THE VALUE OF DESIGN

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Why does the world need design? Many still aren’t so sure we’re needed, but here’s my argument:

First, designers understand the hierarchy of what is important. We start and end with the user because (in most cases) they are the primary stakeholders. Designers understand the relationship between the user and the product, and that’s no accident. We observe, study, and become the users. We are the bridge between people and objects.

If somebody approached the product without being told how to use it, would they know how to? That brings us to intuitive use… designers make that happen (that’s really all I got for this one).

My favorite is that designers create culture. We understand history and revive it. However, we use the good features and abandon the unnecessary ones. There are too many products in the world that we don’t need or don’t use because frankly, they were not designed well.

The value of design is derived by the value people place in products. People make design not only important but a necessity.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

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I tend to spread myself too thin. It’s a good problem to have because it means I’m enthusiastic about a lot of things (either that or it means I’m crazy, another strong possibility). Unfortunately, I did this the first semester I was taught by Chris Hardy, a remarkable furniture designer with incredible talent in detail and storytelling. Well, I wasn’t able to complete this project to the quality that I wanted. It had such a great story developed from my time spent in Sweden, but my physical model failed to accomplish that story. However, I did spend many all-nighters (because of my time constraint) to arrive at the conclusion of the story. All that’s left is the execution.

Regardless, I have decided that I will accomplish that execution by the end of the year. But before I can commit myself to finishing this (awesome) rocking kid’s bench, I have a few things I must do first: Create the Gusteau Salt & Pepper set out of 3D printed metal to be sold, create a video for L.E.M. (possibilities of it being sold online as well), and lastly, my latest personal project (shhh! it’s a secret).

As designers, it’s important to keep in mind that no project is ever truly complete. If we stay idle, we will lose touch with the up-and-coming innovations in the design field, and (more importantly) we will lose touch with our talent and passion that got us into this field in the first place.

Omar’s design tip: Keep on that grind. You will recognize and appreciate your sacrifice staying up those extra hours when you look back, and it will be evident in your products.

Also, Color Me Black prints are now available! Purchase yours here.

EXPANDING YOUR SKILLSET

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I have been living in Minneapolis for two months now, and it is AWESOME! I am fortunate to have great coworkers and a nice job after only recently graduating. Another interesting thing to note is that I am the youngest person on the team. This puts a lot of pressure on me because I feel like I have to prove myself as useful as the rest. Luckily, the professors at Georgia Tech have truly taught me well. All of the failures I experienced within the design process are now easy avoidances. I am thrilled to see the progress I make at Enhance, and the new capabilities Enhance will offer in the future (we’re getting a new 3D printer)!

Remember when I mentioned a personal project (in collaboration with Photographer and Editor and friend, Scott Valledares) that will be debuting in November (see last post)? Well, now that November is over, it is fully live! If you would like to see the project, you can click here to see the project via the computer. If not, follow @colormeblack on Instagram to see the full collection. Here’s a brief synopsis about the project.

Color Me Black: We often interact with the same foods during our day-to-day activity but never truly appreciate the subtle juxtapositions of their shapes, luster, textures, stiffness, and more. In order to train this perspective, we spray painted every day foods completely black. The removal of color allows for better understanding of their subtleties and becomes an articstic interpretation in itself.

The palette now becomes the canvas.

As an expansion of my skillset, I must have measures of success to determine if I have properly accomplished the role of Creative Director. I will determine this based on three factors: views, public reception, and sales.

Views: How many people follow the Instagram account, how many blogs post about the project (does this one count?), how many people view my portfolio page on the project (which will be up once sales are put in place).

Public Reception: What are people saying about the project, are people “liking” the photos, are people begging for more?

Sales: How many prints do we sell?

Currently, Scott and I are setting up a shop to sell canvas prints in various sizes of each photo. Stay tuned for that! Till then, enjoy the photos. And, look out for next expansion of my skillset: Animation.

WINTER IS COMING

I am happy to announce my official acceptance to Enhance Product Development! I will be braving the cold, cold snow this winter in Minneapolis, Minnesota (but it will totally be worth it).

Before my departure, I will be completing a personal project with my friend Scott Valledares. The idea grew from my ever-increasing interest to expand my skillset. In this case, I will be exploring my role as Creative Director. I am incredibly excited about it, and the big debut is on November 1st.

Unfortunately, because of my move to Minneapolis, I will not be able to do the short film for the Red Bull Soapbox race. The cool thing is that I will have an additional videographer role at Enhance, so don’t fret; more videos are sure to come.

