Vault Day in the Life: Ishan Khosla
Designation: Art Director, Owner
Company Name: Ishan Khosla Design
I did my B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Washington, Seattle. Although it was a science program, being in a liberal arts college allowed me to take classes in various fields such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, architecture as well as digital and fine arts. Having an exposure to such a vast array of fields really expanded my vision. I was a Resident Advisor in one of the campus resident housing facilities for one year. Being an RA was a daunting but exciting experience. It taught me people and managerial skills since I was organizing events for about 100 people on my floor and maintaining discipline, managing disputes and taking care of emergency situations such as power outages and drug usage.
A few months later, I decided to switch gears and pursue the visual arts. A few years later I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. While studying at SVA, I did a couple of internships—one at Farrar, Straus and Giroux a book publishing company, where I would design the back, spine and flaps of book covers. I also worked at Cabinet magazine in Brooklyn.
My first design job was in India with Resonance in Delhi. I had worked there as a designer for 18 months prior to going back to the US to pursue my Master’s degree.
After finishing my MFA, I joined one of my dream companies, Studio Blue in Chicago. Although I was there only for about a year, I learned a lot about how to design books and websites for museums, art colleges and cultural institutions. I also got to work on website design projects including Studio Blue’s own website redesign. My experience in Studio Blue was a turning point in my career, since for the first time I really understood what graphic design is all about and what it takes to produce the world-class work that they do.
I learned more of this in my next job in New York, at Decker Design, where, my boss was a true businesswoman. In fact, at Decker I learned more about running a business than about design itself. Many times the entire office would work on a pitch for a new client, where we had maybe a day or less to show them something. This was a great way to loosen up one’s design skills and follow your gut instincts since time was so short.
After Decker I did a couple of short stints with And Partners also in New York city and with For Office Use Only, with whom I worked on redesigning the Museum of Modern Art website as a freelancer.
At the end of 2007, I decided to move back to India to start my own design practice. I started my design firm, Ishan Khosla Design in March 2008. I have two designers working with me, including an American art-director who’s moving to India in a couple of weeks. We like to work on branding and identities, websites, books and print design projects.
My primary job is that of a graphic designer. I get involved in projects from concept to completion. Since I am running a business I also have a role to get new business for the company and promote the company to a wide audience which is primarily done via the internet at this stage.
I am also an art-director and project manager—I supervise our junior designer and make sure all work is meeting deadlines and not exceeding the budget.
Favorite Part of the Job:
The creative process, that is, coming up with new ideas, new ways of looking at things and solving seemingly unsolvable problems.
Least Favorite Part of the Job:
Trying to explain to clients what graphic design is. Chasing clients for money!
Take everything with a grain of salt, be thick-skinned, don’t take anything too personally and don’t get too emotionally attached to your work.
Be observant of the world around you. You’ll be amazed how many things you start to see and how seemingly disconnected things can come together when working on a design project.
Be persistent. It always works, but know your boundaries, don’t become an irritant, but persistence has won me jobs, clients and even girl friends!
Try to take interest in professions and happenings outside graphic design. The wider the interest the richer your mind and the better the ideas you get especially when you need them.
12:00 am–1:30 AM (at night): Finish and email round 2 of a website design for a New York based non-profit company starting a venture in Hyderabad.
8:45 AM: Wake up, have breakfast — Honey Nut Cheerios, 2 toasts with French raspberry Jam and darjeeling tea. Watch the Olympics while eating breakfast.
9:30 AM: Take shower and get ready
10:10 AM: Get to my desk and check email. I usually get all my emails from overseas clients first thing in the morning. Indian clients start emailing and calling only after 11:30 am.
10:30 AM: RA from iStore came in to drop off a USB hub. I talk to him for a few minutes about software upgrades to my new employee’s computer.
10:55 AM: Had a frustrating chat with the courier company who were making excuses that Independence Day and Rakhi are causing delays in their shipments.
11:00 AM: Try to book a train ticket to Dehradun for the long weekend. Everything is already booked! Look into buses for a bit but get caught up in work
11:30 AM: Follow up call with NG from a start-up Film Production company in Bombay. Apparently the CEO is in Delhi and I need to meet with her today or on Monday. I try to fix up a time for Monday.
11:40 AM: Have a chat with our web programmer, GD about budgets and timelines on creating CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for the website for GM, our NY client.
12:15 PM: Sat with my employee, GA to go over logos he did for a 4-city golf tournament. Gave my inputs and suggestions on the use of color, typeface, relative sizes of various elements. Went over image searches that GA had done for a book cover I am working on for a publishing company.
12:25 PM: Get a call from the CEO of the Film Production company. We have a long conversation with she doing most of the talking. She talks a lot about abstract things such as the philosophy of the company of her life— and how both art and money are important etc etc. Not much concrete stuff I can hold onto. No details on what exactly she’s looking for, but she’s so interesting to listen to. I write down every word. It makes a lot of sense. Persevere she says. Don’t ever give up. I mention the German film, The Lives of Others and how I love those kinds of movies and not the usual Bollywood crap. She couldn’t agree more. I get the sense that we’ll get the job if she thinks we have a rapport.
1:40 PM: Called a gallery owner to confirm our 3pm meeting.
1:50 PM: Prepared GM files for GA to make a secondary presentation to our New York client. Reviewed more of GA’s logos, made tweaks to them and finalized them.
2:00 PM: Went over all the portfolio materials we needed to take to show the gallery owner.
2:15 PM: Our second meeting of the day, initially scheduled for 4:30 pm has now been changed to Monday 3pm. AC, the CEO of the Film Production company called to set up a meeting in Gurgaon for Monday morning.
2:30 PM: Got email from SK about a brochure job and a coffee table book proposal to be sent to publishers I know. Don’t have time to review all this now, since have to head out for the meeting.
2:35–3:00 PM: Leave for meeting with gallery owner in Def. Col. Looks like its going to rain.
3:00–3:40 PM: Met with gallery owner and showed him our work and talked about opportunities to work with them on catalogs, invites and their website redesign. We then looked at some of their catalogs and the gallery, which was a very beautiful space. The meeting ended well since the gallery owner asked us for an estimate for a few projects including the website.
4:00 PM: Back at the studio. Checked email.
4:10 PM: Worked on budget for catalog, invite and website redesign for the gallery owner whom we just met.
4:30 PM: Take a final look at the golf logos. I decide to send the client 4 of them. Prepare files and email them over. Get an email from an old colleague of mine from Chicago on my LinkedIn network. Check out her profile and where she’s working at now. Emailed budget to gallery owner.
5:20 PM: GA leaves for the day. Review what he needs to work on when he comes in the next morning.
5:30–8:00 PM: Work on designing other pages for the website for our NY client. Finish work at 8:00 pm.
9:00 pm–12:00 AM: After dinner, I usually get back on the computer. This is the time when I hit design blogs, LinkedIn or finish any pending work.