• Nupur Dube

An Outsider to Design and its Business


I'm an outsider to the world of communication design. An autodidact, I taught myself and learned on the job. Some may accuse me of not being qualified to do what I do for a living. And yet, I'm here - been around for more than two decades now!


I was trained to mind our cities, get them in order. Slogged out five and half years wading through land use, statistics, governance, habitat, logistics, ROW, travel characteristics, urban development policies and others of their ilk. My specialisation prepared me to fix the urban transportation woes facing our country and the world at large!


Instead, I set up a design studio despite never having worked in one. This was not just design – this was design business – both unknown variables to me at that point in time. Ah, the illusions and ignorance of youth!


How this shift happened from traffic to graphic is a story for another time. Here I'll simply talk about what it really means to not have a formal training in design.


What's great about deep diving into such unknown territory?
  • Your mind is unbridled, unhinged. There is no box. Your ideas and thoughts are fresh. This is often a win-win for both you and the client.

  • You consider no one competition. You are blissfully unaware of other industry players.

  • The path of discovery is exciting and deeply satisfying.

  • You are willing to learn from everyone and everything. (I picked up a lot of software skills from operators at digital printing shops at Nehru Place while hanging around there for prints.)

And, what's not so great?
  • The learning curve is steep. You spend hours, days, months or years discovering obvious smart tricks and shortcuts.

  • You do not have a network to lean on - to collaborate or offload excess work to.

  • You don’t have clarity on how to price your services.

  • You’re throwing in a lot of freebies in your deliverables and not realising it! It took me years to discover copywriting was billable as a separate offering 

  • You make some expensive mistakes.

  • Those who consider you competition don’t like you (which they never do in any case!!!).

In my view, the purpose of education is to prepare you for life, not a job. Despite the many expected upsets, there are enough fools like me who choose to deep dive into the unknown! And the tribe of such fools is only increasing.


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