Art director Muren Chandran is no stranger to the Malaysian live entertainment sphere. It is mostly because of his company, Pixelhood Malaysia, the designers for many local concerts. Buoyed by his passion for designing, this Taiping lad decided to dip his toes into the world of concert organising. Muren is now one third of Woodmark Events.
We speak to Muren about his career, and how his passion for design has paved the way for him into another industry. This is Muren’s account of his journey as told to the Varnam team.
I wasn’t one of those people who grew up dreaming of being an entrepreneur. After graduation, I worked as a designer before being promoted to be an art director. At this point, I was working in London in an advertising agency called MyMedia UK. It was pretty cool, as we were handling large corporate clients. I was there for two years before I decided to return home to Malaysia.
Back home, I met my college-mate, the late Nara Subramaniam. He was the actual founder of Pixelhood, but he was doing it as a freelance gig. I looked at it and told him, let’s take this to greater heights.
We worked well together, Nara and I. Pixelhood took off. Our clients were from all over, I had my corporate clients in hand, and he was a known figure in the entertainment industry. We were even nominated for Best Album Cover for Mista G and Alleycats in the AIM awards.
Along the way, we met the Mojo Projects team. At the time, we were working on a few English and Chinese concerts held here, doing the design work for them, but we weren’t in the forefront. With Mojo Projects, we went on board as their creative partners. They’ve been Pixelhood’s clients since their first concert, up until now.
It was there that Nara and I learnt what organising an event entailed. All the groundwork was laid down there.
Last year, Nara passed on in a tragic road traffic accident. When that happened, I was not only dealing with a loss so close to my heart, but I had to reshuffle the company and realign the direction my career was headed in. It was a difficult time.
I was at the crossroads of my life when Woodmark Events was born. It wasn’t easy at all. I had just lost my close friend and business partner, and here I was making the leap from art director to concert organiser.
But you know, this leap felt right. The three of us behind Woodmark Events synergised well, probably because we have been friends for so long. Each of us had our own area of specialty. Mine was naturally, the creative.
What stood out was how we made the big decisions in Woodmark Events. The three of us would brainstorm not just as business partners, but as friends and that made conceptualising and executing our first concert a relatively smooth process. I’m quite blessed to have these guys as business partners.
Apart from my partners in Woodmark Events, there are three people who have supported me along the way. Barathan Amuthan has been a confidant of mine from day one. We have worked together on many, many projects and he is truly a brother to me. Another person on who has been by my side from the start is Stylomannavan.
Anba Subramaniam has been another pillar of strength for me. He my business partner in Pixelhood right now and has been so helpful since he joined me.
I cannot say for sure that I would be where I am today without these boys.
There have been two people who I turn to immediately after completing a design. They inspire me, and they ground me. When it comes to feedback, I know they will be brutally honest with me. One of them was Nara.
I do my best to come up with fresh designs, and creative work, often with Nara in mind. What would he be happy to see from me, for this project, I wonder. How do I exceed the expectations of these two inspirations of mine, I ask myself. That pushes me to do better each time, with every new task.
It’s obvious that more and more Tamil concerts organisers are surfacing of late. And I speak for my partners in Woodmark Events that we have no issue with more concert organisers coming up.
All we ask is this, if you want to organise a concert, make sure it is a reputable one. The failure of one concert will affect other concerts, and that’s when all of us will land in hot soup.
Funnily enough, people also think that in concerts and events, the design plays a small role. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The design is the branding of an event. It is the first impression. It reflects the image of the organiser.
Sadly, most organisers don’t prioritise the design. They don’t realise that if your design is off, people won’t even feel confident enough to buy tickets to your event! This even applies to concerts with big names. If the design is just copied from elsewhere, there is nothing for people to see. The first point of contact between the customer and a business is always the creative.
There’s definitely a pressure, because we realise how important a design is. Our country boasts many, many talented designers. Competing with them isn’t easy. My greatest challenge is creating fresh visuals. We cannot goreng the same thing over and over again. I try to do something fresh with every poster.
It also depends on the artist we are featuring. Sid Sriram, for example, requires something sophisticated and reflects himself. When I design for him, it isn’t always straight forward. Sometimes, he approves it within an hour, and other times it takes up to a week, because it had that many changes.
It does sometimes hit me, that I am designing for an artiste like Sid Sriram. It’s a big accomplishment in my design career. I mean, I’m a fan of his, and I never expected to work on a poster for him.
I designed Sid’s poster last year, for the Woodmark Events concert, and he was impressed with my work. He even commissioned me to design a poster for one of his concerts in the US. Again, he was happy with my work. This was a really big deal. And up until now, this is definitely one of my career highlights.
To the young designers out there, learn the basics. Explore as much as you can, and don’t ever stick to one idea or one concept.
My process is to go out, hit the streets with my phone, take as many pictures as possible, even if they seem random, come back and sift through the images to get a new idea. I try not to get hung up on my past work, and am always on the lookout for new concepts.
My travels really inspire me to come up with new designs. Only when you explore as much as you can, and avoid sticking to one idea or concept, will you be able to come up with fresh designs, something the world hasn’t seen before.
I have donned many hats, from organising concerts to working on television commercials and digital ads. But deep down inside, what makes me really happy is sitting in front of the computer to design. That is really the best part of all of it, for me. Everything else is to put food on the table. My passion, my oxygen is designing.
Keep up with Muren Chandran on Instagram here.
Pixelhood Malaysia can be reached here.
Woodmark Events’ upcoming concert is Sid Sriram: Live in Penang, happening on the 1st of February 2020 at Spice Convention Centre, Bayan Lepas, Penang. All tickets for the event are sold out.