Each day during the week leading up to National ID Day 2022, we're publishing the comments of IDSA community members who reached out to us from each of IDSA's five North American Districts.
Currently, IDSA's West District includes nine Professional Chapters—Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, and new Women in Design Chapters, WID San Francisco and WID Seattle—and many Student Chapters.
Learn more about a few IDSA members and friends from the West District below.
Donald Burlock, IDSA
Sr. Designer, Amazon Lab126 (Mill Valley, CA)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I was in my mid-twenties working as a mechanical engineer at a car electronics supplier in the Midwest when I first discovered industrial design. It just happened that my team was working on the engineering for a new, in-dash navigation system and we were going to visit with some product managers at General Motors. While in the building, I remember very clearly walking past a studio—I didn't realize it was called a 'studio' then. I just knew that I was immediately fascinated with all of the designers inside sketching car interiors on their Wacoms. I'd always been a moonlight artist and my creativity was very apparent to other engineers I worked with, but I had no clue that I could pursue an entire career in design. From that day forward, I worked on a strategy to transition from working as a mechanical engineer, to chasing an advanced degree in industrial design at Georgia Tech. These days, I work more in user experience and design strategy, but I always keep my ID skills available to inform my design process.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? Industrial design opened so many doors between my ears. Primarily, because it validated so many things that I would think about while working as an engineer. I would always think about how customers were actually going to use a product. I was mechanically inclined already, so to understand that there were entire companies making software to help me shape the solutions in my head was so exciting. Taking a path in design has grown me as an individual in more ways than I can explain. That's why I decided to write a book about it. I've been able to travel all over the world during the past decade, I've presented on big stages, and I've met incredibly talented and creative people from all over the place. It's developed my perspective and shaped how I approach fear and ambiguity. Ultimately, it's given me a tremendous chapter of fun in my life and I've built relationships that I hope will guide me in future career journeys.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA has always given me a home. When I was transitioning to design, I had no clue where to begin. I felt so behind. I had earned trust and credentials as a mechanical engineer with a respectable, albeit short, track record in industry. As I stepped into the world of ID, I had to learn many new languages—mostly visual, but also in terms of writing and presenting. To make that transition late in my twenties was tough and required lots of hard work. I knew I was creative, but I also had to shorten my learning curve in order to have a successful ID career.
Through IDSA, I met individuals and found tools that helped me accelerate my growth. I went after awards, attended seminars, and did more to integrate myself into the community. Years later, my official title and work is no longer industrial design, but IDSA respects my effort and grind from years past. They've recognized me again and again as I've evolved and grown to do more.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? I think that IDSA is working hard to do more these days with underrepresented people from a diverse set of communities. It's not to say that IDSA didn't provide an equitable and inclusive home in years past. Rather, it's that now more than ever, we ALL understand the power of design and how it requires a bias for action. I think that IDSA is stepping up to assess how design has been taught in previous generations and asking out loud if we need new ways to reflect the experience of more people. I think that IDSA is also working hard to ask ALL of us to think about the future of industrial design. I've always seen ID as the beginning to discovering how to be a more empathetic human, keen to the sensibilities that help us feel more human. Of course, this includes innovation—innovating is being human. Ingenuity is in our DNA. I've also considered IDSA to be out in front about topics that are tough to discuss and often neglected in other design circles.
Why do you think industrial design is important? I think that industrial design is important because it gives us a way to be more responsible with our physical world. We all touch something—every day—from a carton to a device to a fabric. Materials define us. Form shapes us and our destiny as much as we shape form. The seats that'll take us to space. The ways that we decide to take away waste from the design process. Even the physical servers that manage all the data traveling through unseen highways and blockchains. ID is where it begins. So I think that collectively ID, being as mature as it is in terms of design disciplines, has the biggest responsibility.
