A Look Behind the Scenes of The Playful Indian.
In today’s ‘Behind the Design’ interview we caught up with Dina Mistry from The Playful Indian. Dina shares the inspiration that started her company, what it was like to work with The Prince’s Trust to develop her business and what’s next for this exciting card and gift company.
Tell us a little about your company.
My company is called The Playful Indian. I design greeting cards and gifts with a bit of an Asian twist. I left the company I worked for as a graphic designer to ‘do my own thing’ and explore a few areas which I always wanted to in the craft field.
I tried out clay modelling, knitting and a few other bits and bobs but always came back to my first love – digital illustration. I’d sit on the computer drawing and doodling and combined my love of food, and indian culture to come up with my first greeting card – and most popular design – ‘you’re the chutney to my samosa’. I showed friends and family and they were all like WOW this is so cool! So ‘The Hungry Indian’ range was born.
I wasn’t sure where to take this but luckily, I came across The Prince’s Trust in 2011 at a jobs fair trying to seek out freelance work. Someone pointed out that they help young people set up their own business and offer plenty of help and guidance as well as mentoring. I popped along and booked onto a course. It was a brilliant experience and I cannot thank The Prince’s Trust enough for all the help they have given me and everything they have taught me. They helped me write a business plan, learn how to do my own accounts, offered talks on social media and running a business and most importantly gave me a mentor who I’d meet up with once a month to talk through any worries about the business and help guide any new ideas I had on developing it at an early stage.
I’d studied graphic design and illustration at university so I freelanced graphic design jobs such as logos and leaflets during the day and worked on The Playful Indian on the side. Originally, it was all once business but as I developed, I learnt I needed to split the companies into two as I was taking on too much.
What is your role in the business?
My role in the business includes everything; from designing to accounts! It’s a lot to do, even for a small company and being creative minded I was never any good at numbers and I had to learn but thanks to The Prince’s Trust, they helped along the way. Saying that, I do enjoy all the roles I have to play within the business but the best is packing up orders for people. It really gives me a boost knowing that people like what I design and make; it puts a massive smile on my face. I don’t think this will ever get old!
Is there anyone else in the team? Tell us about them.
Just me at the moment, I’m a one woman band! One day, I do hope to have a team that I’ll be able to work with and come up with more unique ideas.
What is a typical day like at your business? W
Currently I’m back full time again working 9-5 as a graphic. When I finish, I come home and try to do a few bits and bobs like packing up orders, sending emails (although I try to do this at lunch), social media posts/replies, update the website and more admin bits. I do look forward to the weekends as I feel like I have more time and can develop my own business, work on ideas I’ve had and design new stuff.
What inspires which product lines you create?
Food! And indian culture, but mostly food. I love food, any food and all food. Being indian I guess it’s one thing that I can never get enough, the taste, the colours, the aromas, the spices it’s all so bright and colourful and shiny and I get so excited. The weddings are lavish too with lots of brightly coloured elegant outfits, the shimmer of gold jewellery, ornate decorations and again the beautiful food! Even welcoming a new baby into the household involves a small ceremony and once again food (the distribution of little indian sweets).
My aim is to bring Asian cards up-to-date and make them funny and quirky and modern for my own generation as well as younger ones so they keep that culture going while still keeping in trend.
Tell us about your design style.
My design style, I guess is hand drawn, but digital. I still start off with drawing ideas onto paper. I start by thinking of a range I’d like to create and research with the help of Google and Internet and a few indian art books I have. I’ll doodle things I like that I feel reflect that as well as shapes, words etc. I draw spider diagrams when I’m thinking of ideas – for me it’s the best was so I can see how I develop an idea. Then I either scan it in or just draw it again from looking at the scribbles I’ve drawn with my Wacom tablet – which I cannot live without now!
Are there any other card or gift designers you admire?
Loads! There’s a nice mixture of designers and artists I admire such as Buck and Libby, Babbu the painter, Inkquisitive Illustration, Jolly Awesome, Ashkahn, Little Miss Delicious, Alicia Souza. There’s a lot more actually but I think there’s too many to name!
What is your personal favourite product in your collection?
My favourite it the first ever range I designed ‘The Hungry Indian,’ just for that reason and also that it’s the most popular! And following that the matching coasters! Also, the ‘congratulations on your wedding’ card and the recycled samosa/chutney and ladoo cards with matching keyrings as they’re the cutest ever. Possibly all of them have been my favourite at some time. I like them all though.
What new products do you have planned for the future?
As for new products, I recently re-stocked tea towels and would love to create matching aprons and oven gloves too. I’d love to team up with any Indian food chefs to come up with some kind of recipe postcards or prints – hint, hint.
What is it like seeing your products in shops?
It’s a real buzz like ‘WOW I made that’ with a little giggle at the end and a smile full of proudness! I still find it strange when I see my card in a shop or when someone posts a pic of a card or gift they’ve received and I can’t believe people like my work. I recently stocked with the Southbank Centre in London at Alchemy Festival. It went really well and they ended up reordering more coasters and cards which literally cleared me out!
Manufacturing & Production.
What can you tell us about how your products are made?
I make a few things by hand, like the mugs as they can be personalised. Also the elephant brooches and keyrings are all hand painted. I enjoy doing this as it gets me away from the computer screen; it’s a relaxing process. I print the t-shirts at home now as I can manage orders better and as a small business it’s important to watch what you spend as things get quite expensive. The cards and tea towels are all printed by a good printers and everything is made and produced here in the UK.
Do the materials have Eco-friendly credentials?
There is a range I have created which is made from recycled card.
Do you use any specialist techniques or equipment?
No, just me and my computer and paints 😀
What would you like to do next with the business?
There’s always new ideas being developed. I keep a sketchbook with all the ideas and things I want to work on in the future but slow and steady wins the race as they say. I want to make sure they are right and something that I would buy myself before I stock them in my shop.
Where do you dream of seeing your products next?
I’ve always wanted my products stocked in Paperchase. I love everything about them and I used to work there too! I’d also love to see them in shops overseas as a lot of my sales come from the US and Canada.
Thank You Dina!
Now you’ve read the interview, take a closer look at the collection at The Playful Indian website.