Design Entrepreneur, Ishan Khosla - “Design is a calling and one should be ready to go beyond the banal”


Born in Cochin, to a father in the Navy and mother in Advertising, Ishan Khosla lived in Bombay for few years before his family settled in Delhi. As a child, he used to merge the worlds of his parents - that of the armed forces and advertising - and loved to draw and paint fighter jets, design cars and copy existing logos. He used to also write to Matchbox and Hot Wheels in the UKand US and give critiques to the car designs of their toys and layouts of their catalogues.

During his school education, he somehow lost this “visual sensibility” and left for the USwhen he was 19 to pursue a degree in Computer Science. Eventually, he studied a year at the Art Institute of Chicago before doing an MFA in Design from the Schoolof Visual ArtsinNew York. After working in the USfor few years, he decided to come back to Indiain 2008 to start his own firm - Ishan Khosla Design.

Initially, he started working from his bedroom, with just a laptop and an internet connection. Over time, he moved to his own office space and had couple of interns to work with him - which meant his overheads were low. This really helped him to get started and be profitable from the beginning. He came at a time, when the demand for design was very high and with very few design firms, they were, and still are, flooded with work. After two years, he managed to move into a proper studio inHauzKhasVillage.

The main challenge in the beginning was to understand client expectations inIndia, since he was new to that. As of now, except a few clients from whom they get repeat work, new clients approach them for work. “We rarely approach others since we are enjoying the work we get from existing and new clients”, says Ishan. Talking more about his clientele, Ishan adds, “I think clients, who are in some way connected to culture, design or the visual arts, seem to understand design and budgeting for design better. However, the typical response from clients tends to be - doing the work right away for very little cost. There is also a bad habit to compare my company’s costs to other places. They do not understand the 'cost to quality' ratio. In a way, I understand their predicament, since design - especially graphic design, is a very abstract field where it’s hard to pin down costs for various aspects of the design. I try to explain my clients the trinity of quality, cost and time. Clients should only select two - with one always being quality - so its either quality and cost or quality and time. This means they have to choose between paying the price or giving the designer the time to work on the project.”

Currently, Ishan Khosla Design is working on several projects such as an exhibition for a store in Paris for later this year and also a project for Rubina, where they will be working with women artisans to create products for sale in the US. They are also working on designing various aspects of a school - from the brand identity to way-finding and wall graphics. Additionally, they are working on an ecommerce website for a store that sells home products. They are also working on a bunch of book covers.When asked what his future projects would include, Ishan said “I would like to do work that combines technology and design - where we can use technology to drive the design and experiment with new ways of the design process itself. What I would love to do is, be able to brand an airline or a cultural festival.”

Ishan opines that the biggest issue in India with young designers is that they seem to be more focused on earning instead of learning. “When I was in the US, even Master’s students did not get paid internships but here I had prospective interns who wanted 15K a month.” he says. “If young designers are passionate about design then they shouldn’t worry about money in the beginning, if they are more interested in how much they get, perhaps design is the wrong profession for them. Design is a calling and one should be ready to go beyond the banal. It’s not appropriate of me to advise any one who is “creative” to do graphic design or any other field. They should have a love and passion for it. If they don’t, then in the long run it will become a job not a lifestyle.”

Ishan Khosla was a finalist of British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards, 2010. To know more about the Young Fashion Entrepreneur Awards, click here. Follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards (YCE) on Facebook.

- Abhilasha Dafria