Contemporary Stimulus is Change


Cerca di impegnarti al massimoto try or to do your best.

These were the first words spoken at our Friday morning briefing. This speech would signify the kick off of my Masters Program at Scuola Politecnica di Design, as well as a year long partnership working with the Volkswagen Group; specifically Audi and Lamborghini.

The day started, knowing that we were going to meet one of the most powerful and influential forces in the world of automotive design. A few of us were hand selected to have a private meeting with the Head of Design of the Volkswagen Group, Mr. Walter de’Silva. The briefing was informative, concise, and to the point. What was most important were the words that followed. Massimo.


Massimo means to give it your all, to do your best; with the utmost passion, drive, and incredible fervor. Giving it your all as a designer, should come naturally. We place our thoughts, creativity, energy, and skill into one focus a piece of creation, of art, of design. Using tools as an extension of our mind. Be it a pen, and keypad, the quill of a brush, the tip of needle, or a handle on a chisel; there is an immense amount of focus. Sometimes for days, weeks, or months on end, and even years. We will place all of our energy into a creation. A rare gift.  This makes the process very personal to us, we live it, we breathe it, it becomes inbuned with quality, craft and personal idiosyncrasies derived from the creator.  It becomes a part of us and we become a part of it. What is less expected and unknown is the sum of all its parts. Sure, we all seek out inspiration, and long to be inspired. It is natural to see things in our daily lives; absorb them into the subconscious and see what comes out on there other end. However what is less expected, is what can end up being most influential in our lives as designers. Experiences; the exposure and ability to try new things; taking yourself out of your comfort zone and going into the unknown. Inspiration can come from nature, modern art, contemporary art museums and the performing arts. But how vague is that?  And how many of us, get to explore such niceties? So we often scour the web, check our RSS feeds on all of our favorite design sites, blogs, and photo galleries. Seeing the same material regurgitated week after week. This bores me.

Experience – more succinctly travel – has been the foundation, the keystone to my doorway into becoming a more aware designer.  The passion to explore and experience. To get out and move for the passion of design. The ability to allow yourself to be challenged and be thrown out of your element is seen as a defining moment in life.  But, to take time to observe a new culture, to absorb new surroundings, sensations and  being open to learning and growing. Allows us to develop sensitivity to beautiful things.

Design is an experience. We wear it, not on our clothes, but on ourselves. It is the time that passes, the weathering of the late nights of hard work, the glow of successes, the greyness of oversights and dreams of grandeur.


Recently, I up and moved my whole life to Milan, Italy. In pursuit of a higher education, as well as the opportunity to work with one of the largest automotive companies in the world. A decision that took all of about 7 days from start to finish. Before I knew it, I was in another country, unable to communicate, couch surfing for two to three days, trying to locate my new apartment, as my  bags lie in various corners of the city. I loved it, every minute of it. Even the not showering for a couple days.

Such a journey is a sensation that can only be paralleled to jumping off of a cliff. No fear, no certainty, but exhilarating all the while, unknown until your feet slice through the water, and a wave engulfs you. Such a sensational act can also be applied to my work each and every day. Not being afraid of failure, trying out and discovering new things, and applying them. Endless questioning, but the confidence to see it through. A pursuit of discovery, a passion for design, and developing a sensitivity to beautiful happenstance. There are no real failures, just countless opportunities to learn.

This is what has allowed me to take such a plunge. Creativity does not happen over night, it isn’t a napkin sketch that you do in a bar, it doesn’t come to you from your dreams, or as you sit by candle light in a dimly lit room on a winter day. You must live design, and design must live in you. Think of it as pervasive usability, or very similar user centered design. But do it as if you are designing yourself. Design is that, and it goes much deeper. Each time we sit down and design we are asked to delve deeper into who we are, and go through a process of self analyzation and realization. This is a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of end users of a product are given. Apply problem solving exercises to yourself. See the void, fill it. Open yourself to new experiences, challenges, discoveries. Allow your self to stretch to the point of scaring, so that you can always remember that threshold. Retract when you need to steady your pace and execute. Most importantly go to where you are needed. Create opportunites for yourself, and as they present themself, pursue them with unrelenting confidence.

A great friend recently relayed a quote to me that is quite profound.  ”Rain where there is drought.”


As you immerse yourself into a new experience, culture, or place, you become more aware of the needs of the people you are designing for. Addressing the true needs of the end user, and hopefully creating something profound in the end. But by working closely together, design and the social sector can incubate and implement new ideas to changes lives. This will push you closer to a more meaningful design, a design with intent, and a product that improves lives. A product that is memorable and socially conscious of the real needs of the user.

Try to work with a non-profit organization, or a community. One that  serves to design a solution that addresses an urgent need. A need  such as better access to water, greater emphasis on early education, building upon a community using renewable resources compounding city  infrastructure for employment; in order to empower the people or save environments. Design can be used as the major catalyst between the idea and its implementation. Allow yourself to change, immerse yourself in new experiences.

“Rain where there is drought.”

Photos courtesy of Michal Dancisin.
Article Info
Posted by: Marc Reisen
Thinking About: Creativity / Culture / Design / Leadership / Sustainability
Location: Milan, Italy
Twitter: @marcreisen
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