Based in India, Radhika is a ray of positivity, demonstrating her creativity in technicolor. After freelancing for 6 years, she has recently started a new journey designing and illustrating for packaging and merchandise.
Radhika talks to Wishu about finding your niche as a creative freelancer and gives advice on how to move from more general design work to start designing only for projects you’re passionate about and which demonstrate your personal style.
Wishu: Was there a particular age or moment where you realised that you truly are a creative?
Radhika: As a child, I was always painting and creating art but never thought about it as a career. I was strong in academics, so when the time came to select a degree I shocked and surprised everyone I knew by choosing to study graphic design. I graduated in 2010 and creative degrees really weren’t popular in mid-2000s India. I just made a decision for something that connected computers and art because it felt passionate and contemporary at the same time. That was the start I guess!
“I think in a post-Covid world we are leaning towards a trend in positivity and understanding especially when it comes to mental health. For me, colourful and happy art celebrates everyday life and that’s what I strive for and what my personal niche is all about.”
Wishu: The importance of colour is clear in your style and emphasised on your website. In a post-Covid world, we can see the importance of colour on the rise. How important do you think the colour is in design and illustration?
Radhika: Colours have been one of the key elements of my design since the beginning. I think in a post-Covid world we are leaning towards a trend in positivity and understanding especially when it comes to mental health. For me, colourful and happy art celebrates everyday life and that’s what I strive for and what my personal niche is all about.
Wishu: Being based and growing up in India, do you feel that there is a specific embrace of colour which may serve as a source of inspiration in your art?
Radhika: For Indians, colour is a part of festivities and everyday life so it didn’t hit me until I made friends outside of India. I realised then that colour in Indian culture is specific and therefore might serve as a subconscious inspiration.
Wishu: I also noticed your website has such a positive tone stating that you are “inspired by colours, life, feelings, food and nature”. Would you say optimism is key to creative freelancing?
Radhika: I think optimism is critical especially for freelancers as you don’t always get the work that you like. In those times, optimism and positivity and a focus on the good times that have come and will come certainly helps. Also, my personal transition recently in design and illustration is finding my niche which took me about two years. If I hadn’t been optimistic, I would never have found my style. There is always room for improvement as well and optimism is what carries me to find new inspiration and ideas.
Wishu: What motivated you to first start freelancing?
Radhika: I was in a job for over 4 years and I was bored with the routine. I wanted to do something of my own. What’s funny is that I started with merchandise design alone but I didn’t understand much about business and marketing so I couldn’t sustain it too much so I moved to general freelance design. It’s now come back full circle because I have gone back to merchandise but now I’m much stronger with a clearer perspective and can do what designs I feel like.
Wishu: You have just finished a two-year process where you aimed to discover your niche and succeeded. Do you have any advice for creatives doing the same thing or on how to overcome any creative blocks on the way?
Radhika: Reading about the work and creative processes of other creatives and taking breaks is helpful to prevent and overcome creative blocks. One thing I really learnt is that if someone is struggling to find their style I would say there aren’t really any shortcuts. It’s literally just trial and error. Jumping on courses helps but at the end of the day you only find your niche and style through practice. It’s normal to go through a creative crisis so be patient to find your style. I started seeing patterns I liked and that led me closer and closer to my style. Experimenting and failing are key and also remember that failing is okay!
Wishu: How did you come up with such a fun name as Laughing Popcorn?
Radhika: Right when I started freelancing 6 years ago I decided I wanted a fun-loving name for my brand. I didn’t understand branding at the time because I was just starting out. It took me a month to come up with the name. I was named things like ‘Noodles’ or ‘Popcorn’ as a kid because I have curly hair. I then wanted to associate happiness with my brand so I thought ‘what popcorn? Laughing popcorn?’. My dad liked the sound of it and I just decided that this is it! Laughing Popcorn was the name! And I have received so much appreciation for the name I doubt I’ll ever change it.
Wishu: The human face is so commonplace nowadays, how would you, therefore, define the place of design and illustration and what relief can it bring?
Radhika: I actually think illustrations are one of the most lively forms of design elements. Graphics is a little more structured or rule-oriented but somehow the human side of illustration is so organic. Hand drawn styles still feel very human so it’s not just the visual that earns its place but also the feel and illustration communicates that as photography does I believe.
Wishu: How have networking and relationships affected you and how crucial is building relationships in the creative community?
Radhika: I think they’re the most important thing. Most of the work I have got has been from working relationships. I used to do a lot of work for events and those all came from talking from professors through my masters and that’s how I got one of my biggest projects that got me to work for almost three years.