Anson Cheung, IDSA
Partner, Studio Director, Bould Design (San Mateo, CA)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I became an industrial designer because it aligned with things I enjoyed doing as a child/teenager—drawing, making models, taking things apart, experimenting on the computer. As I was thinking about future career choices, I found out this was a real job that had real impact on real people. I haven't looked back since.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? Industrial design has given me a deep appreciation of useful, beautiful things. The objects that surround us make up so much of our daily experience. We are going through a renaissance of design where almost everything is now a designed experience. The care and thoughtfulness of the designer behind the object can really come through and make a meaningful difference in people's everyday lives. Practicing industrial design has also taught me that any problem is solvable with a sound process. Even the largest problems can be broken apart, its constituent problems solved and put back together to make a beautiful, user-centric solution.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA has provided a valuable community for me to connect with great designers, experienced and new, and learn about new developments in design. Recently, it has also given me an avenue to give back to the community by serving as a leading member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA provides valuable resources to the ID community, from running design awards to being a source for industry news. It also exposes young potential designers to the field of design and helps us articulate the value of design to other professionals.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial design is important because it is a keystone function for any company that makes products. Just like keystone habits that unlock other good habits, having industrial design involved as a strategic part of product development unlocks user-centric thinking in all areas of the process. This leads to holistic, well-thought-through experiences that are a joy for users to interact with. Design is not just surface-level polish, it's the glue that holds a great product together.
Industrial Designer, Mason (Seattle, WA)
Why did you become an industrial designer? A fascination and passion for creating intentional objects with distinct personalities and purposes. A desire to work in the physical space, in ways that allow us to communicate with one another without the need for spoken language or debate.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? Industrial design nonverbally dictates our interactions with the objects that live around us. Through the form and function of a 'thing,' we can gather an understanding and relationship with what that object is attempting to communicate with us: the user.
Growing up in the United States with immigrant parents, the engrained physical cues of everyday objects have always been uniquely important aspects of a 'good product' for me and my family. Through my experiences, I believe that industrial design can transcend human barriers (language, cultural, social, economic, etc.) to create truly universal and inclusive products.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA has connected me to countless ID professionals who encourage me to grow into myself in professional spaces! All of these people are open-minded, willing to help, and inspiring in prompting me to push forward in my career with confidence, knowing that they are in my corner.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA serves as a point of connection, communication, and community within the local and national ID community. I see IDSA as a pillar that unites us as industrial designers, while also representing our field to those outside of our immediate field.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial design is a relatively specific profession, but it touches everything that we do. Our daily products and interactions are shaped by industrial design, in ways that go both noticed and unnoticed.
Industrial design is, in my belief, a fundamental part of the human experience. Especially in a commercialized world, industrial design has a lot of behind-the-scenes influence into various processes. With that being said, we must be intentional and educated as designers. IDSA is essential for creating spaces within the community that connect us as professionals shaping the field to share our perspectives and knowledge with one another.
Nick Troll, IDSA
Footwear Developer, Troll Design Company (Denver, CO)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I became an industrial designer because I wanted to design more than logos and brochures (no offense, graphic designers). I was always good at drawing and fine art and I also had a background in working with my hands, and the graphic design program I was enrolled in during my freshman year of college wasn't fulfilling. I found industrial design by accident and it was exactly what I was looking for.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? Industrial design has greatly impacted my life. It's allowed me to be gainfully employed in a profession that I enjoy, it's given me the knowledge and ability to have a real impact at my company, and it's allowed me to travel internationally, which has allowed me to broaden my worldview.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA has been a great source of knowledge and community, both in university and as a professional. As a student, going to the national conference was a valuable networking opportunity; and as a professional, it's been a great resource to stay in touch with the local design community. The International Design Conferences provide valuable information from leading professionals that is hard to search out otherwise.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? The representation that IDSA provides helps to validate industrial designers as professionals. Most large companies have realized or are realizing that design and design thinking ideologies can be applied to other areas of their business to great effect. The representation that IDSA provides helps designers to be seen as credible professionals.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Other than the fact that every man-made product has to be designed, the design ideologies, knowledge, and skills that industrial design requires are related to a wide range of business practices, which can make designers a valuable asset to any company.
Ravi Sawhney, FIDSA
Founder & CEO, RKS Design, Inc. (Westlake Village, CA)
Why did you become an industrial designer? Having an education in math and science, simultaneously with industrial arts and my enthusiastic explorations into wood working and pottery making, I was of a design mindset. Thinking that engineering was what Industrial Design was, I was redirected by the Dean of Engineering to the newly formed department of Industrial Design in the Art Department. There I found a home, studying ID while I took classes in Graphic Design, Pottery Making (Ceramics), Wood Design and Jewelry. By the time I was a Sophomore, I started working as a model maker.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? I am an Industrial Designer to the core of my soul. It’s not what I do, it's who I am, and I'm happy to be surrounded by those as passionate as I am about design and the positivity that it has on my life as we increase the quality of life for others. The personal rewards have been amazing for me; the lifestyle it’s afforded me and my family has been incredibly fulfilling.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? It’s had its ups and downs; I joined as a student in 1975! It was a great time for IDSA with lots of members but, somehow, you felt like an outsider then. Over time, IDSA became less reliant on the new generations of designers and more recently has become increasingly relevant and essential for us as a community of professionals that are highly valued and respected by industry. So, what was once a ‘trade organization’ based in DC has evolved along with the profession itself and now serves to inspire and educate us all.
