What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love that we get to literally sit and think about the future all day, and then express it in creative ways. Working at a place like frog
is great because they push you to try new ways to represent your ideas. It makes you continually improve as a designer. The international travel doesn’t hurt either.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being an industrial designer?
For me, getting over ambiguity was the hardest challenge. I thought I was going to be a mechanical engineer as a teenager, so I was ready for a career that had many more black and white, right or wrong answers. Design rarely has this since it’s so subjective. It still gives me the occasional sleepless night, but I now appreciate how much freedom you have as a designer, and that ambiguity is a blank check and not a prison cell.
What kind of equipment do you use?
Wacom Cintiq, Copic Markers, Strathmore
toned tan paper, assortment of Pentel
pens, Faber Castell
paint markers, a variety of 3D printers…
What skills or training does one need? Do you need an aptitude for art, or can what you do be learned?
Art is like any muscle-based skill: the mechanics can be learned and perfected. The part that takes much more time is developing an eye for design. Having a gut intuition on what is right and wrong takes time and isn’t always explainable. Being a skilled artist is irrelevant if the things you draw are bad ideas, unattractive, or irrelevant. To be an industrial designer you don’t have to be an amazing artist. However, to be successful you have to have a set of skills that allow you to easily communicate your ideas to others, especially non-designers. This can be model making, public speaking, CAD rendering, collages… All that matters is you can get your ideas out there in a way that people can and will want to see them.
Beyond the 9 to 5, you also teach. Can you share why you make the time for that; why it’s important to you?
Teaching is equally as valuable for the students as it is for me. Students still have unbridled enthusiasm about design and come up with crazy ideas since they haven’t had to work with the inevitable difficult client yet. It’s refreshing to see design from this perspective, and makes me energized to go back and do great work for frog. The questions that they ask also help me to reflect on my own path and process and see where I can be more efficient and improve my skills. If you can teach someone else a skill you have to know it backwards and forwards, which makes you stronger in the process. Additionally, I know how stressful it is finding your first job - especially for schools that are located outside of major city centers. I take time to work with students to help them focus on the right skills and help raise their standard of work that future industrial designers will produce. I believe this will result in more talented, thoughtful, and innovative designers who will go on to tackle the world’s major problems.
How do you balance the need for creative expression with design work and deadlines?
There is always room for creative expression when working with clients, though it may not be as much as you’d like. I like the challenge of balancing a client’s needs with my personal perspective on design. It teaches you that your opinion isn’t always the most important one, and you need to be a good listener as much as a good designer to do successful work. I also do a lot of my own work in my free time to let my creative juices out as I see fit on my own terms.