Overcoming his fears to create opportunity amidst the economic downturn

Meet Hector Silva of Advanced Design Sketching — Industrial Designer

How did you get started as an industrial designer?

My first taste of the industry was summer of 2008 when I landed a design internship with TOMY, a toy corporation based in Oakbrook, IL. During my sophomore year at UIUC I had built an Optimus Prime costume for Halloween, I documented this process visually and ended up putting it in my student portfolio, as a last minute project. The guys at TOMY were extremely impressed at the quality and accuracy of the costume, the costume is what got me hired.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m first generation Hispanic, the middle child of a big family, there are six of us in total, five bothers and one sister. Grew up in the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Back of the Yards. I’m a product of the Chicago Public School system — went to Curie High School, a performing arts high school on the southwest side of Chicago, where my interest in art and design began, first with sculpture, then later on with Set Design. I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with an interest in set design, which quickly changed to Industrial Design. After graduating from UIUC in 2009, I worked for five years as a design consultant for companies such as Nickelodeon, LeapFrog, Foster Grant, Insight Product Development, Lund & Company Invention and various entrepreneurs.

Most recently, I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to obtain my Master of Design in Industrial Design, shortly after graduating in 2015, I was hired at UIC as an Adjunct Assistant Professor, in the Industrial Design program, teaching introductory courses in design and design sketching to first and second year design students. I’m a recipient of the Core 77 Design Awards 2016 Student Notable Consumer Product Award for my work with wearables in the medical field; work which was completed for my graduate thesis at UIC in May 2015.

I’m also the Chair of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) Chicago Chapter, which allows me to contribute to the Industrial Design community. I use my influence to collaborate with studios such as Garmin, MNML, LUNAR, TEAMS Design and others, to host events that benefit students and professionals alike.

This past summer, I founded the Advanced Design Sketching organization, a student-led organization to help students be productive during the summer when classes are not in session. We wanted to help students be productive, get them motivated, and give them access to the best designers around the world. We began reaching out to students and professional designers to offer their insights on design sketching and have continued obtaining these testimonials to create a one of a kind video library.

What was a defining moment in your life?

After I graduated, May 2009. There was a global economic downturn. No jobs anywhere. At this time in my life — I realized I couldn’t run away from this global crisis, so I decided to make an LLC and begin my path down the world of contracting. This was a defining moment in my life — it was my transition to being an adult, being on my own, working as a designer while figuring out the business ends of an LLC.

What fears or resistance did you face in that process?

The fear of failure, and the fear of success. Failure because no one wants to fail, no one wants to go through the emotional toll of being let down, losing money, being in debt, and burning bridges. Success because you’ve never been there, you don’t know what it’s like, how to grow efficiently, hire others, hire the right people, surround yourself with the right team, etc.

Is there a favorite quote or mantra that gave (or gives) you inspiration? Or did you have a power song?

One of my favorite quotes:

“Be great, be so great that people can’t ignore you”
— Steve Martin

As far as power songs, when I need motivation or when I’m working out, lately I’ve been blasting Kanye West.

How do you define bravery?

There are a couple of ways that I define bravery:

1. Honest: being honest and state your thoughts and feelings without fear. It’s ok to tell someone how and who you really are. Recognize those who don’t have a voice (children, animals, etc.) and defend them accordingly.

2. Internal: anything that takes you out of your comfort zone.

3. External: in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I think if you’ve ever seen someone battling cancer or some other horrible illness/disease, that’s epic bravery. I look at these people putting on smiles in the face of Armageddon and I can’t with any certainty at all say that I would handle it that well.

4. Alone: bucking the tide and standing alone, rather than going along to get along, when it matters.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone facing a challenge?

Get around people that lift you, that motivate you to be the best you. When you’re facing a challenge, your support group will be there to face these challenges together — inclusion is everything.


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