Building Purpose-Driven Brands with Insight and Passion!

How Thought Over Design Transforms Visionary Ideas into Impactful Realities.
Building Purpose-Driven Brands with Insight and Passion!

In a world where branding is key to a company's success, Thought Over Design (ToD) has made its mark by creating purpose-driven brands that connect deeply with their audiences. Founded by Anushka Sani in 2013, the studio was born from a desire to blend insightful research with creative storytelling. ToD’s unique approach has resulted in successful collaborations with major brands, including Nykaa and Ugaoo, positioning them as leaders in the branding and design industry. Anushka shares insights into their journey, their methodology, and offers advice for aspiring designers looking to make their mark.


Hi Anushka, we'd love to hear about the journey of Thought Over Design and how it all began. What inspired the founding of the studio, and what drives your passion for brand strategy and design?


The seed for this idea all began back in 2010 when I was doing my college thesis project at Srishti. My father was very keen that one day I start my studio. As a graduation present, he gifted me a partnership deed incorporating the firm. Before creating the deed, he asked me, "If one day you were to start your studio, what would you call it?" At the time, I was doing a thesis project and had named it "Vision Over Sight," so it was a fitting extension to name the studio "Thought Over Design." I think I always thought of projects I did as how they would live and relate to each other. 

The core idea behind Thought Over Design is that design, when done with intention and the right insight fueling it, can be quite powerful. I was always inspired by designers who were problem solvers and wanted to approach any project I got with that lens. I didn't start operating as Thought Over Design until a few years later after I gained some industry experience, but to date, I feel quite connected to the initial idea and ethos behind it.

PattriStrategy, Naming, Identity, Branding, Packaging, Photography and UI/UX

Thought Over Design has a reputation for co-creating challenger brands with visionary entrepreneurs. Can you share insights into your unique approach to brand strategy and design that sets you apart in the industry?


When given the opportunity and when brands are willing to invest time with us, our approach to finding and articulating a sharp consumer insight has always helped to build brands that stand out. We believe that in a world where there are hundreds of brands launching in every category, the way to be relevant to your audience is to connect with them through a strong mission or brand purpose.

The brands that have worked with us see immense value in the process we follow to make critical decisions that shape the brand, including tone of voice, persona, and design language. Our goal is to be different from what's out there and to give the brand an edge that can't be easily copied. If you look at our portfolio, you'll see that while clarity of thought is a common guiding thread, all our brands look different. We don't want to pigeonhole ourselves into a style and aim to do what's best for the brand, the business, the category, the product, and the consumer.

NYKAABranding, Packaging, UX & UI Design

One of the most prominent rebranding projects consisting the ToD's portfolio is Nykaa. When dealing with such a colossal company, what are the challenges that your design crew faced the most?  


We collaborated with on a rebranding project, which was one of the first projects we took on when I started the studio. Today, Nykaa has become a well-known brand, but at the time of our collaboration, it was a small team led by Falguni Nayar. We had the opportunity to work closely with her, Adwaita, and a talented team of young and creative individuals. initially approached me through their tech/development agency to design the front end of their first Android app. After the app went live, we discussed their brand design, and I honestly suggested a rebrand because I found it challenging to design the app without a clear design language or color palette in place. A few months later, Falguni and Adwaita reached out to me and agreed to give the rebranding a try. While working on this project, we faced a two-fold challenge.

  1. They intended to start creating their own products such as nail care and makeup. At the time, Nykaa had none of its own products on their platform because they didn't exist.

  2. The brand needed to continue being a platform that would sell other brands as well, similar to Sephora. This concept did not exist in India at that time. Therefore, we aimed to create something that was neutral yet had its own personality. At the time, I had a small team and also involved some friends from my design network to brainstorm ideas and experiment with different approaches. Rebranding is a sensitive and challenging decision for any business, so there were several rounds of discussions and considerations before the team agreed on the final identity that you see today.

The idea was simple: Nykaa is a platform for every kind of woman in India. Nykaa doesn't differentiate and will always provide access to everyone. Falguni's dream was to empower women with products and tools all under one platform. The wordmark comes from the idea of Nykaa itself. It's a word derived from the Hindi word "Nayaka," meaning heroine. So we imagined, "What if a strong, confident woman signed off her name as Nykaa?" That's where the logo idea came from.


Collaboration seems to be a key aspect of your studio's ethos. How do you collaborate with clients and internal teams to ensure alignment and bring creative visions to life?


Of course! Collaboration is a fundamental part of our work at the studio.

1. Internally, collaboration happens when everyone agrees that the final outcome belongs to everyone, not just one person. With collaboration, we can add many layers and dimensions to the work that one person alone cannot achieve. It's also challenging to be at your creative best when the pressure of achieving something is solely on you. Over the years, we have fostered a simple culture of caring for each other and looking out for one another. It's everyone's goal to ensure that every project is successful, even if you're not assigned to it. I truly believe that creative spaces need to have certain elements in place.

I don't believe that amazing results always come from chaos and pressure. Sometimes they do, but in my experience, they are just occasional spikes. With a solid process, accountable team members, and a great working culture, we can achieve consistent outcomes and enjoy the journey. I'm not saying we don't work hard - we definitely do, but we do so with mindful structure and processes to ensure everyone can be efficient.