Till then, I will have my hands full till the end of the year: move to Minneapolis, Redbull Soapbox Race, personal project debut, and the many projects at Enhance. If you’re ever up in the Minnesota, be sure to say “hi”!

I BLOG, THEREFORE I AM


I recently took a workshop via General Assembly on Blogging: how to market the blog, increase readership, and even profiting financially from it. So, what is this blog all about? WHY DO YOU EXIST?!

There’s a lot that I talk about. Most of it being personal understanding and experiences related to design. Perhaps, I’m just a young voice echoing in the empty darkness of the interweb. I like to update you guys (♫“hello, darkness my old friend”♫) on what I am doing, planning to do, or wish to do.

This serves as a time capsule: to know what my thinking was and to see how far I’ve come. I talk a lot about weakness and failure because I have learned a lot from it. Personally, I believe I am reaching a point in my mental curation of aesthetic that I am headed in a direction that is understood as good design.

So, what am I doing? I am hopefully creating a kickass Instagram feed that mixes artistic photography, design sketches, and some decent captioning. To catalyze this, I have started several series that build off of my Insta name omarandworld: #omarandcity, #omarandpeople, #omarandsketch.

And, I haven’t left the world of video either. Short films soon to come especially now since our (a team of Yellow Jackets) entry into the Redbull Soapbox Race has been accepted!

There’s plenty in the works, and I’m excited to see it all come together. In the meantime, check out my new parody news blog for some good laughs!

BACK TO BASICS

A video posted by Omar Gonzalez (@omarandworld) on


The Hispanic culture is a very vibrant and energetic culture. There is so much opportunity to allow it to bleed into my personal design language. Yet, I have suppressed it.
I think it’s important to learn the basics before attempting to add your personal flair. In some sense, our sense of taste and curation will always show, but we certainly don’t allow it to take over.

Well, for my next personal project, that’s exactly what I want to do. Let my culture drive me towards a product that can personify it most appropriately. Upon first thought, color will be a huge aspect.

But, having lived my entire life here in the States, I have become a bit detached from my roots. For this reason, I will be visiting Puerto Rico to do my ethnographic research. I might be getting ahead of myself considering that the trip (currently planned for November/December) might be moved to June/July of 2016. All things considered, I was feeling cultured when I learned a quick flamenco strum on ukulele yesterday.

Omar’s Design tip: Culture is a great way to tell a product’s story.

STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS

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During an interview, the question always arises: What is your weakness? Although I am fearful of spiders and heights, cannot stand to witness blood, and have a love/hate relationship with heights, I doubt this is what they’re looking for.

So what do I tell employers? I’m stubborn.

I fight for the good ideas no matter how difficult they are to execute. The facts are that we have deadlines and budgets, but I still have to hold my position on pursuing the ideas that have more value in the sense of design, story, and sustainability.

Along the strain of being stubborn, I work until I get it right. One time, I actually stayed awake for 60 hours straight because my design continued failing, and I refused to leave the studio until I had what I wanted.

Can you blame me? In college, we are taught design morality and adopt environmentally friendly approaches. Sure there were deadlines but not any hard deadlines that would affect the production of tens of thousands of products. 

Do I uphold every sustainable principle there is? Definitely not. Is this a rigged answer to the question? Perhaps in some sense. But, I think there is a sense of strength behind every weakness. Honesty can be a weakness in some cases while having the ability to lie can be a strength.

But, I stand behind this… probably because I’m stubborn.

CHAPTER 2: LADDER


Life is just a series of ladders.

Rung after rung you climb your way up one ladder just to make your way to the next. The education ladder, the higher education ladder (actually different from the prior), the internship ladder, and finally the career ladder. Our minds are embedded with this idea that everything in life builds upon the next; there is a sense of chronology without shortcuts.

This… this is bullshit.

Thanks to the internet (I was tempted to say “because the internet” here), we now have the ability to do just about anything. The vertical ladder has turned sideways. We can now sample completely different fields with just the click of a button (literally). Thomas Friedman called this globalization in his book The World is Flat (not directly but rather a contributing factor).

Here is a video promoting Orbit, a wind powered bicycle headlight. I intend to launch a Kickstarter campaign late this year (although now that I think about it, I might push it till Spring considering the increase in bicycle usage during that time of year). Not only that, but the L.E.M.  side table will soon be up on Etsy.

