Designer Talks Podcast

Designer Talks podcast Ep. 8 - Peter Karn MCSD

August 31, 2022 Peter Karn Season 2 Episode 8
Designer Talks Podcast
Designer Talks podcast Ep. 8 - Peter Karn MCSD
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Show Notes Transcript

Peter is a professional experiential designer with over 18 years experience working with some of the worlds top creatives and international clients. He has a passion for innovation and a strong belief in collaboration. This philosophy has enabled Peter to build a talented and professional design team from a variety of disciplines, ensuring that all projects are practical, specific to the design brief and are truly world class. He understands that designs need to continually reflect the changing market place and he has the ability to truly listen to each client and their needs, and subsequently provide engaging interactive solutions.

As Global Creative Director of experiential design agency MET Studio, Peter creates highly innovative, interactive and immersive projects that connect audiences with stories. Peter’s recent project have included The Singapore Bicentennial Experience, Blink: The End is In Sight Exhibition at Oxo Tower and the Mobility Pavilion at Expo 2020.

www.metstudiodesign.com

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Lefteris Heretakis:

Hello, and welcome to design a talks podcast from the charter Society of designers. I'm your host Lefteris Heretakis. And our guest today is Peter Cullen. Welcome, Peter.

Peter Karn:

Hi there. Good to be here.

Lefteris Heretakis:

It's fantastic to have you here. So tell us about yourself.

Peter Karn:

And yeah, well, so I, I work in exhibition, design or experiential design. I've done that now for over 20 years, I think. I think it's that long. I kind of started originally as an industrial designer, or that's what I studied. And then went on from there to study spatial design, interior architecture, that kind of thing. And then from there, I didn't really know what design was, if I'm honest, I went to the University studied design, I think pretty much because I could draw I think that was that was a big thing didn't really know what I want to do with my career, and sort of fell into it a little bit. But I think the more i The more I practice it, the more I learned about it, I think the more I realised I had an interest in it, and hopefully an aptitude for it. And I think this sort of career evolved similarly from there. And the you know, I started doing my first job was in sort of corporate exhibitions and trade stands and things like that. I then went on to do a little bit in workplace design, interior design, and then kind of fell into designing museums and permanent exhibitions and things like that. And I think that was, that was kind of a big moment for me where I, I didn't even know that career existed. As a lot of young creatives at that time that you send your CDs out and your folio, you're kind of happy to get a job to get any job. And you discover people and you discover practices and techniques that you didn't think even existed and you start to learn from them start to adapt them. And yeah, and then have been designing experiences, museum galleries, world expos. And any kind of space that tells a story, and we're doing that now for well, yeah, just over 20 years. So, so yeah.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Plastic. So how did it all start? At what age did you did you realise?

Peter Karn:

I, you know what, I don't really know the answer to that question. If I'm honest, like I said, my career kind of chose me rather than I chose it. And it was never like I was eight years old. And yes, I want to be a I want to be a designer. I think it it My parents were both were they were sort of Yin and Yang, I guess one was a structural engineer, civil engineer. And my father and my mother was a was a fine artist, or still is fine artist. My dad's retired now. But yeah, my, my mother's a practising fine artist. So I think I was the sort of merriment of those two things of that kind of structure and creativity, the two things, I sort of hope I took the best of both, but I don't, I don't know, maybe they'll disagree with that. But I think that was always again, it was it was something that I never really knew that I wanted to do. But at school, I just was always good at drawing, you know, and I always like to draw things and imagine things and create things. I used to get in quite a lot of trouble with my cheaters or art teachers, because I always wanted to draw things that were in my head or draw things that I'd imagined. And they always used to tell me off because I know it's a craft, you need to do still life, you need to draw landscapes, or you need to draw portraits, you need to learn form. And you do that by looking at things and recording them. And I sort of, I kind of never want to do that. I want to imagine things. I can sort of see the arrogance and naivety of myself when I was that age, and why my teachers used to get so frustrated with me. But also I thought it was interesting that when I discovered design, as kind of what you're encouraged to do, you're encouraged to conjure something from things you look at, or things you know, or things you see or things that you can sort of envisage or imagine and create things based on that. And I think that was probably something that drew me to it, but I'm not going to lie I could draw. So I went to I went to art college and I studied design and I think I spent two years of that was not really knowing what what the hell I was doing, but getting the good mark in and sort of scraping through but I think it was later that I started to realise what I was actually doing And what the value of it was. But it took quite a long time for me to get to that. I think maybe I don't know, slightly resisted it a little bit. I don't know why that is, I'm not entirely sure. Probably because I thought it was quite a confined thing. But the more I explored it, and the more I encourage voluntary tutors to think differently. I think that opened me up to other other kind of possibilities and other other avenues. And I think that's when it became really, really interesting. So yeah, I still not sure I know the answer to that question. But that's kind of the path I took, I think a lot, a lot of creatives have that similar experience, you know, you never really look at your, your career path and plan it all out from the very, very beginning, you sort of try and discover different things you meet different people may take you on different routes, different piles, and before you know it, you end up doing something that you didn't even know, existed, or was possible. I mean, I never knew that there were exhibition designers. You know, when I was when I was a kid, or sort of when I was even when I was at uni, it was something that I kind of happened upon. I'm glad I did, because I don't know what I'd be doing otherwise. But, but yeah, I think I was fortunate in that sense.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So you, you have never thought about an alternative career if you couldn't do that.

