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Interview with Ana Maria Gonzalez Londono

Home > Designer Interviews > Ana Maria Gonzalez Londono

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Ana Maria Gonzalez Londono (AMGL) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Ana Maria Gonzalez Londono by clicking here.

Interview with Ana Maria Gonzalez Londono at Wednesday 29th of April 2020
Ana Maria Gonzalez Londono
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?
AMGL: I was always the creative type since a young age. I always enjoyed creative and crafty activities and had a talent for it. My older cousin, also a designer now, was an influential factor in maintaining this interest, she used to draw figurines and I would always try to copy her. I appreciated the passion she showed towards her drawings and I wanted to make it my own as well. My decision to focus on design as a career was further influenced by my high school days when I moved from Colombia to the US. Here I took an AP 3D art class where I had the opportunity to encounter a very inspiring professor and peers, the detailed requirements of this advanced classes, like having to build a portfolio, helped me to understand art/design as a valuable and structured discipline and helped me discover I enjoyed the process of making things with my own hands, going beyond 2D representations which is what I was used to. It was also enriching to be surrounded by talented people from all over the world who all shared one same passion but represented it through very unique and personal ways, this definitely gave me an insight of my own culture and personality and made me connect emotionally to the creative field. After High School, I decided to return to Colombia to study design at Universidad de Los Andes. I liked the closer connection design had to the real world as compared to art and the broad possibilities and directions it can be applied to. I was lucky to find a program that allowed me to explore design from different perspectives. In my University the degree is “Design”, with no “second” name as it is common, says fashion, industrial, graphic design, it was just design of a bit of everything. Although I focused on product, I also had the chance to explore more graphic aspects like illustration, now a hobby I enjoy, and other aspects like strategy and business design. In fact, after graduation I have also explored the different focuses professionally, but keeping as a constant the enjoyment of craft and handmade things. I believe this is my drive as a designer, the connection with the materiality of the world and its emotional effects. As a way to continue to go more in-depth on this passion I recently started a Master in Product Design in Italy at the Politecnico di Milano.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
AMGL: Im currently a student abroad so I have paused my efforts of creating a home decor ceramics brand that started back around 2016. At the time I was still in my bachelor and after taking some ceramics classes I felt an immediate connection with the material and medium and was decided to focus on the topic beyond the academic side. It was a very hobby turned side-hustle approach, I developed the brand, the products and started producing and reaching channels like independent design stores and participating in design fairs. Hopefully one day I can return my focus on this initiative and make of it a more solid design studio type of business and develop more products of a similar category.

