Designer    People 26 Sep 2017

Roland Boal of Mira Showers discusses art, inspiration and the stories behind his designs

Previous roles: Head of Priestmangoode Design in China, and Lead Designer and Studio Manager at Tangerine Direction and Design.

What made you choosea career in design?
 I consider myself lucky that for as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an industrial designer. I would describe myself as someone who tempers qualitative observation with enough quantitative evidence to make an instinctive call, which
is what defines an industrial designer compared to, say a designer-maker or a product designer. I have always had
a passion for art and a keen interest in science, so being
an industrial designer is the perfect blend of the two.

What is the best partof your job?
 Telling stories through the products and experiences that I design. There should always be
a purpose behind the way things look, feel, operate. For me, telling these stories is truly impactful and rewarding. When you take a step back and take someone who is new to your product through your journey of development, and they truly buy into it, then it’s a really rewarding process. The end user does not necessarily need to consciously perceive that story, but if it’s done well, they’ll be instinctively drawn to your product.

What is the toughestpart of your job?
 Making a meaningful story is also the toughest part of the job – it should be, it’s the core of what designers do! Often it’s difficult to maintain the focus and clarity of thought needed when your brain wants to re you off in interesting but tangential directions. It’s a constant process of filtering 
or knowing when an avenue of investigation isn’t the right one, to ensure that you succeed.

Which designer/product/ building most inspiresyou and why?
 I have a great admiration for Martin Darbyshire, my old
boss and Director of Tangerine Direction & Design. He’s been running his own company for over 20 years and he still retains his clear sense of perspective, always able to come to a distinct point of view. I think that was the first time I really understood the value and necessity of that skill. And he retains that clarity of thought whilst also leading a successful business.

When it comes to buildings,
the Conservatory in the Barbican Centre is a fascinating place. There’s something intriguing about bleak and cold architectural spaces,
but in the Conservatory, the harsh concrete is completely overgrown by plants. It’s almost as if humanity has gone away and nature has reclaimed its hold on the world, which I find challenging and thought-provoking.

Which have been your favourite projectsso far and why?
 I don’t think one can afford to have favourite projects; whatever you’re currently working on needs to be your favourite or you can’t fully invest. That doesn’t mean I’ve enjoyed every project equally, but I believe that as a designer if you are working on a project then you have to buy into it and believe in it. That said, I did get unsupervised free reign of a 20 tonne tracked excavator for an hour once. That was pretty cool.

Who or what inspires you? The synergy between artistry and sciences.

Current music choices: Music is an essential component of life, but it’s hard to be specific as I think context drives what genre I listen to. That said, I recently came across The Tedeschi Trucks Band whose funky bluesy music is pretty fun.

TV programmes you never miss: Aged 12, definitely Tomorrow’s World. Now, with a 2-year-old at home, it’s more likely to be Thomas the Tank Engine!

Best book you’ve ever read: Best rather than favourite is Brideshead Revisited, less
for the plot than Waugh’s exceptionally beautiful use of language. Nothing over-the-top, the opposite in fact: the literary definition of everything you need and nothing you don’t, but with rhythm and balance.

Which famous designer(past or present) wouldyou most like to inviteround for a cup of tea?
 Sir Kenneth Grange. Famous for having designed the Intercity 125 train, the ‘new’ London taxis, mixers for Kenwood and much more; besides, he’s been bringing together functional bene t and elegant minimal forms since the 1970s. In some ways I think of his design style as similar to Waugh’s writing: nothing superfluous 
but still with grace and style.

Outside of work, what’s your passion in life?
 My family, of course. I also like to think I’m a skilled amateur motorcycle mechanic (I’m not), so tinkering with machines at the weekend.

Social media: love it or loathe it? If the former, which do you use?
 I’m ambivalent. Other than LinkedIn I don’t have a great level of interaction but haven’t felt like I’m missing out.

Which three words would you use to describe yourself? Instinctive, ambitious and astute.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Always sound like you know what you’re talking about.

Mira Showers |