When did it click???? Your design eye that is....

I thought I would throw a post up here to challenge everyone to think back and remember when everything just “clicked” or you got that Ahha moment and you started to see things through a designers eyes. I know most of you will say when you were in school or even before you went to school, but what is it that made that happen. I would also challenge that the working world changed those visions.

I have my story, but thought I would get others first. I thought this would be a good contrast to the other negative topics we have been posting lately.

Took a sketching and rendering course, it was pretty good but some of the things didn’t really click in. Here, about a year later I grabbed the gnomon sketch+render videos, plus watching the idsketching tutorials, all the stuff I lost started coming back again, but made more sense.

I used to think of drawings as lines, and got stuck on that. Draw all the edges, now what?
Then seeing forms that make sense pop up on paper by nothing more than waving a pencil around, that was magic.

I think the main difference is in a classroom, the teacher only has so much time, and all the students have different problems. With a video file, you just jump back a bit. Watch it on your phone later. There’s no real interaction but the pace is on your terms.

Sure, this is something real basic, but it’s what everything builds up on, really.

3rd year of college. I was an ME major. I was at about the 4th page of solving a differential equation from my fluid dynamics course - a power law equation for non-Newtonian flow through a square tube. It came to me at that exact moment - I can determine the answer, math is simple, you follow the rules and you get the answer - but I thought to myself, “I don’t give a s***.” I didn’t care what the answer was.

Next semester, I switched majors to “art”. That went well with the parents :unamused: .

This is going to sound strange, but it clicked when I became a manager. I realized that I was a mediocre ID at best but I could create a good environment for designers and develop great talent. That was the first click. There have been others, such as a) when I got really involved in IDSA and found I could help the profession and b) when I started speaking to business people about Design Thinking so that I could extend creating good environments for designers. So I guess I have from ID to Business Model Design.

Some people may think this is turning my back on my “calling” but hopefully other will see it as strategically helping the profession. I leave that up to the individual. In any case I am happy.

My story is about the same as Tim’s. My first 2-3 years as a designer were spent pumping out what I thought was good design but looking back on it, it was just ascetically pleasing products and packaging. There was no real thought behind it or strategy. I would have to say that there were a few reason for this, but most of all it was due to the fact that I was working for someone that really did not understand the Industrial Design process and thought more of me as a person that makes things look pretty.

I have to say the moment that it all start to click or come together was the moment I was taken out of this environment start not looking at what the product looks like or even how it functions, but what the emotions and experiences are that the product provokes. One memory I will never forget is one day I was in a CVS, waiting in line buying toothpaste. There was a mom and a child in front of me and she told him that he could pick out one piece of candy as a treat for be a good boy at the doctor’s office. This kid picked up a bag of M&M’s and had the biggest grin on his face that I have ever seen in my life. I looked at my wife and said that is what we design for everyday, to create those feelings and emotions. Not too long after that I was moved to the seasonal group and I have never forgotten that we are not just designing products and packaging, but rather memories and experiences.

Definitely multiple clicks.

The day I learned what Industrial Design was when I was 13.
The day I found the book “Design and Rendering Techniques” by Richard Powell when I was 14
The day I was almost kicked out of college
My first year at Evo
My first Year at Nike

and most recently, my first year of being a design director. Learning to apply ID problem solving skills (gasp, design thinking!) to setting the design language for a collection of products, showing how that will evolve over a 3-5 year period, building and mentoring a team, navigating corporate environments, and still designing some products! The first year I was responsible for all this was really difficult. I made a lot of decisions I might reconsider now. Tried to hold on too tight to something, and didn’t zoom out enough. And then all of a sudden, about a year in, things started to fit a little more like clockwork. It just made more sense, and it felt less like juggling, and more like orchestrating.

I stared at this line for almost a full minute. Awesome.

I was an American Studies major during my college freshman year and hated it. I had always done well in all of my art classes and had participated in advance classes at the local university when I was in 7th and 8th grade. For some reason it never dawned on me that I could use my art talent to earn a living.

One night during my college freshman year my roommate and I were lost in the liberal arts building and stumbled on a big orange door that said “Industrial Design” on it. Most of the time this door was secured with a key card system, but for some reason I stopped instinctively and tried to open the door. It was unlocked.

