This is the third of four interviews by recent AUT graduate Nicole Redman. (Each interview was first published in Unveil, an editorial publication conceived in Nicole’s final year of study). The interviews explore professional designers unique personal narrative as each shares challenges, inspirations and industry insight. In this instalment, we hear from Raul Sarrot of Fresh Fish.
What led you to pursue a career in the design industry?
Interesting question. Like anything, I think it is always a mix of intention and chance. I initially studied Architecture. It was only later, after quitting my studies and spending a couple of years playing music and working as a junior ‘creative’ in an advertising agency that I thought it was time to go back to uni. The career I chose was a ‘new one’ that was just starting back then in Argentina: Graphic Design. In my mind, that sounded new and exciting enough and somehow – in my very ‘naive’ view– it seemed to combine many of the things I liked: creating, drawing letters, drawing, taking photos, writing and even some ‘spatial’ design concepts similar to architecture. So that was how it all started for me.
Was there a specific point in your childhood when you knew you were going to go down a creative pathway?
I don’t think as a child I thought ‘I will be a professional creative’. I think all children are pretty creative so I was one of them (laughs). I had a special love for drawing (and spent most of my day doing so), I was fascinated reading comics (and eventually had a go at drawing a few myself) and also had fun ‘inventing’ things (from stories, to new languages, to music soundtracks for my own stories, etc). I guess if you combine all of that, then yes, being a creative was a natural future discipline or pathway for me. Of course, back when I was a kid, saying ‘I will be a creative’ wasn’t really a thing.
The typical mindset of that time was to educated kids to hopefully become a ‘serious‘ professionals (like a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, etc) and design –or being a ‘creative’– didn’t actually rank that high.
Since moving to New Zealand what are some of the challenges or changes you had as a designer?
Well, like for any other non-English speaker, the language barrier is always a challenge at the beginning. Even if I studied quite a few years of English back in Argentina, adapting to the ‘kiwi way’ and being fluent to be able to understand, connect and fully express yourself takes time. Also understanding the nuances of each culture is important when we design and communicate so that also takes time.
How would you explain what you do as a job?
This is a great question. I constantly change the explanation I give (laughs). I guess it depends who I talk to (call it empathy). Sometimes, a very wide, generic answer is what is needed and –in some other occasions– you have to be very specific. I also like hearing when people explain what I do (that helps me add some perspective on how my job is understood by others). For some I am a designer, while others describe me as a creative or even an artist. Others prefer to call me branding or strategy guru and some others call me design-thinking coach, and the list continues. Sometimes I explain what I do saying ‘I help people solve complex problems in the most simple, beautiful and effective way possible’. That normally triggers the question ‘how do you do that’ and invariably the answer is ‘by designing a solution’. At the end of the day, my aim is to use design as an opportunity to create a better world (whatever that ‘world’ might be for different people).
How does being a teacher influence your design work?
Teaching is one of my passions. For some reason the idea of sharing knowledge comes natural to me and I do it with love. Being a teacher influences my work as it always challenges and at the same time gives you a new, humbling perspective. How to reach someone, how the make that person learn or understand something, how to be meaningful –which could be described as teaching– is also what we do as designers when trying to ‘touch’ someone’s life with our design work.
What are some of the challenges that have helped you learn or grow as a designer?
Good question, that requires a bit of reflection. My initial answers would be: Change of cultures: working in different cultures, in different countries with different ‘realities’. You need to really open your eyes, to understand, learn and be able to offer good design solutions.
Lack of resources: working in tough environments or economic situations and not having all the ideal resources makes, which helps you develop your creativity. Crazy projects or the ones that go wrong: any project that the risk-taking was high or that –for one reason or another– didn’t go as planned, are normally the ones that offer unforgettable lessons. Projects that really challenge you (e.g. your imagination, your ethics, your beliefs, your stamina, your patience, etc) are the ones the shape you as a designer (and as a person) and become part of your own book of experience.
What do you hope for in the future for education in design?
I seriously think design could be a great drive in creating a better world for future generations. My hope is that design education is meaningful and looks closely at the bigger issues and the implications of how design could alter something for good or bad. We have an opportunity to educate young designers to be the change makers.
I would like to give 3 pieces of advice to young designers: