Becoming a better Designer

Around this time last year I started blogging regularly and I wanted it to document my journey from here to there – there being IDEO.

I'm not there yet but a friend of mind posed a really great question. What if the industry still existed but ideo no longer exists? Then what?

This question was posed to ensure I wasn't putting ideo on a pedestal and for me to research and figure out other ways to do the work I'm interested in. It floored me. I had no responses and began to wonder," are there any other companies that do similar work?"

Regardless of the answer, I believe that I first have to become a better designer. I need to be designing for people in need, and to be solving real world problems. They can be small or big- but the best ones are within reach.

Most of design today is based on existing products that are slightly modified, but planned for obsolescence.

I keep debating if it's wise to return to school for a graduate degree or if I can continue in my field to gain additional experience. The field has grown exponentially and it's become competitive in a different playing field. But IDEO.org stands out to me as they focus on designing for people in poverty.

This hits home because my family knows what it means to grow up in poverty and struggling. Ever since I learned the power of design, I've wanted to use it to do good and to service people. It's what drew me deeper into the world of product design- designing products to improve people's lives.

So where does one start to improve themselves as an industrial designer? Especially when access to tools and understanding of engineering is limited- insert me and my scenario. Often you'll hear people say scratch your own itch. But for me, industrial design is all about scratching the itch for other people in need.

How Badly Do You Want It?

This is a question of reflection for myself.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the things I’ve said I want out of this life. Its big, its ambitious. Yesterday in a meeting we talked about God’s provision and how our job is to have the dream and trust that he will provide.

I continuously revisit the question of what does it look like to be a Christian designer? I know I don’t need to boast about my faith, nor do I need to be literal with it in terms of drawing or sketching. The answer that I’ve concluded is that its my job to carry out the characteristics of Christ – to reflect Him and have other sense that something is different and become curious about us.

Often times we lose our identities in our work and forget that we are more than what we do. When we are introduced to people the conversation often starts out with Our name, where we are from, and our list of accomplishments. Yet Ultimately its more so about people and building relationships.

I think about what made me attracted to art and design and I’m not too certain of what exactly pulled me in. I’ve been surrounded and immersed in it since child hood  with my mom using me as her life size ever changing doll and mannequin. (Now I get to sketch something out and she creates it for me). Perhaps its the act of creating something out of nothing? Or being busy with my hands? The act of problem solving combined with critical thinking even? Maybe the process of design thinking – honestly I don’t know. While I am still very much a young spring chicken in my design career I know that I will end up far.

Today I read an article that struck a cord with me and lets just say it hurt my feelings. I know what its like to “know what good design is” yet it doesn’t seem that many people are willing to turn around and help the new and upcoming designers learn the ropes and avoid common mistakes. It seems that my peers have decided doing the work all their own is best and its too expensive to stop and teach other fellow newbies the ropes. Schools and universities are blamed instead and the competition remains fierce. Young designers scramble to make ends meet and fall into the struggling artist stereo type – scrapping for projects that cover maybe the price of a coffee.

When I was in college there was a piece of advice from a fellow peer that stuck out to me. Don’t become jaded. I understood what they meant, and after reading I questioned what was the goal of the article I just read? Sign up for my new course and you’ll learn what? The principles of design? The design process? How to gain clients? How to build an audience? 

What ever happened to the mentor and apprenticeship  relationships? Taking someone under your wings and really showing them the ropes?

After listening to a different podcast I asked myself the question, “How badly do you want it?” I am more than willing to put in the hard work and effort needed to get to my destination. I think finding the right tribe has been a difficult undertaking. You see, I studied industrial design in college and believe that design can change the world. Through out my years of study I learned how to research, draw inspiration from all types of sources and to always remain curious. I’ve learned about the design processes, the design principles, and even setting limits to my personal projects. I do believe that there will always be some form of learning curve or tension and that is where the magic begins to cultivate.

What would make it better though is to have someone guiding you or observing you – better yet challenging you to get better. Don’t be so far removed from your years of being a newbie that you turn around and give advice with hints of snarky bashful remarks.

My business coach would always tell me how important it is to tell your story – that someone else needs to hear it from me. That no one else has lived my full life, combined with all my experiences. I get it.

