Hello, my name is Hector and I’m a first-generation Hispanic, the middle child of a big family of six, five brothers and one sister. I grew up in the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Back of the Yards. I wear a few different hats, I contribute to the wider industrial design community as Chair of the IDSA Chicago Chapter, I founded Advanced Design Sketching, and am now a Professor at Notre Dame.
When did you first start getting involved with designing?
Personally, I first began getting involved in design in a sculpture class in high school. I was making wooden toys and one of my teachers suggested I look into majoring in product design. Professionally, my first taste of the design industry was summer of 2008 when I landed a design internship with TOMY, a toy corporation based in Oakbrook, IL. During my sophomore year at UIUC, I had built an Optimus Prime costume for Halloween, I documented this process and included it in my student portfolio, as a last minute project. The guys at TOMY were extremely impressed with the quality and accuracy of the costume, the costume is what got me hired.
Following obtaining your masters at UIC, you became a professor at UIC. How much of an impact did teaching have on your career?
Teaching has had a major impact on how I function as a designer. Even though I’ve only been teaching for three years, it’s made me very patient. Interacting with faculty in my field, from other schools, from other disciplines, It’s helped me understand how to invest in myself (my career) long-term instead of seeking short-term rewards. Having 20+ students depend on your knowledge, it makes you a very honest and motivating individual. The motivation to give your students the best in the filed, it makes you hungry, you find creative ways to make sure your students are overfed with knowledge, and always prepared.
You’re apart of many different organizations, let’s get into them. You are the Chair of the IDSA Chicago Chapter. What is your role as being chair?
I joined the IDSA Chicago Professional Chapter in 2010 as student liaison, then became vice chair in 2014 and chair in 2016. Being chair of IDSA Chicago is pretty exciting, I’m able to collaborate with a variety of organizations, design studios, professional designers, and other non-profits to bring diverse and exciting events to our IDSA members. In 2016 we had an event every month, whether it was collaborating with a student design chapter, flying in top-notch designers from New York, having social events at Emporium and Kaiser Tiger, to hosting a sketching workshop for 20+ students at UIC. Being chair keeps me motivated to think of the next big event…and keeps me thinking…how can I provide an awesome learning environment show our members that their investment is worth it? It’s a lot of work, but I have amazing support from educators and designers on the IDSA Board of Directors.
You are also the design lead for The Anhelo Project…
The Anhelo Project is a non-profit that was founded by my cousin Joanna-Maravilla Cano back in 2009. For the first three or four years of the founding of the organization, The Anhelo Project was the only non-profit awarding and supporting undocumented students with scholarships for an undergraduate degree. This is something that is close to my heart – as a child of immigrants, I’m deeply proud and honored to provide my services to this organization, to make a difference for those who don’t have the resources to get an education, no one should be denied an education.
And last but not least, last year you started Advanced Design Sketching. Talk to us about that.
Advanced Design Sketching is my baby. This is my own non-profit that I started in 2016. It’s a student-led organization that empowers students’ continued productivity during the summer when classes are not in session. Advanced Design Sketching’s mission is to help students stay motivated and inspired outside of classes by giving them access to the best designers around the world through a one-of-a-kind video testimonial library centered on design sketching. We held our first major conference this past October 2017, we called it SQ1CON – we had over 500 students, professionals, and educators attend the two-day conference, held at the Motorola Mobility HQ and at the School of Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The conference is meant to embrace failure, encourage the process, and push creativity. Unlike other design conferences, which do not highlight the importance of design sketching, SQ1CON will embrace the universal language of Industrial Design and encourage students to obtain its fluency. We have over 33k followers on our social media channels – there is a big need for this type of design education, that as of this past fall, we have an expanded our efforts to our neighbors up north: Milwaukee, WI.
This year you ended up being awarded the young educator of the year award. How was that feeling for you?
Honestly, I’m shocked. Still shocked. Honored, inspired, motivated to prove my peers and the design community that I’m worthy of this award. The award is validation to myself, to keep pushing, to keep failing, to keep learning, and to keep helping others.
Talk about the article you wrote called Applesthetic Forgery.
This was an article I wrote about how EVERYBODY COPIES in the industry – the research dates back to the 1960’s with visual examples of products copying (to some extent) other products, or at least being influenced by the past. This was then turned into a book, with UIC Professor Jack Fisher and 5 other graduate students in Graphic Design. I’m very interested in making a timeline of past, present, and future products and tie them all together to show people who everyone is influenced by each other’s designs, engineering, marketing, software, hardware, etc.; this is slightly inspired by the Apple vs. Samsung trial of the century that happened a couple of years back.
You once said, “never fall in love with your work” Why do you think that?
You’ll face times when you think you’ve done your best work, you’ll fall in love with the work, and in my opinion, it can sometimes creatively hold you back. You should have the mentality of always learning, always getting better. Every time I get hired for a design job, I want to compete with 2016 or 2017 version of myself, to see if I can progress, do better, etc. If you fall in love with your work, you’ll be emotionally attached to it, which can be dangerous when someone is trying to give you constructive feedback.
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to leave a legacy, change the world, but I’d like to be remembered for my service to the community, the love I have for my family, and for my selfless servitude.