Alum Bopanna Ulliyada Builds His Design Career at Timbuk2
Bopanna Ulliyada is currently a Lead Designer at Timbuk2, the company that put messenger bags on
the map. At Timbuk2, Bopanna is responsible for designing and engineering the products that the
company chooses to bring to the market.
When discussing his design
philosophy, Bopanna quotes his favorite designer, Yves Behar: "Design brings stories to life." He
says, "Each one of these products has a story behind them that is significant to me."
Growing up in Bangalore, India, he graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and worked
in India at Toyota Motor Company as a project engineer.
"There aren't many design schools in India that have the history or offer the career
opportunities that a degree from a US university offers," he says.
His goal has always been to build his design career on an engineering foundation in order to
create products that fuse aesthetics and functionality. These are designs, he says, "that ideally
improve the impact of products on people and the environment."
Bopanna enrolled in the Industrial Design Master's program at Academy of Art University in 2005.
He graduated with his MFA in 2008, and still has fond memories of his days at the Academy.
"The closest friends I have in San Francisco are the ones I made during my days at the Academy,"
he says. "Of all the amazing teachers I have mentored under, I profusely thank Jim Shook and Chris
Myers." Shook and Myers, he says, taught him to perfect his sketches and think like a designer—s
kills that he uses every day.
"I'll never forget my final thesis presentation," he says. "My rental car broke down and I was
ten minutes late. The irony was that my thesis subject was 'Car Breakdown and Recovery
While studying at Academy of Art
University, he earned an internship with the company he would later call home, Timbuk2. Since then,
he says, "I have grown from a summer intern to the position of lead designer and this is something
that I am very proud of."
Down the road, Bopanna says he'd like to design all kinds of vehicles.
"Cars, bikes and most forms of transportation are my primary sources of inspiration," he says.
"I always wanted to design cars and bikes, and I aspire to someday. Their lines and form inspire me
on a deep level."
Until then, Bopanna has many exciting projects in the works at Timbuk2. He is currently working
on the company's Spring 2011 product line and will be wrapping up the design process by
"Then I'm off to the factory in the Philippines and Hong Kong for prototyping," he says. "My
long-term plans are to work as a freelance designer, so that I can pick and choose the projects
that move me and allow me a more flexible schedule to pursue my other interests."