Women with Cool Jobs

Industrial Designer On Purposefully Designing Your Long Life and the Things In It, with Ayse Birsel

March 08, 2023 Julie Berman
Women with Cool Jobs
Industrial Designer On Purposefully Designing Your Long Life and the Things In It, with Ayse Birsel
Show Notes Transcript

Ayse Birsel is one of the world’s leading industrial designers. She's designed everything from kitchen gadgets, to toilets, office furniture, concept cars, and so much more. (You’ve probably held or sat on something she has designed for Miller Knoll, Target, TOTO, Toyota, or IKEA, among many others.) She's earned awesome nicknames: Queen of Toilets, Queen Bee (for offices), and Design Evangelista. Plus, she's an author and her most recent book is called Design the Long Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Love, Purpose, Well-Being, and Friendship. Her most recent book teaches us use industrial design principles -- optimism, empathy, collaboration, open-mindedness, and holistic thinking -- so we can purposefully design a long, wonderful life based on the insights she learned after 1 year of research and collaboration with older adults on the pioneering frontiers of long life.

We talk about:

  • What is an industrial designer?
  • Why she loves design
  • Her design-thinking process called Deconstruction: Reconstruction (DE:RE) 
  • The role of play and optimism, plus bringing new solutions to old problems
  • How to design a long life you love
  • How to learn about and explore a career in industrial design


Among Ayse's many accomplishments and accolades, she is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People In Business and Interior Design Magazine recognized her as the Best Of Year Product Designer of 2020. Her work can be found in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Contact Info:
Ayse Birsel - Guest
aysebirsel.com
@designthelifeyoulove (Instagram)
Ayse Birsel (LinkedIn)


Julie Berman - Host
www.womenwithcooljobs.com
@womencooljobs (Instagram)
Julie Berman (LinkedIn) 

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Ayse Birsel:

When I talk about finding new solutions to old problems at this other level, what I'm trying to say is, I can help you turn your pessimism into optimism and move you out of this problem space into an idea of state. And when we have ideas, we're excited, right? We want to move forward. And we want to realize that idea. So often, all the things you talked about are really part of that journey of getting out of the pessimism of, 'Oh God, I have an idea' to the optimism of 'Yay, I have a problem, and I'm going to solve it. And I'm going to have an idea and it's going to be exciting.'

Julie Berman - Host:

Hey, everybody, I'm Julie and welcome to Women with cool jobs. Each episode will feature women with unique trailblazing and innovative careers. We'll talk about how she got here, what life is like now, and actionable steps that you can take to go on a similar path, or one that's all your own. This podcast is about empowering you. It's about empowering you to dream big and to be inspired. You'll hear from incredible women in a wide variety of fields, and hopefully some that you've never heard of before. Women who build robots and roadways, firefighters, C suite professionals surrounded by men, social media mavens, entrepreneurs, and more. I'm so glad we get to go on this journey together. Hello, everybody, this is Julie Berman, and welcome to another episode of women with cool jobs. So I am so excited to introduce today's guest because she is someone who has design such a very, very wide array of things. And so things like furniture for Miller Knoll, some kitchen gadgets, like a potato peeler, and other fun things for target some a toilet for Toto, and a concept car for Toyota. So like all of these things are incredibly different, and completely different like industries. And the same person has helped design all these things, and so many more. So her name is I shape or sell. She's one of the world's leading industrial designers. She's one of Fast Company's most creative people in business and interior design magazine recognized her as the best of your product designer of 2020. Her work can also be found in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, also known as MoMA. And so she has designed hundreds of products, things that you've sat on, or used or dreamt about having. And it's really really incredible that she's also ordered herself some really fun nicknames, which we talk about it, you know, inside our interview, so listen up for those, but she is just a super cool person, like her job is absolutely fascinating. And she's also an author, and a coach. So her latest book is called design the long life you love, a step by step guide to love purpose, well being and friendship. And it's really an interesting book, because as someone who is in the world of digital education and training, like I really, really value when I read something that not only has like the concepts and the theories behind things, but also has the application how to apply this in my everyday life like that is key. And her book, like has all these amazing, amazing concepts that we talked about a few of them, and we couldn't get every you know, we couldn't squeeze everything in there because of course, I wanted to talk about her career as an industrial designer. I wanted to talk about some of the concepts she has in her book. And so this was such a fun, powerful conversation. We talked about, like how did she end up getting into this career? What are the types of things that she thinks about when she's designing something? What is her process, we talk about deconstruction reconstruction, which is really fascinating. We talk about the idea of play, and optimism and design and like all these really incredible concepts that are actually really important. I believe for everyday life, especially in an ever changing world where we are constantly having to find new solutions to challenges that you know have existed for a while or that are I'm popping up now just given, you know, the the world that we live in today because things are just changing so quickly. So this is one of those conversations that honestly, like I had so many takeaways. Her book is amazing, I highly recommend it. It also has pictures that she drew, I'm a huge fan of pictures in a book. I just like as an adult, I really it makes my little heart happy. So I hope you enjoy this conversation, I hope that you get so much out of this something that you can apply to your own life, and that you feel like there's some takeaways for you. So if you love this episode, please share it with at least one other person. It truly helps me to get all of these women's incredible experiences and voices, and the possibilities that exist for us all out into the world. So please share it with one person, that would be so so amazing. And thank you as always, for being here and taking your time to listen to women with cool jobs. Here's me and I che Hi Shay, I am so excited to have you here you are i Supercell, a world leading industrial designer, and you've created everything from kitchen gadgets, to toilets, to office furniture, to concept cars, and so much more. And you have earned some really awesome nicknames as well, including queen of toilets, Queen Bee for offices, design evangelists that, and you've also written two books, and the most recent one is designed the long life you love. So I am just so honored to have you here today and to get to learn from you all about what you do and how you apply it to your life and how we can apply it to our lives. So thank you.

