Meet Rob Van Varick, who passionately believes design has the power to positively impact people’s lives. With MGA&D since 2003, his mission is to apply the right blend of research, psychology, creativity and strategy so that root causes are identified, allowing the best solution to be designed. While Rob is very serious about his work, he has a wonderful sense of humor. We asked Rob to respond to several questions so you can get an idea of who he is:
If you were not a product designer, what would your alternate career be?
RVV: Illustrator or Comedian
You just won a free trip, where would you go?
RVV: Scotland with my wife!
If you could make one significant change in the world, what would it be?
RVV: Instill more compassion and positivity in people. I think that is the basis from which so many great things can, and already do, happen.
Who is your design idol?
RVV: I find my inspiration in every relationship and encounter I have. Everyone has something incredible about them, you just have to care enough to find it.
When you need inspiration where do you look?
RVV: It depends, sometimes I need to blur my focus, sometimes I need to get immersed. Finding ways to get inspired for a designer is like an athlete finding ways to boost their performance. Inspiration most commonly hits me when I am able to really reflect, dream, and process.
When you are away from work, what can you be found doing?
RVV: Enjoying time with my family. Playing games of all sorts. Enjoying nature. Bike riding. Doodling. Watching movies. Always thinking “what if”!
What book(s) are you currently reading?
RVV: Wired To Care by Dev Patnaik, Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Startup Leadership by Derek Lidow.
What songs are most listened to on your playlists?
RVV: I am a big shuffler these days. I will say I never skip songs by Beirut. There is something wonderful about their melodic quirkiness to me, I love them.
What do you believe is the most valuable trait as a product designer?
RVV: Empathy. Great designs are the ones that connect with people. If you yourself are unable to connect with people, your chances of being a great designer are not so good.
What new skill would you like to learn and why?
RVV: Welding. I have tried it once, but it just seems like such a great skill to have. So practical with so many uses. I could make so many cool things!!
How would your friends describe you?
RVV: What friends? Just kidding, I think my friends would generally comment on my sense of humor and easy going attitude.
What was one of your most defining moments in life?
RVV: I immediately think of one of my great personal failures. I had the opportunity in college to sculpt a Lord of the Rings action figure for a company (this was before the movies came out). I procrastinated, I psyched myself out of it, I just didn’t do it and had to admit my failure to the president of the company. That was a defining moment for me. I absolutely hated that feeling and it is one of my great regrets. It taught me a lot though, and I have been a different person ever since.
What is your best childhood memory?
RVV: My mom and my aunt took my two sisters, my cousin, and myself on a 6 week road trip around the American West. It opened my eyes to the beauty possible in the world. I don’t think my mom will ever know how much that experienced meant to me, even at 9 years old. Thanks mom!
If you could live in a book, TV show or movie, what would it be?
RVV: I often feel like I am living in a TV show…
Why did you choose your profession?
RVV: As someone who loved art and architecture growing up, Industrial Design was the perfect blend of the artistic and the technological. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it also allowed me to harness my love of connecting with people.
What words of wisdom would you pass onto your childhood self?
RVV: Dude, seriously, just do your homework, it is so much easier than what you will be doing for the rest of your life!