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How did you get started in the creative field and learn the skills you use today? My earliest memories interacting with art and design are those of watching my father paint. I remember being captivated by the swirling of colors and the surety of his brush strokes; I hoped that one day, I’d paint like him. My love of art never waned and, in fact, brought me to New York, where I discovered my passion for design. This is where I learned to take my artistic abilities and combine it with purpose, practicality and functionality. Having been introduced to pure and applied design here, I was able to experiment with different materials and techniques that let my fine art meld with the accessibility of design. Design gave me the tools and platform needed to visually represent my thoughts on language, culture, semiotics and psychology. It also gave me access to a community of inspiring mentors and talented peers who showed me different perspectives that pushed me to create work that I would have never imagined.

What do you currently do in your role as senior designer at Penske Media Corporation? I have a diverse range of responsibilities. Primarily, I work on branding the multiple events hosted by brands like Beauty Inc, Footwear News, Sourcing Journal and WWD. My team and I create a cohesive, compelling visual identity for each event, which includes everything from the logo, color scheme and typography to marketing materials such as signage, advertisements, social media graphics and email campaigns. Essentially, our aim is to create a consistent brand identity that resonates with the target audience and enhances the overall event experience.

Additionally, I also work on editorial projects such as Rivet magazine and WWD Digital Daily, a daily newsletter that is sent to subscribers every morning with trending highlights, breaking news and insights from key industry players.

In Untranslate, your app that won in our 2023 Interactive competition, you were able to help others explore the etymological history of languages through four distinct lenses. What inspired you to undertake this project, and how did that inspiration inform its design? I have always been intrigued by how language and semiotics are deeply influenced by cultures and how understanding these influences is important for effective communication across cultures. The vocabulary of a language reflects the cultural practices, beliefs and experiences of the people who speak it. Different languages have different rules for how words are arranged and how sentences are structured. These rules reflect the ways in which people in that culture think about the world and organize their thoughts.

Similarly, symbols and signs are often culturally specific and can only be understood within the context of a particular culture. For example, the meaning of the color white can vary widely depending on the culture. Some cultures associate white with purity and innocence, while in others, it is associated with mourning and death.

I chose to focus on the many words and phrases in various languages that are specific to the culture and context in which they are used and cannot be fully translated into other languages without losing their full meaning. My aim through Untranslate was to create a design system that is inclusive and culturally sensitive and create a better understanding and appreciation of cross-cultural perspectives.

What intrigues you about bringing sociopolitical themes such as pluralism into your design work? How do you use design as a tool to confront societal issues? I believe that design has a powerful ability to communicate ideas and influence people’s perceptions and attitudes. By incorporating sociopolitical themes into my work, I try to help raise awareness, promote understanding and drive positive change. Socially motivated design is also about creating products and services that promote inclusivity and equity, while also addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by different communities.

By designing with empathy and challenging assumptions and stereotypes, socially motivated design can help promote a more inclusive and equitable society. Incorporating sociopolitical themes into design work can be challenging, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. By creating work that engages with important social issues, I hope to make a positive impact on society and inspire others to do the same.

By designing with empathy and challenging assumptions and stereotypes, socially motivated design can help promote a more inclusive and equitable society.”

You’ve worked on projects that cover a variety of disciplines, from design and art direction to illustration to advertising to typography to interaction design. What inspires your multidisciplinary approach? I have found that complex design challenges often require a multidisciplinary approach. When a problem cannot be easily solved within a single design discipline, it is important to approach it through a diverse range of perspectives in order to develop a comprehensive solution. Through a multidisciplinary approach, I have been able to develop a more well-rounded skillset, better collaboration and communication skills, and be more adaptable to changing design trends and technologies.

Other than Untranslate, what have been some of your favorite projects to work on, and what did you learn from them? A personal project that I enjoyed working on was GiftWise, an app that lets you schedule events ranging from birthdays, anniversaries to festivals and accordingly make mood boards for future gift ideas. This app stemmed from my personal inability to keep up with important events in my life, specifically keeping track of gift ideas for those events. I found that most scheduling applications in the market are very general, and there is no way of combining your event schedule and the gifting process associated with it.

GiftWise was one of my first UI design projects. It taught me to use my branding and editorial skills to make a digital product that was intuitive, easy to use and accessible. It not only introduced me to an analytical way of approaching design problems, but also encouraged me to learn design tools and software like InVision, Principle and Sketch.

Who have been your most influential mentors, and how? My first mentor when it came to art and design was my dad. He was someone who encouraged me to pursue design as a career despite its unconventionality in South Asian cultures. He has always both been my toughest critic and my biggest cheerleader.

Additionally, Andrew LeClair, my thesis professor at Parsons School of Design, has been one of the most influential people I’ve met as a designer. He has provided me with feedback, advice and support since my senior year and has helped me identify and pursue my goals and aspirations.

What is the biggest challenge currently facing designers? Designers nowadays have a responsibility to consider the ethical implications of their work, as design has a powerful influence on people’s perceptions, behaviors and values. We should be asking ourselves some essential questions such as: Who will be affected by this design? What are the potential consequences of this design? How does this design align with ethical and moral values?

We should be pushing ourselves to create designs that are inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of factors such as age, gender, race or ability. This can include considerations such as using inclusive language, designing for different accessibility needs and avoiding cultural stereotypes. Designers have a critical role to play in creating designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing and functional but also ethical and socially responsible. By considering the ethical implications of our work, we can create designs that have a positive impact on individuals and society.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? One of the most important things to be aware of is to be open to criticism. Design is subjective, and not everyone will love your work. Use constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow. Criticism from others can help us identify these blind spots and see our work from a fresh perspective. Being open to criticism also shows that you are committed to producing the best possible work and are willing to take constructive feedback to achieve that goal.

Also, success in graphic design, like any other industry, takes time, hard work and dedication. Be patient, stay focused on your goals, and don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things! ca

Arani Halder, a visual designer and illustrator based in New York City, uses her work to open windows into the lives of different people and the broader sociopolitical movements that help shape them. Her work explores the connections between language, culture, pluralism, autonomy and the power of knowing one’s roots. Currently, Halder works as senior designer at Penske Media Corporation, working on brands like Beauty Inc, Footwear News, Sourcing Journal and WWD. She has received awards and accolades from prestigious organizations like Australian Graphic Design Association, Communication Arts, Designers Institute of New Zealand and Graphic Design USA.


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