Ayse Birsel:

Thank you, Julie. I'm so excited to be here. So for inviting me.

Julie Berman - Host:

Oh, of course. So one of the things that I thought was so interesting. And I would love to have you explain because we had, you know, an initial chat that we didn't record was just exactly like what is an industrial designer? How would you describe your job and and that role that you play, and you've done it in so many different capacities in so many different areas? So I'd love to hear kind of your explanation of what does that mean?

Ayse Birsel:

So Julie, let me do it the way it was taught to me, which was using a teacup. So a friend of the family came to tea, and I was thinking of becoming an architect. And he said, Have you thought about industrial design, and I had never heard those two words together before. And he said, Look at this tea cup. And you know, in Turkey, we drink a lot of tea, so and he was like, you see the edges curved so that it can fit our lips better and it has a handle so that we can hold hot liquid in our hands without burning ourselves. And the saucer is there so that if you spill your tea, you won't ruin your mother's beautiful tablecloth. And, and that is industrial design is thinking about products and experiences and services that we use every day to make our lives easier, safer, more joyful, more comfortable. And trying to make those products better. So that that's the that's what I do.

Julie Berman - Host:

Thank you. That was an amazing explanation. And I have not had much tea until recently. But I do appreciate that it has a handle. Right and those certain things that people have thought about before. So I actually I love that example. And it's interesting, too, because when you talked about that you've never heard those two words together before. I'm curious, like, when you decided to eventually go into industrial design, like what is it that called you to doing that versus because you had said you were maybe going to be an architect? What was it that called you towards the industrial design side of it?

Ayse Birsel:

I'm so glad you asked that with colds me was the I fell in love with the human scale of design and thought, Oh, something that relates to our body. You know, thinking just even in that description, the teacup like, how does it relate to your lips? Because you're going to drink from it? How does it relate to your hands? Because you're going to hold it? How does it relate to the table because it's going to be on the table and that that's very human scales, right? It's in proportion to us. It's also very human scaled in terms of not only the proportions and the size eyes, but like how we think about things, what comes easy to us, what's natural, what's emotionally pleasing all those things, the humanity of it, and I thought, other things, for example, architecture, they have a different scale. You know, architecture is architecture is a bigger scale. And this felt very intimate. And I really fell in love with that idea. And everything that we use is designs, and is manufactured mostly in the factory. That's the industrial part of things, you know, you're you're designing something that can be made in a factory, so that you can have 1000s, or millions of the same product that could be sold.

Julie Berman - Host:

Okay, thank you. Yeah. And I want to touch on. So we'll come back to this because I think this is so interesting. But I wanted to like touch on a little bit, because I think part of what you wrote in your book, and your, your book was done in such a different way, almost than I've ever seen any other book done. And I think it is so much because of who you are, and your experience and your role as an industrial designer, and just the things that you have created as well. And I almost felt like it was an experience going through the book. And like I literally open the book, first thing, and I smiled, and I was I was telling my husband, I was like, this is just like a happy book, I feel happy when I'm reading it, you know, which is it's rare to have experience. I

Ayse Birsel:

think that's the best compliment anyone paid me in my book. So thank you,

Julie Berman - Host:

Oh, you're welcome. I'm so glad. And I felt like it was so reflective of you, and you and who you were. And so I wanted to ask like, you're using your expertise in such an interesting way, not only to write this book, to help people design their lives. But you've also helped design so many interesting things, right? Just huge amounts of things. Like I know, I was looking on your website, and it was like, the cars in the in the office furniture and things to go in an office. And then it was things from Ikea, and just like a huge kitchen, things that you that you might use every day. So it's just like this plethora of things. But it was very, very diverse, which I found so interesting. And also, you know, you've worked with some huge companies that everybody is heard of. And I feel like when you take all of that, and you go on a bigger level, like you've gotten these skills that a lot of people maybe don't think about in the same way, even if they have them, or they haven't put them together in the way that you do in the context that you do. And so I'm curious, like, do you feel like that's kind of from your childhood? Do you think that's from your experience? Because I know you're from Turkey originally? And then you move to New York? Is it from your education? Like I'm just so curious, how did you become you and and get this beautiful experience of like, putting these things together in such a way?

Ayse Birsel:

Wow, that's such a profound question. How did I become me? So maybe we could start at the beginning. And part of it was, but I grew up in Turkey. So Turkey is at the intersection of Asia and Europe. So it's the this combination of two cultures, two continents, that are very, very different. So there's something about growing up in Turkey that really teaches you to hold opposites or things in your mind. So east and west, old and new. Europe and Asia, religious and secular. It's just these like in the list can go on and on. And, and I think that what i Those are dichotomies, usually like, West cancels out east, right old cancels out new. But if you can make those two things coexist, then you're creating exceptional value, something that hasn't been seen before. And I feel like growing up in Turkey gives you that kind of ability to hold opposites together in your minds in what I call dichotomy resolution. It's kind of like having your cake and eating it too. So and when I think of who I Am I am really the product of I'm like a dichotomy resolution. And so it's who I am. I'm an insider and an outsider. I'm an introvert and an extrovert. I'm left brain, right brain, I can, you know, express myself through drawing, but I can also write, which is kind of the book that you're describing. Yeah, so all those things. And that makes you a very good designer, because a lot of things that design deals with our problems. And problems usually want to have, if you choose this, you can choose that, right. And a very simple example that I like to tell people is like, if you go on vacation, you can't work. And if you're working, you can't be on vacation. But imagine if you can make those two things coexist, kind of like what you and I are doing currently, and we're working. But at the same time, it feels like a wonderful conversation between two friends and it doesn't feel like work like it feels like vacation. And then if you can be on vacation, and if you can learn something, or I love to work on vacation, and kind of develop ideas without any pressure. So when you you're able to do those things, you're generating uncommon value, so that they cottony resolution is a huge superpower. And so that's kind of I feel like, when you asked me like, What made you who you are, and that that's the I think, at my core, that's who I am.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, I can see that too. Like, even in your example of the book, I think that it was just so interesting, you know, just talking to you briefly before then reading your book, and just seeing some of what you've put into the world as well, what you sent, it was just so fascinating. And I'm, I'm curious now to get into kind of some of your, your process, because you talk about some of your your process, I found really interesting, but I was hoping we could touch on one of the concepts, which is deconstruction reconstruction. But as a as a whole, I was hoping you could maybe take us through like an example of you know, like, what is it when you design? And how do you go about going through the steps, whether it's working with people one on one, whether it's these huge corporations? Do you use the same process? And how did you? How have, because I know part of it is really collaborative. So how do you intertwine all these really neat pieces to create these end these end pieces, and these end products or experiences?

