work.
Talking about philosophy: What is your opinion about design in general, about its influence on society?
Design has a very important role to play; more than mere entertainment and visual wizardry. It must be used to communicate and illustrate a point, a message to the masses. Jim Morrison said “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind”. As designers, we must endeavor to mix form and function in harmony to not only entertain but educate as well.
But design’s huge influence was often used to manipulate people. How to avoid that by being a designer?
By educating the designer! It is imperative to instill in him/her a sense of values, reminding ourselves that like Spiderman, we too must accept great responsibility with the great power we wield. Every spoken/written word and every picture/painting/video we create reaches out to people of the world within mere seconds affecting their lives in ways even we as creators may have never imagined.
This is theory. But how can you practically make a designer freelancing at his home office educate and elucidate about his great power?
This is precisely why besides the art and craft, philosophy is a must as well. There are many bloggers who write list posts on how to be a better designer. Maybe we need a few on how to be a better human being too. The Web 2.0 I believe is all about embracing interaction and conversation between business and the consumer. So the days of cold, aloof and irresponsible businesses who only answered the shareholder one day in a year are gone. Today we have all started being more open and transparent in our dealings. The days of corporate cloak and dagger and espionage may not be extinct, but are surely numbered. This is proof that the world is indeed embracing a spiritual evolution of sorts even at the material level of business.
Practically this can be implemented on many levels. For eg. As a 3D animation technician, I advocate the use of open source technology. As a designer, I work on many pro-bono projects: I have worked on the design, layout and production of three books and corresponding videos for a non-profit trust that works selflessly in service to the nation.
What is the impact of open source technology as well as Creative Commons licences on a designer’s daily work? Do they rather benefit by getting more exposure or is “stolen” work a big problem? What did you experienced with your blog Freelance Firestarter?
Open Source technology is a step forward in terms of knowledge sharing for future generations. Timelines have shown that this model of software development results in faster turnaround cycles and better quality control. As for the Creative Commons license, they have helped bridge the divide between hardcore copyright advocates and the extremely radical ‘copyleft’ movement.
I started Freelance Firestarter initially with no copyright even stating that you can do with the content as you please.
Why did you change this?
Because I realized that while personally, I don’t really care if others make a commercial profit from my work, guest writers and people I feature in my artcles might not be so open. I have a pet theory that all our minds are connected together in an Internet of sorts and all information and ideas flow freely through the ‘cloud’. Whoever is inspired and implements first becomes the originator and the rest become imitators. So I don’t place much credence to originality or copyright though I admire the speed and quality of execution/ implementation of the idea.
As a matter of fact Freelance Firestarter was created when I woke up at midnight with the idea and I had the site up and running by 3 am with my first blog post!
What do you want to achieve with FF? The “abstract” content, so to speak, makes it definitely distinct from other freelancing-related blogs.
To inspire, even ‘instigate’ people out of conventional mindsets, to make the individual aware of the active responsible choices one needs to make towards a life worth living. To realise the power of the individual, that ‘the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath’. Impossible tasks perhaps, but by trying I hope to set an example. And even if one person out of a zillion is inspired by the idea, it is worth it.
On FF, there is a banner “Art Not Ads”. But on one of your other projects, The Scalene Triangle, actually are advertisements. Why is this different? What’s your general opinion about ads on sites?
The Scalene Triangle is more a ‘proof of concept’ so as to speak and I will get rid of the ads shortly. Personally I hate ads on sites and use blockers. But in generally, I believe they provide a revenue source to many bloggers, software and app developers to earn a livelihood.
What kind of proof of concept?
I wanted to start a magazine – a precursor to Freelance Firestarter (though I didn’t quite know it then). And I was trying all the tricks in the book for revenue generation to see if such abstract content had any buyers. It failed and I found myself writing run of the mill content in order to increase revenue. I decided then to start afresh. The Scalene Triangle will shortly withdraw Ads and will continue in the direction it intended when more like-minded bloggers write in. We already have Christine Futia as a regular columnist. Now retired and pursuing personal and community projects, Christine has enjoyed a diverse career centered around quantitative business analysis, process improvement, project management, and technology applications.
You’ve mentioned Bruce Lee above. Who are your idols? What inspires you?
I grew up without idols and figureheads but recently Bruce Lee’s philosophy discovered me and its efficiency in action has been impactful. Besides that I have always favored the lone wolf/underdog kind of heroes. The Japanese Samurai and their way of life, Zen Monks, the Greek philosophers and in particular the Spartans too have inspired me. Designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Mau and bloggers like Seth Godin are some of those that come to mind. Kindred spirits like J.D. Bentley make the journey seem less lonely. Then there are people like Charlie Chaplin who will make me laugh when I start to take myself too seriously..
You call yourself an “over the top underdog”. Can you identify yourself with those heroes?
Yes, simply because I can’t keep my mouth shut! What I do identify with many is a common thread of balance and the quest for harmony. For eg. the Samurai were physically adept warriors yet painted fine art and practised calligraphy. In today’s world our education is skewed towards one extreme – either I’m a jock or a geek! Why not both?
How does living in such a huge and diversive region like India or especially Mumbai affect your mind and work?
That just reminded me of my new project – researching the definition of ‘Indian’ Design. Living in India is an orgasmic delight of inspiration – never a dull moment. Life in its every flavor is experienced in this diverse yet united land. I backpacked for 2 years (through the age of 17 to 19) across the length and breadth of India and I do believe I’ve just skimmed the surface. Travel is essential in recharging from the mundane routine of life as we know it. It is a fairy tale escape into the lives of people who are of the same origin, yet worlds apart from ours.
So, India is your major source of inspiration. Are there any minor ones?
Actually though I’m a patriot, I consider myself a global citizen – I’ve travelled all over Southeast Asia and consider Thailand a second home. I love the smiling faces, the simple existence and the exotic fruits! (especially since I turned vegetarian). My martial art is my main source of inspiration and I carry forth the lessons learnt in the arena into the digital playground as a graphic artist.
What are your expectations for the future?
1. Freelance Firestarter – Share and write more
2. Reddy2Go – Work less, play more
3. The Scalene Triangle – Reboot and restart
4. Travel to Austria :)
5. Work on more pro-bono projects (my duty towards my country)
6. Write a book (gonzo style autobiography)
7. Make a movie
8. Live and eat healthy
9. Love more – women ;)
10. Give more interviews? Huahauha