Graphic designer Badal Patel maintains a day job at a design agency in New York City, but in her free time, she creates Indian-inspired cards, posters and stationery. Professionally, she has designed packaging for brands like Love, Beauty, & Planet and Wink Brow Bar. With her “by Badal” wedding stationery, Patel attempts to remedy the “gaudiness” and “outdated” nature of traditional Indian invitations.
How did you first start designing your own products?
“During my first year of working, I was planning on attending my cousin’s bridal shower and needed a card, but all the cards at the store had white dresses on them,” Patel said. “I wanted a wedding card with a lehenga choli. That’s when I realized there was a void in South Asian design.On the other side, as a designer, it killed me to see how South Asian wedding cards were always traditional and very ornate. I wanted simple, clean, modern design.”
How did your background influence your design aesthetic?
“Growing up, I would go to school and sing the ‘Sing Star Spangled Banner’ and then go home and eat chaat,” she said. “I thought I had to be one or the other, but now I realize there is more than one way to be.”
“I find inspiration in everything that is Indian and what it means to be American,” she continued. “I take inspiration from things like old Indian matchboxes or henna designs and make them more modern. It all comes down to fusing two cultures into one identity.”
How did you transition from a science background to becoming a graphic designer?
“In high school, I took AP Art and AP Biology. I liked drawing, but I knew I didn’t want to be an artist because I liked problem-solving,” Patel revealed. “I went to college to study biochemistry.”
“It was a blessing in disguise when I realized I was miserable studying science. My cousin suggested graphic design. I didn’t even know what that was, but I found out my school, Penn State, had a selective graphic design program.”
“Convincing my parents to let me pursue graphic designer was the hardest thing I have ever done. This was unheard of in my family, I ended up applying for a design competition to win $10,000. I had a biochemistry final the next day, but I stayed up all night to complete my entry. I used Photoshop and Illustrator for the first time and ended up winning.”
“After I won, my family was so excited and supported me. It was like they thought, ‘Not only is my daughter capable at this but also good at it,’ ” she said.
What are your plans for the future?
“Currently, my most successful products are cards for bridesmaids and wedding collections in general. I offer custom designs for wedding stationery, posters, and cards,” Patel said.
“I’m also starting a lifestyle blog about creating a well-designed life, being a first-generation South Asian girl,” she added. “It’s not just about trying to fit in but also paving your own path and the ways in which design fits into that. This can be traditional graphic design or fashion or interior decor.”
What advice do you have for girls thinking of changing career paths?
“Just go for it. Work is something you are going to do every day. You should do something you like instead of staring at the clock until 6:00 p.m., impatiently waiting to leave. Know that it won’t be easy, but you’ll make it work if you really want it,” Patel said.
“Remember, it’s also important to take time for yourself and not let work run your life,” she added. “Being passionate about something can ruin your body in certain ways if you don’t turn that switch off sometimes.”
“When I found graphic design, I thought, ‘Yes, I’m going to do this forever,’ but with blogging I can integrate other things I like to do into my life.”
Sneha Goud recently graduated from NYU with an MA in public administration. Follow her on Twitter @sneha_goud for more thoughts on reality television, feminism, and all things South Asian.