FS: What is "design" for you?
AMGL: I believe design is about building connections and reinterpreting the world. Innato, like the name of the collection presented for this A' Design award is spanish for Innate, that is, something inherent in the essential character of something or someone. That is what design is to me. A passion that cannot be contain and a permanent lens that allows to see life through a constantly adapting vision based on the environments you are exposed to, and different social-cultural contexts and needs, hopefully with the purpose of improving how things exist.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
AMGL: I treasure having the capacity to transform intangibles into tangibles and shaping ideas with my own hands. I believe there is value on materializing ideas, being able to actually touch things and give them life. I definitely have a weak spot for furniture, table accessories and home objects in general. I enjoy working with diverse materials and mediums but my biggest passions are ceramics, illustration and crafts.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
AMGL: The very first thing I made for a company in the product field of design was the back cushion of a dinning set chair. I did it while completing my internship as product developer at Zientte, a luxury furniture company based in Colombia. Here we had to figure out the best ways to turn products from render to reality aiming for the best quality and production processes. A lot time was spent in the workshop prototyping, cutting and pasting foams and sewing covers. You would never think so much time and thought is spent on a cushion. Thankfully I always liked workshop labor and then it was satisfying to walk by the stores and see the cushion “I had made”.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
AMGL: Ceramics is definitely my favorite material followed by wood. I cherish the richness in sensations they can transmit through their texture, their smell, touch, etc. They are also limitless in how they can be manipulated and transformed to communicate diverse style and meanings. This versatility and adaptability can expand creativity and allow for more material exploration.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
AMGL: As probably most creatives, I feel most creative and productive at night, anytime after 7pm is inspo time. I also find very stimulating to be outdoors whether in nature or the city just exploring, walking or people watching, specially when doing this alone, I think the conversations we have with ourselves in our head can be insightful.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
AMGL: Coherence is important to me, it is something that goes on every level; on how you conceive an idea, where you find inspiration, what you focus on, who you are designing for, the aesthetics you are following, the materials you are using, etc.. There has to be a clear narrative that makes processes and intentions clear and that gives sense to what and why you are designing something. It is also about tracking the transparency of design, its background, expectations and possible implications.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
AMGL: Im very intense with my work which perhaps makes me experience everything very deeply: the frustration, the doubts, the high expectations, the excitement, etc. But in the end i think there is always the satisfaction of a job well done and of having acquired new learnings.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
AMGL: This has been probably heard before, but every design feels like a birth/ a baby. Some are harder than others, and there are favorites, disappointments, feelings of pride, etc. It’s rewarding to see your ideas materialized. Also realized designs allow space for refection and always make you wonder and see new things and space for improvement.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
AMGL: I believe sense making is important to judge whether a design is good or bad. This categorization really depends on the applied contexts, people and requirements designs are made thinking of. Regardless, I think every good design has some sort of “wow” factor that leads people to stop and take a closer to look, be it because of interesting targets, functionalities, simplicities, or even just innovative aesthetics and feelings.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
AMGL: There is a moral landscape of design that all designers need to consider and this is not only a matter of using sustainable materials or the nature focus to which more often than not it is simplified to, it is about considering the communities we are sourcing materials from, the knowledge and origins we are building from, the people we work with, the communities in which our designs will be implemented and the impacts they can have, the kind of production process, distribution models, etc. It is a systemic approach that considers every touch point a design could have in its life cycle that goes beyond the design per se. It is hard to track every single aspect but I thinks overtime we are becoming more aware and there is and active pursuit of retribution to society that can be sought after in many different ways, even if small to begin with.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
AMGL: I believe design is gaining a key position in life and a greater understanding of what it is by the general public and institutions. Through this pandemic we have seen design gain a very important position for example, because design allows space to think quick, adapt, explore, go into the future and respond to context needs. The profile of what a designer is is changing and expanding beyond the enclosed artist like perspective to a more down-to-earth-visionary type with value for society. Somewhat a contradiction, but I believe this profile of a holistic strategist will drive the profession forward.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
AMGL: I believe inspiration needs to be eclectic and come from a wide range of sources. It is a mix of things that seem to not make sense at first but given a twist and direction they can acquire meaning. As usually said, movies, photos, books, events, museums, people, streets, everything can be inspiring, specially when they belong to contexts outside of your focus area. Our brains work by building connections and this is the best way to keep them active. Observation is key to feed creativity, go out (or stay in like we now have to during this pandemic and see through different eyes) and focus on hearing, focus on people, focus on textures. This sort of obsessive observation can lead to aja moments. This is a constant, free activity but I believe you also need to observe with a purpose. It’s like when they tell you to see a color and suddenly it dominates the space around you, just like that if you explore with a mission you will begin to see things. Material and the meanings and values attributed to them as well as new technologies are other great sources of inspiration for projects. I have a hard time connecting with hard tech and very digital products but for this same reason I think its important to understand how to use them not as something that drives away from the materiality of design but as a medium to enhance and exalt its properties and capabilities.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
AMGL: Someone once described my style as eclectic, so I will stick to it while I find another definition. In general I am driven towards minimal, clean styles usually trying to blend evocative aspects of design or more classic representations with a mix of modernity and hype.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
AMGL: I was born in Colombia in a city called Villavicencio, but have never had a “permanent” living situation so to speak. I have always moved around cities and also lived in the USA for some years, for now Milan is my new home. This constant change has 100% influenced the way I think and how I connect to people and understand new perspectives. I would like to think that this exposure to different cultural contexts is also reflected in my work process and outcomes. I do wish I could more evidently represent my heritage through my designs, specially coming from such a beautiful and rich country like Colombia with so much texture, vitality and incredible customs, this is one of the things I want to explore more deeply in future designs. Its also worth considering that although culture can be geographic, it’s also context specific or family related and this can play a bigger role sometimes on the values you translate into your designs.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
AMGL: Good work ethic, dedication and kindness I think are the main thing to look for in finding a designer. If you are an action driven person, someone that proposes and has opinions, you will always have an interested designer looking to learn, understand and create value. Of course it is important to allow the space for this kind of open conversations to happen.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
AMGL: The User Centered Design and Design Thinking approach was super engraved into my mind from my bachelor days. Anyways, I think this processes varies a bit depending on the projects you make. In general for product design I usually begin by doing preliminary research, understanding the scope of projects and finding lots of inspiration. Learning, lots of it, has to be the start, this gives you a framework from which to move on and build connections to further define your designs. This learning is done actively using different tools and by observing. After that, you can start to brainstorm and define requirements that you will have as drivers to guide your design decisions. Then the rest is prototyping, testing, questioning, reframing…

