Broadening Your Horizons

Last Thursday in Design and Technology we had a talk from PD graduate and One Foot Taller Designer, Cathy Barak.

Cathy educated us on her design journey from graduation up to the current day. Often we get talks from designers telling us about all their great achievements and history of their products, but Cathy was different. The presentation was quite uniquely focused around the phrase "Seeing it my way". There was more of a philosophical approach to her talk. It was a very thought-provoking journey through her design reasoning and personal life which ended with the statement, "Know what you're doing and why you do it!".

The advantage of becoming a self-employed designer is freedom. You have the choice to make a difference in whatever way you see fit. Cathy chose to define One Foot Taller by embracing fairness, equality, environmental responsibility, humour, the bizarre, elegance and finesse. But knowing how you present yourself and knowing what you design are very different things.

After nearly 20 years of designing beautiful chairs, recycled washing machine glass bowls and "uncompetitive" flat pack furniture, Cathy settled on becoming a lighting expert. Much like wine tasting (for the wine lovers), you will enjoy most wines, hate a few and never get sick of your favourite. But how can you ever know without experimenting?

Broadening your horizons has been very much an underlying theme throughout our D&T talks. Not one designer who has talked to us knew what field they would end up in when they graduated university. But each of them had strong views on what great design is to them. They design to their own beliefs. The end product of these beliefs may result in new camera rigs, glass bowls or cycling shoes but they never start with "I want to design a shoe". "Cycling in my dress shoes is shit, I want to design something more comfortable and user-friendly". The "why" brings them to the "what".

Finding an area of design you're passionate enough to apply your beliefs doesn't always come easy. It takes time, effort and experimenting in various design fields. "Know what you're doing and why you do it" is a strong philosophy to live by, especially if you find yourself mentally lost in the middle of a failing project.