Interview with Instantbight

So I’m here with David, who’s in grade eight, and he’s an interviewer and blogger for instantbight, which is something he started – tell me David, how did this all come about?

It is really a corny story. I was walking in the woods with my mom and dad and they were talking about colleges for my brother and jobs for my sister. I was hearing so much about the “real world.” I thought to myself…why does the real world have to start off with your graduation from college? Why can’t an eighth grader get a head start. So on the way home from the hike I said…I am going to start a blog. After hearing only words of encouragement from my parents I made From there the blog moved from reviews to designs, to my current format of interviews.

Are you looking into journalism as a potential career thing?

It’s funny you asked! My brother is actually considering that route but I am more interested in design and entrepreneurial work. I really want to do something creative, something that keeps my attention (and hopefully makes some cash) :).

Grade eight. What’s it like being so young and swimming with everyone else in the internet? Any specific advantages or disadvantages that you’ve found?

It is amazing. I think I am at a huge advantage! One thing that I can say is that being an eighth grader and all is that I have no shame in contacting people that won’t contact back. People are on one side or the other. They either like the fact that I am young or they don’t. But over all I think my age is a benefit.

It says you’re a dragon slayer. Skyrim? What else have you been playing lately / excited to come out?

I actually don’t have any video games. Never have and probably never will. The dragon slayer occupation is really just because I think dragons are cool but still wreak to much havoc on villages. In my spare time I watch a lot of TV and play a lot of basketball.

What do you like most about interviewing people?

I like seeing what people say when they are asked questions. Questions are really amazing but answers are even more interesting. I love to meet(email with) new people and interviewing is a great way to do that!

Awesome. Well, thanks for coming out and sharing, David.

Thanks so much!

Interview with Jeffrey Matthias of Furnlab

So, Jeffrey, tell us a bit about yourself / how did you first get into design?

During my time at Ohio State (1997-2001) working on a degree in sculpture, I kept finding myself leaning more and more towards furniture design. Sadly, my profs didn’t tell me that there was an entire program geared towards that one building over, and instead just pushed me to refocus on more conceptual and less functional work.

After I graduated, I started getting one-off furniture into galleries, but the prices were always a barrier to entry for the people who really seemed to like my style. I ended up focusing on how to build simpler designs in ways that I could produce multiples relatively quickly and affordably. When I told my sister-in-law that designing for production was way more fun than actually making the stuff, she arranged a tour for me of Fitch, the company where she did copywriting, and introduced me to the world of industrial design.

Alas, I had just finished my 2nd degree, in automotive technology, and didn’t have the money or the drive to jump right back into school. So I continued to work on projects on the side while trying to make a living doing just about everything else.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I was thinking about going back to school for an MBA that my wife asked me if I shouldn’t be thinking about something more creative. That got me to remember my previous dreams of studying industrial design. Going back to school filled in all the gaps between the skills I already had, and introduced me to the world of 3D CAD, which has been a life changer.

Could you describe your approach and philosophy to design?
As far as aesthetics and products, I try to bring something new to everything I do. I want as diverse a portfolio as I can get. If I have designed something, the next project is an opportunity to try something different, within the confines of the client’s desires, of course.

As for work that I do under my own name or my label, FurnLab, I work to make most of what I do open source. I focus heavily on CNC processes, whether 3D printing, laser cutting, or a router. I figure if I can look at other people’s work and cough up my own versions, there certainly isn’t anything preventing someone with access to the same gear from doing the same to my designs. Instead of spending my time obsessed with protecting my idea, I’d rather be working on the next project.

So I make my work available and just restrict commercial use. If someone likes something I’ve made, let them build it. Who knows, maybe they’ll give me some feedback or make some awesome improvements.

What do you love the most about the open source world?
People who understand the concept are very positive and supportive of the work. Open Source implies that you can make changes to your design down the road without implying your previous version is flawed or the the new one is the final iteration. I’m still evolving one of my oldest designs, The Mod, which is about 11 years old now.

I have more ideas than I have time to develop. The open source concept allows me to develop an idea as fully as I can within my budgetary and time constraints and put it out there for the world to see/enjoy without having to make the promise that it is a perfect design, just a worthwhile idea.

