Monthly Feature // August 2020
Entrepreneur - Founder, Studio Thought Over Design
"Broadly, I find that it’s very advantageous to be a woman in business. I think it’s my strength."
"I'm driven by a problem that I need to solve.” says Anushka Sani, the Founder & Creative Director of Thought Over Design as well as an extraordinary human being. Anushka wants to bring global standards and professionalism to the growing design industry in India and to educate people in business about the value of design. She's worked with some revolutionary clients and brands, from Nykaa and The Whole Truth Foods to FAE beauty and Dalberg India. Having worked with 100+ clients over the last 8 years, Thought over design has elevated the quality of design in India.
On being a woman in business.
Thought over design is one of the most sought after design studios in Mumbai and we wanted to know how it came to life. “Since my family has a business background, as a graduation present my father gifted me a partnership deed for a company.” During that time, Anushka was working on her thesis project called, ‘Vision over sight’. “The name just came to me, Thought over Design. Because I always believed purpose before aesthetics, purpose before anything else.” But, it wasn’t until 2 years later that Anushka decided to start building Thought Over Design. “After my first job as a creative director in another company, I took a break and went to Andaman Islands. I lived there for 4 months to do my divemaster training. Then I returned to Mumbai and started taking up some freelance projects under the company name and hired the first person to help me out. It just organically grew into what it is today.” Wow! Sounds like it has been an adventurous path to building a wonderful studio.
“Broadly, I find that it’s very advantageous to be a woman in business. I think it’s my strength. As women we can choose to operate from a place of empathy, feeling, gut and people won't judge us based on that. I think that's a vantage point for us.” From all the statistics and horror stories we see online of how women in the professional space are being treated, Anushka points out that although there are a few unpleasant experiences along the way, for the most part the journey has been great. “For those few scenarios, there have been many others who have been amazing and who have come back to us with more work, who have been so open to having a different design perspective on the project.”
On the design industry & the pandemic.
The age of the Internet has connected us through thousands of kilometers. Networking and connecting with people in the industry is effortless. Yet there is a troubling disconnect between design studios and agencies. “Conversation, dialogue and knowing what people are up to. The Bombay design scene is not connected to the Delhi design studios and the Bangalore design studios. There isn't a network of conversation happening.” This inspired Anushka and her friend Roshnee (Founder of Local Labs, Mumbai) to create a group chat that connects design business owners. “An environment of conversation and collaboration needs to happen and it’s happening, we’re all making an effort to get to know each other.” After all, we’re all in the same boat of driving the design industry in India. A win for one of us, is a win for all of us. Support and collaborations are what help us grow, and we can never stop growing!
A lot of businesses in the country are facing quite a few problems as a result of the Pandemic. “The first few months were financially difficult and logistically difficult. Working with the team was the best part, the team has been amazing. We have worked beautifully through this. Some client projects were paused, A huge project sometimes will pause because you can't get the requirements from China.” On the bright side, over the last few months and during the pandemic, a lot of businesses have approached Thought Over Design with ideas around health, nutrition and mindfulness. “Mindful ideas have become a part of the focus. There’s a shift in the projects coming our way, and this is great because this is why I started Thought over design.”
We’re so excited to see what’s coming! Speaking of exciting things, Anushka talked to us about the exciting move Thought Over Design is going through,“During the lockdown, we had to let go of the studio to minimise our fixed costs. Once we let go of the studio, I started questioning the situation. Since the world was moving towards a ‘Work from home’ model and if I was going to work from home, could I not work from somewhere else? And now, the studio is working on a remote model and we'll revisit setting up the physical space / office when we know it is safe for the team and we're confident that we'll make use of it.” How exciting! ‘Work from home’ will be opening up newer avenues for big and small businesses across the globe, being a digital community ourselves, we can vouch for the multiple benefits ‘work from home’ has to offer! We’re excited to see the new and remote Thought Over Design’s culture!
On education & internships.
"Students must have an understanding and appreciation of not just design but all other aspects that go into making that come to life. It's important that your suggested creative output also makes business sense.
