Interview Magazine has a terrific interview with well-known Australian designer Marc Newson. He ranks up there with Starck and Gehry as star designers, but at least when I’ve seen him talk he’s very down to earth and personable. The interview covers a lot of his early career, but I particularly like two of the answers he gives at the very end:
BRANT: The world is changing, and a lot of people talk about a new order across the board. How do you think that is going to affect design?
NEWSON: Well, I do feel that we’re entering into a period of the incredible—among other things, an incredible period of reflection and introspection. A lot of people are questioning the future, and I can’t help but think that’s a positive thing. I’m not sure about the art world, but the design world may be able to offer some solutions. Design is about troubleshooting. As a designer, I ultimately feel like a gun for hire. Companies hire me because they’ve got a problem. That’s kind of what it boils down to. And I think this is a moment in our history where we need different solutions. Whether that will manifest itself, I’m not sure yet. Obviously there is going to be a focus on environmental issues, on sustainability, but also more on responsibility and practical ways of doing things. I’ve noticed a little bit of a slowdown in the luxury area of my business—which is to say, boats and private planes and such. But in other areas, I don’t see a slowdown. And I feel positive about the role of designers as being able to contribute.
BRANT: Any words of advice for young people interested in going into design now?
NEWSON: One of the best things I ever did was to train in a practical skill. I actually learned how to make things. I love computers and they’ve
become such a part of life, especially to the world of design. But it’s important to understand that they are a tool, as much as a hammer or a saw is a tool. Computers don’t help you design. There needs to be more emphasis on training young designers in how to build things. That way you’ll understand materials. A good writer needs a good vocabulary. A good designer needs to understand his materials and processes. Going to factories and seeing how people do things … You can’t, as a successful designer, stand there and pretend to get any respect if you don’t know how things are made.