I love feeling like a pioneer. There is plenty of open source software, but beyond Thingiverse and its audience, most people have never heard of the idea of an open design for a physical object/product.

What do you hate the most about the open source world?
Ha! Explaining to friends and family that I’m not sinking my career by giving away my best ideas. I restrict commercial reproduction on my designs, but it still seems risky to them. The funny thing is that my brother used to work for the Eclipse Foundation, one of the biggest open source software organizations, and no one seemed to bat an eye. There just isn’t the same kind of precedent for open source product design.

The documentation. Even an 85% developed idea still requires documentation and this is where I am the worst. I have about 4 or 5 fairly complete designs that I haven’t made available simply because I haven’t found the time to provide documentation/instructions and I don’t feel right putting out a DXF without any additional information. My most recent product, Xylotones, are Half-tone images cut on a CNC machine. The individual products are custom and I’m still scratching my head about how to open source the work.

What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Did I mention the documentation?

As far as consulting work, there is always something the client wants that you either dislike or are pretty sure won’t work but can’t talk them out of.

Getting strangers to understand open source is pretty difficult. I mean, if I can’t get my own family to fully understand, well, a 3 minute introduction typically leads to more questions than understanding.

As I mentioned, sometime I have trouble figuring out how exactly to open up a design.

If you had any advice for young designers, what would it be?
Draw, draw, draw. I don’t care if it is is pen/paper or digitally. There is absolutely no replacement for good drawing skills. Furniture design is one of the few places where you can get away with mediocre drawing skills, but you have to be good at what you do to overcome it. 3D modeling will never be as fast as sketching for throwing out quick ideas. Do no let your equipment be an excuse to no draw. I’ve got friends whose napkin drawings make my best Wacom work look like a kindergartner’s work. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but, you get the point.

If you could instantly change anything about our society, what would you change?
Planned obsolescence and the culture around it. I wish we still designed things to last, be repaired/upgraded, and be treasured. Sadly, people are not willing to pay higher prices for well-built things because they expect to replace them sooner than later. The cost of hitting the prices that they are willing to pay takes an incredible toll on our environment, and on the quality and timelessness of design.

Describe your favorite colour using only nouns.
Yikes! 1st gen Porsche 911, 1970s VWs, clementines, construction cones, discontinued iPad Smart Covers…

Interview with Alex Jones

After receiving some good response with the Max interview, we’re back with another:

Alex Jones of Cambridge Industrial Design

So, Alex, tell us a bit about yourself
I am an industrial designer based in Cambridge, UK. I have been a designing stuff since I graduated in 1994. I am currently the managing director of Cambridge Industrial Design Ltd. I have worked on lots of interesting projects from loudspeakers and Hi-Fi to lab robots and a motion capture suit. Living and working in Cambridge means you are close to a lot of exciting new technology and ideas.

How did you first get into industrial design?
I did a 4 year BSc (hons) Engineering Product Design course at South Bank university in London. The one year placement in Sydney, Australia with a small manufacturing company was the main highlight for me – and not just for the beaches! Getting the placement was just luck – I happen to be looking in the right place at the right time. Abberfield Technology is a small company designing and manufacturing ticketing machines and I was the design department with the MD and Production manager guiding me. It was a really great education – learning about technical drawing for the real world, dealing with suppliers and working in a team were all elements that are actually essential for a industrial designer. Looking at today’s students I feel getting some experience of manufacturing to be even more vital. There are a lot more design graduates out there now…

Could you describe your approach and philosophy to design?
Get a good design brief – try to get as much information as possible and listen to the client (something you don’t get in college)
I design from the inside out most of the time. Improving a product or coming up with a new product – you have to do that from the inside in my view. What is the target price and volumes? Therefore what manufacturing processes are available to me? What value should the product convey? The list goes on but they all affect the design from the start. We try to give clients concepts that have a wow factor but also designs that will work.

What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
The hardest part is also the most satisfying – go over the design detail again. And again. And again. Refining the detail can be very hard and time consuming but when you get a mechanical prototype that works – it’s a great feeling.

