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Meet Tanvi Sonavane of Senior Experiential Designer at Production Club in Chinatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tanvi Sonavane.

Tanvi, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an experiential/spatial designer focused on creating immersive environmental experiences. For the past few years, I have worked in the fields of architecture, master planning, exhibition design, theme park design, and finally now into the world of experiential and events design. I have been involved in the environmental design for various large and small scale architectural projects – ranging from wayfinding and systems design for the future masterplan for Downtown Las Vegas to media installations for Incheon airport in Korea to public space designs for different mixed-use and retail projects in Milan, Mexico, China, middle-east and so on. With each project, no matter how small or big a role I played, it was really important to understand the context and the cultural significance of the place, and for the design to respond to those needs. The most gratifying part of this process for me is seeing these designs come to life – from concept to reality and into people’s lives.

As a child, I always wanted to change the world around me. I questioned why things are the way they are who made them that way? This is where being engrossed in art helped me create the worlds I wanted and also to get lost in them. Growing up in a truly versatile family with a perfect blend of academics and artistic individuals, really pushed me to become increasingly inquisitive and imaginative. Whenever someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had a different answer each time – somedays an archeologist, somedays a psychologist and somedays a TV show host! However, once I found out about DESIGN as a profession and the power that it had to influence the world, I took the deep dive into this world and never looked back.

I graduated with a bachelor’s in spatial design from the highly esteemed National Institute of Design in India, where we were encouraged to explore and develop YOUR process and identity as a designer. This set up a very strong foundation of design concepts and opened up the world of structures and architecture for me. I learned to understand the spaces around me, the character of each space, and work in response to the nature of it. I translated this learning into creating immersive spaces for the first-ever story-driven theme park in India. Coming to the US to pursue a master’s degree seemed like the right next step in this process of learning and expanding my horizon. I graduated from Art Center College of Design, California, with a master’s in Environmental Design. Contrary to my undergraduate education, Art Center was more focused on what the industry expects from you as a designer and prepared you for the real (professional) world. The two years at Art Center taught me to push myself and express my voice and personality, while at the same time understanding the practical aspects and working within client demands and budgets. I also realized that my cultural background and inputs play a huge role in creating unique experiences for different audiences. With the theoretical and cultural background from India and the industry preparedness from Art Center, I was ready to enter the professional stream and create some badass influence in the world.

Right now, I work as a senior experiential designer at a Production Club, which specializes in creating events and experiences for the music and tech world. I am finally able to take all my experience from the architecture and built environment world and combine it with my passion for creating immersive and interactive experiences for people. I work with a team of incredibly talented people from the best of the music and tech worlds and I feel deeply driven and motivated to DO more and BE more!!

So that has been where I am today and how I got there. Looking back, it feels like a puzzle which is almost building itself and that brings a smile to my face.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
A smooth road would be really boring, wouldn’t it? Struggles are quintessential for growth and to keep moving forward. If there comes a point when I feel like life has had no struggle for some period, I try to put myself in situations that can stir up some trouble or excitement. 😛 That being said, I would describe my journey so far as a car ride with beautiful scenery outside, and just a couple of bumps and roadblocks along the way. From having super supportive parents who let me pursue my passion and strongly believed in me, to be able to comfortably live and study abroad to getting job opportunities that helped me grow and become a better professional, my journey has been a pleasant one. I always tried to push for more, however, in all the places I have worked at, whether it was working with new teams or going out of my comfort zone and bothering the bosses to get me more interesting projects. I had some incredible mentors who were always encouraging but also pushed me into the deep end and taught me I had to ‘figure it out’ on my own. I will always be grateful for those mentors that I was fortunate enough to work with. But, at the same time, I have also really struggled with some not very kind and ‘difficult’ people to work with. Also, having the sword of a Visa on my head made it really difficult to find and keep a job in which I was happy and that allowed me to grow. The one thing I never wanted to do was ‘settle’ for what I’ve got and not fight for more.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a senior experiential designer at Production Club, I work with a team of multidisciplinary creatives to design and produce immersive experiences for the music, tech, and gaming industries. Production Club has created some magnificent shows and music events for the past few decades for artists such as Skrillex, The Chain Smokers, Zed, Zhu, etc. as well as music festivals such as Intersect and Secret Project. I have only been working with them for the past year, and it’s been an exciting adventure so far. The thing I love about this firm is that they are always pushing to do something bigger and better weather its an afterparty for a couple of 100 people, a music festival, or an 80,000 people tech conference. I have played a lead role in designing parties and events over the last year for various clients as Youtube Gaming, Notch, AWS, etc. A typical project usually begins with our team conceptualizing the theme of the event, picking and studying the space where the event would take place, multiples and multiples of design iterations, considering budgets, reworking designs, working closely with production and fabricators to bring the designs to life and finally overseeing the execution during install.

Project timelines can range anywhere from a couple of weeks to 6-9 months, depending on the scope and scale of the project. Getting to see your concepts executed and people enjoying the worlds you have created is truly exhilarating. Right now, I am working on designing virtual events and making them as exciting as our physical events. Given the current situation of the world with the COVID crisis, we decided to pivot into the vast world of virtual events and would like to soon be able to host highly immersive virtual experiences for people. This has been a whole new challenge as it takes away all the limitations of the physical world and budgets but adds a whole new set of obstacles in terms of technology and the way people interact in a virtual environment. I am super excited to see where this new challenge takes us!

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