Peter Karn:

I mean, I think when I was younger, I used to, I used to illustrate a lot I used to, it was a huge fan of you know, like the British comics, you know, that 2000 ad and, and Judge Dredd and you know, all kind of all those sort of, you know, muscles and guns and, you know, people's heads getting blown up by lasers, and you know, all that sort and kind of, you know, big sort of industrial robots and all that kind of stuff. I just thought that was a whole other world on a page that I thought was just the coolest thing I've ever seen, you know, when I was sort of snotty nosed kid. And so I always was quite influenced by that. And I always started to, you know, create my own stories and draw my own comic strips. I thought that they were the best thing since 2000 ad, but I think I look back again, maybe a bit of naivety, but that was sort of a career path that I wanted to do. And, yeah, that was always something that I thought about, maybe doing. And to be honest, I probably wasn't good enough. I was certainly you know, Greg staples. But you know, I could illustrate well enough to impress my mates and go, yeah, look at this cool thing that I've done. And it was like, Wow, that's amazing. But doing it professionally, I think was another matter again, maybe a bit of naivety. So I think I think that was a path, I think, I think I was always sort of weirdly influenced on the kind of completely opposite side by my dad. Him being an engineer, civil engineer, because he was so so fascinated by how things worked. And will always sort of take things apart and put them back together. So I always get I always had that fascination, I used to do the same thing. I used to get a radio and just like take it to pieces, and then try and put it back together. I didn't always do it successfully. And that was always a fascination. But I think it was something that I knew. I didn't know I wasn't that good that at first. But it was sort of interested in. I thought that was that was that was quite interesting. For me. I never thought I was that practical with my hands. I was good at drawing and imagining things and not particularly good at making things. So that I wanted to be because my dad was so that was always something I sort of, I don't know, smashed at radios and tried to put them back together in my spare time, as well as drawing comic strips, trying to be you know, 2000 ad illustrator. But yeah, I think beyond that there was a weird time I wanted to be a police officer. I don't know what was going through my head then. That would not Yeah, that would not have been a good career choice for me having a slight problem with authority. That that yeah, that wouldn't have worked out well. Thank God things ended up the way they did.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Are you collecting comics now?

Peter Karn:

No, not really. I mean, I used to, I was never a serious collector. You know, I could never keep them in good enough condition. You know, I would always sort of I'd sort of obsess over them but in more in terms of the the illustration style, and I'd sort of try and replicate that. I remember buying an airbrush once and making a terrible mess. Actually, I used to do a thing where I used to this is I'm not sure I shouldn't be making this but I used to buy little pots of acrylic paint. So I used to draw like a scene on a use like one of my my dad's old drawing boards because he had quite a few back in the days where you know, all his drawings are all by hand. And I used to draw a scene normally Live, somebody's getting exploded in some way or shape or form by, you know, a certain 2000 ad character, but I used to put the little pot of paint on the illustration. And I had a, as a lot of children did growing up in the countryside, which is where I grew up. I had a little pellet gun, so I put a little pot of paint on it, and then I'd stand at the other side of my room, and I'd shoot the pot of paint. So it's sort of splattered all over the illustration. I was no Jackson Pollock, you know, but, again, I thought that was sort of really cool. You know, that was my version of being punk. But I didn't know there was sort of things like that, that I that's how I used to spend a lot of my spare time. But I think, yeah, I always found kind of an ISIL kids, do you just sort of playing around with your you're sort of fiddling around with things on you know, in your in your spare time, but But yeah,

Lefteris Heretakis:

that's, that's very interesting. So what has been your most rewarding design experience?

Peter Karn:

And I don't know, again, it's a very difficult question to answer. I mean, I can talk about projects I've done. I mean, I've done some sort of projects that I'm quite proud of. We just, we finished the mobility pavilion at the Dubai Expo, being huge experiential project, where it's incredible people, you know, mazing clients, really forward thinking, really want to push the envelope, amazing collaborators, you know, like people that design movie production sets and things like that wetter workshop and New Zealand and Magno percent of Los Angeles, and all credible engineers, and, you know, huge cast of people, I was a sort of, you know, played a role in that huge curse. But then other projects, like the blink blink project we did for Sightsavers. That was, that was a great moment. And that was all about raising awareness of sight loss. And we created a, an art exhibition that when you blinked, it destroyed a piece of the exhibition digitally, when you're actually in the space. So that was great. And again, you know, fantastic collaborations. But I think, I think one of the things is that, you know, the as as, as I've matured, in my career, as I've got a bit older, you sort of realise that you don't really have an individual doesn't have ownership on projects. So all the projects I've done that I've been the most proud of, if it was just me, they wouldn't have been anything like what they were, it was all the other people, all the other collaborations, all those conversations where you bounce off of each other, where that magic happens, where things crackle, whether alchemy occurs, you know, you walk into a room thinking, we don't have an idea what the hell are we going to do, and you come out of that room with something, you know, and all you've done is sat in a room with bits of paper and post it notes and chatted backwards and forwards. And suddenly, you've got this incredible vision for this incredible thing. But then you go on for months, years, however long to achieve. So I think I think for me, it's the sort of most rewarding moments of those moments, those moments of collaboration. And also, I think, I think building and developing a team as well, you know, being able to, to kind of see people grow into their roles and contribute more and more to the creative culture of projects and the company. We were at work. Yeah, I think it's those moments, I don't think it's a singular thing that I can claim that I can lay claim to. It's more things that I've helped happen with other people, those those kind of alchemy, those moments of alchemy, those moments of magic. I think, for me, that's that's always the most rewarding part of the project. Yeah, definitely.

