In this ongoing Q&A series, 12 simple questions are posed to people across different industries to reveal what it means to be creative, whatever your vocation.
Answering the questions this time is product designer, Steven Olsen.
C O N C I O U S N E S S
In a nutshell, what do you do?
I am a product designer, designing luminaires and getting them into production. In my spare time I have also tried to design the ‘holy-grail’ of mountain biking: A belt-drive mountain bike which has a gearbox with no external gears – perfect for what I call #greatbritishweather.
What’s your creative process; how do you get stuff done?
I was taught at a Bauhaus Design School, whose methods are still relevant today – ‘Form follows function’. My process involves research, conceptualisation, prototyping and testing, refinement, production drawings and manufacture.
The most creative parts are the concept and refinement stages, however there is some to-and-fro at each stage to get things correct. It’s all about understanding the material and the relevant process needed.
Everyone works differently. When did you become aware that your creative process is your own?
It can be nurtured through the Bauhaus ‘thought process’ in design training. At 15 years old I was aware that drawing was an important part of the design process and realised that I could draw something and then get it made in a different way.
Materials and processes have changed and got cheaper, so all of this gets put into the mix when designing something. For example, although 3D printing has been around for over 25 years, in the last five years the cost of printing small parts has come down significantly. This factor has definitely effected my process.
When are you most creative?
In the morning, after some coffee or a bike ride. There is nothing nicer than sitting down with a piece of paper and sketching out a solution or a detail to a construction problem.
Can you be creative in a vacuum or do you need outside influences to help?
I can turn it on and off. Sometimes thinking about it subconsciously can resolve a problem.
E X I S T E N T I A L I S M
Did you seek being a creative or did creativity find you?
It found me. I discovered that I was able to draw better than most kids when I was 10 years old, so that lead me to pursuing a creative career.
Do you think your background has had an effect on your creativity?
Not really. I was encouraged to draw, but I also enjoyed drawing.
Have you ever struggled with creativity?
I struggle to choose the correct conceptual path and often have to follow several or go back, trying to rethink something or stripping an idea back to its basic or fundamental needs. ‘Do I need this feature, or do I want this feature?’ Again, that Bauhaus teaching: Form follows function – the stripping and shaping of a product back to how it is going to be principally used. By doing this, you will create a product that transcends fashion and ultimately have a long lifecycle.
D I S R U P T I O N
Is there any one person, thought or thing that’s changed the way you think?
Marc Newson has some designs that look simple but are extremely well conceived, with no visible fixings and an uncomplicated future aesthetic. Although slightly retro in styling, he has an interesting approach.
Do you have one piece of advice for anyone starting out as a creative?
Draw and keep a notebook with you. You never know when you will have an idea.
R E F L E C T I O N
Do you think creativity has defined you?
Yes, I think it has taught me to challenge everything. Ask questions. Is there a better way to make something?
What would you like to do if you weren’t doing what you do now?
Designing bikes to pay the bills and make living off. Or travelling the world by bicycle?