What’s the part that you love the most?
Seeing people use a product I’ve designed. A few weeks back I saw a busker in Cambridge use a Fender Passport. Last week an engineer at a networking event said how much he liked the Sureflap cat flap. Makes all that detail work worthwhile!

If you had any advice for young designers, what would it be?
Get some experience with a company that actually makes stuff. In my view you can’t be a good consultant with out that experience.
Don’t just focus on sketching – get up to speed with materials, tech, manufacturing process
If you have just graduated and love industrial design – stick at it.

If you could instantly change anything about our society, what would you change?
UK engineering to be prized and respected – engineering is undervalued by many in the UK and yet can solve big problems with such elegance – most of the time : )

Describe your favourite colour using only nouns.

Interview with Max Steenbergen

When I started Twitter a little over a year ago Max was one of the first people to interact with me and it’s been really cool to exchange opinions and comments on each other’s work since then.

So, Max, tell us a bit about yourself
Well, first of all my name’s Max Steenbergen. I’m a 27 year old Dutch guy, working as an in-house UI & graphic designer for a company developing dashboard software for yachts. I’ve studied English for a bit, but quickly dropped out and went on to study photography instead. I’ve got a full-time job but next to that I’ve gone back to school to finally get a proper bachelor’s degree. Two evenings a week I’m back in the school benches following a course called Communication & Multimedia Design. Most stuff of what is taught there I already knew or is horribly outdated, but every now and then I actually pick up something new. When I’m not at work or at college, I’m most likely sweating my ass off and falling to the ground in the most unelegant ways possible playing volleyball.

How did you first get into icon design?
About 10 to 12 years ago I wanted to produce my own wallpapers so I started fiddling with Terragen, a piece of software to render landscapes. I quickly installed Photoshop thereafter to enhance the results Terragen delivered. I was quite happy with what I did back then, but after a few years of browsing the web and seeing all kinds of awesome designs I grew tired of my own limited skill set. I was especially intrigued by icons, like the ones by Louie Mantia and Sebastiaan de With. In the meantime I was hired by a local company (where I still work to this day) as the in-house designer thanks to some web design skills I picked up along the way.
Once there I started making tiny icons for the software we produce, and little by little those icons grew more and more elaborate & detailed. At the same time I got intrigued by UI design and started learning that field at the office. I bought lots of books on the subject, and found some great & inspiring people. What I learned then greatly helped in my job, as I often have to think of different ways to visualize data. It was then that I went from sloppy work to pixel-precise fiddling.

Could you describe your approach and philosophy to design?
Practically everything is done in Photoshop. Every now and then I mock up a very rudimentary mesh in Cinema4D to get the perspective of the icon right, but after that I recreate those shapes with Photoshop. I try to use as much vector shapes as possible, but once I get into the itty bitty details I quickly grab my Wacom and brush it in.
For app icons I try to keep things as realistic as possible. That’s just a personal preference and my way of working towards my other goal of being able to digitally paint and not have it look like crap. For smaller icons though I have no real philosophy. I first figure out what the icon should symbolize before I get to what it should resemble (big difference there). Minding every pixel here is key.

What’s the hardest thing about what you do?
Getting the lighting and shadows right is crucial when trying to achieve realism. Unfortunately enough, those two things are what I find hardest to do. You can’t just randomly add highlights or shadows wherever you like, you really have to stop and think just how that shadow or highlight would be shaped in real life (if there would be one at all). I recently made a jacuzzi illustration and had to add a shadow from the pool’s edge in the water. After adding it, it just didn’t look right but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Two days later I finally saw why: the shadow I added was convex when it should’ve been concave.

What’s the part that you love the most?
That’s right at the moment I reach for my Wacom pen to start adding in all the little details (though not every detail is brushed). I’ve learned not to be easily satisfied with my own work after seeing some of the icons I made when I first started doing it “professionally”. With my Guinness illustration I spent ages adding every little drop of condensation on the glass individually. It was a painstakingly tedious process, but the result was worth it.

Do you ever freelance?
I’m not a real freelancer – I’ve got a full-time job – however, every now and then I offer my services (or they are requested) to a client. Working on those projects is done on the evenings and weekends, and are —at the moment— merely for the fun of it. Whatever I earn with it are neat little extra’s that I save up to treat myself (like buying an iPad 3).

