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The Design Palette Story

The Design Palette Founder_Komal Pandya-Rao

Hello! If you are new to The Design Palette, welcome to my colourful world of stationery. My name is Komal, and I started The Design Palette back in 2019 due to my frustration of not being able to find colourful yet suitable stationery for work. 

In 2018, I was working in an interesting analytics role in Banking but also contemplating whether I should consider a career change. I had worked in HR Analytics for over a decade at this point and didn’t know anything different. Could a different career be better suited to me? I had spent the past 12 months learning Adobe and about the wonderful world of surface pattern design and was obsessed. Who knew there was a job where you can design patterns all day?! It sounded like a dream. My love for stationery and design led to a 12-month plan whereby I started to transition from a full-time role to a 2-year career break to set up The Design Palette.

What I learnt transitioning to self-employment:

  • I loved having full autonomy of my day - I had the freedom to decide what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. I was able to flex my day to suit my productivity levels and work in a manner that suited me.
  • Starting a business can get quite lonely. I went from sitting in an open-plan office surrounded by my colleagues, to working at home on my own. I enjoyed working from home twice a week in my previous role, but I felt isolated doing it every single day of the week. I solved this issue by going into London twice a week and meeting friends in my breaks.
  • The cultural shift from corporate to creative also required some adjustment. Moving from a corporate culture where everything is deadline driven, to a more creative one where things are a little more fluid (especially when you drive your own deadlines) was a learning experience. I found setting deadlines for myself helped create a sense of urgency and provided a structure to my day.
  • You are responsible for…well, everything…if you decide not to do something, it doesn’t get done :) I found that I enjoyed working under pressure in this way - weirdly it made me even more productive.

What happened after my career break?

Having set up the foundations in the two-year period, I decided to try a hybrid approach in 2021. I now balance The Design Palette with full-time work. Although this can be a stretch from a time point of view, I love using both sides of my brain - the creative side and the analytical side.

What does a typical day look like?

I start the day at

6.30am. I get up, check emails on my phone, get ready and have my breakfast. I am a morning person so tend to pack a lot into the first half of the day. After breakfast, my husband and I take my dog, Dory for a walk. The fresh air sets me up for the day. I try and get the walk done first thing as I find it harder to leave my desk once I switch my computer on. Once I get back from my walk it is time to login to my full-time job.

I am responsible for

During the day, I head up the People Innovation Lab at Mars (yes, the chocolate company). I essentially conduct HR research, create data products and insights that help improve employee experience. Alongside the day job, I am also the founder of The Design Palette, a colourful stationery brand that sells lined notebooks, dotted notebooks, daily planner pads, greeting cards and gifts. As a small business founder, I am responsible for all activities related to the brand - I pack the orders, create the designs, and maintain the website.

My background is in

My background is in HR, specifically in data analytics. However, I am also a self-taught pattern designer. I have spent several years teaching myself design and learning about the stationery business.

My typical day looks like

I have been lucky enough to be able to work a compressed week in my day job which means I can work my 5 days in 4. My days are longer Monday to Thursday but I get the Friday off to focus on my business. On my compressed working days, time for business-related activities is limited; it’s mainly restricted to packing orders and responding to emails at lunch time and after work.

Friday is my business day - a full day dedicated to TDP work. I use this day to focus more on ‘building business’ activities, such as creating new collections or doing work on my website.

My most favourite moment

My most favourite moment so far is being featured in The Stylist magazine. I have been reading the magazine for so long and love the content. It was a pinch me moment when my notebook and subsequently greeting cards and postcards got featured in the magazine.

Teal and Pink Lined Notebook_ The Stylist magazine

The worst part of my job

Having a small business requires grit in a way that a corporate role cannot prepare you for. It can be extremely hard, especially when things don’t go quite as expected. I have found small business communities to support me during these moments and I am lucky enough to have some trusted peers I can learn from.

The best part of my job

The job has many perks. Here is my favourite 3:

  • Getting creative! I really enjoy the creative process and seeing a product come to life.
  • It is an amazing feeling to have customers send photos of your stationery on their desk :) 
  • The endless possibilities from a business perspective - there are so many directions you can take your business and I really feel empowered knowing that I have full control over its direction.

What I do in my spare time

I love going out for dinner and the cinema. My husband and I also love to travel - my travel wish list is ridiculously big :) I also enjoy reading fiction books - mainly crime and thrillers. My favourite authors are Louise Candlish, Sally Hepworth and Lisa Jewell. I also listen to A LOT of podcasts and am always looking for recommendations. Feel free to share your book or podcast recommendations in the comments below.

That is me! I hope this has given you some insight into my journey and how The Design Palette was created. I am always up for a chat, feel free to send your questions in the comments box below or shoot me an email if you have a question :)


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