Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Diana Chang is Taiwanese-American industrial designer currently based in Dallas, experienced in product design ranging from packaging, consumer electronics, fashion accessories, furniture to interior design. She has worked with clients like Herman Miller, Samsung, Jawbone, Duracell, Microsoft, Vinci and Misfit. Currently a project lead who takes designs from initial concept sketches to production, collaborating closely with engineers, graphic designers and marketing strategists. Her style draws influence from Eastern and Western culture to create iconic designs, connect product to consumer with stories through form and memories.
What does your current job role entail?
Designing the next wearable device that suits target scenarios, user groups and fashion trends. Working within constraints and also not being afraid to challenge the boundaries when needed -- to create a smooth transition between technology to everyday life.
How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
Being in a patriarchal industry, I constantly face skepticism on my performance due to my race, age, gender and even height. My career path was difficult, but I was extremely lucky to find mentors along the way, there are many designers struggling to thrive, some face different challenges such as language barriers, citizenship status etc. I think the truth is everyone has challenges of their own; you just have to turn it around and make it your advantage.
Has your degree helped in your product design process for wearable tech products?
Yes, I graduated with a degree in industrial design. Although the real world is very different than what we learned in school, the connections I acquired from school were extremely helpful when I got out into the field.
How long did it take you to be where you are now? What was the biggest obstacle?
I graduated from college in 2010, so it has been seven years now. The biggest obstacle is finding what is important to you as a person -- what makes you excited to wake up every morning and drive to work. Finding a company that shares the same vision as you, having coworkers you can have fun and conversation with, and a boss who believes in your work. I also believe this could be everyone’s challenge, I constantly tell myself that I cannot change anyone around me, but I could change myself to become a better manager, designer, listener, or even mentor to other young designers.
What are your projects you are currently working on within your company?
There are many exciting things we are working on at Misfit which we can not disclose now. But everyday, I always strike to come up with the next product that has the most honest, iconic and poetic story to tell the world. We also read customer reviews and try to come up with better product every time.
What does the #WomenInTech movement mean to you? What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur and woman in wearable tech industry?
I think in an ideal world, #WomenInTech should not mean anything to me, since women and men are equal. Though, like I mentioned before, being in a patriarchal industry, gender equality simply does not exist yet. I always try to change this phenomenon by educating people around me on how important women’s role is in the consumer market. Around 70-80% of the consumer purchases are driven by women, women also have high influence on male products (my fiancee always gets my approval before he makes any purchase) not to mention all the mothers out there who purchase for everyone in the household -- son, husband -- male or female. I have had a difficult time finding the hiking shoes I want to wear, the car that I want to purchase, even diamond rings I want to wear when my fiancee proposed. I see this as a big problem. Not every women loves pink, purple, bling bling effect or animal prints. Women are diverse just like men are. I believe, eventually, people will start realising that having more female designers on the team is just a much more efficient idea than guessing what women want.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
When I see my family wearing the products I designed. When my mother asked me to purchase several Misfit trackers to give out to her friends. I am also proud to prove my family that art/ design is not what people imagined back in the day. I am doing really well with my career choice and I would encourage people to follow their dream, instead of choosing a route that might just have more stable income. Job takes up too large of a chunk of our lives, and it is just simply too short to be doing something you do not love.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the wearable tech and IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I see it to become more seamless from location to location. From one side of your body to another part of your body. At least that is what I want to see.
Can you name any prominent women in this industry that you admire?
Qin Li at Fuseproject is probably the only person I know who is also a female designer in the wearable tech industry. I don’t limit my inspiration to just what’s inside the wearable tech industry. I get inspired by many people along the way. It could be from some Japanese ceramics, Icelandic knife maker to simply discovering an amazing sculptor on Pinterest. I believe that when we open our minds to be inspired by people who are doing completely different things than what we are doing, that’s how creativity happens.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs in wearable tech out there?
Do not underestimate the importance of industrial design, branding, graphic design and display design. A great industrial designer does not simply beautify the product to create an urge for purchase. We are also trained to design based on a user’s need and market trend. Many startups undermine the power of design, which is the ability to create a bridge between technology and consumer.
Website: Diana Chang
LinkedIn: Diana Chang