What Buddhism and Design Have in Common

In our first conversation of 2021, we speak with designer and architect James Ludwig, VP of Global Design and Product Engineering for Steelcase Inc., the world’s leading designer of office furniture. He’s also been practicing SGI Nichiren Buddhism for a very long time.

We discussed what design and Buddhism have in common, which is a lot, and how, at the beginning of a new year and new decade, we can think about designing our lives and solving big problems.

(You can also listen to Buddhability on AppleSpotify, or wherever you get podcasts.)

Cheat Sheet

1:52 The design he’s most proud of

3:42 What he does day to day

5:46 Growing up in a farm town

7:41 How he started practicing Buddhism

8:53 How he found a path to industrial design

10:03 What industrial design is

11:22 Uncovering problems to solve through design

13:46 Design example: reducing medical error

15:35 How pain points can become opportunities

16:27 What design and Buddhism have in common

18:01 Iterating your way toward big goals

19:09 How to work with other people better

20:29 What “human revolution” means in Buddhism

21:10 The three keys to breaking through in life and design

23:24 How to think about “the now, the near and the far”

25:58 Designing for the future when the present is stressful

29:11 James’ experience developing a team through care

35:35 Curiosity is more valuable than knowledge in approaching life

37:40 How to generate options in your life through your own transformation

38:49 Advice for anyone who feels like they haven’t tapped into their full potential yet

40:48 The difference between being bold and courageous

42:22 How to set intentions or goals at the beginning of a year

43:50 Envisioning yourself as one part of an ecosystem

45:57 Advice for anyone who is ready to design their life

47:10 A final thought on creating what’s never been created before

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