Interview with Sonal Aggarwal from the United States

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Sonal Aggarwal

Sonal Aggarwal is an accomplished designer with a passion for creating impactful experiences through interior, urban, and industrial design. She is currently pursuing her MFA II post-professional in Interior Design at the New York School of Interior Design.

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I am an accomplished designer with a passion for creating impactful experiences through interior, urban, and industrial design. I am currently pursuing my MFA II post-professional in Interior Design at the New York School of Interior Design and I'm pleased to have been recognized with a Gold and Silver award at the MUSE Design Awards for the Student Interior Design Category.

As the President of the IIDA NYSID Student Chapter and a member of the IIDA NY chapter, I am deeply involved in fostering design excellence and leadership. Design, to me, is not just a profession but a journey of continuous learning and exploration, shaping my path towards meaningful contributions in the design industry.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

Becoming a designer/artist has been a natural evolution for me, driven by a deep fascination with how design can profoundly impact human experiences and interactions. The blend of creativity and functionality in design allows me to craft spaces and solutions that elevate people's lives.

My explorative and curious nature led me through various creative fields before finding my passion in interior design. It wasn't an easy path, but a journey of self-discovery that ultimately shaped my profession.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

I've had the privilege of collaborating with renowned design firms, gaining diverse experience as an Interior Design and urban Design Intern, and through leadership roles in student organizations.

My journey is fueled by a passion for human-centered design innovations and sustainability. This inclination drives me to seek projects that not only push creative boundaries but also make a positive impact on people's lives and the environment.

4What does “design” mean to you?
Design, to me, is the art of problem-solving through creativity and innovation. It's about understanding user needs, cultural contexts, and environmental impact to create thoughtful and impactful solutions.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
I'm particularly drawn to commercial design because it offers a canvas to craft immersive experiences that resonate with users on emotional and memorable levels. The intricacies of brand identity, the strategic blend of commerciality, and the multi-layered approach it demands fascinate me, inspiring a depth of creative and strategic thinking in my work.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?

To me, good design transcends mere aesthetics; it seamlessly integrates form and function while addressing user needs and enhancing the environment and society. It's about creating something that blends into everyday life, enriching experiences without overpowering them.

Understanding what constitutes a bad design is equally crucial; it's about recognizing when a design fails to meet its intended purpose, lacks usability, or disregards its impact on people and the world around us.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My design style harmonizes modern aesthetics with a strong emphasis on sustainability, functionality, and user-centric experiences.

Inspired by minimalism, Japanese architecture, and the California Light and Space art movements, my work reflects a balance of simplicity, functionality, and spatial harmony. This influence is vividly showcased in my award-winning Yohji Yamamoto retail design project.

8Tell us about your design process.

My design process is characterized by meticulous research, creative ideation, collaborative efforts, prototyping, and iterative refinement to achieve the pinnacle of design excellence. I embrace experimentation and challenge conventional norms to craft unique and innovative solutions.

Originality is paramount in my approach, and I invest time in comprehensively understanding the problems I aim to solve, ensuring that each design solution is purposeful and impactful.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

Yes, my country's cultural heritage profoundly influences my design process. It shapes not just the tangible elements like color palettes, patterns, and materials but also the deeper storytelling and symbolism embedded in my designs.

Drawing from a rich cultural tapestry, I integrate philosophies and understandings of the universe into my work, transcending mere aesthetics to convey meaning and educate about human civilization's depth and complexity. This heritage imbues my designs with a unique depth and resonance, adding layers of significance that resonate with audiences on a profound level.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2024 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Winning the MUSE Design Awards is an incredible honor that validates my dedication, creativity, and commitment to pushing the boundaries of design excellence. It serves as a motivational milestone, inspiring me to continue innovating and delivering exceptional design solutions.

This recognition not only celebrates my past achievements but also propels me forward as I transition from a student to a professional, providing a platform to showcase my skills and contribute meaningfully to the design industry.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2024 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

The winning project I entered into the 2024 MUSE Design Awards is a culmination of my academic studio work, focusing on innovative retail design and hospitality design to foster brand identity, user experiences, and more.

I chose the Yohji Yamamoto and Serenova Montreal projects because they represent my passion for creating commercial design solutions that resonate within the realm of brand identities and complexity.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
The biggest challenge with this project was balancing innovative design concepts with strong aesthetics. Finding the right equilibrium between creativity and functionality while meeting project requirements posed a significant but rewarding challenge.
13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
Winning the MUSE Design Award has elevated my visibility within the design community and provided valuable recognition for my work. It has opened doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and networking connections, thereby enhancing my professional growth and credibility.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
My top three favorite things about the design industry are its constant evolution and innovation, the opportunity to collaborate with diverse talents and disciplines, and the ability to positively impact people's lives through thoughtful and purposeful design solutions.
15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

The unique cultural heritage and diversity of my country bring a rich tapestry of influences and inspirations to the design industry. This fusion of traditions, artistry, and modern perspectives creates a vibrant and dynamic landscape for creative expression and innovation.

Additionally, the international exposure to both Western and Eastern influences further enriches the design discourse and fosters a globally relevant design approach.

16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

Over the next 5-10 years, I anticipate the design industry evolving towards a greater emphasis on sustainability, human-centered design, and digital integration. Additionally, I believe the industry will become more conscious of collaborative dynamics and adapt principles of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) into the workplace culture and design processes.

These shifts align with the growing recognition of design's impact on society and the environment, driving the industry towards more responsible and inclusive practices.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

As a student already in the industry, I aspire to embrace every learning opportunity available, stay adaptable to new technologies and design trends, and never stop exploring and experimenting with my creativity.

Most importantly, I aspire to stay persistent, resilient, and passionate about my craft, as these qualities will pave the way for a fulfilling career in design.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
I recommend leveraging design courses, workshops, industry conferences, and design communities for skill enhancement. Engage in different projects, study successful design case studies, and seek feedback from peers and experts to continuously improve your craft.
19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
One thing I have never shared before is my personal journey of overcoming self-doubt early in my career. It taught me resilience, the importance of self-belief, and the value of embracing challenges as opportunities for growth, and I'm still learning.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

My biggest inspiration is my father, who has always been a guiding light in my life. He taught me the values of resilience, courage, and the importance of hard work. His unwavering support and belief in my abilities have been instrumental in shaping my journey as a designer.

Additionally, I deeply appreciate my mother's encouragement to pursue my creative talents and the lessons she imparted on being a strong, independent woman. Their influence has instilled in me a sense of determination and passion for my craft.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
My key to success lies in a combination of dedication, continuous learning, and hard work. Staying true to my vision, embracing challenges as stepping stones, and always striving to make a positive impact through my work.
22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?
I'm eternally grateful for the recognition from MUSE Design Awards!

Winning Entries

Yohji Yamamoto New York City Flagship Store | 2024

Calmspace | Anqi (Angela) Chen

Serenova Montreal
| 2024

Argo Data Marketplace | Anqi (Angela) Chen

Sonal Aggarwal

Sonal Aggarwal is an accomplished designer with a passion for creating impactful experiences through interior, urban, and industrial design. She is currently pursuing her MFA II post-professional in Interior Design at the New York School of Interior Design.

Read more about this interview with Tao Chen of TAO Design Studio, the Gold Winner of the 2024 MUSE Design Awards.