My Journey from Law to Design

Some people make their decisions after analyzing each and every aspect while others just go with their gut. I’m the latter kind. After finishing my law degree, I worked in consulting for about 2 years. The switch from consulting to design for me was very intuitive. I was happy with my job, the pay was good and so were the work hours. About 50% of my work was very interesting. But from the start, I felt that I’m supposed to do something else in the long term.

I was juggling with a few options when my sister suggested design. It took me time to pick design because, to be honest, till about a year and few months ago, I had no idea what design is and I didn’t know any designers either. However, after I did a bit of research, I felt it was the right choice for me.

I saw a career counsellor, Ms. Pervin Malhotra. She’s based out of Delhi and she just talked to me rather than telling me what to do. She sort of made me realise that the creativity I took for granted so far is actually a gift, and I should definitely opt for a creative career. I felt convinced, quit my job and started looking for design internships.

How I found work as a designer

I did some research on design firms based in Delhi and really loved Sahil & Sarthak. Their designs were unique, sustainable, ethnic and unforgettable. Since I did not have a design degree, I wondered who would ever take me, but still decided to apply. Thankfully, I’d taken a photography course while working fulltime, and was quite comfortable with studio shoots. So I made an interiors/ product shoot portfolio and contacted them.

A week or two later, Sahil & Sarthak asked me to come down for an interview and I got accepted. I’m still not sure why they picked me, but I guess my photography portfolio and management experience helped.

Sahil and Sarthak was definitely a great learning experience for me. I got firsthand experience of clients, briefs, projects, promotion and sales. The first project I got to assist was a beautiful exhibit designed by my bosses for Victoria & Albert, London. It was the most exciting thing ever, and it felt like a dream to help with something so grand and prestigious. This was followed by more exciting projects, most of which drew inspiration from the local crafts of India. Design is a way of life for them, and the passion was infectious.

I’m glad got this experience and didn’t head straightaway to design school, as I got to learn about design as an industry. I got to see how much work goes into creating a successful design firm. It’s no joke, trust me. It also gave me something to aspire to.

Why I chose to study design

When I made the leap to design, most of the jargon went over my head. Lawyers and designers are just trained really differently. I felt like I know absolutely nothing, and I couldn’t wait to learn more! My bosses and new designer friends helped a lot and they answered my countless questions. I also started spending every free minute of my day learning, practicing and listening to design podcasts. I watched tutorials before work, while commuting to work, sometimes in my lunch break. I practiced graphics after a two hour commute back home. That’s how I learnt design.  It was exhausting and I couldn’t believe this change. I’ve always had trouble concentrating. But when it came to design, things were just different.

But as months went by, I realized that I’ll have to spend some time exclusively studying design.

So I decided to pursue a full time Interior Design Master degree at Florence Design Academy. Even though Graphic Design is also one of my passions, I chose Interior Design for my Masters because interiors are kind of hard to study myself.

How was my experience?

To be honest, the amount of learning is quite overwhelming, but it also gave meaning to my career for the first time. I don’t want to paint a rosy picture about changing careers. It’s nothing objectively brave or better than having an office job. It’s just a personal choice and there’s no glory to changing careers unless it adds to your own life in a good way.

I had to cut down my social life, take a massive pay cut and cut down all expenses. I’m still at a nascent phase in my career and even though I get lots of likes on Instagram, I’m still figuring out a lot of things about design and business. Like understanding how to work with clients, trying to communicate with them, improving my game, quoting the right price and a lot more. Design school won’t teach me everything after all, and cluelessness strikes every now and then. But that’s the drill. A lot of people have done this before. I’ve come a long way from where I started and hopefully I’ll figure out the rest too. Fingers crossed and everything.

The Rite of Passage

I felt like I must also talk about what I believe is a ‘rite of passage’ for people changing careers. When you want to switch careers or start a business, a lot of people advise you against it. These people aren’t haters. Many of them even make sense. It is a huge risk, for sure. You probably shouldn’t quit your well-paying job with nothing else in hand. Switching careers might be more stressful than retaining your current job. 99% of all startups fail. Just facts.

In fact, I get asked about changing careers a lot! And sometimes I find myself asking my friends/ juniors to be cautious and make an informed decision. Everyone goes through this phase of cautionary advice and varying levels of discouragement. Don’t worry! For people who change careers, it’s a rite of passage to hear everything, convince themselves and still take the plunge. The voice in your head has to be louder than all the voices telling you not to go for it.

Good luck!

  • Ritu Chandra

Ritu is an interior and graphic designer, who switched from consulting to design in 2015. She’s currently pursuing her Interior Design Master’s degree from Florence Design Academy while working on freelance projects. She loves to work with spatial design, conceptual exhibits, print making and packaging.

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