Lefteris Heretakis:

That's very interesting. So how does design affect your everyday life?

Peter Karn:

And these are very broad questions. I can get out.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So maybe it could be just to take us on a journey about about you know, your, your ideas, and yeah,

Peter Karn:

yeah, I mean, I think I think all designers would say that they're curious. I think that's a real sort of character trait you have to have to to be to be any creative, I think, but certainly a designer, I think you have to be curious about the way things work or the way things could work out to question things. I think it goes back to me, you know, dismantling the radio I think that was maybe I didn't really know why I was doing it, but it was me subconsciously sort of trying to understand something and look behind. I want to know how it works. I want I want to know how the radio actually work works. What's it made of? And it was a moment you opened it up and you saw this stuff inside it that it's sort of I remember it blowing my mind a little bit. So I Think curiosity is a huge part of that. And I think that's something that you don't turn on and turn off. It's not a nine to five thing or, you know, you go into your studio and you're curious, and then you leave. And you're no longer curious. I think there's a mindset. So I think, I think design has always affected my life in that way. I just maybe didn't always know it. But I think that that curiosity, and I think when you learn and practice design, you learn a lot about the world, you learn a lot about, you know, how the world is built, you know, primarily, but also, you know, in the field that I'm in, where we do a lot of international projects, museums, cultural projects, you you kind of learn how governments work, you learn how things are funded, you learn, you know, how governments push funding towards education, and what their plans not just for now, but but the future. You also learn about audiences, you learn about what they engage with, and what they don't engage with. And you also learn about the subjects that you exhibit, you know, so woman, we're doing exhibition about, well, sight loss, the next turn experience is all about human mobility, or the planets in the solar system. You know, you get to learn a lot about the world from lots of different perspectives. So I think it's the sort of, I guess, giant version of me dismantling the radio and trying to put it back together. I guess, for the last 20 years, I've been trying to put the radio back together in different ways. You know, so but yeah, I think I think for me, I think then you realise how design affects everyone's life, you know, and it's not always exciting. It's, you know, I remember, my tutor in the first year, this is always one of the things that stuck with me, I think, again, at the time, I was like, No, that's nonsense. But I it's always resonated with me, where I remember he said that, you know, the ultimate form of design is a toothbrush. You know, it's like, if you can design a toothbrush, and if you can make it the best damn toothbrush that's ever worked functionally. But you can also make it beautiful. That is, that's as high as, as high as high as achievement as you can get. You know, as a designer, that is the absolute pinnacle, that's the apotheosis of where you can get as a designer. And that was like, What are toothbrush now that's boring. I want to design this to want to design that. But But thinking back, you know, he's right. And in that everything is designed around us every single thing use. And I think, unfortunately, more often than not, you notice design when it's bad, you notice it when it doesn't work, particularly in industrial design, when it works. It's sort of it's almost mundane, because it you take it for granted, whether that's the thing that facilitates my life. I think when you move into a larger scale, when you move into experientially moving to architecture and things like that, I think the success of design becomes a much broader expression, a much broader canvas. And I think you can kind of, you know, what, I guess you can show off a little bit more, maybe there's a little bit more room for, you know, the the flamboyant personality designer, I think that's maybe one of the reasons why I moved into more spatial design, because it was a it was a larger canvas. But I think there's pitfalls you can fall into with that as well, because it you things can very easily become ego projects. And again, in my slightly advancing years now. The ego project has never work, you know? Yeah, but no, I think I think design it, I think it affects all of our lives. But for me, it always comes back to curiosity, I think.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So who has been your biggest influence? You talk about your tutor, and who has influenced you the most?

Peter Karn:

