home Q&A Being a Designer- A Q&A with Galen McAndrew

Being a Designer- A Q&A with Galen McAndrew

Maya Pratt Bauman | mprattbauman19@dtechhs.org | June 17, 2018
Photo by Maya Pratt Bauman

If you have ever walked into the upstairs DRG, you have probably ran into Galen McAndrew. While he started at d.tech in the front office, he is now the Director of the Design Realization Garage.  McAndrew has a great passion for design and creativity. He is one of the founders of the DRG, and currently teaches a prototyping class for freshmen. The Dragon recently meet with him to discuss his designer life. [This interview has been edited for clarity]


Q: Can you describe your design philosophy in five words?  

A: My design philosophy in five words…effort, creativity, iderate, purpose, and joy.


Q: Do you use the design thinking process when you are working on projects or creating things, and do you find it helpful?

A: I use parts of the design thinking process when making stuff. Definitely iterating a lot of the crafting I do. It’s like the first time I made a butcher block cutting board, I had done a little bit of woodworking but I had never made a cutting board. In a lot of ways that is the same design process to solve that problem… So I will think about those when making, but that is more dependent on what the project is.  


Q: What is your opinion on the design thinking process, and how does it affect your daily life?

A: I think that the design thinking process is a great set of steps, it is a really good mindset and sort of concrete specific skills. It is not the only way to approach a problem, it is something that everybody can draw from and tweak to their different needs.  So I think that it is really useful, it’s really important. I think it is a great thing to practice in making, and is better than not having any sort of process.


Q: How has being a teacher affected your design process?

A: Being a teacher for my personal design process, I think has brought in a lot more patience. It has also shown me how much fun it is to co-design things. I have done more projects where I work with friends to teach them how to make a thing and then we all make a thing together. That’s been fun, to uncover best ways to get everyone engaged, and help my friends personalize this thing that they are making. So those aspects are really great.


Q: How has working at d.tech influenced or changed your view of design and creativity?

A: A lot of that has come from being here and seeing and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. The number of guests that we get that come through, they’re just like blown away by what we’re doing. What we’re doing is really incredible, it is not so incredible that they couldn’t do it too. That’s the thing, yes we have a great community, yes we have a great opportunity, but we had a school group from Georgia come in, it was clear that they were like, ‘oh man, I don’t think we could ever do this.’ I want to demystify that, and I want to help these other people understand you could. You could teach design, you could bring in these other skills without having to fundamentally redesign your entire program. So, it has been really nice in an environment that is excited about sharing the knowledge that we are gaining as a organization.


Q: How has the DRG influenced or affected your life as a designer?

A: The DRG, I mean it has affected my life deeply. It’s this weird thing, it is my baby. It is like, I came up with the name, I layed out the space, I have chosen a lot of the direction we have taken this as a school.


Q: Of all the things you’ve made/ projects you’ve done which one are you most proud of?

A: Of all the projects that I have made, I mean an easy answer is the DRG itself. It is a project that I have made and it has been a multi-year project… So that is a big thing.

Smaller than that, just thinking about specifically a thing that I have made. It’s funny because I was at a fabric store getting a bunch of fabric for all these different projects, and this one person was looking at his piece of flip sequin material and they’re like really debating buying it… They chose not to get it, and it was right there. I was already about to check out.  I’ll take it, and like a second thought and then I just had it… Boom, it’s a cape. I’ve gotten so much use out of that thing. One of my friends is going through chemo right now, and she loves it…So she has that with her at chemo, because it’s fun and just makes you smile. It’s hard not to, it’s a rainbow and gold flip sequin cape that’s lined with silver, and [you can’t] not laugh at the hilarity and observation of it. That was one of those where it didn’t really have a particular purpose… Sometimes it’s just a project that you don’t realize or that you haven’t had in mind for years and planned out every detail. The ones that you just kind of come together last minute with a scrap piece of fabric that might end up meaning the most to you.


Q: What’s the funniest thing you have created?

A: I got this space print galaxy, purple and pink stretchy kind of soft, it’s like a weird spandex material. I made three pairs of pajama tights and tank tops for me and two guy friends, and we went to Friendsgiving together and just walked around in this big cabin for the weekend of Thanksgiving in stretchy space pants and matching tank tops.

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