Meet Rinat Aruh’98, Ensuring Purpose and Profit Coexist

Questrom is all about developing leaders who create value for the world. Rinat Aruh, BSBA (Questrom’98), is one of those leaders.

Rinat has made her mark as an executive for major brands, an incredibly successful entrepreneur, a passionate teacher, an innovative thought-leader, and, according to Fast Company, one of the most creative people in business. And that’s just the beginning.

“When it comes to talent and leadership, I think the most important things are being passionate about what you do and consistently striving for excellence,” Rinat says. “I also believe purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive.”

Rinat developed this philosophy about leadership and business as an undergraduate at Questrom, but it was putting her core beliefs to work in the real world that solidified her as a massive creative talent.

The Role of Design in Business

“I always knew I loved business,” Rinat says, “but when I learned the value of design in business, my approach shifted forever.”

The MINI Cooper

Rinat was working at BMW North America in the early 2000s when the iconic car company launched the MINI in the US market. “The strategy at that time was to truly celebrate the product through a nontraditional marketing approach,” Rinat recalls, “at the time, there was very low brand awareness and we knew we had to get people to experience MINI in new ways that were exciting and memorable. We created a brand where product was king, iconic design was evidenced across each touchpoint, and the emotional aspect of driving a MINI came through every experience. Its success was a testament to the importance of both design and marketing.” Aruh calls it Producting.

The MINI launch taught Rinat that it’s not just about marketing or advertising, but also about the role of design in imbuing the properties of the brand and the lasting relationship between customers and that brand. After serving as Vice President of Marketing at GAP Inc, she was eager to launch her own firm—one based on her unique vision.

“I wanted to create an agency where design, brand, and innovation were at the core of our approach,” she says, “one focused on using the power of design to inspire visionaries to reimagine industries and create businesses that matter.”

That firm was Aruliden.

From top left to right: Rinat Aruh, Spencer Bagley, and Johan Liden

In 2006, along with industrial designer and entrepreneur Johan Liden, and $25,000 each of their own money (and no investors), Rinat made the leap.

“Our first clients really took a chance on us,” she says. It wasn’t long before that trust paid off.

Today, Aruliden is an award-winning agency that specializes in product design, branding, and innovation strategy, from early ideation to market launch. Headquartered in New York, with offices in San Francisco, it grew to one of the most recognized design and innovation agencies, developing products and brand creative for startups and Fortune 100 companies alike. The firm has counseled prestigious companies like Bulgari, Google, Marc Jacobs, MoMA, Movado, Netflix, Verizon, and countless successful startups.

“It’s a real joy to work with early-stage companies,” she says. “When you see one grow from 3 to 500 employees, creating products that truly change people’s lives, it’s really rewarding.”

One of Rinat’s favorite projects, however, was the creative experience of working with Staples. She and her team set out to rethink back-to-school and school supplies for the well-known brand, which called for an unorthodox approach. Students teamed up with professional designers to create a line of products designed by students, for students.

“On so many levels, it was the most rewarding project, teaching kids about design, letting them bring new products to market—I learned so much …and so did they,” she says. “The experience reminded me of my time in Questrom Core.”

The Staples project sparked Rinat to co-found Design By Students and Tools for Schools, educational programs that inspire students to use design thinking as a tool for solving problems creatively.

Design for the Future

In 2021, Aruliden was acquired by Material+, giving Rinat the opportunity to bring her passion and purpose to an innovative new venture —Arcana.

A new way to travel, Arcana offers beautifully designed cabins and carefully curated self-guided natural experiences set in the outdoors created to help people relax and restore their health and well-being.  With plans to place their distinct, mirrored micro cabins throughout the United States and Canada, Arcana offers a peaceful refuge designed to reconnect guests with the natural world.

“During COVID, city people retreated to the outdoors, but they didn’t want to give up the comforts of home,” says Rinat, always eager to solve a new problem with design. “Arcana offers destinations that immerse you in nature that don’t compromise on luxury.”

Back at Questrom for the $50K Case Competition

Rinat’s entrepreneurial journey began at Questrom. It’s where she nurtured her love of business and learned to value leadership that creates value for society. This past year, she returned to where she started—this time to judge Questrom’s 2nd Annual Sustainability Case Competition.

Rinat Aruh’98, judging at the $50K Sustainability Case Competition

“I was fortunate to be given the chance to learn so much in my time at BU,” Rinat says. “That’s why I want to give back to the next generation and to the university that shaped the way I lead.”

The competition challenged teams from a variety of universities to produce a strategy using circularity that would help L.L.Bean reduce its environmental footprint and attract new customers. Against stiff competition from more than 70 teams from 24 universities, a team from Boston University won, taking home $50,000 for its proposed application called ReBean—a platform customers could use to resell their previously used L.L.Bean items.

“It was great to witness the eloquence of the students, the clarity of their ideas, the excitement of the teams, and the due diligence they put into their final presentations,” Rinat says. “BU is really doing a great job shaping the next generation of thinkers and leaders, the people who are going to make change in our society–and that’s so exciting to me.”

Design has the power to shape the future, charging brands with the responsibility to think and act sustainably. It’s a concept key to Questrom’s mission and one it continues to impart to its students. With passion and purpose at the heart of everything she does, Rinat leads with her heart, always looking to use thoughtful, responsible design to create value for the world.

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