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Gayatri Maelathil

Graphic Design, Co-Valedictorian

Interview

April 2022

I want to design for change, design for good, for a purpose.

What is your family background and how did you end up at VCUarts Qatar?

I am from India, but I have lived in Qatar all my life, because of my dad’s job.

I’ve been very artistic since childhood. I even took art and design as a subject in school, and I knew that I wanted to have a career in the arts. When it came time to think of universities, I was looking at schools in Qatar and the UK. But, I chose VCUQ for several reasons. Firstly, I had visited, I knew and had spoken to people who studied here, and I also took a summer intensive that offered courses like graphic design, illustration – a small sample of what they offer, and I liked it very much. However, what further persuaded me was the financial aid and scholarship available from QF, as well as the student employment opportunities available at VCUarts Qatar.

What has been your focus at VCUarts Qatar? What have you specialized in and why?

When I first applied, I decided graphic design would be my focus. With art foundation classes my first year that explored projects from different majors, I become more convinced that graphic design was the best for me because it offered a wide spectrum. I could design t-shirts, interior spaces, it connects with all design elements and it is very flexible and possibilities are endless. I’m somebody who likes to stick to a lot of things, so it matched my personality in that way.

I think people have to do their part and I want to do my part, even if it has a small impact, because it is still meaningful.

Gayatri Maelathil
Tell us about projects that you are really proud of that helped you grow and left an impact?

One favorite project I worked on was during the pandemic, in the initial period when everyone had to quarantine. I designed a series of digital stickers that were representative of and visualized the pandemic and quarantine related phenomena that I observed around me. I made over 50 stickers that were really fun for everyone who interacted with it. For example, one sticker said, “not social, social club” , meaning you’re socializing but you’re not actually socializing in person. Another said, “Also how we lost the summer, RIP Summer 2020”, yet another about puzzles and cooking and baking… It was a fun , non-serious take, but also a response to the situation. As a result of this project, the communications department approached me to design the pin for the 2020 BFA exhibition. The design of this pin was a congratulatory message for the BFA graduates who showed such resilience during this time. The pin said, “Cmd Z”, the keyboard shortcut for “go back”, and the design itself was a likeness of a keyboard but represented with stacked houses, and it represented all of us being confined and the desire to go back to the pre-pandemic time. I also want to mention my thesis. It is on the topic of vegetarianism and the circular food economy. It explores how vegetarianism can be an easy solution that individually somebody can take to combat the climate crisis. I’m creating this app that can standardize plant-based dietary profiles. It scans products and if they are part of the circular food economy. I’m also creating illustrative infographics to provide contextual case studies and planet positive diet patterns, basically making the experience easier for those who are a part of the community. The project calls to improve the climate situation, and it is geared towards the environmental crisis and trying to find solutions through design.

Class of 2022 Co-Valedictorian Gayatri
Illustration by Sherifa Eletrebi © Sherifa Eletrebi, VCUarts Qatar
Gayatri Maelathil, ‘Kiwi: Vegetarianism and the Circular Food System’ 2022, Graphic Design © Gayatri Maelathil, VCUarts Qatar.

It is about 70 percent done, and it will be a speculative, fictional brand. The design is very psychedelic, because the audience is the youth, the change makers. It aims to present the audience with a cool brand that they can relate to. It is exploring pushing the boundaries on how an app looks with colors and layout and how the information is displayed and communicated to make it engaging and cool.

Gayatri Maelathil ©Gayatri Maelathil

I want to work in this field of motion, emerging, dynamic technologies, and things like VR – the design aspect, not the coding.

Gayatri Maelathil
Gayatri Maelathil, ‘Kiwi: Vegetarianism and the Circular Food System’ 2022, Graphic Design © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.
This is still being finalized, but I’m going abroad for a multimedia masters in UI/UX – user experience and user interface design. The user centered aspect of design really interests me. I want to design for change, design for good, for a purpose. In a way, that is for everyday life. I want to work in this field of motion, emerging, dynamic technologies, and things like VR – the design aspect, not the coding. Where there’s a practical aspect, but still room for conceptual design where you can really expand.
Gayatri Maelathil, ‘Kiwi: Vegetarianism and the Circular Food System’ 2022, Graphic Design © Gayatri Maelathil, VCUarts Qatar.
In graphic design they encouraged us to think of things we’re passionate about, and with the recent code red for humanity and the environmental crisis, there is no way I cannot take this seriously. I think people have to do their part and I want to do my part, even if it has a small impact, because it is still meaningful.
Gayatri Maelathil, ‘Kiwi: Vegetarianism and the Circular Food System’ 2022, Graphic Design © Gayatri Maelathil, VCUarts Qatar.
I am definitely an optimist. I feel that people do care. If there is awareness about it and positive support for the shifts and changes, if more enthusiastic people do want a change, a change will happen. And in some cases, and some areas it is happening. And a lot more people are taking it more seriously.

Insight

I would like to tell my peers to believe in yourself. We literally went through a pandemic, and the projects my peers have come through and the creativity they had -- they’re going to survive the world, they don’t have to worry. They are so creative and inspiring; they’re going to be good.

Gayatri Maelathil
Gayatri Maelathil, ‘Kiwi: Vegetarianism and the Circular Food System’ 2022, Graphic Design © Raviv Cohen, VCUarts Qatar.

To her younger self

I would tell her: you’re going to find your own way. I can’t imagine that 1 year ago, I was so terrified that I didn’t know what my thesis topic would be, but the minute the semester started, it all fell into place and I already knew what I would be doing. So, I would tell her to just go with the flow and that you will do well, in terms of academics and in terms of what VCUQ can offer you. I didn’t believe I could achieve things I might be proud of, but I have to say, I did everything I’ve wanted to do, so I don’t have to worry. Success to me is doing the absolute best that I can for the goals I set myself.
ISSUE No.
4

The RAW Talent

MAY–AUG
2022
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