I hear rumours of a Dribbble app, care to share?
As I mentioned, I’ve gone back to school. For the semester I’m currently in, we have to design and develop a mobile app using web technologies (meaning HTML5, CSS3 and JS). The premise of the app was free to choose. I’ve always figured Dribbble clients lack 1 specific feature, so I figured I’d write it myself this semester. The app is called Longshot, and is a iPhone 4(s) specific web-app (I might target other devices later, but for now I’m focusing on my own phone). It’s actually nearing completion as far as functionality is concerned, but I still have to spend quite some time to the design. It’s up and running over here and requires to be installed to the homescreen as it needs the space Safari’s toolbars occupy. Still some work to be done, but quite useable already as it is.

What attracts you most to Dribbble in the first place, anyway?
Two things, really. Primarily to look at other people’s work, be in awe of and inspired by it, followed by being bummed at not being at that level. Secondly to post my own work looking for feedback.
Dribbble is a great community with a lot of talented members, and personally I’m always looking for their feedback. As every community it has its share of “elitism” and groupie behavior, but I’m not too sure if that can ever be eradicated. Longshot though is my attempt of giving everyone a fair chance of exposure.

If you had any advice for young designers, what would it be?
My twitter buddy Michiel de Graaf —himself an awesome designer— recently tweeted something that I feel nails it: “As a designer you should be proud of your final result but never satisfied.”

If you could instantly change anything about our society, what would you change?
Ads. Begone with them. I understand why they exist, and don’t mind if there are some ads but literally everything has become infested with ads. Please let me pay for your service if it means I can use it without ads. Also quite related to ads these days is online privacy. I’ve grown quite skeptical when it comes to companies —especially social networks— treating personal data, especially after reading up on some of Facebook’s practices.

Describe your favorite colour using only nouns.
Spring. Sci-fi. Cold. Minimalism. Calm. Peace. Sky. Space. Dabadee Dabada.

Thank you very much,

The pleasure is mine.

Geekpreneur Article

I’m not sure if this’ll create some sort of blogception, but I’m posting about the post about this very blog.

Geekpreneur interviewed me with regards to my blogging and looking at what inspires me to keep writing. The final result reads well and I’m really glad to contribute when helping other people.

So, you can read their article here, and the full transcript of my answers are as follows:

How long have you been running your blog?

I’ve been running for seven or eight months now, which is still really young. It’s a new venture to take over the blog I had been writing for just under four years without direction; it was just a blog to write about whatever I wanted whereas Acrylo is more structured and planned. I wanted to take what I’d learned about writing and curating and go back to the drawing board to design something more cohesive and matured.

And how often do you update it?

It depends on how busy I am, and a bit to do with the seasons: typically, it’s averaging two posts a day, but four or five isn’t unusual if I’m particularly free on a holiday weekend or something. I try to post at least one thing a day to appease both my readers and myself – it’s a discipline to write sometimes, but I think it’s good for you in the end.

Why did you decide to write a blog?

Originally, the old blog started when I was in high school as a way to host my photography. Flickr had a limit unless you paid, but you could start a WordPress blog with like, 3GBs of free hosting. Over time I started adding photos from other people as an inspirational segment and it evolved from there into a curated publication.

Is your blog meeting its goals? If not, why not?

I’m content with the progress so far. My goal isn’t to be widespread or famous but to explore design and publish those thoughts. I look at the big, well known blogs and they’re fantastic for posting new things and cool things but they don’t go into much depth on the things they post – I make up the other end of that spectrum. It’s a journal of thoughts and there’s a small market for that, but I blog more for myself than anyone. Learn by teaching.

What’s been the biggest challenge of updating your blog?

Time, mostly. But as mentioned above, I feel like it’s an important discipline to have.

What must a blog do to reflect who you are to employers?

It’s a narrative. A resume can be written by anybody with any intention, but to consistently write down your thoughts and explore topics shows who you really are and where you’re really coming from. It’s an honesty, I guess. A transparency.

Finally, what advice would you have for other designers considering writing a blog to promote their services?

