These paper dolls make the perfect souvenirs - adorable and portable. The brains behind them are Kenny Ngairangbam and Yanglem Manimohon Singh and together they make KOK Designs - a design venture from Imphal, Manipur. Manimohon currently works in Delhi coordinating with Kenny, who looks over operations in Manipur. But that doesn’t stop them from creating these awesome dolls that represent different cultures of the North-east.
NeBuzz: So, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Kenny: I am an illustrator and the graphic designer at KOK Designs. I also freelance on other projects.
Manimohon: I am the creative director at Fluorescence and the art director at KOK Designs.
What is your connection with the North-East?
All of our works are inspired by indigenous culture, craft, attire and accessories of the North-eastern communities. Our current project is mainly focused on the cultures and traditions of different communities of Manipur. But, we also try to reflect the other North-eastern communities in our work.
How did you end up in this field of design?
Kenny: I studied at the Institute of Fine Arts, Modinagar, Ghaziabad, and also have an interest in hand-drawn illustrations. I also did some graphic designing for an advertising agency for sometime.
Manimohon: I studied at Imphal College and after completing my studies, I worked at an advertising agency - Cheil Communications.
What is KOK Designs?
KOK is a contemporary design studio that focuses on novel and nuanced style of minimal art. We have a fascination for reviving forgotten indigenous objects or ideas in the form of contemporary art or art work. And this has become KOK's unique style of art.
How did it start?
KOK is a result of the shared passion and common fascination for contemporary and minimal art between us. We also share a common belief of contributing to our culture and society through our work. While we aim to bring about designs with a purpose, we also like to send out the message of peace and harmony through our series of work.
What does KOK mean?
KOK literally means head in Manipuri (Meitei), and the head is the genesis of everything. Even in our line of work, every conceptualisation begins from the KOK (head).
Tell us about your ‘LAI’ project.
‘LAI’ was our first project and the main focus of LAI was to reflect the nuances of indigenous culture and tradition in our art. Through LAI, we aim to promote different cultures from the North-east and we do it by incorporating various design elements in our adorable dolls.
What inspired ‘LAI’?
‘LAI’ is a result of the widening gap that we see between many communities today. Different communities exist together in our society, yet we don’t understand each other. We wanted to study the culture and tradition of each community, and highlight them in our work in an exciting and unique way. Through this we hope to evoke people's interest in understanding other cultures.
How would you describe your approach to design?
For us, design is a way to express our cultural roots through art.
Who or what has been the biggest single influence in your way of thinking?
Cultures and environments that we immerse in have a huge impact on our way of life and thinking. It is often the things that we admire most that have a deeper impact on us.
How do you think online design resources have influenced the graphic design being produced today?
Design itself is an evolutionary process. A new form of design is an improvisation of an already existing form. Online design resources have been quite helpful in understanding various aspects of design and their trends. It has been an enormous source of reference and influence to represent a unique idea in a new way.
What has been your most important project so far?
Currently, we are working on a project focusing on the entire North-east. This is by far the most significant project of KOK.
How much of your work is influenced by your roots?
In fact, it was the other way round. It was the absence of our roots and culture in the field of art that influenced our work. Personally, when we looked back to our roots, we came across limited knowledge and resources to learn and comprehend them wholly. So, we would like to find and learn more about them, and leave behind our findings for future reference.
What are your plans for the future?
To develop a distinct style of work, and collaborate with other artists from different fields.
Besides your work, is there anything you are passionate about?
Music, movies and travelling.
What is currently playing on your playlist?
Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Nirvana, Joy Division, Shigeru Umebayashi and The Blue Heart.