Ritik Dholakia: How To Succeed As A Values-Driven Designer

MAN

Ritik Dholakia is the Founder and Product Lead at Studio Rodrigo, an independent New York design studio which he started with Khoi Uong in 2012. The studio focuses on creating digital products and services, specializing in helping companies identify and evaluate new product opportunities, develop product strategies, and design and bringing new products and services to market. He has worked with companies including Comcast, Spotify and Pace Gallery. Ritik excels at early-stage product management, managing design teams and connecting the dots between strategy, technology, and design. 

 

Studio Rodrigo will be seven years old this February. Each year, we’re always a bit amazed to still be in business – given that we try and balance the commercial reality of our business with a foundation of core values that guide how we operate.

Those values:  to do quality work, to empower people, to make an impact by working with companies doing meaningful things, to give something back, and to be transparent.

We have strong personal and practical reasons to stick to these values. At a personal level: we have a limited number of hours to do productive work in our careers. We want to make our hours count.

On the practical side, younger designers are more motivated by values than previous generations were, and they’re more likely to seek out places to work where their views are shared. Being values-led means we get the right kind of people working with us.

Achieving financial stability, taking care of your team, and delivering consistently meaningful work is not easy. There are four principles that help us strike the balance – and I think they apply just as much to individual designers as they do to any agency.

  • Clearly define values – make them specific and something the whole team can be accountable to. They must be more than just high-minded inspirational words; you must hold your own feet to the fire.
  • Be transparent. Every year, we have a studio-wide review of our financials and business plan, where we collectively decide what to take on. Often, we offer the team a choice between projects that will earn everyone an additional $5K bonuses and something pro bono or discounted, but which means them forgoing extra bonuses. They always choose the latter.
  • Invest in mission-driven work the same as anything else. Don’t sell it short. Too often, pro bono or discounted work is treated like a step-child – it’s in the family but doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
  • Stay independent. We don’t have financial masters outside the agency so we can do what we want.

All of this means we get to work with the kind of mission-driven clients that really fire us up. And they get a partner that understands their approach and is fully behind what they’re trying to do.

We put in 100% whatever we’re working on, but it’s the projects we feel passionately about that result in our best work.