Drinks with Brooks Atwood of POD Design

Two posts in a row...We are featuring Brooks Atwood = co-founder and head of POD Design = assistant professor of Industrial Design = assistant director of the Idea Factory in theCollege of Architecture and Design at New Jersey Institute of Technology (my school!!)

As inspiring as always, Brooks talks about his design inspiration and advices for young designers like us. Let's have drinks with Brooks.

How did you start out in design? Did you always want to go into the arts?

I grew up curious. Not just with art, but in life.  Initially, I was unaware that design was even a profession, and I grew up always tinkering with things.  I would take apart things, and put them back in different ways.  My dad would force me to build things for him, like I had to redo the roof of the boat house, but he only taught me one technique of wood framing and then I had to do the rest on my own.  It would get frustrating, but that’s the best way to learn.

My home was a creative environment and my parents were always pushing and challenging me to push boundaries and think about things differently.  Any time we had a problem, like running out of gas or getting lost, my parents would somehow turn it into an adventure.  The word ‘problem’ was not in the Atwood vocabulary. 

If the design industry were nonexistent, what would you have become?

A magician in the circus, duh.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in life.  Mainly, talking to and observing people.  What they’re wearing, their mannerisms, and I mean REALLY observing.  Like Jason Bourne.  I once had a professor who would really make us look at stuff, like for hours we would stare at lines.  It taught me to look for the new and different in ordinary things.

Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? How did you overcome it?

I wanted to keep pushing the territories of design, but I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do that with the companies I was working for.  I got depressed and frustrated with dealing with the mundane and limited aspects of design at these companies, so I left.  I started my own business, POD Design, to feed my curiosities and creativity.

What is your favorite part of teaching?

I love seeing all of the different point of views that my students bring to class.  Each student has a unique point that he or she will bring and I love having everyone come together, sharing his or her thoughts, and getting excited about it.  There’s no right or wrong answer in design.

Any advice for young, aspiring designers?

Yes.  This is a tough time in the economy and you need an edge over your competition.  If you just care a little bit more than everyone else, you can be successful.  Look at Michael Jordan.  He just cared and practiced a little more than everyone else.  Give yourself opportunities to further yourself and don’t be afraid to fail.  Enter competitions, participate in installations, and put yourself out there.  You’re not going to get anywhere waiting for someone to find you.  Having an awesome professor can help too, ha.

What’s one book every human being must read?

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach. It’ll teach you about the process of design through the failures of NASA. 

Most important piece of advice?

Eliminate fear.  This is design, not brain surgery.  You’re supposed to break the rules.  You’re supposed to do your own thing.  That’s why we’re all in design.

Off to buy that book! Thanks for reading!

Aspiring architect and graphic designer. I design buildings and write about it. My interests revolve around urban architecture, people, graphics, arts and culture.