Living the Dream

2015 Midwest District Design SMA Winner: Rotimi Solola, S/IDSA

Rotimi Solola, S/IDSA, says he’s exactly where he wants to be. The 2015 winner of the IDSA Student Merit Award from the Midwest Design District grew up in Chicago and always wanted to work for Motorola. Upon graduation from the University of Illinois-Chicago this past spring, Solola jumped right into a full-time position as an industrial designer at Motorola Mobility’s Consumer Experience Design division in the Windy City.

Solola’s journey began halfway around the world. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria and arrived in the United States at the age of five. He found out about industrial design through a high school project driven by traditional hand sketching and digital rendering techniques. “I knew that I wanted that to be in my future…. I later realized that designing products came most naturally to me, so I decided to pursue that in college. Since that decision, I’ve been very fortunate to have met so many talented people, and to have been a part of so many amazing opportunities.”

During his college years, Solola interned at Design Integrity, Motorola and Minimal.  He returned to Motorola to start his career. “Since early in high school, I often wondered what it would be like to work at Motorola; they are responsible for some really awesome products throughout the decades, and I wanted to be a part of that,” he explains. “Now I can say I am a part of that.”

One of Solola’s SMA presentations proved necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Solola, a former track athlete, found MP3 watches distracting during workouts. He designed the Bezel watch, to make it easier to control music during a workout, without having to look down at the device.

ID has changed Solola’s life in more ways than one. “When it comes to winning things I’ve always had poor luck, but since accepting Industrial design as my path all of that changed for me. When I found out I won the SMA, I was very pleased and relieved that all of my all nighters were put to good use. I was honored to win this award because the students who presented that same day did an outstanding job.”

Solola sees industrial design as “the important bridge between craft and business.” He adds, “It has truly made a positive impact on the industry as a whole, but there comes a point where too much of a good thing, is no longer a good thing. As designers we are problem solvers, but we sometimes forget that with every problem we solve, we create a new one.”

Solola says just as the world is changing, our industry must change and adapt. “We have to ask ourselves—are the problems we are solving, truly greater than the problems we are creating? Now, as well as in the future, and the Future of the Future, I believe it is our responsibility to ask ourselves a question: Is it possible to grow our industry and shrink our negative environmental impacts? If so, how?”

And just what lies ahead in his future? Solola hopes to lead his own design practice someday, and leverage his experience to launch products that—as he puts it—will matter.