This week, we interview Vuong Tong, Design Manager at Fahrenheit 212.
What do you do at Fahrenheit 212?
I’m the Design Manager for the Design team. I used to be an Associate in Idea Development and I was able to bridge the gap between Idea Development and Design. Now in this new role I get to work closer with Design and be a vocal advocate for them.
Where do you feel most creative?
At a museum. There is a philosophic moment for me for when I’m looking at a piece of art and I’m unsure what it means. It starts to inspire my mind to branch out —the object transforms into a provocative totem. In many ways, the experience reminds of me of what we do here at Fahrenheit 212. We create something and then we put it out in the world for consumers. We have our hunches of what it could be or what it could mean, but we get feedback and we reshape it. It’s an iterative process but also an inspiring one.
Do you have any rituals for the innovation process?
I am a massive planner. I like to know when things are due, and plan against that, which goes in line with the work I do as Design Manager. Google Calendar has been such a massive blessing in my life. I can tell you the day and time I saw my eye doctor three years ago. I have terrible recall but my calendar makes up for that.
Where do you call home?
Home is split between Philly and New York. I was born and raised in Philly (yes, just like the Fresh Prince.) It’s the 5th most populated city in the United States, but it still feels like a small town, with great food and friendly people. To me, New York feels like its big brother. New York is where you find the latest trend, and it’s the city of firsts.
What do you never leave home without?
My e-reader. I find myself having a list of books I try to read every month, and the e-reader is great because I can always access my library without having to carry around a big book.
When did you first get into the field of innovation?
I was looking for grad schools as a graphic designer and I found a program called Innovation Management at Central St. Martins in London. In a traditional model, design used to come at the final steps of a development strategy, but there is an opportunity for design to come in earlier in the process, and it’s a huge improvement. The program was great because I love to solve problems, and it brought design into the business process much earlier.
There’s this quote I heard while I was there: “Design is what things ought to be.” It’s a mantra I work by.
What innovation are you most proud of?
I got to work with a major telecommunication company once, and we helped them launch a product that impacted 4 million customers. It was a major project to understand and improve the user experience, and I loved helping them better engage with their audience through a beautiful and effective product.
What is your go-to reading source?
The Guardian. The way they treat infographics is amazing! You can absorb complex amounts of data in a single glance. Plus, the writing is superb and not at all sensationalized like most major US media.
What is your favorite innovation in the last decade?
I have to go with Airbnb. I’m an avid traveler and I love being local. I want to see neighborhoods that are not in the travel books. I want to see what’s in the local grocery store; I want to see what’s in people’s fridges! Airbnb lets me have a home away from home, and live like a local.
Do you have any side projects, hobbies, or a previous life you would like to share?
I love going out, but with good reason! Some of the parties in big cities like London, Paris, and New York are just incredible experiences. I’m not there to primarily drink but I am there to understand the user experience. The architecture, the ambiance, and the invited crowd were all considered to give the visitor something new. People from all walks of life come together in one place to feel like equals. I also like to find new types of music at these events. It’s the pulse of any city I visit.