Ayse Birsel:

Right, so a big portion of my kind of life as a designer, I design things, and I didn't have a set process. I did it, but it was internal. You know, I didn't really think about it, it was more intuitive. But then at one point, I started mapping out how I think and it was up to about 20 years of designing things. And I was like, How do I do that? Like, how do you go from what you know, today to what you can imagine for the future, and there's a transformation that happens. And so when does that happen? What triggers How does it happen? What are the steps? And so I mapped that, and it took me about a year. It's a very, like, interesting process, like an internal journey into how you think. And then I would recommend to everyone, you know, just as like a mental exercise, it was really like trying to catch myself in the, in the action of like, what did I just do? What was that? Like? What triggered that? What inspired this? And at the end of that year, I had this process called deconstruction reconstruction. And so it was my internal process externalized where I could talk about it, share it, and then once I had it and it became a tool, a collaboration tool, where I started showing the process to our clients and saying, you know, we could deconstruct and reconstruct something together. And I want to give you a quick example of how deconstruction and reconstruction works. So you mentioned that I'm queen of toilets, which Thank you. I think I'm the only one probably yes, yes. And it started where toto the Japanese manufacturer. They're actually the world's number one manufacturer of bathroom products and They invited me to work with them in Japan and develop new concepts for them. And this was before Toto was really very well known in the States. So one of the things they asked me to do is to design a washlet. And what the washlets are these toilets that also have like a little shower inside like a beat a function. And, and when I started thinking about it, I was like, toilet seats, toilet seats. And there was a moment where I deconstructed even that simple idea of toilet seat I am made me realize. When you deconstruct that you break it apart, there's the toilet side. And then there's the seat side. And it made me suddenly see or re see this product as a seat. And I thought, a seat, what is a seat, it's a chair. It's something that's comfortable, and it's ergonomic. And it's large enough to hold our legs and bottom, basically, and often chairs and seats have the back is curved a little bit so that it can hold and support the small of your back. And then the edges are curved, so that when you're sitting in something, or getting in and out of a chair, it doesn't hurt your legs. And all those things made me realize, hold on one second, a toilet seat, if it's a seeds, of course it has a hole in it. But it's to be something that you sit in, it needs to be comfortable. So it has to borrow all these things from a chair. And that was the reconstruction in saying, how can the toilet seat be comfortable. And so the toilet seat that I designed, had all those elements that it was larger than your toilet, it was large enough to hold your body kind of like a comfortable chair, the back it was a little bit raised to support the small of your back, and all the edges were curved, so that when you were getting in and out of it, it wouldn't like just bite into your thighs basically. And so that's the end, it's as simple as thinking we assume toilet seat, toilet seat, it's just a cover for a toilet. But when you deconstruct those things, and you start thinking about seat as its own thing, you realize, oh my god, like it has to be comfortable. And then that creates a roadmap where you know how to make a comfortable chair. And then you cross fertilize over to the toilet seat. And now you're you have the ability to create a very comfortable toilet seat that's designed for the human body, not designed to be just a plastic cover for the China, which is the toilet piece of ceramic pieces. So I don't know if that helps to understand that. But that's in a nutshell. That's deconstruction reconstruction.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yes. No, it does it. How How does that fit within your whole? process it or is that the whole process? Because it is the whole process? It is the whole process?

Ayse Birsel:

It's the whole process?

Julie Berman - Host:

Thank you. Yeah,

Ayse Birsel:

it's a red. Sorry. It's the red thread that goes through everything I do now. Okay, so it's deconstructing something and understanding oh, what's, what is this made up of? What are the bits and pieces of it. And then as soon as you start taking it apart, just like what I hope to demonstrate with toilet seats, you see, oh, these different parts have different ways of being and, and some of those things I might not even need, or I can change it or I can be inspired by it. And then you open up your mind. In design, we often think talk about you, you diverge. So you deconstruct and you diverge and you start gathering inspiration. And you think about the same things differently. And then the reconstruction is when you converge, and you say okay, I'm reconstructing it. Here are the pieces that I'm going to use. Here's how I'm going to combine them. And that that is the process, but you could do it with anything.

Julie Berman - Host:

Okay, yeah. Thank you for clarifying. I. So I was thinking about this, just like what I know about and what you shared in your book about the deconstruction reconstruction. And I feel like it even from having little kids like sometimes it's really fun and easy to like, deconstruct and take things apart. But I feel like the reconstruction part can be more of a challenge. Oftentimes, it can like right, we can have things that that are factors that like we didn't realize when taking it apart, or it can take more time. And also what I was thinking is I think It takes a bit of courage, probably to like, put things together in a new way, especially something in the example of your toilet seat. Like, that's always sort of been there. But like, maybe people don't think about it as thoughtfully or as purposefully. And so I'm just like, I'm curious, like, has that come up in your work? Those different factors?