There’s a lot we can do nowadays, and I intend to take advantage of some of it.

I will not climb anymore ladders. I will design my own.

WAY BACK HOME

Work.

The word and everything it implies is negative. But, there are places that people enjoy working at.

Thanks to the exhibition and the thought behind the pieces, I was given the opportunity to work for a nonprofit SparkCorps. This has given me the privilege of working on projects for the CDC and Marta with others soon to come. But, the best part is that I don’t just sit in a cubicle cranking out SolidWorks models all day. If anything, Orange Sparkle Ball (the studio in which SparkCorps is based) is a hub of great thinking.

Meaghan Kennedy (the founder of both OSB & Spark Corps) is big on nurturing young talent to great potential. She is behind the scenes to make sure you make it to the spotlight. It’s quite modest in many ways.

Last week, OSB debuted their new studio location (which is now in Old 4th Ward [which is a really rad place right on the beltline across from Krog Street Market]). We socialized, ate, made stamps, and even binded our own sketch books (by binded, I mean stapled).

We definitely produce great work, but I enjoy it so much I feel bad calling it “work”.  There’s a strange sensation of being in a foreign place but feeling like it’s home.

All in all, good vibes. 

FINDING PURPOSE

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My exhibition at Modern Atlanta’s International Design Expo has concluded. It was an exciting and thrilling experience. I even had to pull a few all-nighters after having graduated college (I hear they never end). I am quite thrilled with how the project turned out, primarily because I have never done social commentary before.

It was interesting to sacrifice function for purpose, to design for social good, and to create awareness (something intangible) rather than a product (something tangible). But, why would someone with interest in furniture and products not build a portfolio that demonstrates that particular expertise and abilities?

Well, I’m still dabbling remember? I am exploring many things and trying to see where I fit in this giant world of contracts and jobs. The greatest part of the exhibition was not having my work displayed (even though that was pretty damn cool) but rather the conversations I had with others. This exhibition, for me, is more of a catalyst than anything else: a catalyst that will propel me into my career with an expanded skillset.

None of this was possible without the mentorship of Chris Hardy. He helped me realize my greatest skill is storytelling. In terms of detail and curation, I learned the most from him. I remember having to go through 100′s of sketches before reaching a concept worthy of latching on to. It was certainly a privilege to learn from someone who has gone so far so early in his career.

See the project here: http://www.omar-gonzalez.com/work#/trendsetter/

STARTING LINES AND END GOALS

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During a recent interview, I was asked, “What is your end goal? What do you want to do in design?” It’s a brilliant question despite the frankness, and I’m not sure if I have an equally frank answer.

I still have many ideas for personal projects that I intend to bring to fruition as well as perhaps a kickstarter campaign (more updates coming in June). But, I don’t think I should worry about an end goal now. I want to see where my career leads me. Do I want to do traditional product design? Sure, but then again, I haven’t done much of anything else. Maybe I am a sickass UX designer in the making. Maybe I am more of a custom fab furniture sorta guy.

But, here I stand at the starting line of my career. I am still preparing for the Modern Atlanta exhibition and then I will focus on (frantically) putting my portfolio together. I am also going to be dabbling more with graphic design so perhaps you’ll see a bit more of that in the future. I am excited to see what I am capable of, and I think that’s the best kind of excitement.

Also, my mentor Chris Hardy just debuted his collaboration piece with Jens Risom! It’s a gorgeous modular cabinet system. See the beaut here.

LIFE AFTER “GETTING OUT”

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“Do you have a job?” It’s the question everyone gets asked after graduating college. It’s the question every graduate hopes to say “yes” to. But, it is not my case.

Remember that crazy looking graph I mentioned in my blog a few months back? Well, it is part of an independent study with Chris Hardy. I will be exhibiting three furniture pieces through Modern Atlanta in early June. I have one piece completed and currently working on the second. I am excited for the opportunity and expect to create awareness on the issues I am targeting.

I may not have a formal job, but I am always working. I was privileged with an interview today with another coming next week. The great thing about being a designer is that you’re never just a designer. I am a photographer, a forger, an anthropologist, a researcher, a cinematographer, a curator, a tinkerer, a sketcher, a storyteller, and so much more. I won’t let any opportunities go to waste, and I certainly won’t let anything inhibit me expanding my skillset and widening my career. I am confident in my abilities, and as long as I have that, I am capable of a great many things.

THE END OF A JOURNEY


I have suffered, and I have triumphed. The conclusion of an 18-year venture is coming to a close. How am I supposed to feel? Am I suppose to have all of my shit together?

