In this episode, we talk to designers Dinudey Baidya and Rohan Amonkar about their passion for travel. We exchange fun travel stories, and also reflect on why travel can make us better designers.
Rohan is on Instagram
Rohan’s recommendations: Anthony Bourdain, FunforLouis, TravelFeels, Beautiful Destinations
Dinu is on Instagram and Exposure.co
Dinu’s recommendations: Ansal Adams, Vivian Maier, Steve McCurry are my reference points in terms of photography. I got some good deals on their books in Blossoms. I have grown up on Discovery Channel Shows Travelers with some five hosts I only remember names of Michelle and Patrick, Ian Wright of Lonely Planet. Also, in a lot of ways Surabhi in Doordarshan.
- a brit and abroad for trendy stuff
- Current series in Vox called Borders.
- Artist Series in The Art of Photography
Angie: Hi! this is Design Lota, the podcast where we talk about life as Indian Designers.
Sushi: I’m Sushi
Angie: And I’m Angie
Sushi: In our last episode we bared our souls on what really gets us out of our comfort zone as designers, and talked about the benefits of being in a not-so-cosy space.
Angie: Hope you listeners had a chance to try something new and exciting over the past week!
Sushi: In today’s episode, we are going places with Dinu and Rohan, two designers with a passion for travel. Angie caught up with them over iced chai couple of days ago and then they went scuba diving…?
Angie: Metaphorically, scuba diving into all the reasons why it’s a unique experience traveling with your design goggles on.
Sushi: How exciting! I feel like I’m about to go on a cross-continental trip!
Angie: Here. Put on this oxygen mask and we’ll jump right in!
Interview with Dinu and Rohan
Angie: So, I have with me two designers who love travelling. Dinudey Baidya and Rohan Amonkar. Hey guys! First, let me get the formalities out of the way with the classic question – tell us about yourselves.
Rohan: Hi, I’m Rohan.I’m a ui/ux designer, most of my work is in the food & restaurant space.
Dinu: This is Dinudey. I design digital products. I also do branding work, dabble a bit into motion graphics and photography.
Angie: Now though I am sure you both are great designers, I have called you here to talk about something you do outside your offices, which is travel. Where all have you guys been?
Rohan: I usually go on long trips once in 6 months. I’ve been to Norway, Sweden & Denmark recently. Before that travelled to Japan with Dinudey. Also been to Thailand, Nepal, Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh a couple of years back. Love travelling around South India on weekends, specially Tamil Nadu & Kerala. Love the food there.
Dinu: In India Leh, Lahaul and Spiti, Some parts of Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and bit of Assam. I hike around Bangalore, I love Kerala.
Outside India, I have only been to San Francisco and Japan. Logistics are more for international travel plus the money factor and limited vacation days in office.
Angie: Wow, thanks for making me feel like I haven’t seen the world. So, how do you guys plan your days when you travel…like what are the activities you plan for and what are some great ways to explore a place?
Rohan: When I travel around India I don’t plan at all other than which city/town I’m visiting. Most of the times don’t even have a prior hotel booking. But for international trips, I usually plan a little at least for visa application and also because it helps me manage my time efficiently & explore as many cities as possible. But unplanned trips are the best as they come with a lot of surprises.
Dinu: Plans are very vague with only one agenda and rest is built around it. I am not an activity person but food I can think of and where local people hangout. Mixed with a few tourist places to get those souvenirs. Personally, for me all the places created for tourists feel the same.
Angie: Do you guys use any apps to help plan your travel or your bookings? Any recommendations?
Rohan: I use HostelWorld, AirBnb and also TripAdvisor for some reviews of a place.
Dinu: Yes, I also use HostelWorld and AirBnb, also booking.com. We mostly look for hostels because hostels are budget friendly.
Rohan: We also meet a lot of people in hostels.
Dinu: In Japan, there are lot of local apps that they use in their own languages.
Angie: As designers, do you pay special attention to aspects like architecture?
Rohan: Of course. Architecture is a big part of travel. It defines the look of a city. It’s fascinating how houses in different parts of the world are built so differently. Has a lot to do with the culture and weather of that place. From the Bryggen in Bergen to Bamboo & Paper houses in Japan have been a wonderful experience.
Dinu: First thing I research about is the design and architecture influences, little bit of the history, essentially to get the context of the place I am going. I make it a point to walk around in the suburban areas to check out the local houses, streets and shops. Start imagining how it would be to live in that place.
Angie: What about museums and art galleries?
Rohan: Love visiting Museums & Art Galleries to know a little bit of history and culture about the place. It gives a whole new perspective to the entire travel experience.
Dinu: Visiting SFMoMA and Lanes of Mission District which are museum in itself with murals all-around. San Francisco Museum of Books was interesting with all letterpress machines and types, people making books, I was like a kid in a candy store, one of the lady working there had letterpress at her home and she was kind enough to invite me by looking at my enthusiasm. Even in Japan we went to few museums mostly culture related but city like Kyoto is preserved so well it can be called a museum. Unfortunately we can’t go to Ghibli Museum in Tokyo maybe next time
Angie: I remember going to the Walker art gallery at Minneapolis, they were featuring some performance art when I was there, which I’m not always able to connect to, though I do find it interesting. But what I did enjoy a lot was the science museum there. I was blown away by all the different ways they made learning so much fun.
