Take 10 with… Abhi Topiwala

2 years ago by

The DA team want to support our community through these unprecedented times – something we kept coming back to is a focus on connection and community. So we want to do what we think DA does best, sharing ideas, inspiration and information and profiling our community.

With that in mind, we launched a new series Take 10 with… to do a pulse check on how you’re feeling, how you’re working, what you are missing, and what your hopes are for the future. We invited some of our friends, peers and the DA team to participate and we hope you enjoy these honest and candid profiles of Aotearoa designers today.


Introduce yourself:

Kia ora! My name’s Abhi Topiwala and I’m a motion designer for the news & current affairs at TVNZ.


Me at Melbourne Design Week pre-lockdown. Photo taken inside of @editionoffice and Yhonnie Scarce’s work ‘In Absence’

How did you get into design? 

When I was little I remember coming across my mums sketchbook and finding a drawing of Venomoth – a Pokémon from the 1997 anime. I thought it was amazing! I had always liked drawing and grew up drawing my favourite cartoons while watching TV. In hindsight, after I’d seen mum’s drawing(s), I feel like that’s kept me going because I wanted to be as good as she is. Ironically, after all these years, I’m the one she asks to draw letters on the cakes she bakes and always asks for my input with whatever she might be cooking up in the kitchen.

Being able to draw was a factor in my design journey but the journey as a whole was a lot of failing and trying again. I never got my UE so I had to start uni by doing a Certificate of Design & Visual Arts at Unitec. I went on to do a Bachelors of Design & Visual Arts but flunked a paper in the final year that the course was running and so I had to start from ground zero in a new degree. In 2017 I was the first in my family to graduate with a bachelors degree. I graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Enterprise and along the way I had developed great relationships with my lecturers and learnt that as a creative, I am able to earn a living and have fun doing it.

 To answer the question, now that I sit down to think about it, if it weren’t for the moment I saw mum and her drawings things would have been very different.

What do you love about design? 

I love that I get to work with amazing creatives from a range of backgrounds and interests. I love that I am in an industry that plays a little big part in the way people view, listen, feel and sometimes taste things!

What or who inspires you?

It’s a little cheesy but I would have to say my parents. Mum arrived in 1987 and went high school here. She went back to India to get married and then came back with my dad in 1994. Cue Abhi in 1995. To leave family in India to create a life in a completely unfamiliar country is massive, and to think they struggled for their kids (myself and two younger brothers) to strive is something that I’m taken aback by all the time.

How are you feeling right now?

It’s a crazy time, but things are looking positive with the cases on the decline. We’re in safe hands considering the US has a leader that thinks it’s a good idea to ingest cleaning products. I see this time as an opportunity to work on myself and refine habits.

Are you working right now, if so what does your work from home day look like?

A WFH day looks very much like an ordinary day in terms of our hours (10am–6.30pm). Although, I must say its much easier getting to the “the office” in this current climate. We keep connected via Microsoft Teams and I work remotely on my PC at TVNZ using TeamViewer. I’ve got OneDrive setup on my work PC and files sync pretty quickly using that so it hasn’t been all too tricky.

Creative Direction: Wesley Conyngham. Design and Animation: Abhi Topiwala

What’s your one tip right now?

I recently read Brian LaRossa’s article: Reaching for Resilience in the Time of Covid-19 on AIGA’s Eye on Design, a good read. He writes “What we all need right now, and for the foreseeable future, is resilience.” He goes on to talk about an exercise he gives his students. The task is ‘Write a detailed place description of your perfect day at work five years in the future.’

I think it’s important to use this time to reflect and work on oneself. A time to maybe learn new skills or improve existing ways of working. It’s good to do that but with a vision in mind. LaRossa says “Imagining the future in detail is about designing a destination—a vision to hold on to when things aren’t going as planned.”


Tell us about your current workspace.

I don’t have the luxury of a spare room for an office. I have my computer in my room and I did a bit of decluttering seeing as I would be spending more time at this desk. It’s in close proximity to my coffee machine, kitchen, and bathroom room, all essentials in my bubble!

Which local business are you going to miss most during our isolation period? 

Despite being open for click and collect and home deliveries, I just checked Paradise Indian’s menu and unfortunately, they’re not doing my favourite dish under level 3! It’s a whole tandoori Pomfret cooked till perfection, served on a bed of carrots and cabbage. I highly recommend it to fellow pescatarians out there.. although you’re going to have to wait till we get out of this iso period I’m afraid.

What do you hope for the Aotearoa design community going forward?

This one goes out to the students studying at the moment! It’s a bit tricky amidst the lockdown but once we come out of this, go to design and art events while you study. There are great curated events that happen throughout the year which are worth attending and *bonus* you get to meet some great like-minded people like yourself and in the industry. 

Actually, there are heaps of people on net holding live talks and events. One account I follow is @livetalkfrom. That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head and should be enough to keep you engaged. https://livetalkfrom.com has the upcoming speakers. Catherine Griffiths will be speaking on the 7th of May with Christopher Holt and Tom Sharp! I look forward to that one.


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