Interview: John Bielenberg

John Bielenberg will encourage you to think wrong. John is the creative mind behind C2, Project M, and Nada Bikes, just to name a few.

Explain the role you play in the design industry:

I play a few roles. Design/strategy firm owner, creative director, entrepreneur, educator and mentor.

Where were you trained as a designer?

I went to R.I.T. for communication design for 2 years, until I was thrown out for thinking wrong, and then finished up at Binghamton University in fine arts.

How did you become interested in design?

My Dad is a theatre professor and set designer, so I was exposed to design at an early age. Both my parents encouraged me to draw and make art. Graphic design was a way to do that and actually get a job. I also think I’m compelled to make things orderly and understandable.


Who are your major influences?

I like visionaries who have new ideas and make things too. Bucky Fuller, Charles Eames, Samuel Mockbee, Yvon Chouinard, Philippe Starck, Frank Gehry, Dave Eggers, Wes Anderson…

What inspires you outside of the design bubble?

Bicycles and cycling!

What is right/wrong with the design industry?

I wish more design could be funded outside of corporate interests.

What inspired you to start “Thinking Wrong?”

In the late 90″s client in the investment industry made me aware of something they referred to as heuristic bias. We are all subject to our pre-existing synaptic connections in our brains that lead to predictable thinking and problem solving. I realized that true innovation required techniques to generate crazy ideas outside of what was normal. I call this thinking wrong.

Many designers are pack-rats or collectors, do you collect anything?

Bikes and some quirky art.


What did you complain about most while in school?

It’s been a long time since school! I probably complained about the “status quo” within a large institution. I’ve always tried to buck the system a bit.

In a lot of your work design is just a means to the end, to creating change, or creating something not necessarily tangible. Do you think that will start to become a bigger trend for all designers?

Not necessarily. Someone needs to design the tread patterns on the tires and someone needs to steer the car.



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