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My Journey as a Designer

geekini house, where ido.graph was located

My professional journey as a designer began when I made the decision to drop out of design school. While waiting to join another design school, I was fortunate to have S.M Shah, my mentor and guide from college, agree to mentor me and allow me to visit his home. He provided me with design exercises, mentored me in graphic design, and imparted valuable life lessons that I still hold dear. Around the same time, my dad introduced me to Niraj at ido.graph. I owe everything I am as a designer today to Niraj and his wife, Minali, who took me under their wings for a remarkable nine years.

During my time in college, I had the privilege of looking up to my seniors, such as Jagjot, Parimal, Shiva, Athul, and others, who served as a source of inspiration and guidance. They introduced me to a wide range of new ideas and concepts, including publication design, branding, type design, and UI/UX. Additionally, the valuable insights shared by visiting faculty members provided me with a glimpse into the industry, further expanding my knowledge and perspective.

In May 2013, when I joined ido.graph, I was immediately assigned to a branding project for a boutique multi-designer store in Ahmedabad. My lack of experience and naivety showed, but Niraj kindly reviewed my work and provided honest and constructive feedback. Remarkably, even after 10 years, the store still utilises the branding and collateral we created for them. Interestingly, the topic of salary never arose during my first month at the agency. However, to my delight, the agency surprised me with an envelope with cash, making me feel valued and appreciated. This gesture reinforced the significance of my role and how much they valued me.

desk from 2013 v/s desk from 2021

During my time at ido.graph, I also had the opportunity to work on a resort project that was on retainer with the agency. It was here that my technical design skills were challenged. I had to showcase all my work to Nirag bhai, the principal designer, as I was responsible for sending it out for execution. Nirag bhai, not only my teacher but also a master in image editing, guided me through the technicalities of advertising and pre-press. His flawless work for a fashion brand he was in charge of served as an inspiration. I also looked up to other seniors, including Pragnesh bhai, Dharmesh bhai, Aaskha, and Kruti, who helped me refine my skills. Later, I was entrusted with managing an account for an optician store. I vividly recall Minali, my boss, allowing me to conduct an in-depth case study of the brand and its competitors. Together, we developed a successful brand and marketing strategy that greatly benefited the business. This account remained a significant part of my work at the agency for seven of the nine years I spent there. Notably, during Uttarayan, a major festival in Gujarat, I leverage my new knowledge of the state’s language and culture to create a campaign called ‘Chashma Pehen, Lapet Bol!’ I infused my love for vector illustrations into the campaign, which was well-received by society and my peers.

At my desk at ido.graph,2017

Throughout the years, I had the privilege of working on numerous branding projects and campaigns for clients across various industries. Along the way, I also learnt Gujarati, which enabled me to understand conversations and develop basic communication skills. One of the highlights of my career was purchasing my dream bike in 2016 on my mom’s birthday. It was an incredibly proud moment for me. I celebrated the 20,000 km milestone while on a road trip with my friends Shriraj and Arun to Nainital, celebrating one full year with my beloved bike, Nova. While I cherished my work and the people around me, I began to feel undervalued. In 2020, amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all faced financial setbacks and agreed to forgo our full pay checks. My office hours started to become more flexible, and I was informed that I would only be paid for the time I spent at my desk. Nevertheless, I never missed a call and always took responsibility for the work assigned to me. Over time, I started making design decisions independently to reduce friction between the agency and clients’ offices. Although this led to some mistakes and incurred costs, I take pride in my proactive approach and willingness to take initiative.

In 2022, I reached a point where I felt emotionally, financially, and creatively drained, and I knew I needed a break from my work. I discussed my decision with my parents and requested their support for the next three months. During this time, I connected with Harsimran, my current partner, who also runs an Art and Design academy. He offered me a part-time job mentoring young adults in design and invited me to conduct a workshop on design thinking. He also sought my assistance with marketing and advertising for the summer. Mentoring these young kids provided valuable insights and allowed me to view my life through a different lens. While I enjoyed this new gig, I missed having a dedicated workspace during the day after spending most of my twenties at ido.graph. Consequently, I decided to acquire a studio space of my own, where I could be more productive, creative, and have a dedicated place to work and play. Little did I know that this decision would open up new opportunities. While my intention was never to start an agency, I was determined to embark on a journey of trust and intuition.

Soon enough, I secured my first branding project from a friend who was starting a healthcare business in Australia. I found myself in a situation where my full and final dues from my previous job were still pending. Due to the absence of any recent salary increments for the last few years, I was unsure about the exact amount of my last salary. This circumstance made it less than ideal for me to pursue new job opportunities, which ultimately led me to accept these projects instead. As a studio without employees, I managed multiple projects at any given time. I worked tirelessly, striving to strike a balance between work and family, although I did fall short on several occasions. Throughout this journey, I focused on delivering value to my clients, and financial gains were always secondary. There were months when I forgot to raise invoices, and times when I had to rely on my parents for financial support. Yet, through it all, I knew I was doing work that held deep meaning for me, and my clients recognized and appreciated the value I brought to the table.

In 2023, I realised I needed assistance and began searching for a designer who shared the same proactive approach I had at ido.graph. I wanted to impart the technical skills that Nirag bhai and my senior colleagues had taught me to the next generation. That’s when I discovered Riddhi, a fresh graduate from Nirma University. From our very first conversation, I could tell she was the perfect fit. However, I still needed to address the challenges of managing the business, finances, and processes. Fortunately, Harsimran, whom I had always envisioned working with, came into the picture. Despite reservations from friends, family, and even myself at times, I recognized the value he brought to the table, just as my significant clients had seen in me when they entrusted me with their accounts.

Having worked in only one agency throughout my career and hearing countless stories from peers about their experiences in other agencies, I was determined to create a different kind of agency. I wanted to ensure equal growth opportunities for all stakeholders, both inside and outside the agency. Instead of rigid policies, I aimed for optimal functionality. I sought to lead by example, using licensed products such as fonts, imagery, emails, cloud storage, and essential software like Adobe, Microsoft 365, and Canva. I treated vendors as equals, ensuring they received their dues even before we did. I also wanted the best state-of-art resources available in the studio including computers & latest peripherals, ergonomic chairs to help productivity thrive at any given point of time. Collaboration and partnerships with other agencies were embraced, and the goal was not simply to run a business, but to make a meaningful impact for clients and ourselves while reaping the benefits. As an agency, we made a commitment to never poach or pitch clients from other agencies. Today, after more than a decade as a designer, my aspiration is not only to be remembered for my design capabilities but also as a good human being. Every day, I consciously strive to reach this goal.

As I venture forth, I carry the lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the values instilled at ido.graph. It was a stepping stone in my professional journey, a place that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

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