Learning from the school of life, Nand went from electrical engineering to graphic design.
His journey is pretty fascinating and 100% worth reading, full of super hard work, ups and downs navigating two recessions with the rest of the country in 2001 and 2008, superb relationships, and great design.
Anna (that’s me) had a blast interviewing him for Rise & Design’s latest Creative Spotlight.
Here’s hoping you have a blast learning about him.
PS. Ask him about sailing next time you see him.
Tell me about your creative journey.
My journey is pretty non-traditional. I started in high school not even knowing there was a career path in design. I was really active in the theater department doing set design, posters, and t-shirts, but really put my focus in math and sciences.
I ended up going to OSU for electrical engineering, which wasn’t the easiest thing to study…
While working at the Wexner Center Cafe I posted a “help wanted” sign and was politely asked by the staff to go through the marketing department upstairs. That was a big door-opening moment for me.
From that, an ad hoc ‘work study’ program was really my foundation for design. I kept chipping away at things, doing a volunteer and then paid internship with Terry Rohrbach, the then Design Director of the Wex (now at Fort), but at the same time was really struggling to find traction with the engineering program- and school in general.
So I left OSU and started working on putting together a portfolio of work while supporting myself on the restaurant side of things. And then John McCollum- the owner and co-founder of Element Design Group with Jeremy Slagle- visited the restaurant. I, like any good designer, had a stack of resumes in my employee locker.
3 months later they tracked me down at my new gig and asked me if I was interested in a junior design position. By the Fall of 2000, I had my first full-time graphic design job!
Then 9/11 happened and the dot.com boom in 2001 had come to its first significant grinding halt. A fellow graphic designer Andy Hayes, and I decided we would try collaborating on a couple projects and started The Former Factory Design Co. officially in 2002.
We did test projects by volunteering for the CSCA (Columbus Society of Communicating Arts) and that’s where we got our first really good feedback that gave us the confidence to keep at it.
Eventually, our work got in front of the folks over at Express and then things just took off from there! The job with Express was a really big moment for us and opened a lot of doors. We were invited to collaborate with many of our design heroes at the time - Chip Kidd, Shepard Fairey (Obey Giant), Paula Scher, the list was crazy - as well as some amazing designers in town, too.
But after a couple of years, we decided to pursue other things. Andy decided to teach full-time and I took a freelance job at GSW Advertising. There I got a really good education in the agency world- it was an opportunity to work with a ton of talented designers and be reunited with another of my mentors - Kirk Richard Smith.
After 3 years I went to Ologie, which was like graduate school for me in terms of design.
Another 3 years passed and 2008 happened. I decided to start formerfactory, LLC back up again.
That whole time I had kept formerfactory on the shelf so it was easy to turn the lights back on and get it back up and running. I got on Twitter, posted some availability, and next thing you know I was back into it.
Ever since 2009 I have been really steady with a lot of freelance work and a chance to work with friends and agencies around the city and abroad.
The model has changed from the first few years - nowadays - I am working primarily as a creative director and getting to manage and collaborate with some incredibly talented teams.
Looking back, what thoughts do you have about your ‘ad hoc’ education in design?
Different people have ways that they work and learn best. For me, being in a practical learning environment was very helpful. I love solving real problems in real time and seeing immediately the real application of what these things do for our clients - and their communities.
I have to give massive credit to organizations like CSCA and some very patient and kind folks along the way. I wouldn’t have been able to navigate my career the way I did without them.
You know, I’m not really self-taught. I just had a different learning environment. It was never a formal education in graphic design, but that’s the beauty of it. There are more opportunities to learn in different ways, now than ever before.
What inspires you?
I love solving problems- I am an intensely curious person. As a child, I would just move through sections of subjects and clear them out of the library. I would start with comic books would move into camping, then sailing, then on to the next subject...
In a lot of ways, my professional career echoes that same curiosity. Variety is what I crave.
I’m a multi-disciplinary jack of all trades, master of some, and the only reason it’s remotely successful is that I’m able and fortunate to work with incredibly talented specialists.
Is there an artist you look up to?
I’m a huge fan of Pentagram out in New York. By virtue even of their name- these 5 disciplines came together to provide a well-rounded approach to creative problem-solving.
For me, that’s been an inspiration and a lighthouse/north star to aim at. I would love to be able to create and build momentum around a similar kind of approach.
What media do you consume the most?
I’ve been spending an inordinate of time on YouTube.
Casey Neistat is a great filmmaker and storyteller and does it in a way that feels spontaneous and thoughtful.
On the business side, I follow a channel called “Futur.” They do some incredibly rich programming around how to develop and personally grow as a creative professional. It’s a great resource for designers and creative professionals. It’s sort of like a Rise & Design, but more from a content standpoint
Do you have a pro tip you want to share?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and always say thank you!
People want to be generous with their time. I think if you see someone out there whose work you respect/admire/attracted to- figure out how to reach out to them. They are probably going to be more generous than you think, but at the same time appreciate their time and energy for that.