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Interview with Simoul Alva, Designer at &Walsh

Simoul Alva is a Visual Designer and Art Director based in New York. She works across identity design, storytelling and visual strategy. Her clients include The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, The Atlantic, Adobe, WIRED, Slack, New York Magazine and Wieden+Kennedy. She represented India at the 44th Worldskills and won a ‘Medallion Of Excellence’ for the country. She graduated from the National Institute of Design, India. Simoul was recognised as one of Forbes India’s 30 Under 30: ‘One To Watch Out’ for in design. She currently works at &Walsh, New York. Simoul has previously interned at Pentagram and Samsung Research America. In March, we were lucky enough to welcome Simoul for a guest lecture across our Northern Hemisphere campuses—New York, London, Manchester and our Online courses. She spoke about her incredible design journey so far and gave us a in-depth look into her recent experiments in 3D design.

We caught up with Simoul after her guest lecture to chat about her impressive CV, to learn about more about her 3D work and how it felt to be named as one of Forbes India’s 30 Under 30. Enjoy!

First up, could you tell us a bit about your route in design? What made you want to learn it, where did you study and anything else that motivated you into the design world?

I started drawing and painting when I was 3 years old. I would spend a lot of time outside of school work making things. My mother encouraged me by taking me to arts and crafts classes. When I was figuring out what to pursue after high school, I heard about a school senior who got into a prestigious design school in India.

I was intrigued by the idea of having a career where I could build things.

That prompted me to apply to The National Institute of Design and that’s where I learned more about design. I chose to focus on Visual Design in my second year.

What did you do after you graduated? What were your first steps?

I always interned during my summer breaks throughout design school. Those were my first steps. I also reached out to different designers and shared my work. My first internship was at Echostream in Sikkim, India under Tenzing Nyentsey’s leadership.

My second internship was at Codesign, Gurgaon, India under Mohor Ray and Rajesh Dahiya. I trained for the 44th Worldskills Abu Dhabi under Anthony Lopez at Lopez Design. Right before graduation, I interned at Pentagram on Michael Bierut’s team. After graduation, I interned at the Think Tank Team at Samsung Research America.

Wow! Pentagram. We’d love to know more about that. What was it like working under Michael Beirut? 

It was an incredible experience. I learned a lot while I worked there. It was a great first introduction to New York.

It was a dream to work for Michael Bierut after reading How To. I am glad to have had that opportunity that opened many doors for me.

You’re now working at another incredible agency, &Walsh. Can you tell us about your route from Pentagram to there?

It wasn’t a linear path. I returned back to India to graduate. While I was looking for jobs in India, I had an opportunity to freelance with Sagmeister & Walsh. That lead to a full-time role at &Walsh.

Can you share any of the projects you have worked on or are currently working on at &Walsh with us?

I work on brand identity and visual system design at &Walsh. I also work on art direction and concepting for video and photo solutions from time to time. Keep an eye out on the studio website.

We really enjoyed seeing all your 3D work. Would you be able to tell us about how you first started experimenting with 3D? And any tips for anyone who might want to do the same?

I started experimenting with 3D hoping that I could use it as part of my brand design work. My first commission to create 3D design for a specific story came from the New York Times. It was the first time I had to concept image ideas and then execute it. After that, I spent time building a body of work that came from various editorial illustration assignments.

My tip would be to just jump into it. Every software feels alien and difficult before you open it.

Are you able to share a few of your favourite 3D projects with us? We’d love to hear more about them.

I loved collaborating with Adobe to create brand design projects that featured 3D as part of the visual solution. I also enjoy the editorial illustrations I have worked on. The style that I developed came from the context of the story.

I learn so much about the world through these illustrations.

You were named one of Forbes India 30 Under 30. How did that come about? How did it feel to get recognised by an institution like Forbes?

I feel humbled to be part of such a prestigious list. I am excited to represent visual design on the list. It brings a lot of interest and understanding about the field.

Who or what influences your work? It would be fascinating to know your go-tos for inspiration.

So many designers! Not just their work but how they’ve built careers and influenced design worldwide. Also their ability to help businesses scale in terms of design. On a day to day level, a lot of reading, podcasts, looking at different books, films, design case studies, world news and technology.

Would you be able to offer some advice for our graduates who are just making their way into the design industry?

Work hard and only put work in your portfolio you want to be hired for.

Be honest to yourself about the kind of work you want to do.

Don’t design your portfolio forever. You have to send out the first email.

Big thanks to Simoul for an inspiring lecture to Shillington New York, London, Manchester, and Online, and for talking to us afterwards. Make sure to follow her on Instagram and check out her website to keep an eye on her amazing experiments.

We’ve hosted some of the world’s top creatives, design studios and advertising agencies at Shillington. Check out more interviews from guest lecturers.

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