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Life & Work with Pranav Nair

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pranav Nair.

Hi Pranav, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am a Concept Designer and Artist living and working in Pasadena, California. I grew up in India in the busy city of Bangalore and was always fascinated by the act of storytelling. My imagination was always growing through the stories I heard, read, and watched as a child. Gods battling demons in Hindu mythologies, becoming a superhero through personal tragedy, drama coming to life through animation – these words and visuals became life lessons that has stuck with me from my childhood until now. The stories that inspired me the most were the ones of struggle, redemption, and achieving something beyond one’s self. So here I was, six years old and reading the same comic over and over under my blanket late at night, trying not to be caught by my parents. Here I was waking up at 5:00 AM to watch the newest episode of my favorite anime. And here I was when my creative journey started, whether I realized it or not. I was fortunate to be exposed to a world of media and technology at a young age. This gave me a great appreciation for machines, vehicles, and characters. I spent most of my childhood drawing every little thing I saw- cars, planes, buildings, creatures, heroes, villains and so much more. I loved to create my own versions of things and I found that I had a natural talent to draw at a young age. I always strayed away from the path of being an artist as I was told by everyone around me that it was a futile endeavor – that being a doctor or an engineer was the best career choice for anybody.

At the time, drawing was only a hobby and nothing more. But this “hobby” of mine continued to get me in trouble for drawing in class and had my school notebooks full of drawings being confiscated. Out of all the creations and imitations to come from my pen to paper, I was particularly drawn to these complex but fascinating machines called “cars.” And as the stereotype goes, I wanted, or at least I thought I wanted, to be an Engineer who built these cars. During the course of my engineering education, I discovered “Design” as a career path for creatives who also had an interest in technology. After countless hours of research and watching other designers online, I found myself doing more than just loving to draw cars and products. I found myself actively applying this concept of design as far as my mind could go. It was no longer about drawing A through Z, but realizing there was a whole other language waiting to be explored, rearranged, added to and reduced from, and then creating from that. It was about applying the world to my mind, then my mind back to the endless canvas in front of me.

Design was definitely no longer a “hobby” but a lifestyle. On completing my Bachelor’s in Engineering and briefly interning with TATA Motors in Pune, India, I spent all my free time learning more and more about design, building a portfolio of work, and connecting with any product or automotive designer I could find on the internet. I was fortunate enough to have had a mentor telling me what I needed to work on – and the list was long. But I knew that I was locked in and there was no way I could turn back, not after all I learned beyond what I thought I knew. So I applied everything I learned and created a portfolio I never thought would have a second glance by my dream school. But similar to how I never thought my hobby would turn into my career, I was wrong. I was fortunate to have my portfolio accepted by ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California for the Graduate Transportation Systems and Design program. It was a young program that accepted a few students from various backgrounds and focused on the future of transportation in a larger context.

And I knew this next step would be nothing short of difficult. Not just because I was moving to a whole new country in my 20s away from all my friends and family. And not even because I was knowingly getting myself into debt and risks without knowing the end result. But because I knew I would have to dedicate every hair on my body and breath in my lungs to the journey ahead of me without room for pause, hesitation, or regret. So here came the next stage of my creative journey at ArtCenter in the fall of 2016. Over the course of the next three years, I learned, competed, and collaborated with some of the most creative people not just in my school or Los Angeles but the world. I was forced to come out of my comfort zone and to ask the big questions about technology, the automotive industry, and the impact people have on the world – and all in one class! I even had the chance to work with Pininfarina, a famous automotive studio in Italy as a part of my graduate thesis. In a country I never thought I would work in, I was fortunate and humbled to see how some of the most stunning Italian cars were designed and developed. In addition to the unbeatable pizza and pasta, I got to learn from the most experienced and talented designers in the studio.

On returning to California and graduating with a Master of Science in Transportation Systems and Design, I have been working as a Visual Designer at an early-stage tech startup in Irvine called Wytcote Inc., aiming to provide easily accessible healthcare to all. I build user experiences and visually communicate the company’s efforts at modernizing the healthcare industry. I have also been pursuing various freelance opportunities, like consulting for an architectural firm, digital art commissions on my website, and designing concept art for a science fiction story to be published later this year. I am constantly working on new personal projects in concept art and product design as well. My journey so far has taught me to always absorb and observe from all around me and then to apply it to the task at hand. My story, like all our stories, is still continuing. And almost five years later, I still do not know the end to this story. But what I do know is I will never stop observing, learning, growing, applying, drawing, creating. I will never not love that feeling of having a large blank page in front of me, ready to be filled with the designs that have been swarming in my head from the moment I wake up to the dreams that help me sleep.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not in the slightest. Pursuing a creative field is always a risk. There’s no certainty that anybody will want your ideas. Design is a highly competitive field in every industry and requires a broad understanding of the world while also having very specific technical skills to communicate ideas. Leaving my family and friends in India and moving to the US to study Design was also difficult and required conviction. I would often be the weakest student in some of the classes at ArtCenter coming from a non-artistic background and would have to push myself extra hard to produce work on their level. Sleep, diet, and personal health also take a toll when you are close to deadlines but want to produce the best work you can. I believe it is important to have a strong support system that can help keep you focused on your goals and pull you back from the edge when you need it. For me, that support system is my family and friends that believe in me and have helped me get where I am.

I am also extremely grateful for having the most supportive parents in the world who want to see me succeed at any cost. My mom taught me how important it is to dedicate yourself to something you love and how anything is possible through hard work. My dad inspires me to always be a good human being and live to help others get where they want to go. They are my heroes and also my biggest fans. I’m always humbled by all the support I have received, and in return, I want to help and support as many people as I can with my creativity, whether it be designing something for them, mentoring an aspiring designer (like many have done for me), or simply inspiring them to create something of their own.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a Concept Designer and Artist, and I have worked across automotive and product design roles over the last four years. My work focuses on telling the stories of products and people from ideation to final concepts. I help conceptualize a brand’s ideas into realizable products or relatable stories for people to connect with. I have been fortunate to have had the experience of designing concept vehicles and experiences for brands like Pininfarina, Peugeot, and DIDI through sponsored projects, and developed User Interfaces for healthcare applications by always putting the human user in the center of the story. I am currently also designing characters, creatures, environments, and vehicles for a science fiction book to be published soon. My newest creative endeavor has been digital art commissions of characters from media in my signature art-style. My art style is inspired by combining western comic books, sci-fi, and anime. I like to wear many hats and work in many fields, but storytelling is at the core of my work. And where there’s a good story to tell, I want to help tell it.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I believe in always being humble and curious. There’s always something more to learn, and there’s always someone better than you. What’s important is to have the attitude to learn and better yourself every day. I also believe it is important to ask yourself, “why do you do what you do?” and “who can you help with what you do?” from time to time to gain a sense of perspective on your actions. I create because I love to create and help others with my ideas. This is my way of contributing to the world, and it gives me purpose.

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