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Interview with Craig Wilkins

Home > Designer Interviews > Craig Wilkins

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Craig Wilkins (CW) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Craig Wilkins by clicking here.

Interview with Craig Wilkins at Wednesday 9th of April 2014
Craig Wilkins
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
CW: I was an artistic child. I could always draw, paint and construct little objects and structures out of cardboard, sticks and string, but architecture was not my primary goal. In high school, I thought I’d be a cartoonist; at least, that’s what I wanted to be. However, after some thought I concluded I couldn’t be funny 365 days a year, so in my senior year I turned to architecture. I was wrong about that. Being funny, I mean.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
CW: The Detroit Community Design Center focuses on providing ethical, participatory, socio-economically sensitive, aesthetically innovative and implementable design and planning solutions to public, private and institutional clientele in primarily, but not exclusively, under-served urban communities. Its method of environmental engagement is one of teaching and practicing in a manner that derives from, is relevant to, and vigorously engages the community in which the architecture and planning are placed. In short, the Detroit Community Design Center aspires to plan and design with, not for, local community-based development organizations, residents, as well as interested public and private institutions.

FS: What is "design" for you?
CW: Simply, it’s everything. I don’t mean in the sense that it is the end all and be all of my life, but that everything around us is designed. Everything.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
CW: I don’t think I have a favorite, really. I’ve been lucky to have designed buildings, parks and urban spaces, interiors, clothes, objects, brochures, newsletters, books, logos and corporate branding strategies, even greeting cards, not to mention my periods of painting. I guess I simply enjoy creating designs of any and all kinds, for clients, friends or sometimes just myself.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
CW: The answer to this is always the same: the next one.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
CW: Back in 1982 I was doing a summer internship with a firm in Houston while in college. A bank just outside the city hired the firm to create a space plan for their executive office suites. The project designer was swamped with other work at the time so she handed the project off to me to get it started. I’m sure she didn’t expect much. The project deadline was well out in the future and I guess she figured she could always fix whatever it was I created. However, it so happened she liked my solution and decided to show it to the client, whom it turns out, loved it. Thus, a designer was born. A carefully monitored one, but still…

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
CW: Again, oddly, I don’t have one. If pressed, I’d have to say my hands. I still do most of my creative work by hand. I go through pounds of trace on my drawing board like kids today go through countless bytes on their computers.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
CW: In the evening; what can I say? I’m a night owl.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
CW: Experience. It’s where I begin and end each project. From the most to the least affected, I’m always thinking through the experience of those engaged.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
CW: Depends on where I am in the process. It could be anything from frustration to exhalation.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
CW: Satisfaction, I hope.

FS: What makes a design successful?
CW: When all parties feel ownership of both the process and the product.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
CW: whether it does what I has been contracted to do. If it doesn’t serve its primary function, it is a poor design. Period.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
CW: Well…I approach this question from the position of a professional architect. There is no right to practice architecture; it is a privilege granted to us by the public, this monopoly to practice. As such, we have a responsibility, a duty – like doctors and lawyers – to work for the public good, even if doing so sometimes puts us at odds with a client or two.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
CW: In the consumer-based market of objects, design today has become a visual and quantifiable pollutant, responsible for the proliferation of unnecessary artifacts that respond to no real need. The overwhelming majority of designed products are simply variations on a theme; a practice increasingly referred to as design with a little “d”. Currently, traditional programs are producing – in fact, over-producing – designers who compete in the little “d” marketplace, ultimately impacting the lives of, at best, 10% of the population. However, recent trends suggest that design students today are looking to do something more substantive, more meaningful. They want to practice design with a big “D” – to design lifestyles, service industries, businesses and environments. In other words, they want to make a difference. There’s a new social and ethical imperative at work in the field and the expansion of design beyond the production of consumable desire into the areas of social, economic and environmental justice will be one of the driving forces of the 21st century. Design education is becoming much more entrepreneurial. Today, architects have at their disposal, tools here-to-fore unimagined for doing work. A plethora of NUBUS and GIS software programs, laser, parametric and rapid-prototyping technology, an explosion in sustainable research and material production and more are now easily at our disposal. students are being taught the skills to research, design and develop solutions to self-identified problems as well as the ability to create income-generating businesses to produce, fund, market and distribute those solutions to appropriate markets. The next generation of designers will be uniquely qualified to apply their skills on their own behalf or, should they choose, in areas outside of traditional design realms. Graduates may work in careers that involve structuring health care policy; rebuilding infrastructure; rethinking public education, micro-businesses, and nongovernmental organizations.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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