Ayse Birsel:

You're absolutely right. So that's why I teach people a step by step process. Okay? So that you're absolutely right, this, that requires courage. And that, I can't agree more with you. If you just deconstruct something, it's quite destructive, actually, right, you're, in fact, one of my friends often calls my process, destruction, and reconstruction, and it just makes me laugh with, you do need the the construction reconstruction piece of it for for it to be useful. Otherwise, it's just the it's kind of like all these parts that you've now like, pulled apart and kind of like your children's toys, where they're all over the place. And in house, now you need to put it together. And that's where the step by step process comes in. And, you know, Julie, what it's like, so I train with a trainer, and use weights, right? So he always tells me, like, the motion, when you push weights, for example, you lift weights, it's actually a circular motion, it's like an ellipse. So what goes up has to come down. And so you can't just hold something all the way all the time in the air, it has to come down. And as with deconstruction reconstruction, I do a similar thing where that it's the whole process. And when you do it step by step, you might not realize that part of my little trick is I try to get you to do the steps. And the steps then add up to the reconstruction, and then the expression. And so you're not really worrying about oh, how is this gonna come back together? It's like, they're there in between steps and it gets you there, put one foot over in front of the other, or you lift the weight, and you bring it back? It's the kind of same kind of thing.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, I That makes so much sense. And, and I, because it's interesting, like, I think that there's so many things like one of the things that I love that you said, about what you do in general, is that you bring new solutions to old problems. And I love that in perspective of life, it's step by step. And actually like that, you're sort of almost weaving a tapestry. Like as you're doing it, you're kind of like weaving together together the pieces, it sounds like for like, what this new thing is going to be. And I also know that you talk a lot about in the process, like this idea of CO design, and the collaboration there. And you mentioned the idea of listening and also being playful. And I would love to have you sort of speak to those things within your process. Because I think like a lot of the things that you that I've seen at least that you've created, there is so much of that element of, of recreation, right of, of like taking something that we all knew. And then and then redoing it, but like redoing it with such purpose and intentionality. So what is that process? And like those pieces? And why do they exist in your process? Like what is the importance of those?

Ayse Birsel:

When I talk about finding new solutions to old problems at this other level? What I'm trying to say is, I can help you turn your pessimism and optimism and move you out of this problem space into an ideal state. And when we have ideas, we're excited, right? We want to move forward and we want to realize that idea. So often, all the things you talked about are really part of that journey of getting out of the pessimism of, Oh God, I have an idea to the optimism of yay, I have a problem and I'm going to solve it. And I'm going to have an idea and it's going to be exciting. So in the way that it works some of the things that i i Again, the survey is too thin saying like, these are things we can all practice, exactly. That's the beauty of it. One of them is empathy. And empathy is to be able to feel the discomfort of the problem, like something is not quite working well. So it could be in our life, it could be at work, it could be in our family. And then when you're designing, it's like, the product like this. This chair is not comfortable, or, you know, this knife doesn't cut that, that sort of thing. So once you have that empathy, and this empathy could be feeling somebody else's pain. But I often talk about when it's you, your life, your work, or having empathy for yourself. So once you feel that, that already kind of puts you in this mode of like, I want to resolve this, I want this difficulty to go away. So empathy is really important because it goes into your emotions. And it's triggers this need, like, I want to change this, which is really important. Because if you don't have that feeling, and if you don't have that problem, then you static, you're not going to move forward, like it has to buggy enough that you're like, okay, then the next thing is a very simple question. It's asking what if? Because as soon as you say, what if you start to get into the state of having an open mind, what if I do it this way? What if I talk to somebody else? What if so, the I love the what if question. So you can, it's very easy to practice, anybody can say, what if and just answered in a couple of different ways, then you mentioned play. I mean, what if I think naturally lends itself to play, because you're playing with ideas already, like, you could do what if and answer it in 20 different ways. And now you're playing with ideas. And once you play with ideas, it gets you over the fear of failure. Because you realize, hold on one second, there could be many different ways of solving this, it's just like I, I need to get to the one that's more exciting, most exciting to me. And then the other thing that played does is when you're playing, your energy already starts to change, and towards something more positive, because now you're not afraid of making mistakes, and that invites other people. And other people are your collaborators. And so, and this is really important, because you can't design alone. You know, design is something where you, you know, you need, it's very humbling in that way. Like you need other people, you need researchers, you need marketing people, you need engineers, you need a manufacturer, you need a factory. And so in that idea of collaboration of like, oh, I can talk to somebody else about this. It's reframes the idea of I need help, right? Because a lot of us a lot of people, myself included, like, we don't want to ask for help. And if so I'll use this what if question, what if help, was collaborate collaborating with someone, where you go to someone and say, Hey, you want to work with me on this? So I do this all the time. Like, I collaborate with my friends, and I asked them, it's because I can't do everything by myself. So why don't we collaborate. And then the last bit is once you invite people to collaborate, just having somebody else's opinion, opens up your mind to other possibilities. And now your viewing angle gets large. And you start to see, oh, there's multiple ways of doing this. And like, if I talk to Scott, he's gonna tell me to do it this way. And then if I talk to Julie, she's gonna say you could do it that way. And then if I talk to 20 people, I'm gonna have 20 different ways. And that opens up my viewing angle. And, and when you start to see the big picture, you realize, oh, they're these solutions I hadn't considered before. That might already exist in different places. And now that gets you into ideas. And once you have ideas, you're not stuck anymore. You're, you're excited and that's in, I guess, in a long way. design works and how you can move out of, oh, I have a problem too. Oh, maybe I can get to a new solution. So do things differently.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, it overall, it seems like your design process is so optimistic, which I love. And like what you said, you know, going almost from that pessimism to optimism, like, oh, I have this problem, I have this challenge, like, let's figure out all the ways that we can figure it out or solve it or create something new from what we once had. It. Is that

Ayse Birsel:

part of the story of my life.

