On the Couch with Damian from DesignersCouch.org

June 13, 2011, Author: simon, Categories: Design, Interview

DesignersCouch is one of my favourtite resources for today’s savvy designers. So I interviewed Damian Mandray it’s founder to find out more about the ethos behind the website…..

Tell us a bit about yourself, where you are based, and how DesignersCouch came about?

I’m a designer from Guyana, lived in Toronto for 5 years and now I’m based in the USA. I’m not based in any specific location, I’m quite nomadic right now travelling around the US looking for my my fit. Check my travels out here. If I’m in your area, let me know.

DesignersCouch came to be as a group on DeviantArt. It became one of the largest design groups and I decided to venture in making it its own brand. It took years and while we’re relatively small, the site has endured to become what it is today. It’s not giving up on me and vice versa.

The nature of advertising, and the role of the creative seems to be changing in terms of media and platforms etc. – where do you see all this heading?

I have a blog post sitting in draft mode on this topic. Design has always been important but where it’s heading is to a point where designers will be in the boardrooms, they’ll be turned to for creative insights because we see the world differently, we always have. It’s just that businesses are now recognizing that. However, to fit this role designers have to transcend themselves to be more than designers but as Tim Brown coins it, “design thinkers”. Stop being web designers and icon designers, stop labelling yourself and step out of this box.

I even had a conversation recently where we concluded that this new generation is ushering a new attitude towards design. This change will have a tremendous impact on design and the way business is done.

Advertising is heading in the direction where Facebook is taking it, that is, relative information. Instead of advertising, it’s more like providing me with information I’m interested as if it were the news and maybe it is news. Case in point, all the ads on a site like Mashable.com I’m trained to simply ignore. However, Fusion Ad Network I love because their advertising consist of information I’m interested in.

DesignersCouch is a sort of crowdsourcing model but for creative knowledge – what do you think of crowdsourcing sites such as 99designs.com and crowdspring?

Crowdsourcing is good and bad. What Kickstarter does is extremely good. What 99designs.com does is bad. We can argue this back and forth all day but if it’s undermining professionals, if it’s undermining an entire industry then how is it good? It’s not good for designers or clients. The guys at 99designs.com love to use ‘start-ups’ as their defence. How they’re helping start-ups. It’s all ********. The irony in forcing that brand positioning on us is all too obvious to point out.  If they cared about start-ups, they’d encourage them to take their branding seriously and hire people who know what they’re doing. They’d find a better way to crowdsource but they care neither for that or good design.

In fact, the rise of 99designs.com is based on the new attitude towards design I mentioned above. This change in thinking is causing confusion because not everyone necessarily know what good design is. I think this is what 99designs and others are taking advantage of so it might just be a phase. At the end of the day, entrepreneurs have to understand one thing: execution matters and it’s their choice. You can be mediocre or employ good design to rise above the noise. Your call.

However, like I said, we can go back and forth on this all day but let’s all put our money where our mouth is. I’m talking to someone about doing an article where we take a set of logos by pros and a set by 99designs, mix it all up and then have pro designers pick out which was done by whom. Then we do the exact same with non-designers, the would be clients.

Simon note: I can see both sides of the coin as well. My own opinion is that crowdsourcing is driven by technology and market forces and it gives people in countries all over the world a level playing field to pitch for business and make some money. It’s all totally subjective – I think the whole area will evolve. Into what I am not sure. There is a parallel between how the stock photography industry has evolved and crowdsourcing in general, but I could bore you all day talking about that.

I see you have almost 8,000 creatives on Designerscouch – how many countries does this represent?

Majority are based in North America and Europe. In total this represents 15 countries.

If you could have dinner with any 3 people – dead or alive – who would they be?

It really depends on the point in time. I’d like to have dinner with the president of my home country and no matter what I say, he has to sit and listen. That would be a great dinner. Hands down, as cliche as it is dinner with Steve Jobs is a must. The man is a visionary. Lastly… Ron Conway. Again, I’m answering this because of the time and right now I’m looking for funding. What can I say?

If you had 5 minutes to pack as you were being sent to a desserted island and could take 5 items you could carry – what would you take?

It would definitely be:

iPhone

Glasses

Camera

Water – I’m a realist so even though this is ‘what if’, I simply must.

Sketchbook w/Pencil


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