Snehan was born in a city in South India called Trichy. He grew up in the farmlands of Trichy, waking up to its green pastures and coconut trees. His dad is a farmer and his mom was a teacher in a college in the same city. He spent most of his time with his dogs in the farms and growing organic rice with his dad. He enjoyed the simple pleasures of life.
"I had lived my dream of living a simple life as a country boy in the farmlands. Then it was time for me to explore the world and learn more about life and myself. When I found love, it was the start of my journey. I started drawing and it became my way of expressing my thoughts. I was into art and design."
Snehan challenged himself to move to Sweden to pursue design studies, with no prior undergraduate degree in design. Out of all the design disciplines, he decided that Industrial Design was one through which he could design products and make a positive impact in this world. With no academic background or experience in design, Snehan made it to one of the top design schools in the world. He is currently doing his Masters in Industrial Design in Lund University, Sweden.
"I have never let anyone tell me that I was not good enough. Sometimes even the books and rules can be wrong as they are all based on the majority. You are different and you make your own rules."
How would you describe your personality?
I am always positive no matter what happens and due to that I have a good view of life. I am confident and fairly easy going. I am willing to help anyone at any time. I do not like to be taken advantage of. I like to put myself in challenging situations and will never hesitate to take risks.
What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
I was a shy and sensitive person. It was hard to be myself and to fit in with others. This was my biggest challenge and it was when I realized that the people who I cared about liked me for who I was, I easily overcame it. Very soon I realized I was not the shy boy I used to be.
How would you define your design style?
I would say complexity disguised as simplicity is my design style. Nature and evolution shows us that there is always an ideal and sustainable design solution for all the problems we face. As a designer in this commercial world I want to explore the possibility of designing and making products that are feasible and viable, on top of being desired by the users.
What inspires you? Where does the inspiration come from before you start sketching?
I am inspired by risks and challenges mostly. Apart from that, anything I see for the first time inspires me. Before I start to sketch I close my eyes and imagine the best possible result that I can produce when I finish what I started. No matter how hard it may seem, I stick to that goal and never stop until I feel satisfied.
Top 5 favourite designers.
1. Ustad Ahmad Lahouri - Taj Mahal
3. Leonardo da Vinci
4. Franz von Holzhausen - Tesla
5. Jonathan Ive - Apple
Name a mentor or someone who impacted your career and life. And how?
My art teacher, Mr. Arivalagan, who saw my potential when I was a kindergarten student. He once organised a special event just for me during our school's exhibition, where anyone could ask me to draw anything and I would draw it for them. I was 6 years old, too young to have my own event but my teacher made it happen. He is my mentor who helped me a lot.
What is the trait / quality in someone you admire that you wish you had?
I admire the strategist in my sister, she always plans ahead and is also crafty in whatever she does. I wish I had those qualities in me.
Is there something you would do differently if you ran a design school?
I would change the selection process of the design schools, making it more open to anyone with or without a design background. The selection will be based on talent, instead of credits or previous academic experience. I see great designers everywhere but they don't have the academic background to call themselves as designers. Being innovative and creative is the key for successful design, so more focus will be on how to generate new ideas.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
When I applied for Design schools I was told that it was impossible for me to be selected as I did not have the required Bachelor's degree in Design or any credits in Ergonomics and design theory. Only I knew that I was eligible and proved them wrong with my portfolio, through which I got selected in Lund University, one of the most prestigious universities in Europe.
Talk about a time you failed at something or thought you did – but how it molded you in some way.
I was a carefree guy during my undergraduate college days and it cost me a year more than others to complete the course and graduate. But during this period I found where my passion was and the value of time.
A quote you live by… or a quote you love.
The day you stop racing, is the day you win the race.
The hardest part of your job is….
Finding the right problems to come up with design solutions is the hardest part of my job.
The part of the design process you love most.
I love to build. That's the design process I love the most. Be it welding metal or bending pipes, I love free handed work. I also love to design in CAD soft-wares and apply materials to make realistic renders.
The part of the design process you least like.
Waiting for the render, or the 3d printer to finish is the process that I least like because it can take days.
Do you have a dream project? What is it?
My dream is to develop a better public transportation system for the people of the world. I also have a dream house that I designed which I want to build in the future in my hometown.
If there is one thing you want people to know or be inspired by from your story – what is it?
Believing in your skills is the most important skill. My life changed when I realized that.
Are there any other outlets you express creativity? How did that come about?
I try to be creative in anything I do. To be more specific, I draw and make art in my free time. I think I got it from my dad who is good at drawing as well.
What makes you happy?
When I talk about the mind, nature, science or art with someone close to me, I lose track of time as it makes me happy.
What is your morning routine before you begin work?
On serious days, right from the moment I wake up, I am thinking about the design and constantly developing it in my mind. When I am in the shower, eating breakfast, biking to school. Somewhere during this time, I usually find the concept.
Snehan has recently developed a furniture concept at Lund University for Ikea that has a dual purpose and can be used in both working and resting mode. The furniture called Motsats, was exhibited in Milan and garnered curiosity and interest among visitors. The concept was inspired by the everyday problem we face when sat at a desk for long hours, with no breaks.
What music do you listen to when you work?
I listen to movie soundtracks when I work as they keep me focused.
What are you most excited about for what’s coming next?
I am excited about working on a project in collaboration with NASA later this year.
What is an important lesson you’ve learnt over the years as a designer that you would like to share with other designers?
Create your own style in a world filled with design trends.
Think outside the box and be ready to break some rules, after all you are the king of your own castle.
Great ideas can emerge from shitty ideas.
Most important lesson, always remember to save the file, it hurts so bad when the software crashes and all your progress is lost.
Snehan's story is a unique one; about a boy who started with humble beginnings, but dreamed big. His ambition to create and innovate took precedence. The challenges that came with not having the right academic eligibility, did not stop him from chasing what he most wanted.
From the fields of South India to the design hub of Sweden, Snehan is the new generation of problem solvers and innovators.
Written and Edited: Kamsin Mirchandani