Grintroducing

Grintroducing: Neeraj Kainth

Multidisciplinary designer Neeraj Kainth joins us for a chat!

For this installment of grintroducing, we’ve been getting to know more about designer Neeraj Kainth! Neeraj is heavily involved in Birmingham’s design scene through his work with Imbue, Fuse Birmingham and Birmingham Design.

1) Hi Neeraj! Thanks for taking part in our grintroducing series. For those who don’t know you, can you tell us more about yourself and your design journey? 

Hello! I’m Neeraj, a Multidisciplinary Designer based in Birmingham. I work as Studio Manager/Designer for the artist Imbue. I am the City Host for Fuse Birmingham which is a platform that celebrates the creative work of people of colour. I’m also part of the Birmingham Design team who are responsible for organising events such as Birmingham Design FestivalLadies, Wine & Design and Gather.

I stayed in Brum for my education and I went down the traditional design education route and studied Graphic Design at college, studying a Level 3 Diploma and an HND. During my HND course we worked as a studio and curated various exhibitions over the years, getting involved with the local design scene. After that I jumped onto the second year of the BA Graphic Design course at BCU and graduated in 2021.

 

2) Your Instagram feed shows that you’re often experimenting with different processes and mediums. What are some of your favourite ways of creating work?

I really like collaging and mixed media. I love messing around with work by hand and cutting it up, scanning it in and experimenting with it digitally. For a very long time I really struggled with composition and how to structure my work. I found by collaging, printing out test images and cutting them up really helped me structure my work. I just found it so much easier than staring at my screen for hours moving things slightly and being really indecisive, the process of working by hand is the complete opposite. Now I’m a bit more confident, I often do a lot of collage and Graphic Art in my free time as sort of an exercise that indirectly informs my practice.

3) Where do you find your inspiration?

I guess it depends on the project, I don’t have a direct process or anything unordinary to find inspiration. I’m fortunate to have collected a range of creative books and mags over the years (shoutout to the BD Shop), so I often browse through those and look for anything that sticks out. I try to mix and match things like typography, colour schemes and layouts and make note of them. A great source of inspiration I’ve come across recently has been the Meanwhile newsletter by Daniel Benneworth-Gray. The content he shares ranges from photography, books, collage and design.

 

4) Is there a piece of work that you are most proud of and why?

Back in uni I collaborated on a live project for the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with my mate and fellow Designer Olly Wells. I was fairly new to the course and had befriended Olly, I wasn’t very confident in brand identity work so I proposed we collaborate together on the project as a bit of a challenge for myself. I was quite proud of the outcome in the end, the identity used formations of the Conservatoire’s building and we used a blue colour scheme that was iconic to the city and the institution. I think the reason why I’m so proud of this project is because it was a catalyst for us to start working on several projects over the next few years.

 

5) As well as creating your own design work, you make up part of the Birmingham Design team AND host Fuse Birmingham. Can you tell us more about these organisations and how you got involved?

Birmingham Design is a creative network/resource that supports and champions the creative scene here in the West Midlands. That’s done through a variety of different outlets such as events, job listings, a freelancer directory, and celebrating creative work over social media.

It’s approaching two years now being on the BD team. Luke Tonge who is one of the Directors was my tutor at BCU, but I’d known him for a while whilst I was at college as I’d invite him to our exhibitions and I’d see him at events like Glug. In my final year at BCU Luke messaged me asking if I would be interested in joining the team, I obviously replied yes straight away! The BD team is great, everyone is kind, passionate and play an important role in making sure it runs smoothly.

During my time in education I would often get frustrated by seeing the same designers being shown to us (majority of the time just white dudes), and seeing event lineups of the same types of people. I thought Brum is known for being so diverse there really should be something that shouts about all the amazing work that’s made by creatives of colour. I saw a callout for Fuse expanding to new cities back in 2020 and I thought it was a great idea and it was something that we needed more of in the industry. Since Fuse has launched here there has been an incredible amount of support for the platform from local creatives, agencies and the city in general.

6) We love seeing you shine a spotlight on Brummie creatives of colour through Fuse Birmingham. How do you find creatives to share on your platform?

The main ways I’ve found creatives for Fuse have been through social media, events and word of mouth. A lot of the time I just scroll through social media and keep an eye out. I try to go to different events in the city such as Arts Markets, Exhibitions, Student/Graduate Shows and scout out any work made by creatives of colour. I know social media at the moment isn’t in the best of places but when Fuse Brum first started I found that the community really thrived online. All of these ways have collectively been important to help me find people to follow, engage with and showcase their work over the years.

 

7) What is your best piece of advice for someone aspiring to work in design?

Be nice and don’t be afraid to reach out to creative folk. I’ve realised that the design industry is massive but everyone knows each other, a lot of the opportunities I’ve had have come from word of mouth and by reaching out to people. So, if you’re a jerk it’s more than likely others will find out and not want to associate with you. I’d also say don’t worry if you don’t know the exact role you want to be in, and experiment and try out all areas of design if you can. Even as a graduate and someone who has surrounded themselves with various creative practitioners over the years, I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I like. But I allowed myself to experiment when I was aspiring to work in design, I realised there were a plethora of avenues I could go down because I didn’t allow myself to just do one thing.

 

8) Do you have a designer/illustrator/filmmaker/creative that you’re currently obsessing over and why?

Has to be the artist Felipe Pantone, his work is so vibrant and mesmerising. I really admire how he applies his style to so many different mediums such as murals, album covers, sculptures, cars and even furniture. What I love about him is his willingness to just experiment, try various mediums out and collaborate with brands and people through projects like Configurable Art.

9) What is your favourite thing about Birmingham and being part of its creative scene?

There’s quite a lot to love about Brum; the city is so enriched in history, its diverse population, the food and the lack of egos. I guess my favourite thing about Birmingham is its attitude (I suppose that derives from the residents.) The city always gets knocked by people who don’t know it well, have stereotypes or just jump on the bandwagon because social media tells them to. I’ve found that the creatives here are proud of the city and celebrate it with all their heart and soul. By being part of the Birmingham Design team it’s exposed me to a lot of this, there are so many people here who are passionate about their home and believe it’s a creative powerhouse – because it really is something special.

There’s no denying that the creative industry/scenes have many barriers and can be difficult to enter. However, Brum has never felt like a place that facilitates a hostile creative environment. Even as a student when I was attending talks and exhibitions, I felt like I was part of the local scene and felt on the same level as the creative peers that I would be speaking to. Perhaps it’s just my nature to go out and talk to loads of people, but I often reflect on my creative journey in Brum over the last few years and think to myself how welcoming it has been towards me – a South Asian kid who grew up in Handsworth.

 

10) Plan B – If you weren’t working in Design, what job could you see yourself working in?

That’s a really difficult question. Honestly I have no idea, I’ve always enjoyed History so maybe some sort of a Historian or an Archaeologist? When I was younger I really wanted to work in the Gaming industry as someone who just played games all day and reviewed them! OR maybe working in a motorcycle showroom… I can’t ride, I just think they look pretty!

To find out more about Neeraj’s work visit his Instagram: