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Series one of the Around Design Podcast: what we learned

Back in March, the Around Design Podcast was launched. Aimed at highlighting the critical role designers play in the product development process, the podcast dove into key topics with guests to leverage their opinions on topics such as 3D workflows, cross-departmental collaboration, and establishing a culture of innovation.

Gravity Sketch
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During the nine-episode first season, some of the most innovative makers working in the field today gave insight into their design approaches, from digital creators and design teachers to footwear designers and chief creatives. In conversation with Gravity Sketch CXO and Co-founder Daniela Paredes, Guests shared insights earned from years of experience creating memorable products that matter.

Bridging the gap between 2D and 3D

While we live in a 3D world and interact with products in 3D, the product design process usually begins in the realm of 2D. Typically, that takes the form of a sketch, whether that’s a high-fidelity digital rendering or something drawn on a napkin with a pencil. For many product development stakeholders, making the mental jump from a 2D sketch to a 3D object isn’t always a big challenge. Adding collaboration to that mix means a number of interpretations being drawn and feedback delivered from that one sketch.

To help non-designers “cross that bridge,” design experts are adopting several interesting approaches. Jóse Monroy, an independent footwear designer and digital creator, began introducing a 3D component to his client communication process in 2020. “Not everyone can imagine a 3D product,” he says. So, he starts his work in ArtStation, moves to Photoshop, then goes into Gravity Sketch for 3D ideation before making final adjustments in KeyShot. He finds clients better understand his intent when they’re able to examine different angles and viewpoints that aren’t possible with only a 2D sketch.

Others use both tools such as Gravity Sketch and basic 3D prototypes to drive productive design discussion and feedback. According to Oluwaseyi “Seyi” Sosanya, co-founder of Gravity Sketch, prototypes and models are one of the most important stages of the design process. “When there’s a physical model to hold, it can really align multiple groups,” he says.

The many paths to a career in design

There are about as many different roads to a design career as there are designers working today. Part of the reason for this diversity of experiences is the absence of “designer” on common careers lists. “I didn’t even know there was such a job as ‘industrial design.’ As a kid, I only heard about a few kinds of jobs: doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. But design can be a very rewarding career,” says Seyi Sosanya, whose own path to design included an apprenticeship with a construction company and a major in mechanical engineering.

Renowned independent designer Michael DiTullo saw this firsthand while debuting a new medical product he’d helped create. Michael asked the conference crowd of doctors and other medical professionals if they knew what an industrial designer did. Only a few people raised their hands. Then, he asked if anyone knew what an architect did. Just about everyone raised their hands.

While there is more awareness about various design roles—graphic designer, product designer, industrial designer, etc.—today then there was a few decades ago, more schools and universities should present these career paths as a viable and rewarding professional option. Which brings us to our next theme!

Educating the next generation of “makers”

Perhaps because they weren’t exposed to many “career” designers when they were first starting out, many of our podcast guests have taken it upon themselves to teach the next generation and serve as examples of successful design professionals.

In fact, several do so as formal educators. Martijn van de Wiel, for instance, teaches design at Technical University Delft, Technical University Eindhoven, and The Hague University of Applied Science, as well as online. Spencer Nugent runs learning workshops for people interested in building their design skills.

And Jessica Smith co-founded the S.E.E.D program at adidas, which she runs with Cheresse Thornhill-Goldson, the Director of Design Education and Growth. She created S.E.E.D., which stands for School for Experiential Education in Design, to serve as an alternative to a traditional college degree for BIPOC women interested in a career in footwear design. By the end of the two-year program, graduates are prepared for full-time jobs in the industry and equipped to thrive in their roles.

The language of visual communication

Communicating visually is a language all its own. And like any other language, it must be learned, which means practice, practice, practice. Jared Goldman, VP of Design at New Balance, admits that his first sketches “weren’t very good,” but improved as he received feedback from other designers and honed his skills.

Perspective is a key aspect of the language of visual communication, and something all designers need to be familiar with. Martijn van de Wiel focuses on this in his classes, encouraging his students to take photos of objects of various sizes, and then sketch over them with red pen to better understand perspective, convergence, and foreshortening. Spencer Nugent takes a similar approach, telling workshop participants to go stand on a street corner and just observe, taking special notice of the horizon line and how buildings fade into the background. This process helps them build their “visual vocabulary.”

With other languages, those who can understand can usually also speak and write to some degree. However, visual communication is a bit different. According to industrial designer Michael DiTullo, being able to view and understand a picture doesn’t mean you can also draw it. That’s a skill that needs practice and refinement through experience and education.

Even more insights from guests

This first season of Around Design drove so many wonderful conversations and interesting tidbits of design wisdom. Thanks again to all of our guests and listeners, and stay tuned for Season Two! To listen to all episodes of the Around Design podcast, go to Spotify, Apple podcasts, or Google podcasts.

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