10 minutes with BlueMap design founder and President, Simon Yan
Q: How do you view the competitive landscape?
We are up against both large and small design firms but I don’t want to list any companies because I don’t view them as competition. Yes we are competing for work but I view it as all part of being in the business. You are as good as your last piece of work. Just like a student, you represent yourself with your best portfolio. It’s the same for design firms. You go out there and show the best projects and that’s how you get noticed and get work.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?
As a designer I draw inspiration from simple things that happen around us and I like things that crossover. For example common processes that are used in other industries and how they can be applied to different things for example the airless sprayer redesign [case_01: Lecture] drawing on the familiar form of the spray bottle.
A lot of times you are not completely reinventing the wheel you are finding new approaches and materials in a different context for example [as he takes out his laptop and points to] the micro-drilled holes for the apple macbook pro power / sleep indicator.
Q: Any advice for the entrepreneurs among us? What is the single biggest lesson that you learned?
BE PERSISTENT! Trust and believe in yourself and do it. Don’t think about it too much. Just do it! Because the more you think about it… How am I going to pay studio rent…? How am I going to get clients…? What if___? You’ll all of a sudden have an excel sheet with a list of problems and reasons why it’s not possible. If you have the urge, just do it. Things will fall in place. The worse that can happen is that you have to close up and start over. When you’re young and you have no attachments the best thing you can do is try, and if it doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world. You don’t even have the chance to fail if you don’t try.
Q: How do you look for business opportunities?
Try everything. As a small studio you have to try everything. Try all contacts you’ve had in the past…cold calls… enter competitions… submit for design awards… even school visits. Coming to speak to you guys is a great thing! The more you network and the more publicity you get the better. You could be the best designer in the world but if you’re locked in a room, no one will know. The more people you know the bigger network you create and the more your work will spread.
Q: If you could time travel back to college what would you do differently?
I wish I had learned a little bit more about the business side of things. You learn design and production methods but what’s lacking especially for running a small business, is the other side of being creative; the finance, economics, writing contracts, presentation skills, speaking skills, people skills. I had to learn it the hard way through work experience, and acquire these skills along the way. I want you guys to get out there… do a little bit more… you might not see the results right away but in the long run you are going to be a much more rounded designer and your job will be a lot easier, whether hired into corporate environment, working at a consultancy or running your own studio.