Typically each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. Earlier this month Wanda Thurlow shared an online exhibition from Yoobee Colleges mid-year graduates – so we broke with our summer tradition to chat with Nitya Handa from Yoobee Colleges School of Design, about her work, what lead her to design and her aspirations for the future.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?
My family and friends can vouch for me when I say that I had an interest in sketching since a very young age – I would spend my days sketching or looking up YouTube tutorials to learn new techniques. So naturally, I went on to study a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Auckland University. After 3 years of that, my friends urged me to enroll for Yoobee’s iCreate course, which fuelled my love of design, and here we are 3 years later.
Can you tell us what your graduation project focussed on?
The cool thing about Yoobee is that you don’t leave with just one final project – you leave with multiple that focus on a vast range of mediums. Whether it’s print or digital, from branding to information design – we learnt it all. This left us to be more industry ready due to the multiple different projects throughout the course.
The final assignment of the year was focused on creating an event in NZ and designing the brand, marketing collateral, wayfinding and merch surrounding the event. I was quite inspired by a movie that I had watched years ago that showcased the Running of the Bulls event in Pamplona, Spain, an event that consists of running in front of a small number of bulls that have been let loose on a set course. Intrigued by the event, I wanted to bring it to NZ (without the bulls, of course).
What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?
Turns out I’m not much of an illustrator! Despite sketching and Adobe Illustrator being my first love, the Level 6 course at Yoobee Colleges helped me realize that I’m more interested in not only layout design, but also the direction of combining design with photography. While I can’t call myself a photographer by any means, I took it upon myself to stage and direct a photoshoot with only 2 weeks for a project that required us to create a visual representation of a complex process. While most students followed the route of mapping out a process using illustration, I used photography and props (shoutout to my classmates for their help!).
Because I hadn’t done anything like this before, I felt that I didn’t really have any expectations for how it should be, allowing me to experiment freely.
What did you love doing most during your course at Yoobee?
Our class was quite small – about 11 people in total! Not only did this allow us more face-to-face time with our tutor, we were able to foster better connections with both the tutor and our peers – we felt like a family and genuinely cared about everyone’s wellbeing and success. Having Coffix just down the road was a great bonus too!
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
As I mentioned before, photography! I knew that there wasn’t a particular project in the course that required us to do photography, so I took it upon myself to throw myself in the deep end and overcome this challenge with little restraint and freedom to experiment to capture some great shots.
How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
I remember all the way from primary to the end of my Commerce degree, I was always nervous to do speeches or presentations. Days and days of research and practice would do no good when the day finally arrived to present to the rest of the class. I found out much later that when I’m genuinely interested in what I’m doing, the better I understand the topic and the less likely I am to make a mistake when presenting. The projects assigned at Yoobee allowed me to choose the topics that I personally found interesting and wanted to explore further. The day I joined Yoobee was the day I threw away the cue cards.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
In the beginning I started to realise that I seemed to have been using the same software and design styles for many of my projects. I knew I enjoyed working with type and layout, so naturally my designs were very text heavy. I soon realised that the design heroes I look up to don’t play it safe, so to follow in their footsteps, I started to aim to grow and develop, and try something new with every project. This industry is an endless whirlwind of discovery. My main aspirations are to always push myself in an unknown direction and make mistakes.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
It’s too hard to choose just one! I have multiple I’m proud of for different reasons:
Mismatch was my very first project this year that focused on developing a new brand identity for a new boutique retail space. A lot of thinking went into this, as well as learning new design thinking techniques, like the Black Box exercise, to convey various moods (in this case, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘empowerment’) and different visual compositions for the creation of the logo by using circles and squares. Seeing the visual composition first made it easier to select an arrangement for the logo that best fit the concept.
Son of a Bull was my final project of the course, a spin on the Running of the Bulls event in Pamplona, Spain. The project focused on event branding, marketing and wayfinding. I took inspiration from one of the OG’s, Paula Scher – her typographic style played a huge part in influencing the design direction for the posters.
Love Letters was a project that focused on designing a special edition product, which allowed me the opportunity to experiment with different paper stocks. For this project, I took inspiration from Annie Atkins – who’s film props and graphic objects have been some of the most impressive designs in the game. I followed her techniques for staining and ageing paper using coffee or tea, or a mixture of both. I figured if she could get her first break crafting death warrants and fake love letters, why can’t I?
What does your dream job look like?
I’ve always thought that I would be working in a studio – a team of experienced people to learn from and absorb their knowledge. I’ve always been interested in editorial design and would love to work for a major publisher. Also, Creative Director or Creative Strategist would be an amazing role to be in!
Why did you choose to study at Yoobee Colleges, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?
Having already spent 3 years earning a bachelor degree, I didn’t want to spend another 3 in the same university environment. I was in dire need of practical experience as I knew that was very important to have in order to get into the industry. Yoobee gave me that practical experience with both print and digital design in their short and sharp courses.
Where to next for you?
I was lucky enough to land an internship right at the end of my course, where I’m learning everything that goes on in a packaging project above and beyond the design process, starting right from project management. It’s so good to see that much of what is being taught at Yoobee is relevant in the real world.
In the future, I’d love to branch out overseas, though I may need to get a rain check on that one (thank you covid).
How can people get in touch and see more of your work?
Stalk me here: