Ritesh Gupta details what it’s like to work client-side and how he learnt to love public speaking
Ritesh Gupta is a prolific product, brand and digital designer, having led a host of multi-faceted rebrands on the client-side alongside renowned studios such as &Walsh and Mother Design. He’s also striving to increase racial representation in the design industry as a co-director at Where are the Black Designers?; and is an accomplished public speaker, regularly sharing his work and ideas at events around the world. We caught up with him to find out more.
EM Hey Ritesh, how’s 2021 been so far for you?
RG It’s been okay! I got vaccinated, saw my parents in California for the first time since COVID early 2020, moved to Brooklyn, and got a new gig as a Senior Director at Gannett/USA Today. Looking forward to getting a dog or two (hopefully a hound and a whippet).
EM Can you give us a summary of your career so far?
RG I started in advertising, and worked my way around the industry, doing media planning, copywriting, account planning, and even some new business development.
Then I launched my own startup, a Tinder for musicians to meet each other and collaborate on projects. That’s when I realised I really loved product design, working with engineers, designing the product, making fast decisions, that sort of thing. It went surprisingly well, but since I didn’t really know how to raise capital, I ended up closing it down. As I was winding it down, I was watching a lot of Shark Tank on TV, and I discovered a few different mission-driven startups that I ended up working at. In both cases, I saw their episode, emailed the founders my resume and portfolio/site, caught their interest, and ended up getting the gigs.
At Pet Plate, I got to work with some amazing folx to completely rebuild their websites and apps from the ground up to collaborate with, including R/GA and Sagmeister & Walsh. At Realm, I got to work with Mother Design. Now I’m leading our New Product Ventures practice at Gannett/USA Today, which includes brainstorming, prototyping, building and launching new websites, apps, and products.
It helps clients feel more comfortable with what they are going to get.
EM When working on the ‘client-side’ for the rebrands of Realm and Pet Plate, with Mother Design and &Walsh respectively, what was your involvement within the design process?
RG I briefed the teams, and gave (hopefully helpful) feedback and insights throughout the process. I also helped produce and implement a lot of the work.
I usually err on the side of giving more info to the teams I work with, and I usually don’t shy away from an 86 page slide deck. Speaking of long decks, I tend to send along large aesthetic decks with what I love and don’t love (and the reasons why) to help us get on the same page before we sign the contract. It helps clients feel more comfortable with what they are going to get.
EM Are there any challenges that come from working on an internal design team that differ from working for an agency?
RG Probably with other teams, but nothing interesting that I’ve seen.
EM What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career?
RG My mental health. There’s a lot of factors involved, but I’ve realised I get debilitatingly anxious when I’m not being my full self – when I feel like I need to design, dress, or speak a certain way – or when I don’t have everything written down in my calendar.
I’ve realised I get debilitatingly anxious when I’m not being my full self.
EM Can you tell us about your involvement with Where are the Black Designers and what you are trying to achieve there?
RG I’m technically the Co-Director of Communication, but all of us volunteers pitch in wherever we can. We recently wrapped up our 2021 Conference, which you can see here. We’re trying to do a lot, including getting more Black folx hired.
EM What would you like to see more and less of in the design industry?
RG More – racial, gender, and orientation representation; budget for building and branding product; agencies that give employees shares.
Less – budget towards media buying; top-down agencies with a partner who sells but have little input in the work; unpaid internships (these shouldn’t exist).
It felt awkward at first because I presented and dressed like everyone else.
EM What do you think is the most important skill a designer can have that isn’t design?
RG Being able to do analytics, like running your own A/B tests, reading the results out to everyone, and showing that design is a first-class citizen (not an afterthought).
EM Having done some public speaking, do you find it comes naturally to you or is it something you’ve had to work on over time?
RG It comes relatively naturally, actually. It felt awkward at first because I presented and dressed like everyone else, but I don’t do that anymore. I love meeting new people, so as an extreme extrovert, I enjoy meeting people after the presentation just as much as giving the presentation itself. I also enjoy giving presentations that are a little outside of the norm, and rattle a few cages in the process, you can see what I mean during my TDC and Brand New Conference talks.