After working with companies like I-AM Mumbai, Landor Associates, Bhavishyavani and 22 Feet Tribal Worldwide, Manu Ambady branched out on his own as an independent graphic designer and illustrator. While he has created works for various commercial brands, his personal project ‘Lost in the Crowd’ – about the street vendors in Mahim, Mumbai – created for his graduation in 2013 has retained its significance and acclaim over the last few years. We speak to Manu about this project and some of his other works. Edited excerpts:
When was the moment you realized you wanted to be in the visual arts space?
I have had a strong inclination towards arts since I was really young, and my interest in comics and comic art got me into the space of design.
According to you, what have been some of the biggest highlights of your career so far?
A major highlight was the street vendor series (Lost in the Crowd) I created in 2013. That got a lot of features and gave me a good confidence boost.
Professionally, being a part of the design team that created the Britannia India website felt amazing as a first time UI designer. I had a lot of fun working on Hitchki in Mumbai as well. And to see my branding for Kundalini Entertainment (Arjun Rampal) all over the city felt great too.
How do you create a balance between personal and commercial work? Also, you have worked in agencies before and now you work as a freelancer – which one do you prefer?
Balancing personal and commercial work is really difficult actually. It has almost been four years now since I have been planning to work on my next series of illustrations and I still haven’t found the time to do that. But I guess it will happen when the time is right. I am in the final stages of conceptualizing it.
And yes, I have worked full-time as well as a design consultant, and now I am a freelancer. I think each one has a fun aspect to it. Sometimes you want to work with a team and evolve and then there are times when you want to lead the project. It’s all exciting. But if I could keep getting great projects as a freelancer, I’d continue to work on those.
Sometimes you want to work with a team and evolve and then there are times when you want to lead the project.
It is a personal series that I worked on in 2013 as a part of my graduation project for MITID, Pune. Inspired by the street vendors of Mumbai, I decided to create a series about them. They are the faces you see every day but usually tend to forget. I wanted to highlight these grey lives that inhabit this colorful city.
I used mixed media in order to bring out the depth of this concept of grayscale and color. It was an experimental series as this was the first time I tried this style. After the series was done, I did think of expanding it across different cities but I guess I won’t be doing that now. I’d rather work on my new series as I find that much more exciting.
I wanted to highlight these grey lives that inhabit this colorful city.
Who are the artists around the world that you really admire?
Could you tell us a bit about some of the projects you are working on right now?
I recently worked on a taproom project for a local brewery which was a fun experience. I am now working on this e-commerce website that I am really excited about, and on a brand refresh exercise for an educational institution based out of Kerala. As I mentioned before, I am also in the final stages of conceptualization of a self-initiated illustration series.
Words by Payal Khandelwal