‘Don’t be scared of failure – nothing
original comes without failure’
Designers are filters – we store shapes, forms,
connections, materials and processes in our heads
for future concepts, so the more there is in there the
better. It’s like a design databank. So I would advise
my younger self to see how other people do things, be
aware of design history and what’s gone before, and
look for inspiration everywhere.
Remember the Three Stooges: ‘I’m tryin’ to think, but
nothin’ happens.’ Ideas rarely come when you’re sitting
at a desk. They come when you’re doing something
else, riding, cycling, travelling on a train, taking a
shower. So I would say, be hungry, travel, get out there.
I think there’s a better chance of creating something
original if you look outside your own discipline – the
more shapes and forms you have to draw from, the less
likely you are to tread on other people’s toes.
Above all, just do it. Make, build, understand materials,
bend them, break them, be a sponge for all that
information, make tools of whatever comes to hand
– paper, card, plasticine, computers, everything. Keep
your sense of wonder. When I start a project I feel like a
child with my crayons – I don’t know where it’s going.
Don’t be scared of failure – this is important because
nothing original comes without failure. Every
prototype is a failure in some sense – when things
go wrong something always comes out of it. I’ve had
projects that have not been realised, but I’ve been able
to use parts of the designs in other projects.
When you start out you want to have your vision
realised, but you also want to please, and that can be
a mistake. It’s got to be your work, your intellect, your
signature. Let your personality come through.
But don’t be a slave to design – the human aspect of
lighting is fundamentally important. Don’t just dive in
– you can’t be a jazz musician without understanding
the classics, and you can’t design without understanding
why you’re doing it.
One of my most important influences is Charles Eames
who never, ever compromised because he made sure
he was aware of all the constraints before he started.
It’s only when you forget the constraints that you have
to compromise. If you overlook the cost, the client is
liable to say sorry, we can’t make in titanium, it’ll have
to be aluminium. So don’t overlook the fundamentals.
l Terence Woodgate is an industrial designer of
furniture and lighting working in East Sussex, UK