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Alumni Spotlight: Radhika Maheshwari

Sep 10 2019

Ron Callahan

What are you doing professionally? Very curious about your launch.
Currently, I’m running an independent practice to provide a wide range of graphic design services, mainly branding, packaging and illustrations. I work with small to mid-size businesses helping them build their brand from the ground up. Passionate about finding the best tools to create new brands and revive existing brands, and bring these to life through strategic thinking and thoughtfully crafted tactile and digital applications. 

Since the age of 15, I have always wanted to get into the surface design space. Textiles, prints, and home goods were always on my radar since then. But I always wanted to create a business that supports a cause, makes a difference. As a designer I think, we have a superpower to tell a story and make a difference in our own little way, and I felt it was my time to give back to a cause I completely believe in.

Textiles, prints and home goods were always on my radar since then. But I always wanted to create a business that supports a cause, makes a difference. As a designer I think, we have a super power to tell a story and make a difference in our own little way, and I felt it was my time to give back – to a cause I completely believe in.

I am very excited and happy to announce that I have just launched a new business called Rara – an initiative to revive historic art forms, and preserve rare, endangered animals.

Each collection at Rara will be focused on reviving an art form along with supporting a rare animal. We are launching with our first product using silk scarves, as a medium to tell the story of animals that are at the brink of extinction or critically endangered, seeking design inspiration from traditional and rare art forms across the world. Rara gives back 5% of net proceeds to the conservation of the “Rare”.

Can you tell us more about Rara?
Our belief is simple, we make products that are “ The Everyday Rare” – designed to last, crafted to restore the past and reimagine the future. Products that can be reminisced, re-worn for a reason, not driven by trends, inspired by massive details out in the world of wild, and influenced by the culture we grew up in.

While working on a personal 100 day project last year, I came across the subject of animal extinction. At the time of his death in 2018, Sudan, who was a captive northern white rhinoceros in Kenya, was one of only three living northern white rhinoceroses in the world and the last known male of his subspecies.

I researched into different animal species and realized so many animals are either at the brink of extinction or critically endangered. I deeply felt that it was my time to give back to a cause, a way that could help protect these animals.

Being born and raised in India, I have always been inspired by traditional Indian art forms, patterns, and colors. With 35 states and union territories sprawled across the country, each has its own distinct cultural and traditional identities and are displayed through various forms of art prevalent there. Every region in India has its own style and pattern of art. There’s always a story that is being said through these art forms. 

Sadly, so many of these art forms across the world are dying or are rare and unknown. 

Many of the artists are out of work due to various reasons. The art forms are too meticulous and heavily detailed, involving hand-painted textiles and intricate embroidery. Some of the skilled artists are not in touch with the market and are, therefore, unable to thrive. Some are not keen to go through the rigor of training that the older artists go through, hoping for quick returns without the required years of training.

At Rara, we are seeking inspiration from these art forms, and recreating them along with the animal we are trying to conserve. 

A few of my favorite projects that I helped build ground up are  startups like Paper Greats, Kisano and a current product I am working on in the CPG sector.

Having said that, launching a product/ running your own business teaches you a ton of things. As a freelancer or business owner, there are challenges everyday, sometimes with the idea, production, admin, business – pretty much, second guessing every step you take. 

I find the part which involves “marketing” particularly challenging, instagram which a lot of us use as a way to showcase our work. I really struggle putting myself and my work out there. It’s something I need to get better at. 

Which designers do you admire most nowadays?

Not any particular designer – but I have been obsessed with the design I have seen around Mexico. I was in Mexico City recently, and at every 20 meters, there’s a restaurant, a coffee shop or a store with great branding and design. Anagrama and Heavy from Mexico are my current favs. 

How do you stay inspired? What do you do for your personal creativity?
I travel – a lot! Food, culture and exploring a new surrounding, everything that helps me observe and reflect. It’s also working on personal projects, and not just design projects – I did a week where I cooked with only mushrooms, yoga, gardening, and exploring new crafts. I love seeing good tactile design and it inspires me to create more. I scroll through Pinterest and Instagram often to look at what other designers/ artists are doing. 

My go to trick: I find it particularly challenging to stay put in one place and seek inspiration around me, so if I feel lack of motivation or creatively uninspired – I take a quick walk to a store, where I spend an hour just looking at all the products and their packaging – this is my favorite thing to do! This way I stay updated with things and also make a list of all the industries / businesses I would love to work with in future. 

What design trends do you love?
Currently, design with a cause – not sure if it’s a trend, but I have been working with many brands which support a cause, like helping farmers, or giving back to the community or supporting local crafts and sustainability and that has impacted me in a big way. 

To learn more about Radhika’s work visit : www.radhikajain.com 
or follow her on Instagram: @radhika_maheshwari

Rara is launching very soon!
Sign up and stay updated at : www.thehouseofrara.com
Instagram: @thehouseofrara

To all the incoming designers, show up, give it all you got, support your classmates, stay open-minded, don’t compare and it’s okay to fail only to rise again! 

What was your experience as an international student?

It was a game changer for me. I came into the program after 5 years of working for different publications. I felt stagnant at that point and knew very little of what I actually do now. I was seeking a fresh start and wanted to figure out what I was meant to do.

This program opened up so many possibilities beyond just graphic design. It has helped me evolve as a designer, be more aware and practical – and I am not afraid of not following the norm anymore. 

I have to say, my favorite part of MFA design is the community! MFAD brings students from all across the world, some, who may not even be designers and puts them in a group and we create together, support one another and help each other to bring out our best. When I look back, I can say besides having friends all across the world, there’s a ton I learned from my peers, from their experiences, design skills, languages and cultures. 

SVA MFA Design has had a HUGE impact on my career! Apart from all taking away all that I learned through faculty members, I think the program really helped me shape my career path. Today, I can define the kind of work I want to do, brands that I want to work with and even be able to launch something of my own and take a leap to go full-time freelance.

Two years at MFAD taught me everything I did not know. It got me the right tools, the right guidance and a very practical approach to design in all possible aspects. From Print to Digital, I have been using all those tools in so many different ways to help other businesses by providing them the creative services they need. It’s like living every class every subject and every lesson in real life. 

If you could choose a thesis topic today, what would you pick?
Ha! I think I have it now! It would be Rara, for sure.