Julie Berman - Host:

Okay, I love that. Like, I kind of was wondering, like, if that's the driving force behind, like, what you do is like this sort of this feeling of optimism, and like, the idea of most of being able to create these really beautiful things in the world are really beautiful processes. Is that kind of like a big driver for you?

Ayse Birsel:

Yeah. Okay, you nailed it. It's a big driver for me. And that idea that I can teach people to turn their pessimism and to optimism is what excites me. And I'm my number one student, because I wake up a pessimist every morning. And then I use these tools. And kind of like, I'm, like, I say, you know how to do this move on. And it's a daily transformation. But it's so exciting. But there's so many problems in the world world right now. Right? Yeah. individually, collectively, globally. And we really need that ability to have this optimism of seeing solutions and being in the solution space, not in this mode of I have a problem. I'm really like, this is terrible. That brings our energy down. You know, it's like, I know. So it's turning pessimism and to optimism is I do it through design, because that's my expertise. That's what I know.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah. Do you have like a favorite thing that you have designed over the years? I don't know if it's hard to hard to choose, because it's like choosing your favorite baby. But your favorite child? But I was just curious.

Ayse Birsel:

Yeah, it's, I have favorite projects. So the toilet is definitely one. The resolve office system is another one.

Julie Berman - Host:

Will you explain that just for people who may not be aware of what it is?

Ayse Birsel:

Sure. So the the resolve of system was a system I designed for Herman Miller and Herman Miller is one of the world's biggest and best manufacturer of office systems. And if you think of like, what are office systems, a lot of people know them as cubicles. So it's with these furniture that divide space and create space for individuals in an office setting. Right? Those are office systems. And so that's one of my favorite projects. One of the fun things about that project was, first of all, it was my first office system. So that was quite thrilling. The toilet seat got me to that project. So that was also a very, a fun, not quite a direct route. But the people at Herman Miller apparently thought, oh, I should if she can design innovative toilet seats with Japanese engineers, she can do innovative things with our engineers in Michigan, they're based in Michigan. So it was kind of like, I love that kind of thinking of like, Oh, if she can do it there, she can do it here. Now, there will be things like that, you know, so I love that what I would call cross fertilization. And and that got me into this, creating this office system. And one of the things that they told me was like, oh, I should we don't know if this should be like a evolution of something that we order the manufacture and or selling, or if your project should be a revolution, like something we haven't seen before in office systems. And I was like, oh, that's an interesting question. Like that notion of evolution. Revolution is something that designers and companies think about evolution is a simple step, right? Imagine you're making a mug, let's say, evolution could be, you've always made a white mug, and now you're gonna make black mugs. That's an evolution or it has a handle and you're going to change the form of the handle. That's an evolution, taking the idea of sipping something, and really reinventing that and kind of like doing Buying a sippy cup kind of mug, that's a revolution, right? Or some of the new things that you see that help people drink that are at the end of the day sophisticated mugs that help you drink something. So those are, I hope, a sense of like an evolution to a revolution, or an automobile. Most of automobile design is an evolution. Right, right. It's shaped like this. It's shaped like that, you know, different brands have different forms. And but most of them have either two doors or four doors that are the right but creating a self driving car that is a revolution. Yes. didn't exist before. I think that's a better example than the mug. Okay, so where was I going with this was? They said, and by the way, can you make it 50% The cost of our most affordable system on the market? Yeah, it's that's the that's the question I had. I was like, afraid for your listeners who can't see our facial expressions? Like, that's the expression you did have puzzlement? Yeah. And surprise, surprise, what do you mean, like take out 50% The cost of something that already exists? I was like, that's not possible. And then I realized, oh, I don't know that they realize it. But they just told me, you are going to do something revolutionary, because no evolution could make a 50% difference. Interesting. I think that, you know, the Dan Goleman was the Director of Design at the time, I bet he had that kind of mind. I bet he knew what he was telling me. It just took me a while to to decipher it. And I was like, hold on, they just told me make this a revolution. And so then that creating a revolution in an industry. Is they exciting. So that's why it's one of my favorite kids. Yeah,

Julie Berman - Host:

I could see that. It's so it really is like, so fascinating. What you do. And I love that one of the things you said is, which I thought was a great quote, it's counterintuitive, but the more serious or complex the challenge, the more playful we become, as designers, we need to play with ideas until we have one that captures our imagination. And to me, that reminded me of like, my kids, almost, I heard like this amazing. I can't even remember where I heard it. But like I heard this amazing quote of like, or maybe I apologize, it was in your book that like kids laugh three 300 times or they smile 300 times a day and like adults, hardly, you know, we hardly do so it takes us a few months to get to this point. Was that your book?

Ayse Birsel:

So that I you might have that on hidden brain, which is one of my favorite podcasts. Okay, I don't know if you listened to it. But then I use that idea. Because I was so amazed that as adults, it takes us two months to last 300 times it.

Julie Berman - Host:

It's shocking actually like and I can I read that. And then I especially my four year old who just like derived the so much. He just derives joy. And such, like, easy, but yet like adorable ways. Like I'll bring home like an extra thing of jelly beans and be like, thank you so much mom, or like, he'll I'll do something silly, you know, or tickle him or whatever. And it's just like so much joy. And I thought of as that after I read that I was like, wow, like it's a little bit. It's a little bit sad that like we lose that capability. And we forget that play, that optimism sometimes can actually lead to such beautiful outcomes can lead not only in the moment, but also for the future. So I I loved that a little trick for that. Oh, I do. Yes, of course.

