Building the Future Of Experiential Design: Aaquib Wani

Photography: Juhi Chitravanshi 

Hi Aaquib! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story.

Aaquib Wani: I am an experiential designer with creative expertise in spaces, interactive installations, sets, visual and graphic design. I blend aesthetic pallets I have absorbed through my Kashmiri heritage and upbringing in Delhi. I worked at a music magazine as an art director and also designed spaces at Scenografia Sumant. This where I learned aspects of both 2D and 3D design. In 2018, I branched out and started my own studio called ‘Aaquib Wani Design’. Since then, we have worked and collaborated with a variety of brands, from the United Nations to Coca Cola, MG motors, adidas, Food Talk India, Levi's, Superdry, Bacardi NH7 Weekender to name a few. Since I started working on my own, two of my biggest projects included being the art director for Swadesh Bazaar at Isha Ambani’s sangeet and then for her brother Akash Ambani’s wedding as part of the WDC team.

What are you creating/building lately?

Aaquib Wani: Currently, we are working on new projects like the branding and identity for this year's Bacardi NH7 Weekender. We were their on-ground design partners last year, and this year is an entirely virtual experience. We are also working on our own IP project and building our own website while working on varied artworks and branding solutions for many brands across the country.

What challenges did you face when you were first starting out?

Aaquib Wani: I think all entrepreneurs starting out face the same two types of challenges. The first being setting up the infrastructure, getting the capital and taking that leap of faith to quit your nine to five. The second is where you question your way of working- how do you sustain yourself, how do you build your brand and how to become bigger while retaining quality with quantity and moving forward with best interests. There are always going to be challenges but that shouldn't stop you.

Name 3 things/activities that inspire you the most.

Aaquib Wani: Gardening. I really love plants. Being in touch with nature and how nature builds and creates is the truest form of beauty in the whole world. The other activity is cooking. I feel it's an art and, you know, I'm glad I picked it up from my mom. And the third one would be playing music and dancing. Last night once I got back from work I just started playing music, and singing and dancing all by myself.

What are you reading/listening to these days?

Aaquib Wani: Lots of music. In fact, the moment I get up there's music. I've got a 5.1 speaker setup at my studio too for everyone to use. Being a musician and having played for a heavy metal band, that is always present, paired with hip hop, some R&B and even old Hindi songs.As for reading. I think mainly design books - just to be updated with things, to know what other artists are talking about. One of my favourites is The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. Currently, I'm watching The Crown on Netflix.

As an entrepreneur and creative, what are some lessons you are still learning?

Aaquib Wani: Being an entrepreneur is still continuously learning how to do better, not just for the studio but for everyone who works here as well. How does this job become more than just a job for everyone else? Having worked at other design studios I've learned to understand what I didn't like and things that I could change. I'm a self-taught designer and I credit my previous bosses for most of my growth. How to grow in the studio, and developing the body of work as a creative, and being aware of everything happening around the globe is always top of mind. There's this one quote that I read that says- keep moving on to keep moving on. We always end up saying yes to things that we haven't done before instead of being in the safe space of what has already been tried and tested.

What are some trends you are currently seeing in experiential design that you love and hate?

Aaquib Wani: There is a lot of technology-based stuff that is happening nowadays, there are installations and experiential designs in terms of interaction. Earlier this term “experiential design’ didn't really exist when it came to design. There is one design studio in the Netherlands called Studio Drift and they do amazing installations using technology. It’s great for us to understand how people are doing it in the West, even though we may be far from it. I think what I hate about these trends is that sometimes being in India, there are certain things we aren't able to manage because we don't have those resources and hardware that we need to build things. But then again, the great thing about it is that, we see this is where we are headed. This is where the future is.

Are you looking to collaborate with creatives in a particular field? If yes, how do they reach out to you?

Aaquib Wani: I love collaborating, not just with other artists but also brands and people trying to do new things. Collaborations always give added perspectives and help you grow further. Most people reach out through our network and word of mouth. We also get a lot of requests on Instagram directly and take conversations from that – these include collaborations too which usually range from magazine shoots to artworks for causes, like I recently did one for Bombay with the Ministry of Forest there.

Where do you see the future of experiential design heading in the next few years?

Aaquib Wani: Like I said, people aren’t very aware of this term as yet. Earlier clients would expect just an event in a designated space. Now, people want to have an experience. It stems from the fulfilment of social media and gratification needs, such as affiliation, social approval and mutual recognition. There is thought to everything that we do. We want to take into account experiential as something that engages the audience. We want them to leave with an enhanced sense of gratification, which also touches upon all the five senses. Experiential design is not something that we have to go and fight for anymore to be understood, because all major brands understand it now. We will continue to see these expectations coming directly from the brand and then from individuals for social events too.