Innovation and design are now the competitive differentiating factors in business. So how do you stand out from the competition? This amazing video series for 30 years, created with Autodesk, is full of native speakers. It features interviews with brilliant minds & innovative visionaries from all over the world. They share their inspiration, and process and predict the future about future of design.

Becky Stern is the Director of Wearable Electronics at Adafruit. Each week she publishes a new craft project tutorial and video, as well as hosts the YouTube Live show “Wearable Electronics with Becky Stern.” She started sewing electronics with textiles back in 2005 and is a great resource when it comes to the development of our Adafruit FLORA wearable Arduino-compatible product line. Her skills in using video equipment have been apparent since her early childhood years and she’s been doing electronics work since age eight.

How Crucial Is Design to Who We Are Today?

Becky Stern: Design is about the pathway and goal to make things better. We believe that anything can be designed, even processes and physical objects. To create positive change, we need to redesign our methods and processes. Design is the process of creating something tangible or interactive. This can be physical objects, digital interfaces, or processes. I think it’s important to have a design mindset, as it helps in many aspects of our lives. It can help to make things that are positive and will enhance people’s experiences and the products we create.

Where Do You Receive Your Inspiration?

BS: Ideas come and go, but there is nothing like asking a colleague what they think of a certain idea. They may be on the cusp of something themselves, which will lead to yet another great idea for you. Projects can differ in a sense, determining whether they are aesthetically oriented or functional. Ideas come from different entities, such as the streetwear fashion industry or Sci-Fi films. You can save time by creating “lists” of potential projects and letting the most urgent ones bubble to the top.

Becky Stern and a male model wearing shoes with lights on a gray background

How Do You Maintain Focus?

BS: When I am passionate about something, I feel like my focus levels are generally high. However, some things can be a struggle for me to get done when I’m not as invested in them. I often incentivize myself to keep going by stocking up on snacks that are accessible on my desk. I tell myself I can have them when I finish the task at hand. I enjoy juggling multiple tasks at once – it usually gives me a sense of inspiration and prevents me from getting burned out. I typically reply to emails quickly, try to stay up-to-date on social media, and take advantage of its positive effects by multitasking.

What Are the Challenges You Face as a Woman in Your Field?

BS: In my experience, female professionals are overwhelmingly judged on the quality of their work, as well as their communication style and visual cues. This is not an isolated problem – it’s a widespread issue that affects everyone equally.

Work has to be outstanding for me to stand out and I need to be cognizant of the way I present myself. There’s a natural talent disparity with women in tech, but it also provides an opportunity. The advice I would give other women in this industry is that if you want it, you can get it!

Which Place Do You Find Most Inspiring?

BS: The perpetual energy of New York City drives me forward constantly. There is so much going on in the city that it keeps me working quickly and efficiently. That, in addition to amazing food and incredible cultural events, makes for a rich life. The peace at home is a nice break and I make sure my neighbors can still sleep by not singing in the shower.

When You Find Yourself Stuck for Ideas, How Do You Cope?

BS: Phone a Friend! My colleagues will let me know what they’ve been wanting to see in the DIY wearables space, identify gaps in our project catalog, and just generally act as a sounding board for brainstorming. Expanding your horizon by watching movies, going to art exhibits, and checking out museums are also great ways of finding inspiration. Don’t underestimate people watching either – it can help you find new ideas.

A woman wearing a light-up jacket

What Are the Steps in Your Design Process?

BS: We use a lot of high-­tech tools to collaborate. For example, I would take a quick video and post it on Instagram. I’ll share the link with my colleagues so they can see the content and provide their feedback or help.

We love to build open-source software and make it clear to our users what’s coming soon. When I create tutorials, I start by defining a target audience and learning objectives to help guide my decisions.

What Do You Think the Future of Design Will Be Like?

BS: William Gibson said, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” The people who are used for fun on their weekends will soon be the designers’ bread and butter. There was a kid on a subway last week holding cool plastic graphics on his baseball hat. With this, we were inspired to create something similar with 3D printing embraided in a flexible material.

What Is Your Ultimate Aim With Design?

BS: My goal is to inspire and teach creative people how to harness the power of technology for their creations. I hope that the information provided in these blog posts will give you the motivation to try something new with the knowledge that I’m here to help. I’m happy to hear that more and more parents are teaching their daughters how to build things with technology. It should give them the confidence they need to use it in later years.

How Can the Next Generation of Innovators and Inventors Continue to Make a Difference in Society?

BS: Iterate quickly, as this will help you find the solution to your problem; you’ll soon reach a stage where “perfect” is no longer necessary. Slow development is an enemy of business. Break out your ideas into sub-headers and research them concurrently. Don’t let the haters get you down. To stay focused and happy you should avoid most things that will cause you to miss your goals and be distracted. Try eating protein-rich foods in the morning such as eggs.

[Photos: Courtesy of Becky Stern]

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