Working hard is never a choice, but doing what you love is!

Instead of studying hard for the IIT exam, Tanmay Rastogi, our next pathbreaker, chose to work hard creating his art portfolio, learning design software, taking part in design competitions and most importantly, doing what he loves.

Tanmay, a young Automotive Designer, talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about landing his first job at Nissan after completing his internship. A lesson for students that working hard can be a lot of fun!!

Tanmay, tell us about Your background?

I was born in Varanasi and brought up in Mumbai and then Nasik. I grew up in a family full of creative people. My grandparents were extremely talented in tailoring. My mausi is an excellent artists as well. So, I feel that I had artistic instinct inside me since i was a kid. 

I was never at home, my favourite hobby as a kid was collecting junk from all around our society and building things in the backyard. At school I used to wait for semester projects because it let me unlock my artistic skills and express myself. I kept on exploring new stuff and that’s how I learnt pottery at school and now as a designer I try exploring new software to expand my skill set.

I was a car nut since childhood. Everyday I used to get up and stare at my neighbor’s Maruti 800 parked in front of our ground floor window. My eyes sparkled and I couldn’t stop looking at it. The most distinct memory that made me realize that yes, I love these beautiful objects was when I saw Sachin’s red Ferrari 360 Modena outside Taj Hotel(Mumbai). I was a small kid then but, that image of a red Ferrari is so fresh in my mind till today. I still get excited whenever I recall that day and it made me fall in love with cars. Thereafter, this is the story that has brought me here.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I had taken up science for higher secondary school and then Bachelors In design specializing in Transportation Design from MIT Institute of Design.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

Yeah, growing with cars inside my head all the time it was pretty easy for me to decide my career path. It was Automobile engineering and since my father is a Marine engineer it seemed the ideal choice. 

One day, just taking some xerox at stationery I found a guy with a little car sketch on a paper and this changed my life forever. From there I discovered design as a field and the curiosity inside me just opened up a new dimension. And, I soon realized that this is what I always wanted to do and my creative head got a kickstart.

Figuring out the process to get into a design college by myself was not an easy task, especially when it came to coping up with my shattering IIT dreams. I got myself enrolled in an art class were I learnt necessary sketching tools and also developed my passion towards design. Aniket Mahale sir is one who helped me realize my career path.

During these one and a half years, I discovered myself as a designer. By then it had become very clear for me that this is where I always wanted to be and this is what I’d love to do forever.

Tell us about your career path

Preparing for a year and a half I had made a portfolio that involved my hobbies like – TerraCotta Sculpting, Acrylic paintings and lots of sketches. I managed to clear all entrance exams, interviews and ended up with a seat in college with merit. I believe that this was the turning point of my life because from thereafter, there was no turning back. 

After getting into college I had made up my mind to do major in Transportation design. It is one of the toughest and most competitive design fields one can choose. It was my sole interest and I couldn’t think of any other option where I could put my 100%.

The main approach that I had in my mind in those four years of college was to keep my head down and just work hard. Learning from seniors and batchmates was the ideal process at college. Also, Pinterest, Instagram, and Behance gave the opportunity to see the international level of design. These websites actually pumped us all to reach that level and kept us motivated.

For my summer internship, I worked at Studio Clockwork for 2 months. It was my first experience in the industry. Here I got a fair idea of the actual design process and work culture. I worked on a few products and models. I worked on a mock-up model for a table clock. So here I started from making blueprints, then surfacing them out of thermocol and finishing it with putty and finally painting. It was a two week process which involved lots of teamwork and experiments.

I also worked as a freelance content writer for during this period. I got this opportunity from an Instagram ad. My job was to review American cars. Sometimes I had to write 2-3 in-depth reviews in a week. It was fun but hectic too. Altogether an different experience.

Other than college work, I always did some extra projects and participated in competitions. And, that’s how I got my first break when my project was shortlisted in the Top 10 of Ital Design competition. The brief of the competition was “Future mobility in cities”. For this kind of open-ended brief I knew it required some kickass concept. So, I had made a product and a system for a confined environment which aimed at a sustainable environment. It involved a combo of a personal and shared vehicles. This particular project helped me boost my confidence and also improved my work during the process.

After this, I landed my graduation internship at Nissan Design India. I can easily say that it is the biggest highlight of my career so far. 

My graduation project was focused on exterior design. So, based on my research and hypothesis I had designed a a concept car with an experimental surface and features. Apart from this project, I also worked on a few exterior body parts and accessories.

On completion of my graduation Internship, I was offered a job and here I am working at Nissan Design as an Automobile designer.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Ever since I made up my mind to become a transportation designer, there have been endless number of challenges.

The main challenge was to get into the college in the merit list. making a strong portfolio and developing basic sketching skills. 

The second challenge was to create my own identity in this creative part of the world. It was very important to be different and unique in my work. You have to be outstanding from the already outstanding crowd, because jobs, especially in automotive design, are very limited.

Now, even after getting a job, challenges are still not over. You have to constantly improve your work to keep up with the changing trends and learn the ever changing modern processes of designing. For example, more and more designers are learning 3D software to pace up their work and produce high quality renders. So, to keep up with new trends and to make yourself a worthwhile asset in a company is a never-ending challenge.

Where do you work now? 

I am working in Nissan Design India, Chennai as Automobile Designer. Its been just 4 months after my graduation Internship. As an automobile designer, my job involves working on exterior design, accessory products, 3D modelling and sometimes interior design as well. We are a small team, so everyone contributes to all types of projects despite our specializations.

My typical day starts with coffee! After that, I go through my schedule for projects and then get to work with some music. It is a pretty chilled out environment inside the studio, it’s not like a typical cubical office and is a lot more fun than I actually expected it to be.

Developing skills is just one part of the story. Being you and creating unique ideas and concepts which sets you apart from the crowd is definitely the most important part of designing. One has to master basic sketching skills like shading, rendering, and perspectives and practicing it daily is the only resolution. So, keep working hard!

I love what I do. For me it’s not a job, it’s my hobby and I just love it! There is no extra effort that I take to go around my job and how can sketching cars be boring!

 Tell us an example of a specific work you did that is very close to you!

I have just entered this industry, so I haven’t worked on a big full scale project yet. 

But, one project which qualified me in the top 10 in Ital Design competition is special. This project made me realise that I have got those qualities of becoming a good designer. It gave me lots of confidence and self belief.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

For students still in college, I would say that they should concentrate on their preliminary skills. it is very important for one to showcase their ideas and imagination. Its vital that you communicate your ideas and the only way is a visual representation. So, its the best time to develop those skills. There are many online platforms from were you can learn. Try finding your own natural way which will make you unique from ordinary.

And for students who are yet to start their college, I would say practice design in general. You may have decided transportation design because you love cars but this is not enough when it comes to designing them. So, give yourself some time and explore all the fields and give them a chance. Keep on exploring new things that will make you aware of merits/demerits, difficulties, challenges and requirements of the field you choose.

Future Plans?

My immediate future plan is to do a master in design which will open a whole new world to me. So, with my job, I also try to squeeze out some time to work on more projects for my portfolio.