A Poster Is Worth A Thousand Words: How Rishi Sheth Became The Go-To Graphic Designer For Many Indian Comedians

By Shantanu Sanzgiri 22 February 2024 4 mins read

Graphic designer Rishi Sheth tells us all about his journey and how he became the go-to poster designer for most Indian comedians.

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One of the joys of going to Mumbai’s Rhythm House as a child was to look at all the CDs in the rock-n-roll section and pick up the one with the coolest artwork. That’s how a 12-year-old me stumbled across Led Zeppelin, Nirvana and King Crimson. Even nowadays with all the images generated by Midjourney and Dali taking over our Instagram feeds, it’s quite refreshing to come across an eye-catching piece of promotional art that has been made by an actual human. And when Indian comedians need a new poster to juice the ticket sales for their tours, one of the guys they turn to is Rishi Sheth.

Based in Surat, the 26-year-old didn’t really set out to be a graphic designer . He wanted to be an artist, sure, but his medium of choice was the comedy stage. Inspired by the viral success of Kanan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath’s Pretentious Movie Reviews YouTube show, he began hitting up open mics across Gujarat in 2017. “I had seen my friend Nihar’s posters for local open mics and realised that even these can be done in an interesting way,” says Sheth. “I also thought that being a part of the production team was cool. It was also a nice way to get spots at open mics.”

Equipped with some Photoshop skills that he had picked up from YouTube, Sheth volunteered to design posters for the open mics he used to perform at in Ahmedabad. Back then, he found an early champion in fellow comedian Neelaksh Mathur who urged him to continue designing posters. “He was one of the first people who told me that I’m good at this,” says Sheth. “Even after he moved to Bengaluru he continued to put me in touch with people. Whenever anybody would ask for a good designer, he would recommend me. After Samay Raina won Comicstaan, Neelaksh asked him to reach out to me if he ever required someone to design his poster. He’s been extremely important in my entire journey.”

Gradually, Sheth’s work began to draw the attention of senior comedians from Mumbai and Delhi, Aakash Mehta being one of them. He reached out to Sheth in 2018 to design the poster for his show Bear With Me. “The posters I used to make were shared on the WhatsApp groups for open mics and people started to really like them. They would reach out inquiring who designed it and slowly I was designing posters for a bunch of different shows,” he says.

Before he knew it, Sheth was designing posters for a number of big names from the comedy circuit including Aadar Malik, Atul Khatri and Kunal Kamra. But the work wasn’t as consistent as he would have liked it to be. That was until 2022 when Shreeja Chaturvedi hired him to make the poster for her solo show Raw Footage.

“After Raw Footage my work reached a lot of people via word of mouth,” he says. “A lot of people started reaching out to me to design their posters. Aakash Gupta and Sumukhi Suresh also reached out to me.”

Even after almost five years of designing posters for comedy shows, Sheth hasn’t zoned in on one approach that works for him. It depends from client to client according to him.

“Comedians like Sumukhi Suresh have a clear idea of what needs to be done,” he says. “So it’s up to me to just execute it to the best of my ability. Sometimes people have a name and I come up with the idea. They send pictures from their photoshoots that help in coming up with the visual identity. Even the names help. For example, Shreeja Chaturvedi’s next show Superiority Complex makes you think of a queen of sorts. When Aakash Gupta told me he’s calling his special Angry Young Man, my mind immediately went to retro Bollywood posters. Sometimes they aren’t sure about the name either so I’ll draw up a few options for them. So everyone has different approaches.”

In addition to standup comedy, Sheth is slowly diversifying his portfolio, using his skills to draw up digital assets for various web series and films with Amazon Prime Video’s Bambai Meri Jaan being his biggest project. Sheth has also helped comedy clubs such as Khar Comedy Club, Mumbai and Underground Comedy Club, Bengaluru with their backdrop and venue logo.

Currently he’s working on the visual identities for American-Indian comedian Anu Vaidyanathan’s upcoming shows. “It’s a fun project because she’s gotten into comedy later on in her life,” says Sheth. “Before this she was a triathlete. She’s a mother of two kids. And now she’s putting out a special. So there’s a lot that I can work with and I’m enjoying it a lot.”

With all this work, the thing that brought Sheth into the world of comedy—standup—has taken a back seat. But he’s not giving up on that dream that easily. “I still perform whenever I get a chance in Gujarat but it’s not a lot,” he says. “The open-mic scene in Surat is not that good. But I do keep writing. I never stopped thinking about jokes. I have noted down like a 100 thoughts that I would love to perform on stage. That will definitely happen once I move to Bengaluru or Mumbai.”

Sheth’s dream job is a collaboration with Hasan Minhaj and Vir Das. He’s working hard towards making it a reality, putting in hours of hard work to become the best at what he does. Sheth attributes this to his drive to be more like Kanan Gill and Varun Grover. “I want to be an artist like them,” he says. “Their attachment to their art and their approach is something that I hope I can replicate some day.”


Shantanu Sanzgiri


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