Q&A with Ben McCarthy
Graduation year: 2004
Q. Why did you choose your degree?
I’ve always enjoyed learning how things are made, taking things apart, and constructing things of my own, right from using Lego as a child. I thought I wanted to be an inventor when I was a kid. When I learned there was a degree in what I was doing at home for fun, it was an easy choice.
Q. What did you enjoy most about your time at UNSW?
University has a great community of creative thinkers inspiring each other. The people around me, be it staff or students were all interesting people and it was a great environment to be immersed in. I was able to get into design full time for the first time in my life and I really enjoyed learning about what I always wanted to do. Being able to focus on it was like doing my favourite subject at school 100% of the time.
Q. How did BE prepare you for employment after you graduated?
Straight after I graduated I designed a range of furniture made in China. I had enough knowledge to see this project though to market at 22. I learned a lot more in the following years, but university gave me enough of a skills base to apply to each part of the design process to successfully see a project through immediately after graduating.
Q. How did your degree help you in your current position?
Knowledge of ‘how things are made’ is really important as a designer. Most of this knowledge comes from going to factories. But if you haven’t studied it, and you don’t know what you’re looking at it is much less useful. I am now based in Hong Kong and its valuable to have a western ‘aesthetic’ ie, understanding what sells in western countries and why, makes your more employable in Asia.
Q. Where have you worked since graduation from BE, and in what roles?
I worked freelance in Sydney for 12 months, for a few different companies before I won a grant from the British Council and moved to London to work for Tom Dixon as a junior designer. I now live in Hong Kong as senior designer for Michael Young.
Q. What have been your career highlights since graduating from BE?
Moving to London and moving to Hong Kong. The world is a big place and it’s great to combine work and travel, whilst gaining experience.
Q. What do you enjoy most about working in your profession?
Doing something different ever day. Working with interesting people. Bringing new ideas into peoples lives. Seeing where everyday things come from. Working in new contexts. Using new technologies to produce new products, and not having to wear a suit or tie.
Q. What is your future professional goal?
I want to start my own studio in a few years time. But I want to work and travel before I do it.
Q. What advice would you give someone planning to enter your profession?
Be observant of everything that is happening around you.