Kapil Bhimekar, creative director at Leo Burnett Dubai, describes himself as “a curious child” with an affinity for cartoons, comics and, like many other children, an interest in creating and reimagining. As an introverted child, he found great joy in escaping the real world through creation. He particularly loved illustration from a very young age. “I have early memories of drawing various Disney characters, recreating them and later imagining my own characters and heroes,” Kapil says. He was so certain in his love for animation, that he believed that he would pursue a career in it up until his fourth year in university.
He went to Sir J.J. Institute Of Applied Arts, where he graduated in BFA applied arts with a specialism in illustration, which he still believes was a crucial stepping stone for his skills in visual storytelling. “I was torn between animation and advertising as a career,” Kapil shares, “In fact my summer job in my third year vacation was at a small animation studio in Mumbai, but after giving it a lot of thought I chose advertising over animation.” For Kapil, art was always in first place, which is something he learned from his greatest inspiration, his father.
“He used to make 3D decorations from Styrofoam for festivals back in India and I was blessed to learn from his art. Despite having no formal training, he worked with such precision in his work, which was quite inspiring.” The memory of his father staying up late at night to watch him finish a project and occasionally help still serves as one of his best and earliest lessons when it comes to art directions and craft. “I learned greatly about being dedicated to detail, from him,” says Kapil.
This kind of lesson is what carried Kapil to great heights, starting with him being awarded the second-best campaign for his final year project by the Communication Arts Guild (CAG) in India, which was monumental to him at the time. “It provided me with the platform and confidence to break into the advertising industry, and I landed into a small design company in Mumbai called The Flagship.”
Albeit demanding, Kapil’s first job was an amazing learning experience for him as a creative. The lessons he learned from his father about attention to detail certainly paid off in these days, because he remembers his first boss like a “professor - very strict, and with extreme attention to detail.” Being faced with his mistakes and learning about alignments, kerning typefaces, enhancing layouts, photography was what laid a solid foundation for Kapil in terms of his technical skills.
This was exactly what he benefited from later in his career, during one of his first professional projects, a packaging design for Leo Burnett Mumbai in 2007. “It was the first time I used my illustration skills for a design project, and it was for a tissue paper brand. I remember the complete freedom I worked with and with it came my first Cannes Lions nomination.” This project was one of his first memories of creative freedom and truly honing his craft. The projects that changed his career, however, were ‘The Little Book of Big Consequences’ for American Garden and the One posters of peace done for the Interreligious Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Both of these projects helped me to transform as a creative and earn recognition.”
Kapil believes that the best part of what he does is the development of the idea itself, “Nothing gives me more joy than an idea that came to me and then got released. Nothing beats that feeling of the final fruition of it. This is an industry where your idea can really take you anywhere. That’s what I love about advertising, the power of the idea.”
His love for the development of an idea from an embryo to a full project aligns with his love of the whole process of how the project itself rolls out. Kapil gets quite inspired by watching the process from start to finish, and enjoys the collaboration between different creative approaches that ultimately come together to create something beautiful and necessary.
But of course, the power of an idea comes with its own responsibility. Kapil acknowledges that “advertising is a reflection of society” and everything that happens around us will be reflected in creative media. “As creators, we should be well informed and aware of everything that’s happening around us, to bring fresh insights and perspective. I feel we have to go beyond the award show annuals and follow creativity in all its forms.” He also believes that the responsibility lies in educating clients to what quality work actually is.
“For example, anyone today with a decent camera can shoot a video for a few dollars and the client won’t notice much of a difference in the quality,” Kapil explains “But this sets a wrong precedent in the long run. It creates a cheap and cheerful culture at its best, and seriously damages brands at its worst.” And quality work is what drives the industry forward and what shows in the results of a piece of work.
That being said, for Kapil, expressing oneself is his biggest driving force. “It’s not the result, nor the awards. It’s the ability to communicate my feelings and ideas on a canvas. Whatever that canvas may be.”