Shehzil Malik is arguably one of the finest creative talents to come out of Pakistan in recent times. You know her – yes you do – as the unabashedly desi creative force behind Uth Oye’s designs. But Shehzil has done a lot of other truly amazing work. Currently studying at Rochester Institute of Technology on a Fulbright Scholarship, Shehzil takes out time to talk to The Desi Design about inspiration, design, process and future plans.
You are super talented and have done a lot of top-notch work. Do you think you need a formal design education? Is it worth the investment?
Thank you for that; I appreciate it! I am an advocate for design education for sure. I feel in design school it really isn’t about the software you learn but more about acquiring a way of thinking. Technical skills become outdated fast but if you understand the reasons behind why a design is needed and what you hope to achieve by it, you become much more than a pair of hands for a client. You come to realize that design is everywhere; everything around you is designed and that it is a truly powerful thing.
What do you have to say about the quality of creative education and training being offered in Pakistani colleges?
In regards to my own design education in Beaconhouse National University, I feel it gave me a strong foundation in conceptualization and an appreciation for the process of design, especially being able to discuss the design decisions made to achieve a final solution. At the end of the day I feel it depends on how motivated you are. Everything is now online: from technical knowledge that you can learn from to design portfolios that you can set as a benchmark for what you want to achieve.
How can talented creatives with a world-class education, like yourself, help strengthen the industry in Pakistan?
I hope I get the chance to do so! I think its by bringing back the new knowledge I’ve acquired and implementing it in the designs I create. I also have a strong interest in design education so that could another way to share what I have learnt.
How did Uth Oye come about?
I was at Uth Oye at a time when it was establishing itself as a brand in Pakistan; it was the brainchild of Babar Rashid Khan who wanted to forge a link between good design and philanthropy. I was hired as an Art Director fresh out of college and was excited to do what I loved for a good cause. I was able to take a crack at everything from designing apparel, illustrating murals and coming up with new branding solutions. During my time at Uth Oye! we had a highly successful run and it was a joy to see my designs turned into products people enjoyed.
Which is your personal favorite project of your own?
My favorite is “The Notebook Project” done as a farewell gift for friends and family. The illustrations made for each notebook were a labor of love; each was done keeping the personality of its recipient in mind. I loved the freedom of working on a personal project after a long stretch of working on commercial designs, and am always happy drawing trippy things!
Your favorite designers, artists and works?
I have a lot designers I admire; from the big names like Massimo Vignelli, Paula Scher, Saul Bass, Stefan Sagmeister, Shepard Fairey and Marian Bantjes to illustrators like Yuko Shimizu, Marcos Chin, McBess, Andrew Archer, Yuta Onada, Laura Lane; artists like Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Giorgio de Chirico, Erte, Klimt, Barbara Kruger, David LaChapelle, Eiko Ishioka, and Egon Schielle… the list really goes on! There are just so many cool people out there.
Tell us about your work habits. Do you like deadlines? Are you easy to work with? Are you self-disciplined?
I need deadlines to motivate myself, but whether I like them is another issue! I hope I’m easy to work with… no casualties yet! And I feel I’m self-disciplined if I have an agenda to follow, I do tend to procrastinate though!
How do you keep yourself energized, motivated and at your creative best?
I feel I work best when I’m excited by what I’m doing and the project holds meaning for me. I get very energized if I have creative freedom, or if a lot of illustration is involved or if the project has some kind of social impact. Also, I never feel creative sitting in front of a computer trying to be creative! It’s always when I’m on the move, looking at new things or distracted that the best ideas happen.
Your tools of choice? What apps, software and non-digital tools are essential to you?
Software is always the Adobe suite; Photoshop for drawing, Illustrator for identity design, InDesign for typography; I’m branching into motion graphics using After Effects and learnt some 3D modeling in Cinema 4D. Non-digital tools include my beloved Wacom tablet and handy sketchbook and pencil!
How do you stay productive?
Whether its in school or in office, being productive is a given since you are held accountable for the amount of work you produce; its finding the motivation to create designs in your own time that takes motivation. For that I find I’m most productive when I’m making things for the people I care about.
Have you noticed any remarkable talent or project in design coming out of Pakistan?
I know many talented designers and artists from Pakistan and have also stumbled across some interesting student design projects but I feel the design field is still in its incipient stages. We need more designers that challenge the norm and create more meaningful design.
You have explored our desi culture and visual aesthetic in your work in great detail. Apart from Lollywood and Truck Art, what Pakistani themes can we explore to further establish a Pakistani design identity?
I have thought about the idea of what would make a Pakistani design identity; whether it should take elements from our kitschy pop-culture or traditional imagery found in our culture (carpets, textile, ceramics, architecture) and I haven’t reached any definitive conclusion.
Perhaps the focus should shift from surface treatments to the design itself. What we are hoping to achieve is making a design for a Pakistani, tailor-made for his/her circumstances and needs. That applies to whether the design is anything from a poster, an animation, a bicycle or a table lamp. I feel we may need to focus on just creating good design first: design that fulfills its objectives and gives joy to those that interact with it. If the design is made with a Pakistani user in mind, the design will inherently end up being Pakistani.
Find more about Shehzil at her website.
by Najwat Rehman