the truck art of India

I received a wealth of submissions for the recent Open Pitch. Not all of them can be included in print, so I will share some here on the blog.

The following submission is from Shantanu Suman, a graphic designer from India who currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina:

After working as an art director for over six years in India, I left my job in 2010 to get my Masters in Graphic Design at the University of Florida. During this unanticipated adventure I found myself exploring a long buried love for the truck art of India. During the summer of 2012, I traveled to India for 45 days, carried out extensive research and collaborated with friends to make Horn Please—a documentary film that narrates the story of the Indian truck art. I was accountable for developing the concept and doing the research of the project. I also acted as the joint director, director of photography, and art director to work with a team of individuals who played their own role during the making of the film." 


The trucking industry of India has played an instrumental role in shaping Indian trade and commerce for decades. It’s a common belief among the truck owners of India that a beautiful truck is good for business and therefore the owners decorate their trucks with ornamented designs and vivid colors. My initial research during 2011, demonstrated that little has been done to document this vernacular art form of India. It was this lack that inspired me to do further research. During the summer of 2012, I traveled in six cities of India and collected information about the Indian truck art and people related to this art form. The information collected during this trip has acted as a catalyst to develop some design projects, an exhibition and finally a documentary film — Horn Please


The designs painted on the trucks do not merely represent an aesthetic purpose, but also attempt to depict religious, sentimental, and emotional viewpoints of the people related to the truck industry. My research focused on the ways in which this vernacular art form influences not just the world of art but also the lives of its artists and the truckers who interact with it on a daily basis. Largely, it investigates whether this traditional art, as a unique form of expression, will survive the modern day demands of the industry. 


Project Horn Please is aimed at raising social awareness and engaging people through voices and aesthetics of the Indian trucking Industry. It marks the starting of a campaign in which design would serve as research rather than another visually pleasing piece of work. Although I have spent the last couple of years researching on the truck art of India, I believe that there is more that needs to be accomplished. During my research trip in India, I stumbled upon something really beautiful. What I found in these places of decline was a sense of pride among the people working there. There was an excitement to share their stories—about their families, about the journeys, about the beautiful symbols and motifs and of the age old tradition of decorating their trucks, of which still not many are familiar with. They are the torchbearers of a beautiful custom of adding a personal touch and creating an identity with their vehicles. 

For a photo gallery of Indian truck art, click here. For forthcoming screenings of this documentary, go here.