And yeah, I mean, I think I don't think it's any one individual person, I think lots of people have influenced me in very different ways throughout my life. And throughout my career. I think if you put them all next to each other, they probably wouldn't get on particularly well, because I think they're all very, very different. You know, I think both my parents without a doubt, you know, just from a young age, always seeing my dad making things and, you know, drawing things with to a very technical precise level. But then my mom, you know, doing huge big canvases and you know, painting, like kind of big, abstract pieces. And, you know, but I what was interesting is I always remember feeling slightly intimidated by both of them, because I looked at my dad and what he did, and I was like, wow, how does he do that? And other to my mom and doing this huge stuff, and, you know, how does she do that? But they were, they were, they were sort of very opposite things, but in a way they weren't because they were both conjuring and creating things, but just in different ways. So I think that that's always been something that's influenced me and again, I think they were both very, very, or both are still very curious about out the world and sort of wants to learn about things and always looking for interesting stories and interesting bits of knowledge in order to try and learn more about the world and sort of, I don't know, develop themselves as people. And I always thought that was quite fascinating. I always felt naive compared to them, which I think was a good thing, you know, slightly intimidated, but slightly naive, but also slightly inspired. So I think that was good. And I think that was something that again, when I was a kid, I didn't really realise what's happening. But now I look back on it and still have those influences. Yeah, and I do think my, my cheats as a college were, were great, you know. Again, when I was early college, I probably didn't agree with that. I pretty much disagree with every single thing that they said. But that was my my own naivety. I'm sure they've heard it all before, from, you know, kind of young, cocky students coming in thinking that they're the next, you know, John nouvelle or whatever or Philippe Starck. But now I think there's sort of lessons that that they imparted at the time that I never didn't agree with. But now I, I actually realised were very wise. I think there was one. It was my tutor in the I think it was in the second year that he said this guy called Ray. And I remember him saying the scariest thing to a designer is a blank sheet of paper. I was I remember, and My instant reaction was no, that's ridiculous like that, how, what a stupid thing to say. A blank sheet of paper is opportunity. And it's like freedom. And it's like, someone gives me a blank sheet of paper, I can't wait to create something on that piece of paper. You know, at the time, that was my reaction. Now, I actually think back and I think you know what, you're right, because that's what design is, you know, it's not fine art, where you literally just, you just put you on a piece of paper, a blank sheet of paper, that means no direction, it means there's, there's, you know, which way do I go, you know, it's a void, you know, I need influence, I need direction to create a piece of design that is relevant that works. So I think that was a lesson it took me a long time to learn, I think. But I remember being told that you know, and then obviously, my career, you know, as a guy again, in my job at met, what's his company, Alex, who is one of the most sort of ferocious individuals I think I've ever come across as this very kind of rambunctious as Legion character. But I just remember from the moment I met him, I was like, okay, yeah, you're someone I want to work with, you know, just fearless and hugely creative, massively ambitious, but just really, so much heart and soul and spirit and passion for what he does and what he wants to do. And, yeah, that, for me, was a big turning point in my career, I think, because it was like, okay, yeah, this is the path I want to take. You know, and I probably spent a lot of my career trying to be like him, and then realised very quickly, I'm not him. Because I'm, you know, not as Sean Connery esque as, as he is. But it's sort of inspired me to create my own personality through what I do. Without being arrogant. And without being dictatorial. I think that's important. That to kind of inspire others through, you know, being a little bit fearless, and not being afraid to challenge things. But also, you know, being being very professional, and I think that, for me, was a huge influence in terms of how you can actually approach creative work

Lefteris Heretakis:

and movie. What principles do you adhere to as a designer?

Peter Karn:

Yeah, I think collaboration is probably for me is is is the is the first thing I think, particularly in in the field that I work in, which is experiential, because it's so it has to be so collaborative. It's lots and lots of different crafts, its architecture, its interiors, its technology, interaction, sculpture, commissioned pieces, conservation, script writing, etc, etc, etc. There's a huge cast of experts that you need to not only create, but also execute projects. So I think I think collab collaboration from the outset is really, really important. I think bringing people in at the right moment is also very, very important. Otherwise, it can become a bit of a soup, you know, bit of a free for all. But, but no, I think collaboration I also think in terms of how to manage or run a design team The thing that's really important, I think is how you get the best set of people is you make them feel valued, you make them feel that they're part of a team. They're not just there to churn out CAD or to do their little piece of it that they get, say, and they have a voice. And I think that's really, really important. That that kind of collaborative philosophy, I also think it sounds obvious, but I think listening is really, really important as well. Again, it's something Alex used to always say to me, he always used to say, never work for a company that's named after a person. Because it's the voice of that person. You know, I'm not sure that's universally true. I don't know. But, but I think it's an interesting point of view. Because it's, I think, if you dictate too much, and it's just the voices and opinions of a single person, I think things can never, they, then they never as good as they can be. But at the same time, it can't be a, it can't be committee. And it can't be a free for all, there needs to be somebody guiding the process, you know, who understands the vision of where you're trying to get to, but allow flexibility in that process that other people can challenge it and move it in the direction it needs to move. And it was it was a film director who said, a camel is a horse designed by committee, I think was Terry Gilliam he said that and I felt that's always sort of very interesting, I think in terms of how, in terms of how you approach it. So I think, yeah, I think listening is really, really important. In our, in our world, because you know, our jobs don't belong to us, they belong to our clients, you know, and we can't let our own ego get in the way of that, you know, we have to push things and elevate things. But at the end of the day, our jobs need to serve a function and need to meet the needs of our clients. And if we can elevate them beyond that, and give them something that, you know, maybe they thought it wasn't even possible, and exceed their expectations, and great, that's what we're all trying to do. But ultimately, everything we do has to come from our clients coming to us with a problem or a challenge or revision us listening to that and then doing what we do.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Absolutely, absolutely. What has been your biggest mistake.

