What's the difference between an artist and a designer? According to our CEO, Carl Bass, a designer has to imagine and create something to satisfy someone else, whereas an artist only has to please himself. Carl mentioned this as he addressed the Illinois Institute of Design who visited our San Francisco offices yesterday.
I provided a tour of the Autodesk Gallery. Based on Carl's comments, I started with our Oru Kayak exhibit.
My gallery exhibit description went something like this.
This is the story of an architect, Anton Willis, who wants to own a kayak but does not have enough space for it in his tiny San Francisco apartment.
Many of us have gym memberships where we pay a monthly fee to use the gym's exercise equipment. TechShop is a place where you can pay for a monthly membership to use their tools. For example, TechShop has laser cutters, 3D printers, table saws, welding equipment, etc. In addition, they also have PCs that are running Autodesk software.
So the San Francisco architect uses AutoCAD and Autodesk Fusion 360 at TechShop to design his own foldable kayak. He then creates 24 prototypes at TechShop — all of which fail but keeps perfecting his design until he is happy with the 25th one.
He then starts a Kickstarter campaign and raises $1M. Now the architect is the CEO of his own Oru Kayak company. Oru means "to fold" in Japanese. I have heard from gallery visitors that he has since been on the Shark Tank TV show.
Why did I start with this exhibit yesterday? To me, it looks like the Oru Kayak CEO started out as an artist, designing a kayak for himself, but then became a designer — making kayaks for consumers. It was a graduation of sorts.
If you think about it, the process requires 3 things:
Whether artist or designer, the first two are the same, Tools like our software. Skills like insight, design, and collaboration. That's one of the reasons why Autodesk has its Pier 9 office. When our employees use our software to design and create things for themselves, they experience the same triumphs and issues our customers do but on a smaller scale. And to some degree, even the mindset is similar - having an experimental nature, being willing to fail, and aiming for something that is fascinating. It's only the motivation behind it all that differs? Is it for me? Or is it for someone else?
Design is alive in the lab.