This is the latest in a series of interviews with designers identified by the Design Council as Ones to Watch. Sarah Weigold‘s Everyday Athlete is a conceptual design comprising a crowd of cheering spectators encouraging people to exercise more. Her motion-sensitive billboard responds to pedestrians, cyclists and joggers as they move down the street – the faster someone moves, the bigger the crowd’s reaction. “It aims to encourage impromptu exercise and make everyone feel like a sports star,” said Sarah. Sarah’s project was selected in the Living in the city category alongside Jack Beveridge’s creative campaign that shows urbanites what it would feel like to have a little more space to move and Kibwe Tavares’s film Robots of Brixton which explores the relationship between architecture, class and race.
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
My surname is pronounced why-gold, hence the golden question marks. Not many people get it right- so if you do, you will win me over forever.
What inspires your work?
People. Being a designer is just a really good cover for my people-watching habit. I’m fascinated by how we interact with each other and what motivates our behaviour.
Talk me through your design and making process.
I always start with the audience. If the brief is about young people, then I can’t wait to go and find some and start talking to them about their lives, routines, social groups and habits. Once I’ve found an insight such as ‘young people don’t have the time to exercise,’ I can create a design solution that addresses the issue raised and will serve the needs of the audience.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
Sharing my ideas with others. After I’ve put so much effort into research, observation and insights, it is such a joy to hear someone say that they understand my idea or that it would make them behave differently.
What’s your favourite tool and why?
The humble post-it note. I use them all the time to get my thoughts up on the wall so that I can get an overview of everything I know about the subject. The beauty of post-its is that I can move them around and try grouping them in different ways, creating connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Sarah Weigold.
I studied at Falmouth University – a really good day is one where I can work from one of the town’s beach cafés – surrounded by people, nature and good coffee. A bad day is one where I can’t get outside because of the rain or a deadline.
What defines good design?
Good design requires no explanation. I believe that good research and design thinking will be evident in a strong idea. If I find myself having to explain my process for people to appreciate an idea, then the idea isn’t strong enough.
What are you most proud of?
I’m a cool big sister – I recently won a competition to redesign Stephen Fry’s memoirs. I took my sister along to an event with Stephen and she’s been boasting to her friends ever since! To meet the person who has inspired your work and hear that they like it is an amazing feeling.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Share your ideas with anyone who will listen. I’m a natural introvert so I tend to hide myself away to think, but you gain so much from sharing an idea. A lot of my best ideas were picked out by friends who saw the potential in them when I couldn’t. Nowadays, whenever I’m in awkward ‘small talk’ situations I just start talking about my projects, most people are happy to listen and explaining your idea repeatedly helps to refine it.
What did it mean to you to be selected as one of the Design Council’s Ones To Watch?
It’s a real honour and has inflated my ego massively! Following the coverage it received, people who believe in the idea and want to help me make it a reality have been in touch with me, which is all incredibly exciting.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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