After having a few good laughs and nodding in agreement at the uncanny insight on a blog post called “Dating a designer: 10 things you need to know”, I was inspired. I haven’t dated a designer (or at least not recently), but I’ve known a few and I’ve raised an aspiring industrial designer to adulthood. It has been a unique experience – one that I’m sure that other parents can identify with. So I’ve decided to share a few insights of my own.
You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know your kid is destined to be an architect or designer when other toddlers are cramming everything into their mouths and your child is building complex structures with wooden blocks. You’ll know it when they prefer to arrange their food into pleasing patterns to actually eating it. It will be obvious when you see their first grade drawing of a detailed scene drawn in perfect perspective – and then you see their classmates’ sketches of stick mommies and three-legged cows. Design thinking may show up early. Recognize it and nurture it.
Trust their judgment. When your designer child laments that they’re the only one in the family with style, accept reality. It’s probably true. Instead of feeling offended, accept constructive criticism and rely on their expert judgment. My young designer once told me that I needed a signature color. “I suppose you have one.” “Of course,” she answered. “I’ll bet you even know the Pantone code.” “376. Pea Green.” She was right. I needed definition. I wasn’t able to pin my essence down to a single code, but if you look in my closet you’ll see a range that spans from light aqua to cerulean blue. I’m not a designer, but my color scheme and confidence have improved.
Gift shopping can be a challenge. Unlike the blogger who is dating a designer, I wouldn’t say gift shopping is next to impossible. Or at least not until they get older, tastes are more refined and they’re lusting after a minimalist watch with no numbers. Let’s just say that you need to be willing to consider unusual presents. You may even have to visit places like Lowe’s for items such as a Dremel MultiPro kit or drop by Office Max to pick up a 12 pack of Pilot Precise V5 pens. Their friends will shake their heads and say, “You got a tool kit for your birthday? That sucks.” They’ll never understand.
Designers are the new rock stars. At least to designers. At her age, I knew the latest hits and was damaging my hearing at stadium concerts. She works at a fabric store and gets excited when the new collections arrive from her favorite textile artists. We’re not so different. Really.
From my experience, parenting a designer is like raising orchids. It’s not always easy, and they only bloom under the right conditions. In fact, just read this excerpt about growing orchids and tell me if it doesn’t sound familiar…
“For your best crack at success, start by choosing one of the less fussy varieties that is adapted to the type of growing conditions you can provide. Buy the most mature plant you can afford (young plants are much more difficult to please)…”
Yes, young designers can be fussy and difficult to please, but they are imaginative thinkers that will help you to see the world in a whole new way. With the right conditions, plentiful resources, patience and understanding, your young designer will bloom and grow.
So stock up on paper, pens, tools, hardware and art supplies. Expose your designer to new experiences and inspiration and see what develops. Most of all – accept, encourage and enjoy.