Heather Fleming, CEO & Co-Founder, Catapult Design; Spark Juror, 2010

Who are you, professionally speaking?
I am Heather Fleming, CEO and co-founder of Catapult Design, a product strategy firm focused on emerging markets or impoverished communities.

How did you choose your design discipline?
I chose product design because it’s a wonderful blend of my practical side (function) and creative side (form).  I also loved the power in it all, the outward connection to human life, and the opportunity for change.

What are some elements that make your designs distinctive?
We have a strong emphasis on the human-centered approach, because we’re designing alongside clients from a culture outside our own.  And because a majority of our clients are non-profit, there’s a strong sustainability aspect to our work — financial and environmental.

Is your work international, or regionally focused?
A little bitta both.  Catapult’s studio is based in San Francisco, but our programs are mostly international.

What is your ideal project or commission?
I would love to do a project here in the US on a Native American reservation.  I’m workin’ on it — give me another few months!

Have you worked in sustainable materials?
Yes. No.  Depends on the definition of sustainable.  There’s not a lot of options for sourcing truly sustainable materials in remote areas of the world — but we try to pick the most sustainable and appropriate solutions to the area and program objectives.

Who are your top 3 favorite designers?
I’m not much of a favorites person.  I admire Ralf Hotchkiss, was initially inspired by Martin Fisher, and idolize women who can pull off the CEO title.

What are you currently reading?
Emails and 139 people’s twitter feeds.  And Zilch, by Nancy Lublin.  I rarely get to read-read anymore.

What advise can you offer to a new graduate?
Get a job.  Be a designer for awhile, acquire a fabulous mentor, and hone your skills.  If you start your own thing, you run the risk of being a paper-pusher or worse… a salesman!

How did you get your first paying design job?
I offered to volunteer at a design firm in order to get myself up to speed.  They bought in.  Four months later I started contracting with them.  Four months after that, I signed on for a full-time position.

What do you do for inspiration?
I’m a big fan of walking.  It’s free.  Good for your body.  Unclutters my head and is overall my main mode of de-stress.  But bring something to take notes with!  There’s nothing worse than an uncaptured good idea.