Peter Karn:

That's a lot of winning interview where someone says, What's your weakness? What's your biggest weakness? And you say like, oh, you know, sometimes I care too much. Sometimes I work too hard, you know? Yeah. I think I thought she thought a lot about this question over the years. Because I've made so many mistakes, you know, individual mistakes, like, you know, oh, I made a mistake in a drawing or, I mean, I made some houses in the past, you know, and of course, always, there was always an excuse. So the, you know, Vectorworks didn't work properly. And certainly, you know, you always learn from the mistakes, I think I make a point of not forgetting them, because they were quite painful. But I always remind myself of how I felt when that happened. So that I don't ever forget it. So it doesn't ever happen again, I think that's quite an important thing is slightly masochistic. But it seems to work that, I don't know, I think it's probably not listening to my instincts, I think, actually, or being, being uh, being afraid not to speak a truth or being afraid to not say what I think or how I feel, or that kind of thing. I think that probably is the recurring thing. As you know, there's obviously technical mistakes that I think everyone makes. But you know, they can always be resolved, you know, some it's in the wrong place. So it's the wrong size. Okay, we'll fix it. It might mean this. It might mean that might have to swallow my pride a little bit, but but we can fix it. But I think, fundamental decisions where I know something is not right. But I'm like, Oh, it'll probably be okay. And then it's not okay. And then all of a sudden, it's quite a nuclear problem, you know. And I think that's happened. It's happened quite a few times in my career personally, where maybe I've taken a job where I knew I kind of shouldn't but I did anyway, and then it just didn't work out or worked collaborated with a certain individual knowing this doesn't quite feel right. But I now I find I'll make it work and then it just never does. Or on projects, you know, where it's like, okay, there's an idea that we're going with and it's like, okay, yeah, it just doesn't feel right to me, but I don't want to upset the team or I don't want to upset the client or I'm just gonna go along with it. And I think when I get that sort of slight burn feeling in the pit in my stomach about something to not ignore it? Because the problem with it is sometimes it means quite challenging situation because you have to uproot things or you have to maybe upset people, or you have to make the process more difficult, or you have to delay things. There's always a consequence to it. But I think ultimately, yeah, not listening to my instincts, probably the biggest mistake, there's quite a few moments where I think that's something I should have spoken up about that sooner. And then it became a problem or, or the end result isn't quite what it should be. And it's down to me, because I didn't say what I should have said at that time, you know, so easy to blame someone else in that situation? You know, because you can sort of say, well, you know, but you know, it's not my fault. They say, Yeah, but you didn't say anything. So you were apathetic. You know, you you're kind of culpable in that in that regard, I think. But, yeah, I think that probably is quite an ambiguous answer. Sort of politicians that answer slowly. Yeah, I think for me, that probably is always always the biggest mistake so that I don't listen to that horrible feeling you get here.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Should designers be expected to so everything?

Peter Karn:

I think they can have a go. I, you know, I think I think that's what's amazing about designers, when you meet when you meet them from all different walks of life. And you get two designers talking about design completely different things. There's, and there's that we sort of get along, because again, it's that sort of fascination with things. And and I think, you know, when designers get a bit older, maybe get a bit grumpy, I don't think I'm quite there yet, maybe another 1020 years, and it'll be there. But he gets sort of grumpy, and you get a bit cynical, but you're always still up for the next brief. I think that's it, every single new briefs or new job, you no matter how bad the last one was the worst project that you know, awful client, awful team, everything went wrong, the thing burned to the ground, you know, you didn't end up in prison. The next brief comes along, it's like, right, this time, we're going to nail it this time, it's all going to be brilliant, you know, and I think that's the sort of spirit that designers have. So I think, I don't think designers can solve everything. You know, you can't make a magic wand, some things can't be solved, you know, but I think the intention is there. And I think designers will always have a go at solving a problem, give them a problem, and a designer will try and solve it. Because that's the craft. It's creativity, and it's problem solving combined, or artistry and problem solving combined. You know, so yeah, I think they'll have a bloody good go, is what I would say.

Lefteris Heretakis:

So how do you see the future of design?

Peter Karn:

Yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's a tricky one, I think. I think it's things are certainly getting faster and more demanding. I think technology plays a huge role. And technology in comes, I think, plays a huge role in that. You know, in that. I mean, if you look at not that long ago, you know, probably what, 25 years ago, you know, when I was sort of starting out at uni, most things were done by hand, you know, the email was, were barely even existed, I think, in 25 years ago, it didn't exist, except for an MIT and places like that, you know, things were done on the phone, things were done on drawing board, I remember my first work experience project, you know, and having this huge, translucent, you know, ao, roll that drawing, you know, and doing everything with with fine liner pens, you know, and then you make a mistake, you got to scrub it out with a little scalpel and redo it, it ever it's fix. It was such a long process, and you overlay the other layer, and you trace the old ones and make amendments and everything was enrolled up and filed away. And, you know, everything was dusty. And, and it was it was a really, really hands on crafted but but quite laborious and lengthy process. You know, and I went to uni, and, you know, the rise of CAD, you know, I remember in the second year, you know, like learning 3d Studio Max, and just like my whole world was blown to pieces, because I could create this incredible Pixar, like, you know, thing in an afternoon, you know, how like, it's going to save us so much time. And we can do this, we can do that. And, and I think that sort of it made things a lot quicker. But then of course what comes with that the overhead of that is that you have to be twice the amount of work in the same amount of time now. So then things become faster and faster and faster. And I think now, you know, with the advent of things like BIM process and things are much more integrated in terms of a design process, which makes our life easier, and it means that we can execute more accurate results. And, and we can, you know, mitigate mistakes and errors and additional costs and things that cause delays later in the process, which is great. But it means that the pressure is on reducing budgets and reducing time so that you can do more in a small amount of time. I think, I think in the future, that there's a lot of benefits to this, I think flexibility is a thing. That's great. I mean, I think the days of people being judged on how long they spent at their desk, gone, I think, you know, the last two years in particular, you know, with the pandemic have proved that, you know, the old school, the old guard, it's all very much, if you're not saying your desk, you're not working, if people work in my home, they're skiving off, you know, our team, you know, we're, I think more productive during during that period, you know, because they were, they were really, really focused on on what they were doing. And I think the communication methods, you know, the teams being able to stay in touch remotely, but all using digital technology, you know, as, as we are now and having quite in depth workshops, Creative Conversations, using this comms technology. So I think, I think there's sort of international collaborations, I think are going to be a lot more in the future. But I think people are sadly going to be expected to do more for less, you know, and I think, I think that is something that's happening. And I think, as a design community, we can, we need to try and protect, well, the sort of sanity, I suppose, and the well being of young people starting out in the industry, you know, so that designers don't lose their personality and don't, don't lose the ability to well to fiddle around and tinker with things and to express themselves through what they do take time to sink into fiddle. You know, I think I think that's really, really important. But I think the flexibility that is coming in the future, or is happening right now, I think will help that, you know, but I think it'd be interesting to see how different people adopt it in different people use it.

Lefteris Heretakis:

This is brilliant. How do you relate to design awards? Are they are they important?

Peter Karn:

So a design award, yes, awards, I'm not gonna lie, it's nice to get awards, you know, it's a bit of an ego trip at times. But you know, designers are also show offs. That's one of the reasons I became a designer, I want to create things to go look how good this thing is that I created. You know, it's nice to get recognition of that. And I think, I think ego aside, I think they are important, I think that definitely, it's definitely healthy to be judged by your peers, I think not just by your clients. So I think I think they do do that to a degree. I also think it's very good for recruitment of new talent. So if you can, you know, if you can get the red dots and the DNA days and things like that, and, and sort of show the world that you are of a creative standard, then that means you are going to, you're going to get a lot of the best talent knocking on your door. And I think that's important. I mean, I don't think that they're the the only measure of the quality output of studios by any means. I think a lot of awards, particularly in what in what we do, they can be quite expensive, you know, you have to pay quite large fees to enter them. They can also be there's a bit of a trick, you know, you get the right photos, you write the right press release, you position the project in a certain way, because you know that that body is going to like that style. So I think they can be manipulated to a degree. Not all of them, you know, they work in different ways in terms of how their judge judging panels work and their different processes and things like that. But yeah, I mean, I think there's definitely a place for them. For sure, in terms of being judged by your peers, which I think is always important. Yeah.

Lefteris Heretakis:

What other skills are needed in design?

Peter Karn:

I mean, I think, yeah, coming back to what we're talking about earlier, I think curiosity is so important. I think you got to be curious about the world. You've got to look want to understand behind things, how things work, how things function, what makes things successful, or not, how audiences work, you know, what they respond to, you know, particularly in what I do in in interpretation or experiential design. You know, how people absorb information, what they remember what they don't remember what inspires them, what moves them. I think that's really important. As well as that, as well as the all of the other technical skills that come with that and Um, you know, in terms of there's a lot you need to learn, particularly these days, you gotta learn a lot of software packages, you have to be able to execute your work, you can come up with an amazing idea, if you can't execute it, it's not really worth anything. But again, that comes back to the curiosity to learn different techniques that you can express your work in different ways. I think that's important. And I think artistic ability, I think, is is very, very important. And I think what I mean by that is you don't necessarily need to be able to draw, I think there's a little bit of a misconception between being very, very creative and very artistic. And just being able to draw something immaculately, you know, like a still life or something like that. I think I know quite a few people that are incredible crafts, people, they can draw something absolutely beautifully, and immaculately EFIS, effortlessly, but maybe aren't the best, if you give them the brief or all the blank sheet of paper, then go you know, come up with something, conjure something out of nothing, or respond to a brief and, and look deeply into it and understand that and come up with something. And the flip side to that is I know quite a few people that are pretty terrible at drawing. You know, they try and draw a horse and it ends up looking like a well, like a goat, I don't know. But have hugely creative and innovative minds and come up with fantastic ideas. And I think that's the beauty of design, particularly nowadays is that there's so many tools that you can use to express your ideas, that isn't just reliant on you being able to draw your idea in order to express it. I think it's it's a very useful skill to have. But I think being artistic and being creative and innovative. So that you can take the bits and pieces and the tools at your disposal, and conjure something and express something through those. You know, and I think that's what design is, again, it's it's taking things that exist and rearranging them to create something, or taking knowledge of things research, looking at things in in granular detail, and really fundamentally getting to the essence and the core of what something should be of a problem or an issue or a challenge or an objective. And then going okay, well this answer is relevant for these reasons. So I think there's a rigour involved in that, and then having the skills, whether it be hand drawing, or CAD, or you know, montage or whatever it is, to be able to clearly express that and communicate it. So I think they're the kind of fundamental skills, and obviously, the execution that varies greatly depending on which discipline of design you're practising. But I think that processes always is always true, I think.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Excellent. So how do you maintain your enthusiasm and inspiration?

