Taking tips from Ray Molony's "How to be brilliant" ILP design talk

“It’s not about being brilliant, do what you don’t expect you can do.” – Ray Molony

Who doesn’t like a good tip about life, especially from someone who knows their stuff. At the last “How to be brilliant” design talk series Ray Molony, as key speaker, shared several. Ray could easily have focused on the success stories – all the people he’s influenced, the magazines he’s bought, the money he’s earned and the events he’s hosted. But he didn’t. The experienced publisher did something far more effective, he focused on the “challenges”. We were invited into the early years of his career….an office in his living room, surrounded by his kids and everyday life, where he embraced the risks – big and small. He put himself out there and grasped the opportunities. Opportunities, he assured us we could find everywhere.

“You are your own brand.” – Ray Molony

The power of boldness will open up doors for any designer. Ray reminded us that the media loves the fearless, the ones who aren’t scared of looking different. Think of powerful images that have inspired you: they’re rarely the “pretty ones”. They might’ve been taken from an odd angle, have the main object in silhouette, be cropped in an unusual manner or show high contrasts. Images that evoke an emotion are as important when presenting ourselves as it is to present our designs. Why are so many designers able to take stunning pictures of their designs, but have a dimly lit screenshot for a LinkedIn profile picture? Don’t take pretty pictures. Don’t take safe pictures. Take extraordinary pictures with one intention. ONE great idea stands out in a sea of images.

“You don’t learn anything from a picture. You need an idea, just a simple idea.” – Ray Molony

When studying design I never felt passionate enough. I didn’t subscribe to all the right architectural magazines, I didn’t know who designed the most famous buildings. I was rarely correct on the art questions in a pub quiz and I didn’t sit and sketch when I had a free minute. But, something changed when I entered the world of lighting design. My engineer friends started calling me a geek (I know!), as I went on about the importance of circadian lighting and how different light intensities and colour temperatures affects the human brain. I got genuinely excited while reading research papers and started stuttering when I met the daylight researcher Chris Cuttle. I’d never have imagined that my first experience of being “star-struck” would’ve been in front of a researcher the age of my grandad and who is only known in selected circles. I realised that my passion was about the learning process. I didn’t remember the pretty pictures because I didn’t feel that they taught me anything. On the other hand, TED talks on how to present statistics, lighting talks about how the brain is affected by light and magazines like “How It’s Made” evoke thought explorations on what is possible.

Blog How To Be Brilliant Ida Evensen Lighting Design NultyThe learning experience can be compared to most things in life. If your grandma hands you some delicious carrot cake, all you’ve done is learn where to go for great cake. But, if you stand by her side in the kitchen while she’s making it, you’ll be given an insight into what it takes to make a great carrot cake. We should try and apply this to our professional life as well. Visiting amazingly lit spaces will only show us what works in that specific space. However, when playing with light fittings in models of architectural details and spaces we’ll get to explore how different colour temperatures, beam angles and intensities will affect different finishes and the spread of the light. This gives us an understanding of why those finished spaces look amazing. I don’t believe that surrounding myself with great designs will automatically make me a great designer. However, I try to surround myself with people that think differently to me – people that ask why and make me think in new ways and produce inventive designs.

“You don’t have to be an expert to contribute – nobody knows everything.” – Ray Molony

The fact that not the best, but the loudest designers often end up the most popular might be a sad fact of life. It hinders all the quiet geniuses out there. On the other hand, I’m at the beginning of my career and I’m not a genius or an expert (yet!), and I know I’ve a lot to learn. If I surround myself with smart people that make me think and go beyond my comfort zone, some time in the future I’ll know even better what I don’t know and can hire other people to help me in those areas. Ray Molony encourages us to upskill ourselves at any opportunity and not to worry because, “the embarrassment of it all going to shit will keep you motivated”.

Blog post by Ida Evensen