Interview with Mauricio Issa

Winner of Accessory Design Awards

Award Winning Designer Mauricio Issa shares insights


Interview with Mauricio Issa at Friday 21st of October 2016:

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
MI : I was born and raised in Colombia, South America. I've been interested my whole life into building things, started with a Dremel making balsa wood models, Airplanes, then I came to USA on 2006 on an exchange program and the funny thing is that our school had one of the best wood shops, I learned a lot and made nice wooden projects.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
MI : Since I have memory, I've been interested in building things. I started building balsa wood models with a Dremel Mototool and a glue gun that I got from an uncle, then I started to buy more advanced tools to build breakfast tables, side tables, I even got into custom car sound systems with a friend. all this with no background at all, just for fun. My parents kept feeding that desire and allowed me to do pretty much any mess that i wanted in the garage. My otter passion is always been entrepreneurship, so I decided to study Industrial Engineering in of the best business schools in Colombia, Icesi University. They have a double degree program, so when I was in 5th semester of engineering I started in parallel Industrial Design, I knew that it was going to happen since day 1 but I started engineering first because it would take me less time to validate both at the same time. It was a worthy sacrifice.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
MI : I decided, I love materializing things. from basic to complex ideas. My family nurtured it. and the circumstances have played in my favor, allowing me to work and learn from great and talented people.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
MI : I like mass production products, thing that you can use and are not for a museum. I really like solutions that make changes in people lives, it doesn't matter if is small or simple, just one simple positive change. I would love to get more involved into designing intangible solutions for businesses and systems. Business models and that sort of things. I already started learning, reading, nurturing from other fields.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
MI : wow. I wouldn't say that, legends are made by years and years of great work, I'm still in diapers, design wise, I'd say. I believe is essential and it might sound cliche but " never settle and always keep looking". I think one quality most young designers need is " your babies are not perfect " and accept "critics" positively as a chance to improve. If someone criticizes your "baby" it doesn't mean is bad, it is only an opinion, you can take it or leave it, but is always good to pay attention to it.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
MI : I think there is a paradigm with this question because i think great designers depend on the timing. For example in the 20's and 50's we saw a proliferation of probably the greatest designers of all time, Breuer, Pantone, Eames, making things that were ahead of their time and some stills are. Great designers are always one step ahead of everything, trying new things, new concepts, thinking outside of the "outside box". But now days, you have to add to the making of that new "thing", the impact. How this "system","product","business" is going to impact the world, the feeling and life of the users in a positive or negative way.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
MI : in my humble opinion. it should serve a purpose, be cohesive with the concept, use and user, be what it was intended to be. A really good design is those things that make you say " damn, this people really thought about it, the product, the model, the strategy, the impact from all sides". The product doesn't need to be complex or perfect, but the "whole" is so cohesive, clever and well executed that there is no way you can say a different thing. that is my humble opinion.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
MI : Good design makes a positive impact in people and animal life. Companies sometimes forget that "things" material or non-material are intended to be used and whether is human or animal, the interaction should feel right. If through good design practices you can make something even more positive of what you are doing right now, the question should be why not investing on it?

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?
MI : I would love to get involved in energy solutions, for cities, rural areas, etc. i think we rely so much in only electricity generated by power plants that we forget we need a backup plan. and better if is several backup plans.

DL: What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
MI : I would love to explore how to use the energy we loose in organic waste every single day. i did a concept for a Colombian competition several years ago, that explored this idea. Just using organic waste to generate gas for power , cooking or heating water . An ancient idea used in rural areas but for cities. Imagine NYC without organic waste.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
MI : just keep learning and surrounding with people that knows and is way better than I am. keep your brain curious as a 5 year old child.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
MI : Eames, Breuer and Dieter Rams great executions and forward thinking about materials and design in general. I really like the iconic work from Oscar Niemayer and Santiano Calatrava. Giugiaro - his mind is on the future, always/ Yves Behar and Scoot Wilson from the new generation - I really like how they see design as a whole. I like their executions in social design and Business models.

DL: What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
MI : I love things that fit on the context and work. I really like the A9 from bang and oluffsen, it is simply beautifull and the sound is perfect and the emeco navy chair, because i can trow it from a balcony and it will survive, it is simply indestructible. I absolutely love the serif TV the Bourellec brothers did for Samsung and I also love the Hippo Roller from Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker, i think its a really good solution for the context in which is used for.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
MI : I did a project "Rana" with a friend Dario Narvaez. It is a ring toss game inspired by a Colombian game. Is the kind of things you think don't need intervention, but there is so much potential and concept exploration behind them that we spend almost 2 months figuring out the concept and getting rid of things. It is the kind of projects you do just for fun, so there is no limitations.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
MI : keep learning, not only design related. cooking, gardening, learning how to put tile or how to make a great capuchino. reading about business strategies, marketing, biographies, '' chicken maternity for dummies '', what ever you can learn, it will help eventually, somehow.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
MI : Architect or mechanic engineer - gotta say I find a lot of inspiration in those two fields.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?
MI : though one. For me design " thinking creatively ahead"

