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Design, graphic and art is in my heart. Statement of Purpose for MFA in Visual Communication @SAIC


The right time to pursue my own creative voice

I have always been a collector and stamps are something I have collected on/off since childhood. I used to browse through my grandfather's stamp collection for hours and it was always the more graphic and what I would later discover "modernist" stamps which excited me. A strong sense of typography and beautiful compositions. Even as a child what I noticed was how simple, graphic ideas could be conveyed through a highly visible yet tiny medium like stamps.

I started noticing design around me at a very young age, but the thought of pursuing design as a career never crossed me. Even at the age of 18, I never fully understood the prospects of design in a country like India and hence I took a safer route. I ended up pursuing a conventional career path in commerce for my bachelor's degree.

College opened many new avenues for me, both in art and design and also as an individual. Though I was pursuing an academic course from one of the top universities in the country, I felt my heart was never fully in it. I joined the Fine Arts and Photography Society (F.A.P.S) of my college and participated in various art and design competitions. I started making hand painted posters for campaigns and events within the Delhi University. I also made digital posters for theatre plays and street plays of my college's theatre society-PLAYERS. My work started getting recognition and accolades. By the end of my final year I was clear that I wanted to pursue my passion in design, where my heart truly lies and nurture this undying passion of mine.

2013 was one of the most exciting years of my life. I was in London at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM). I knew I had to make the most of this wonderful opportunity. I was inducted into the core principles of graphic communication design through lectures, workshops, seminars and individual and collaborative projects. Here I learned to communicate my ideas verbally, visually and in writing. My work was being critiqued by faculty members who were also industry professionals. I worked in group projects where I learnt from the creative process of my peers. For a project called 'Unsung Hero', we worked in collaboration with the V&A and searched within the museum for an unsung hero. I immersed myself in research and worked round the clock to create this zine . This year helped me develop not only technical and conceptual skills but I also engaged socially and culturally, to understand how design can shape human behaviour. Design softwares took my ideas to another dimension all together. Adobe Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop were the core softwares that I learnt from online tutorials like Skillshare and Lynda. Moreover, I cannot help but mention the impact the acclaimed graphic designer and educator Ellen Lupton has had on me. When I was trying to educate myself about core graphic design principles, her books- 'Thinking With Type' and 'Graphic Design The New Basics' helped a lot. I devoted myself to not just reading but practicing the projects set by her in these books and tutorials.

This one-year course build a solid foundation for me and as soon as I came back to India in 2014, I got the opportunity to work with Aman Khanna. Under his mentorship I designed newsletters, publications and reports for clients like Intellecap, Oxfam India and created posters for NGOs like Toxic Link etc. Aman is an acclaimed sculptor and used to work on the potter's wheel in the studio.I used to observe his process and often help him in researching, brainstorming and even learnt to work on the wheel. I developed a keen interest in ceramics and ended up working on Claymen, his personal project. Furthermore, working in a team for a large scale project like the fashion week installation was a great learning experience. I gained hands on experience in areas such as layout design, typography and grid systems.I took every opportunity that came my way and burned the midnight oil to educate myself about softwares through online tutorials.

As I started compiling my projects into a portfolio, people started noticing my work. I was getting freelance projects and requests for collaborations with other artists and designers. I wanted to try out new things, experiment and explore what else I could do besides layout and information design. I realised I could choose the kind of projects that I wanted to do now. I wanted to learnt website design, as I spent an entire year working in print. I also wanted to take up branding and illustration based projects. Hence I spent the major part of 2015 freelancing and only recently joined a design studio called Design Route as a part-time designer. Freelancing helped me pick projects that challenged me as a designer.

Though I have learned a lot in the past few years as a graphic designer, I still feel there is so much to learn to take my career forward. With a non-design background, it is imperative that I gain knowledge through a structured and a research based program. SAIC's interdisciplinary approach and curriculum really excites me. My own work has been interdisciplinary. I worked in an information design studio and simultaneously was also working with a tactile medium-clay. This cross disciplinary approach expands the realm of ideas and helps me focus better on core design projects. The icing on the cake was when I met Jacqueline in November who talked about SAIC and its vision- which further strengthened my resolve to study at SAIC.

My intention behind spending two years working on my own, after coming back from London, was to bridge the gap between not having a formal education in design and pursuing a career in it. Now I wish to deepen my quest for finding my own creative voice and I am certain that pursuing a post grad degree will do that for me. I also feel I am deeply influenced by my environment and the people I surround myself with. I find it exhilarating to interact with like-minded creative people. Moreover Chicago is one city I have always wanted to live in. I have closely followed the design community in this wonderful city and I cant wait to be a part of it.

Thank You.

