Nisha Sawhney

Aug. 18, 2009
Nisha Sawhney

Talk about a fun job: Entrepreneur Nisha Sawhney started her own industrial-design firm, and the rest is history. The work her firm has landed includes designing The ChargeBar, a plug-in power source for electric cars manufactured by GreenlightAC, as well as several products for consumer electronics maker Amcor Inc. Her firm has designed award-winning air purifiers having a multistage filtration system, a wireless home-electronic alert system that sits in basements to alert homeowners of any water leakage, and a portable compressor for the professional makeup industry.

What things attracted you to an industrial-design career? My brother and sisters were great inspirations. When I was about seven years old I used to watch them draw their biology diagrams with perfection. In school I got actively involved in art and design competitions and won many of them. I also sold hand-made greeting cards. I designed my first bunk bed out of necessity in ninth grade. In architecture school I started designing decorative gates for bungalows and office buildings which helped pay for college.

I got into the design field because I love taking challenges and working on a variety of projects. My work lets me play around with different spaces and environments and create something beautiful and functional. And it is thrilling to see the product you designed go on the market and watch how it helps the people who use it.

What made you take the entrepreneurial route? I moved to New York in 2003 from India. A 9-to-5 job didn’t appeal to me. I started applying for freelance jobs and worked on a variety of small projects from packaging to POP to designing baby cribs, dressers, and changing tables from concept to manufacturing drawings. I incorporated SnS Design Inc. in November of that year. Though I consider it my best career decision, there were a few months when business was slow I didn’t have any direction to follow. On the brink of quitting, I was fortunate to get a project that kept the company afloat.

The Rundown

Name: Nisha Sawhney
Title: President & CEO
Organization: SnS Design Inc., New York City
Education: B.S., Architecture M.S., Industrial Design, School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi, India
Recently read book: Start Where You Are, by Chris Gardner
Hobbies: Travel, photography
Something few people know about me: I was a yoga champion and instructor.
Worst career decision: I didn't move out of my home office soon enough.

What is a day in the life of an industrial designer like? The tasks vary from day to day. But the best part of it is in solving problems and taking challenges. Typically we contact potential clients and meet with the existing ones, check ongoing projects and plan for upcoming work, as well as marketing and designing. My firm has two industrial designers, one graphic designer and one engineer. The team works on research, concepts, computer renderings, and 3D modeling — basically from concept to final product. We also work with a team of vendors for prototyping, manufacturing, printing, electrical, and mechanical engineering.

What has been your biggest technical challenge? Working on a television for LG. It was difficult to determine the center of the picture tube and the TV’s front panel.\

If a young person approached you for career advice about pursuing industrial design, what would you tell them? If you feel you have little bit of creativity and problem-solving ability then you should definitely consider design. As you advance in your career you will sharpen your skills and your abilities will open many doors for you to explore.

Edited by Leland Teschler

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