Like many starting college, Ankita chose a major where the expectations were known: Her father was a businessman, so she studied business. But Ankita always had a penchant for design. But how to combine the two?
Answer: She founded Radical Promotions, a canvas bags manufacturing company in her native country of India; soon after launch, her company was supplying eco-friendly bags to India’s leading store as as well as selling through online portals like eBay. Bolstered by this success, Ankita returned to graduate business school—but rather than focus on an education on economics and the like, Ankita switched gears and graduated with a specialization in global business analysis, a study of how businesses function at an international scale.
Next up: Ankita continued her entrepreneurial bent by starting two fashion companies. In her last venture, she worked with her partner Srishti Nadhani—an experienced fashion stylist—to promote small companies that couldn't afford big marketing budgets. Ankita engineered a whirlwind of promotion. "We did a lot of popups and fashion shoots and stories and thematic ‘look books’ to promote these brands,” Ankita recalls. “We were always asking, 'How do we tell their story in a different way?'"
During her career as an entrepreneur, Ankita was drawn again and again to the pleasures and promise of graphic design. "Graphic design had more satisfaction for me because I was creating banners and posters and illustrations and campaigns," she says. "This was giving me more joy than I thought it would, and maybe this was my calling."
Not one to leave an inspiration undeveloped, Ankita decided on a bold venture. With the encouragement of her sister—who was already living in the Bay Area—she came to San Francisco to study.
While still young, Ankita was at a crossroads in her career. "I didn't want to study for three years," she said. "I needed to work soon! I found UC Berkeley Extension’s Professional Program in Graphic Design to be a perfect fit. It offered me everything from a short time frame to modules that introduced me to the basic of graphic design.”
Getting the Tools to Succeed
While Ankita had previous work experience performing graphic-design duties, the program’s curriculum allowed her to dive more deeply into the tools.
"There wasn't too much hand-holding, which was difficult at first," she admits. "I had always created work for my startups using Adobe Photoshop. UC Berkeley Extension opened the doors to a plethora of new tools that I hadn’t imagined: 'Oh, you do this with Illustrator or that using InDesign!' Because it was a new country and a new place, I was very anxious. Ultimately, that turned out to be a good thing because I gave it my all.
"The way the program is designed is thoughtfully crafted, particularly for someone with no or little background in design,” Ankita continues. “First, there's an emphasis on tools. Then, there's a bit of freedom where you get to choose your own design path. That freedom gave me the opportunity to take a user experience course."
The Introduction to UX Design course taught by Minakshi Mukherjee remains one of Ankita's favorite memories of the program. "Every week, the deliverables were like working on two courses. It gave me a different viewpoint on design, particularly that aesthetics are only one aspect. It gave me insight into how impactful design is to people. How easy are you making the design? Are you solving the problem?"
Putting It All Together
While UX was a revelation in the power of design, Ankita's experience in the program's capstone class, Graphic and Web Design Portfolio, was the highpoint of her studies. It helped her refine and clarify all that she had learned in the previous year, and ultimately, led directly to her new job.
"At the end of the Portfolio class, [program director] Ivan insisted we develop a giveaway item. Most people don’t see that giveaway as important, owing to our digital means of communication, but ironically, I actually got my job because of the giveaway. During the interview, they were looking for someone who would give them that something extra with their branding. The fact that I gave away a set of postcards, they were so thrilled. After I walked out, they showed everybody my work. And that's ultimately why I got the job."
Prepared for a Demanding and Rewarding Career
Two strives to translate a client’s brand into the physical space, so it contributes both design expertise and furniture. "I market the brand,” Ankita says. “I do social media, I help build RFP and bidding documents. My aim is to build any communication from inside out so that if anyone sees it, they will immediately recognize it’s from Two."
The other brand, Pair, manufactures furniture.
While the companies are designed to work as complements to each other, as marketing lead, Ankita has to keep their identities distinct.
"Pair is colorful and direct,” Ankita explains. “Two is black and white and spare, yet playful. Two had already been established as a brand, so I am just moving it forward. Pair is in the middle of launch. So I get to be involved in the development of the voice of the brand."
It's a lot of responsibility, but Ankita's drive and experience certainly indicate that she's up for the challenge.
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