Interview with Sarah Giblin


Winner of Accessory Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Sarah Giblin shares insights

 
 
 
 

Interview with Sarah Giblin at Friday 21st of October 2016:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
SG : I'm a life-long backpack user and commuter. That's my only qualification I have never studied design. In 2012, I realised that the conventional backpack design was causing extra stress and worry when you travel through a busy city, as so many people do. The problem? The person behind you can get into your backpack more easily than you can. So I decided to turn the backpack round exactly the opposite way. In March 2014 I left my job with my sketches to I remove all the zips off the outside of backpacks and put them against your back. I call this the RiutBag: the secure, backwards backpack. It's designed for all real commuters and city travellers who want piece of mind wherever they are. I made the RiutBag with the help of over 2,500 city travellers. How? On crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Thanks to them I now have a living breathing startup and there are RiutBag users in cities all over the world. I now run a one-person startup shipping RiutBags globally every day from www.riut.co.uk. It's tough, but it's worth it to know that RiutBag users feel more secure, confident and calm every day.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
SG : Solving real problems. That's my motivation. Any object around us that we complain about may need rethinking. Is it too big, too small, too uncomfortably, too loud, too quiet, too this, too that? Think about how you would fix it. If your idea works and you want to make it, you can use many free online tools to find other users, survey them and find support for your idea through crowdfunding.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
SG : Look for problems. Any object around us that we complain about may need rethinking. Is it too big, too small, too uncomfortably, too loud, too quiet, too this, too that? Think about how you would fix it. If your idea works and you want to make it, you can use many free online tools to find other users, survey them and find support for your idea through crowdfunding. It's tough, but then so is every job! If you want to have a positive impact on other people by making something that solves their problems, know you can do it. Just look out for those complaints!

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
SG : Design of physical objects simply helps us - humans - interact with the world around us. They enable us to do more than we could on our own. Clothes help us to stay warm, style ourselves in a socially acceptable way and focus on things other than our bodies. Backpacks help us carry more than we could in our hands. They allow our back to take the weight of these items whilst keeping our hands free to interact with other things. Shoes allow us to walk long distances without damage to our feet. Knives and forks allow us to eat a wide range of foods more easily. The list of descriptions is endless. Good design not only enables us to do more, it allows us to do more simply, easily, intuitively and without concern. The conventional backpack did carry things; but it made us feel worried because the zips were in the wrong place. The RiutBag design allows you to carry all your tech and belongings, and now you can do so safely and securely, which means you feel less stress every day for years to come. We should not only choose better designs to use every day, we too can be the creators of new designs.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
SG : User thinking. I use survey tools like www.surveymonkey.com to ask my RiutBag users and other commuters or city travellers what are the problems they face. Have they got a good place to put their keys? Can they find they phone easily? I ask them what they like about urban travel and what they can't stand! I look at all this information and design to solve the real problems I see in the data.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
SG : The RiutBag is the only thing I've ever designed and made. My favourite part of the design is the core feature - zips against your back - and the D-pocket which belongs to the new RiutBag 2016. The D-pocket lets you store your smartphone and access it on the go whilst keeping it secure. You can also keep your passport there for the times you need to move quickly through an airport whilst still keeping your things safe.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
SG : Before I started Riut, I worked in a normal office job in my home town. I was a secretary four years ago and I was a classical singer before that :) Making RiutBags - my own idea - and handling the reality of running a startup every day is the best thing I've ever done.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
SG : For me it's all about problem solving for the user in context. Does this thing solve a problem? When the user is in full swing in their daily life, using this design in context, does it still work? A great design is one that really solves problems and continues to change with user feedback to keep evolving over time.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
SG : My biggest supporters were other backpack users on Kickstarter. Through two crowdfunding campaigns, over 2,500 city travellers raised over £200,000 to see the RiutBag made into a reality. Without this amazing group of online backpack users - the vast majority of which I do not know - the quality of the RiutBag, its design and manufacture couldn't have been a achieved. And it could never have been created.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
SG : I think it's most important to get your design out there and used by people. That means, design, prototype, crowdfund and manufacture. Within 12 months of me leaving my job with my sketches under my arm, there were RiutBags being used all over the planet. Only real users can give you the feedback you need to improve the design.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
SG : Riut, the name of my one-person startup, stands for Revolution in user thinking. I'm going to keep asking RiutBag users and travellers to take my surveys so I can keep upgrading the RiutBag to solve the travel problems of today and tomorrow.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
SG : To turn the world's backpacks around, so we all travel with calm and confidence. I believe if we all feel secure when we travel, the world will be a better place for us and those around us. Lower stress, less suspicion, less hostility and more adaption to our new urban world.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
SG : I've just finished the new RiutBag design 2016. The RiutBag R10 and R15 have both been upgraded with user feedback. I've made my largest production run to date and they are heading to new RiutBag users around the world.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
SG : Riut, the name of my one-person startup, stands for Revolution in user thinking. This describes the RiutBag, revolved my 180 degrees to put all the openings against your back. But it also describes the way I created this one-person startup and how I will run it in the future. I revolve all my thinking around my users. I try not only to impact their use, but their thinking. Can I make them feel calmer, less stressed, more confident with my design? Finally, I encourage other other users to go and make their ideas happen. I'm going to keep asking RiutBag users and travellers to take my surveys so I can keep upgrading the RiutBag to solve the travel problems of today and tomorrow.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?
SG : Haha! How do I get in? :)

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
SG : Guy Kawasaki's "The Art of the Start".

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
SG : Through doing, manufacturing and user feedback. I learnt on the go.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
SG : Judith Butler, American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics and the fields of feminist, queer and literary theory Elon Musk, founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Motors; co-founder and chairman of SolarCity amongst other companies Skylar Tibbits, American designer and computer scientist best known for his work on self-assembly and pioneering the field of 4D Printing

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
SG : Feedback from RiutBag users. Whether it's praise, challenge, criticism or delight, feedback is what keeps me going. It inspires me to solve new problems, extend my thinking and revolve my thinking more closely around my users.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
SG : This is a very interesting question. I believe humans will still be recognisably physical in form, as they are now. That means, we will stiff take showers, need protection from weather with housing and have to consume energy i.e. food. I don't think we will be ethereal digital beings. In the next 1000 years, I imagine a great deal of experimentation with machine enhancements of human to have taken place presenting large problems but making bigger steps towards safely enhancing humans making us, to a certain extent, cyborgs. I doubt that all people - no matter how rich - can access this technology. I believe the gap between the rich and the poor will increase, leaving the least well off in the world to remain as they are now; but the super rich will live on mars and possibly other planets, enhance their bodies with machines and use unthinkable means of new forms of communication and transport. These people may have internalised the objects we currently rely on e.g. the phone, computer and communications systems within their bodies. If they have cracked teleportation, RiutBags will no longer be required by the super rich since they won't have to carry anything again. However, the poorest people who stay on earth, may still have to carry things from A to B. The design problems of the future will have to help different groups of humans to interact with this new world. If we still drink cups of tea, we will still need mugs! But the problems of the future are likely to be very different, especially for the super rich.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
SG : I'm speaking at TEDx Brighton 2016. My talk is called: How to innovate without being a programmer I sell my designs exclusively at www.riut.co.uk shipping globally every day Anyone interested can visit Riut's Facebook page www.facebook.com/riutbag or Twitter, Instagram and Google+