Theme:Self-Promotion as a Designer
Interviewer: Yuichi Anzai
Anzai：Today I`d like to talk about something that is troubling me as a designer with not a lot of experience. I`d like to talk about self-promotion, something that I am lacking in.
When I was an exchange student in NYC we had many opportunities to present our ideas in class or while job hunting, but each time I failed miserably at presenting an appealing picture of myself. There were language barriers, but I think it was more a fundamental lack of composer and confidence and an inability to communicate about myself or dictate to the audience.
I think, as a designer, the ability to promote oneself is necessary to persuade clients about new projects and to strengthen trust while working together. Mr. Mende, when you were new to the profession or just starting to build up LPA did you have any specific troubles or points of strength?
Mende：I`m not one for a showy sales pitch, but I wanted to do good work on good projects. At my previous job I was able to meet and work with several architects, so I had a good base to work with when I started LPA. Just being oneself is ideal for self-promotion.
As a designer, getting good feedback and reviews from the public is not because one has a showy sales pitch, but it reflects good results which speak for themselves. Good results, does not only mean the finished product, but also the design process. For example, I was told one time, “midway through a project Mr. Mende suggested we go this route and because of his words I was reassured and could make a decision.” I think communication, hard work, and enthusiasm are all greatly appreciated and valued.
Anzai：When you were teaching at the university, did you ever teach your students how to present their ideas or promote themselves?
Mende： I taught at Musashino Art University for 10 years and during that time I had students give 3-minute presentation on themselves. For this assignment the students had to think about their audience and evaluate how they should express themselves to that audience. Knowing your audience and what strategies are most useful to make your point. I also have to take this route sometimes, but this is only one strategy and might only work to make your presentation a success.
Anzai：Mende：Yes. Exactly. Designers do not make things on their own, there are clients, other designers, builders, ect all effecting the quality of the work. First, it is important to understand the client`s desires, likes, and tastes. Then, as designers, with experience, ambition, and innovative ideas, it is important to be persuasive and persistent when making suggestions.
Anzai：Mende：I was a tough little kid with lots of confidence. Mostly, optimistic. I didn`t really have many negative thoughts. If I couldn`t be a distance runner. I`d be a sprinter. If I couldn`t win at the 100m, then I`d be the best 50m sprinter. This has always been my line of thinking. It might take you some time, but you too can build up a bravado by praising yourself. It starts by complimenting yourself over and over and building up your confidence muscle. You will gradually gain confidence and some breathing room.
Anzai：I guess it is important to work on building one`s confidence as a designer and try to abstain from grand standing your reputation.
Mende：I am always thinking about ways I can become a smarter or sharper person. Not just in looks, but also in business, or with word choice, etc. Those around me will naturally think “What a cool person. I wish I could do something like that.” And they subconsciously mimic that thing they find “cool.” I was the same way. Sometimes I would realize “Ahh, this is a takeoff of Toyo Ito or Hiroshi Hara.” Every morning I see sparrows or starlings doing their little dance and think to myself, “I wonder if I could do that.”
Anzai：What kind of dance would you do?
Mende： I think it would be a light, bouncy dance, sometimes making eye-contact. Just joking, but seriously I have learned business techniques by watching the things around me. Things that you find that are nice or you want to mimic, this is your our aesthetic instinct at work. I am always working hard to keep up a “cool” repetition because this is how I can be who I want to be. The final result is projected in a form of self-promotion to one`s clients.
Anzai：Thank you for your guidance on my personal troubles. As a designer, I hope to build up my confidence muscle.