We walked up a flight of stairs and saw a small gallery full of prototypes, sketches and renderings. We kept walking and saw rows of drawing tables (this was a while ago…). Then I saw the prototype shop. Cool. This random, serendipitous, unguided tour was my aha moment. You COULD make a decent living with art talent. It just needed to be re-focused to include problem solving and a few other disciplines.

The next day I went to see my freshman year adviser and changed majors. I’ve never regretted that decision for a day in my career.

I never remember ID not clicking. I didn’t always know what ID was, nor what role I wanted in it, but I knew that I wanted to make stuff.

I’ve regretted it. I was under-employed for a year after school, and I often thought, “why couldn’t I just be a flippin’ accountant…it would be so much easier.” Having said that, I hate anything easy. I’m constantly frustrated (as it appears others are). That also means there is always progress to be made.

awesome story!

These are great stories.

I was a Physics major at NC State and as I was moving into the higher level classes, I started to think, “I don’t want to spend my life in a lab doing research, I want to do something… make something.” Looking for something different, I took 2D and 3D Design for Non-Majors at the School of Design. Those two classes changed my life. I spent the next year building a portfolio and was accepted the following year. I started the design program in my 4th year in college, but I never regretted it. It took several years to convince my parents that I wasn’t throwing my education away.

For me, it clicked several years after graduating–at a small consultancy in New York. Once I felt I truly understood how design, manufacturing and materials are interconnected, that understanding gave me tremendous confidence in my abilities.


I used to make cardboard computers when I was 6 years old [this is pre - commodore PET…] so it was always there.

To be honest I don’t think it really ‘clicked’ until I was about 32. I could appreciate design and do pretty good designs up until then but I think something happened that made my work much better.

Experience is the key from being good at a few things, to understanding a lot.

However, with age my patience for results has gone out of the window :slight_smile: So if it doesn’t ‘click’ immediately the idea is dumped.

November 5, 1955. Yes! Of course! November 5, 1955! That was the day I got design.

I remember it vividly. I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the sink, and when I came to I had a revelation! A vision! A picture in my head! A picture of this! This is what makes good design possible: the flux capacitor!

It’s taken me nearly thirty years and my entire family fortune to realize the vision of that day. My God, has it been that long?

Great Scott!! We have to go back to 1985!!

These are great stories. Lets keep them coming.

I’ve felt it more than once too…

At 17, applying to landscape arch they said my portfolio was more suited for ID, then explained what it was

I felt like “got it” when making big job decisions too - the pressure made me realize what ID was worth to me.

  • Right out of Uni I turned down a ft interface job for a temp ID position… felt huge but there was really only one choice
  • working with freelance projects and really realizing the value of design for companies - we make huge difference
  • after taking dream job slightly outside of ID, I found it didn’t ignite my passion like before. Leaving to follow what I really wanted to do in ID was like a knife in the gut, but chasing the potential in ID was too tempting

oh, and every time I re-do my portfolio I feel like I get it for one a particular interest… then 3 days later I hate it again :laughing:

Dare I say that “it” was just there from the beginning?
I loved to play with bricks and model cars. Always building houses and garages.

But I was never interested in plants and animals. My brother could watch the little ants for
“hours”. I wouldn’t. But what really got me was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Nuova Super of a guy
in the neighbourhood.

That one stopped me in my tracks from elementary school every day. I loved everything about it
and could admire it’s lines, leather seats and instruments, even when it wasn´t moving.
Some day I started to ask myself why I favoured it so much over the others neighbours cars.

  • That might have been the first time I cought myself thinking about car design. (8 years old)

  • When I was 13 I learned that drawing cars (what I did under the bench) was a “real job”.

  • When I was 17 I found the first books on industrial design, which tought me how things that were not cars
    were designed.

As I write down about those clicking moments in my life I wonder, if switching from product design to product management was the very best decision.

Not sure where composing fits into that picture. Because that is what I feel I am doing now. Somehow I am
becoming to remote to the results of my labour through the interpretation of the “musicians”.

Got to think of that for a minute

Yours mo-i