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  • Writer's picturePrerona

Creating Visual Narratives for Rural India


One does not often come across the opportunity to design for audiences of remote rural India, speaking local dialects and tribal tongues. So, when I was briefed about the project SAFAL - where Crossed Design was designing communication material for local farming communities, I sure was intrigued. The brief was to design communication for an audience who could grasp information visually faster. So it had to be exciting, colouful, illustrative, and still be a little formal. 

Understanding User/ Audience, Stakeholders, and their visual aesthetics:

Speaking from a visual design perspective, I tried to understand the audience & what their sense of aesthetics would be like. This project had different levels of stakeholders, and we had to create something that would be correct for the scientific community as well as visually pleasing for the rural community and culturally relevant for the geography. I had to think about what government organisations find appropriate & what the rural community is used to seeing while keeping our tastes intact. 

Characters, Illustrations & Relevance:

When I started working on the initial illustrations, I understood that it had to be very simple. A few of the characters that we did, for example, the Baidu, done in different postures, was personified as the narrator of the information. It was cruial to depict her talking to the audience directly. She was a CRP leader which signified the leadership qualities of women for this project

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, baidu
Character drawing of CRP Baidu

The characters were done in a style that would seem comical & animated to make it look like somebody they’d know or recognize. There were other characters created like the farmer who wanted to know about various processes or a rich farmer who was already benefiting from sustainable aquaculture, & so on. 

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, farmers
Types of farmers

We tried to understand the clothes they’d wear, the interactive expressions they might like, and the terrain they lived in. We also had to depict technical information about sustainable aquaculture accurately. For example, fish seed transportation elaborated on frugal innovation & how to make use of what one has, to create the best possible solutions.

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, transportation of seeds
Transportation of fish seeds

I also enjoyed working on illustrations that depicted natural foods, plants & micro-organisms that fishes feed on. The play of translucence with colour, & the texture created in it were interesting to work on.

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, natural fish food

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, natural fish food
Natural foods, plants & micro-organisms

But the most important illustrations for this project would be of the fishes. We had to create life-like fishes that could also look a little interactive. The eyes were done in such a way that it would almost tell you the personality of the fish. We had to be very detail-oriented & consider the number of fins each fish had in each drawing.

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, fish illustration, Amur Common Carp
Amur common carp

crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, fish illustration, Rohu
crosseddesign, indian aesthetics, design rural India, fish illustration, Common Carp
Common carp

Design constraints & Challenges:

The project was translated & designed into multiple languages, English, Assamese & Odia. We had to accommodate the word count of Indic scripts in such a way that it fitted with ease into the existing designs. That meant getting translators and fixing glyphs many times. 

The designs took assistance from environmentally friendly colours which suited the theme of sustainability & aquaculture. The typography enhanced its texture to ignite interest. 

This project had many iterations & an extensive amount of meetings to get the information & illustrations technically correct. And it went on for a longer time than we anticipated, as many of you would know government projects are a great way to check your patience. 

In the end, one can assume that many communities in rural India still go back to the books they studied in school and find similar-looking designs more aligned with their sense of aesthetics which they find more comfortable to grasp.

Read about our project here:



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