There's no shortcut to hustling hard : A designer's journey.

06 June, 2020

Aaquib wears the Chilli Red Shirt

A 30-year-old product of Delhi, deeply-rooted in his Kashmiri heritage, experience designer Aaquib Wani understood the importance of work very early in life. Keen to be financially independent young, he started working at the age of 16. With not enough resources or opportunities to get a formal education in design, he realised that working hard and working continuously was key for him to learn/sustain and grow as a designer. 

Today, a decade later - he runs his own successful design studio in Delhi. His work ranges across fields - from large scale architectural works, installations, brand launches to concerts/music festivals, and weddings. He also recently got to art direct the weddings of both, Isha Ambani and Akash Ambani. His warm aesthetic is also visible in his lovely Delhi home. Here we speak to him about his work and his beautiful home.

Can you take me through your journey in design through the years?
I started off as a graphic design intern at an Indie music magazine & events company while I was playing in a band. I was offered the job because the posters I made for my bands' shows got noticed. I worked there for 4 years during which I worked my way up to Art Director.
I then got the opportunity to work under the event designer, Sumant Jayakrishnan. I went from designing magazine pages to designing spaces exponentially bigger than what I was used to seeing on screen. After a few years under him, I opened my own studio.

Aaquib wears the Frida Shirt

What inspires your design process?
The ephemeral nature of designing a temporary space(events) is always interesting. I personally find the entire process, from mood boards and picking colours to handle vendors inspiring. In our line of work, the design comes to life only for a few hours. We don't have time to correct things - there is no after! So for everything we create, we keep in mind the nature of the space.

Talk to us about the challenges of running a space/experience design studio?
Unfortunately, running a successful design studio isn't only about doing the work you love. One of the biggest challenges we face is to try and maintain our own unique design perspective while also delivering as per our clients' demands. We try to show a tight edit of options that we wholeheartedly believe in. Making the client happy isn't enough.
It’s more urgent now than ever to only design with real motive and clarity.
Another challenge I have faced is to make sure we have enough work to cover overheads and salaries and maintain a fall back for times like these (2020). 

What's your favourite project or installation you've worked on to date? And why?
I think this has to be the one we designed for Adidas' shoe launch in Mumbai, Dec 2019. Multiple installations, visuals, engagement activities that involved the audience being a part of the project. It was the most demanding project in terms of time and creativity (it took us 4 months to conceptualise and set-up). Every single element and detail was thought through - from content and material, to working the technicalities of the design and space. 
And of course to pull it all together in 4 days! It has been the biggest learning curve for us as a team.

Instillations designed by Aaquib 

How important is design education according to you? 
Design is a vague term. Design involves the skills of design thinking and problem-solving. Is education necessarily important? Not sure.  Its helpful, definitely. Knowledge of any form is. But design is also instinctive. I’ve found great joy in taking the time to learn the process myself. I didn’t qualify for any of the design schools i aspired for. I didn’t have the right grades. But that didn’t take away from the fact that i was always curious and willing to learn. 
One could argue that education is necessary for artists to learn the technicality of their craft. But here, too, things are changing. Today you can learn almost anything yourself if you have the patience for it. Hello, internet! And so many willing mentors who are happy to talk to curious kids :)

Aaquib wears the Moss Starfish Shirt

How do you think your creative process has evolved over the years?
As my body of work has expanded, naturally I have had to priorities how and where I choose to spend my time. I like to work closely with my team and encourage a democratic space for them to voice their ideas too. You can’t do it all yourself. The process over the years has had a lot of failures too. Mistakes are just ideas that didn't work! We're always making prototypes and there's never any guarantee that any of it will work, you just have a hunch and an idea but what really helps is to be extremely flexible on the way. If something isn't working, I always go back to the board. It's a process of learning from your past experiences.

What do you see in the future for experiential design?
Before the pandemic struck us, it was going great. We had back to back projects and being the workaholic I am, I was elated with where this was headed. With the current scenario, apart from digital graphics - interiors, brand activations, festivals and weddings are going to be impacted until we have a vaccine and this obviously means there will be a major slow down in our space.However, I must say that all the brands/clients we have worked with, have always emphasised the need for user/audience experiences. This is great because that gives us a chance to showcase that an event with thoughtful experiences can do so much for brands. It has to be something that you can take back with you - instant gratification is so very important in the experiential space. There will certainly be changes in terms of making experiences more inward and reflective in the future. Hopefully, once the world order has been restored, we will be back at it, bigger, better, and more creative!

Aaquib wears the Tuscan Anar Shirt

What do you think defines you?
I think my desire to express my thoughts through different perspectives and art forms is something that truly defines me. People often ask me, how I am able to communicate something so simply through my art. Its always gratifying to hear that. I have worked really hard to get to a place where my thoughts/opinions hold a small percentage of hope and change not only for myself but for others too.

What was your main inspiration for your home decor?
My home embraces the carefree, the relaxed, and the unusual in me. For me, no two rooms are ever completely alike. It reflects my love for graphics and prints and collecting artifacts. I see my travels, my friends, my family all around my space :)

Your favourite spot in the house to unwind.
My breakfast nook - It's the corner with the round table. This is also where my cats like to sleep during the day and usually where I like my cup of tea. I get to see my entire house from here.

If you could swap houses with someone, who would it be and why?
The house in the movie Parasite with a secret underground passage. Even though it was a temporary set, it felt perfect to me.

A piece/art that you would happily splurge on.
Signed artworks by independent artists. Also rugs. I love spending on rugs with patterns and colours - they add so much warmth and depth to every space.

What's next?
I have a long way to go and I have fully enjoyed the ride so far! A ton of stuff in the pipeline including showcasing my art around global festivals. Here's hoping I can make everyone see what I see through art daily!