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“My dream project ? Teaching to the mass”. An Interview with designer Chou-Tac Chung.


“It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Chou-Tac Chung’s work. He possesses one of the filthiest sketching styles in the game.” – Daniel Bailey @ConceptKicks.


Born in France, Chou-Tac always had the desire to create something new & that Desire & passion reflects in his work. After graduating with a Master’s degree in Product Design from Creapole-ESDI in Paris, he went on to work with brands like Adidas and Charles & Keith.

Chou-Tac loves to Share & teach and has his own blog The DesignSketchbook where he writes & shares his views, experience & even tips on Sketching & Portfolio presentation, to help the young & aspiring designers.

  www.theDesignSketchbook.com


Hi Chou-tac ! Can you please share a bit about your background ?

“I initially come from a marketing and multimedia background. I followed a Master’s degree in Product Design at Creapole-ESDI in Paris.”

“I explored various type of internships in Product design, Footwear, Packaging, Transport design (in Japan) for big and smaller companies during my student years.”

“I also discovered a student exchange program where instead of going to my summer vacation, I flew to Los Angeles to take some fashion courses. My english was quite clumsy. It was a great opportunity to improve ! I had a headache at the end of each day ! It was pretty intense. I am grateful for my family, friends and school for supporting me in all these projects !”



After school, I stepped into the Footwear industry. I joined the design team of Adidas at Herzogenaurach, in Germany. That was unbelievable ! Then I flew to Singapore and China where I joined Charles & Keith, a women shoe brand (partly own by LVMH Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy). Even though the brand is well spread in Asia, the management is driven like a family. I started as a Product designer to become Head of the Trend department. We aimed to be a fast fashion brand and we had to deliver on time the right trends to the right people in the shop. So I loved playing the detective and get a smoother process from the R&D to the shop. Together with the scheduler, quality control, technician, marketing, design team and visual merchandiser we shared our skills and took action toward the same direction. To me, a designer is not only about making sketches but It’s also about teaming up with other department to always give better satisfaction to customers.”



Why Product Design? What led you to it ? is it something you were into since childhood ?

“When I was young I didn’t know anything about Product design. I wanted to be a video game tester and I enjoyed drawing with my group of friends (I am Chinese born in France) drawing Manga. I don’t know why Asian people had the reputation to draw well. We daily showed our latest drawing at school asking for good critics. That’s how we nourished our passion for drawing. I even started to sell my drawings & I did sell one !”

“What led me to Product design is Marketing. I started with a classic university path learning how to promote or sell product. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the brands such as Kraft food, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Danone as to how they put so much effort on how the customers will perceive the product. I realised that marketing strategy came more and more from a product innovation stand point. So instead of selling other people s product, why not creating myself ? It sounded a bit crazy but I felt excited ! And I started to think about changing my career path. With already 3-year diploma in my pocket, I was ready to work. Instead, I started to make some research about design schools. What I learned was: Instead of How to bring more money to the company, it was How to make people’s life better.”

“It was a tough decision, and I decided to follow my instinct, and give myself a fresh start.”



How would you describe your approach to Design ?

“Design is all about sociology. We used to define people from there sex, job, social category and age and we roughly knew what they needed as consumers. So boring ! ”

“Now, people are much more unpredictable. And they connect each other by interest. A housewife could share about stock option with a Business men – The business man may be involved in a group discussion about kids education. Through Internet, we can cultivate multiple faces of our identity. Somehow we are unique and yet belong to multiple tribes. People are fascinating.”

Experiment: “When we meet new people we ask first for the name, then what do you ask ? The job right ? Ask yourself, is does a job defines a person ? People are more interesting than that, and might be involved in other activities that they may love even more than their job. I believe a designer needs to be truly interested in people to understand and listen to their needs. Then he can create products that touch there heart. Every designer is a Story-teller.”



What is you Creative process ? and is there something that you do or follow in your Process that is different than other designers ?

