Bright colors and unique textures have always enthralled Aditi Panchal. She picked up sketching at age 5 in Mumbai, India, and creating one-of-a-kind things has remained her passion ever since. Her spark for art continued throughout school as she took drawing classes and completed a fashion design program. Having begun pursuing a career in a creative field, Panchal decided to move toward design and chose the University of Central Oklahoma College of Fine Arts and Design, to take the next step toward a career with art at the core. At age 19, Panchal moved from Mumbai to join some family based in Edmond, Oklahoma to earn a design degree.
Today, Panchal has the opportunity to regularly share her creations with the world. As a creative coordinator and art director at Hobby Lobby’s cooperate headquarters in Oklahoma City, she guides a team of designers to create beautiful products that fit the needs of each region they serve. The balance of utility and creativity in her work is an ideal place for an imaginative problem solver like Panchal.
"UCO’s small class size gave us a strong sense of community. We were more than just a face in the crowd,"
“While I started as a designer, in my art director role I guide the designers and lead them to create products that go with the Hobby Lobby brand and look. I communicate with the buyer and then work with my team to come up with the best design solution that customers will love.” The collaborative environment at UCO’s design school helped her learn to work with a team to create the best possible product. The program at the College of Fine Arts and Design is set up in such a way that students work together to critique and improve their skills. “UCO’s small class size gave us a strong sense of community. We were more than just a face in the crowd. And the critiquing between students helped me gain a stronger design eye. I’m better able now to guide the designers in their work, while still being creative and staying true to the brand.” Says Panchal.
Associate Dean, Ruki Ravikumar, who now works at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, served as a mentor to Panchal. The two built such a strong relationship that Ravikumar called upon Aditi to teach children’s workshops at the museum years after her graduation. The ambition instilled in her by her mentors at UCO have led Panchal to take on several big, personal projects as well. She launched her own personal line of products, called Aditi Designs. A big fan of so-called snail mail, she started with a line of postcards back in 2017 and has since expanded it to include journals, totes, plant pots, coffee thermoses, stickers and posters.
Partnering with local businesses is important to Panchal, and she strives to support women-owned businesses. You can find Aditi Designs in shops like Out on a Limb, Stash and CommonDear, and she regularly teaches children’s workshops on hand lettering and cursive on site. “It’s really nice to see more female designers and small business owners here. In the past few years there’s been movement with women launching businesses and creating things. I’m really happy about that and I love being a part of it!”
photo credit: Chelsi Dennis