This generation of IDSA staff is relevant, contemporary, and just what we all needed, thank you!
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial Design speaks to and for the people and how they interact with almost everything—and we make life better in doing so.
Dan Harden, IDSA
CEO, Founder & Principal Designer, Whipsaw, Inc. (San Jose, CA)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I've always been a maker/dreamer/artistic type. As a kid I would frequently draw, paint, and take appliances and motors apart—driven purely by curiosity. My first real epiphany at age 18 was when I found out there was a profession that blended art and engineering where I could use both my right and left brain. I never looked back. I am still over-the-moon crazy about this profession.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? Massive. Industrial Design is my life and lifestyle. I live and breathe it always. I don't really make a distinction between my professional and personal life because I see design as an all-encompassing 'experience continuum' where you shape encounters between objects and emotions as you move through time. Design is a way of looking at the world and changing it simultaneously.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? IDSA has been a resource center and professional enabler during my whole career. It's where I go to network. It's where I go to reconnect and socialize with my ‘design family.’ It's where I go to elevate my brand through vehicles like IDEA or speaking opportunities.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? IDSA specifically evangelizes the cause of ID. It provides a platform for sharing and promoting all things ID related. It gives ID a professional standing and prestige alongside other fields like architecture, advertising, and graphic design.
Why do you think industrial design is important? Industrial design is a potent tool for changing the world because it’s all about solving problems for people. When you witness individual end users inspired by one of your creations, being gratified by its utility, appearance, or performance that creates pride of ownership, you know you’ve made a difference. When you see this positive effect multiplied by millions of users, one realizes what a profound influence good, mass-produced design can have on the world.
A thought about this difficult time we find ourselves in: When you see how many of the world’s problems seem hugely insurmountable, combined with a cacophony of marketing gimmicks that flood our TVs and smartphones, it’s easy to get discouraged as a designer. Especially if you’re a fixer type that thinks, ‘What can I possibly do as an artist and a maker?’ That’s exactly the key. The thoughtfulness, compassion, and empathy that designers instinctively offer as artists and makers is precisely what the world needs more of right now. Designers have an uncanny ability to cut through the haze and offer up a totally new and unique approach to solving a problem. Industrial designers are particularly good at solving individual product problems, but I think these skills should be broadened out to include larger infrastructure-level problem solving where they can make a bigger impact. This is not just a suggestion; it’s becoming a duty.
Joseph M Barrett, IDSA
Industrial Designer, Mediphor (Tempe, AZ)
Why did you become an industrial designer? I felt that if I were able to learn to be an effective bridge between the more technical side of product development and the experiential / human side, that would be a worthwhile challenge that would allow me to have a positive impact on people.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? It has shown me that there is always more to learn and more than one way to solve a problem and has inspired me to keep expanding my skillset.
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? It's great to have a community of people sharing the common goal of bettering themselves professionally and personally...that inspires each other when day-to-day work sometimes makes you forget why you started in this field. I hope IDSA continues to become an organization that inspires all designers to lift each other up and stay passionate about what they do.
Paul Skaggs, IDSA
Professor, Brigham Young University (Provo, UT)
Why did you become an industrial designer? Industrial design resonated with who I was. It was creative, it was hands-on, it was visual. From the moment of my introduction to Industrial design until now I have felt very comfortable and have enjoyed my long career.
What impact (professionally or personally) has industrial design had on your life? I don't separate my professional and my personal life, it all blends together. I am creatively identifying, defining, and solving problems in all aspects of my life. I am a designer!
How has IDSA supported your career path as an industrial designer? I have had numerous opportunities to attend IDSA conferences which have inspired me, informed me, and enriched my industrial design career.
How does IDSA contribute to the ID field and community? A professional society is important to a profession because it gives it credibility: individual professionals working together for the good of the whole.