Designer Suvani Dave on the joy of storytelling and how to navigate the creative jobs market
Los Angeles-based designer Suvani Dave is a recent Savannah College of Art and Design graduate who has already landed work with top clients, including Harvest, Call Of Duty, and Nike. We caught up with her to learn more about her career so far.
Suvani Dave seemed destined for a creative career. Having felt a burning passion for art from a young age, she grew up in London, obsessed with drawing and wanting to create something beautiful and tangible. "I take great pleasure in crafting pieces that are visually stunning and tactile to the touch."
And even though her parents hoped she would pursue a career in the medical industry, it was her brother who recognised Suvani's creative potential and encouraged her to follow her dreams. Thanks to his guidance and work in the design industry, she was exposed to a whole new world of creativity and inspiration.
"I was amazed by his ability to transform complex ideas into engaging and understandable designs. Watching him work, I knew that this was the world I was meant to be in, and I took a leap of faith by enrolling at the Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta) to pursue my dreams."
At SCAD, Suvani fell in love with digital design as a tool to translate complex concepts into functional yet beautiful visuals. "It was also when I realised that design was not just a career choice, but a calling." To hear how she navigated an education impacted by the pandemic only to swiftly land a top creative job at Instrument, we sat down with Suvani to learn more.
What moved you to study at SCAD from London to California?
Despite the challenges and obstacles that stood in my way, I boldly decided to embark on a new journey towards a brighter future. Leaving behind everything I knew was not an easy choice, but I took a leap of faith and moved to America to pursue my passion for Graphic Design at SCAD. It wasn't just about escaping my academic struggles in the UK but seeking a new beginning and finding my true purpose.
With the unwavering support of my brother, I knew that SCAD would be the perfect place to unlock my full potential and push myself beyond my limits. The multicultural environment at SCAD has opened my eyes to a whole new world of perspectives and experiences, giving me the tools to become the best version of myself. And today, I can proudly say that I made the right choice - a choice that has empowered me to design a life full of creativity, purpose and endless possibilities.
Your studies took place during the pandemic. How did you stay creative and on top of your game during that time?
The pandemic struck during the final quarter of my SCAD education, just before graduation. When we learned that virtual classes were imminent and the school was shutting down, I had to hastily pack my two suitcases and relocate to San Francisco, where I stayed with my brother. During this challenging time, I deliberately adhered to a structured routine, enabling me to maintain my focus and motivation in my design studies.
To keep connected with my classmates and professors, I utilised virtual communication tools that facilitated continued collaboration and feedback on our respective work. To sustain my creativity and ingenuity, I sought new sources of inspiration through various mediums, experimenting with innovative techniques.
Moreover, I stayed updated on the latest trends and advancements in the design industry, ensuring that my abilities remained relevant and sought after. Although the pandemic presented unique obstacles, it also allowed me to display resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness in the face of adversity.
What made you choose to work with Instrument?
The journey of life is filled with a multitude of reasons that compel us to take certain paths. At times, it may feel like we're wandering aimlessly, but amidst the confusion, we may stumble upon a beacon of light that illuminates our path. For me, that beacon of light was Instrument, a company that is not just about business but about people and growth.
Instrument stuck out to me because they demonstrated a unique commitment to creating a work environment that reflects the communities they serve. They value diversity, not just in words but in action. They foster a culture of belonging where differences are respected and celebrated. Instrument stands out as an example of unity and inclusivity in a world that can sometimes feel divided. This was all very important to me, so I chose to work at Instrument!
Can you tell us about the projects you're working on?
One of my most fulfilling projects was working on the Get Out To Vote Campaign as an intern at space150, a digital agency in Los Angeles, California. With the 2020 election being one of the most significant in United States history, marked by racial justice uprisings, a pandemic, and an economic crisis, the campaign aimed to engage young voters through social media platforms with their extensive reach. Seeing young voters using their platforms to share their beliefs and make their voices heard was incredible.
What made this project even more exciting was collaborating with Pablo Rochat, an innovative content creator, designer, and artistic director known for his unexpected creations. Working with him allowed our team to explore a new space and dive into the AR world, which was both foreign and fascinating to me.
