An Interview with Tania Da Cruz, Icon By Design’s Head of Product Design

Joining the team in early 2017, Tania da Cruz’s experience spans not only several industries, but several countries. Originally from Portugal, she spent much of her life in Italy, where she studied under and worked for a number of prestigious brands and creative figures. A natural linguist (she speaks 4 languages fluently) and true romantic, she moved to Sydney 2 years ago in search of adventure and creative inspiration. Incorporating this freedom of spirit and global experience into her current role as Head of Product Design, she is currently spearheading a project partnering with emerging Australian designers. We caught up with her earlier this week to learn more about her past, present projects, and the future of product design.

1. Describe yourself in three words.

Outgoing, passionate and creative.

2. What inspired you to become a product designer?

My parents were passionate about art and culture, so I grew up surrounded by artists from every field: painters, musicians, architects, photographers, writers… Since I was young, I always wanted to give art a “use” – when I grew up, I realised this was called Product Design!

3. How did you begin your career in product design?

Creating beautiful objects was always a passion for me, so straight after graduation I moved to Milan to start exhibiting my work at design shows. From there, I began to gain notoriety and attention – and so began my career.

4. What have been your biggest achievements in your career so far?

  • 1st Prize of the Salone Satellite Awards – one of the most important awards for young designers.
  • Working for Marcel Wanders – a dream come true.
  • Having my work shown at the Design Museum in Triennale Milano and Maxxi Roma

5. What are the three most important lessons you have learned along the way?

When I was on exchange in Holland, my teacher interrupted me mid-project to tell me to “stop using my brain”. Confused, I asked her, “what should I use, then?”  She took my hand, placed it on my stomach and left! It was a dramatic way of telling me to trust my gut – great ideas only come through instinct, not by over-thinking!

“Never fall in love with your projects”, was a valuable lesson from a teacher in Milan. Keeping an emotional distance allows you not only to be able to see the bigger picture, but also to avoid disappointment if your design is not received in the way you hoped. Failures and disappointments are inevitable and it is fundamental to never lose enthusiasm and faith to go ahead or re-do.

“Anything you do…make it beautiful” was a phrase written on a post-it stuck on every computer of the creative department at Marcel Wanders. How lovely is that? The beauty of it is that it can be applied in every field in life!

6. Why Icon By Design? What impressed you most about the company?

Innovation – in their business model, the technology they employ, and their designs. The way they approach customer service really impressed me – their focus on service rather than pure sales makes for a pleasant environment for both customers and employees. Their commitment to timeless, minimalist, clean style – an Australian style – in their products, and the reaction this gets from customers, is inspiring. They are a leader – you can feel their mission to change the status quo, and to work in this environment is exciting; it’s invigorating for a designer.

7. What do you hope to achieve as Head Designer? What can we expect from Icon By Design in the near future?

As Head Designer, I’m passionate about creating a community of designers that can continue the work we have started. Our aesthetic is Australian – it’s clean, modern, classic and elegant – so we are spearheading a movement to support emerging Australian designers. We are so fortunate as a country to have such talent at our fingertips – I want to nurture and encourage that so we can help each other grow and evolve.  I see us becoming a brand that represents Australia – in both design, and in ethos. The great thing about Icon By Design is that we never stand still; we are a company of movement, of dynamism! There is so much we have already achieved, so the near future is truly an exciting place.

8. What do you predict for the future of product design? Do you see an emergence of any particular consumer, or market, trends?

We live in a consumerist culture, where we have replaced buying for need or necessity, with buying on impulse or desire. This presents a challenge to designers, especially as furniture has started to move as fast as fashion (even though people don’t consume sofas as fast as dresses!). More and more companies are producing furniture faster and more cheaply than ever before. But I don’t think this is the answer, and I think we have started to see a reaction to this. As part of its ethos, Icon By Design rejects the disposable society; we produce products that are built to last. Our goal is to create desire out of simple design – which is harder than it sounds!

9. What is your favourite Icon By Design piece?

The Astrid Chair (pictured above) – for its elegant joinery, and feminine curves and proportions.

10. Lastly, where are you most likely to be found on your days off?

At the beach, exhibitions, museums – or hunting for vintage collectables!