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Life & Work with Shreya Thakkar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shreya Thakkar.

Hi Shreya, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I work as a Design Strategist in an Architecture Firm – Planning Design Research. My work lies at the intersection of research, strategy and experience Design. My insatiable curiosity has led me through a winding path of careers and studies. I have a knack for telling great stories and connecting dots from different disciplines. So many stories have yet to be told and so many new ways to discover them. Being a listener and a small part of this ever-changing world is the most exciting driving force in all the work I create.

Let’s turn back the clock; I was born in a small town in Gujarat, India. My interest in Design began at an early age, where I spent part of my childhood creating art and reading about history and mythology. It sparked a fascination for storytelling and worldbuilding. Learned how the hard work of imagination is essential to being human. Every magnificent thing around us owes its existence to the imagination of someone.

I started my career as Interior Architect designing spatial experiences for residential, places of worship, and commercial environments. Later, I pursued a master of science in Environmental Design concentrating on Furniture Design/industrial design. It allowed me to go from micro to macro scale and have a holistic approach. I have been an ardent observer of the interactions between contemporary societies and their environments, enabling me to immerse myself in the study of social and cultural anthropology.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Being a designer was not something career counselors or even my parents would recommend back in the day. Listening to my inner voice and working towards creating an impact in society through social innovation kept me going.

Moreover, one of the biggest challenges was to practice being curious, critical, and courageous in everyday life as a designer. Courage and creativity go hand in hand. (Being relentlessly brave doesn’t necessarily mean being fearless, though experiencing fear is a natural and inevitable part of life, bravery is a choice we can make and a skill that can be learned.) It helped to engage in difficult conversations, make the tension in collaboration productive, drive boldness to think differently, and ensure there is always a range of perspectives to hand.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I focus on Futures tools to create a long-term positive impact, particularly around building culture, behaviors, and experiential Design. I utilize systems thinking and mixed method user research to engage with stakeholders by instilling the power of rooting Design in human stories to create strategic visions and the actions needed to achieve them.

I get the most satisfaction in working through ambiguous challenges. As a design and innovation strategist, I toggle between trend analysis, design research, and strategic foresight to understand how companies can meet consumer/employee needs—now and in the future. I have had the pleasure of working closely with the board, c-suite, and senior executive ranks of some of the world’s most ambitious and venerable global Fortune 500 companies in Workplace Design, healthcare, financial services, and consumer goods.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
I am grateful for everyone who I crossed paths with, there are so many people we encounter daily, they shape us, they make us who we are. There have been way too many people in my life that have changed me, and some didn’t have any clue. That impact is so significant and sometimes, so little appreciation. Additionally, part of my drive to keep seeking feedback for my work is to constantly be getting fresh eyes on the work I’m doing, as I often find myself overlooking simple things due to being too close to the creation and getting tunnel-visioned (which is natural and happens to the best of us). I’m always incorporating diverse thoughts and opinions into my work, which only works if you actively seek feedback from a wide range of people.

I want to take this opportunity to be grateful to my teachers, cohorts at Art center college of Design, colleagues at work, friends, and mentors. Who consistently motivated me to foster positive change and promote natural engagement and honest, strategic solutions toward a more equitable future.

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