Peter Karn:

I think it is hard at times. It's a challenging industry, and when it really is, but no, I think it's just the variety. I think that's what it is, you know, what's interesting is a lot of designers when they find an agency or practice that they like, tend to stay there for quite a long time. Because you're not, you're you're not just shovelling coal into A into an engine, you know, or, you know, spinning in a wheel, you every single day is a new challenge. Every single client is different. Every brief is different. There's always new people that you're collaborating with. So it's like having a new job, you know, every few months when you get a new project. And obviously, you know, the most senior up you go, you're looking at new briefs, and you collaborate is every single day, you know, so there's, there's that infinite variety in it. And as that's happening, the the industry itself is evolving, and it's changing. And there's new techniques that people are discovering, and new ways of doing things and new problems to solve new perspectives and new ideas, and I think it's constantly refreshing itself, our industry. And I think that's what that's what makes it great. And I think it's being open to that, that I think keeps enthusiasm. It's very easy to close off and say no, that's how I design and I've done it for 20 years. That's how I'm always going to do it. Being open to that, again, it comes back to that collaborative attitude. To keep things interesting and keep things fresh.

Lefteris Heretakis:

But do you believe there's a tendency of things that are looking the same in a way?

Peter Karn:

Yeah, I think, I think very much so. And I think it can come from what sort of trends fashion Zeitgeist call it, whatever you want to call it, but I think it can come from a lot of tools in our industry. I remember, you know, when I graduate At then it was the sort of it was the rise of, you know, the Wii re rendering and NURBS modelling and all this kind of funky stuff. But everything sort of started to look that everything started to go a bit Weebly. You know, and all these kind of organic, beautiful organic shapes, everything started to look like a 3d Max render. And that was certainly something that happened for a long time. And I think I think a lot of architects, you know, developed entire aesthetics from this, you know, created beautiful, stunning, amazing things. I'm not, I'm not sure of their sustainability credentials, but you know, that's that's something else. But, yeah, and I think there can be a tendency to do that, in that to follow trends. And I think I think a lot of, again, maybe I'm getting grumpier, as I'm getting more, you know, as I'm getting more experienced in my career, but I think certainly at creative director level, there is a tendency to, to bullshit, I think, I think there is that I think there's a tendency to use words, but not actually, that don't actually have any meaning. You know, I think this is a corporate thing as well, like there's management speak, you know, things like that. But I think there is a there is a tendency at creative director level to do this, to use these little tricks and to use these little things that are sort of Oh, yes, that's clever. Oh, yes. I never thought well about that, you know, like, and it's sort of, you know, to the client, you're pulling a rabbit out of a hat. But actually, no, you just said that same thing to last 10 clients. And it's, it's the same thing and using sort of industry buzzwords, and I'm sort of trying to think of one off the top of my head, but I'm not sure I can at the moment. We're all sort of, you know, people that the metaverse is the latest one, actually, everyone's saying, oh, yeah, we need to consider what we're doing in the metaverse, but they sort of leave it there. And it's like, okay, well, but what does that mean? Let's break that down a bit more. Let's be designers. Let's use our analytical minds to break it down. Oh, no, but I just mean, no, just do something in the metaverse, I mean, the digital, digital landscape, and there's just more words for it, right? There's not the actual beef as to what it really is, and what it means and how we can use it and how we can innovate with it. Because as a designer, I'm like, No, but we need to make something. We need to create something. We can't just say something. You know, I think it's it's the sort of, I guess, creative directors equivalent of when most people taste wine, you know, and he's like, wine words, you know, it's like, oh, yeah, well, that's, that's quite Jammy, isn't it? No, it's quite this, it's got that. And it's sort of you know, that it's close enough to the mark. But you're, you're using it, because it's going to hide the fact that you don't really know what you're talking about, you know. And I think there is a little bit of a tendency to that. And I think trying to cut through that is, can be can be difficult. But I think more often than not those terms, or those, that that approach to creativity can make things quite generic, because you're not cutting to the quick of what it is you're trying to do, and then expand out from that. And that's when you create things that are truly unique and make a difference. You know, it can just be about someone trying to sound clever in a meeting. And then they leave the meeting. And it was oh, that was really clever, wasn't it? And then, you know, in the next meeting, when you sit down with engineers and things like that, they're like, oh, no, no, we're not gonna do that cuz it didn't work. Anyway, we're going to do this. And it's sort of forgotten, you know, because they were in another meetings, saying the metaverse again. But yeah, I think I don't think there's anything new to be honest. I think there's just more ammunition, there's more oxygen, there's more bullshit terms that you can use now. Things that are imagined that haven't quite happened yet. And you mentioned it in a meeting and you sound cool and clever. You know, and then the meeting finishes, and then you go to another meeting, you know, I must admit, I've done it myself quite a few times where you're in a bit of a jam in a meeting, and you're like, oh, yeah, we should consider the metaverse. We have what have you. But yeah, then I cry myself to sleep.

