Today we’d like to introduce you to Nidhi Singh Rathore.
Hi Nidhi, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
For as long as I’ve known, I’ve been a designer. I was 12 when I started telling everyone around me that I want to grow up and be a designer. Although, I always felt conflicted when my work wasn’t able to bring value to others’ lives. As a young designer who graduated with a degree in visual communication, I knew a poster isn’t going to save the world, but I didn’t know what else would. For the past decade, I’ve been trying to find the right balance between design and thought in my work and have been able to construct a design practice based on my values, respect, and creativity. I believe I have come to this juncture, in my life, by questioning the purpose of my work, continually introspecting, and following my desire to support and create for people. I currently work at the intersection of research, data, and policy and have focused on crafting alternative research methodologies that support national policymakers, academics, and Angelenos.
I manage my time between pro-bono research projects, activism, and my full-time job at the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. At the Mayor’s Office, I’ve focused on applying people-centered design methodologies to reimagine civic engagement and implement interventions addressing homelessness & unaffordable housing. I’m also a visiting consultant at Stanford Impact Labs, a center dedicated to tackling social problems through creativity, evidence, and technology. I’ve supported the center to deconstruct social science problems and deepen research-practice partnerships. As a design researcher, my expertise lies in shaping nebulous concepts into thoughtful and methodological questions. Since my practice is focused on values-based design and advancing justice, I prioritize collaborative research and people, which allows me to grow, learn, observe, and develop relationships.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As a brown-skinned woman who grew up in a small town, things were never smooth, and I always took the road less traveled — from my family and friends’ perspectives. While there were plenty of obstacles, I want to acknowledge that I did have the privilege and support to pursue my interests. Ultimately, though, the biggest hurdle was understanding myself, respecting my own choices, and growing from my mistakes. I could go on about the challenges I faced externally, which are more about people, my skills, and my surroundings, but I’ve come to believe that those are temporary. An increasing number of people are riddled with depression and anxiety in today’s reality. This mental health crisis has highlighted the fact that all significant battles are being fought in our heads, often alone. Hence, I believe my most important challenge is being kind to myself in a world where we are conditioned to be very self-critical.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
As a Design Researcher and Strategist in the public sector, I’ve identified opportunity areas and launched multiple government products and platforms. My expertise lies in shaping nebulous concepts into thoughtful and methodological questions. I create virtual and in-person workshops and learning sessions that bring people together to break down complex problems to co-evaluate contemporary issues. From working on delivery chains to designing conversation platforms, I navigate bureaucratic and political processes to address civic problems in atypical ways. Using my skills, I work with the local government to build communication links, understand and expand civic engagement, and inform everyday policy measures to create better and innovative solutions. Design can be used for the greater good and grassroots efforts, making democracy more vocal –– whether it’s through my pro-bono projects or City work, I’m trying to fight the good fight.
Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
I wish, as designers and creatives, we questioned our practice more. Students and design researchers continually approach me to talk about my journey and design practice. What I find missing in many conversations is ‘intent.’ Most of us are occupied with creating the next cool thing and forget to question why we want to make it in the first place. For that reason, we fail to examine our intentions and understand what motivates us. Which, in turn, takes us away from things we are passionate about. Although this is corny, I have to say that most great things come from when we truly care about our work— how are we supposed to be enthusiastic day after day if we don’t know why we are doing what we are doing? While I’m trying to navigate my journey, I look back at a quote by bell hooks to remind me of my intentions. She says, “What we do is more important than what we say, or we say we believe.” If there was one piece of advice I wish I’d received when I began my career, it would be this quote.
- Website: nidhisinghrathore.com
- Instagram: @nidhi.singh.rathore
- Twitter: @nidhisrathore