Ad land’s Young Guns: Nehal Khosla, Senior Art Director, Isobar

A creator at heart, Nehal Khosla, Senior Art Director, Isobar, is a forward-thinking Designer and Illustrator. With less than 5 years of experience in advertising, she is currently working as a Senior Art Director at Isobar India - Dentsu Aegis Network Group. She specialises in ideation and art direction for integrated campaigns, social media, branding and design direction that delivers extraordinary digital experiences. At the age of 21, she joined Foxymoron as a Junior Visualizer, where she crafted social content for Snapdeal, Motorola, Pulse Candy, and Muscleblaze. 

Eight months into the game, her hunger to do more digital got her to DigitasLBI. This changed the game for her as she started working on website designs, creative pitches, and crafting brand campaigns for Nestlé, HP and Sun Pharma. Within no time, her 2 websites were live, and her contributions led to the agency’s win of Henkel. Joining Isobar in 2018 as a Designer and now a Senior Art Director, she contributed to #HerCourageLessons, which alongside the films, was Isobar’s first design-led campaign. The campaign received several recognitions and got featured in Luzer’s Archive. Khosla currently works on brands like MaxBupa Health Insurance, Royal Enfield, and strives to do better every day.  

How did you get into the role you are serving?
You realise that there is something in you when Indian parents ask you to chase your creative side rather than going after traditional professional courses like being a doctor or an engineer. Even after having PCM in 12th, my parents never asked me to give any engineering entrance exams. Not only me, even my friends were surprised! My parents were aware of my love for Designing and Fashion, and NIFT was the only college I had in my mind. But even after getting through NIFT, I was not able to take it for some personal reasons. I then opted for BCA, almost giving up on my art dreams. But my Dad didn’t. He did his research and got me enrolled into a 2-year Diploma course of Commercial Arts. It was there where I got to know about art and advertising. 

My first agency was Foxymoron – that was 4.5 years back, where I joined as a Juior Visualiser, working on the social content for various brands. Next was DigitasLBI, which opened the world of digital advertising for me while working on websites, digital brand campaigns and pitches. Within a short span, I got 2 websites live and contributed in the agency’s win of Henkel. 

I joined Isobar in 2018 as a Designer and within a year became a Senior Art Director. In my 2 years with Isobar, I have worked on brands like Reebok, MaxBupa, M&S, Grohe and Royal Enfield. 

What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?
I strongly believe that we all create visuals in our head for every purchase that we make – how will the heels look with that dress or will a particular curtain go with the walls. This is what I like doing, and believe that I am good at it. I am a Visual Storyteller. An eye for details, passion for the work I do and a natural flair for design are my strongest skills. I am always enthusiastic about learning new things and taking up new challenges. 

From designing a whole book to animating a single character, from designing a website prototype to a logo, I never try to limit my skills. 

How did Isobar come about?
Isobar was quite a talk of the town in 2018 for some of their amazing campaigns like ‘Bruises Can Be Good’ (one of my favourites), because of which I wanted to be a part of its creative team. 

I’m glad I joined the isobar family, because this ride has been amazing. The agency has really helped me in becoming a better creative person (and not just a Designer). I got some amazing mentorship here, which helped me in doing some of the best works of my career so far. I contributed in #HerCourageLessons here, which alongside the videos, happens to be Isobar’s first design-led campaign with 24 new letters designed to raise courageous girls. The leadership of Isobar showed faith in the project to nominate it for Cannes. The campaign was also featured in Luzers Archive. Out of many firsts that Isobar has helped me achieve, I got my first Baby Elephant at Kyoorius Young Blood awards 2019 for my work on the Fair & Lovely brief. 

Icons in this field you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?
Swati Bhattacharya – I have been following her work for sometime now. Though I have never met her, but I get a “Badass Woman” vibe from her work. She has inspired me and my work in a lot ways. I have heard she can move people by just telling stories and I really wish to work under her mentorship someday. 

Jessica Walsh – who is one of the few female CEOs in the design industry, has inspired me with her work and her belief to overcome sexism in an industry where just 5 per cent of the CEOs are female. She has been doing some path breaking work in her field and I follow all her stuff religiously. Just like her, I wish to have my own design firm someday. 

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?
When I get up in the morning, I really don’t know how my day is going to be. Having to start from the scratch every day with a blank slate is something I absolutely love about my work. 

And to get my creative juices flowing, I: 

  • See a lot of campaigns and design references to keep myself updated.Go through some of my favourite pages on Instagram to see their latest content. 
  • Being a Fashion enthusiast, I keep myself updated about the Indian and International Fashion industry. It acts as a stress buster for me. 
  • My commuting time is a lot - 2 hours in the morning and evening. I try and utilise this time to think of proactive ideas, listen to Podcasts about advertising and design, and observe people around me. Trust me, observing random people can give you a lot of local insights. 
  • Take some time out for my family and friends. 
  • And most of all, I try and get plenty of sleep. Your brain needs some rest to churn out all the amazing ideas and keep you going all day. 

Do you think a career in this field is a viable one in the long term?
Definitely! And the great names like Piyush Pandey, Swati Bhattacharya, Prasoon Joshi, Pops, Malvika Mehra, Paddy and Preeti Vyas are all testimony to that. For me, it’s been 4.5 years in the industry, and I am learning something new every day. And this will carry on forever. That’s the beauty of this field. You never get bored of the work you are doing. There is always something new. You have to evolve with the new technology and trends. If you are in it, there is no stopping you. In this field, the sky is the limit. Your success, your growth – everything is dependent on your talent, will and attitude.  

What does it take to succeed in a career like advertising?
Advertising can be overwhelming for a lot of people, as it demands more time, patience and a lot of creativity. Everyone can think, but it requires a different kind of mindset to think within the boundaries of the brief, the TG and the product. And that too on a very strict timeline. 

The idea is to show the best version of yourself and to never give up. Be open to criticism and keep a happy and a positive mindset. And most of all, have confidence in yourself and your work. There will be bad days, but trust me when the good ones come, it will be a treat of a lifetime. 

And especially for Designers – work on your communication skills from the very start. Think ideas. Sell your ideas yourself. You should not be dependent on a copywriter for it. 

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?
The ad industry is full of maestros from whom you can take a lot of inspiration, but never try to copy someone. Be your original self. Every new brief is an opportunity to create something new. 

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I ‘Aspire to Inspire’. 

I wish to make a name in the national and international advertising world by doing some campaigns that I will be proud of. And as I’m quite inspired by Jessica Walsh and her journey, will try to be another woman CEO in the design industry. 

Is there any organisation that you would like to work with in the future?
I am inspired by Swati Bhattacharya and would like to work under her mentorship someday. Other than that, to work with Pops and Piyush Pandey someday would be a dream come true.


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