“The world should not be telling creatives what to make. Your responsibility is to find your own inner insight into what you're creating.”
My name is Nicholas Baker. I'm a designer based in New York, and my main focus right now is to design objects that embrace a delightful future. I really enjoy doing furniture, lighting, household objects, and I think a lot of my work tends to be playful, simple, gestural, and delightful. I also really enjoy trying new technology and seeing how it can fit into design.
Images Shot by Ryan Qian in the Studio of Nicholas Baker
THE QU & A
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
I actually have four.
It's all about being on the leading edge, embracing the newest technology, but also trying to imbue my work with some sort of new thing. Whether it's, “hey, this idea has never been done before” or trying to push design forward even if it's just a small tweak here or there.
I think in order to build a better world, we have to believe in one. Having that optimistic outlook also imbues positivity into the designs I make. And I want to live in the world with delightful products and not with terrible products that make you sad every day.
I think the value of play is all about experimentation, trying new things, getting in the studio, working with my hands, and also playing with new technology, whether it's virtual reality or artificial intelligence. Play is a great way to explore new ideas.
I like to let my designs rest. I try to actually make prototypes and let them sit out in the studio. It's a chance for my subconscious to really work on designs and remove anything that's distracting. It just creates a much stronger and compelling idea.
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
Aside from the functional problems that objects solve in our lives - whether it's a lamp that lights your room, or a chair that lets your guests sit around a table - it kind of goes back to the values and what I was saying before, where the problem that I'm solving is one where we need to bring more delightfulness into this world. We need to have something to look forward to. We need to build this better future.
One thing that I wish designers would focus on more is this idea of trying to imbue objects with some sort of a new thing that pushes the object forward culturally. There are so many designers out there that will just make another shape. And, you know, I make shapes too. But with everything I make, I try to make something that actually is new and hasn't been done before. That's obviously very hard to do. Something that I see in our day to day lives is we just buy and use very generic bland things. Whether it's the iPhone or the Toyota Camry. It's almost like these objects have become the average of everyone's taste. There is no emotion. There is no delightfulness. It is kind of this algorithmically designed-by-committee object, where you have large corporations doing A/B tests to infinity to create the most mass market appeal to objects.
There obviously will always be room for that, but I think there's an opportunity to create something that may not appeal to everyone, but it will be ten times more impactful because it will imbue an emotion into the object.
Free format conversation with Nicholas Baker.
How can Creatives improve their impact on the world by creating intentionally?
Part of me wants to say that you don't always need to be intentional because sometimes creative ideas are very intuitive. They kind of strike you at the moment, and it just dawns on you that it has to be created or you have to make it. Then if you are too intentional or rational and ask yourself whether it is something that should be made, it can sometimes muddy the waters. Second guessing can prevent you from creating something that isn't perfectly fully formed in your mind.
Another thing that I think about is there's this idea in design that everything has to be perfectly functional and beautiful; you shouldn't make something that's not ergonomic and 100% I agree. I want all my chairs to be as ergonomic as possible. But sometimes when you make a chair, the point of the chair isn't necessarily to be the most ergonomic chair. Sometimes it's some sort of cultural statement. It's a clever new way of looking at furniture. Or maybe it's imbued with this idea of how the chair is made. I do a lot of virtual reality stuff, and so sometimes for example a chair's story isn't necessarily supposed to be about hyper functionality. Tying it back to intention, when you think about whether or not something should exist in the world and if it's the most perfect form and idea, it can kind of stop you from being actually creative, you know?
And then I guess on the flip side, you can definitely go into design with an intention to create something miraculous or something that aligns with your values.
How can Creative Leaders show a more realistic example of trial and error?
I would say I'm pretty strong in the trial and error area. I'm very open about my process on social media and just in general. I have a podcast and I'm trying to start a newsletter. I’m working on being more diligent at writing.
I think the interesting thing about trial and error is that it tells the story of a design. You can bring an audience along with you as you go through this experimentation phase of creating something, and the audience can see it from the very beginning. They can see how rough it is, and they can see how it gets refined. They can see all the mistakes that happened. I think that's just so much more of a compelling story than ending up with a final piece with some beautiful photography.
How can we become more transparent with each other?
It's just so much richer to be more open and transparent about your process. I also think that in the social media era everything is much more algorithmically driven, so that this idea of waiting for a final finished, polished piece of work is less advantageous because who knows what the algorithm is feeling that day. Maybe it says, okay, we like the work, but it's not good enough to boost. So I think showing more trial and error in your process also lends itself to just having more content that can possibly go viral or whatever your goal is.
What do you think are some of the responsibilities that creatives should take on?
I think the biggest responsibility that creatives have is to stay true to themselves. I'm sure there's many answers that you could give to that question. You know, you can put in some cultural answers or talk about sustainability and stuff but I don't think that's the right way to think about it. I don't think creatives should try to create work that is for the world.
Creatives are creating work for themselves and that's what influences the world, right? I think if you feel aligned with some cultural value or whatever your values are, then for certain that's your responsibility. The world should not be telling creatives what to make. Your responsibility is to find your own inner insight into what you're creating.
Creative Leaders to look up to:
This is such a hard question. I certainly have leaders that I look up to, but I wouldn't say they're necessarily creative in nature. Like I would say Steve Jobs was probably one of the best leaders that I looked up to when he was around. Obviously you have successors to that visionary, like Elon or Mark Zuckerberg or Kanye. I think obviously these people have flaws, but they're incredible visionaries and have created amazing things in this world.
When I think about industrial design and specifically furniture design, it's hard to find someone that is really imbuing the world with that impactful kind of Vanguard-esque emotion into their work.
Images Shot by Ryan Qian in the Studio of Nicholas Baker
How much risk are you taking?
Obviously, we only have one life. So if you aren't pushing yourself and taking risks, then you know, what are you going to achieve? And everyone has a different answer on that, on what they want to achieve, and how much risk they want to take on. I would encourage someone to really sit down with themselves and come to terms with the fact that they'll die one day, and realize that the only way to achieve what they want to in life is to take some risk.
This conversation contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Conversation Led by Julia Horvath
Conversation Assisted by Julieta Flores
Image Courtesy of Nicholas Baker and GAHSP
Unedited. Only Formatted.