In this episode, we (Angie and Sushi) talk about the loaded question – Why are you a designer?
We asked some designers this questions and got some very interesting answers! Scroll down to see all of them.
Listen to episode 1:
We’ve published answers we got from designers for this big question in another blog post on Designlota. Check them out here.
The Element by Ken Robinson – book
Paula Scher on the state of play – video
Sushi: Hi! This is Design Lota, the podcast where we talk about life as Indian designers.
Angie: I’m Angie
Sushi: And I’m Sushi
So, Sushi, our very first episode! Are you excited?
Angie: Yay, I’m excited too! Let’s get started, then.
Sushi: So what are we talking about today?
Angie: We’re gonna start off our very first Design Lota episode with a really fundamental question. A question that can sometimes catch us off-guard!
The question is…if you can give me a drum roll…
“WHY are you a designer?”
Sushi: Yeah, the big WHY! Why do we do this for a living? What’s the story?
Angie: We asked some of our friends who are designers and it sent them on quite an unexpected trip. I think it also might have unearthed an existential crisis for some of them!
Sushi: Indeed! And of course, we’re going to publish all of those interesting answers for you guys to look at.
So Angie, what do you think about the answers we got?
Angie: We’ve got a lot of interesting stories here. We should point out the things that really stood out.
Like one of the first things I noticed, is that a lot of them spoke about their childhood and how their experiences as kids guided them towards design.
A couple of them mentioned the toys they played with…there’s an interior designer who says she had a lot of practice with interiors and architecture as a kid, With lego!
Sushi: Oh yes, Lego! remember playing a lot with lego too! I still have some of the blocks which my younger brother didn’t throw out of the window coz as a kid he liked to make things fly. So my brother and I had a bunch of lego, mechanix, knex. My friend and I used our collections to create an amusement park for our physics project, which was about simple machines, and it was one of the most fun school projects I’ve ever done!
Angie: Interesting! Apart from those who were inspired by toys, there are also the tinkerers who like to tear things apart and put them back together, like wobbly chairs and broken radios, as one of the designers said in their response.
Sushi: So I guess it becomes a part of growing up, right? Fixing things around the house, putting stuff together..I guess it’s in the environment you grew up in? One of my friends comes from an artistic family that is in the textile business. Growing up with the business, she really became interested in artsy stuff.
Angie: Yes, totally. Even the kind of books, magazines, TV shows, movies you are exposed to as a kid can ignite that spark in you. I’ve heard of architects who as kids chanced upon Inside Outside…
Sushi: Is that the architecture magazine?
Angie: Yeah, the architecture magazine. So that has opened up the interest to architecture and designing spaces. You know, all these childhood stories remind me of what Paula Scher said in a documentary – that you have to be in the State of Play in order to design, and as kids, we are constantly in the state of play.
Sushi: SO I guess if you keep playing even as an adult, you’ll automatically become a designer.
Angie: yes, exactly!
Sushi: Any childhood stories that stand out for you?
Angie: Yes, for me it was more about the books I read more than toys. Like, I remember reading a series called Childcraft at my school library. A friend and I used to go through them and learn about animals, space, and the world around us. It was such a fascinating series and what I really liked is that they had all these craft assignments to do and we didn’t always have the supplies they talked about so we would try to replace them with what we can find in India. It really opened up our imagination. That’s one of my earlier memories of anything to do with design.
Anything you found interesting?
Sushi: I found it interesting how people ended up making design a career choice. Growing up, you’re told that choosing your career is one of the most important decisions in life. That moment when you choose what you want to do…its probably the first time you’ll be solely responsible for that decision.
Angie: Oh yes, It’s also a big decision for parents, especially in India, don’t you think? In terms of finances and also what’s considered a reliable career here can be quite a big decision for the whole family. Do we always get to choose our career?
Sushi: I guess it does take effort to get parents to support you financially. Since going to design school is kind of expensive but doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a job. One of my friends who describes himself as a graphic artist, says it was the first time in life where he actually followed his instinct, and tried to pursue something that he really enjoyed doing, instead of following what “people” thought was good for him.”
Angie: I guess we eventually we end up doing what we really enjoy. I’ve seen so many designers who were engineers by education and then were drawn to design or maybe they came to terms with their interests. Like in my interface design course, there were more than 80% of us who were engineers. So today, you’ll find a lot of non stereotypical designers.
Sushi: Yup, there are so many stereotypes we hear about designers. Like with me, people would automatically assume that I didn’t get into medical college or engineering and so, Design was a fallback option for me. But I did really want to become a designer, and the process is not ‘easy’ because you have to write an entrance exam to get in, just like for other fields. People also assume other things about designers, like we are all a certain type – all good at drawing or ‘super creative’ but drawing is really a skill you build over time and design is about the desire to create and everyone is creative, it’s about how they put it to use in their lives and professions.
Angie: Absolutely! I love the line that Ken Robinson mentions in his book The Element. Asking the question “how are YOU intelligent?” rather than “how intelligent are you” I think the same applies to creativity. But, you know, though there are all kinds of designers, there are some things I do feel we’ve found to be common among the ones we’ve met and known, right, Sushi?
Sushi: Oh, for sure Angie. Like, for example, the interest in transdisciplinary work, rather than just single streams or subjects. For example, they might be interested in and excited by both the functioning of a metro train and the seats, handles, signage, routes at train stations – the whole experience of it.
Angie: Yes, that also explains why designers seem to be dabbling around in more than just one kind of thing…there’s an excitement when things work together and ‘juxtapose’ ( for you listeners out there I just made air quotes for that word) haha sushi do you like when things juxtapose?
Sushi: Yeah, very much. As a product designer these days, most of my work is like that. So right now, I’ve been working on redesigning a factory space with my architect friend. So this has me designing the furniture, the lighting, storage, while she’s doing the space allocation and deciding the paint and the tiles. Its so much fun to see how this ties up into the experience of the entire space.
Angie: That is so fascinating, how you’re able to mix together so many different aspects in product design. So, we spoke on childhood interests, career decisions and a comfort with disciplines mixing and working together…all of which in some way answer the question why did we become designers, but we got some deeper angles on this as well.
Sushi: Really? How deep?
Angie: I’m talking fourth or fifth cup of chai deep. the level after this is where the existential crisis lies!
Sushi: We’ve all been there. Usually it’s in the middle of a long project or when you’re looking for that challenging project that will have an impact and make a difference.
Angie: Interesting you should say that, because making a difference or say, solving problems for people or making their lives easier, simpler in some way, seems to be one of the deeper reasons people choose Design.
Sushi: Yeah, there’s definitely contentment and a rich satisfaction in that. For me, I think Design is a lifestyle and a way of thinking that can’t be separated from who I am.
Angie: Yes, to sound painfully cliche, it’s almost like it chooses you! Haha. One of my favourite responses here ends with ‘Design makes me a better human being’ and I love that.
Sushi: I love that. We should definitely explore that more in one of our future episodes. This has been so much fun!
Angie: I know! Feels like there’s much to be said, but let’s take time to ponder over what we’ve heard so far.
Sushi: And we wanna hear from you guys. Why did YOU become a designer? Tell us your stories!
Angie: Tweet to us at @designlota, start a conversation. Also, tell us what you want us to talk about as Indian designers.
Sushi: Also remember to check out answers from other designers at designlota.com. That’s all for now. Until next time! Bye!
Angie: Bye, guys!