Design is not just a profession, it’s a way of life. Whether it’s on the runway, backstage, on the go or online, these designers both live and love what they do
Over a recent summer weekend at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, one remote corner of the otherwise deserted academic building was buzzing with activity. An interim workshop? An extracurricular club meeting? In actuality, it was something called a “hackathon,” a kind of free-flowing design powwow in which people from different fields brood, brainstorm and build stuff.
A young, bespectacled, slightly geeky guy dressed in gray sweats and sneakers came to greet us. But Thomas Schranz, 31, is no student, he’s the founder and CEO of Blossom, a project management tool used by Google, Netflix and NASA.
Although he’s spent the last few years traveling back and forth to San Francisco, where most of his mega clients are based, the native Wiener has spent most of the past year right back in his hometown, co-organizing a series of these hackathons. After being exposed to the relaxed approach of the Americans toward specialization, Schranz wants to spread this type of thinking in Vienna.
Even within the industrial design department of the university where the hackathon was taking place, there was a form of division, reflecting the department’s split into two factions. But at least members of both were taking part.
“In the German-speaking world, there’s a tendency to pigeonhole people into different areas of expertise, which results in a kind of self-censorship that makes people believe they are only good at one thing. In the U.S., when people need a new skill – for example, coding – they just learn it themselves, as opposed to trying to find an ‘expert’.”
Schranz doesn’t refer to himself as either a startup entrepreneur or a software developer. He prefers the stand-alone term “designer.”
“I think it’s the most fitting term for my role,” he said. “It makes people think. When they’re confronted by the word, they have to infer something and ask themselves “What is design?”
As he returned to the session, where they were trying to assemble a model of a smart fridge, we asked ourselves just that.