“I use a funnel system where we start to explore large, to get gradually sharper. (See more in the blog http://thedesignsketchbook.com/tip-120-how-to-present-a-project-to-your-design-company/)”

“When I receive the brief, I think about who the user is, his culture, needs, problems. A designer does research and listens to the users and colleagues, and creates through his own vision of the world. ”

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” – Henry Ford.



 

The Process :

– Explore people’s needs – report, books, interview, meeting them. Support your research with mood board.

– then multiply the number of ideas on paper without much thinking on quality of sketches.

– Select 3 to 4 directions.

– then select one direction, and multiply the axis of research.

– Lastly, refine 1 or 2 proposals.



Different process that is diff than other designers ? 

“I try to “adapt my mood” to the project. ”

“eg. When I worked for Adidas I was responsible for a sneaker project inspired from Hip Hop. So, to really connect & explore I would simply listen to Hip Hop music while sketching. I believe it will influence my expression of lines.”

May I give you a little experiment: 

– Make yourself thinking of something sad, and FEEL sad. Then draw a Smiley !

– Now, inverse your state. Make yourself feel HAPPY, and smile ! And draw a very SAD crying smiley. What’s happens ? Your face tends to drop the smile.

– Redo the experiment but now with matching feeling. Your mind and your lines should be more aligned.

“I believe our emotions influence our Design sketches.”



How do you choose between which Idea and Design to proceed with and which ones to leave behind ?

“Decision are rarely taken alone. It’s a team work where I look for sharing opinion and merging multiple brain in a project. But at the end, I must lead and follow my guts. Otherwise I may lose control, and the project may end like a Camel: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee”. ”

“When my superior disagreed with me, I had to follow his direction first – but I was also free to carry on mine and present both. ”



What are the other things besides Design that you are passionate about and how do they Influence your work ?

Fashion and comic illustration. I admire Celia Calle (www.celiacalle.com) for her dynamic lines. I try to import some of her line expression in my product design sketches. ”

Urban sketching. It helps me to draw with a loose hand. Which is great for the memory of forms and sketching faster during the exploration phase – by not trying to draw things perfectly and getting too much in details. Plus I keep a great souvenirs of my drawings and I just started to discover watercolours. ”

Photography. I shoot anything I felt interesting – maybe from the shape, function, material, colours. It helps at building a database of inspiration along the years.”

Traveling. Meeting people where I challenge “my sense of empathy” trying to understand better people from a foreign culture. We all have our own behaviours. But we all smile and look for happiness.”



How much Do you rely on technology and digital tools in your work?

“I rely on digital tools for making better presentation boards and portfolio. The softwares that I use are Photoshop, Illustrator and Sketchbook Pro.”

“Note that during the phase of research, drawing on paper is still the most convenient way to me. We can flip the pages super fast among ideas.”



How important do you think it is for an Industrial designer to have Drawing and sketching skills?

“Sketching is visually more impactful than writing. Best is to combine both. Beside that, the brain is not made to store ideas, but to process them. So sketching is essential to put down ideas, in order to better explore, mix, shared and refine. ”

“I am tempted to say that it’s ok if you can’t sketch well as long as you can express your ideas. It’s true. But yet, I also believe that better you rise your sketching level, more freedom you give to your ideas and communication.”


 


What would you say us that One thing that Design schools lack or need to Improve on ? 

“Motivational course maybe, to help students to believe more in themselves.”

“As a new comer, everything is new and intense. Some of the students has just left there parents house, and may live for the first time by there own. At school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed focusing on so many classes such as design sketching, creativity, rendering, modeling…”

“A school can’t possibly teach everything deep, and give enough personalized attention to each student. To succeed, a design student needs to spend a lot ofs his own time at improving himself. Not everybody is able to take so much. It’s common to observe that 20% of the class is high motivated while the rest is demotivated or just come to pass there grades. I guess it would be great to cheer them up with a gradual intensity of task and difficulty.”

