National ID Day 2020: IDSA Members Share their Design Journeys


To mark the occasion of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)'s 55th birthday on March 5, 2020—National Industrial Design Day—we asked members to share about their experiences as industrial designers. Here are three of their stories.


Sheng-Hung Lee, IDSA
Vice Chair, IDSA Boston Chapter | Research Assistant, MIT AgeLab | Course Experience Designer, MIT xPRO 

I joined IDSA as an International Student Member in 2012 and have since received much support and help from this professional and lovely IDSA family. I was honored to win IDEA Gold twice, both in student and professional categories, and served on the IDEA jury in 2017 and 2018. Last year, I was pleased to receive the IDSA Gianninoto Graduate Scholarship. Recently I joined IDSA Boston Chapter as Vice Chair and have started to contribute what I’ve learned in the past from IDSA.

I’m committed to making a positive social impact through the lens of design to better serve communities. The thing I still remember and appreciate the most is that how I as a college student was eager to read the latest INNOVATION placed on the shelf of the library. The magazine covers selected design works, the latest trends, and design methods, and it was (and still is) my source of knowledge and inspiration. Certain great articles have always made me introspect and sometimes lost in the realm of innovation.

Being a person trained in industrial design, I feel designers, in general, should have more social responsibilities. Especially, the new definition and meaning of “ID” has evolved in a fast-paced and disruptive way, because of advanced technology, climate change, overpopulation, and other social challenges. I now view ID as “Integrated Design.” The integrated designer has more than one superpower and can view challenges comprehensively to provide diverse points of view. In the face of all the big, systematic design challenges, the integrated designer acts not only as a problem solver but also a culture shaper. They collaborate with others from different backgrounds and know how to leverage the resources across multiple disciplines to be a great, forward-thinking visionary and to make our world a better place to live.

Along my “D” journey, IDSA has lit my path from a budding industrial design student to a professional integrated designer.



Thomas Duester, IDSA
Co-founder, Formfuture | Design and Innovation Enthusiast 

Being an industrial designer has been an incredible journey so far and I am super excited about where the future will take us. But honestly, being an industrial designer also comes with a lot of challenges and not all of them are fun. One of the most persisting challenges is tthat there still is a lot of confusion around what industrial designers do and the value they can add. There have been moments where it was not all that clear to me anymore either, especially after moving from Europe to the United States, where the word ‘design’ is used whenever something gets created. At the same time, design became more and more connected to the digital world. With a massive demand to invent and create user-friendly, simple, and digital interactions, the focus shifted away from the physical object; and, all too often, the first association that people have when they hear the word ‘design’ is digital interfaces and web content.

But we are still here! And for me, being an industrial designer today is more interesting than ever. Flooded with products, services and information, camd onfronted with self-made environmental problems, we should take the responsibility to ensure that future design experiences are not all about generating maximum revenue. They must also serve real user needs, whilst minimizing the environmental impact throughout their entire lifecycle.

This is something you probably don't want to do by yourself, and you don't have to. Industrial designers today work best as part of a team. The challenge for the designer is to connect and align all relevant disciplines on clear priorities and shared goals. This is the foundation for a successful design and development process. It enables the ID team to generate holistic concepts and helps the entire team to translate complex and often conflicting requirements into feasible, desirable, and successful experiences.

My first contact with the IDSA was about four years back. I was new in town. and because I worked on a super-secret project, it was very hard for me to connect with fellow designers in Seattle. The Student Portfolio review put on by IDSA was a great opportunity to meet talented people and have some refreshing conversations without needing to talk too much about my own job. I had a great day, but somehow lost connection to the IDSA shortly after. A couple of years later, now running my own design studio, my business partner mentioned that the IDSA is going through some changes and that they are looking for support. A few conversations and beers later ,we both signed up and eventually got elected to join Henry Hiltner, IDSA and Anthony Garzonna, IDSA (THANKS!) at the IDSA Northwest Chapter.

Over the past few years, I've observed how difficult it is for young talents to land their first jobs. In fast-paced and demanding work environments, companies have become more and more hesitant to invest in Junior Designers. They need people who can deliver right away with as little guidance as possible. I would like to use my time as a member of IDSA to lower this first barrier and help young and talented people with feedback, advice, and knowledge to get their careers off the ground. I also look forward to having a great, fun time with lots to learn from all the amazing people connected to IDSA!


Josh Hoffeld, IDSA
Chair, IDSA Denver

I joined IDSA as a student member when I attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1999. At that time, the internet was still new and information on industrial design was scarce. I had to rely on INNOVATION magazine in the school library. ID magazine was also a good source, if you could find it.

By joining IDSA, it meant I could have better access to information and people to chat with in order to get an understanding of what was happening and what I needed in my portfolio to get my career started. Fast forward to 2018: I met Jason Belaire, IDSA at Denver Design Week. I inquired as to how I could join IDSA. I kept showing up to board meetings.

By rejoining IDSA as a professional, I am no longer alone. I am finding more designers to exchange ideas, talking with students, and inspiring others in the community. I am very glad to get my hands on the INNOVATION magazines once again to read about designers making an impact through their work.

The role of an industrial designer is constantly morphing to keep pace with technology. The traditional skill set has grown exponentially, yet we must deliver solutions to various problems. We collaborate with others from various disciplines to overcome such challenges. I find it exciting that this field is constantly evolving with new tools in order to show our vision.