Dining with the Dons of Design

Shaun Modi
May 21, 2015 · 2 min read

Last week I was privileged to have the opportunity to eat dinner with a group of some of the most talented design consultants on the planet. The night was titled “The Design of Things”. It sounded interesting, but I really had no idea what to expect.

Walking into the dimly lit dining room, I quickly realized that this was going to be a very special evening. The talented folks in the room were prolific designers who have created many of the products that we know, love and depend upon. Collectively the group had 150+ years of experience designing products that have changed the world in a profound way. What I realized is that I was having dinner with the “dons” of industrial design. The masters whose work I’ve studied over the years. Whoa.

So what did I learn?

We spoke about all types of things: design education, internal vs external design teams, projects that were corner stones of our careers, collaboration, design process … everything was fair game. What is most remarkable is that I asked a ton of questions and every single person at the table was open and candid with their answers. They shared personal insights into their work and approach to product design. This got me thinking. The most valuable things I’ve learned in life are through real world experiences: great successes and spectacular failures. Second to my own first hand experiences is the value of learning from family, friends, mentors and acquaintances who are willing to open up and share.

This experience prompted me to think about the increased secrecy taking place in technology product design. Why are we so afraid to share our processes, techniques and concepts? In our experience at TM, the key to building great products is through transparency, communication and collaboration. How can one build a compelling product if they don’t receive unique opinions and inspiration from others? Some of the greatest products Steph and I have designed over the years have been informed by impromptu conversations and raw feedback.

If we are all a little bit more open and transparent with each other, our products and companies will certainly be better off for it. Lets get together for more meals and open up the kimono a bit. After all, design is a creative act to invent products that improve the human condition. Lets share more knowledge with each other and invent the world we want to live in.

The Dons.

Thanks for reading!

-Shaun Modi and Steph Bain, partners at TM

    Shaun Modi

    Written by

    Partner and designer at TM. Previously at Airbnb and Google.

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