Jan 10, 2017   #2
Astha, your statement of purpose is too long and totally deviates from the required information presentation during the early part of the essay. It would be in your best interests if you make it clear from the opening statement that your purpose for these higher studies relates to proper academic foundation and training in the visual arts due to a change in career path. That is after all, the point of all the words that you wrote at the start. The backstory is not necessary at this point. It is the purpose that is important. Once you establish that you are looking to change your career path, you can then explain how you had an early interest in visual arts due to your stamp collection and the London experience that you had. Do not discuss your grandfather's stamp collection. That is totally irrelevant in terms of required elements of the essay.

Focus your purpose on showing that you have actually done some preparations on your own for future visual arts studies. Emphasize your development as a graphic designer so that the change in career path will appear logical and seamless. Show that you will not struggle as an MFA student. The proof that you are able and ready to complete this program is of the utmost importance in this essay, along with the idea that the university will be an integral part of this gradual progression to a new career.

Depending upon how you revise your essay, we may need to add more information to it or just adjust the content in order to make it more relevant and interesting to the reviewer. I hope to read your revised essay soon.
@Holt Thank you for your valuable feedback. I have incorporated the changes that you have suggested and following is my edited SOP :

Creativity and composition, color and contrasts: they made up my world when I was a child. As a five year old, I pored over my grandfather's stamp collection, and always chose those that had the most visual impact and intricate detailing. No one told me that these were 'modernist' stamps that possessed artistic vitality; I chose them by instinct and in later years, suppressed this very trait in pursuit of more 'serious' things such as academics.

A love for numbers led me to choose Commerce for under graduation. It was the conventionally right choice, I reassured myself, and my grades always supported my belief. However, whenever I envisaged my future, I felt that a vital part of me was missing. My spirit was restless, urging me to find that missing component. It was while in college that I finally identified my true passion. I had joined the Fine Arts and Photography Society (F.A.P.S) and participating in art and design competitions gave me contentment. I allowed my heart to lead me. As my hand painted and digital posters for events at the university and plays for my college's theatre society received recognition and accolades, I was sure that conventionality was not meant for me. I dreamt of unfettered freedom and design gave me that opportunity.

2013 spelt a new phase for me. Through the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM) in London, I was inducted into the core principles of graphic communication design. The pedagogy of learning through lectures, workshops, seminars and individual and collaborative projects opened a new world. Constructive critiques from an eminent faculty enabled me to develop the art of communicating my ideas verbally, visually and in writing. I could feel myself grow, and I loved being challenged constantly in doing what I loved. Group projects were hubs of stimulation, where I indulged in the entire creative cycle of research to the finished products. To illustrate, for a project called 'Unsung Hero', we worked in collaboration with V&A and I worked round the clock to create this zine. Design softwares fuelled my interest and I devoured online tutorials of Adobe Illustrator, Indesign and Photoshop.

On my return to India, I worked under Aman Khanna, designing newsletters, publications and reports for clients like Intellecap, Oxfam India and creating posters for NGOs like Toxic Link. His acclaim as a sculptor led me to experiment on the potter's wheel, and work on 'Claymen', his personal project. All these projects gave me hands on experience in layout design, typography and application of grid systems.

Compiling my projects into a portfolio to test my commercial value was a huge step for me. Reinforced by the offers I received in the form of freelance projects, and requests for collaborations with other artists and designers, I moved into new areas. I wanted to design websites, as I spent an entire year working in print. Branding and illustration based projects enhanced my technical and visual skills, and I found freelancing added diversity and depth to my portfolio. Only recently, driven by the desire to work and lead a team in a professional setting prompted me to join Design Route as a part-time designer.

Though I have accumulated myriad skills as a self-taught graphic designer, I believe that a structured and research based program will enable me to reach my dream of starting my own graphic design studio. Although I am from a non-design background, it is my passion that has brought me so far. A Masters in Visual Communication Design will not only enhance my skills but will give credibility to my talent and experience. SAIC's interdisciplinary approach and curriculum aligns with the trajectory I have followed. I worked in an information design studio and simultaneously experimented with a tactile medium-clay. Therefore, I know that a cross disciplinary approach expands the realm of ideas and helps focus better on core design projects. A meeting with Jacqueline in November who elucidated SAIC's vision strengthened my resolve to study here. I am confident that my quest for finding my creative voice and establishing myself in a highly competitive environment will end at SAIC.

Thank you.
Jan 11, 2017   #4
Astha, in the second paragraph, there is an implication that you changed college courses / majors. As I see that you did not actually switch your college interests from Commerce to Arts, it would be best to clarify that towards the end of the paragraph. It is important that the reviewer know that you are a person engaged in Commerce by profession and engaged in Arts by personal design. That portion is a bit confusing and needs to be clarified for the reviewers benefit. The rest of the essay works very well until we get to the last paragraph. There is a mention of a woman named Jacqueline. Her relevance to SAIC is not clear and the reason for her influence upon you isn't really remarkable enough so you should just remove the reference to her in the paragraph. Instead, focus more on convincing the reviewer that SAIC will benefit immensely from your self taught background and free lance experience and should therefore, give your application far more serious consideration than the other applicants.
  Closed ✓

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