Bionic People: Dan Howarth
Bionic People: Dan Howarth
In our latest interview Dan Howarth, US editor for internationally influential Dezeen magazine shares with us his story. From architecture to fashion, from underwater to the top of the Empire State Building, Dan provides a compelling insight into the people and places that have inspired his passion for design in all shapes and forms.
Ahead of the interview, and in his own words, Dan explains a little about himself.
I am a journalist, editor, curator and consultant focussed on the creative industries, and have worked with publications, brands and companies around the globe. In my full-time position as US editor for online design magazine Dezeen, I cover architecture, interiors, fashion, furniture and more across the Americas. I travel as much as I can, both for work and pleasure, in constant search of captivating stories and experiences to share with others.
I grew up in the English countryside, but have lived in major cities on three continents. My background is in architecture, and I’ve been involved in projects that range from building homes for children orphaned by AIDS in Uganda, to designing penthouses for Chinese business magnates. Over the past few years, my role has encompassed interviewing some of the world’s biggest names in design, documenting and predicting trends, moderating discussions between industry experts, and judging awards programmes.
Recently, I’ve become particularly interested in how design in the broader sense can help solve global issues. I’m intent on helping to promote initiatives that aim to tackle problems we’re experiencing now and will face in the future, and to connect those who could benefit from each other’s work or knowledge.
What drew you to your passion/interest?
I’ve always been asking questions. My inquisitive nature has manifested in many ways: a love of travel and exploring; a need to talk to everyone I come across; a fascination with how things work and how they’re put together. My combined interests in both the arts and sciences led me to architecture, which I studied at university, but the qualification process was too long and I grew impatient.
So I quit my masters degree after just a few months, then was left pondering what to do for a while, before realising that journalism would provide all the opportunities I was looking for, while staying in the fields I had become entrenched in.
Working for a publication with a broader scope than just architecture, I quickly became curious about other areas of design – furniture, fashion – and ended up focussing on these areas. I now foster a wide range of passions that span the breadth of the creative industries, and a platform to share the things I find the most beautiful, unusual and important with others, for which I’m extremely grateful.
Was there a particular moment when you ‘discovered’ or fell in love with your
Coming to New York City for the first time as an 11-year-old. The buildings, the bustle, the diversity, the creativity… Everything about this city spurred me to want to explore, travel, meet people and learn more about the world. I still remember standing on top of the Empire State Building and looking out over Manhattan, and being so awestruck by. I’m now fortunate enough to live in this incredible city, and it’s just as inspiring as I had hoped it would be.
What is the most interesting moment in your life?
Scuba diving shipwrecks in the Philippines. I went there while I was working in China with some Filipino colleagues, and took my PADI course over a couple of days. On the third, we were asked if we wanted to check out some of the Japanese vessels sunk in Coron harbour during the second world war. It involved some tricky diving, particularly for beginners, but the second we emerged from the empty propeller shaft of an oil tanker into its vast cavernous hull was something I will never forget.
What do you think makes a person interesting?
Our differences make us interesting. Variety is the spice of life, and I wish more people had the desire and chance to realise that. For me, the most interesting people are those that have overcome adversity, trauma, obstacles that life throws, and come out the other side with a positive outlook and an ability to help others, and share their experiences.
I also think that resourcefulness is the most fascinating trait. Anyone who can make something out of nothing, turn a terrible situation around in their favour, or find a solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem, immediately goes up in my estimations. A little mystery is always alluring too.
Who are some of the people that fascinate you?
Zaha Hadid was an architect that I had admired since I first started studying. Her style and originality really resonated with me. When I became a journalist, I had the opportunity to meet and interview her on several occasions. She was such a complex character. Poised, brash, flirty, unapologetic, coy and generous all at once. Of all the hundreds of creatives I’ve spoken to, she was by far the most enigmatic. She also had a fierce wardrobe.
If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?
I would have loved to interview Alexander McQueen. He was an absolute genius, and the chance to delve into his mind would, I’ve no doubt, have been an incredibly insightful and humbling experience.
What is the most interesting possession you own?
My mother passed down her grandfather’s silver pocket watch to me after she’d had it restored. I love that it’s been in my family for so long, and it gives me a comforting sense of where I came from whenever I look at it. It’s also a constant reminder that time should be used wisely.
If you could make one change to your life what would it be?
I would be able to speak more languages. Fluency in more than one tongue provides an ability to gain insights into the different ways people think, act and live. The more people we’re able to connect with, the better we can understand each other and the world in general.
Which brand do you find most interesting, and why is that?
Due to recent events, I have to applaud Nike for its latest campaign. Multi-billion-dollar companies have the most influence over the world. For a sports brand to show solidarity with athletes who are protesting a cause, and to be part of a resistance towards attitudes it sees as harmful and detrimental to progress, is an example that many others need to follow.
Care to share something interesting you’ve never shared before?
I don’t think there’s anything I’ve ever kept entirely to myself. I constantly overshare.
What is your all-time favourite piece of art, design or fashion?
The finale of McQueen’s Spring/Summer 1999 show, when two robotic arms spray-painted a white dress worn by model Shalom Harlow as she spun on a podium, was such an incredible synthesis of fashion, art and technology. Mind-blowing.
Thank you Dan.