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Capturing A Slice Of Nostalgia, Once Doodle At A Time

If you think doodling is casually etching designs while whiling away time, think again. The trio running Doodle Mapuls take this art form seriously and have done over 400 doodle pieces to date, collaborating with brands like Red Bull, Adidas, Levis, Budweiser and Bira 91

Capturing A Slice Of Nostalgia, Once Doodle At A Time
Doodle Mapuls' founders Kirthi Pillai, Amal Nair and Yash Shetty
POSTED ON November 17, 2023 9:53 PM

Growing up Kirthi Pillai, Amal Nair and Yash Shetty made it a point to watch an art show aired on Pogo channel called M.A.D. They loved how Rob aka Harun Robert, created a niche, which was never thought of before one thought about art. “As children, he made art more accessible to us and that is what we want; we want to make art more accessible to larger masses,” Kirthi said. 

From a young age, the trio had a strong inclination towards art fused with design, so it was unsurprising when they all joined an architecture college. Post graduation, they hit a wall when it came to finding a job because business had slowed down due to the pandemic.  

An Artistic Journey Inspired by Childhood Memories

With time on their hands and their imagination still running strong, they decided to give their artistic leaning a formal structure. And thus, Doodle Mapuls was born, albeit on Instagram. They used the platform as their conduit to reinvent old cartoons, colour outside the lines a bit and serve up designs with an Indie twist.

In the enchanting realm of the idle mind, these doodles were like a whimsical dance of uninhibited thoughts, far removed from the formal grandeur that graces many a museum wall. Doodling gave the trio a delightful escape from the mundane quest for constant content creation that social media demands.  

“While our hunt for jobs as architects was still on, we continued to make fun doodles and caricatures. We landed jobs and Doodle Mapuls became a weekend activity as we wanted to work first and learn the tricks of the trade before starting a business,” Amal elaborated. 

Their weekends and holidays were dedicated to working on art series and small commission works. While this was therapeutic and fulfilling, they soon bagged jobs in different architectural fields and found little time to do what they liked—dawdle over a doodle. So, after two years, they decided to quit their jobs and concentrate on developing Doodle Mapuls into a full-fledged art studio.

Turning Downtime into a Doodle Revolution

Etching their own path was not easy going for the youngsters as, initially, finding projects was difficult. So, they kept improving their portfolio by experimenting with different styles and formats. Gradually, they landed a few good projects, which later turned out to be their turning point, thereby increasing their clientele.

“We started generating revenue after we created a series of caricatures of our favourite Indian Rappers. Our caricature of Indian Rapper Divine, which was posted on our Instagram page, became famous amongst the rapper’s fan community. They reached out to us to have the same caricature illustration with their faces on it,” Yash recalled.

All the revenue generated by these caricatures was eventually pooled into the bootstrapped art studio, where the three work as senior designers. They also have a junior designer and a content creator working full-time along with a few freelancing artists. They hope that as the business grows, this team will be expanded to comprise ten artists and they can move into a bigger space by the coming year.

Mission to Add an Indie Twist

In most cases, doodles are more about incidental serendipity than a deliberate choice of a character or theme. Not so in the case of Doodle Mapuls. 

As their design inspiration, the trio chose all the classic cartoons they grew up watching, including characters from Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Pogo, as these cartoons were based on the context of Western countries. But they wanted to eventually reconceptualize these in the Indian context to make it more appealing to the desi masses with a side of nostalgia as one hardly gets to see them these days.

Doodle Mapuls
All the revenue generated by Doodle Mapuls caricatures was eventually pooled into its bootstrapped art studio

Their latest piece de resistance has characters from the popular SpongeBob series where SpongeBob is gallivants in a veshti, Mr Krabs in a white banian, and Sandy in a skirt and dupatta. Yash stated, “We started off with SpongeBob SquarePants. We have two more cartoons in the line-up—Power Puff Girls and Johny Bravo. As these are design-heavy illustrations, we are thinking of making products with more vision space i.e., notebooks, laptop mats and laptop sleeves.”

Talking about bringing back a piece of memory that is close to this generation, Krithi explained, “When it comes to designing, we work on a format which includes the release of artworks in the form of series (set of 6). To start of, we shortlist the cartoons, decide on a design principle we want to follow, make a colour palette, begin with the wireframe of the design and eventually conceptualize, ink, colour and export the design.”

When it comes to adaptation to different brands and products, the trio works in reverse, i.e. deciding the product, choosing a context and then working on the illustration. Amal added that not all ideas make the cut, but many get junked as it doesn’t fit in the vision or aren’t suitable or relatable to larger masses. So, they stack them and release them when appropriate or if any brand that aligns with the concepts comes through.

How Doodle Mapuls Found Its Turning Point

Their next step is to promote the concept of doodles to the masses since many still presume that it is just something a person does to calm their agitated minds or while away their time whilst involved in a monotonous activity. 

To break this perception, Doodle Mapuls has been conducting different kinds of workshops, and they claim that the results are “outstanding. People have started to reconnect with art as they mentioned that most of them left drawing or painting of any form after the 10th grade,” Kirthi stated enthusiastically.

It is collaborating with brands for these workshops and brand activations on a larger scale, which will help it create a symbiotic ecosystem where the art form gets the recognition it needs, the brands get the reach it deserves and people get the experimentation experience they miss.

Doodle Mapuls
One of Doodle Mapuls memorable campaigns included a design collaboration with the clothing brand Urban Monkey

Doodle Mapuls has created more than 400 doodling pieces based on fun and resourceful collaborations. Its memorable campaigns include the design collaboration with Urban Monkey and Red Bull, brand activations with Adidas, Levis and DLF, store designing with Slim Jim, office space curation with Schbang and digital illustrations with Budweiser and Bira 91. It has also held doodling workshops with Social and corporate employee engagement workshops with Bain & Co.

“Doodling is a language that can express different formats in easier and understandable mediums. It can be used for expressing different forms of information such as campus maps, therapy and easy learning,” she emphasized. 

 But don’t the trio get bored of doodling? Kirthi admits that they do since anything done daily tends to become monotonous. However, they have found noveau ways to keep themselves calm and sane. “It’s not just doodling that we do; we try to bring the doodle on different products to make it more accessible and physical rather than just keeping it digital,” she added. 

Yash, Amal and Krithi want people to consider doodles as the ultimate form of artistic expression, where they can be uninhibited and transcend all creative borders. The good thing is that most people might not be artists, but almost everyone has doodled at some point. Doodle Mapuls is tapping into that subconscious urge to put pen to paper and give their thoughts a character with abandon. 

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