Dinu, you were telling me about what you call the designer’s pilgrimage, right? 🙂
Dinu: Oh yes, visiting all the stationery shops that is kinda pilgrimage for us designers, Sekaido in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Itoya Flagship store in Ginza Tokyo is some 4-5 storey building dedicated to stationary, Blick & FLAX in SF.
Angie: What did you bring back for your stationery collection?
Dinu: From Japan I got lot of origami papers, sumi ink, brushes, art print postcards, sketchbook. Also, stickers. And my current stationery collection is from SF, I got one suitcase full of stationery items. Actually I removed some of my cloth to fit them in my suitcase.
Angie: Going to the Kochi Biennale also seems to be a designer’s pilgrimage of sorts, right? I really enjoyed going there a couple of years ago. Are there any art or design festivals that you dream to travel for and attend?
Dinu: Travel and Design when comes together are the best. Kyoorius Design yatra is interesting, in terms of venues and enthusiastic designers all pumped up. And Kochi Biennale is a different beast, art and installation there just throws me off balance and I am glad that it is promoting art awareness in general public and not just people in this field.
Angie: Any local crafts from your trips that intrigued you? Like how we have wooden toys from Channapatna here, or the stone sculptors of mahabalipuram?
Dinu: I can think of Orissa, different regions of Puri district excel in different type of crafts, Applique work, pattachitra, metal work. So…now let’s cover a couple of top places you’ve been to what you remember from there? By top places, I just mean places that left an impact…
Rohan: In Norway there is this place called Photographica that has a lot of interesting photos. Also, in freetown Christiana I found that many small things were well crafted.
Angie: Did you have to learn anything new to go some place? Like a language or their customs?
Rohan: I feel travelling has had a huge influence in my life. I haven’t learned any new languages but I usually make notes of some common verbs & greetings in the language of the place I’m visiting. I have started respecting different cuisines. I complain less. I haven’t seen a more happier place than Oslo & Stockholm. People are generally happy, rains or bad weather doesn’t stop them from having a good time. Hygge is a Danish concept I now follow. You guys should definitely look it up.
Dinu: After every trip I think I have changed a bit. When we travel we go out of our daily routine and adapt the lifestyle of that place, after coming back some part of the place still stays with us. For example, coming back from Japan I am very gentle with things, I saw this elderly man who wanted to pull the blind down of the window he could have just pulled it down but he stood up and with “nazakat” he pulled down the blinds like some precious object, kind of giving respect to that thing for its existence in my life getting back with taste of new things.
Angie: So, I always save the deeper questions for the end. In what ways do you feel travel has made you a better designer?
Dinu: It feels like cliche but travel opens up my mind, makes it easier for me to accept & understand people with whom I don’t share my views or my lifestyle. I think able to shift perspective is very important in design. Most of my work happens in a cubicle and it is very easy for me to go into my shell.
Rohan: Travelling makes me happy, and I think that’s very important. It keeps me energised & focused. Automatically shows on the work too. Besides that while travelling you are constantly introduced to new things & experiences which are a huge source of inspiration.
Sushi: Woah how did we teleport back here? I’m itching to get out and go somewhere new!
Angie: Bit by the travel bug huh!
Sushi: Yeah, my design pilgrimage is so overdue! I think Dinu and Rohan have given me some good ideas about how to plan my next trip. Also I really feel like design interventions such as trip planning apps have really made it easier for us to see the kind of places we are interested in.
Angie: Yeah! Also in terms of connecting and communicating with people where language is a barrier, it seems a lot easier today than it would have been 20 years ago..for example google translate allows you to point your phone camera at signs and does a live translate, making you feel less lost.
Sushi: Yeah and I even came across this company called iconspeak which has designed a tshirt with travel icons so you can just point to what you want, instead of struggling to communicate in the local language…but I don’t think I’d get one…I would feel corny walking around in that..
Angie: You never know…it might come in handy if you’re dying of hunger, or if you’re completely lost!
Sushi: Speaking of icons, I really found it fascinating to note how a city brands itself. Of course there are the more obvious things, like how architecture might be specific to a certain place, but to literally have cultural logos designed to be stamped onto everything, is something I’ve never come across before.
Angie: And it’s such a big opportunity and responsibility, to be able to brand an entire city!
Sushi: It’s also a fair point to say, that while the visual aspects, such as the architecture are awe-inspiring, it’s the experiences, like the time Dinu got to observe the art of bookbinding, where you actually do something to immerse yourself in the culture. Travel is way more than just the photographs…
Angie: True, it’s also those things we bring back, like a paper coaster we like from a cafe, or a well designed subway map. And also, the fact that stationery is our equivalent of souvenirs, seems to be a global phenomenon.
Sushi: Yeah, when I use a particular paper, I think of all the times I’ve visited the Pondicherry paper factory. That’s become a regular over the years.
Angie: There are just some places that become favourites and we like to keep going back.
Sushi: Hey listeners! Do you have any amazing travel experience to share? Has anything you saw or did impacted you as a designer?
Angie: Are you going off on a design pilgrimage in the near future? Tweet to us @designLota and we’d love to hear all about it!
Sushi: You can find references and the complete transcript for this episode at designlota.com.
We’ll be back next week to talk about the life, challenges and dreams of an Indian design student.
Angie: Until then, Bye!