What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work? I’ve been bitten by the user research bug. My design work is always much richer when I experience who and what I am designing for. I recently made the jump from industrial designer to design researcher to refine this expertise.
“My design work is always much richer when I experience who and what I am designing for.”
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking about design? My design philosophy is a culmination of many experiences: internships, Scandinavian design, but my education at Auburn is probably the biggest influence. Auburn developed my design approach from stylizing to problem solving.
You worked for Generac Power Systems as an Industrial Designer and Senior Designer for a number of years. What advice would you give to student designers today who are striving to land their first job as a designer at a company like Generac? Do as many internships as you can. It’s always easier to get a job with real world experience and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn from professionals in a short amount of time.
You are currently a Design Researcher at Milwaukee Tool. What is the most interesting or perhaps rewarding part of your current design work? In my new role I focus only on the fuzzy front end. I don’t deal with line reviews and manufacturing constraints. I love discovering and framing problems, working with a team to turn insights into innovations.
You are clearly a successful designer in your field. In your opinion, is it harder for women to become successful in the field of design? Working in a male dominated field there are egos and sometimes a little discrimination to overcome. Work hard, be professional—you’ll prove yourself.
Is there a difference between working in design with women or with men? Have you ever been treated differently because you are female? Women and men bring different perspectives to design, that’s why it’s great to have a diverse team in sex, education, and experience. Working in the tool industry, I’ve definitely been spoken to and treated differently because I am a woman. I don’t let their ignorance paralyze me, I just prove them wrong.
While you were in school at Auburn, do you remember a specific design project that challenged you the most? Ironically, my Generac sponsored studio was the most challenging. This project got me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know what a generator was and I couldn’t relate to the user. Let’s not forget there was the 1:1 scale appearance prototype— woof! I grew a lot as a designer with this project. I learned that as long as I understood my user first hand, I could design anything.
Would you recommend some resources that young designers might find useful? I’m a big fan of: levoleague.com, theeverygirl.com, Corporate Creative: Tips and Tactics for Thriving as an In-House Designer By Andy Epstein and TED talks. Pinterest has been a great tool for me to organize inspiration and articles.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in school? Designing for retail. You have seconds to captivate a shopper. Make sure your features are placed and designed on the product so they can be seen and understood on shelf- don’t hide them!
“I love discovering and framing problems, working with a team to turn insights into innovations.”
What should a young designer avoid doing when applying for jobs in the design field? For industrial designers, don’t get stuck on your portfolio design. Your storytelling ability and thought process is more important to employers. Do a gut check: have a friend review your portfolio to see if your story makes sense to them.
Designer responded to questions in 2016 via email.