Tom Matano, Executive Director, School of Industrial Design, Academy of Art University, San Francisco; Spark Juror, 2008 & 2013

Who are you, professionally speaking?
I am the Executive Director for the School of Industrial Design, Academy of Art University, San Francisco, CA and former VP Designer for Mazda North American Operations.

How did you choose your design discipline?
I was going to apply for an Environmental Design major.  However, I had difficulty drawing interior design in perspective for the entry portfolio and decided to draw cars instead which got me accepted into Transportation Design major.

What are some elements that make your designs distinctive?
I design with an empathetic perspective. I focus on the communication function, mechanical inner-workings and character of the product visually as well as how to emotionally engage the user.

Is your work international, or regionally focused?
When I was a Mazda designer, it was for the global market.  As for the school, we have over 40% international students.

What is your ideal project or commission?
To develop a brand and design for an entire product line based on “My last XXXXX”

Who are your top 3 favorite designers?
Over the past 5 decades, my favorites have been evolving

What are you currently reading?
I don’t read, but have many friends who do love to read.

What advise can you offer to a new graduate?
Health over talents.  Develop your own measurement tools to gauge your progress

How did you get your first paying design job?
I had a sponsored project in my final class at college and got hired as a result.

What do you do for inspiration?
I am always Inspired from everything and everyone around me. I have been open minded and able to come up with hypothesis’ through observation.

What’s the best thing about being a designer?
Be an optimist and enjoy the study of nature and human behavior.