Lefteris Heretakis:

We have this defence tool to use when we are squeezed a little bit but yes, it shouldn't be overused sometimes. So what is the single piece of advice you would give to anyone starting out as a designer and as well? That the advice to a client

Peter Karn:

Yeah, I again, I mean, there's, there's so many things to say. But I think it I think collaboration I think it does come down to that. Don't be afraid to put your own ego aside and collaborate with someone else. And and listen and learn I think for particularly for young designers, I think it's so it's so so fundamental to don't don't think that you're the you know, God's gift. I think I did when I When I graduated, I definitely thought it was God's gift. And you know, yeah, okay, it might have got me a job or two, but I think it, I think it did hold me back. Ultimately, because I was a bit resistant to criticism, I was a bit resistant to collaboration. And the best the best steps I've made the best work that that I've done with with my team has always been from that it's always been putting my ego aside and collaborating. And then, you know, the more kind of the more you advance in your career, the more you champion that, you know, the more we the start to build teams around that ethos and yields. Good results. And I think it's the same for clients, I think, you know, it's for them to because it can be really daunting for clients. I think hiring design agencies, you know, I think, especially if it's something that they're new to, I think when we work with a lot of museums, they're very used to it, you know, because they have in house design teams, and they also they commissioned designers all the time. They know the drill, they know the process. But I think when you're doing when clients are doing it for the first time, it can be incredibly daunting. And I think they sort of don't they it can be hard to know, for them where the line is, do we just let the designer do what they want? Or do we micromanage them. And I think the other point is, it's a balance, you have to be able to listen to each other. You know, you can't let your designer run amok and just do you know what the hell they want to do, because it'll be chaos. But at the same time, you can't, you can't stifle their creativity and, and their expertise by by dictating to them. So I think it's, it's, it's a collaborative relationship, giving clear direction, but then allowing that to be challenged. And I think that works both ways that works for a designer, onto the client, and from a client on onto a designer, and that relationship is so important. I think that's another good piece of advice is building those relationships. Because the moment you have that relationship, you can kind of speak your truth. And I think that's I think that's important, you know, the age we live in now, I think truth is something that is hard to come by, I think, you know, coming back to the kind of creative director bullshit buzzwords, but, but I think trying to get to truth is really, really important. And sometimes the truth is difficult because it means we can't afford this. We don't have enough time to do this. So it's not right, or it's not this or it's not that but once you get to it, you can then think, Okay, well, what can we do? And how can we innovate with this? And how can we do something incredible? You know, and again, that's, that's designer and clients responsibility to get to that truth.

Lefteris Heretakis:

That was wonderful. Really, really? And what is finally, what is the most important thing you have discovered as a designer?

Peter Karn:

And I think it's linked to that last point, I think, I think it is, I think it's to that design in particular, you have to find truths in it, you have to find tangible things, because you're making something at the end of it, you know? And I think not not the design can't be, you know, high art as well, not that it can't ask questions. But those questions again, they come from something really, they come from putting your finger right on, this is what we're trying to say, this is what we're trying to achieve. What is the best answer for that? And I think I think for me, that's kind of it always comes back to that, you know, and all of the things that you talked about, about being curious and about being collaborative and about being challenging, and about being passionate about being flexible, all of these things, they're all ways to get to that truth, and not being afraid of what that truth is, again, you know, you asked me what my my sort of biggest mistake was, it's, it's ignoring that truth. It's not listening to that feeling where I kind of know that this is the way actually is but I'm for whatever reason, I'm afraid to say it. So I think for me, that's probably the biggest lesson learn in it, that it all it all seems to all be around that, you know, but it's not easy. It's a difficult thing to get to. But I think the creative process is getting to that. And then what design does design allows you to expand it and express it as a thing, whether it's a space or a product or a experience or, you know, an aesthetic or you know, whatever it is, but it's got to come from that truth. If you don't have that you will not You're not going to get anywhere. I think that's what it is and that it has to be getting to that that fundamental essence of truth of of what what what it is the hell that we're trying to achieve, you know, through a project Yeah, I I think that's probably the most important lesson I've learned. You know, maybe it does come back to raise a blank sheet of paper. I think it does. Because there's no truth in it. There's like, what is it? It's nothing. There's nothing there. You know? Yeah. So maybe he was right. I think he might have been

Lefteris Heretakis:

the fine artist would say you have to make the Burnt Umber you know, you're a bit of brown and you know,

Peter Karn:

well, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Lefteris Heretakis:

Well, extremely articulate. Really enjoyed this conversation. And thank you so much for coming.

Peter Karn:

Thank you. It's, it's, it's been my pleasure. I hope I didn't ramble on too much and make people depressed. No, thank you very much. You're welcome. It's yeah, it's been great.