Talk to Amber Lowe – Superheroes

One for the Future: Amber Lowe studies product and multimedia design at the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI).

The World Economic Forum forecasts that 65% of the jobs available in 10 years’ time don’t yet exist. As someone yet to enter the workforce, how does that make you feel?
It feels really daunting because we’re collectively entering into the unknown. On the other hand, it gives me the freedom to escape a specific job description and create something that better reflects who I am and what I hope to achieve.

Do you think a multi-disciplinary education will help you move up the ranks faster?
I’m currenting studying multimedia design and product design, and that mix could definitely help me in future, both in terms of my overall approach to work and in terms of the exposure to different workstreams within an organization.
Over the medium and longer term, I see myself freelancing, working across my own industry and those outside my immediate discipline. Being free to make my own choices is important to me, and it’s what I thrive on from a creative standpoint.
Besides my professional development, I also enjoy photography and writing. I think those two hobbies help round out my skillset nicely. Photography makes me sensitive to light and angles and helps me understand design aesthetics, and by writing I’m able to endow my designs with greater meaning and a sense of purpose.

You’re studying multimedia design today, and with emerging forces like 5G and IoT, the sky is the limit in your industry. How do you see businesses benefiting from a multimedia design approach when engaging with their internal and external audiences?
The move towards seamless, intuitive interfaces is already happening. But we haven’t seen what 3D interfaces or textured holograms, for example, can really offer. Right now there’s so much experimentation taking place, and I think being part of this specific design movement at an early stage – learning in a structured, analytical way – will give me a mindset and attitude towards change that will help me keep pace with everything happening around me.

What do you think makes a design successful? What are you looking to achieve in your own designs?
The first objective is to create something of value, giving the user something useful. It starts with solving a problem, however basic or complex. The next objective is to make it easy to use. If it’s a physical product, this means being simple, clean, easily stored away; if it’s digital, it’s about creating something intuitive, fluid, functional. Those are some basic objectives that everything else is built on. Ultimately, it’s about being rooted in empathy and an understanding of the audience. That’s where the context exists, and where my work begins.

Training in completely new fields means it can be hard to come by experienced mentors. How do you learn and improve on your work without having that sort of support?
The world is my mentor. There’s just so much out there to learn about and experience, even just on social media. Creators everywhere offer so much to someone like me. Wherever I look there are trends emerging and evolving, problems to solve, solutions to be found, and through all of that I find the inspiration to create something radically different, to make a real difference.

When the times comes to find a job in your industry, what criteria have you set to help you make your decision?
Freedom is at the top of my list; creative and physical freedom, both of which demonstrate a respect for the creative process. Along with the process, there should also be an insistence on sustainable results; on creating products that don’t add to the environmental devastation being inflicted on the world. In terms of a business’s philosophy, I admire organizations that aren’t happy remaining static, that do everything they can to keep evolving. That’s my personal criteria, but it’s also important to know how the world sees the business. Public perception will likely give me a good indication of what I can expect.

What’s your approach to your own work, from developing your ideas to actual production?
At university, working in teams involves a lot of unknowns. Are other members going to put in an equal amount of effort? Am I going to get constructive criticism, or are criticisms going to be because of someone’s ego? I’ve experienced teams where I’ve had to take on most of the load, which was tough. I’ve also been part of teams with headstrong members, where reaching a compromise was the real challenge.
But in every case, I enjoyed the process; collaborative work motivates you to do better, there’s a type of pressure that keeps you moving forward, even if you’re not particularly up to it that day. And at the end of the process you learn a lot more, you see how your ideas stand up to scrutiny. It’s so hard to analyze your own work from different angles when you are your only critic.

What was your experience in school, and how has that set you up for a working life?
School was very rigid and creativity was not a feature of my education. We didn’t even have an art class, and that really frustrated me. So when the time came to decide on a university and a major, going into design was exciting. It was a way to explore aspects of myself and what work means in a totally different way. With my current degree – multimedia design and product design – we’re exploring the limits of our imagination. During an early semester, for example, we had to imagine the world in 2050 and create hypothetical concepts grounded in reason and evidence. It was a real challenge, but the process – if approached in the right way, with the right frame of mind – teaches you more than any textbook could.

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