Ideas

Interview: When Design Meets Enthusiasm with Taylor Donsker

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Taylor Donsker is a talented “creative” with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from USC and a background in automotive suspension design. In today’s interview, you are about to see a young designer’s perspective on the fascinating field that we are trying to discover and reveal with every new post on Freshome. Read carefully, as there are lessons to be learned and enjoy the overall enthusiasm subtly given away by Taylor’s answers.

  • Freshome: What determined your passion for design? Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.
  • Taylor Donsker: I guess you could say I was one of those trouble making, destructive kids.  I burnt action figures, blew up my model cars with fireworks, and then studied the scattered parts.  As I grew older, I became more interested in creating, combining broken pieces in unique ways.  Just last year, I found out that when I was tested for Attention Deficit Disorder, the results showed that I was gifted in spatial relationships and the doctors said I would make a good architect.

Cantilevered Planar Desk Lamp

  • Freshome: Can you remember your first design project? Describe it a bit, whether it is a gizmo you worked at as a little kid or something that was sold at a large scale.
  • Taylor Donsker: I was 16 years old and decided to install a pneumatic (air) suspension in my Chevy pickup truck.  I had been researching the process on the internet for several months, but when I decided to start, I had never lifted a wrench.  I formed a relationship with several members of an online forum, who helped along the way by giving advice whenever I was stumped.  Despite the anger and fear that I would ruin my nearly new truck, my parents and friends were all amazed at the success of the project.  After finishing, I began an automotive fabrication business that increased my skills in electrical wiring, welding, cutting, and working with metal.
  • Freshome: What field of design are you most interested in? Do your works have anything to do with it ? (We are asking this because not many designers do what they actually want)
  • Taylor Donsker: I am passionate about architecture as well as furniture design.  Having studied at USC and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree, I believe I was trained to become an architect and one day run a firm. However, I find that architecture and furniture are closely related.  Not only does furniture fill architectural space in the physical sense, it also shares the ideologies of architectural theory.  Furniture engages the human body, the textures defined by materials and finishes evoke unique feelings and responses.  Furthermore, details are magnified as you enter the space of a piece of furniture, from the moment your body first contacts a piece or analyzes the interlocking connections. Shadows extend from perforated materials to create a visual layer of pattern and texture.  In a sense, furniture is a scaled down, inhabitable form of architecture that flows straight from the designers mind without distractions from city boards and bureaucratic processes.  I can take a conceptual design to a finished product in a week.

Cantilevered Floor Lamp

  • Freshome: Chronologically describe what you are going through (feeling and thoughts) on your way to work.
  • Taylor Donsker: I find that forcing design in a studio is an extremely inefficient use of my time.  I prefer to allow designs to come naturally to me, subconsciously while I’m driving or before going to bed, for example.  Until I sketch the idea, it continues to evolve in my mind, preventing me from sleeping.  I wake up each morning, look at my sketchbook, excited to continue the design’s development.  At the end of the day I find that sweeping the concrete floor is therapeutic, each sweep wiping away the frustration of the day.
  • Freshome: What is your favourite book/magazine on design? How about your favourite site?
  • Taylor Donsker: I constantly revisit Francis Ching’s book: Form, Space, & Order.  His drawings, analyzation of classical to modern architecture, and study of geometry allow me to refocus and simplify my thoughts. As far as websites, I occasionally visit the design blogs, but I try to steer away from current trends to keep my designs fresh.
  • Freshome: What inspires you?
  • Taylor Donsker: In a word, everything.  After completing a cross country road trip around the US I jokingly told my girlfriend that I had enough design inspiration for the rest of my life.  From the caves of Antelope Canyon, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Falling Water, and even the brass bands playing on the streets of New Orleans, I try to absorb everything and release it with my pen.

Suspended Bookshelf

  • Freshome: What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?
  • Taylor Donsker: As a young designer, coming up with money to build my designs is definitely frustrating (and my designs are not very costly), as is the process of building each design myself.  Occasionally I think of the improvements in quality and the innovations in design that CNC’s and laser cutters could offer, but I’ve realized that working with my hands and rebuilding designs has improved my technical skills and often leads to a simpler, cost effective finished product. A rewarding moment came last week when I was delivering one of my pieces, the cantilevered lamp, to a client in Beverly Hills. Walking up to the mid-century home I immediately knew that this was the setting where the lamp belonged, the image that I had in my mind for so long was right in front of me.
  • Freshome: From your point of view, is design an art or a science?
  • Taylor Donsker: Design requires both art and science, but I find that the science comes naturally.  A good design draws on both art and science and exhibits them effortlessly.
  • Freshome: Tell us something unusual that happened in your career.
  • Taylor Donsker: As a means of lighting my drafting table in my mid-century apartment, the first piece of furniture that I designed was the cantilevered lamp.  When I moved into a suburban setting, it was obvious that the lamp didn’t belong. It was stored in the garage for several months before I decided to gauge consumer interest on craigslist.  The lamp had sold in only one day, and after the customer saw the suspended bookshelf, she decided to buy it as well, giving me a great deal of confidence in pursuing furniture design.
  • Freshome: Let’s say you entered a contest. You have to come up with a design for the first house on the Moon built for extra-terrestrial living. How would your project look like?
  • Taylor Donsker: Unfortunately, answering this question would breach a pending contract with NASA.  Although, it would be interesting to design a house that one could easily lift and move across the moon due to its lessened gravity.

Concrete Coffee Table

  • Freshome: If design were a product, what would it be and how would you design it?
  • Taylor Donsker: I’ve always wanted to design a landscape guideline (book) for single family homes that provided planting tips for their particular region to reduce water consumption and display the uniqueness of each city’s natural environment.
  • Freshome: If you had no limits (money, resources), what would you create?
  • Taylor Donsker: I would design methods for reviving the unused, in-between, portions of the built environment.  I’ve always had a fascination with urban alleyways, and I suppose that would be an interesting place to start.
  • Freshome: Share something you would like the world to know about you or your ideas.
  • Taylor Donsker: I am fascinated with anything; I believe design requires an absolute interest, and partial knowledge of everything.
  • Freshome: What do you think of our site?
  • Taylor Donsker: Freshome.com provides a wonderful range of design, from the home as a whole to its inner elements, matching my interest in parts and their whole.
  • Freshome: What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?
  • Taylor Donsker: Design around your means, each project is an experiment that should offer you insight into your unique skills and interests.  Allow your designs to evolve and constantly think of ways to improve them.  While designing many objects may create a great collection, a singular well thought out design will last forever.

  • cantilevered lamp desk
  • concrete coffee table
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