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  • Writer's picturePelin Özbalcı

...and that's what I learned!

If there's one thing I learned from school that really stuck with me, that's the quote "Don't fall in love with your design." I couldn't understand this back then and it seemed like a great thing that has to fall in love with your own design, since I was never satisfied with mine and that "fall in love" thing seemed pretty much impossible... Turns out I was just not designing the way I'd fall in love with, the second I started creating things I usually love on Pinterest, it was over. I felt love for my designs for the first time.

After the first couple of projects made with punch-drunk love I felt with the brand new style I was exploring... I started to see the obvious thing I'd change in my designs if I were to start all over again.

I'm aware that we need to polish our work to stand out but I believe this was the reason social media is becoming an awful place to be a new designer. We develop "design dysmorphia" by looking at those amazing designs, picture-perfect processes, sticky notes on the wall, and endless creativity that people demonstrate. But design is messy, design is non-linear and design is a lifelong process of constantly learning and developing. And I think we shouldn't be afraid to show messy mistakes and what we achieved thanks to them.

I will write about what have I done so far, what would I change if I did them again and what have they taught me. Join me on this non-linear journey!

mimo (refillable toothpaste tube)

Dec, '21

Group project of 2

Why do I love this project?

Mimo was our first project with Sergen (my colleague with whom I occasionally collaborate under the name Nest Studio) which happened to be both of our first packaging design projects. We received an unexpected impact with mimo, even from big names we used to follow with great inspiration like Dieline, Yanko Design, Pentawards, WGSN, and many more. Mimo got us shortlisted in Pentawards 2022 and featured on Behance. This kind of success was not familiar to either of us and we were above the clouds!

So what would I do now?

The edit I'd do actually originates from an interview I had a couple of weeks ago. I was in an interview with Aaron Wansch from Above and he asked me what was the reasoning behind using many layers for this product while claiming to be environmentally sustainable. While this is a great feedback and a topic to think about, I wouldn't eliminate all the layers and make one (as in no silicone strap and whole piece body) but I'd make mimo a special edition product whereas adding another design to be marketed as mainstream.

What did I learn from this project?

I learned that it was not impossible to achieve the success that once seemed inconceivable to me. While this might seem a simple thing to learn, we are subject to the boundaries we build and even just a small glimpse of the outside of our boundaries makes it possible to take them down. I've seen "what could've been" with mimo and I work tirelessly to compete with its achievements - and I don't plan to stop when I do!

Revi (Webcam + speaker)

Feb, '22

Personal Project

Why do I love this project?

First of all, Revi taught me something incredible. A formula that I want to make my signature.

(Object A + another object that is frequently used while using Object A)*a simple interaction to reveal a function.

I consider Revi my first very-personal project after I explored my current style, so as a firstborn, this project was (- and still is -) so dear to me. I made this in just one week, and spend a lot of time on visualization, so much so that I was eager to finish the design and wanted to move on to rendering - causing an incomplete design with stunning visuals.

So what would I do now?

1 week can be more than enough for many projects, you can skip the researching part, limit the sketches and be content with 10 renders... I tried to excel in every one of those things and forgot one extremely crucial part: User experience design. I imagined users use this product with just one gesture, twisting. But if you have just one available gesture for a product that claims to merge two products (webcam and speaker in this case), you would confuse the users.

If I designed this right now, I would keep the shape, the functions, CMF, and most parts but I would spend one more week to perfect the user experience. I would extend the CMF by adding button/s and give myself a new challenge.

What did I learn from this project?

Timing is NOT an excuse (for me, of course!). I made everything within one week while working full-time and having a freelance job. Was it easy to pull this off in a week? No, absolutely not. But equally doable.

User experience is NOT something that can be added afterward. It is the base of the design and should be researched thoroughly before jumping to conclusions. Again, projects can be done in very short amounts of time but nobody will give me cookies for finishing at the speed of light, so, DO. YOUR. RESEARCH.

Tabs (a work table)

Aug, '22

Personal Project

Why do I love this project?

I won't lie and say I don't love this table... or nor am I satisfied with it. I do love how it turned out and I do love how it made me change my thoughts about designing furniture. I was biased about designing any kind of furniture because it felt so boring, simple, and impossible to bring any innovation. I wanted to challenge myself by making a table and I received many great feedback from many great designers. I reached out to IKEA's Global Product Manager, Hendrik, for him to give me feedback, which he was so kind to give an extensive one. I emailed Deniz Aktay (an outstanding designer who is extremely creative and a big inspiration for this table) and he gave me his valuable insights, which I'll include to my "what would I do now".

At the end of the day, if a design I made allows me to connect with people and starts a conversation I can define that design as a successful one, regardless of the tone of the feedback.

Another thing is, I got approached by the beloved design page Megosu to give tips on how to create realistic renderings, featuring Tabs' renders. Being one of my favorite pages since I was a student, this was a thrilling collaboration for me.

So what would I do now?

I would start with Hendrik's feedback, he expressed to me that the table's production cost would be on the higher side, resulting in the marketing price being higher than a regular work table. A high price means a shift in the target audience and their needs/likes. I would either make this table align with the middle-upper class expectations or find a way to reduce the production cost to keep my audience wide.

Deniz's points were also very important if I were to design this again. He told me that the gap between the rails and the tab modules is narrow and that may give users a hard time with pining stuff.

Finally, I would take my time to redesign the rail caps and I's make them blend seamlessly with the table.

What did I learn from this project?

Designing furniture is much more enjoyable than I anticipated! It is a category that is arguably the largest portion of things we interact with on a daily basis. Granted, that's why it might be the single most category people design and create but this doesn't lower its value.

Tabs taught me to stop being frightened about competition and start searching for ways to be worthy of the competition. Of course, it is easier to shine in an untouched or barely touched category (which I shamelessly took advantage of this in mimo and mazi!) but trying your chance in a mainstream category brings up many conversations and gives people something comparable.

Mazi (a diary companion)

May, '22

Group project of 2

Why do I love this project?

Mazi was our second project with Sergen (& Nest Studio) and it started as a very heated discussion on the forgetfulness modern times cause us. As far as I know, mazi is the first kind of (if not pioneer) its kind, and this fact dazzled us throughout the process. It was super exciting to decide on every minor detail of this product, knowing we are the first ones to make this decision. It was the first time nothing disrupted the design and I truly loved the freedom it allowed us.

So what would I do now?

Since this was a unique product, I would spend more time to excel every detail from CMF to user scenario. I'm still not very happy with the user experience on this product so I'd immerse myself in IDEO's Design Kit to find the right exercises for a better unique experience.

Another thing I'd change actually applies to all of my projects: copywriting. I won't go on and blame English for not being my second language. It's 2022. I can copywrite in any language I want, there are endless extensions and apps to achieve that! So, I would take the time to learn copywriting and a little bit of marketing. At the end of the day, a badly told design is destined to be forgotten, didn't Steve Jobs teach us the opposite of this in the best way possible?!

What did I learn from this project?

As much as I loved the flexibility of working on a unique product, I found it rather tiring. I still am a new designer drifting in a vast ocean called design trying to find myself, and building a completely new product was exceeding my abilities. I do want to do it again in the future and I believe mazi opened that path for me.


So this was a small portion of "What would I do now?" scenarios for my most recent projects. I love the fact that I have infinite things to learn and get excited about, and many more people to begin a conversation with.

Thanks for reading!

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