B. Thilak Kumar and R. Thangavelu have won awards for designs they have created for institutions in the city, writes Vaibhav Shastry

A portly man in his 30s sits quietly on the sofa in a modest looking office at New Sidhapudur. He closely observes the people walking into the office, and how they are received. He is the Chief Executive Officer of this firm.

It is this low-key, non-pushy nature which defines the approach of B Thilak Kumar, who started Shree Maruthi Printers, a printing agency with modest ambitions in 2006. Starting off with an initial investment of Rs. 1.25 lakh and four employees, the printing press now has over 200 employees with a turnover running into crores.

Thilak Kumar’s designs are familiar to the people of Coimbatore. They include the distinctive logo of Taxi Taxi, its car stickers and its chauffeurs’ uniform; the brochure and website for Purple Ironing Services; business/menu cards for restaurants and wedding invitations. They are the creations of Kumar and his partner R. Thangavelu.

They have also left their mark on television in the stage set up of Sun TV’s popular show Asatha Povathu Yaaru.

Thangavelu and Thilak Kumar of Shree Maruthi Printers have been a one-stop shop for top firms across the city. Following a trendy and youthful approach is their USP, and the duo is now designing for companies across the country and even abroad. Speaking of his early love for printing, Thilak recollects, “I would pay more attention to the quality of print, texture of the paper and patterns of designs than the written content on any brochure or magazine I would pick up.” Observing the quality of a number of newspapers and magazines over the years, Thilak felt they lacked innovation when it came to quality print and design. So he wanted to plug that gap with a top quality printing facility in the city.

After a diploma in Electronics and Communication in 1994, he plunged headlong into the world of printing, spending evenings at his tenant’s printing press in Singanallur. Going onto work as an administrative officer at an arts and science college during the day, he continued to learn the nuances of printing and packaging in the evenings. Thilak cycled all over the city to meet his prospective clients. He recalls his first successful deal with pride.

“The first successful order I received to print business cards gave me enough money to purchase a new bicycle,” he says. This was the spark he needed to set up a top notch printing press in the city.

While sound with the technical aspects of printing, Thilak needed somebody to create attractive and innovative designs which would stand out from the clutter. Some of the stellar work done by creative designer R. Thangavelu, then the art director at Dr. GRD College of Science, came in handy. Thangavelu was recruited as the creative director and there has been no looking back since.

Their portfolio includes over 500 logos, hundreds of business cards, wedding invitations, posters and banners. While Thilak eats, sleeps and breathes printing machines, Thangavelu spends most of his time sketching on a drawing pad, a phone or a computer. He designed a website for a foreign film company and an American dental firm.

Award winners

Recognition for their services followed soon. Thilak and Thangavelu won awards for designing the menu card of a popular Chinese restaurant in 2010 and the design of an annual calendar the same year. A colourful wedding card invitation won them their third award in 2011. The awards are given by the All India Federation of Master Printers for excellence in printing. “Winning the awards made us a force to reckon with, and many corporate firms and commercial establishments approached us for designs,” says Thilak. One of them was the Lakshmi Machine Works (LMW) group. They wanted Thilak and Thangavelu to design a diary. For it, Thangavelu researched the family’s history, designed the family tree and included old photographs. It was a challenge, as LMW gave them just 10 days to deliver!

But, that is Thangavelu’s strength. He is at his best when brainstorming with clients. “When they come to me with specifications, I sketch out the concept in front of them and get their feedback. I can come up with the design within a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the complexity of the concept,” he explains. He shows a sample of the evolution of the Taxi Taxi logo, designed and redesigned quite a few times before it evolved into the now familiar text on a red background.

Before joining Thilak, he completed a diploma in fine arts privately and worked as a professional artist and then a senior visualiser in reputed ad firms in Chennai, Bangalore and Cochin. He then joined a reputed arts and science college in the city as an art director.

Thangavelu is now working on a book about his journey as a designer. He has included tips for budding designers.

“Designers must be able to use a manual paint brush and a mouse with equal dexterity. Many complete certificate courses in design but struggle when asked to design a simple visiting card. My book will touch upon the basics and give them a glimpse into the creative process of designing,” he concludes.