One thing I do know is that I have learned a lot. Georgia Tech has unhinged a curiousity in me that will continue to fuel my design career. As evidenced by countless all-nighters, I have gained a work ethic I didn’t know I had. For once in my life, I was challenged. People doubted that I could make a functional orbital wheel, but I did it. People doubted that I could make a metal forge, but I did it. People doubted that I could create 20 handcrafted salt and pepper shakers, but I did it. But most of all, I doubted that I could become a designer.

My goal with my design career is to inspire others. I want to achieve more than something as arbitrary as financial success. I want to create innovative products that can benefit society. This is why I dare to challenge doubt. The end of one journey means a fresh start of a new one.

Take a peek at my design process in my final project of my college career above. See more here.

WE NEED STEAM NOT STEM

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If someone isn’t good at art, society quickly passes it off saying things like, “Art just isn’t their thing.” But, if that same person isn’t good at Science or Math, they are perceived as dumb. They must persevere and continue working on Science or Math until they are good at it. Why don’t we hold art to the same standards? Everyone would be capable of creating good art if we practiced it as much as we do Science and Math.

I think it’s funny how quickly one is able to give up on their passions if they’re not immediately good at it. If everyone was naturally talented, nobody would be impressed. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be great.

I was amazed by great sketches. I remember going to my first IDSA Regional Conference in Raleigh, NC my sophomore year, and Luke Mastrangelo showed me how to sketch shoes. Spencer Nugent visited Georgia Tech the year after, and I geeked out even more. I realized that I have hands and a brain so, with practice, I could get there too.

My last studio project involved capturing wind energy to power a bicycle headlight. I never thought I was good at rapid model making, but I didn’t let that stop my drive for making this idea into a reality. Try hard, fail, and then try harder.

 I’m still polishing it up, but check out what I’ve done so far here.

BREAK, WHAT BREAK?

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During my weekly meeting with Chris Hardy, he asked me, “How was your Spring Break?” My immediate response was laughter.

When I was a freshman, I drove down to Fort Lauderdale with a few friends. It was a great time. Afterwards, I had this delusion of grandeur that my senior year spring break would be this epic Cross Country road trip that would hit every major must-see in the continental US. Reality soon settled in. I am a student, and although that shouldn’t stop anybody from pursuing their dreams of world domination, one should understand the luxuries of student life.

I am going to miss this place, all-nighters included. Despite the fact that you’re broke every waking moment, there are free Adobe CC licenses, free Solidworks, free Keyshot. There’s even free access to Makerbots and CNC machines and the entire design shop for that matter. And my favorite, I have free use of a 22″ Wacom tablet (*insert heart eyes here*)

How was my spring break? Well, I didn’t go on that amazing road trip (although I’m still holding on to that dream). What I did do was hone my skills. I watched a shit ton of YouTube videos (some may or may not have involved cats playing keyboard) on sketching. I geeked out at Behance projects and did my best to understand realistic sketch renderings. My sketching style can be viewed as a bit cartoony because I am not worried about making sure one corner line hits the other edge line perfectly; I like to let my ideas flow freely. But, there is a benefit in realistic renderings, and as one who is always looking for a sketching challenge, I think I found one. SPRING BREAK 2015!!!

If you’d like to check out the project this sketch is for, see it here.

BEAUTY OF EVERYTHING


I had a very distinct idea of what a designer is, how they dressed, and what they were like. I am a huge Mad Men fan so essentially I just wanted to be Don Draper. But, in actuality, we’re not going to work in three-piece suits (more of a Roger Sterling scenario) or donning (get it?) Panama hats. We’re are the most real people out there. We wear jeans to work; we wear t-shirts to work; we are comfortable at work. As designers, we’re not trying to sugarcoat anything or seem superficial.

The most important thing that has stood out is that we are curators. We curate the world around us including what we like, what we wear, and what we are (we choose to be designers after all). In that sense, everyone is a designer. They choose what car they will purchase and what furniture to have in their living room. We are surrounding by products, but we should be focused on the curation of those products. What are people buying? Why are they buying that?

Here is a screenshot from a mobile game called FOTONICA. If I said it was a first-person version of Temple Run, it wouldn’t give this game justice. There is an intricacy in the details of the complex environments and physics of this blueprint, line-based world. You feel like you’re running through an architecture’s work-in-progress (this is supposed to sound like a compliment). The game costs $2.99, but as designers, we must support good design even those that extend beyond physicality. Don Draper probably wouldn’t play it, but if Frank Underwood plays Monument Valley, anything is possible, right?

