Week 10:

This week we enjoyed the company of our first female guest lecturer, Katty Barac.

Like so many of our other guests Katty is also a GSA Alumni. After graduating she started a design company , “One Foot Taller”, with one of her classmates straight out of GSA (One foot taller because her partner in the consultancy was 1 foot taller than her, top marks for witty name!). The idea of going straight into my own business after GSA is one I find completely terrifying, but hey enough about me…

Katty presented us with her view on what design is and what it’s really like to design things as a career.

From her and her partner’s experience in the world of work Katty believes that success as a designer hinges on constant focusing and refocusing as well as the establishment of personal design ideals.

Why keep refocusing? Why not try your hand at everything, it’s a fun challenge is it not?

Maybe it all depends on the kind of person you are, and how you work best or maybe the challenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? There are plenty of designers, and in particular very famous designers who design a bit of everything, Marc Newson for example, who believes that a good designer should be able to design anything. But I suppose the real question is whether being able to design anything is the same as being able to design anything well? And I suppose that’s really the crux of Katty’s point.

Katty began as a kitchenware designer before becoming a bit of a ‘Jack of all trades’, taking any job coming her way. In the end her and her business partner had, had enough and he left to work at Dyson (He now makes Jewellery), and she continued with the business but decided to be a bit more selective about the jobs she took. Now Katty specialises in lighting.

I can 100% see her point about refocusing and specialising. Trying your hand at everything can seem fun but it’s difficult to always be starting from square one, to always be back in a position were you know nothing about the product or area you’re trying to design for. Or at least it seems difficult to me. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to design the same thing forever, my worst nightmare is the thought of ending up in a car company designing dashboards for years on end- but I would like to design in one area. You know what they say, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. 

Specialising also allows people to trust you. Experience in any job is always an advantage, someone is always more likely to hire you to design something if they know that you’ve designed something similar before. If I want someone to design a house I’m probably going to ask an architect not a guy that makes chairs- even if he says he’s a really great and versatile designer…

Refocusing doesn’t mean always going back to where you started, that’s certainly not what happened with one foot taller-refocusing is about deciding where you want to go.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”

-Henri Bergson

All in all I really enjoyed Katty’s talk, mostly because I think she was perhaps the most honest guest we’ve had so far and her advice was practical, and I’m nothing if not practical.


Check out Katty’s work if you get a chance, she really does make fab lights!


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