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  • Writer's pictureWomen In Design

Niraali Parekh

Monthly Feature // September 2021

Bokaap helps brands communicate their purpose through strategic collaborations that blend seamlessly to provide lasting experiences to clients and users alike.

"Art is so embedded in how we grew up and likewise, even when I was growing up, I did take the typical art route to design!" Says Niraali Parekh, who founded Bokaap Design (formerly designaren) to deliver great design practised with good ethics at the standard and quality of a boutique agency. Bokaap helps brands communicate their purpose through strategic collaborations that blend seamlessly to provide lasting experiences to clients and users alike. Her core expertise lies in branding and UX/UI design, She loves the potential of good design to positively influence decisions. She works with new and established brands and uses design to help clients achieve their business goals. "I really wanted to start my own studio and contribute to design the way I knew it," says Niraali.

Niraali has also conducted workshops for NGO Toybank, a panel discussion on branding for Startup Leadership Program, and continues to support various social ventures through skill-based volunteering.

Brand positioning, brand language, logo design, and packaging design for Janki's Shuchi range of edible and cosmetic oils

On Learning and Creative Blocks

"I read a lot of blogs. That's an ongoing process, not just design blogs or podcasts but also reading about life journeys, personal struggles, and how people overcome that. I don't think learning is only about learning technical skills related to our field, it's also learning through experiences, and for me, that has been more of a value add. And of course, for technical skills, there's a plethora of information available out there now with online learning. Learning by experience from different founders, how do they overcome biases, how do they manage teams, the concept of teams that are changing and how they work, is very enlightening." Learning from our peers and the people who have come before us is a key element of success. "As I'm hiring younger designers, how they work and what they expect from a team environment is also changing. So, the learning here is, How can I be a better leader? How can I motivate my team?"

As for Creative blocks, Niraali says that understanding the client's vision and their demographic usually helps, "There have been creative blocks, especially when working with clients where they are not clear about their brand vision, or where they see their product going. So we really get into the core of the business, understand the product and the target audience. A lot of designers also have to be intuitive and try and extract what we can from their personality, the product personality. And more often than not, the creative block usually ends up happening at this stage, when we're not able to really dig into what defines them or their brand.

The way we've overcome this is by asking a lot of questions, and trying different routes. If questions are not working, we're not able to get them to talk, let's try and show them some inspiration. It's trying to understand what they like and show them what we're looking at. Then, with the process of elimination, we overcome these hurdles or creative blocks."

When asked about procrastination, Niraali says, "I'm a very organized person so I'd rather do something today than wait for tomorrow — procrastination, personally, has not been a roadblock."

Brand language, logo design and packaging design for The Modern Tail's range of eco-friendly pet care products

On Branding - The common misconceptions and mistakes

"So the biggest misconception is when people think the branding is just the logo. But branding has always been more than just a pretty logo. It encompasses so many different things within that umbrella. And what I like to tell people is to start with understanding who you are, who is your brand? why you're doing what you're doing? who are you talking to? and what is your personality? I always tell my clients, imagine if your product or your brand was a person, how would you define that person's personality? It's not just about what clothes you're wearing, it's also how you're talking and what are you saying. Branding goes beyond just something that looks good. Yes, of course, it has to look good but also — it has to feel right. What I've faced early on is clients saying, I want a logo, you know, I just want this, why can't you just take this inspiration from Pinterest and put something together. I say if you want to copy and recreate something that's already done, then you can go to somebody else but, if you are coming to us, we will help you defined what your brand is and custom design something that is right for you?"

We repositioned Footage Farm's online presence with a new logo, UX, UI and tech development of their digital video archive.

On recreating her own brand — Bokaap Design!

"It's a bit of a personal journey. When I started the studio in 2009, it was with my ex-husband. The name (designaren) was a combination of our first names. A few years later, as I was going through my own personal transformation — heading towards having a balanced, healthy, fit, spiritual lifestyle, it seemed appropriate that the studio and the name itself needed transformation. A lot of things were changing, how I approached work, how I wanted to foresee the culture in my company and so much more. The studio also evolved with the kind of work we were doing and I wanted a name that signified that transition."

"Bokaap is an area in Cape Town. It's a very colourful neighborhood with a dark history, but today it's a very vibrant community. It is said, that the residents painted their houses in bright colours as a celebration of their freedom. When I visited Cape Town, I was at that crossroads in my relationship, getting ready to embrace the idea of a new life — the name Bokaap resonated with journey. It's a personal reminder of change and evolution and how you can overcome any kind of challenge."

On Challenging projects, Clients & WFH

"Many years ago, a client who was working with us had expectations that could not be met. Their idea of working with a team was to call us every morning and insist on staying on-call (sometimes for 3-4 hrs) while we design to monitor what we were doing. We had to eventually tell them this is not working for us. It was not healthy for our team and we let go of the client. It's not a healthy expectation that I'm setting up for any new client coming to me. We're okay with having clients call us and give us directions and feedback. But a team will not be able to do their best if they feel like they are constantly being watched. I think in my 11 years, it's not really the project brief that has been a challenge, it has been handling the client's expectations and setting those expectations up front."

We partnered with Social Alpha to upgrade its existing platform visually and fill in any UX gaps to make it intuitive for entrepreneurs and innovators to use the platform to its full potential.

"I remember a client that whenever we had our weekly meetings, they would expect so much more than what was actually delivered (or even discussed). But what they didn't understand is the process that you go through is such a thorough one. That the deliverable has gone through a process of brainstorming, internal iterations, and elimination to present what we feel is the best suited for the brief. "

With the Covid crisis, the world adjusted to a remote working model. Here, Niraali outlines the challenges Bokaap had to face with the 'WFH' concept. "It was an easy transition for our tech projects. But the challenge has been with branding — especially when it comes to packaging. My entire team is remote now and the clients are remote. For a few months initially, there was no courier, and sending out samples and prototypes was difficult. So we figured out a system that worked for everyone. And thankfully, everybody's in the same situation, it's not that I'm the only one who's choosing to work remotely and everybody else has gone back to the office. Everyone's been very understanding and we've been able to manage all projects remotely. You have to be very organized. We use notion to make sure all of our projects are upfront, timelines are set and tasks are clear. As a team, we also understand that everybody needs a break from work because we need a work-life balance. So we started Friday happy hours, we play online or we watch a movie together or whatever we can do to take a break and refresh the mind!"

Takeaways for creatives

"Have fun with design. Yes, we have to take things seriously and be extremely organized but have fun with design. Happiness translates into good design. Organization and accountability are key and it is one of the reasons why I have been able to retain a lot of my clients. So I would say, really pay attention to what you're committing to and how we are going to be able to deliver it. Just have an open and honest, communication channel with whoever — whether it's your team or your clients. It's also important to be open to embracing the change that's coming!"

A little more about Niraali

Favourite Art Movement?

Art Deco.

What are you reading currently?

Jhumpa Lahiri - Whereabouts.

A city you've enjoyed travelling to?


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.


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