Internships are small investments that pay big in the future. They allow us to test the waters and assess our interests in a career before we make a critical decision.

Arwa Borsadwala, our next pathbreaker, Product Designer at JVCKenwood, Japan, designs consumer products for the brand for the global market in the Audio, Visual and Communication sector.

Arwa talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about initially graduating as an architect and being introduced to the fascinating world of industrial design through Apple’s launch of the 1st Iphone, which influenced her to do an internship in Industrial Design that gave her a taste of the entire design process through real projects.

For students, do multiple internships until you figure out what you want to do even if you already have a satisfying job! You never know what you don’t know.

Arwa, your background?

Hello I am Arwa. I am an Industrial Designer & an Architect.

I grew up in a small city of Kolhapur, known for its rich culture in arts and history. While I was growing up, I had several opportunities to participate and organize several art events at school and other platforms. This was not limited to drawing alone, it involved dance, drama etc. 

My parents are involved in a business, which is in a completely different domain to the field of studies I have chosen. But they always nurtured my passion and interests. Many of the friends of my parents are Architects and this is where I got my first exposure to the field. 

As I look back, all these small and big events have been stepping stones to my choices & where I am today.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I graduated as an Architect from SPSMBH`s College of Architecture, India  and did my post graduation in Industrial design management from Institut supérieur de design – Rubika, India.

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and exciting career?

I have been very fortunate to have great mentors throughout my journey in various stages of my education and career. They tapped the potential in me, and encouraged me. This helped me build a vision and carve out my ways, honing my skills.

Internships have played a huge role in my development. Before pursuing the Industrial design program, I spent a long time interning. I worked on several projects, understood the process, and what skills one require. This gave me time to experiment, learn things beyond books and structured academics. It helped me widen my horizons and see where my true interests lay. Also this prepared me with what exactly I am getting into. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

Working as an Industrial designer has been a gradual transition in my case. I graduated as an architect and was practicing as an architect. But I was in search of something more. 

While I was studying architecture I got introduced to Industrial design. Telecommunication industry was booming. Having a good looking Nokia phone was everyone`s aspiration. In the mean time Apple launched its 1st iphone. I was completely fascinated with these new hand held devices. This opened a new world of design to me and the wider scope it offered.

The fascination continued even after I graduated, this led to taking up an internship at an industrial design studio in India, followed by a design program. My first step to get an internship was to acquire a few skill sets.

The director of Futuring is the alumni of the same school of architecture. We have a very strong alumni forum. I approached him with my portfolio and later our common mentor, a professor in our architecture school put in a word for me.

In my case I worked on sketching. As an architect one draws, however industrial design has a different flair. Alongside was also building a portfolio exhibiting my interest in the field.

During my internship for Industrial design at Futuring where i also worked after my master’s degree, I worked on several projects ranging from architectural hardware, lighting to home appliances example – Street lamps / Mortise Handle locks for Godrej / Washing machines. I was involved in complete product development process starting from market, user, brand research to creating concepts, deign development, creating presentations, working with engineers. It was here I understood, design is a multidisciplinary field. It is not just about aesthetics or styling. It’s about understanding the needs, what the project demands, who the user is, its impact on the business, process for manufacturing, creating testing through mock-ups etc. There is a lot that goes in creating and building of the final image that we see. The process of design is so much fun …. Industrial design is a wonderful synergy of art, science, math, psychology, philosophy…. 

By now I had a good portfolio and training to enter the design program / profession. This also lead to getting scholarships at a few universities where I applied, of which I chose ISD. I was granted a full scholarship for one academic year. This program helped me develop my skills about managing teams and working in diverse teams across different geographies. The academic program was unconventional. As students, besides doing creative design projects we worked with the people from various industries. Understanding diverse cultures and thought processes. We were prepared to enter the field understanding the profession well. I could apply my previous knowledge and experience and continue to learn more things.

How did you get your first break?

Futuring Design –

My professor helped me get an internship, where I was given a time-frame. If I worked fine, I would be allowed to continue. I think I did just fine, because I had a wonderful collaboration and spent a long time with the firm building and working on several good projects for various brands in India.

JVCKenwood – 

First time I came to JVC, Tokyo as a part of academic program at ISD for 3 months. I was given a task to analyze the Indian market scenario and create a new concept for image capturing. Post that I was offered to come back by the company and I joined them full time in 2016.

What were the challenges? How did you address them?

Design as a field could have a long gestation period. Perseverance is very important to get the results. I have had my own set of failures in this journey, only to add to my learning.

It is very important to understand that design is not about creating glossy images. Each project comes with its own set of challenges, hence flexibility and attitude to continue learning is very important.

Where do you work now? 

I have been working with JVCKenwood, Tokyo Japan past 4 years now. JVC + Kenwood is a company with business interests in the Audio, Visual, Communication sector.

I have been involved in designing consumer products for the brand for the global market. It includes wearable audio products, multimedia hardware, UI etc. I have to understand how one product works good with diverse user groups. Hence I have to study the user groups and markets well in order to address the needs and also to understand various influencing factors around the designs.

For the past 1 year I have been working as a part of the advance design team where we look into different future concepts and experiences for the user. We try to analyze the changing social scenarios, upcoming technologies and create and build solutions around them.

To give an example – Remote working culture was not popular in Japan until COVID19. However things began to change overnight. The need for teleworking has opened up new doors to communication. As designers this gives us new opportunities to build constructive solutions.

How does your work benefit the society? 

At JVC we work closely, in some of the forests in Japan, where we live stream the sounds and visuals from the forests. Our endeavor is to create a system which helps the urban and local communities to build a healthier social fabric.

Besides, well built and sustainable products which bring satisfaction to the users and serves its purpose honestly are definitely beneficial to the society.

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

It is difficult to pinpoint one. But if I had to choose, a headphone design for JVC which helped in redefining the design language for the future lineups. The idea was to have a clean and minimal design where we experimented with colors and finish to compliment the form and narrate a new brand story. 

The consumer market space in the audio products is highly competitive. Quality and Price point both play a very vital role in the success of the product. As a team we work very closely with engineers, manufacturers, sales management etc. It is absolutely necessary in doing so to retain the core creative concept; which could be lost in achieving the factors like cost. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

There is too much information surfing across which can be overwhelming. So rather than rushing into it, it would be nice to get your hands on it and then decide where your true interests lay. There is no better way than working with people from the industry.

Future Plans?

As a designer one is not confined to designing of objects alone. Today we are involved in creating new business models, new work cultures, new experiences. Design is at every click and every key that we press. We have begun thinking and addressing bigger concerns like climate change and sustainability. Every problem small or big is a new opportunity for the creative explorations.

My focus remains in creating solutions which are humane and serves its purpose and serves society. My journey of exploration and learning continues…