Aditi Patel

“What’s That Smell?!”

Bachelor of Design Identity Illustration Publication Activism Diversity Education Food Narrative Storytelling


What’s That Smell?! is a design response focusing and highlighting an emphasis on the emotional, cultural and social issue of casual racism in the multicultural society of Aotearoa. This research focuses on children of Indian origin/heritage being subjected to casual racism. The physical outcome of this project is a self-authored, illustration-led children’s book to appeal to children between the ages of 5-7 years.

Being a young female designer of colour and Indian descendent, in my design process, I see through to curating designs and ideas that promote diversity, cultural acceptance and celebration which I have highlighted through illustration in this picture book. Using design as a strong tool of visual expression and social change, I have taken on this project as an opportunity to make a difference. I aimed to deliver the message on the issue of casual racism with positive engagement from a younger audience for a better tomorrow.

Casual racism involves negative stereotypes or prejudices about people towards their race, colour or ethnicity and is often downplayed however impactful to individuals on the receiving end. It is seen as a social norm, but evident impacts are traumatic, intergenerational, broad and have an effect on all aspects of wellbeing including feeling belittled and outcasted within society.

The information in this project focuses on research and experiences of casual racism. The root of this storyline was growing up in a community that name called people of my cultural background ‘curry munchers’ making bringing home food into shared spaces too embarrassing. This was one of many personal encounters I have experienced. Several individuals from different backgrounds have also been on the receiving end of casual racism.

Therefore, this project evokes my main objective, which is portraying cultural acceptance, showing individuals affected by casual racism that they are not alone and encouraging them to be proud and to embrace their roots. This book hopes to uplift children to make better choices in their words and action in hopes of a better future, helping people of different backgrounds celebrate cultural diversity in unity and dispel ignorance.