Skip to main content

25 questions about design, art and tech to Michael Wolf.

Two weeks ago Catherine Henderson, who organises the Cape Town’s Creative mornings, asked Formula D interactive’s Michael Wolf 25 questions about design, art and tech via Twitter. Questions and answers were limited to 140 character each. Here are all Q & A’s in one thread.

Q: Michael Wolf, what do you do?

A: I am founder, CEO and Creative Director at Formula D interactive. I have a vast collection of hats.

Q: What is Formula D interactive?

A: Formula D’s a design consultancy specialising on interactive learning strategies, learning technology & spatial experiences.

Q: Could you give us an example your past achievements?

A: We designed the 1st multitouch wall & app in South Africa in 2008 for Two Oceans Aquarium, just before the iPhone hit the SA market.

Q: What is are your current projects?

A: We currently design an Energy Game for Eskom SA, a Virtual Chemistry Lab for schools & interactive learning apps for SA Gov.

Q: What do you feel abandons normal methods and presents new perspectives?

A: Design needs methods & tools but mustn’t become methodological. We constantly explore new tools & methods. This keeps it fresh.

Q: Michael,where were you educated? 

A: I studied design at KISD ENSCI, both are famous for their integrated design approach.

Q: What do you mean with ‘integrated design approach?

A: Design is not segregated into fields like product or graphics. It’s understood as a holistic approach to problem solving.

Q: What is your opinion of John Maeda’s (RISD) stem to steam initiative?

A: It’s great! But innovation also needs social studies to understand needs of people & entrepreneurs to make it happen. ‪

Q: Is our current education system failing our future?

A: Yes, it is. Apart from a few exceptions learning is still ticking of boxes in silos. We need to rethink education from scratch.

Q: How are you making a difference?

A: Our design projects support extramural learning in Science Centers & at home as alternatives to stagnant learning institutions.

Q: What do you think is the link between arts and science? 

A: Arts and sciences both seek new land with different approaches. Art envisions & evokes, science discovers & explains.

Q: What have you learned in art class? 

A: Sadly, my art classes at high school &college were all about learning a technique and not about inventing a technology

Q: So, can art inform technology? 

A: Artists are constantly at the pulse of emerging technology. They may not invent it but evoke new ways of looking at things.

Q: How important is art for your work as a designer?

A: I learn from media arts e.g. interaction experiments. Designers often lack the ‘luxury’ to play outside of the brief.

Q: Name your favourite example where art spurred technology and innovation. 

A: I love the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Project: Science, Arts, Learning. We’ll have a reef in Cape Town:

Q: Tell us 5 qualities of good design?

A: Good design should be functional, sustainable, beautiful, accessible, and invisible.

Q: Why is good design invisible?

A: Design shouldn’t cry for attention, unless it’s a fire engine. We’re surrounded by good design we don’t notice & that’s good.

Q: Name one example where you see design getting it right?

A: EzyStove is a flat-pack, wood burning, slow combustion stove for USD 10.

Q: What is a noticeable obstacle for our local designers? 

A: I think the Cape region lacks a product design ecosystem with investors, entrepreneurs, manufacturers who see value in design.

Q: What can be done to change that? 

A: We’re working on a strategy with government, academia & industry to make design count for economic dev in the Western Cape.

Q: What is the most important thing in a design project?

A: YOUsers! Designers too often design for designers. Frequent sharing & testing sessions with focus group is crucial.

Q: Name one risk you would recommend any designer to take? 

A: Risk to abandon a tool you’re familiar with in a project, e.g. software or process. You will be in for a positive surprise.

Q: What is a time waster for designers? 

A: Getting caught up in details before having an approved base concept is a frequent time waster in design studios.

Q: Where do designers get inspiration from?

A: Design doesn’t come as ‘inspiration’. It’s an intellectual process. Observation & questioning will ‘conspire’ answers.

Q: What is the recipe for ‘magic ‘design?

A: A client taking some risk; multi-disciplinary team members who’re not afraid to leave their turf; 2 measures of passion

Q: Last question for today … From your vast collection of hats, which one is your favorite?

A: The designer hat is the most comfortable. It’s wide enough so I can wear it on top of all other hats!