2. When working with clients, we invest a lot of time and effort in selecting those who are open to collaborating. One of the main reasons I established my own studio is because I wanted to have agency over the projects, businesses and people I chose to work with. We truly value client involvement in the process because we are not simply a vendor providing a service and moving on.

We work together with people to build something they are proud of as they have to run that brand/business after we've helped them build some key foundational pieces. We also want to build brands that last the test of time and the clients' buy-in must be there from the get-go if they are going to build on top of it. This is why we also insist on working with businesses at a stage when there is leadership/founder involvement in the process as many of the decisions being made need to be in sync with their vision and goals. I tell most of my clients that they are the secret sauce in a project because we really listen in to what they want to do and their point of view as well...and that's where some of the magic lies!

The Whole Truth
The Whole TruthStrategy, Identity, Branding, Packaging, Web Design and Photography

How do you measure the success and impact of your design projects on the business outcomes of your clients? Any success stories or metrics you can share that highlight the tangible benefits of your work?


I wish I had metrics and statistics to offer :) I am really proud of the work we've done because we have seen businesses benefit from it in more ways than can be calculated. Our research, strategy, and thinking work really help brands from the inside out, even though the design outcome may not always be immediately visible.

For me, the testament is if the brand is doing well, if the founders/leaders are happy with the transformation and if consumers are loving it too. I believe our partnership with The Whole Truth, founded by Shashank Mehta, is also a marker for a successful relationship. For me, it's not just about the outcome of the work but also the quality of the relationship/partnership that one establishes with people.

Recently, we collaborated with an ice cream brand called Hocco, founded by Ankit Chona, and they achieved three times the sales they had anticipated in the first quarter of the brand's launch. With a 100 crore annual recurring revenue (ARR), it has become one of India's fastest-growing consumer brands!

I cannot attribute this success solely to the work we did, but I do believe we played a role. We worked with an exceptional team on our end and their end, and everyone put in their best efforts to ensure that the brand was launched as we had intended together.

We did rebranding work for, which was founded by Siddhanth Bhalinge. This allowed us to create a launch campaign as well. It was really heartwarming to see the positive response it got from its consumers. What's also interesting to me is that we have never really done any outbound or active business development. Instead, our clients tell others about the work we've done together, which has always brought us new projects. We are very grateful for this and it keeps us on our toes!

HOCCOStrategy, Identity, Packaging, Uniform Set ENV. Graphics, Merchandise and Social Media

Brand building can be complex, especially in a fast-paced and competitive market like India. How does Thought Over Design navigate challenges such as shifting consumer behaviours, emerging trends, and increasing competition?


We have always believed that the complexity around brand building exists because brand teams are often not equipped with the

  1. Right Clarity

  2. Insights to make confident brand decisions

Many of the founders we meet are working alone or with small teams. They have a great understanding of the products they want to create but need help in figuring out what would truly excite consumers. For example, they may know that a certain solution is needed to fill a gap in a particular category, but they might not be aware that consumers are thinking in a different way or may have concerns that brands haven't addressed yet. This is where our research and strategy approach comes in. We conduct in-depth research on consumers, culture, and categories to uncover insights that will help brands make a fresh impact in the market and stay relevant to the way contemporary culture is evolving.

We like to ask fresh questions and not just replicate research as well. For every strategic direction, there is an origin question that changes the data you look for, the insight you unearth, and the unique opportunity you can articulate. For example, if you are building a new brand of workout equipment, you don’t just have to ask what people need from their exercise equipment, you have to ask - how are people feeling in the gym? How are people reflecting on their bodies and health? If you are building a new ride-share, city travel app, you have to understand how a commute is affecting people. That’s how relevant brands are built.


Can you share with us what does the EOD looks like at Thought Over Design? Do you guys wrap up with a cortado and work jokes or something else? ;)


We're all very excited to go home at the end of a fulfilling day :) Working in Bombay, a lot of people commute from far and wide to get to the studio. Jokes apart, the banter/chilling/hanging usually happens over snacks and cake and this is usually during the day/week. We are obsessed with trying new food all the time and mainly everyone is obsessed with cake. I'm not sure if it's because I am obsessed with cake - but it's a studio wide interest. We have a hit list of cakes for when b'days, anniversaries or special milestones are being celebrated! We often go to little dinners or get-togethers at my home to hang out/chill as well.

Our yearly offsite has become a ritual of sorts, and I enjoy putting it together with the help of the team. Everyone connects and bonds in a special way during that weekend. Some of the team also really enjoy watching films and arrange movie nights on certain days of the month. We don't do this as often as I'd like, and this is a good reminder to revive that ritual!

BhiveStrategy, Identity, Branding, Digital and Templates

For aspiring designers reading this, what advice would you offer to those looking to make a mark in the design industry, particularly in the realm of brand strategy and design?


I don't love giving advice, but if I absolutely had to, I would say, please give your craft and thinking some time to develop. Dive deep into things and don't just follow trends or what's popular right now. We live in a very fast-paced, competitive world, so allow your career to unfold and find the right mentors to guide you. Lastly, learn from different contexts and don't just be obsessed with the design bubble. Step out of your comfort zone and meet people doing different things - it will greatly impact your approach to design in ways you can't even imagine!

Creative Gaga