School of Art, Media, and Technology

AAS GD Alumni Spotlight: Bob Surrao

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Can you describe your current job with WeWork? 

Bob Surrao: I am the India Regional Lead and Senior Environmental Graphic Designer of the Arts&Graphics department at WeWork. This is the internal design team which we call ‘LunchMoney’ and comprises of over thirty artists, illustrators, and designers across six countries that create and curate all the art installations in every WeWork building around the globe. Our work includes the art frames, murals, neons,  custom wallpapers, installations,  and any other opportunity for an art moment within our spaces. We also sometimes work with vendors or collaborate with local artists to install some of our pieces. The aim is to provide the right atmosphere within each building for our members and we work closely with teams of interior designers, architects, and construction to provide the ideal productive work environment.

What were your career steps that lead you to that position?

Bob Surrao: The job I got after Parsons was at  ‘ Ray+Keshavan | The Brand Union’, a renowned brand consultancy in India. For two and a half years, I specialized in branding, strategy, and positioning for some of the largest corporations in the country. Looking for a change, I moved to  ‘ Happy’, an advertising, design and digital agency, to initiate and lead the Design Cell. Over a period of four and half years, the team grew from four to twenty-one, and our clientele and services expanded manifold. I focussed on the strategy, positioning and branding and lead the team across all of our graphic design, digital, packaging, and environmental projects. The vast variety of companies that came to us for design solutions gave me visibility into a number of different industries.  After I left, I decided to freelance which was yet another great and completely new learning curve. I ran my own studio for a year before this job opportunity came along and I decided it was time for a change again. Through the years, I’ve always painted and sketched for fun and for myself which also had a big part to play in getting me where I am. The work I did when there was no brief was where I got to exercise my personal style. And this is something I rely very heavily on while creating the art currently.

Do you still run your own studio?

Bob Surrao: Running my own studio was an excellent career move for all it taught me and prepared me for, but unless I can give it all my time I feel that it would be unfair to my clients. The pace at WeWork is always up and energetic so it keeps me busy and my freelance practice,  ‘Hello Hello’ , is going to have to be put on hold for the moment.

When did you graduate?

Bob Surrao: I enrolled in the  AAS Graphic Design program in 2008 and graduated in 2009. With credits transferred and taking extra classes, I was able to finish the course sooner.

What was your background before Parsons?

Bob Surrao: Before Parsons, I was working at a small studio called  ‘WhiteLight’  as a Copywriter and Graphic Designer designing and writing books, brochures, and pamphlets. The agency had around six designers, and we worked very closely with the production and fabrication of all of our projects. This was where I developed a real affinity for all things print; the variety in paper, techniques in bookbinding, methods of printing. Prior to this, my first job was at a tiny studio called  ‘ Xeye Design ‘  as a Flash Web Designer.

What brought you to Parsons?

Bob Surrao: After a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication, you have a very mixed set of skills but it gives you a little peek into all the possibilities. I fell in love with branding and design and was looking to make that my strength and focus. Parsons offered me the exact course I was looking for with the classes being practical and very hands-on. And with the added lure of studying in the design capital of the world, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

What was your first job out of school?

Bob Surrao: My first job after graduation was in the leading brand consultancy in the country,  ‘ Ray+Keshavan’. It was in the middle of a transition phase after an acquisition from The   Brand Union, but I was lucky enough to work under the original leadership. Sujata Keshavan, the founder, pioneered in the graphic design industry in India close to three decades ago and I’ve fostered her direct and logical approach to branding. I got to work on some of the largest companies and organizations on a national level and gain experience and understanding of corporate design at different levels.

Do you have any memorable moments as a student, something that helped shape or prepare you? 

Bob Surrao: Everything that happened during my time as a student has shaped or prepared me for something. It may have only been for two semesters, but they were packed with learning moments and experiences. From really small mundane things like it’s made me more patient around elevators, since every single one in  The New School is filled to the brim with students in a hurry with way more instruments, charts boards, submissions, and models. To larger, more relevant times in our design class with classmates of different backgrounds came together to brainstorm and critique which prepared me to deal with similar occasions with clients and colleagues. What is still quite memorable was the many, many hours spent in the lab working on projects, and putting together submissions. The environment and atmosphere of all the students together creating and collaborating was heavy and had an electric energy from that much creativity in one room.

Do you have any advice for those considering designing for a global community?

Bob Surrao: Be inclusive and thoughtful with your approach because you never know who is going to see your work. Every project always has a unique solution and it’s crucial to ask all the right questions and look at it from every angle. It’s also really important to dive deep into how your design affects people and how they can interact back with it. Good design is when it can be appreciated by everybody.

How do you see the profession changing and what should students focus on?

Bob Surrao: The lines between skill sets aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be. Previously, the expectation of an illustrator, for example, was only to illustrate, or an animators job was only to animate. The lines between these are almost invisible now where having just one skill is not good enough. The job profiles have expanded the description s  to each individual having at least three core abilities. A graphic designer who can illustrate, an illustrator who can work 3D, a copywriter who can edit. The combination of those skills gives you the ability to see your work further than if you couldn’t.

What’s next for you?

Bob Surrao: It’s just over six months since I’ve been at WeWork, so I haven’t even thought about what I’d want next yet. But if I had to choose, it would involve making things and using lots of different materials and techniques; I love the process of creation.


Want to know more about Bob Surrao? 

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