It was almost by accident that Tania Khosla entered the field of graphic design. She had originally enrolled for a course in the liberal arts, intending to study Economics or Computer Science. However, when she took some art classes, she realised that was where her heart lay. “After that, I began spending time in the art studio, pretending that I was an economics major, but ultimately graduated in fine art,” she says. But it was when she got involved with a literary magazine that she realized her true calling. “I became the editor and creative director. I figured out that I enjoyed the experience of content and design.”
An internship she did at the Guggenheim Museum further convinced her that this was where her future lay. She then pursued her graduate degree at Yale, and then came to India to set up her own design firm. Tania, who originally hailed from Kolkata, found her next choice easy — she chose to set up her business, TSK Design, in Bangalore in 1997. “Bangalore was burgeoning then. There were lots of work opportunities. The crowd was young and cosmopolitan, and the weather was great. In those days, it was less congested than the other cities in India,” she recalls.
That said, it wasn’t too easy to set up a graphic design firm in India, at a time when most people thought design was synonymous with advertising. Tania says she had to frequently explain to people that while graphic design was rather similar to advertising in some respects, it was poles apart when it came to some others. The other challenge lay in hiring people for her firm; few schools had graphic design courses, and the quality of graduates was not great. So she decided to teach at Srishti, and follow a ‘teach them and hire them’ policy.
With the markets opening up, companies slowly realised the need to get more professional, international branding. “The difficulty and the excitement lay in the context. It was exciting to be able to turn around the image of companies that had existed in the country for a long time, and project them as being world-class,” she says.
Today, as an established designer, there are some things the 40-year-old is particular about, and these have probably been the major contributors to her success: she refuses to take on too many projects at a time; does thorough design development, research and analysis before getting into the designing aspect; and refuses projects with clients who want her to hurry through the process.
Her meticulousness and insistence on thorough research has seen her win many awards including the Better Interiors Excellence Award for Graphics Designer of the Year (2007) and the Bradbury Thompson Memorial Prize for Excellence in Graphic Design (1996). She has exhibited her work at several prestigious shows and galleries across the world.
Her firm has also designed a typeface called Curry — a combination of Devanagari script and the Latin Uncial, which is designed as if written with a reed pen.
This typeface has been showcased at Experimenta Design Lisbon, an exhibition that showcases experimental works of art.
Striking a fine balance
There aren’t too many working women who can claim to have struck the right balance between work and family — Tania is one of the lucky few. She is a hands-on mother of two who makes sure that her children’s lunches are packed and they are dropped to school and she picks them up from the bus stop when they return. “It’s not very easy to arrive at such a balance,” she admits. “I’ve been overwrought and super stressed out, dealing with home matters at office, and office work at home. I would be too distracted, and could pay attention to neither.”
The trick, she says, is in compartmentalising her time and ensuring that she gives her hundred per cent to whatever she does at the moment. So if she’s packing lunchboxes and sending her children off to school early in the morning, she’s working steadily till they’re back from school, and making sure she doesn’t attend to any personal matters or phone calls till she leaves at four. At four, she picks up her children from the bus stop and spends her time with them till they go to bed. Late evenings and nights are spent working from home.
Of course, having a support system in place helps. “My husband is probably my biggest support. We make sure that there is always one parent with the kids, when the other has to go out of town,” she says.
Tania takes pride in the fact that her best work has come from her collaborations with her husband, architect Sandeep. This, because they know each other’s working styles. “We make no bones about telling each other something may not work. But the risk is that we bring work home, and the compartmentalisation blurs a little. When we were building our new home, Sandeep told me, you’re the worst client ever, because I was so particular,” she chuckles. “But now, the house is finished, and it truly expresses our personalities and the way we live.”