From the digital 3D world to graphic design, Khyati Trehan has an impressively broad skillset
We speak to the New Delhi-based artist about how important it is to incorporate new things into her design practice.
- Joey Levenson
- 11 October 2021
Khyati Trehan’s work lies somewhere between graphic design and visual art. Based out of New Delhi, India, Khyati works with elaborate and intricate digital 3D art – all the while being an accomplished graphic designer in her own right. “It was when I studied design at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad that I realised how massive the creative visual world can be,” Khyati tells It’s Nice That. “Since then, I've gone on to explore type design at the Indian Type Foundry, build AR experiences for clients like Snapchat Spectacles and Instagram, and illustrate articles for The New York Times and the New Yorker.”
It’s an impressive list of feats to achieve after graduation, and one look at Khyati’s portfolio indicates she is an artist clearly up to any new challenge. She’s even helped to build complex brand systems with former MD of Collins, Karin Soukup, and yet “still feels like there’s tons more to explore." For someone with so many talents across so many different disciplines, it’s hard to imagine what keeps Khyati so stimulated. “I find the beginnings of design projects the most exciting because the discovery phase offers permission to geek out outside of what you know,” she says. “One research month I’m listening to podcasts about the UK women’s football team; the next month I get to drown myself in research material on bio electricity and how it was used to grow a foot out of a frog’s stomach.”
Out of all her work, it’s Khyati’s digital 3D renderings which particularly captivated us. “The world of 3D is an exciting addition to a graphic designer’s toolkit,” she says. “Designing in 3D feels like magic.” It was a love affair that came from her time at university. Now, with her beautiful biology-inspired 3D art, there’s no denying Khyati is a magician herself. “I’ve always worked towards broadening my skill set in the pursuit of becoming a versatile designer,” she explains. “Which isn’t the best formula for developing a singular signature style.” But still, patterns of juxtaposition and interesting compositional challenges fill up a lot of Khyati’s work – whether graphic design or digital 3D art. There is a slightly chaotic element to her hand, always with a bold colour and playing with dimension. “There’s a lot of potential to create a new aesthetic toggling between 2D and 3D,” Khyati explains. “While I’ve dabbled in that area, making dynamic pieces that feel like you’ve caught them mid-motion, feels like the next best thing.”
“My graphic design practice always begins with diving headfirst into the context, who I’m making for, building off of strategy, etc.,” Khyati tells us. “Then I get to throw all of that out in my artistic process.” For Khyati, it’s all about building up the courage to simply start something and let her hands have a life of their own. “Giving yourself permission to not think about your every move and to allow the subconscious to do its thing is so much harder than it seems,” she says. “In that process, the inspiration or the reference automatically surfaces midway instead of at the beginning.”
One project in particular where we see this process culminate in glorious results is Khyati’s Ecotherapy, which is an ongoing series of 3D digital illustrations. “I tend to do my most intricate and labour-intensive personal work when I want to zone out,” Khyati says. “While this practice began as a way for me to distract myself from stressful situations and decompress, this particular exploration extended into a full-blown study.”
Likening her practice to the therapeutic element of entropy in nature, Khyati was drawn to the “undeniable, almost mystical bond with organic and imperfect entities in our ecosystems” to create these images. “No matter how much dynamism and movement I added to the scene, how many nature-inspired elements I stacked on top of another, and how many simulated winds and turbulent forces I subjected the elements to, even a synthetic and chaotic representation of nature managed to induce a sense of calm.”
Now, Khyati continues Ecotherapy with the hope of being able to funnel her talents into a larger scale, “with full-blown productions where diverse skill sets need to come together,” she says. In the meantime, she remains in constant admiration for the art scene in India, pointing to its continuous growth. “While the art and design scene in all of India is growing, it’s small enough for it to feel like a circle,” she says. “I love that, despite carrying this umbrella title of ‘Indian’ next to our identities, the local vernacular that another designer brings is so different that it can at times almost be foreign to me.”
Khyati Trehan, The extended mind, NYTimes (Copyright © Khyati Trehan, 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.