January 03, 2018

Five Questions with Basheer Tome: Hardware Interface Designer at Google

Basheer Tome’s first job was editing for a photography studio. “It’s hard to say what convinced them to hire me,” he says, “but I did have a solid Star Wars forum signature featuring a hand-photoshopped lightsaber.” After stints creating automotive interfaces and programmable materials for Jaguar, Lexus, and New Balance, he now combines filmmaking tools, electronics prototyping, and form-finding techniques to create “hardware interfaces that give physical form to digital interactions” at Google.

At the January In/Visible Talks conference, Basheer will be talking to us about the challenges of designing in a fast-moving, tech-driven world and “Faking the Future.” As a teaser, today we get some insights into his creative process.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

“A lot of my job is a combination of (a) protecting the creative process by helping others understand how much of an actual process it is, and convincing them to treat and respect it much more like a science, and (b) helping to infuse the creative process into the rest of our disciplines. Some of the hardest engineering and product challenges can be and have been solved creatively.”

How or where to you find inspiration?

“I find a lot of my inspiration in food. From restaurants, to cooking, to farming, to film, it’s an incredibly important and rich thread to follow that cuts across technology, society, culture, and art.”

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

“I was Pre-Law up until my second year of Industrial Design school. The assignment was to re-design a kitchen timer with the choice of disassembling a mechanical timer to re-package with our shell design or to make a dummy foam mockup of a digital one. I wanted to make a round, rotating, digital timer that was a mix between analog and digital. When my professors and I got to an impasse about ‘not picking sides’, I decided to stick with it and build an electronic prototype to prove them wrong. By the time I was done, I realized how much fun I had: design could be about more than aesthetics but also how something works. That’s when I fell truly in love and never turned back.”

Who is one of your heroes and why?

“The Spanish chef Ferran Adrià has been a huge inspiration for years. He’s able to so intensely incorporate science into his process and yet, unlike so many others, it hasn’t even come close to compromising his creativity and poetic vision. All the above combined with his meticulous note-taking and extreme focus on sharing his methodologies easily makes him one of my top heroes.”

What’s your favorite color?

“Over the years it’s wandered from mint to avocado to now more of wasabi, but it’s always been green.”

BONUS ROUND: What’s on your current playlist?

“I like listening to what I call ‘Sunday Club’ music: something with a beat, ideally some real instruments in there, not too intense or aggressive, and mostly devoid of vocals. My favorites are Bonobo, Odesza, Jon Hopkins, and Gramatik.”

Artist/Designer Brian Singer recently left the corporate world to pursue cool side projects. Learn about his creative process in this lively Q&A—and at January’s In/Visible Talks conference!