PROCRASTINATION IS THE NEW DOING


There are two types of people in this world: those who procrastinate and liars. We all do it. My question to you then is, “What do you do when you procrastinate?”

We live on this small blue marble floating in the nothingness of space, and we can’t even explore that marble in its entirety. We are engulfed by nothingness, by lack of meaning. We are afraid to linger. We must continue moving, occupying, breathing. We are afraid to be alone. Why? Because we don’t know what to say to ourselves anymore (and I mean, you talking to yourself, me talking to myself with nobody else around). This new generation of Millennials and Techies has welcomed technology with open arms but have shut out the world around us. We can’t be bored because we’ve never had a reason to be.

Walk around without headphones, without touching your phone, without thinking about that email you have to send. Stop worrying, stop working, stop designing. Take a day to just live.

I am a tenacious designer. I always eager to improve and to get better, but sometimes it’s good to procrastinate. I’ve mentioned cooking quite a bit so here I am whipping up some mac & cheese because a personal design blog does need that “personal” side.

I promise I’ll focus more on general design next week including the most visually stunning iPhone game I’ve ever played. But, I’ll deal with that later.

Check out this article on how boredom boosts creativity!

HERE’S MY STORY

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I’ll be honest: I am a huge dork for video games. Ever since I was a kid, I remember cranking out whatever homework I had for school just for the reward of playing on the computer. My whole world shifted when I got a Super Nintendo (which I still own ((which I still play))). It’s pretty kickass.

But, I loved video games because they allowed me to dive into a whole new world (this is also the timed I was going crazy over Disney movies). It wasn’t the final boss battle that mattered; it was the journey getting there.

I’ve always followed my brother’s footsteps. Hell, we were born the same day except 2 years apart. It would’ve been blasphemous for me not to play that up a bit: a shadow with a two-year delay. I only applied to Georgia Tech because my brother was currently attending. After I got deferred, I rolled the dice and applied to Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech alone. I pursued Architecture until I watched Objectified, and it blew my mind.

I am always very passionate about my current interests. In high school, I joined Cross Country on a whim along with Theatre and Soccer (y'know, cause my brother did soccer too). So when I jumped into design, I went crazy over it. Why did I build an orbital wheel? Why did I construct a metal forge? Why am I making a wind-powered bicycle headlight? Also, why do I sketch so damn much?

It’s because I get drawn into the journey. The journey of becoming a designer.

FINDING YOUR PASSION


Design isn’t like other fields of study. It’s all inclusive. We are the Swiss Army Knives of the world. In that sense of broadness, each designer is unique. We all have different interests and passions, and I’m not talking about interests in design. We lives outside of design. In the same strain as my last post, we are people too. 

Recently, I tried to capture the ever-growing separation between the rapidly expanding 3D printing market and handcrafted wood furniture. The design of the side table might have aesthetics similar to others, but it’s the story that makes it different from them. Similarly, it’s our interests that make us stand out.

I like to play video games; I like to cook; I like to play ukulele. How can these interests influence my design? Or rather, how DO these interests influence my design?

I am not sure if I fully understand the answer to that question just yet. The good news is that I understand that I am influenced by my interests outside of studio. Being a hard and diligent worker is a good thing, but taking time outside of design for other things is equally important.

Check out my side table project: L.E.M.

DESIGNERS ARE PEOPLE TOO


“Employers don’t hire portfolios, they hire people.” Seth Johnson, a designer at IBM (an “IBMer” as he calls it), said this during his presentation at a Portfolio critique. This hit home for me… hard.

I push myself every day. I am essentially the mascot of my studio because I can always be seen there at all times of the day and night. My past projects need refinement; my current projects need to be amazing, and my future projects need to be even better than the ones that preceded them. One time I spent a whole 60-hour stretch working on a project without sleeping! As you can see, I have been very work-oriented.

But, I am not an automaton. I don’t just sit and crank out work. I have interests and hobbies and friends (we’re all still surprised). I cook like I’m on Chopped, I play ukulele as if I was Hawaiian, and I am a sucker for a good musical. I also do stand-up comedy every now and then.

I would love to work at a prestigious studio that produces the sexiest products ever made. But, even more than that, I would love to work at a studio that has a nice group of people. People… that’s something I can invest my future in.

Check out my about page.