Through this series, Community Spotlight, we are highlighting a range of designers who inspire us with their boundless imagination and resilient spirit. We hope that in doing so, they too will bring inspiration to your doorstep.
For this week's source of inspiration, we chatted with Neeta Budhraja, one of the most resilient and dedicated designers out there. Despite multiple setbacks over the years, she's continued to learn, grow, and motivate those around her with her unyielding optimism. We cannot wait to see where her journey takes her, but for now, we are very happy she has invited us along for the ride.
Q: Hi Neeta, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I'm Neeta, a fashion designer turned graphic designer and calligraphy artist who was brought up in New Delhi, India.
I grew up in my mother’s parents' home during the daytime, as both my parents worked. My mom is a retired public health nurse and my father is a hardcore businessman. I currently help in my family's textile business, which has been in our family for 4 generations. We have a retail shop related to premium home textile products (bedsheets, bedcovers, blankets, etc) and I actively attend to customers and help them gain confidence when purchasing home linens. Since childhood, it's been my dream to work in my family business... Being from an Indian conservative family, where girls were never given permission to join family businesses, I must say I had an audacious goal.
The circumstances were such that after graduating, I decided to learn fashion design and simultaneously pursue higher education. I started sending my designs to various local fashion shows, but my parents were scared that this profession would get in the way of me getting married and taking care of my in-laws and family/children. Instead, my mom wanted me to complete my Bachelor's in Education so that I could become a teacher, get married, and have a normal life. I completed my Education degree and started teaching small kids, but I never found peace and inner satisfaction doing that... I worked as a teacher in a public school for 3 years.
One fine day in 2003, we were told to separate from our family business. We started from scratch with our new shop, new location, and new business in textiles and I decided to enter full-fledged in the business.
In 2004, I restarted my education in fashion design and joined one of the best colleges in India. This, paired with some major housing demolition issues we encountered, made for a very uncertain time. My parents started looking for my marriage prospects when we moved into our new house, but in 2016 I had a series of severe health issues and had to undergo 2 surgeries on the same day. It took 3 years for my life to return to normal.
I was still recovering from surgery when I decided to learn graphic design in 2017. After all these years, one thing has stayed consistent: I never stopped designing. I feel it’s my design work that helps me stay positive and optimistic and gives me the confidence to be my best.
Q: How long have you know about Design Cuts?
I have been with Design Cuts since 2020 when Loveleigh Loops joined them for a live session and I got to see so many awesome products on offer! My first purchase was a $1 calligraphy brush for Procreate and then the Shimmer Set, which I loved so much and still use.
Then with regular Design cuts Live sessions during lockdown, I got to see the crazy bundle deals and the basket offer! That got me hooked on Procreate packs and brushes and I got to see such a supportive community in the chats. This is what I have found the most distinctive and different from other platforms, where no one is allowed to interact with other attendees.
After attending some ShoutBAM and Ian Barnard tutorials, I have since felt the need to be there for every tutorial to learn from the best of artists and get my hands on the best design products. I have never missed a single tutorial! Now, the Design Cuts community is a family for me... I eagerly await Thursday’s live sessions and the live events.
Q: What was your graphic design journey?
I joined Pearl Academy again in 2017 but this time to learn graphics and repeat patterns! I completed my graphics course in 2018 and side by side, I started designing posts for a manufacturing company for whom I had designed (for free!) from 2012 to 2017. I created their logo and a whole lot of social media posts, and when I asked to be paid they said they couldn't afford my rate. I decided to stop working for them in March 2020, just before lockdown!
After completing my graphics course, I realized that we had not been taught anything related to calligraphy. I decided to learn some calligraphy styles on my own so that I could design my own lettering the way I wanted. I started my calligraphy in November 2018, but I found it very tough and stopped. Then, I got the chance to attend a live session with Jack Canfield in January 2019 in New Delhi and it changed my life! I decided to practice calligraphy daily and find various calligraphy artists on YouTube so that I could learn properly. There I found Kelly Creates and Loveleigh Loops and I joined their Facebook groups. Through their University courses, I am learning each calligraphy style but this time with the focus of fine-tuning my calligraphy and developing my own unique style. I also plan on improving my copperplate with Paul Antonio, but first I am learning English round hand from Ian Serealle.
Q: What does your design process look like?
Most of the time, I work on creating 'festive wishes' social media posts... so for that, I follow this 5 step process:
- I jot down all the thoughts that are coming to my mind at that very moment and then I think of colors that would look good.
- I conduct research and check all the other platforms (like Google, Freepik, Adobe Stock) to see how similar or different my design concept is from theirs. I check the colors from their designs and see if there are any for that festival that I wasn’t aware of or hadn't included (eg. Easter might require colorful pastels).
- After doing all the research work, I start thinking and iterating all the lettering styles that may look good with the design. I try a minimum of 5 to 6 different styles and then I ask a normal person (and my sister) which lettering style they find more appealing or appropriate for that festive mood.
