Andres Iga, a 2011 graduate of the Design and Management (BBA) program, has been busy running a branding and interaction design studio called Index Interactive, LLC, which he co-founded after graduation with a fellow Parsons graduate. Serving the dual role of Business Manager and Creative Director, he doesn’t see a clear distinction between design and management, believing that “all design programs should also involve a business curriculum.”
From his experience at Parsons and starting his own company, he’s found that designers do more than just design. They are called on to do other things, such as “cash flow, or contracts, or managing client relations,” skills that the School of Design Strategies teaches in order to train its students to think critically and holistically, while also preparing them to succeed professionally. We asked Andres a few questions, and to share his thoughts on his time at the School of Design Strategies and beyond.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU LEARNED WITHIN THE DESIGN + MANAGEMENT PROGRAM AND PARSONS? HOW DID THIS LEAD YOU TO, OR AT LEAST HOW IS IT CONNECTED TO, WHAT YOU CURRENTLY DO?
I think the most important thing I learned from the Design + Management program is that life is inherently transdisciplinary, and therefore so is anything you do in life; the program made me really conscious that you can’t just go out there and do ‘design’: whatever you do will require a variety of skills from different fields, and one of the most important ones is business. You can be a great designer but if you lack the business skills to sell and manage yourself as a ‘product’ (because at the end of the day that’s what it comes down to) then you’ll be constantly struggling to get rewarded accordingly for the work you produce.
And not just in terms of business concepts, but in general, I think the Design + Management program really taught me to be aware of the different roles I’d have to play once I got out of college, especially owning my own business. Particularly as a designer, because every project requires you to really absorb and understand what the project is about, you can’t go out thinking you are this one clearly defined thing: you have to be aware that your role in your professional life will be constantly evolving and so every skill and every passion you have is a really important asset, even if it’s not connected to your current job or the project you are working on. Design + Management was great because it put me in that mindset.
COULD YOU SHARE YOUR INSIGHTS INTO THE CREATIVE PROCESS, THAT YOU LEARNED FROM PARSONS OR OTHER PROJECTS?
The one thing I really appreciate from my Parsons education is that we were always taught to focus on concept first. A thing that I know a lot of designers struggle with, myself included, is that we tend to be much more practical than analytical when confronted by a design problem. The creative process involves a lot of ‘making’, but sometimes we ‘make’ a lot of things without really thinking about the problem that we’re supposed to be solving, because we get stuck on execution—execution of a concept that has been wrong from the start perhaps.
It’s weird because I think designers tend to operate in a very intuitive manner and that’s what makes good design so likeable, because it just clicks with you; but at the same time, we have to learn to think analytically about what we produce because design is inherently a problem-solving activity, so even though it has a lot of soul it needs to have a lot of brains too.
Which reminds me of a couple of things: (1) never work in a vacuum; share your work, have it torn down… this almost always improves the final result; and (2) expose your brain to different things every day, especially content you wouldn’t normally consume; it’ll keep your mind active and it’ll help you think in different ways about solving design problems.
WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC OPPORTUNITIES THAT WERE ENABLED BY PARSONS?
Obviously working in close proximity with a bunch of talented people, from other students to the faculty, was always great, and it really helped fuel my creativity. However, after being away from Parsons for a couple of years now I think the best opportunity came from the ability to network with people from all over the world. We’ve been fortunate enough to have had a steady flow of work from when we first started Index and the connections we made at Parsons have had a lot to do with it, as many of our clients have come through recommendations.
WHAT DOES “DESIGN MANAGEMENT” MEAN TO YOU?
That’s always been a challenge, to define what ‘Design Management’ means, but I think that as time has passed it has become increasingly clear to me, and I think this has a lot to do with experience. ‘Design Management’ is a difficult concept to get across to students because it is a very practical thing, and it is also something that designers tend to do anyway, even if they don’t realize it. I think the most important idea that the concept of ‘Design Management’ implies is not necessarily about marrying business and design strategies, but it’s more about realizing that design exists parallel to a bunch of other fields, which it can influence and which, in turn, can contribute to the field of design. Once we are open to the idea that, as designers, we can learn from everything, we expand the possibilities of our work. Likewise, when we understand that we have the power to influence, and contribute to, not only other people’s lives but entire disciplines or schools of thought, then design becomes much more valuable. And it’s not only what designers can do, but but how designers think, which has caused design to become such an important field of study and practice.
WHEN PEOPLE ASK YOU “WHAT DO YOU DO?” HOW DO YOU RESPOND?
In reality the role I play at the company tends to shift from project to project, and even from day to day, there are days where I have to play businessman or manager, others I work with code or markup, sometimes I illustrate or even animate, etc. So ‘what I do’ and my ‘title’ aren’t exactly aligned but I think that’s what I like about what I do, that every day can require something different of me. I think that’s something really important in anyone’s career, and even personal, development: to find challenges and push yourself every day, get out of the comfort zone, do something new. That way you (a) won’t be bored with your work, and (b) be constantly improving yourself as a professional and as a person.
Design + Management
Co-founder, Business Manager and Creative Director of Index Interactive, LLC, a NYC-based Design & Development Studio. Recent projects include: Penn Schoen Berland’s Website Redesign and Development, BAV Consulting’s Insights Website Design and Development, development of Norfolk Southern’s 2013 Sustainability Report Site and CBRE’s 2012 Annual Report Site (working for Addison Design Company), Parsons The New School for Design’s School of Design Strategies Website Redesign and Design Dialogues Website Design and Development (both launching soon), and Weamon: Weather Monsters, an iOS game created by Index Interactive.