Designer Limelight: Fifi

At MESH01 we want to begin to highlight some of our recent winners, and introduce the community to our fellow designers.  I recently had the chance to catch up with Fifi the winner of the “Ariaprene Green” Accessory Design Challenge.

First of all, congratulations on first place in the “Ariaprene Green” Accessory Design Challenge.  How did you learn about MESH01?

I found the link by searching “Sports Design Competitions”. I searched for this, as it’s an area of design I am hugely passionate for and inspired by. I wanted to show my interest in this industry by extending my portfolio within it. Luckily for me Mesh01 popped up on the search and it was just what I was looking for :)

Have you entered design competitions before?

Yes, many back in my university days, from Audi Young Designer of the Year to Eli Lilly Medical Design Comps. Since finishing Uni, I enter competitions to keep my designs fresh and allow myself to experience other industries beyond my job. I recently joined OPENIdeo for design discussions and enter graphic comps here and there on designboom and the like. Designing is one of my hobbies too.

I see that you are a toy designer; can you tell us about your path towards becoming a toy designer?

Sure, as part of my university degree in Product Design Bsc, I had to take a year out to work. I was lucky enough to land a job designing Playgrounds!! It was super fun and taught me all I know about Adobe Creative Suite (something they never taught us at university!) this was priceless. I had a great time designing playgrounds, interiors of nurseries, skate parks etc. I designed Pirate ships to Theme park Playgrounds – some of which I was lucky enough to see being installed!

I also had a summer job working in Johnsons Wax in the candle manufacture department. It smelt real good ;) and provided me with 24hr manufacturing experience.

These experiences gave me the knowledge within the children’s market, designing to tight budgets and manufacturing capabilities. These jobs plus my degree kind of allowed me to be a jack-of-all-trades; I think this is what got me my current job as a Toy Designer. You have to be quick, efficient and a multi-tasker.

Who are some of the designers / artists that you pull your inspiration from?

Artists inspire me for sure, they provoke thoughts and inspire direction in my life – I love Rob Ryan’s paper cuts. However I don’t tend to get inspired from the ‘famous’ product designers. I pull inspiration for my products from other industries and every day experience that I encounter. I admire people who perhaps are not designers but they are creators, thinkers, trendsetters and inventors – they turn ideas into businesses that manufacture and produce products from them thoughts. My favorite company is Burton snowboards for their story, their product and their love for the job!

How do you see designs role in society?

Everything. Everything is designed, everything needs some thought to it. I used to think when I was younger that only the pretty things are designed; however I soon became to learn that everything is designed in a particular way for a reason. I love that thought. Even the little toys you get free in crackers – designed to be cheap!

I used to get asked when I told people I am studying Product Design “What is that?” I would say Designing Products. They understood :)  The world revolves around buying and selling products, everything is a product whether it is tangible or not.

MESH01’s community is located all over the world.  I’m sure they would like to know, what the design scene in England is like.

Its great. The older I get, the more I see how big it is. Being such a small country you can be lapping up the surf one hour and the next be in a city – your brain can be continually worked in a short time. I was very lucky to get a job as a Toy Designer in the UK, as the bigger companies tend to have their headquarters in USA. A lot of my family live in Michigan, USA and worked for Ford many generations ago – Detroit was always a city that inspired me, it was the place of so many inventions and the outdoors life of the lakes is where I got my sports/fashion inspiration from. The extreme sports scene is huge now in the UK with the big USA sponsors coming across the pond and the aspirational sports such as surfing wake boarding etc. gaining huge followings in the UK now.

Our graphic design scene is perhaps bigger than our product; they have the use of our ancient history to delve into for inspiration and our multi-cultural society. No one held me back or said I couldn’t do it, I was always encouraged to follow my dreams to be a designer and invent products which I think is fantastic and I have meet some amazing people along the way who have helped me do that. My mums a creative and great with crafts, my dad has the scientific inquisitive mind, so I suppose I am combination of them both, which is why I think product design fits me so well. I should have know I would end up being a designer as I would go around the career fairs only picking up the college brochures with the coolest covers :) I never wanted a boring job nor a career, I wanted to do something I loved and I wanted it to be different every hour – I am good at the things that don’t bore me so I will be sticking to design for a very long time.

Thank you for the interview, Fifi, can you offer any words of advice to the other designers out there in the MESH01 community?

Do as much personal work in your spare time you can, don’t just do 9-5. Enter as many competitions as you can, ask for live briefs, invent your own products – you can’t get by in this industry without going the extra mile as there will always be someone doing more than you. Don’t focus your designs to one industry as it’s easy to get pigeon holed – stay fluid and varied, then the opportunities will come to you from all sides :)