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
AMGL: Im doing a master now so a lot of it is working on projects all the time, but I like to balance with constant exercise and reading to keep the mind and body active. I am a fan of learning so I need constant stimulation be it reading about new things, perfecting knowledge or working on various hobbies like photography, or illustration.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
AMGL: Im still quite young myself, but if its worth I can say: Explore while you can before diving into specifics in your career, you can be surprised to discover you value things you never thought of. Have some hobbies, they will also build connections that latter on will help you define what you will want to focus more on and give insight on what is valuable to you. Travel (physically and mentally) and expand your perspective, be empathetic and put yourself in other people’s shoes. Things are almost never just as you think they are. Lastly, and this one I should apply myself more as well, is to take the leap and talk to people and build connections with your professors, with friends, whom ever you find interesting and enriching. Even if you are an introvert like me and find it scary your life will change if you do this. Check Brian Grazer curiosity conversations for inspiration.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
AMGL: On the negative, I think there has always been some sort of misunderstanding of what a designer is, sometimes it is undervalued or encased in the “person with crazy ideas” or “just a cool project” box and it is not seen as a serious profession. It’s reach is somewhat undermined. The positive is that work can sometimes feel like not work or hobbies can also be career development. Its a lifestyle and you find connections all the time with the profession and the real world. I love that, and also the fact of being creators and saying “yeah i made this”. Also as designers I believe we see the world differently so you are constantly questioning or investigating things. This gives you more opportunities for learning through curiosity.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
AMGL: I don’t think this exists or I havent discovered it yet, but dedication, compromise and drive are somewhat golden.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
AMGL: When I finished my bachelor I went to New York for some months. I ended up doing an interview for an internship at Studio Dror, first question he asked was “what are your skills?” and short story, that was the end of my interview. I think defining skills is one of the hardest things for a professional because you can have the playbook skills and list them but you need to go more in depth and think of the ones that really distinguish you and that you are particularly advanced at. Nowadays it is also important to consider soft skills as well, having a more integral set of skills allows some trade-offs for where you may be lacking. In the end, I believe soft skills can facilitate the development and learning of more technical ones.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
AMGL: I am very old school in tools also because i still need to work on improving my digital modeling skills, so I rely on paper and pencil mostly, cutting things, paper, cardboard, fabric, and anything that helps to make 3D sketches are always very helpful for me as well. I also use the usual design programs and i have my Wacom tablet that makes sketching and digital drawing easier. I’m also a big fan of Pinterest both for exploration and inspiration and for organizing references or creating moodboards.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
AMGL: I try to set small, manageable and realistic targets I can accomplish in a day. I am a big fan of prioritizing using to-do lists. This way it is motivating when you actually accomplish things and it helps to focus and avoid the desire to procrastinate. I also try to listen to my body and sometimes just work when I feel like working and when i know my time will me maximized. If you don't feel like working and force yourself, you will waste more time getting yourself to be productive. Of course when deadlines are in the way you have to find and create those moments more actively.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
AMGL: The question I get asked the most, and also probably all graduates from Universidad de Los Andes where I studied my bachelor is: “Design of what? related to the program named only “Design”. Everyone is used to design with second names, so industrial, graphic, interactive, fashion, etc. In this case its just design of a bit of everything, so that is always a hard question to answer also because i don't exactly identify myself with just one definition.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
AMGL: There is always something special about first times, so I think for sure my internship at Zientte was the most enriching. It was the first time I was exposed to a work/company environment and what was really special about it is that they manage all steps of product development of furniture products. This allowed me to see design at every stage. From concept design, to models, to development, prototyping and then the production of every step and component (structures, foams, fabrics, finishes), then quality, stores etc. This exposure gave a me a broad understanding of what design entails and also of business structures and management.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
AMGL: I’m still making myself the same question. I am halfway through my master so I am expectant to see what comes next. For sure I would like to explore design in Milan, Italy for some time. I come from Colombia where there is not yet a big design culture or companies so its always an aspiration to work for some of the big brands we are taught with, but also studios are an enriching place that allow more space for exploration. Further down I would like to continue exploring design as an independent path and hopefully have more projects in my own country, but i think I still have to much to learn and more role models to explore.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
AMGL: Design is never a solo job. There is always a system you rely on whether working on personal/individual projects or team projects and each individual delivers a whole world of value. Design is generally team focused and I have almost always worked in teams but I have to admit I enjoy working more on my own or starting from my own. Individual works give you the possibility to explore your own interests and can be more introspective. I recently read a book called Overcrowded which exposed an approach to designing from the inside-out which I found very relatable. It mentioned that to design meaningfully you first you need to think individually and then group to have smart conversations. In that way everyone can provide real value and enrich with each other’s ideas through constructive criticism.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
AMGL: Nothing personal at the moment but in my master we are working on a project for the ISS (International Space Station) as part of a course called Space for Inspiration. We are exploring new possibilities for the physical training of astronauts in space. I feel privileged to have access to this connections and explorations of new and exciting fields.

FS: How can people contact you?
AMGL: Social media is best: Instagram: @ana_gonzalezl Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anamariagonzalezl/ Email: anagonzalez_l@outlook.com or innato_design@outlook.com


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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