Why Covid-19 is an opportunity to redesign your life

In This Podcast
Show Notes
Ayse Birsel
E 101

In This Podcast

  • What is design and who is it for
  • Why Covid-19 is the perfect excuse to redesign your life
  • Turning constraints into opportunities
  • How the 2008 financial crisis created her now life 
  • The butterfly effect
  • Re-humanising our workselves

Ayse Birsel is a designer and innovator who has designed hundreds of award winning products and systems for Fortune 500 brands and was named by Fast Company as one of the Most Creative People in Business. She’s known for bringing new solutions to old problems and for her humanistic design approach.

Show Notes

Designing your life with Ayse Birsel

What is design and who is it for? 

There is no better person to pose this question to than Ayse Birsel. Ayse is a designer and innovator who has designed hundreds of award winning products and systems for Fortune 500 brands. She’s known for bringing new solutions to old problems and for her humanistic design approach. 

Ayse fell in love with design when a family friend introduced her to the concept through a teacup. Not many people can say they found their life’s calling through a humble piece of crockery, but then not everyone is Ayse Birsel. 

“That was my first understanding of design and I fell in love with the human scale of product design. And that’s what design is at the end of the day. It’s really considering human needs and how you can solve it in the most elegant way possible.”

Ayse has been named by Fast Company as one of the Most Creative People in Business. Ayse is a beautiful blend of East meets West, born and raised in Turkey but who now calls New York home. 

“The combination of East and West, being Turkish living in the States, really allows me to see two sides of everything, which is a great quality, actually a superpower for designers, especially when those qualities are often in opposition to each other.”

What is design

According to Ayse, people often think design is just a superficial need. But that’s not true. A designer is trying to connect with the end user emotionally in order to make them feel loved and as though someone is listening to them, thinking about them, trying to make their life better.  

“That’s really the biggest mistake, because design is physical, it’s emotional, it’s intellectual, and it’s spiritual and you try to connect and solve problems and make people’s lives better through design, on all those quadrants basically.”

And designing something that solves even the most basic needs, such as the humble teacup, isn’t as easy as one might think. You have to make sure that your design is easy to understand and intuitive to use – you don’t want to harm the end user. You want your design to be comfortable and safe. It needs to be humanistic and honest. It has to be thoughtful and considerate of people. It has to honour their individuality. 

Did you know that much thought and devotion had gone into designing your favourite teacup?

Design for life

And design isn’t limited to just objects and art. One of Ayse’s passion is teaching people how to design their lives. Because you have a choice – you can live the life you’re living, or you can choose to take a stand and improve your own life, and through it, improve other people’s lives, by designing a life that you love. 

Ayse believes that the current pandemic is a beautiful teaching moment, highlighting where we can be mindful about designing our life. Covid-19 has thrown a curve ball at everyone of us, and we can either try and pick up where we left off, or we can reconsider our values, what we are doing and see if we can bring our values and our life together and make it more coherent. 

“We’re all in that moment where whether we like it or not, our life is not going to be the same again. And a lot of that is really incredible hardship. But it’s also an opportunity for us as individuals, for organisations and for governments to reinvent ourselves.”

For anyone struggling with the current situation, Ayse recommends thinking about it like a cocoon and we are the butterfly trapped inside, going through the process of metamorphosis – we went into this a caterpillar, but we’ll emerge a butterfly, and there’s no going back to being a caterpillar again. But more importantly, when you flap your wings what effect do you want to have?

Deconstruction, reconstruction

Ayse compares life to a design project – she says it has all the same qualities as a great design project. It has the constraints that you need to manage, and then when you have a good idea, you’ll move heaven and earth to bring that idea to life. 

Ayse’s design process is called deconstruction, reconstruction. It’s a process whereby you evaluate your life and work and get clarity about how you want to live your life by breaking it down. 

And we need a process because not everyone has the ability to deconstruct their own lives. 

“Most of our educational system teaches us not to be creative. So what I realised is that, that kind of innate capability to be creative is in all of us. But like anyone, we need a process for it. So I try to provide clear steps and some simple processes.”

Ayse is frequently surprised in that even though people are working together, like a symphony orchestra, you would think that they would know how to bring their instruments and their talents together. But that’s often not the case.

What leaders and companies need

What, according to Ayse, do leaders need more of?

“It’s something that I practice that I’ve also seen great leaders practice and that’s all about love.  Love and be loved. And in that order. If leaders could see everything from the perspective of loving their people, loving their customers, loving their work. It would create an incredible sense of empathy. it’s very different from loving profits. It’s very different from loving success for the sake of success.”

If the talk resonates with you, we’d recommend you listen to this episode too: Roberto Verganti