Bengaluru-based graphic designer Neethi’s passion has always been illustration. But even as she attended design school, she wanted to use her talents to change the world.
Then she learned about The Banaras Project, a collaboration between India's Design Fabric and Purpose Climate Lab. They were looking for artists to spread awareness about alternative energy using the rickshaw—the three-wheeled vehicles that are one of the country’s main modes of transportation—as a canvas.
Neethi (that’s her full name) was one of three Indian artists chosen to design fabric used in electric rickshaws, the clean-energy alternative to the traditional gas-powered models that are a staple on the streets of Banaras, the Indian city many Americans know as Varanasi.
“For me, art that makes sense and touches people is art that I’m interested in,” says Neethi, based at WeWork's India HQ.
In a way, it’s not so different from her job at WeWork, where she’s a part of the team called Lunch Money. They are responsible for the custom wallpaper, glowing neon signs, and eye-catching murals that bring life and inspiration to WeWork spaces.
Neethi’s whimsical design for the e-rickshaws, called “The Bright Future of Banaras,” shows colorful flowers raining down from a sunny sky. She calls it “an exaggerated version of reality” that portrays the world as a “magical place.”
Promoting clean energy is especially important in Banaras, one of the most polluted cities in India. Known as the spiritual capital of India, this city on the Ganges has a rich cultural history that comes alive in its vivid textiles. Neethi says that on her first trip to the city, she was “taken aback by its chaos and beauty.”
Launched Nov. 1, the Banaras Project is part of a larger effort to promote the use of e-rickshaws around the country. It will be rolled out to other cities over the next several months.
Neethi says that she’s grateful to be a part of the program.
“Even sitting in an e-rickshaw you’re making a difference,” she says. “And if it’s attractive enough to sit in, then my job is done.”