One Of Fjord London's Brightest Stars Talks Sustainable Minimalism
Posted by: Fjord
Date added: Tue 31 Jan 2012
Samuel Crosland is one of Fjord London's brightest stars. He joined as an intern in May 2010 after gaining a first class degree in product design from Sheffield Hallam University, followed by a number of intern roles including one at Neoco in Soho.
Sam represents the heart of what Fjord London stands for, steadily building an impressive portfolio of varied design projects while also pursuing his own passions outside of work. You can follow Sam on @samuelcrosland or read more about what he has to say at samuelcrosland.com.
Abbie Walsh asked him about what his design aspirations are for 2012 and what he’d like to achieve this year.
What do you see as being the key theme in 2012?
As an over-arching theme, I'd probably say achievable-sustainability. My sister is doing a year long minimalist challenge throughout 2012 and my theme stems from that. She's not allowing herself to buy any "stuff"; by that she means anything that isn't key to comfortable survival. So this is where the "sustainable" word comes in, sustainable-minimalism. Out of the necessary stuff that I use day-to-day, is there anything I could do or stop doing that might help cut down the amount of material going to waste? This follows on from cutting down on "things" and spreads into cutting down unnecessary travel, food that demands high amounts of resources, and worst of all, beer and wine!
What do you love most about being a designer for a living?
I really enjoy problem solving. I think that’s where my love of design came from, creating things that make doing stuff a bit easier. Creating products that can change people’s lives in a positive way, even a small amount, is great. Working in digital feels like being at the cutting edge of design, it feels fresh and exciting every day.
How do you think your skills as a digital designer help you enable more considered and sustainable living?
I studied product design at university and throughout my time designing physical products I became fascinated with the fight between survival and consumption, want vs. need. It's this consideration that has become a mantra for my life. I was designing products at university that weren't needed, they were versions of things that people already had. I was not designing to fulfil a need, I was creating a need through design. This is why digital got me so excited then and why it still excites me now.
At university I tried to tackle the idea that electronics were becoming endless shelves of silver boxes, lining Dixons stores throughout the country. I wanted to create products with real character, which evolved over time to sustain the feeling of empathy in a user. But after I started looking into digital platforms more closely it made me realise that electronics are not just silver boxes, mobile phones aren't not just soulless plastic shells, they're things and they're filled with lovely, re-usable sensors and controls. They allow people to create products and services that fulfil a commercial need, but retain character, with comparatively no drain on physical resources. Obviously, looking at reports from the Foxconn factories and the complete blackouts of news from precious metal mines, the production of these devices needs to be made much safer and cleaner and I hope that it's something that might be sorted out in the near future.
What are your project aspirations in 2012?
I'm starting to get more involved with Processing.org and I want to get to know a lot more about coding in general. Last year at Fjord we started embedding prototypes deeper into the design process, this allowed us to develop and test features incredibly quickly.
I think Fjord is currently pushing the boundaries of responsive design from websites into services. I want to continue to explore how responsive design methods can be used to create cross-platform services that retain similar features across touchpoints.
What are the key skills a junior designer needs coming into an agency?
Comfort in themselves. I came into Fjord first as an intern didn't really know what I wanted to do here. But finding comfort in the fact that I'm always growing and finding new challenges, my eyes opened and I managed to find what I really wanted to do.
What emerging technologies will be most exciting for the design industry in 2012?
It’s hard to see technological features as a bonus because they're always used to sell new products, but the advancement of sensor technology and the cheapness of products like Twine have started letting people customise their own environment.
I like the idea of connectivity that Motorola used in their Lapdock and that the guys at I'm are pushing with their I'm core. This 'portable processing power' is great, my mobile can use my laptop processor when it's nearby, my watch can use the GPS and sensors in my mobile, my screen and wireless keyboard can use my phone to access files on my laptop that I forgot to bring in to work. It's that sense of a secure personal network and not of a computer as one object, but a computer as strong as the sum of its parts.
What are the most important tools a designer needs?
I'm impressed at the readiness of designers to switch between tools and move with the times. I think specifying a specific tool is a thing of the past. Using the tools you have to create the thing you want is great. This creativity in tools is something that is being pushed by younger designers and it’s exciting.
If there were one product or service that you'd love to redesign in 2012, what would it be?
Because of how it has affected my life, I'd like to redesign Freecycle.org. It's a hugely popular destination and I'd love to see it transform into a platform-agnostic service. I think the process of posting items and moderating content could be streamlined to make the service demand less in terms of resources, there are a lot of people that could benefit greatly from using freecycle more frequently. I love that Freecycle is all about sustaining the use of items, not recycling, and I love how it has reached out to promote sustainability in communities offline as well as online.
What are the art/design events/exhibitions that you're looking forward to in 2012?
David Shrigley's retrospective at the Hayward this summer should be good.
What's the one experience you've had so far in your life that had the biggest impact on you as a person?
In terms of experiences that have changed my outlook on life, moving to London was what had the biggest impact. At the time I moved down it was clear that there was such a community of support here that it'd be hard to move away. The Interaction and UX design community here is brilliant.
Which project has had the most impact on you as a designer?
One of my first projects working at Fjord had the most impact. It was one that took me completely out of my comfort zone. It's nice to be a bit scared sometimes and it made me realise that if you're under pressure, things can work out better than you think. The project was based around creating downloadable content for live mobile phone handsets in retail stores.
If there were one piece of art or design that you wish you had created, what would it be and why?
I'm a huge fan of a lot of the exhibits I've seen recently to do with digital interaction, the High Arctic exhibit at the National Maritime Museum last summer was exceptional and I'd have loved to be part of the team that developed the interaction. For a single thing: probably the Windowsill app. It's so engaging and mesmeric, it's a great use of the tablet platform, and it's fun!
Finally, can you sum up your style in one word?
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