In today’s market, innovation and design are essential elements in separating yourself from the competition. So how can you rise to the top? Unveiling a six-part series in partnership with Autodesk, whose software has been enabling creators to envision, design, and fabricate innovative products for over three decades! We interviewed some of the most remarkable leaders and innovators from various fields that have mastered the craft. With insights from their creative journey, they provide a forecast of the ever-evolving landscape in design.

As Program Director of Fab Lab San Diego, Katie Rast is dedicated to strengthening local ties and inspiring education through the development of innovative programs. With her dedication, she has exponentially expanded The Labs’ global reach and taught the world about all that we can create with digital fabrication machines.

What role does design play in today’s world?

We are instinctually drawn to aesthetically pleasing objects; our senses guide us toward items that have been carefully crafted with detail and finesse. In a way, we’re genetically programmed to seek out good design.

Design is an essential component of any successful product, influencing our decisions on how to construct and design products based upon the need for improved functionality or simply aesthetic qualities. Whether we want greater efficiency or a more pleasing look and feel, it all begins with stellar design!

Where do you get your ideas?

When it comes to business and technical matters, I use my astute analytical abilities to decipher the most effective answer by analyzing different possibilities. Occasionally, the optimal solution isn’t necessarily the ideal one; instead, it’s usually simply the one that can be executed without hesitation.

How do you find focus?

When it comes to tasks that I am passionate about, my attention span is endless; however, when topics fail to capture my enthusiasm, I find myself losing interest quickly. Despite being a small business, there are numerous mundane administrative tasks that must be done to keep the enterprise running efficiently. Unfortunately, these often lack excitement or even any sort of interest factor. To make my least favorite tasks more bearable, I devise efficient systems that enable me to move smoothly between different duties. By alternating the activities and setting an endpoint for completion, I can break up periods of focused labor with activity shifts without sacrificing progress toward a finished product.

How do you turn vision into reality?

Take action, even if it’s not perfect. Trying to make something flawless has been one of the biggest impediments in my endeavor – especially when I’ve encountered difficulty achieving perfection. Don’t let this inhibit you from making progress! My experiences in rapidly prototyping and working in a prototype lab have made me realize that the process of getting to V1 is essential. This realization came from an iterative approach, which was proven through practice.

Are you interested in becoming an entrepreneur or maker? If so, what aptitudes and resources will be required for you to succeed?

Being a successful entrepreneur necessitates tenacity, resilience – and then even more of both. Very few people reach their goals without experiencing failure or rejection multiple times along the way. For those with a dream that won’t let go, there is no ‘maybe’; they must be obsessed and ready to take risks. Plus, having the counsel of fellow travelers who has been on this journey before can make all the difference. Knowing their passion inside-out and harnessing support from others provide invaluable resources for making dreams into reality.

What challenges do women in your field face that are the most persistent?

Self-image can be a huge obstacle to female empowerment. While working with young girls and women, I consistently observe reluctance to share ideas, make statements or join teams due to their apprehension at performing such activities in an intellectual or technological environment that is fiercely competitive. Over the years, I have tackled this fear of doubt head-on by conquering those things that scare me. This has been the most effective way to overcome my hesitation and grow as a person. Whenever I’m grappling with difficult topics, it’s important to remember that this is about something larger than me and my worries. In order for all voices to be heard, we must come together and each contribute our own perspective – which is why I choose to lend my voice whenever possible.

What place inspires you the most?

I was born and raised among the trees of northern California, so it always holds a special place in my heart. After having lived in southern California for almost 15 years too, I have come to admire the peculiar charm of its desert landscapes. The forest and the desert both evoke an unforgettable home within me.

When you find yourself creatively blocked, what do you do?

Step away from the task at hand and give my mind a chance to wander, taking hold of a pencil and letting random words or drawings spill onto the paper without aiming for any specific outcome.

How do you envision the future of design?

Designing for the singular consumer, based on their needs or desires. As desktop manufacturing advances in popularity, individualized designs can be made quickly and even machined by that very same consumer; allowing them to customize it with extreme detail and produce it locally at a small scale.

What is your ultimate goal with Fab Lab?

We strive to create stimulating and enlightening experiences for learners, while also fostering the growth of emerging businesses in our local economy.

What advice do you have for the next generation of inventors and innovators?

Now is the time to start! There’s never been a better moment to acquire new skills, take up an exciting hobby, and develop your insight.

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