Last night I attended UNITE, a panel series that brings together people from diverse design fields to share their experiences. The topic of this event was Design x Entrepreneurship. It was held at General Assembly's new Bush Street campus and put on by the yet to be launched Design Museum San Francisco, a pop-up network of physical and virtual exhibits. This UNITE panel featured three amazing speakers: two former IDEO designers and a Canadian architect.
"[being] a generalist is something you add on top of a discipline." -- Mimi O Chun, designer and artist
Mimi O Chun is an amazing designer and artist. Check out her Kickstarter, Pete Peanut and the Trouble with Birthdays a book for which she has created and photographed all the miniatures (you'll see). Formerly of IDEO (I've already mentioned), General Assembly and AirBnB, Mimi talked about how she started as an artist, the benefits of mastering your discipline then branching out to gain experience in a variety of fields and disruption at either ends of the market spectrum.
"there is disruption to be had as both ends of the spectrum, innovating with a market leader like Walmart or creating a startup like Good Egg." -- Mimi O Chun, designer and artist
Angie Kim quit her job as an industrial designer at IDEO and launched her own line of leather goods called AYK. She talked about how a seven month stint in India for work inspired her to start a fashion line. Every day she walked past people making handcrafted goods on the street and while she was familiar with the process of designing products for clients, she was never able to derive pleasure from having ownership over and seeing someone enjoy that product she made. So, she returned to the Bay Area, quit her job (quite a bit of thought went into that) and enrolled in a Pattern Making course at Academy Arts in Oakland. The rest, as they say, is history.
Andrew Dunbar is the founding architect with INTERSTICE Architects, a Bay Area firm that does a range of work from residential projects to civic spaces and streetscapes. Armed with a graduate degree in architecture from my alma mater, he launched his design business in the late nineties and apparently never looked back.
"Woody Allan was right, 95% is just showing up." -- Andrew Dunbar, architect
A great storyteller, Dunbar shared the experience of attending a life altering career fair (which he was studying at the time) where the majority of the engineers complained of being miserable in their jobs and the lone architect who enjoyed what he did and spoke about the pleasures of working in the field. He acknowledged that luck played an important factor in his career successes; but as my mother repeatedly said - luck happens when opportunity meets preparedness.