From the Studio to the Streets: 6 Lessons That Can Change Your Life
Three years of studying Industrial Design have taught me how to sketch better, prototype faster, and think broader. Here are six lessons I’ve learned in and out of class that can change your life too.
1. Your first idea is only your first idea.
While it’s usually the first idea that appears to us so vividly, so movingly, begging us to create it the exactly way that it came, there’s no reason to stop there. Actually, stopping there will destroy all hopes for creative exploration. In school we are told to “kill our darlings”. Any idea that our hearts and mind violently latch onto should be the first to go.
2. Don’t be afraid to put in the time.
We know what it’s like to endure a day of classes, arrive to the studio in the afternoon, and not leave until morning. (Wash, rinse, repeat.) It’s not the most practical or healthy practice, but we know that projects have deadlines. This knowledge gives us a definite objective with an expiration date. We view our time as investments of energy toward a specific payoff. Not even the toughest assignments lasts forever.
3. Collaboration is key.
In grade school it’s called cheating. In design school it’s called collaboration. Instead of viewing ourselves as the chief author of creativity, we bounce ideas off of one another and exchange resources. We know each other’s strengths and barter strategically. Viewing people as prospective collaborators makes it easier to build relationships that lead to personal and professional connections. The same is true outside of the studio. Everyone we meet is a wealth of information. Never forget that.
4. Criticism is collaboration.
Whether it comes from a professor or a peer, criticism is collaboration in disguise. Like concentrated pressure and heat collaborate with carbon to make diamonds, concentrated criticisms collaborate with concepts to make them better. Presentation after presentation, year after year, our skin toughens and we have a deeper appreciation for honest opinions rather than honey-coated ones.
5. It’s never too late to start over.
As underclassmen, failure breaks us down. As upperclassmen, failure builds us up. Even after we’ve moved on from our first idea and have pulled an all-nighter (or three), there are times when we hit a wall and must retrace our steps. A prototype might fall apart, a material might become suddenly unavailable, or we might have underestimated our timeline. But necessity is the mother of invention, and ideas continue to come in the sight of failure. We perceive failure as an unpaved path to better solutions. We know it’s never too late to switch a course of action or change paths. (Granted it’s not the night before the project is due.)
6. 'Impossible' is for the birds.
If nothing else, Industrial Design has made me stubborn in the face of difficulty. As divergent thinking designers, we believe everything can be fixed, improved, and reimagined. In the words of Jay-Z “Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week.” We have all grown to realize that 'impossibility' is just another way of saying ‘it hasn’t been done yet’.