Write about what you love, not about what you think is going to be popular. The passion shows through and people will know if you’re just writing because someone told you to. It’s a lot of work, and in the beginning won’t gain much traffic but soldier on and enjoy writing instead of worrying about numbers. It’s not really about spam promoting your services as much as putting what you do out there and letting it spread naturally.

SW 1 Collection for Coalesse

Cool Hunting Video: SW_1 from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Yes, the chairs are very nice, very vintage Eames, blah blah blah. Did you hear what he said?

Because it’s important.

It’s not about the awards. It’s not about what your peers think. It’s about the experience you give your clients. Not their experience with you (although that is important), the experience that they are selling to their clients. They wanted a chair that gave off an attitude and as a designer, it’s our job to create that. Design isn’t about trends or focus groups, it’s about intuition and attitude. The overall effect and experience with the object.

Is that colour “in” right now? Not really. Does it matter? No.

Don’t be trendy. Don’t be original. Be good.

Maestro Knows

So, I saw this probably about a year ago and it’s been in the back of my mind ever since.

I’ll let him speak for himself, but I want to reinforce a few points that really spoke into my journey.

“They don’t even know how you are.” is so, so true. Talent is useless without exposure.

“For free.” speaks as a comment to the whole spec-work thing. Honestly? I’ve struggled a lot with that subject. I’ve come to conclude there are acceptable and unacceptable times for it. It isn’t so cut and dry to be either 100% good or 100% bad. Like he says, and I’ll confirm in my own experience, sometimes you just have to offer to help with things and sometimes you can make a difference without monetary pay. I helped out with some UI and made the green on the Console.FM site. Was I paid? No. Do I use the service every day? Yeah. It’s a sort of reciprocal thing in that respect. And I met and worked with Alex Baldwin, who is a super cool guy. If you’re truly passionate about it, the feeling of helping out is the reward in itself. Call it volunteering your talents, call it whatever, but there needs to be some of that in our community. Also? Collaboration for the sheer joy of working with friends. But, another topic for another time.

His general topic stands so true: “Imagine yourself there, and then follow it.” I mean, you can teach yourself virtually anything with the internet, why aren’t you wherever you imagine yourself to be? It takes courage to dive headfirst into the world sometimes, but once you do… Man. If I can say anything or inspire anyone: You have only one life, and it’s short. People have such great potential if they’re willing to put themselves out there and try.

Interview with Michael Paluch of Phat Dish Collective

I always like talking to people and hearing their opinions – the world is just too diverse to ignore and I feel like you can learn so much. I use the word interview, but more accurately it’s a sort of monologue spurred by a few questions.

About the interviewee: our conversation happened quite by chance, actually. He runs a number of popular Tumblogs including The Phat Dish Collective, which I ran across and immediately got lost in. I read the entire thing front to back in one sitting which isn’t a huge feat in itself but as someone who spends his time reading things from everywhere in 30 second bursts it’s remarkable to find something that I literally lose track of time in. So, upon getting to the end I felt like I should thank the author for putting it together and sent off an email, not even expecting a response. I don’t even know how many emails have gone back and forth since then but the conversation has been inspiration for both of us – it’s always really cool to find awesome, passionate people out there.

Hey Michael, tell us a little about your background and how you came to start the Phat Dish Collective.

Welp, it started as a hunt to scratch and itch to blog about something. I had nothing. I had no opinions I felt were worthy or publishing. I wanted a chaotic style of blogging anything interesting I come across the ’Net each day. This lead me to find Tumblr. It started as just a blog for my own personal self of mostly any photos, many historic (non-automotive). Eventually, I decided, “why not just cars?” Without any planning or thought I made a new Tumblr and the deed was done. The name, funnily, came from “Fat Lace” and “deep dish.” Not very original, I know, but I didn’t care. I figured it wouldn’t matter.

Little by little I posted cars I liked and that was that. I had no regard for an audience of any kind. It was meant as a personal “gallery” of sorts for future inspiration. I tagged everything so I could find it later and kept captions out because I felt it would be a distraction—too superfluous for my tastes. Now I have something like 150 visitors a day and 4,500 followers on Tumblr.


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