- I work on the background, without the lettering visible. I create the background and then check if the lettering style that I finalized goes with my background design. If it does, then I start making the tag line with a similar style, and if not, I try the other lettering that I created earlier.
- Once I complete my work, I check the background again. If I feel I need to change the colors or any design element, I do that. I prepare 3 or 4 backgrounds and ask the same set of people which one they prefer.
For other projects that are not festive posts, my 5 steps remain the same but their order of execution changes.
- For creating logos, I ask a whole set of questions from clients so that I have in-depth knowledge about their brand/personality along with their personal vision. I only say yes to their project if I feel that their values match up with mine.
- I start with my own thoughts and then begin working with the client's information, looking for how I can best illustrate their vision and values.
- For logos, in addition to all the steps, I make sure to share my process with my client so that I am able to get feedback and make changes. I normally give 5 to 7 options to a client. For pamphlets and posters, I check Google, Pinterest and Freepik first and then think of how I can make the designs different from what I’ve seen. For digital brushes, I create brushes that I want to use for myself and that I don’t yet have in my brush library. After using them for a while, I offer some sample brushes to artists on Instagram, then I ask for their feedback on those and further fine-tune them. I am very fortunate to have found beautiful community members like Debi Sementelli and Elena Statham who are constantly guiding me and motivating me to do better.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I check Freepik and Google to get an idea of what other people are making and decide how I can add value through my designs. For the past few months, I have started checking Pinterest as well.
I also keep attending the weekly Design Cuts hangouts, which are a great resource for me as I learn directly from great artists. I believe I am a lifelong learner so I keep doing various courses as per my budget and keep improving my design process and skills. My fellow artists on different Facebook communities and their work are also a great source of inspiration.
Q: What project are you most proud of?
I am most proud of some of my festive wishes posts made in Procreate, my composition work using Debi Sementelli’s and ShoutBAM's Composition Kit and the digital brushes that I have and continue to create.
Q: Where do you hope to be in 5 years' time?
In 5 years’ time, I would like to see my digital products selling on Design Cuts. I see myself as an established artist and calligrapher helping at least 10,000 people every year develop their calligraphy skills both on paper and online. I want to help them develop their own style so that they can offer the best and most unique solutions for their clients. I also want to save them time through my digital brushes, which will help them create beautiful art pieces and projects in just 15-20 minutes.
Q: Which graphic designers do you look up to?
I see Rajeev Mehta and Thomas Cargil (from Satori Graphics) as my mentors. I have learned so much from these two graphic designers and their YouTube channels. I am a student of Rajeev Mehta’s and have been doing his courses since 2020. He teaches in Hindi but his teaching method is simple and to the point, which makes me a huge fan. Besides them, I follow Chris Do on YouTube and I am planning to join his course in Typography in a few months...
As for lettering artists, I am a huge fan of Loveleigh Loops, Kelly Creates, Stefan Kunz, ShoutBAM, Teela From Every-Tuesday, Debi Sementelli, Molly Suber Thorpe, Ian Barnard, Claudia Riveros, Tamer Ghoneim and so many more... I love them for their artwork, their support and transparency, and their expertise.
Q: What are your top tips for your fellow designers?
- Never give up! What if a breakthrough was just around the corner? Take small baby steps each day and practice daily, without fail.
- Do whatever it takes to master the skill(s) you want to acquire. Always keep learning if you want to stay ahead of your own self.
- If you want to progress, set goals in life and take action.
- I would recommend everyone (who is serious about learning) to invest in paid programs offered by the best artists in this industry so that you can learn from them. But… no matter how good the courses or programs you enroll in, you still need to actively work and make an effort to learn those techniques and skills.
- You are your own competition. Never compare your journey to that of others.
- If you feel overwhelmed with any challenges, take a pause, observe the challenge with a bird’s eye view, and break it into small bite-size chunks that you can then tackle.
- Never get too attached to your designs or artwork. When you receive criticism for your work, ask yourself these questions: Is the person who is giving me feedback an expert in that area? Is this person’s feedback important for my growth?
Q: What are your favorite DC products to use?
There are so many products that I love from DC.
- All the ShoutBAM Procreate brush packs are my personal favourites
- Ian Barnard’s Letter and Grid Builder
- Molly Suber Thorpe’s calligraphy guides, which I use almost daily
- Lisa Glanz’s brushes, particularly her Aquareal watercolors
- Abbie Uproot’s Risograph brushes, as well as her Everything Watercolor Brush Set
- Tamer Ghoneim’s recent collection of Bewitched brush packs
- Claudia Riveros’s Nifty Brushes
- Leslie Nicole’s textured overlays
All these packs have helped me grow as an artist and made my work look so professional. I am truly grateful to Design Cuts for providing the best products under one roof.
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