Ayse Birsel:

I think this is important. And I find that one thing that helps me become more playful, is creativity. And, and it also helps you more of an optimist. So I caught myself that when I wake up in the mornings, I'm more of a pessimist and all the things I need to do all the things that I couldn't do all of that, like I wake up with that in my head, and I know that it eventually dissipates and goes away throughout the day, but I wanted to accelerate it. And then I read this quote by Rumi, the Persian poet where He, I don't have it in front of me. But the quote, the gist of it is, when you wake up, go do something creative. Before you get to work, go do something creative. And the creativity could be for me, it could be picking up my pencil and sketchbook for you, it could be writing a poem. For somebody else, it could be playing a song, just one song on their guitar or singing in the shower. But that little bit of creativity has an incredible effect on our day. And I'm convinced that this is going to in the future become a daily habit. Like, a lot of us practice meditation in the morning, a lot of people exercise, I think doing and we're now learning like, you don't have to exercise for an hour even like doing a 510 minute exercise could has incredible health benefits. And this is, I think, something that's going to happen, where we're going to say, just do something creatively 510 minutes before you start your day, and it opens up your mind to whatever you do, you don't have to be a creative. But that that idea that there could be different solutions that you could play. Right? Exactly. You can play just like that the rest of the day.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, yeah. And it's funny, like, even you talk about singing in the shower, like I used to sing the whole first half of my life, like I was always singing, singing, singing, singing, so it was natural that I would sing in the shower and all this stuff. And it's like, now I sing nursery rhymes, but it's like, not for me, right. So it's like a very different intentionality behind it. Whereas if I get to sing in the morning, right, or if I get to doodle or whatever, like, I really like that, I'm definitely gonna have to try doing that. And I think the idea of doing five minutes like it definitely seems achievable, versus having to sit down and do something for an hour, which will never ever happen in my life right now. So there's like so much I would love to talk to you about but obviously not never enough time to ask all the questions. But there is this other beautiful concept in your book that I really thought was so important to mention. And also goes along with kind of the concept of the optimism that that you share, you know, through your work, and also through your book through your processes. And it was so let me just find it here. So you talk about the leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith and his idea. And this is a quote, there's no such thing as the permanent you. We are always changing. Life is constantly a restart. Every breath is a restart. And I just thought, I mean, like, I literally read it, I was in this coffee shop, and like, my husband was with me. And I like started crying because he was like, he knows I cry. I cry it you know, I like cry it like commercials, and also all sorts of things. But that just got me it hit me so hard. I thought it was so beautiful that sometimes we think it like things are static, right? Like we're sort of in this place, and we can't really see past it for whatever reason. And I thought that was not only beautiful, but sort of astounding, like a little bit mind blowing for me. And so I just was curious if you could speak to that, and his concept as well of like, why did you feel like that was so important to share?

Ayse Birsel:

Oh, man, yes. First of all, that's martial for you. You know,

Julie Berman - Host:

is it okay,

Ayse Birsel:

so? Is this a dear friend, my mentor and hero and he's known as the world's number one leadership coach. And he calls himself a new age monk. So love it. He looks like Santa's

Julie Berman - Host:

picture now, right.

Ayse Birsel:

And I wanted to interview him because you know, the design belong life. You love book is structured in these four pillars of love, purpose, well being and friendship. And for each pillar, I want to talk to an expert. And so around purpose, I wanted to talk to Marshall. And because he has so much experience, being with CEOs, like the world's top CEOs and leaders and executives, and so I was interested in and he's 70 years old 70 Plus, and so he also has an incredible life experience. And in since the book, a lot of my research was really co designing life and work with people who were 60 and older and learning from them, their life experience their wisdom. Marshall has this incredible wisdom. So that's why I wanted to talk to him. And to just like he said, when he said, Every Breath is a new you, I thought, oh my god, that is such a liberating thought that we are. We could be in our 20s, we could be in our 50s, we could be in our 70s. And feel like just now with you, Julie, I am a new person. Right. And, and I can start something and that, I think it's a talk about optimism. That's a very positive thought. And I wanted to share that, in that, in that we are always changing, which goes so well with the idea of being proactive and designing your life, that you're not static. And you could have problems and you can turn those or or you could you can have problems or you could be at a time in your life where you want to make a change. And it come it's like we all I think have those thresholds where we're ready for like, a change. And it could be something that comes from the outside like COVID was something that none of us expected. But we were all like it all changed our lives, you know? Definitely. Yeah. So. So we're that, that that's the beauty of every breath is a new you. And coupled with in that section. I also reached out to Ron Karachi, who wrote this book, to be honest, and talk to him about because what an honest life is and from his perspective, how does that affect our well being? And he gave me, so if Marshall gave us this gift of every breath, as a new you, Ron gave the gift of how to manage our regrets. Because if you can manage your regrets, you can more lean into this idea of you're a new person. And so that that's in the book. And if anyone is reading the book, I would look at those two kind of tools together.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah, I think that was one of the neatest things about your book is that you gave that you had so many wonderful examples of not only your experience, your life experience, like I know, you talked about the time like you were chatting with a friend with your young children. And you just were like, how am I going to design my life? Like, I should know how to do this for me? And you're asking your friend, like, Do you have any advice, and she said, to like, point out the good moments, I just had a good moments. Yes, I loved that. I just thought that was so powerful, you know, so not only like, your life and your examples in the work you've done, but also so many incredible examples by people who've done all this amazing research, and other work and pulling those into your book. Like, I love that, as someone who's who's like, you know, in higher ed for however long and like loves research, I just thought that was amazing. And then the actual action items that you can do in activities to apply to your own life. I just thought that was so powerful. And I really, really feel like this book, like not only did I love the pictures, but I love like the content and the lessons and then also those ways that you included to apply it to life, you know, to actually figure out how does this work for me? How can I take this and, and figure out Yeah, like, how do I design? How do I design this long life of mine? And you know, I felt like it was so applicable to me and my 30s I feel like it will be totally applicable to my my parents right now and where they are at life. So it just was really such a beautiful piece for so many reasons that you put into the world that I was able to experience so I'm so appreciative for that.

