It's fun being a designer. We designers use our hands, heads, and hearts. We get to invent things and then make them into real things—things that we want. We use our heads for strategy, tactics, science, and thinking ahead. We actually make things with our hands: drawings, models, and samples. And we use our own emotions to connect with the hearts so that people will want what we created. The combination is what makes being a designer so interesting and valuable.
My father, Read Viemeister was an industrial designer—so even as a baby I could hear him brainstorming ideas, watch him make renderings, and then build stuff in the shop. I wanted to be President (back then that was more normal) but I saw that designers changed the world in better ways.
My mother, who was into politics, went to Antioch College and thought that Horace Mann was speaking to her when he said, "Be ashamed to die until you've won some victory for humanity." She may have been "pro choice"—but I had no choice. She made me use my head as well as my talent. I was destined to be an industrial designer—by nurture and nature.
Years later, Steven Holt, then editor of ID Magazine visited me at Smart Design and began telling us about one of our projects. He pointed out references, metaphors, and semantics apparent to him in the design. His riff was actually reverse-engineering the meaning of our work—starting from the result, he wove an explanation transforming our normal thing into some kind of cultural emblem. This was all news to us!
A few years later we hired this intern who was formerly an archaeologist. Beth Mosher had switched to industrial design because she could have more impact designing new artifacts rather than trying to reconstruct a culture from old artifacts. Once I visited the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, with designer Lorraine Wild—and we saw an exhibition that actually changed history before your eyes! You can go there to hear different tapes that let "you decide for yourself" if Nixon was guilty of any crimes. (But the Watergate Gallery is currently closed!)
Even the smallest designs have political ramifications, so everyone is a politician on some scale. Everyone is a designer; some people do it professionally or more consciously than others. But everybody at least designs themselves: In the morning they pick out what clothes to wear. (That's a good example of design quality—some people are really good at making themselves look good, some people wear the same clothes every day. But that's a choice, too, whether they know it or not).
Design is basic: It is what separates humans from other animals. Human choices are what make big changes in the world (and giant meteor collisions). I encourage good design by doing it myself, teaching other designers and showing people how they can make a difference too. I like Huckleberry Finn's fence painting technique: Make it fun. The goal is to encourage more people to be better designers. I'm writing a book about a great example: my dad Read Viemeister, whose whole life was about good design.
I may have had a head start in my career—now everyone else needs to see that they can use their hands, heads, and hearts to design a better world!
Tucker Viemeister leads the Lab at Rockwell Group, an interactive technology design group combining digital interaction design, modeling, and prototyping for hotels and restaurants, casinos, packaging, and products. The LAB seeks to blur the line between the physical and virtual, exploring and experimenting with interactive digital technology in objects, environments, and stories. Tucker also co-founded the collaborative Studio Red with David Rockwell that was dedicated to innovation for Coca-Cola. Since joining Rockwell Group in 2004, Tucker has been instrumental in the design and development of jetBlue's Marketplace at the JFK International Airport, "Hall of Fragments," an installation that opened the Corderie dell'Arsenale at the 2008 Venice Biennale, a "living wall" for the lobby of the Sheraton Toronto, the traveling Red Lounge for Coca-Cola, and MGM City Centre in Las Vegas.