A week in the life of Design Consultant Vyshali Sardesai

Vyshali Sardesai is an Associate at BDG workfutures, an international design consultancy focusing on strategy and design for working environments.

There’s no such thing as a typical day. There’s a lot of variety in my work.

For example today I am  working on a project for a bank in South Africa. Their focus is traditional yet forward thinking – a mix of traditional values and contemporary design. Tomorrow I will be sourcing iconic toys for an advertising agency. Understanding working cultures and design within contrasting industries is a must.

I live in Pinner in North West London and get the tube to work.I usually start at 8am. I like to start a bit early because it’s quiet for an hour. I can check my emails and get myself together. I usually try and catch up with my MD if possible – discussing project or studio-related tasks.

I don’t often work late, although sometimes the need arises. I usually leave at about 6pm. We’re good at managing our resourcing and try to manage the studio accordingly.

In general, I work on upfront pitches for prospective clients and have a client-facing role. Once the pitch is won, I will work on the conceptual and strategic side of the project with the assistance and involvement of seniors and juniors within the studio. Being able to work within a team environment is crucial to the success of the project.

I’m currently working with an international bank here in the UK, looking at its global branding and how this relates to their office interiors. We are creating a Global Design Guide with them, for their offices and interior branding. From concept through to completion, it’s about being able to have a creative input.

It’s important to push design boundaries and the client’s perspective on design in the workplace. We push for design innovation and new ideas. I love interaction with the client, and exciting them with ideas. It makes my role rewarding.

Today I’ve spent an hour in a weekly meeting for senior members of staff, from associate to managing director level. We discussed our current projects, schemes in the pipeline and our resources for that work. We have to make sure everyone in the studio is working efficiently and that we are servicing our clients effectively.

After the meeting, I’ve continued with current project related work for the international bank. I’ve been sourcing stock photography and designing graphics for interior applications. We will buy photographs to use globally for their buildings. I’ve also spent a couple of hours drawing up a credentials presentation, showing projects that we’ve worked on. It’s a document that sells our skills.

This morning I’ve also drawn up a resource and fee document for a new client. You have to be good at understanding a project’s parameters – how much time and how many people are needed. It comes with experience.

We’re quite heavily computer-based. We use Microstation and Photoshop to create visuals although early concept sketches are hand-drawn and mix-media related.

Although an Associate’s role is to add real value to the business, I am still involved in the design side of the projects. I will draw visuals up sometimes and do detailed design work – I will always have a hand on the material and finishes side, which I work up alongside the conceptual stages. I don’t want to be just doing management work. I want to have a hand in the creative process from start to finish.

For each project I’m usually out on site twice a week. I love being on site, it’s a great learning curve. The project becomes a collaborative process between designer and builder. It’s about getting dirt under your fingernails. You can see the impact of drawing a line on a plan and seeing it being built. It’s really exciting. I still get giddy, like a kid in a sweetshop, 12 years down the line.

Vyshali’s career path

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a fine artist. But my dad advised me that studying a commercially creative subject may be more advantageous – and I could always be an artist on the side. So I opted for something commercial in the creative industries.

The whole three-dimensional element really gripped me. You can create something quite artistic but in a life-sized form. Interior installations can have an artistic and holistic impact on the user – and this intrigued me.

My BA in interior architecture at London Metropolitan University was very architecture-based, heavy on theory and concept. It was a good foundation for my career.

After graduating, I joined a small design and build company. I had taken a six month industrial placement with them while I was at college and they asked me to work for them full-time once I had graduated. They took a chance on me and they liked my work.

I was there for three years before moving to another interiors firm. But then after a further three years I decided to go freelance. This gave me the opportunity to develop my business skills – understanding how to be creative and commercial.

Going freelance was never about being my own boss – I enjoyed being the master of my own time and being able to work in a more fluid and creative way. I was in the fortunate position to cherry-pick my own projects.

I freelanced for five years and loved every minute. But it came to a point when I realised that you can only learn so much on your own. It was time to get back out there and get that learning curve back up there. I began working on extended project-led work for a number of different practices, before joining BDGworkfutures as an Associate.

Useful links

Vishali works for BDGworkfutures, a design consultancy that specialises in workplace design.