MDes Communication Design School of Design

Bhavani Balasubramanyam


I am an illustrator, storyteller and improv coach from India based in Glasgow. My practice exists to spark joy, melding authentic, evocative storytelling with humour and fantastical elements. I use narrative structures and world-building to bridge the gap between the every day and the extraordinary. My time at GSA has been spent exploring how I can tell stories from a specific South Asian lens while hitting the universal emotional cores that make human beings tick.

My work revolves around the themes of mental health, my South Asian identity, and most importantly, my cat Kevin.


Ghost Trains
Three Lives Book Cover


Avial is a 32-page comic book that tells the story of several people living in a building complex in India, told through contextual sound. It weaves the story of a person making the dish Avial*, along with smaller glimpses into the lives of the different people living in the same building complex.

It is an exploration of connection, loss, and societal pressure in a South Asian context and how to find universality in the specific.

It is supplemented by an audio file that gives you a soundscape while reading the book.

*Avial (n) – A South Indian thick stew of different vegetables commonly found in the Western Ghats, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves.


Shree was the outcome of a 3-month long project for my elective, Worlding Fictions and Fictional Worlds. The brief was to create a portfolio based on the idea of “fictioning” – exploring real-world problems through the analysis of fiction through a feminist and decolonised lens.

My proposal imagines an Indo-centric, alternative future where the British never colonised India. This was an opportunity to explore “Indo-Futurism” – “a means for Indian people and their descendants to respond to colonialism in India and its ramifications in post-colonial times.”

For this, I created a visual development portfolio for a prospective animated film.

It explores environmental storytelling through the context of the film and designs the world around the character – the natural and built environment, infrastructure, interior spaces, and communication design.

Ghost Trains

Ghost Trains speaks about the violence that ensued during the Partition of India in 1947, after 200 years of British colonial rule.

There were communal riots all over the country – but in particular on the trains that carried refugees across the borders. These “Ghost Trains” would leave their place of origin packed with people squeezed into compartments or sitting on the roof, but would arrive at their destination full of corpses, silent and bloody. This historical event shaped generations to come and isn’t often talked about outside of our own South Asian education.

I wanted to emphasise the sheer scale of the people who were killed during Partition on these trains and also play up the sooty, coal-like, harrowing nature of the whole experience.
These prints are screen-printed with charcoal and overlaid with linocut stamps.


Three Lives Book Cover

A Penguin book cover project set during Stage 1 – Three Lives by Gertrude Stein.

Since Three Lives is about three working-class women in the early 20th century, I wanted the cover to reflect the kind of labour of the time. The whole cover is embroidered on canvas, stained with ironing marks, and then digitally laid out. I also created a tablecloth-like pattern to extend into the flaps of the book jacket or as an end page. I tried to hand embroider as many aspects of the book as possible, including the main text, and the penguin logo