#DefineExperience is our new bimonthly campaign where we interview interesting and successful people about their *experience. *We ask them not only about their professional experience, but also about the more personal side of things.
1. Hey Jon, what’s your story?
I’m an industrial designer, based in San Francisco where I work for the global innovation firm Frog design. I grew up in Los Angeles, California and always had an appreciation for technology and art – in high school I was on the robotics team for 4 years while also taking design classes at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, which was how I discovered the field of Industrial Design. I then went on to study at the University of Cincinnati, which has a 5 year program where students switch between school and internships every other semester. I ended up graduating with over 2 years of relevant work experience after interning at studios in Los Angeles, Seattle, New Jersey, Paris, Antwerp and San Francisco, which prepared me really well for the position I have now.
2. Jon, please define experience.
Experience is the collective set of things you’ve done that gives you the point of view you have today. I’m a strong believer that the wider your set of experiences, the stronger and more open of a thinker you’ll be, and I know that my past travels, work experiences, and education have all made me the designer I am now. Setting yourself up to have the experiences that will develop you in interesting ways is huge for finding the path you want to go down.
3. What do you consider as your most significant accomplishment in your career so far? What about outside of your career?
Up until now, my career has been pretty short, but there’s some really neat products I’ve been able to work on that are on the market or nearing the market. My very first product are the Munchkin Silly Sandwich Cutters, and I still have a few on my desk today! Most of the rest of my work from Frog is pretty confidential, but I am really excited about a concept project I worked on, where I redesigned the syringe that delivers Naloxone for people who have overdosed on an opiate.
Outside of my career, it’s probably all the travelling I’ve been able to do – I’ve been able to visit a lot of places all over the world from Japan to France to Iceland, and that’s definitely been really impactful on who I am.
4. Do you think failure is part of experience? What was your biggest failure?
Well definitely – not all experience has to be positive. Failure probably means a lot of things to different people, and so it affects people in different ways. But not succeeding at something isn’t the end of the world, especially when you’re young. Finding a way to move on and learn from mistakes is far more beneficial than just giving up when you didn’t do it right the first time (and really… who’s right the first time anyway?). I don’t know if I have anything I’d call a “failure”, but there’s been countless times I did something wrong or poorly. One that comes to mind is back in school, where we received some brutal critique on one of our projects, the power tool. I redesigned the device you sign when you receive a package from a delivery company, and had slept a total of 8 hours the last two weeks before. After I gave my presentation the professor just ripped into the design and the details and thinking what I had put into it – at the time just felt like the end of the world where I gave something my all (and which I thought was pretty good…) only to have it be destroyed. It felt like a judgement on who I was as a person, and that’s been something I’ve worked on ever since, to not interpret critical feedback on my work as feedback on me.
5. What life-hack tips would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Hah! I think my 18-year-old self wouldn’t listen to 25-year-old me… I feel very lucky to have found a career path that suits my personality and allows me to really drill down and find my passions. The best advice I would try to pass on would be to find your passions, because if you can find something you’re excited about, getting good at it doesn’t feel like a chore.
6. Would you do something differently if you had the chance?
So far, not really! I sometimes say I wouldn’t have put the crazy hours into school that I did, but I don’t think my work would be as strong now if I hadn’t. I’m still trying to figure out a path ahead, and I feel like I have plenty of time to adjust course and find new things to be excited about.
7. This is not from the questions list, but can you tell us a bit more about your Naloxone syringe design project at Frog Design because it sounds very interesting and challenging?
Sure! About a year ago now, the ID team at Frog set up an internal challenge, to find a social impact problem in our local community that can be solved with an industrial design solution. With that in mind, I was watching a documentary on the rise of opiate overdoses in the US – think drugs like heroin, morphine, OxyContin, Vicodin, etc – and how it’s been heavily impacting communities and families that normally aren’t considered at-risk for drug abuse. There’s a lot of different reasons why it’s been happening, a lot of which has to do with the overprescription of highly addictive medication, but in the documentary, they showed someone being trained on a naloxone syringe, which looked like a totally hacked together kit of parts. Naloxone is a generic drug that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, think like that scene in “Pulp Fiction” when John Travolta stabs Uma Thurman in the heart with adrenaline, except real. With the idea to improve that generic syringe and evolve it into one that is specific for administering naloxone I set out on the redesign, where I interviewed people who knew this world in SF, and got trained on how the current system works. From there I made sketches, CAD models, foam prototypes and 3D printed prototypes to figure out the ergonomics, mechanism, and overall design of the syringe. We tested it with a few people in the office, and now we’re looking for partners to bring it through the next phase and test it with potential users and develop the design into production.
We want to thank Jon for sharing with us his story. It’s always very inspiring to learn about someone’s lessons and achievements. And we believe that through design the world can be pushed forward and some serious issues could be beautifully solved.
If you enjoyed reading our fourth #DefineExperience interview, then stay tuned, because we’re just getting started. Moreover, if you’d like to be part of our #DefineExperience project by doing an interview yourself or recommending someone to get interviewed, then write to us.