Within my context it teaching confidently with elements of grace and humility. Its providing resources, connections and actually living it out authentically. It is certainly something that will set me apart from other people.

What do you want? How badly do you want it?

Design Thinking: Mind Maps

So I just wrote out a full blog post and it disappeared. It’s not in my drafts and I’m starting over. 

I learned about mind maps in high school. We used it for small projects. After reading “creative Conficence”, I saw that they revisited this tool. 

It’s often used to expound on a topic. Typically you have one main topic in the center. Then you branch off with sub topics. I did this for a writing project. 

There are tools around the web to create one but it’s quick and easiest with pen and paper. 

So he next time you have a project and you aren’t sure where to start use a mind map and do a brain dump of everything you know on the topic. Then go back and organize it. 

The Gap Between Universities and Real Life Design Services

Today I met with a recent graduate interested in packaging design. She shared with me her portfolio and had different links of her work. When I asked her what does she want to get hired to do, she would tell me packaging design. 

As she presented her portfolio to me she talked about herself, the things she was interested in, and why she catered her projects to her professors. 

I asked her, “is your professor still in the field?” 

“No but she’s had years of experience.” 

Clearly there’s a missing gap. 

I remember when I was in this girls position – let’s name her Jessica. A few weeks ago I did a live painting event and Jessica’s friend was there. She told me how Jessica was an artist and was struggling to find work. I told her to email me. Today Jessica shared with me her issues in finding a job and she presented her portfolio to me. 

Here are a few things missing in your portfolio: 

1. The project is not complete. You worked on a marketing campaign and there are no prototypes, no real life photo shoots, lifestyle images or supporting sketches that shows me how you got to the final product. 

2. You don’t have a focus. Your interested in fine art,  packaging, marketing and photography and you didn’t combine them in one project to really push the creativity. You have everything in separate components. Why not package your fine art abilities into packaging? That’s a specific focus and I’m sure there’s a market out there for it.   

3. You’re stealing images off the internet and your professor is letting you get away with it. Did you purchase those stock images? Did you use free ones? Where’s the citation? Site your sources and keep your integrity intact. You may need to learn by looking at and copying others work – it’s never ok to publish that as your own. 

4. You didn’t tell me how your skills or interest would benefit the company. It’s great to learn about you, but what are you adding and contributing to the end goal of the company? 

5. You sound desperate in your email outreach. While they can take advantage of you, there is room to do additional research and learn about the salary, learn about the role, and learn about the customers they help. 

I can relate to Jessica and I didn’t have someone to show me the ropes. I hope these tid bits help recent graduates in search of their design careers. Don’t give up so soon, and it does take time to find someone willing to take a chance in helping you develope and hone your design skills. 

What Are You Passionate About?

What are you Passionate about?

This question comes up over and over again. I am passionate about design and I absolutely love every aspect of it. When I was a young child I’d always play as though I was an art teacher. If you asked me what I wanted to teach, I’d say Art. However, adults frowned upon this. I was discouraged not to go into teachings.

“Teachers don’t make money,” they’d say. “Why don’t you go be a doctor, or an engineer, teachers get abused.”

My love for teaching is connected with my love of learning. Right now I’m on a path of going down the rabbit hole to understand what design thinking is all about. I’d love to go to the  Standford d.school, however  – and this is where doubt creeps in – I’m not sure if I qualify. Matter fact I recently read an article that most women don’t apply for positions if they don’t feel 90% ready to take the job. Where as men even, if they don’t know the role  well, they present themselves as confident of being able to do the job and they apply anyway. Often I feel intimidated and currently I work with mostly men.

My confidence was shattered by a professor when I was in college. Every drawing I presented, every idea I shared was met with, “you suck”. This is very much along the lines of what Tom Kelly shares in the book, “Creative Confidence.”

Other people are quick to discourage and dismiss what it is that you are interested. I’m interested in learning about design thinking and how to take creativity  up to a different level. If you’re wondering what I do during the day, I’m a package designer. There are many things I can continue to learn – most of it is technical like how to use the programs and software. There aren’t many YouTube tutorials that break down the learning process.