The final product was an interactive filter featuring multiple "I VOTED" stickers, available in various languages, placed on the users' faces. It was a fun and creative way to encourage civic engagement among young people.
You work as a Senior Digital Designer virtually. How do you make this work smoothly, and what advice would you give to studios and creatives hoping to work virtually?
Working virtually as a Senior Digital Designer can be a rewarding experience, but it requires some adjustments to ensure smooth operation. Here are some tips that have helped me along the way whilst working virtually:
Communication is key: When working remotely, communication is crucial. Stay in touch with your team regularly and respond promptly to emails, chats, or calls. Use collaboration tools like Slack, Trello, or Asana to keep everyone on the same page.
Establish a routine: Set up a routine and stick to it. Maintain a regular schedule for work, breaks, and other activities. It will help you stay productive and avoid burnout.
Create a comfortable workspace: Designate a workspace that is comfortable, quiet, and free from distractions. Invest in ergonomic furniture and good lighting, and create a space that helps you feel inspired. I've personally done this by hanging up posters, artwork, paintings etc., on the wall that I've collected over time.
Which project that you've worked on are you most proud of and why?
I am thrilled to share the news about the Jordan Collection Page that our team created for the Department of Nike Archives (DNA) at Nike. This project was a labour of love for me, and I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished.
One of the things that makes me most proud of it is that our team had the freedom to design a new visual language for the Jordan Collection page, which paid homage to the archival content for Air Jordan while allowing flexibility to continue the DNA storytelling. Despite the many complexities involved, our team delivered a visually stunning and timeless page that I am immensely proud of.
Moreover, this project allowed me to showcase my expertise in motion design, and I collaborated with motion designers to create moments of surprise and delight that added to the overall appeal of the page. All in all, I feel a great sense of satisfaction and pride in what our team achieved with the Jordan Collection Page.
Storytelling is at the heart of your work. Why are stories important to you, and what's the secret to making an engaging one?
As a designer, storytelling is at the heart of my work because stories have the power to connect with people on an emotional level. Stories can evoke empathy, spark curiosity, and inspire action. I'm not just creating a product or a service when designing something. I'm creating an experience that people will remember; stories are a powerful way to create that experience.
From collaborating closely with writers, I've realised that focusing on the audience is the secret to making an engaging story. A good story needs to resonate with the people who will hear it. It must be relevant to their lives, interests, and values.
Understanding the importance of storytelling can help a designer create more effective and engaging designs. By incorporating storytelling into the design process, a designer can create products and experiences that resonate with their audience emotionally, authentically and on a relatable level.
The job market can be a scary place for new graduates. How did you go about navigating it so successfully?
I continuously worked on building up my portfolio! I remember even spending summer holidays working on personal projects to develop my skill set. But I also used this time as a space to be creative without having a grade looming over my head.
It's important to have a strong portfolio that showcases your skills and demonstrates your ability to solve real-world design problems. Your portfolio should be tailored to the types of jobs you're interested in and should highlight your strengths and unique design aesthetic, and ideally, it should be quick and easy to digest. But also, don't be afraid to sprinkle in your personality. Be sure to let it shine. A portfolio can tell a person much about you just from a glance!
Networking is also crucial in the design industry. When I was at SCAD, I tried to attend as many creative events as possible at the time, so take advantage of your college's resources. Those were great opportunities to connect with other designers and potential employers. It's also a good idea to reach out to alumni from your school working in the industry and ask for advice and referrals.
Don't be afraid to apply for entry-level positions or internships to gain experience and build your network. Apply as early as you can. I started applying to internships during the second quarter of my senior year at SCAD and landed an internship before graduation. Although it was an internship, I felt these opportunities could lead to full-time positions and provide valuable industry experience – which they did!
The design world is ever-changing, but what are some timeless tips that creatives should keep in mind?
The design industry constantly evolves, and staying up-to-date with trends and technologies is crucial. My tip would be to keep learning, experimenting, and pushing yourself to grow as a designer. Experiment with something that's outside your comfort zone by trying new tools. Doing this will help you stand out from a sea of other designers in the industry.