Ayse Birsel:

Thank you so much. And thank you for making that idea of a personal because that's really why I wanted to do this book was our research with our research took us a year and across the United States. So from the East Coast to the West Coast, then down south to Mississippi, where we learn And from older people, but then I was like, I don't want people to wait until they're 60, to practice these amazing writings, then you just spoke to that. So you know somebody in their 20s or 30s, to be able to say, oh, I can do this, like, I can manage my regrets, or I can learn to love myself, or I can lean into the ambiguity of great projects, I start something even though I don't know how it's going to end all these things. So in a way, and then, just like you're saying, like, for you to be able to share this with your parents, right. And then eventually, with your children, you know, it's. So that's the intergenerational idea about this book. And it's a great collaboration tool, like between you and your parents where you could, instead of, I guess, often as parents and children, we tend to tell each other what to do.

Unknown:

Never. Never.

Ayse Birsel:

Yeah, I propose, why don't you play together? Like, just like you did before, you know, in the process as your playground?

Julie Berman - Host:

I love that. Yeah. And I sounds like a much more fun process, right? I suppose the parents, I can say that and the kid? Child? Yes. Both of those positions. I love that. And for you like as an industrial designer, what do you think? Or maybe we touched on it, but what is your favorite part of the job? Like? Why is it that you have stayed with this career path? Because many people do end up changing and going a different direction? Why is it that you continue to do this every day?

Ayse Birsel:

I just love to think of other people, and can I do something for them that's going to improve their life. I think that's really the sentiment of design. It's all about problem solving. And it's problem solving, often for other people. So for the longest time, I did that to products and services, you know, designing those things. But what I love about designing the long life you love or design your life is teaching people how to use design tools, and process to do that for themselves in their life. Without the intermediary of products or services. It's quite pure in that way. It's you your life and design tools and design tools. They're really creativity and what is creativity? It's turning your pessimism and to optimism by finding ideas. And that that's what they I love finding ideas.

Julie Berman - Host:

And how do you find ideas? Like what do you have special techniques you use? Or like, how, what does that mean to you?

Ayse Birsel:

Yes, and there's a very special technique. And that is called sitting down in your chair, and opening up your notebook where the pen and just starting to let things kind of get into that motion, connect your brain to your hands, and focus on the question you're trying to solve. And then of course, you have to deconstruct reconstruct. But it's, it's really, I think I'm smiling. But I think that if you look at a lot of creative people, no matter what they do, Stephen King, the amazing best selling author who writes all these scary books. Stephen King has a book called on writing. And in it, he says, The most important thing is, you know, sitting in a chair, he says it a little bit differently. That's the most important thing about being a writer is just every day you have to sit and do it. And for me, this is the same thing. I'm like, I just have to get up, sit in a chair. Hold my pencil, or pen. That's and it's not that easy. Because all kinds of like procrastination waiting for you.

Julie Berman - Host:

I was gonna say sometimes that can be really hard. And I'm curious, like are, are there things that you have found that help you either not stop yourself or filter yourself or kind of like, feel like oh, maybe I shouldn't write that down. Maybe I shouldn't follow through with this because I feel like so, so much of that chatter in our Heinz is not helpful. I mean, sometimes, right? We, we can be really encouraging. But sometimes it's like, you know, when it's just us alone in a room in a chair. Have you found like over the years that you've developed ways to let you know that creative outlet be and to kind of respect your process? Or I'm just curious if you have any insight in there?

Ayse Birsel:

Yes. So these are such great questions. Julie, you're totally unpacking it. So, yes. think the most important moment, a trigger is starting for me, it's starting to draw and map out ideas. It's getting to that once I get to that moment, it's maybe for somebody else, it could be like, holding their guitar and kind of like, just making the first notes. And once you get to that, it's easy for you it might be, what is it for you like?

Julie Berman - Host:

Oh, that's a good question. I never thought about it, it's probably actually like, sitting down depends what part of the process I'm in. But like, sometimes, even if I'm just researching someone, like the moment that I actually start reading about them that I'm like, in it, and I'm good. Exactly. Yeah.

Ayse Birsel:

The trick is, it's the chatter goes away, I find once you get into the activity that you need to get into. So it's getting to that point, that's more difficult. So for me, what I've done is I've created these habits. So one is now I taught myself how to wake up early, because everybody's sleeping, including my clients, so I don't get as many emails or texts. And then I make tea, get the cookie, maybe light a candle. And so there's like the steps, right? And then I sit down. And once I start drawing, my focus goes to that activity. Instead of like, Oh, I was supposed to call my mom or I was supposed to, like, buy these tickets, or like, I should do laundry, you know, all the other things that spin in your head, like, oh, like, I'm, I need to call somebody, and I'm scared to do it. Blah, blah, blah. But it's like it. I think we all have those activities that are related to what we do best. Yeah, it's getting into that once you get into it. It flows. And once it flows, you're more or less flows. You see things emerge. And that gives you confidence in doing it every day. Kind of allows you to have some bad days, because it's not great every day. Yeah. But it's kind of like brushing your teeth. Some days, you brush better than others, you know. Some days, your hair's better than others, but you still brush your hair, you don't kind of like wonder should I brush my hair today or not? Yeah, it's kind of the same thing. So getting into that state is is like, where you build the habit? I think.

