New IDer: Eric Folger

by New Idiom


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Please quickly introduce yourself in a quick sentence.

“My name is Eric Folger and I’m new to the MDM program as of January. While both native to the US, my wife Angela (also a designer) and I have been living in Australia for the last three years. I had been working as a Design Manager for a larger financial company based in Sydney. I’m originally a graduate of NYU’s Film School, but have built my career through specialty retail, e-commerce, and product design.”

How did you end up at ID? What were your motivations for coming? Where were you before?

I decided to come to ID after working to integrate design methods within the banking and insurance group Suncorp/GIO. Much of my approach to design was based on intuition and the experiences I had working in my previous companies. I felt that, in many cases, I was reinventing the wheel and that much of what I was doing had been done before and likely more effectively. The decision to come to ID was made after looking into which graduate programs offered the best insight into where design was heading and had a strong alumni community. I am hopeful that my post graduate relationship with ID will continue with fellow students, previous graduates, and professors sharing ideas and information to promote design as a powerful philosophy and tool for business, social, and community change.

What are your first impressions about ID?

I began the MDM program this Spring, so my impression at the moment is more “sink or swim” than anything else. I’ve heard many refer to ID as hooking up to a fire hose and trying to take a drink. That’s an apt analogy in many ways, but likely not unique to ID. I think the passion for design is promoted by everyone, but it is a bit harder for me at this early stage to know how that passion translates to the ID approach (and whether an specific approach is, in fact, important). Most of my peers have the benefit of having been through a year or more and I think after my first semester I’ll have a more robust opinion.

What do you think you could bring to the people here at ID? (culturally, socially, etc.)

I would love to believe that I can add some kind of value to the program. I have already been labeled the “question guy”, as I take advantage of any opportunity to develop a dialog. I am hopeful that by the time I leave there is a stronger culture of developing ideas between the students, not solely a one way information download from the professors. I think the huge class sizes this year make that an incredibly difficult challenge, but I am passionate about ideas and look forward to any opportunity to develop them more with other students.

Is there anything from your home that you think people should not miss?

Home is where the heart is, right? I’ve been traveling around so much since college, that I don’t really consider any one place “home”. I think that anyone visiting Sydney should go out of their way to spend time in the Botanic Gardens, if you go to Pittsburgh you can get the best wings you’ve ever had at Ryan’s Pub (seriously), Washington DC’s fantastic museums are some of the best in the world and they’re free, try to catch the leaves changing in Western Massachusetts, and if you haven’t had a fish taco in San Diego, then you haven’t had a taco at all.

Which designers/thinkers have impressed you the most lately or you are following now?

Having come into design from a non-traditional background, I’m actually not that familiar with the players, historic or otherwise. That being said, I tend to be most intrigued by the philosophy of design and design thinking, and in that arena I’m very impressed with Professor Richard Buchanan from CMU, who wrote about the four orders of design, and Tony Golsby-Smith, the principle at the design consulting firm Second Road in Sydney who has developed a process of design conversations that compel great problem solving. Although a bit less contemporary, I’m impressed with the philosophy of Horst Rittel, especially his concept of the ‘wicked problem’.

Tell us quickly about a project that you’re working on now that you’re really excited about.

The Design Planning workshop I’m taking is focused on how city services are (or are not) integrated with the needs of specific populations in Chicago. My team is working on understanding the opportunities for Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) residents at [new mixed housing development] Oakwood Shores. The potential for creating a viable direction for prototyping an improved approach to providing services is just the kind of challenge I entered the design field to solve. The opportunity to do both user research and synthesis on an extremely relevant issue, makes the project extremely interesting.

What are the websites you could not live without?

I’d love to say that they are all design related, but that would be guiding the lily a bit. My regular favorites are (in no particular order):
metafilter.com
reddit.com
gizmodo.com
designobserver.com

I usually get my news from:
nytimes.com
bbc.co.uk (international version)
crooksandliars.com

And to satisfy the Mac geek in me:
macosxhints.com
tuaw.com

What kinds of activities are you planning to do in your free time (in case you have any) while at ID?

My wife Angela and I love to explore new restaurants. We’re self described ‘foodies’, and love to find great places to get authentic versions of regional foods. We’ve been lucky in our travels to have had access to some wonderful cuisine. Our challenge each time we move is to find the places that are great, but may be less know even to the locals. Alas, the crazy cold and ID workload have conspired against us. We have been going out every night during Spring break to try and make up for the culinary deficit. We’ve been lucky to find a great Cubano sandwich and delicious Korean Dolsot Bibimbap. Now to find a place to get Congee with Yau Ja Gwai…