2 Minutes With … Simrit Brar, CD at Siegel+Gale

On seeking the human truth in her work

Simrit Brar is currently a creative director at Siegel+Gale. She has spent 15 years consulting for a range of businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups. Recent clients include Warner Bros. Discovery, Nielsen, Abbott, Fitbit, Wells Fargo, SAP and VMware.

We spent two minutes with Simrit to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Simrit, tell us ...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up all over India in beautiful military cantonments. Today, I live in Redondo Beach, Calif., a mile from the beach, which I love.

How you first realized you were creative.

As a child, I drew in the margins of my schoolbooks. When I was six, my mom—who hates this story—got so tired of it that she drew on my hands to deter me from drawing everywhere else. 

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I idolized illustrator and author Manjula Padmanabhan. Growing up in India in the '70s and '80s, we read an eclectic mix of English, American, Russian and local books. One of the first kid's magazines I read was called Target, and Manjula used to write and illustrate for them. Later, I read her whimsical comic strip Suki, which featured a central female character. That kind of representation was rare.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

In the 12th grade, I was selected to attend the National Institute of Design. At the time, it was the only design school in India. Thirty students were chosen out of almost 10,000 applicants. Not only was it thrilling, but it also shaped my life's trajectory in a significant way.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I've always had a very visceral reaction to David Hockney's work—I have never met a Hockney series, painting or photograph that I haven't loved—especially what he does with color. I loved reading his partial biography A Rake's Progress, which gives a peek into the artist's life, the discipline, the madness.

Another artist I admire is the 19th-century English illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. His black-and-white inks influenced the Art Nouveau era (that languid line!). Beardsley's themes lean towards the decadent, but they are so beautiful and irreverent.

I adore Yayoi Kusama. Like Hockney, she is also prolific. I love her use of color and everything she does.

Lastly, I am not sure Thomas Heatherwick would classify as a visual artist, but in my book, he does, even though he's technically a designer. I was thrilled to finally visit Vessel, the soaring structure in New York's Hudson Yards that his firm designed. They also redesigned London's iconic double-decker buses. This recent quote of Heatherwick's says it best when describing architecture he sees: "I believe we're living through an epidemic of boringness. Everywhere is the same—dull, flat, shiny, straight, inhuman." 

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Riveted is a podcast by Godfrey Dadich Partners that focuses on great storytelling. It's become challenging to find a unique point of view in podcasts, but this series inspires me with its interviewers as well as guests. My favorite episode is "Get Weird with Pixar's Domee Shi," featuring the animator who created Turning Red and our favorite dumpling, Bao.

Netflix's Beef is showing up on so many lists that I almost didn't pick it. It's a super quirky, unpredictable series that has you rooting for no one, yet it's so relatable. I also loved that all the characters are Asian and are not cast because they should be, but because they're going about their business like Angelenos (like me) and everyone around me, and they happen to be Asians.

Your favorite fictional character.

Mr. Pink-Whistle was a quirky character with his own book series written by the prolific English children's writer Enid Blyton. Having grown up in India, I read heaps of Blyton's books. I might have started reading her books at the age of 6. 

And Mr. Pink-Whistle was half-brownie (i.e., elf), half-man, and lived in this quaint English village and went about solving problems. Every chapter ended with Mr. Pink-Whistle having a nice sit down with tea and cucumber sandwiches when all was right with the world! 

Someone or something worth following in social media.

Having followed her career, her style, her brand and her relatable podcast, French photographer Garance Doré is one of my favorites. She was also a New Yorker while I was there, an Angeleno, and appears to be a Londoner now. I've even spent time in Corsica, the little French island she grew up on.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

While working in India, I helped create the campaign for the 2001 Bollywood movie Lagaan. It gave me the opportunity to work closely with one of India's biggest stars, Aamir Khan, who was the lead in the film as well as the producer. I learned so much from my long interaction with him. Lagaan went on to be nominated for a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, and I also worked on the campaign for that. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

At Siegel+Gale, I helped rebrand the Warner Bros. Discovery merger. Their website shows some of the work we did. I am a massive fan of the movie business and loved working on this project so much.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

When I lived in New York, I'd love seeing campaigns show up as wild postings every day on the streets. I miss that serendipity here in Los Angeles. One of my favorites was "Waist Down," a traveling exhibition featuring 100 skirts designed by Miuccia Prada, flattened to create "flowers." It was such a simple yet gorgeous execution.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I've been following the work that artist/photographer Tim Tadder is creating using AI. It's gorgeous! It's also interesting and terrifying to see where AI is taking us.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Digging deep—asking questions and looking for human truths in everything.

Your biggest weakness.

Getting distracted easily and wanting to move to the next fun thing.

One thing that always makes you happy.

This may sound uncool, but I love flowers. They always cheer me up. Seeing California bloom all around me has been fantastic.

One thing that always makes you sad.

My tween being snarky to me. I have to remind myself it's a phase as she finds herself.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

It may be from reading too many Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, but I would have become an investigative journalist if I wasn't in design and branding.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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