I first developed an interest in design in the well-equipped metal and woodwork shops of my English childhood schools. This curiosity for how objects and materials are constructed soon developed into a love of detail and form, which later I came to realize, had laid the foundations for the last 20 years of my career.
Over the course of the many projects that I’ve designed over the years – that basic understanding has enabled me to jump between detailing a 1/8” Gucci laser-cut logo for the fashion houses of Geneva, to macro planning a start-up Eco City in China.
Recently, we arranged a ‘Student Design Challenge’ for our local Chapter of the Retail Design Institute – placing them right in the heart of a working manufacturing facility. There were no computers – just basic tools for the students to sketch with, to create designs for High End Accessory brands during the course of an afternoon. Those selected by a panel of judges, were then asked to make a model of their concept within the next hour…with many others at the event diving in to help, against the background noise of cutting machinery and belt sanders.
What I particularly loved about this event, is how energized everyone was to be in that environment. The Professionals were pleased to be away from their email, rolling up their sleeves to work alongside emerging Southern Californian design talent in a competitive, raw environment. For the Students, it was an amazing opportunity to perform in front of a high caliber audience of leading industry experts – allowing them to shine and showcase a talent that for some, lead to offers of internships for the summer.
Only this morning, I stumbled on a contract for my great, great grandfather’s seven-year apprenticeship in the ‘Art of Blacksmith’, dated 1835. I can only imagine the conditions in which he would have been expected to work for four shillings & sixpence a week, but perhaps we still share the same fundamental satisfaction of creating something physical, shaping an idea and crafting it into a tangible solution for a real need.
Through this experience of just a few hours, the mentors and students connected with one another – but more importantly, the environment helped them connect the design process from end to end. Perhaps this is why we’ve recently witnessed a shift by customers in retail, leaning towards more Authentic Experiences, a desire for many to connect through a more human interaction with the brand. Many retailers are bringing the ‘workshop’ and manufacturing process into the store as a means to personalize and differentiate their offer.
So, while it’s important for us to always be at the bleeding edge of new digital mediums and developments in technology, what else could we be doing to inspire the next generation of designers, to foster their appreciation of design and encourage them into the profession? What drew you into the design profession?