When I left college, I had a beer can and a piece of wood and a pencil and some tracing paper, because computers weren’t invented then. Everything I did had a rounded end on it and it was extruded that way, and that’s the only thing I could really get made in London.
What would I do if I was graduating now? I probably wouldn’t do design. I don’t know. I’d hope that God would bless me with a different set of skills, if I was born again.
I think the government actually made a terrible mistake starting so many design schools, and now everyone’s called a designer and it dissipates the whole energy. Even when I was at school, to actually do what I’m doing, there’s very few people still from 20 years ago still doing this, so leaving college now…
Then again the market’s very design sensitive now, and I think there are more opportunities for young designers than there used to be, but I guess it depends on their skill sets. You do see a lot of beautiful work coming around. When I left college you were definitely more punk, and the only other people doing stuff like that were early Droog designers, so we were staring at each other from Amsterdam to London, there was a synchronicity there. They were definitely artist designers.
I think when you leave college [now] you can either be really good with 3D technology and work at warp speed for a plastic office furniture company or the automative industry. I think setting up your own brand and making it work, you really have to be focused to be successful.
There’s great design coming out of London, you see them immediately, like Raw Edges. These people appear and succeed because they’re talented and they’re good. Those type of people always exist.
I think you’ve got to be intuitive and smart. I guess for me there was no such thing as the internet, so there were hundreds of magazines, and that was part of the fun because you’d always meet a journalist and it would be intimate and you’d engage in a real human conversation, and have fun and enjoy it, so it made the greatest sense of humility in the scene.
There was no such thing as Dezeen or Designboom, so information, you had to really search for it. It was a bit more underground. People now have got a completely new approach to how they work and think, because of the internet, it must be quite exciting.
Read the full interview with Michael Young in our August issue, out now.
In our August issue cover story we profile Michael Young, the Sunderland-born, Hong Kong-based designer who leapt to the forefront of British design in the 1990s and continues to break new ground today. Here, in an exclusive online snippet, he remembers the early days of his rollercoaster career and how it’s a different journey for emerging designers nowadays.