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Donna Heiderstadt | November 01, 2012
Owner of Nathan Thomas Studios, New York
Fashion Institute of Technology, Interior Design, 2004
Interior Design: How has the design field changed for grads since you began your career?
Nathan Thomas: I didn't start my career until graduating in 2004, although I suppose I was a designer very early on, just sans the technical training that FIT offered me. The design industry has witnessed an incredible shift with the influence of technology that I am not sure existed to the same degree when I was fresh and new. I don't feel that in 2004 designers were using technology for a shopping "experience" as much as one might do today. We are also in a very different economic climate. Designers have to work smarter and hone in on the client's true needs as well as maintain an awareness of real-life budgets. I think it's about taking on the "small" jobs as well. You never know where a client may lead you.
ID: How do you think "design" is viewed in popular culture today; is it more significant in daily life than it was 10 or 20 years ago? If so, how?
NT: Interesting question. I often find myself asking the same and pondering the response. I do find "design" to be much more relevant in the day-to-day lives of today's generation and in popular culture. The significance of design is everywhere we look, from print to television, street fashion to high style-you cannot NOT be influenced daily by design. It is everywhere and I think so much more relevant/constant than 10 years ago, by far more significant than 20 years ago. I believe this has to do with saturation, exposure and a heightened awareness. I think that in the past "design" and the "design culture" may have been a bit insular and exclusive, but now that notion is quite obsolete.
ID: What materials, techniques or fabrications are you most excited about?
NT: As a designer, it is hard to NOT be influenced and excited about loads of ideas, materials, and the like. We (as designers) work in a world that offers daily new inspirations and concepts that constantly leave me yearning to know more and add new tools to my knowledge base. That said, I think I have found myself in a torrid love affair of late with metals-bronze, unpolished brass-I love how it patinas with time. And through the course of trial and error, I have developed a stronger sense of using woods. I am mad about walnut and its graining!
ID: What personal career accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
NT: Staying in business...it's tough going out there! The growing pains of owning and developing an office truly give me pride that I have been able to make it this far. I have had the good fortune of working with incredible clients, vendors and galleries along the way, but I owe so much to my contemporaries and teachers from whom I learned a wealth of knowledge. I must say I am fortunate to be in the position I am. And I am only looking ahead to brighter days.
ID: What is the one thing you know now that you wish you'd known when you were starting your career?
NT: This industry is about dedication, insight, thoughtfulness, organization, and most of all awareness. One learns more and more every day. I hate a mistake, but I always keep a mistake as a lesson for the future. It's the "I wish that would have been just one-and-a-half inches lower" or "Next time have a look at the paint finish before approving..." This is the sort of thing that humbles a designer I think, or at least I hope. My mistakes only make me smarter and keep me on my toes. So I guess what I am getting at is that it's all a learning process and the bumps in the road are what either make you a success or cause you to fail miserably.