WORK / Article If you could design anything…

Share this 27 AugustAug 2015

Cathal Loughnane

Creative Director

Cathal Loughnane is a Creative Director with Design Partners, a leading Irish strategic product design consultancy. He studied Industrial Design at Carlow IT and the National College of Art & Design, Dublin and has played a core role in developing Design Partners' unique approach to industrial design, merging craft techniques with advanced computer-aided technology. His consulting work with a broad spectrum of global brands has been recognised internationally by Red Dot and Industrie Forum in Germany and Good Design in the U.S.A. and Japan.


Sounds simple

Sounds like a simple question to answer, but for me it took more than two years of soul searching and experimentation only for the answer to present itself out of the blue when I wasn’t even thinking about it.

As an industrial designer I’ve spent years sculpting and honing material into conceptual forms on demand. Everything from cell phones to baking scales, computer mice and keyboards.
As a consultant my career has followed the path paved by our client’s business goals, but as a designer I have no limitations. I can design anything I choose. Anything that interests me and that’s the problem. It’s very difficult to narrow Anything down to Something. My sketch books are full of ideas and experiments. So many potential directions. I knew I wanted to steer clear of anything that housed a printed circuit board having designed hundreds of consumer electronic devices in my day job. I’m good at it but I’m not a gadget guy at heart. I’ve always been more analogue than digital.

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to hunt it down with a club”

I also feel a little uneasy with my career’s work being defined by the requests that happen to come in the door. Surely a designer should be constantly exploring new territory. Who knows what you’ll find? Bob Dylan has a wonderful saying; “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to hunt it down with a club. It’s funny how it happens. One day, while busily clubbing away, trying to beat inspiration out of another piece of on-demand work the answer just walked up and presented itself at my feet. In my career I’ve spent years blending traditional sketching and sculpting techniques with advanced design technologies. Here is a little secret I like to share: The traditional skills bring a level of nuance and emotion to my designs that is rare in the digital age.

Hand sculpting is close to my soul. In fact, I slowly honed my skills as a designer through the manipulation of form. I was a sculptor before I became a designer. For me there’s nothing more enjoyable than free-forming a design straight out of a fresh foam block, sketching straight onto the block, making thousands of tiny decisions while cutting, rasping and sanding the finished concept into existence. I love my job and I’m at my happiest when sculpting. Inspiration for me resides in the land of “Love and Happiness. If I go there with my club I’ll bag a brace of ideas any day.
So while happily spoke shaving a piece of foam the dots connected. The man-made objects closest to my soul have always been Hand Tools. The answer was right there in front of me all the time.

Hand tools are fundamental to who I am. They are so much a part of me that I completely over looked them, took them for granted. If I could design anything it should be a hand tool.

Now I have a journey ahead.