Design addresses a particular field that knows no boundaries nowadays with limitless possibilities within. Today everything has become apart of a design and inevitably creating a need for innovation. Furthermore, new ideas within this developing world are a resource consumed faster compared to past times. In this sense we continue to design new risks, new ideas and new experiences, consuming them rapidly. So the question remains, can we design the concept of “life” that contains experiences, risks and everything that is human? Ayşe Birsel, who has succeeded on an international platform and who has made designs for many high-profile firms, talks to us about designing one’s own life, and the approach to it.
I think my life is my most important project.
When we say “Ayşe Birsel” the first thing that comes to mind is the Herman Miller Resolve office system, M’Afrique collection for Moroso, and the “Zoe washlet” for Japanese manufacturer TOTO. Actually there is much more than this; Ayşe Birsel’s life in itself is a project. Who is Ayşe Birsel and what is her sense of design?
I studied industrial design. I was one of the first alumni of ODTU’s Industrial Design department. Later, I got my graduate degree of design in Pratt Institute, New York. My focus in my career, which I started as an industrial designer, is about the idea of us as human beings. I see my role as the ambassador of the people who use my designs, as a translator for their wants and needs. I aim to ease people’s lives and to please them with my products and services so I design with a humanistic point of view. The way I design is highly affected by thinking outside the box and constantly wanting to learn. Being a Turk from New York, and being able to cope with binary concepts like old/new, east/west, past/future as a Turk are also an influence to me.
It’s true that you love drawing and you are successful at it. There is also a book in which you explain your drawings and design practice. Can you tell us a little bit about it and the importance of drawing for designers?
I believe that drawing should be a part of everybody’s daily life; “Design is thinking visually,” as Saul Bass said. By applying this, I believe that anyone can be creative. İ think people should use the right lobe of their brain, the side that is creative. I wrote my book for those who want to create their lives as a designer would with a positive attitude. It’s a book that everyone can practice; it doesn’t require you to be a designer, and it is very cheerful. As soon as you take it in your hands, you want to do practice it. I am very happy that “Design The Life You Love” will come out from Optimist in Turkey in February 2016.
Your speech in Alldesign 2014 design conference got a lot of attention. Rather than a boring design speech, human relations, love, life and even being a mother took a state in complying with design. How would you define the relation between what you try to teach and how you are in your personal life? How can we achieve this?
Our life is full of constraints and problems just like a design project. Most of the time what we want to do and what we have to do contradict one other. To be able to solve these questions it means an idea for design. I think my life is my most important project. Based on this, I asked a question of whether I could design my life with methodologies and means of design. So this association began as an experiment. Design the Life You Love is the result of that.
Can we consider this as a different approach to UX Design?
Actually Design the Life You Love is an experience; if we can help people design their lives, we can totally design different experiences in smaller parts of that life.
What would be the period of Ayşe Birsel’s life that she looks back and says “Eureka!”? When did your sense of design reveal itself fully? What brought you to it, what prevented
you from it?
My works with Herman Miller has been a milestone for me as an industrial designer. Miller is a company that has a very intellectual approach to work life and design, it has a lot of top-level employees. My on-going 15-year collaboration with them has opened new paths in my professional life.
Design the Life You Love is a second milestone. Based on the idea that my own life is the most important project, it is a platform where I share my system of thoughts deriving from design and I teach specific creative thinking.
Ayşe Birsel and another successful industrial designer Bibi Seck, work together under the design office Birsel+Seck. How do you and your design team carry on a design process and project? Can you talk about your method of creating the Client-Birsel+Seck-User relationship?
I analyse holistic ideas emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually within the scope of deconstruction and reconstruction. This is the one of our main principles. We go through this process with our clients, so they see where and how ideas come from. Especially when we do co-design work together, they also get involved in that process as well. Ideas are like babies, the more you adopt and protect, the easier it is to raise them. Working closely with our clients – this could vary from product design or design strategy or service design- makes them adopt to the design as well, and this is one of the most important steps to be placed in the market successfully.
What kind of projects do Birsel+Seck currently work on?
Right now we work with Herman Miller, Staples, Converse, Tiffany, and GE. In Turkey we continue to work with Kaleseramik and Paşabahçe. We enjoy working with companies that embrace change. Besides product design, we make projects on the subjects of design-focused research, design
strategy and innovation.
You have designed a lot of pieces for “Omnia” collection for Paşabahçe, a very important and big manufacturer. Can you tell us about the inspiration and the general process of
We enjoyed working on Paşabahçe’s Omnia collection, which opened with an amazing exhibition in Bomontiada on December 2nd. We thought about the future of glass through traditional glassworks, forms and functions from Çeşm-i Bülbül to Beykoz and from the evil eye beads to crystal. The result was a combination of West African and Turkish culture, reflecting a multi-cultural identity, which we named African Zigzag.