#BEOAFellowship Week 3: Diving into design in San Francisco

Keep following along with the 2018 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship as Defne and Janell explore the world of design.

After visiting Laura Guido-Clark Design and learning about their approach to color, how has your view of color changed?

Defne: The visit to LGC made me realize that colors can be used in various ways to connect people together and create a sense of community, as well as convey a certain design language. Also there is so much to color than what meets the eye. Unlike what is usually being taught, red does not necessarily have to be a color that is passionate and aggressive. With different hues red can be warm, red can be inviting or friendly. Talking to Laura Guido-Clark made me realize that we have a rather narrow-minded way of looking at color and as designers, we should explore it more.

 Laura Guido-Clark Design teaches the fellows a bright & fresh outlook on color.

Janell: Visiting Laura Guido Clark was very inspiring because her outlook on color was extremely emotional. She emphasized that you don’t have to see color, you feel color — and through research, she actually found that humans were given the ability to see color in order to recognize human emotions. It really stuck with me when she phrased it as “color reminds us that we’re human.” Learning this made me understand why she is so passionate about empowering other communities through color. By transforming educational spaces, her nonprofit Project Color Corps has given students a sense of pride and ownership in their school, making them eager to learn and engage.

Designing a product is only part of the process, what have you learned this week about getting your product out there?

Defne: I learned that how you brand yourself, reach out to clients and sell your products has just as much importance as the design itself. There are so many products out there that you really have to stand out with your design outlook to show why you are different and why your design matters. Product packaging, logo and brand identity have to be compatible with the vision you have as a company but also answer to the client’s expectations. For example, if your designs are minimalist and modern, you really have to find that middle ground between keeping your packaging and branding simple while providing enough information to the customer. Easier said than done!

Hands-on with the designers at AJK Design actively pitching their products.  

Janell: From our company visits this week, I was definitely surprised by how the process differs based on company size. With a one and two-person team respectively, AJK Design and Council are very active in getting their products out there. We actually got to tag along to AJK Design’s pitch to an architecture firm during our time with her. Not only did this show the difficulty in playing all of the roles in a company, but also the possibility of gaining exposure despite all of her hard work. Derek Chan from Council mentioned that they usually hire representatives to get the products out there. In comparison, Fuseproject has a studio of 100 people and mainly focuses on the designs themselves, with the idea that the design will market itself.

In San Francisco you visited several well-known design firms – Gensler, Studio O+A, Fuseproject – what did you learn in visiting these companies?

Defne: Good design rarely happens without collaboration. Often in school projects, you as the designer are in charge of designing, creating and pitching the product without really getting another opinion other than your professor’s. I have seen that in big companies, designers not only work with their coworkers, they also work with independent artists and companies as well as get approval and opinion from salespeople, executives and other professionals.  It was fascinating, however, to see that how multiple designers can come together to create this one specific brand image for their respective company regardless of their background.

Exploring graphic design case studies at Fuseproject.

Janell: After visiting several larger and well-known design firms, a common theme was their emphasis on creating an inviting and accommodating workplace. With the goal of attracting young talent, some companies aimed to offer the things a small San Francisco apartment couldn’t. This really highlighted the importance of studio culture in the evolving design field. These larger design firms also often offered a range of design services to their clients — from architecture to product design. Each team always tried to incorporate another into their current project, understanding that by collaborating on the experience as a whole rather than one element creates a more cohesive design.


What was your biggest takeaway about design and manufacturing at Pablo Design?

Defne: I think knowing who you are as a designer and believing in yourself and your products goes a long way in such a subjective field. Pablo Parlo as a creative director knew exactly how he wanted his brand to be executed, manufactured and shipped and made choices accordingly in terms of deciding what products are to be released into the market next and how they should be released. Of course there is a lot of research and product development that goes into designing something new but it is important to be confident in yourself and persevere no matter what obstacles you face and just be confident in your design and decision making process.

Diving into the development of new products at Pablo Design.

Janell: While the idea of modular design is quite popular, I was really taken aback by its application in Pablo Design’s lights. Not only does it allow for easy customization, but it also makes it easier for damaged parts to be replaced. These considerations take a lot more effort for the team to design and engineer, but the results illustrate the care put into each product. Although this is a small detail, it showed me that going the extra mile to achieve good craft is essential to successful design and becomes something for clients to be excited about.

You have visited a variety of small & independent companies, like AJK Design Studio, Laura Guido-Clark Design, Council, Sarkos, and more. What have you learned about starting their own business, and has this shaped your interest in starting your own venture?

Defne: All of the creative directors of their own business said the same thing about being your own boss: “It is challenging, it is a lot, but it is worth it.” I personally have always hoped to have my own company one day but I thought that you had to have a certain background and gone through a certain design journey to start your own company. I quickly learned that as long as you have something unique to offer to the world, you don’t have to be this cookie-cutter entrepreneur that knows exactly how to handle a business from sales to manufacturing. You just have to keep pushing, get help when you need it and be confident in yourself and your process. That was really encouraging for me to hear!

A moment for pause & inspiration at SFMOMA.

Janell: Through our visits with different sized companies, it’s been established that independent designers can choose to sell the rights to their design or start up their own company. While both options come with their own set of risks, it’s been very encouraging to meet the entrepreneurs who have successfully set off on their own. We discussed some of the growing pains, such as learning the business side or handling large orders in a small shop, but the independent lifestyle still seems to pay off. Seeing that good design speaks for itself has definitely disproved my doubts about starting a business.

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