The art of listening, according to Gensler’s Sejal Patel

Marina Mrdjen-Petrovic speaks to Sejal Patel, lead designer at Gensler, about the importance of turning clients into long-term partners and the importance of using your ears as the key designer’s skill.

From Qasr Al Sarab, a desert resort in Liwa, which reinvents the concept of traditional Arabic luxury, to Manzil Downtown, which focuses on modern and urban Arabia, Dubai-based interior designer Sejal Patel takes great pride when looking back at some of her previous projects.

“As a designer, it’s incredible to see how your designs can have a positive impact on people’s lives,” she starts her story, telling us that interior design was a conscious choice, not a coincidence.

Being born in the heart of the Indian textile industry, Patel recalls watching her father, a textile designer, constantly experimenting and trying different techniques to create unique designs.

“If his collection wasn’t different from other market offerings than it simply wasn’t good enough, and unknowingly this became my design mantra,” she says.

After she completed school, her parents suggested she should move to London. Not knowing which design industry to consider, she decided to take up an art and design course for a year. From there she joined London Metropolitan University where she received her degree in interior design. Patel, however, believes design is an inbuilt passion.

“Either you have it, or you don’t. Education is only a tool to enhance that talent,” she says.

She’s been working in the region for nearly 13 years. She first joined the HBA Dubai office, climbing the career ladder from junior to senior designer, before moving to Gensler a year ago as a lead designer within its recently established lifestyle and hospitality division.

“Our strategic plan for this office is to create our Gensler international centre of expertise for hospitality interiors,” Patel reveals. “Obviously, we have been immediately involved in a few exciting projects, both greenfield and refurbishment, in the region, and considering the sensitivities about the confidentiality of these opportunities; we will only be able to share them once completed.”

Founded in San Francisco in 1965, today Gensler employs more that 4,600 professionals in 44 cities around the globe. Patel’s team has a strong collaboration with the Gensler architecture team, allowing them to create a seamless language between the exterior and the interior of any project.

“I am blessed to have a very dynamic team of individuals who share a great bond,” she says. “Each one of them is very special to me and unique in their own right. As a team, we understand it’s not individual strength but collective efforts from all of us that makes us successful.”

Motivation and inspiration, are two constants that Patel says she always works with.

“I see this as a two-way street, I am their source to move forward in their careers, and they are my inspiration to do better and improve myself.

Referring to Albert Einstein’s quote “creative is contagious, pass it on”, Patel says her design philosophy is very simple.

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