[Interview] Creative Director Nasheet Shadani Speaks About Art, Illustration & Design

Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

Out there in the world of art illustration and designing, there is a creative director. He has taken his art directly to the world of advertising, and has partnered with global giants in the process. He has already garnered a host of national and international awards including a Grand Prix at New York Fest’s Global Awards, 3 Cannes Lions and most recent, the prestigious Communication Arts’ ‘Award Of Excellence’ in Design – and is still going strong.

That’s right, we got in touch with Nasheet Shadani, and found answers to everything one wonders about in the context of a creative mind. Nasheet was a senior creative director at Wieden+Kennedy, and has also worked with Grey Group Asia Pacific in the past. Read on to find more about him!

Multix-Brochure Nasheet Shadani Thr Yellow Sparrow

Nasheet’s award-winning Multix brochures.

Q. Did you always want to be an artist/creative director while growing up?

I always wanted to pursue art and I struggled a lot to find an expression. Going with the flow, I ended up in science stream in school (against my dad’s wish that I should go for fine arts). These two years made me realize that I am not someone who is cut out to go with the flow. I loved fiction more than science. After finishing my school with surprisingly good marks and a new pair of eyes, my dad saw the golden opportunity and pitched again for fine arts. This time he won, in fact, we both won.

Q. Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I studied fine arts, graphic design and advertising at Faculty of Fine Arts, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Sketchbook Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

Q. Did your parents influence your creativity in any way? 

I was introduced to Pablo Picasso, Alfred Hitchcock and Ghalib when I was preparing for primary school. My dad had a great collection of some of the most amazing magazines/books on art and photography including LIFE magazine. Those beautiful handmade shop signages, the biggest Ram Leela in Delhi, ruined houses of Mughal era, gigantic old gates, a huge Peepal tree, the most artistic environment possible in that time surrounded me in the rich culture of Old Delhi. I was also introduced to western visual culture in my early childhood. My first video game – ATARI when I was around 4 years old was my first contact with moving pixels and graphics. My father’s brilliant photographs taught me the basics of composition. My mom’s love for drawing also motivated me to draw.


Q. Did you have any mentors, who had an impact on you?

My dad. He taught me the best lesson of life: follow your passions and do what you love, rest will follow.

Q. Can you describe your path to what you are doing right now?

Right now, I am totally enamored by moving pictures and sound. That is what I am doing right now.

Q. You recently collaborated with Taxi Fabric, what was the thought process behind that? How did you reach your final illustrations?

I had to design interiors of an auto rickshaw for Taxi Fabric’s launch in Delhi. My theme was ‘Tasavvur’ which is an Urdu word for imagination.

I made the Taj Mahal of Delhi – Humayun’s Tomb in mixed media post impressionistic style resembling brush strokes of my favorite Van Gogh. The final artwork is a manifestation of the vibrant character and the passion of the city.

Nasheet Shadani Taxi Fabric The Yellow Sparrow

Q. What is a creative process you follow when doing any project, be it an ad campaign or your personal work.

My first attempt towards any project, be it a film, an ad, painting or any thing, is very instinctive. There are times when the moment I hear a task the solution automatically comes to mind. I encourage questioning in the first stage.

Once the problem is well stated, I take a pencil and start scribbling down my random thoughts. The second stage is to apply the filter and flesh out ideas, do some research, check what has already been done in similar situations. Once the idea is there, the next step is to think of a suitable style to bring it to life. Inventing or discovering a new style is great but sometimes, simple things do wonders if we give them an interesting twist. At times, I take a sudden exit from the work and get involved in something else. Sleeping over it clears most doubts. If I still feel excited about an idea next morning; I start making it.

Creativity is not just about freedom; at times restrictions yield marvelous results.

Personal projects allow more freedom hence they are more challenging. Also, the desire to surprise oneself and do something fascinating every time is very challenging. But in the end it is all worth it.

Q. What do you think makes or breaks a successful Advertising Campaign? Tell us some of your favorite ones!

There is no set formula. The most challenging part about advertising is that it changes with time the way our society does. The irony is that people want to avoid ads and advertisers want to show them ads quite desperately. One just cannot avoid advertising, it better be interesting. Great advertising should be honest, insightful and should surprise people.

It needs guts to talk so honestly the way Volkswagen did in sixties, created by sir Bill Bernbach, the legend who introduced the idea of ‘idea’ to advertising. Those Volkswagen ads were fantastic.

In the recent ones, I really love Hans Brinker Budget Hotel campaign by KesselsKramer, Amsterdam. The idea: ‘The Brinker is the worst hotel in the world’. It is so clutter-breaking, daring and extendable that it is still running after more than 10 years, still sounding fresh and still evolving (very anti-advertising strategy, slow claps!). Imagine a hotel at night, whose sign reads HELL, on purpose, instead of HOTEL.


Q. What are projects, which you’ve done which are very close to your heart and why? We want to explore your projects through your eyes!

My favourites are: the Ogilvy logo in Urdu/Persian script, which I feel, serves a much bigger purpose than just a piece of communication. It amalgamates two distinct cultures of the East and the West. It was a Eureka moment when I happened to combine two totally different scripts in one word.

Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow Ogilvy

 Apart from this I loved working on some projects in Grey Singapore, the ‘Human Calligraphy’ one. My experiments with paper arts for Vodafone and Taxi Fabric were real fun too.

Nasheet shadani,Human Calligraphy, GSK Hong Kong


Having said all that, I would still say, my best work in a new medium is yet to come.

Q. What are you working on these days?

“If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.” – Stanley Kubrick

 As you know, I always love to experiment and challenge what I already know. My latest fascination is film-making. I am thrilled to experiment with moving images.

I was always curious about it, as it is the only medium where all the other mediums can play an integral part in storytelling in the most compelling way.

Expect a film or two very soon!

Q. Tell us something about your most recent painting that you exhibited at Indianama.

I chose the year 1964, as it was the year when the true legend of Indian cinema Guru Dutt supposedly committed suicide. The ‘Rembrandt’ of Indian cinema had more shadows than light in his life. The tragic story of his life revolved around melancholy, devastation, shadows, love and sheer genius. There was something romantically tragic about his death that I wanted to capture in an image. For this, I chose Sahir Ludhianvi’s nazm from Guru Dutt’s classic ‘Pyasa’ and interpreted it in black and white calligraphy in Urdu and Devnagri script.

indianama Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

Nasheet’s images speak to you in different dimensions, in different languages. But the fact is, that you always relate. As an artist, you see his art and marvel at the originality. As a consumer, you go through his advertising campaign and smile – for the creativity is evident. Nasheet’s story is a beautiful reminder of the wonderful transformation art is undergoing.


Here are some of our favourites from Nasheet’s amazing works!

Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow


Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

Nasheet 7

Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

Nasheet Shadani The Yellow Sparrow

 To know more about Nasheet, visit his profile here!

Feature Image Courtesy  by Salim Khan

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