IDRAW Features: Product Designer + Author Amina Horozic

by Matthew Marrocco September 07, 2014

As we begin the descent into cooler temperatures, so too, do many young, aspiring designers begin their journey across the wondrous and inspiring minefield that is Design Education. In an effort to help these fledgling designers, product designer and author Amina Horozic has recently released a book titled "Breaking In" that sheds light on what steps aspiring designers should take in order to land that ever important first professional gig. Through in-depth interviews with leading design firms and industry leaders across the globe, "Breaking In" gets to the heart of what companies look for in a new design hire.

My first encounter with Amina was during Sophomore year at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI. She was newly graduated, working as an Automotive Designer at Chrysler and already doing her part to help young designers get their work dialed in through informal, alumni-led portfolio reviews dubbed "Designer Saturdays". I got a few great portfolio reviews along with some solid advice, but I'll never forget her simple, clear message: stay true to yourself, do good work and success will come. It gave me the confidence to trust my intuition and trust the process - things all designers must learn to do.

It's great catching up with Amina to see what she's got kicking around - turns out quite a lot! Take what she says as gospel - she's helped launch products, start-ups and is now a leader at one of the top consultancies in the world. The girl knows her stuff.

Aether Cone : Principal Industrial Designer: Casper Asmussen; Lead Industrial Designers: Amina Horozic + Mika Nenonen

Amina, where are you from and where did you attend school?

I was born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I currently live and work in San Francisco.
I went to the prestigious College for Creative Studies in Detroit to study car design, and I also have an MBA in Design Strategy from the renowned California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

How long have you been working in the industry and what is your current gig?

I’ve been practicing design professionally for ten years now. I still have to stop and think if it has truly been that long, because it feels like only yesterday that I was sanding the primer on my senior thesis model. Time flies when you’re having fun, indeed! In that decade long span, I designed cars at Chrysler, and then moved to designing products at frog and Aether Things. I’m currently a lead industrial designer at fuseproject.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in Product Design?

I owe it all to my big brother. We’re six years apart, so when I was in high school, he was already in college—at CCS, in fact—pursuing his degree in what was then called Interactive Design. About mid-way through high school, when I started to take my artistic pursuits a bit more seriously, he suggested I go and check out the student show at CCS—specifically what the car design graduates were doing. I did, and got hooked immediately. I remember seeing a wall after wall of amazing illustrations, sketches, renderings, 3D models, you name it. Everything had this palpable passionate energy about it.

The thought of being able to be so good at drawing, designing and manipulating three-dimensional surface was simply thrilling to me. I was like a kid in a candy store. I felt that if I could learn how to design a car, I would be able to design anything else I wanted—and that felt quite empowering.

Unfortunately, my decision to pursue industrial design totally crushed my parents’ dreams of me becoming a doctor. For context, both of my parents are economists, so to have not one but both of their kids pursue design careers was a bit puzzling to them—however, their support in our endeavors speaks volumes of their love and understanding. I’ll forever be grateful to the sacrifices they’ve made so I can, essentially, draw for a living. Not much tops being able to live your dream.

Dodge Magnum : Creative Director: Ralph Gilles, Design Manager: Brian Nielander, Industrial Designer: Amina Horozic

You've recently gone back to school for your MBA. What prompted this decision and how did you approach the curriculum?

It’s quite simple, I pursued an MBA to be a better designer. Our profession has a symbiotic relationship with business and in order to make the most impact you need to couple great design with great business sense. I felt that investing two years in learning the language of business would be invaluable for my long term goals—so, let’s talk again in 40 years and assess my ROI.

What are some of your favorite drawing tools both analog and digital?

I’ll pretty much draw with anything. I tend to have a preference to pens as they are ubiquitous, but I’ll sketch with a pencil as well when the mood strikes. I tend to get bored easily with routines of any sorts, so I’m constantly trying new approaches, materials and tools. For example, right now I’m sketching on both tracing paper and Viking A4 Sketching Pad, but earlier in the year it was all Moleskine, all the time.

What were some of the biggest challenges in getting to where you are in your career?

Honestly, I’ve been quite lucky thus far, so I’d say the biggest challenge for me personally was to have enough patience and trust in the process that things will work out just the way they’re supposed to.

Aether Cone : Principal Industrial Designer: Casper Asmussen; Lead Industrial Designers: Amina Horozic + Mika Nenonen

What has been your experience as a woman working in the Industrial Design field? Any advice for other women interested in pursuing a career in ID?

There are no words immense enough to encapsulate exactly how much I love being an industrial designer, how amazing the last decade has been, and how excited I am about the prospects of the road ahead. There have certainly been challenges along the way, majority of which were not gender-specific. The key was learning how to manage such undesired surprises without taking them personally.

It is a well-known fact that for whatever reason the men outnumber the women in our industry, at minimum tenfold. But, the advice I can offer to other women interested in pursuing a career in ID is the same I would offer to men as well: simply, be yourself. I’ve seen plenty of young women in the industry fall into the trap of thinking they have to be abrasive, or be “one of the guys”, in order to succeed or be taken seriously. I’ve also seen plenty of young men in the industry fall into that very same trap. The truth is, the only way to be taken seriously is by doing good work—and despite popular belief being abrasive, as a man or a woman, will not get you far.

So, be yourself, be nice and do good work. The rest will fall into place organically.

Any favorite projects, either personal or professional?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked on many cool projects, so it’s difficult to choose just one as they’ve all had their charms. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been quite lucky. I’ve designed cars. I’ve spent months in-field as a design researcher in locations such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Bangladesh. I’ve been a part of building and growing a startup that went from 14 to 80 people. I’ve published a book. These days, I’m part of a stellar crew at fuseproject where I’m continuing to hone my skills as a designer. And I’m always tinkering on something on the side.

Suffice it to say, the best is yet to come.

Favorite resources? Blogs, books, websites, etc.

There’s so many! Lately, I’ve been relying on Instagram and Pinterest to follow design news (via sources such as Dezeen, Wallpaper, Core77, Designboom, Sight Unseen, etc.), along with studios and designers I admire. It keeps me in the loop. It’s literally the first thing I check in the morning.

How do you stay inspired?

I leave my house and explore, and I surround myself with ambitious, yet kind friends who are much smarter and talented than me.

Any advice for anyone just starting out on how to break into the industry?

Buy "Breaking In"! It truly does have invaluable advice and insights to anyone interested in the field.

Do your homework. Sketch until it becomes second nature. Train yourself to master at least one CAD software platform. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, ask questions and listen. Learn how to tell a good story with your portfolio. Learn how to tell a good story with your project. Above all, learn how to take a soul-crushing critique with grace, and how to win with elegance.

And as always, get enough sleep and eat your breakfast. 

Big ups to Amina Horozic for taking time out to give us the latest on where she's at and how she got there. Key takeaway - we could all be working harder.

Make sure to follow along as Amina takes over the IDRAW Instagram for the week! Should be a blast getting a window into her #dayinthelife.

Also, follow Amina on her various creative ventures:

Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Personal Site

Matthew Marrocco
Matthew Marrocco


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