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
MI : always my family, not only my parents, my uncles, siblings, friends that are like family. and I gotta say, I owe lot to people at college.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?
MI : I would say I'm a great designer. I just enjoy what I do, that is why I don't see it as a job but as a way of living.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
MI : Design master is a big word. but I had to avoid people with negative feelings, sometimes people think because you enjoy and don't take too serious yourself, they think you are being arrogant or feel superior. Is not that at all, I just love when people give constructive critics to what I'm doing, so I also like doing it, i like asking questions. And every designer is in love with their baby.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?
MI : the project should be shown as a story. try to cover the whole in a way everybody can understand your decisions and the outcome.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
MI : More projects for ArloSkye, and personal projects. you need to feed your design needs from different angles.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
MI : To become an entrepreneur. It is funny but I'd like to use design and not just design for others. I think building companies and creating jobs is a way of adding a lot of value to the society. You don't give away money, you create a company and 20 jobs and let them earn their money.

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
MI : the people that know me, always expect that I won't stop. and if i have to stop, I'll resume for sure.

DL: How does design help create a better society?
MI : Design can be used in 100% of the fields, companies and products in the world. from a service to a tangible product such as a Chair. The goal is for designers to understand that they not only make nice furniture but that they can add value to a hotel experience or a social cause. I happen to love designing tangible things, for now. but it doesn't mean i will always do the same. Some designers are crucified because they are not designing things but instead they opted for a social approach or a service design. I say, that's great and I respect a lot people that try to do meaningful things with their lives. Design allow us to think in a different way, which should be always welcomed in any context and organization.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
MI : I can't talk about that much it but it has to be with luggage.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
MI : The Carry-On for ArloSkye gave me a lot of inner satisfaction. It was a long journey from conception, long nights, long weekends. but we managed to get it done.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
MI : Shifting the mindset that a designer only draws nice things. A lot of designer are complementing their careers with other areas that are really suitable for any company. And the designers need to understand they need to learn more things besides drawing nice things.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?
MI : A lot of companies are getting their own R&D labs and in-house design teams to explore possibilities. Which is good because they have understanded that good design is good business. I think a lot of designers will become CEOs of companies, just because they way they think. I also think design is becoming more and more "in-material"with intervention in areas that you wouln't imagine.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
MI : Depends. from a couple weeks to years.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?
MI : Asking a lot of questions. It is good to have the correct brief and constraints from the beginning but not paying too much attention to them on the concept phase where you need to fly. at the beginning it's a give and take.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?
MI : learn, you never know when something might be useful.

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
MI : Hard to say. I think some people just do things because they can and they want, and suddenly that becomes a trend. and some people take a trend and do something with it. So I would say it is both ways in my opinion.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?
MI : At the very first stage I really love the technology called "pen and paper" and making quick mock ups to prove ideas or concepts. but I use the computer for pretty much everything else. Renderings, CAD, more realistic sketching with a wacom and for initial research.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
MI : I have a lenovo laptop workstation w540 and a wacom cintiq companion 2. With Solid works, PTC Creo, Adobe suite, sketchbook pro, Keyshot and my favorite Snipping tool !!

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
MI : it is so important that it can affect how people feel just being in the presence of the "thing" or using the service that you designed. the whole experience should be enhanced by the correct selection of materials and colors.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?
MI : The concept behind. sometimes it makes a good talk.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
MI : I really like to see the process behind it. the effort to make it so simple to understand but the struggle to get there.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
MI : I believe in co-design 120%. It is hard to design just yourself, by yourself. Nothing better that having a working great team that throw ideas and not worried to ask or say that they do not know something. better if the team is multidisciplinary. I do not have an ideal design partner, but i like people that love what they do and take constructive comments, positively. I like people that argue with fundamentals and facts.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
MI : Coworkers and friends that I've worked with. I think from every single one of them I've learned a lot. As i said before, I've had the honor to work along with really talented people to whom I owe a lot

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
MI : Creative confidence, change by design and the laws of simplicity are great design resources, and in the other hand you might think this two books do not influence design wise, but they have, on me. the books are. Zero To one, Rich Dad Poor Dad and Kaizen methodologies.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
MI : learning, practicing, living one day at a time.

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
MI : from the past, I would love to know what the hell was in DaVinci's head and from now I would love to have a talk with Manoj Bhargava the founder of 5 hour Energy. His R&D program for new inventions is simply, great.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
MI : I don't see awards as a way to get famous but more as a validation that all the effort and work you are putting into something is worth it.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?
MI : I really like Nardo Gray. Place, gotta say that my parents home, they designed it. Pizza !!. Spring. Thing, my watch, it has more meaning that monetary value and brand, have to say that I love designs from Bang and Oluffsen, they just push the boundaries.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
MI : I have cut my self and had so many accidents ( not serious ones) at the shop and so many tetanus shots that a nurse told me I'm immune already.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
MI : Seeing the results of what you have done. when you see people on the street using or interacting with something you have worked in, that is a great feeling i have to say.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
MI : I have always liked making things, so I guess I was nurtured towards that path.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
MI : I don't even think we are going to be here in 200 years if we keep at the pace we are right now. In a 1000 years we are going to be probably in a different planet or this planet might change its name to Planet Water.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
MI : I would be great to have fans hahaha !!. I'm a simple person that enjoys meaningful things on life. loves motorcycles and pizza, and good sound.