“Besides that, creating some group project may rise the overall level where students help each others.”



What would you say is the Difference & Similarities b/w what you Learn in a Design school & In the Industry ?

“Difference: Definitely more down to earth when the costing come in the picture. It’s about finding tune between cost and design. Sometimes with imagination, we can find cheaper and better solutions. A designer can apply his creativity in every single phase of the project. It’s pretty annoying, but if you see that like a challenge, it can be pretty cool actually ! ”

“Similarities: I observed that the process of design has been similar to the Design school whether I was in France or Japan, We always convince our project by telling stories with the user in the center of our preoccupation. We want to take care of that. Costing and other technical consideration often come later in the picture.”


 


Internet and websites like Behance are proving to be great platforms for Designers to showcase their work to the world, which definitely leads to new clients and job opportunities. What are you thoughts on this ?

“To be hired, a designer need to be seen. Some designers are worried to show there works scared that there ideas may be stolen. To me, if you don’t intend to commercialize your ideas, then just show Or else your work may die in your closet. Show your best stuff and rise your chance to get hired in companies you love. A portfolio gains Value only if it’s seen and shared.”



Chou-Tac,  you have your own Website & you write to basically Help the Young Aspiring designers with all the Tips about Sketching, portfolio management and even Interviews, right ! So, where did that idea come from ?

“I know how hard it is to keep up as a student. My design school taught about the sketching basics and highly focused on creativity projects. The sketching fundamentals was essential for my progress but I still spend many hours at practicing and experimenting new things.”

“I remember giving some sketching classes to my classmates and colleagues. Now, I just try to teach what I have learnt to more people.”


the DesignSketchbook.


You can Sigh-Up to Chou-Tac’s Design Starter Kit at TheDesignSketchbook. A simple Guide for Beginner designers.


You have worked with Adidas , Charles & Keith, Daihatsu to name a few and have definitely gathered a lot of Experience, So what part does Experience plays in a Designers Career & his Work ?

My experience taught me to hire people for their positive mindset and creativity instead of years of experience. I believe that if the candidate is passionate, he will be naturally committed at doing a great job !


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What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your work ?

“I think it’s distraction. Inspiration doesn’t always come by just snapping fingers. It takes some time to get concentration. Nowadays, the computer, phone, tablet are constantly connected to the web. We tend to be distracted by emails, Facebook, What’s app, Youtube, Skype… with messages that are more or less urgent. To keep a good flow of creativity, we can’t multi task. A minute of distraction can “kill” hours of concentration.”



Which one do you think is your best work? And Why ?

The work I had the best fun with is my Product Design Master degree.”

“We had free choice of subject. Yahoo !  but Then, my mind was blank about How to start ? Ahah, so I chose something that touched my heart: The Japanese people. They was so nice to me when I was in Japan. I believe that the best projects are the ones that designer is passionately involved with.”


What type of projects do you enjoy working on ? And What is your Dream project ?

“Projects around education. Project where I can wear my detective cap. Sometime I feel I have more pleasure at thinking about process, strategies and sociology than sketching itself.”

“and My dream project ? Teaching to the mass.”



What are your thoughts on the Future of the Design Industry ?

“Exciting ! I believe in systems that recognise human patterns. That way we could better serve people and better connect them to each other.”


What would you say are your best qualities as a Designer and as a Professional and what is that One quality that makes you stand out ?

“Loving people I create for.”


What is the best piece of advice you have heard and would like to repeat to others, possibly to the aspiring  Industrial designers out there ?

“When you get an idea ask yourself: “Would it be cool if ?” by Guy Kawasaki 


We Thank Chou-Tac for this amazing opportunity & taking time-out to talk & Share his thoughts with us.

Thankyou.


You can find Chou-Tac & TheDesignSketchbook on

Facebook : (Here). &

On Twitter : @ChouTac

TheDesignSketchbook.


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