Spotlight: Emily Haasch

Emily Haasch is a designer, artist, and tiny human. She physically resides in Chicago, Illinois, USA, North America, Earth. Her thoughts digitally reside on Twitter. With roots in collage and object design, she enjoys cultivating a practice that is interdisciplinary in regard to both medium and purpose. Lately, Emily has been interested in the intersection of design and the systems it both supports and resists. By questioning these themes, she has slowly been initiating digital and IRL projects to make sense of what it means to be a designer in 2015.

Emily graduated with a BFA from SAIC in 2013. By day, she currently works for a game studio based in Bucktown making all sorts of weird stuff.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I’m currently in the midst of a circus of projects, running the gamut from organizing meetups on product design, to discussing critical theory via design texts, and even celebrating ramen occasionally. I still make collage work here and there, although currently it’s been slowing down a bit. However, I like to think of these other social meetups and gatherings that I’ve been doing as extensions of the principles I learned in collage — almost as collages of people, in a way.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? The most obvious one is the widening gulf between product design (i.e. designing for apps and digital interfaces) and visual design (traditionally seen as branding, illustration, etc). A vast amount of skills aren’t taught in any school or many internships, and the standards required to get into the industry are high. Lately, I’ve even started to notice many of the most creative and innovative designers are simply starting their own businesses and practices at a younger age, and even distancing themselves from the system itself.

How did your interest in art or design begin? Much of my family makes things. Engineers, technical craftspeople, carpenters, and so on. Despite this, I didn’t know what art or design was until I was in my final years of high school, and even then had a hazy idea of the requirements of a career in it. Like many things in my life, I got curious, started experimenting with things people had initially discouraged me from, and ended up running with it.

How has living in Chicago affected your design practice? Chicago is a wonderful mother hen. Affordable, spacious, full of intelligent and kind people, but still wild enough to let you run free when you need to. I initially didn’t want to stay here after high school (I am from northern Illinois), but looking back, it was a good decision to do so because I’ve had so many mentors along the way.

What products or companies are you interested in right now? I’m always been interested in platforms and things that help enable creative people to further their practice or make a living of what they’re doing. I think that’s important for society to have.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? For design — it’s screens and people, mostly. For collage — it’s paper, ephemera, small gifts, chipboard, shiny things, books, whatever I happen to come across in my collections.

For both, it’s a sense of architecture. Whether it’s design or art, building anything (a web page, an illustration, etc.) is like building a house. You start with a specific set of frameworks, supports, reinforcements, etc., and build up and out, reevaluating every addition to the process as to whether it’s structurally, aesthetically, or conceptually useful (if not, throw it out!). There’s a certain harmony to it — an innate sense of balance that pervades the work. I have to practice empathy in the sense that the piece must be something that can be impactful through the eyes of the viewer as opposed to the maker. No one cares about that maker/designer. I think if you are successful, your spirit lives through the thoughtfulness of the work rather than through your external ego.

What artists or designers are you interested in right now? Many, for but for your convenience I’ll name three recent ones — Eric Hu, Ben Pieratt, and the city of Los Angeles.

What’s your favorite thing about your city? The summertime, the hulking/masculine architecture, and mangoes on a stick.

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Lately it’s been drinking a cup of tea and eating way too much Fruit By The Foot.

What are you really excited about right now? Sunshine and birds.