In this interview we spoke to Martin Gibson a recent graduate from UTS Industrial Design, and founder of Embody 3D. Martin explains some of the reasons for a poor job climate for designers and some of the positives and negatives of the industrial design profession. Martin also explains why on earth he started this silly website called Embody 3D and some of the future plans in-store for the website.
Interview by Roxanne Palisada – 17.03.2010
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m an industrial designer by trade, but also very keen on project/design management as I studied this as a sub-major at the University of Technology Sydney. Currently I am working as a contractor doing work for a point of sales company called Warringah Plastics. I also tend to find myself spending lots of time in graphic design and web design – but tell me an industrial design who doesn’t I guess.
In my remaining free time I am busy making sure articles on Embody 3D occur every now and again, sending many emails, and undertaking too many hours researching and blogging.
Why did you choose to study Industrial Design at University?
At high school I was kind of referred to as that nerdy kid who could design websites, as not everyone could do that back then, there was no such thing as WordPress, Blogger etc, you had to know good old Dreamweaver. I used to make gimmicky websites for student groups and bands I was in at the time. Once high school finished I really wanted to do graphic design, but my father told me there was no money in graphics and the industry was way too competitive. So I decided to take on industrial design which was apparently a more ‘prestigious strand of design’ (nothing could be further from the truth).
What do you believe is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt while in Design School?
That’s a really tough question. I think that industrial design is not art. It is a real scientific industry where every design decision must be justified with reason. When people say industrial design is ‘arty-farty’ I get quite offended as we are not in our studio chucking paint at walls we are conducting marketing analysis studies and talking to users first hand. However I am not suggesting that there is no creativity in industrial design, there most definitely is, but it is all about creativity with purpose. We also have many constraints like material, environmental, ergonomics, manufacturing, durability, aesthetics, price and the list goes on. It takes a very talented person to be able to consider these elements simultaneously during the design process.
What aspect of design do you perceive as a negative?
I believe industrial design as a profession is substantially under-paid. Many businesses fail to realise the return on investment product design creates. For businesses like Apple, their whole business depends on product image and their differentiation from competitors. Yet many engineering businesses continue to churn out predictable products that have not even the slightest consideration of user interfaces, heuristics and rituals of use. The industrial designer should be the championed employee of every product development business. Industrial designers should be considered the primary source of value-addition to projects, and consequently should be paid in this esteem.
As a recent graduate and aspiring young designer, what and who inspires you?
Unlike many industrial designers I don’t seek any inspiration from the ‘industrial design greats’. I like to create my own style so to speak, but of course like any designer, my designs are often shaped by history. So existing products on the market are always a great starting place when designing, as they say ‘why re-invent the wheel’. I believe as designers we are all corrupted. Every time we go for a walk outside, visit a shopping mall, go on a holiday, these experiences corrupt and mould our thoughts and influence us when we pick up the sketch pen.
I find it is a shame that the greats that many industrial designers aspire to are mostly known for their unique design aesthetic. But design is so much more than that; we often forget the person who designed the gas strut, the spring, the clever joint or hinge. These people have contributed as much, if not more than the design hall-of-famers.
I still love you Marc Newson and Jonathan Ive 🙂
“Go hard or go home”?
As a recent graduate, what do you think the job prospects are for those who’ve just recently finished with Design School?
Unfortunately as many are aware they aren’t good. The global financial system appears to be making a steady recovery and we would have assumed businesses would just start hiring again. Unfortunately jobs are the last facet of a financial recovery. Many in Australia didn’t even feel the pinch of the global recession, but manufacturers certainly did. We continue to see manufacturing businesses in growing numbers closing down completely or outsourcing their manufacturing to China.
Industrial design at a university level appears to be disjointed from industry employment demands. Each year there are hundreds of graduates from UTS, UNSW, UWS, Newcastle and also from TAFE and private colleges who are seeking jobs that can be counted on one hand. Has anyone visited Seek lately (tell me about it). Not only that, these graduate designers are competing with experienced industrial designers who have lost their jobs due to these economic conditions.
There are always opportunities working as a contractor or even commercialising projects into profitable businesses so never loose hope. A shout out goes to Michelle Chung (a graduate from UTS also) which we recently interviewed on Embody 3D for starting her own business based around her designs!
Just this year you started this very website Embody 3D. Could you tell me why you decided to start Embody 3D and where it is all heading? What do you enjoy most about the website?
I started Embody 3D originally as a personal portfolio website to gain more contract work. But to be honest it was pretty poor in achieving this. So for absolutely no known reason I decided to transform the site into a blog. But I wanted a blog that was an open community, where anyone could write about industrial design. I wanted to develop Embody 3D not into a website that exploits industrial designers (like many ID websites do), but rather praises and promotes them. We have done this by giving full credit and link referrals to people who like to contribute to the site. We have vigorously promoted local and international businesses who want to sell and promote their concepts and products, rather than just claiming their work as our own. At the core of Embody 3D is rich and in-depth content that will hopefully educate and entertain our growing number of weekly readers. Our goal is to be a content originator not a content aggregator.
The concept has really caught on which I am most excited about. In just 3 months we have contributors from all over the world, with 2 joining just recently (Go Vivian and Sarah). We have a fantastic vodcast being delivered by Korry Richards which has been such a great resource to the blog. Soon we hope to have a joint podcast up and running with our good friends at Design Droplets. Lastly, we are having our inaugural Australian Student Industrial Design Writing Competition which should be loads of fun. This will be announced extremely soon so stay tuned!
The greatest thing about Embody 3D has been meeting people all around the world passionate about industrial design. These are people who I would have never known about without the site, and they have certainly enriched my knowledge and I hope in return that I have enriched theirs.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I would love to be working as a design manager, or a project manager within 10 years time. But also I am very dedicated to growing this industrial design blog, it a is a real passion of mine and it would be a real dream to see this turn into a full-time job one day.
Do you have any advice to offer those still studying design or are interested in doing so?
For those who are interested in studying industrial design I recommend going for it. Although you may not end up being an industrial designer by the time you’ve finished you will have a broad range of knowledge and skills from research, design, manufacturing, marketing and communication, that will be highly desired by many businesses and industries. For those still studying I recommend getting really stuck into the industry, apply for work experience positions, enter competitions, talk to practitioners and never neglect those subjects on business development.
What is the ultimate goal you wish to achieve as a designer?
I have never actually thought about this. But I like to think that I have no definitive goals relating to design. I rather have desired experiences. I desire the experience of clicking render and a beautiful image being formed in front of my eyes. I desire watching a child playing and having fun with a toy I spent 2 years working on. I desire brainstorming with a team of fellow industrial designers, cross-fertilising ideas and working with one another. I desire raising my beer with a group of workmates after a hard years work (well in my case a glass of Coca Cola).
Embody 3D is proud to promote and support student designers from around the world. If you would like to be featured on Embody 3D’s interview section, please send an email to [email protected]