Julie Berman - Host:

Yeah. That was a great example. Like, I am definitely going to carry that with me because I'm going to think about it for myself, too. I never thought about that before. such it's such an interesting question. And and even for other people listening, like, what is it that you love to do? And like, when is that moment that's like that transition point? Between when you can really get into the flow of what you love? And you're not? Yeah, you're not in the chatter as much What a fun thing to think about. So we have so many things I want to talk about. We are running out of time. So I want to ask a few, a few more things for people who are listening to this and like, they're like, oh my gosh, I love the idea of industrial design. I love how incredible it sounds like to go through this process that you talk about to help people completely, you know, rethink about the things that they're using in everyday life. And like the optimism, how can they like what is a way that maybe someone can get into this as a career? Did they have to get into it at like a younger age? Or are there people who transition at an older age into industrial design, like if you could just shed some light on that?

Ayse Birsel:

So that's a great question. I would start by looking at industrial design. And then if somebody is interested in education of that, regardless of their age, looking at design school, so Some of the design schools like I graduate, I did my masters at Pratt Institute in New York, the Parsons in New York, Rhode Island School of Design Arts Center. These are like, okay, there's a whole list. And I apologize to all the other schools that I left out, it was not intentional, but no, they could bill find out. But they're, they're these amazing schools. And what's interesting about design schools is that they accept people of all disciplines. So I actually just realized I forgot my own school, where I teach, which is products of design, at the School of Visual Arts, this is my 11th year teaching there. And I love the name products of design. So and that's a graduate school. And our students come from all kinds of disciplines, and all ages. So I've had students who are in their 50s. And they're, like, engineers, or musicians, or I mean, not all of them are in their 50s. But like the students range from like, late 20s to 30s, where they've already done like, a career, and now they're in this interested in industrial design. I guess, what I'm trying to say is somebody coming out of high school and wants to do industrial design, yes, you can definitely do undergraduate. But if you to your point, Julie, for example, if you're interested in industrial design, you can do a master's in industrial design without having industrial design undergraduate. And I would add, if, you know, someone is listening to us and is saying, I'd like to think like a designer, then I would say, oh, please buy my books, because that's all I do is teach people how to think like a designer. Yeah. And the power of that of turning problems into opportunities, and having tools to reframe things. You can be any age, any discipline and practice them. And then they can, and then come to my virtual teas, of course, of course, which is what we do.

Julie Berman - Host:

That sounds so fun. I hope I get to come to one very soon. And so I want to end up like asking, because I asked this to every person. And it's something that I love hearing the answer to because it's just so interesting to hear what people say. So will you share a sentence that uses verbiage or jargon from your field? And then translate it so it's understandable to us?

Ayse Birsel:

Okay, I with an amazing question, because i Isn't it crazy how we each have verbiage and use it and

Julie Berman - Host:

Exactly, yes. It's so true. I call it I call it alphabet soup. Oftentimes.

Ayse Birsel:

Oh, I love it. So I had okay, because of the conversations that the your interview and the questions you asked me, we started with dichotomy resolution. So I'll, I'll use that. So when I say dichotomy resolution for a lot of people that's like, What do you mean? The layman terms for that is having your cake and eating it, too.

Julie Berman - Host:

I love that. And do you have an example of something that you've designed that, that you feel like that happened?

Ayse Birsel:

Yes, so I didn't get a nickname for this. But one of the things that I did design is I did design a kitchen collection of utensils and kitchen tools for target under the Giardia DiLaurentis brands. And the potato peeler was like best in class. It really is. A very comfortable, like, beautiful, but also easy to hold potato peeler, okay, and it only costs 799. To that, to have a beautiful designed high performance object that doesn't cost a lot. Right? That is dichotomy, resolution, high performance at low cost. And that is having your cake and eating it too.

Julie Berman - Host:

I love it. That was a great example. Well, I say thank you so much for being here with so much fun. I would love for if people want to reach out to you or find you your book, if you could just tell us all the ways that people can find you and where they can find your amazing book designed along by few love.

Ayse Birsel:

Great, thank you. So Of course, people can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I say Be yourself. But I think maybe even a better way is to write my name. I shave yourself.com backslash newsletter. And that will get them to subscribe to my newsletter, then they'll know when I do virtual teas, which is every month every Wednesday, so 5pm, New York time, where we, every week for an hour, we practice all these tools that I talked about. And we learn from each other and we collaborate, or the talks I do or articles I publish. So that is a YSEB i rsel.com. And if you want to do backslash newsletter, you get a subsidy, you could subscribe to the news setting. And then the book, you can go to your favorite bookstore, you can go to amazon.com You could go to one of your Indie bookstores, Barnes and Noble they all

Julie Berman - Host:

carry it. So are the usual place it through

Ayse Birsel:

all the usual places, and it's designed the Long Life You Love

Julie Berman - Host:

it. Love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much i che for being a guest. And it's been such a pleasure just having this conversation with you. Being able to read your book and feeling like I can be a designer have a long life for myself. And also maybe get to play with my parents too. They read it. So thank you so much.

Ayse Birsel:

So cool. Thank you so much. I this was beautiful. Julie, talking with you. Thank you.

Julie Berman - Host:

Thank you. Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to women with cool jobs. I'll be releasing a new episode every two weeks. So make sure you hit that subscribe button. And if you love the show, please give me a five star rating. Also, it would mean so much if you share this episode with someone you think would love it or would find it inspirational. And lastly, do you have ideas for future shows? Or do you know any Rockstar women with cool jobs? I would love to hear from you. You can email me at Julie at women with cool jobs.com Or you can find me on Instagram at women who will jobs again that women will jobs. Thank you so much for listening and have an incredible day