Why I Became a Designer and Why I Love it More Than Ever
I love design, I love people and I love technology. And this is an account of why I chose to be a designer.
Ever since I was a child, I had the urge to take things apart so I could see how they worked, how they were made and why they seemed interesting to people. I became deeply obsessed with industrial objects from an early age. I was absolutely stunned when I realized that everything around me was “designed” — one way or the other — by someone.
Designer as a matchmaker between the object and the user
I saw that when some of these objects came alive, they even took a life of their own and start affecting people around them. Sometimes this relationship was a beautiful one and sometimes it was painful to the users. To me, this is almost like a marriage between the object and the user. Design stands in the middle of this marriage as a matchmaker. At its best, it enables people to find the best match to their needs and desires, then leads them to meaningful experiences in the form of objects and interactions.
After design school, my first stop in Turkey was DemirDokum — a locally well-known company belonging to a giant conglomerate. Trying to explain the value of design to an engineering oriented organization was much more challenging than any exams or school projects. I had to start learning how to influence technically minded people with compelling design stories. As the next stop I was the first hire in a brand-new consultancy Can Yalman. I was designing a boat for the first time in my life for a brand new shipyard which was making boats for the first time. There, I tasted the intoxicating passion of learning new things.
From millimeters to inches
This passion fueled me to go all the way up to Umeå Institute of Design — one of the best design schools in the world and about 250 miles south of the arctic circle (yes, it was cold). I got hired by Sony Ericsson right out of school. Just like the Institute, this company was an incubator of good design and innovation. Just a handful of designers, we believed that we could change the world for the better. In 2006, I came to be known as Mr. Walkman. This was one of the most challenging but the most fulfilling tasks I have ever had. With an exceptionally creative team, we made amazing products that captured the imagination of millions of people. This was the first time I had the chance to influence a giant like Sony. When Android was first introduced, we marveled at the novelty and openness of the platform, but we knew that the initial hardware (G1) was too complicated. We created a new paradigm complete with simplified symbols and fewer keys for XPERIA. Jumping from mm scale to inches, I landed at TEAGUE — the world renowned “original design consultancy” where I experimented with user-experience-based design and new creative methodologies for maybe the biggest scale in a product — commercial aircraft. Here I learned the valuable lesson of understanding status-quo before attempting change. Trying to move a giant like Boeing was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
One of the goals in my professional life is to be the creative leader for an innovative organization, but this is just a prelude to my stretch goal, which is the lavishly ambitious dream to redesign the profession of Industrial Design. I believe that design is the only creative tool that can bring technology closer to the humans and help companies be profitable along the way. I learned through my experiences that the power of influence that comes with design should be used with utmost care and always to improve something for the guests of this planet or the planet itself. My passion is to nourish the seeds of meaningful innovation wherever they stem from. What I want is to convert this passion to a fruitful continuum that will bear useful, beautiful and meaningful experiences for the users, together with like-minded people.
I made peace with my role as a designer…
Up until a few years ago, most of my years as a designer were dedicated to convincing people that I was a worthy hire, a worthy project member, a worthy colleague or a worthy leader. No more of that. I made peace with my role as a designer and what my contribution might look like. I set realistic but ambitious expectations and find joy in things that make a change — however small. Being ambitious does not mean beating yourself up constantly. I also re-discovered the joy of learning. As a consultant, I have the luxury of working with a diverse set of problems, technologies and users. I get to research and learn about things I would not have though about otherwise.
Today, I am a Senior Designer (of Industrial, User Experience, Strategy, and more) at HOWL and I feel like I am where I am supposed to be. It is a fast-moving environment with super-inspiring people and even more inspiring projects. For the first time, it feels like my creativity has no boundaries. I am not just saying this. Call it wisdom. Call it experience. Call it ignorance. In the last few years, something has changed. Still, there are limitations, problems and roadblocks around me but, for the first time, all of it seems surmountable.