Roshnee Desai© Roshnee Dasai

Meet Roshnee Desai Who Is Slowly Revolutionising Graphic Design In India

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Pooja Prabhan Srijith

Roshnee Desai is not new to the graphic designing scene. She had been working in the industry, both in India and abroad, for over a decade when she realised that she wanted to come back to the country and create something that would help bridge the ginormous gap between International design standards and Indian art and craft forms.

This is how LOCAL, a Mumbai and London-based brand strategy and design consultancy brand was formed.

Desai took out a few minutes from changing the landscape of Indian graphic design to chat with HELLO! about how it all began, her work ethics, and more…

HELLO!: How did the idea to launch LOCAL sprout? Take us through your train of thought.

Roshnee Desai: I wanted to start a brand design studio designed for Indian businesses inspired by India’s rich visual culture. I believe when the world (since ancient times) has constantly looked to India for inspiration, why should we look elsewhere? I grew up travelling across India throughout my childhood. Being a creative kid, I noticed the colours, patterns, textures and languages spread across this amazing country, all varying from state to state. When I started my career in design at MTV and Saffron I borrowed a lot from these travels and enjoyed those projects most where I had to use the knowledge of the locals.

H!: If you were to describe the vibe of your business in not more than a line, how would you do it?

RD: Relaxed creative young excited Indian brown proud. We are a young, cutting-edge, creative powerhouse that wants to change the way India is perceived by the world.

H!: What are the highlights/USPs of your design brand?

RD: LOCAL has two parts, the studio and the lab. The Studio is where we work on client brands, while the Lab is where we experiment and push Indian design. We have a strong student body following and we have 6 missions:

1. To research and study local design

2. To experiment and push design

3. To make important information visible

4. To solve real-world problems

5. To archive and guide

6. To lead by example

We use these philosophies to create brands for clients, as well as work on our self-initiated projects at the LOCAL Lab. We believe that in today’s world, brands have the power to create and shape culture. As brand designers and strategists, we take this responsibility seriously. We want to craft brands into making a positive impact in the world. We have developed methodologies to do so and give our clients a toolkit to help them make this world a bit better. This focus sets us apart from what is going on in India, where every day, brands are being created mindlessly. Do we need another make-up brand? No. But do we need a more gender-positive, skin-positive, cruelty-free, eco-friendly make-up brand to pave the way? Yes.

H!: Was entrepreneurship always on the cards? Did you have a Plan B before venturing into the area of design and creative direction?

RD: I come from a family of generations of doctors. So entrepreneurship was never on the cards. Even today, I see LOCAL more as a design movement rather than an enterprise. I was studying to become a doctor when I was younger, but the minute I discovered design and media studies in college, I never gave myself a Plan B. However if I had to, my Plan B would be to study psychology and philosophy to become a therapist. In a way, even now I think I am a therapist for business people, helping them unearth and express their company’s inner potential.

H!: How would you explain your brand’s vision/work philosophy?

RD: Our aim is to design projects that change the world—rooted in the local, affecting the global.

H!: What does an off day sound like. How do you like to unwind/take a breather when things get too overwhelming?

RD: If I’m in Mumbai, a day off means to cook, read, meet friends and practice Hindustani Classical singing. But more than anything else in the world, I like to loiter! Whether it means going for walks around my neighbourhood in Bandra or take a road trip to vague villages across India (and the world), my husband and I love to discover new cultures, people and ways of living— especially off the beaten road. We have one life, you must know all its dimensions. And one can only do that if you spend some time open to see how other humans (and non-humans) live! I’ve lived in a desert village in Jaisalmer, remote coastal villages in Konkan, and small tribal villages in Bengal.

H!: What next?

RD: On the business front: We are soon expanding our presence to London in the coming year. On a personal font: The pandemic and climate crises have made me think long and hard about my role as a designer in society. Especially one that works with brands. How little we have progressed in the subject of sustainable packaging and how our landfills are overflowing with packaging and branding waste. I’m also seeing the mental health impact of overconsumption of content and work-life imbalance. All of this has me rethinking my business and how I want to run things in the future.