Apart from this softer ability to observe, learn and understand - when applying to a design studio - try to select a few places to apply to and be very selective of what you share in the email. Curate a set of a few things the person reviewing your application can go through. The person on the other end is also looking for someone talented and if you make it easier for them to understand your work and your interests in a more succinct fashion, it will benefit you greatly. When you add a project to this curated set, add a little bit on your role in the project as well. If you've added in a college group project or a project you did as part of a prior internship - contextualise it for the person going through your folio."
"One hat tip: Add context to your cover email. Go through the studio or agencys' site. See who the leadership team is and address what you want to learn from them or the projects they've done. Let them know how you fit into their context. When you do take on a job - please learn to be very observant: learn from people around you (not just designers) but the strategists, copywriters, project managers and understand every aspect of the business. This will also make it a lot more fun for you!”
Another aspect that would bring a considerable impact on the job experience is for students to understand the business of design.
“Designers should be taught how design businesses are running also. When you go into a business you know how it functions, you are aware of the system and the role you play in it. If you're starting something, then you would know how to build it.”
On the responsibility of creatives.
The Not fair campaign by Thought Over Design’s instant response to the very evident colourism of our prejudiced society is as impactful as it is beautiful. “I had a conversation with my team on this idea on one of our check in calls and created it very quickly. It got a really good response online. I enjoyed working on it because it gave me an opportunity to respond to something that was going on. I think agencies and studios need to take a stance on working with businesses that impact society positively.”
As creative people we carry the burden of what we’re putting out there for the world to see. Being mindful should become second nature. “We as creative people help build these businesses. Shouldn't we be choosing what stories we want to tell? What messages do we want to send to young people? I feel like I want to do more work in that space, I don't know how yet, I think that there's a lot of positive responses I got on that and they related to it. As a visual and communication design studio it's important to look at the role we play in the larger scheme of things.”
There are some amazing and elegant branding solutions on the Thought Over Design’s portfolio. Many notable brands including, Flipkart, Nykaa and FILA. “The reason why we've been working on more branding projects, is because there's so much exciting stuff happening. All the brands we've been working on are things that I'm personally excited about. Even if the brand / company doesn’t have a very clear brief - if their heart is in the right place, it's such an instant connection for me.”
We worked with a brand called, Under the Mango tree. I loved what the business stood for and I instantly also really liked the founder, Vijaya. We didn’t have a very clear starting point but we figured it out together and it’s a pleasure to see their new packaging in pretty much all the leading grocery stores pan india! They are fantastic people and I’m glad we got to work with such a brand.
“For me, I relate to entrepreneurs running their own businesses with passion , and therefore I want to work with them and help them do what they're doing - better. A lot of people now have the courage to go out and start something of their own, even though times are tough, businesses are being founded every day.”
On the power of intention.
Networking is one of the most important parts of a design career. Attending events, LinkedIn and Instagram are all a part of it but, we wanted to know more. “It's a full time job. It’s every minute of every day and I believe in the power of intention and manifestation. If you want to work on something, create work that is in line with that. Have conversations that are in line with that and you will manifest more of that. It's kind of esoteric, but that has been my way of doing it. Think of everything you're doing and every conversation you’re having as self promotion.” Where awareness goes, energy flows and we need to consciously get in alignment with our goals.
“We're excited about fine tuning the work-from-anywhere model. We're also looking to build our team and bring in some key people & talent to grow the business. One of my dreams is to build my own brand - something in the direct to consumer space. I'm working on a few ideas and can't say much yet! But these things are emergent, as they should be! I'll also say - I'm really interested in the mental health & wellness space. If anyone reading this is working on something with this in mind, please do reach out to me as I would love to partner on a project like that. It's very close to my heart.”
Takeaways for creatives
“It's really important to have a point of view. It’s important to build your belief system. That will help you choose the kind of work you want to do, it'll help you choose the company you want to work at. Just get to know yourself a little bit before you take on anything. You first job is very important and it needs to be aligned with what you believe in. Not just the aesthetics of that company, because it’s so much more.”
A little more about Anushka
Dieter Rams / Banksy
A city that you've loved travelling to?
Berlin, New York, Istanbul.
A TV Show you recommend binging?
If you could host dinner at home, who are your top 3 guests?
Oprah, JK Rowling & Rihanna.
What is one quality that a designer must have?
Strong Opinions, Loosely held.
We're always open to other perspectives, opinions and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!
With 🧡 Team WID.