Note to self

  photo: S Roots

photo: S Roots

I find writing helps me clarify my ideas and communicate my perspective. My thought process is sometimes scatty and chaotic (probably related to my mild dyspraxia) so writing is like sending my scattergun thoughts through a filter to see what actually makes sense. In addition, as I am relatively new to design and the creative industries, writing about design works like a kind of permission-giving exercise. Occasionally I may even post updates about my own design practice.

In this post I'm thinking about what drives me as a designer. The full answer to this would be too long for a blog, and too boring for a book. So here's a summary.

I design / am a designer because…

1.      It's fun

Design is about finding the place where human needs meet technological possibility. It’s kind of a wondrous thing to be able to create technology at all. Design is a constantly evolving challenge. It’s fun, it’s energising, and it’s addictive. I like working with complexity, and creating ways to simplify / interact with / cultivate it. People are endlessly fascinating, and the physical world of materials and processes for making things is just so incredible now.

2.      It's a good strategy for me

I’m future-proofing my career by specialising in creative, critical thinking and working with people. Design as a profession is vast and hard to define (in English, anyway), so this means I have incredible freedom to work on things that I find fascinating. As a freelancer I am a rarity – there aren’t many designers with a Master’s in materials science, so my perspective on design tends to be a little different from those trained as designers from day one. Finally, I am naturally quite a thoughtful and introverted person so I need an occupation that pushes me to talk to people a lot and get me out of my comfort zone!

3.      There's opportunity for impact

I often think I can do better than what currently exists. When I do, I love the satistfaction of making something that makes someone’s life more meaningful, easy, fun and/or awesome. As a designer, I'm driven by my values, and while fair pay is essential I don't believe in just working for money. Ultimately I want to live in a clean, zero-waste, high-tech, socially inclusive world, and I’m angry that the current system still causes so much devastating damage. There’s something I like about design that there’s an emphasis on function and usage, to the point that one measure of an effective design is how widely it gets used. (Whereas, say, artistic practice puts the emphasis more on conceptual or aesthetic results, and doesn’t rely on a ‘market’ as such. Having said that, I do like that there are big overlaps and fuzzy, permeable boundaries between these disciplines.)

4.      I feel inspired

I always wanted to be an inventor (even though it took me a while to get there). Growing up, I used to watch a lot of sci-fi (and still do). Visions of future worlds have inspired a lot of design, from Jules Verne to le Corbusier, to Blade Runner and Black Mirror. But I think designers, innovators and entrepreneurs are the ones who really create and implement changes in the world and how we live. Many of the people I have admired at one time or another were designers and innovators – Charles and Ray Eames, Dieter Rams, Gaudi, Buckminster Fuller – and Roman Mars played a crucial role in my early design education (and still does). But the person who first really put me onto design was Bill Moggridge. I saw a short film about the guy when I was 25 and it blew my mind. He spoke about the role of design and its importance in the world, in terms of deciding how things ought to be. It struck me as something profoundly interesting and important, and deeply, wonderfully, human.