Eskco has decided that you need to go to them in order to learn their software basically they have a monopoly over the industry when it comes to packaging. I’ve been doing a little bit of reading about design thinking and I realize that the learning of design thinking has been made very accessible. I’m looking forward to this journey going down this path.

What I’ve noticed is typically a question is posed and people come together from different backgrounds with unique ideas. I was challended and posed with the question – “how can I use lettering to create impact through design”?

This got my mind brainstorming for ideas.

Through another conversation I learned of Humans of New York. I’ve visited the site to see what it was all about. I had no idea someone was going around photographing people to get their story. I’ve always imagined going around interviewing people out in the streets, see how they ended up there. And if given the opportunity for change what would they do?

Often times you see someone begging in the streets and are quick to roll up the windows, lock the doors and get away. What if we went so far as to open our doors feed them, clean them, hear their story and give them another chance at life?

I’ve been  hand-lettering for more than two years however I haven’t posted consistently I haven’t taken a better photographs, I haven’t shared much of my story because I often wonder what was OK to share what was not OK to share. Each day I’m learning it’s OK to share certain aspects of your story they don’t need all the details and it doesn’t need to be in chronological order give them what relates to what it is you want to share and make it relate to your product your service.

Today I was listening to the PIA Tour while at work and something inside of me was riled up – it’s that very thing that drives me to want to create, design, letter, paint. I could feel the passion that these poets and lyricists were saying and pouring out. You could hear the research that was done for them to put such peice together. These lyricists went in depth with what it is that they had to say – and it made me frustrated that I haven’t fully understood what my purpose is, what I am called to do, how to let it pour out of me?

I know that I’m gifted to serve, I know that I’m gifted to serve and that I am able to do administrative work, I know that I am passionate about the word and I want to be sure that I’m leading others to Christ with my work. I know that I am part of a bigger plan, that I can’t be consumed with myself, I know that I enjoy design and creativity and it’s not by accident.

Often times I want my design work to support me. I want people to pay me for my design work, yet some people feel that design isn’t important, that it’s a nice to have, that it’s not needed in the world. I disagree. They haven’t understood that the bright colors, great shadows – even as I drive home seeing the sun setting to the right and the clouds that have cast a huge grey shadow… causing a beautiful golden cast of sunrays upon the trees even though the sunlight is nearly blinding me as I drive southbound on the New Jersey parkway —– it’s a beautiful scenery I wish I could take a photo for you I wish I could paint this in like two seconds. You would understand my appreciation for art, design and creativity.

More On the why

I was born 3 months pre-mature. 

My mom had already been in the US a few years, had my brother and experienced a failed marriage. By the time she was pregnant with me my father decided he didn’t want to be a part of our lives and she was left to fend for herself. 

Throughout her pregnancy she eventually ended up with on set diabetes and I was born in June. 

Growing up I’ve always experienced my mom making my clothes and she still does this for me today.  I guess that was my first exposure to the creative side. 

Fast forward to college – I studied industrial design and product development and I understood it then as “making cool stuff”. 

However, the older I get, the more my mother’s struggle affects me. I often wonder, had Haiti became more of a developing country, would she have stayed there. Or if she was able to build a business using her sewing skills would she have stayed. 

Currently I’m reading Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly, founders of IDEO. I came across a story of a team of people from different backgrounds coming together in designing a blanket. This blanket was created to preserve the lives of premature infants in India.

 This hit home for me.  Although I was born in the US, and my mom had access to healthcare, if my mom weren’t in Haiti I’d probably not be here. 

My beliefs and personal values also play a huge role in this decision of wanting to work for a company like this. 

I’d like to be a part of something bigger than myself. I’d like to develop and use my design skills for good. Life’s too short to continue to do things in a mediocre way. While I know it will take time to develop and get there, I’m more than willing to put in the time, work and dedication to get there. 

I believe that we are all called to do things greater than ourselves. I enjoy helping people, and it would be that much greater to do that while using my design skills. 

My premature birth made me fragile and prone to illness. I was born with a lot of odds against me, but I made it out strong. I perceviered over and over and I’m perceviering again in my latest struggle. Getting into IDEO. I won’t stop until I get there.