10 Questions With... Akshay Sharma | Eastman Innovation Lab

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10 Questions With...

10 Questions With... Akshay Sharma

19 December 2016

At the Eastman Innovation Lab we look to our fellow design and materials experts for inspiration, community, and expertise. In order to get to know them and their projects better, we created a column called Ten Questions With...

Akshay Sharma, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Industrial Design, is passionate about using design as a catalyst for efficiency and to help the truly impoverished. He is also working on a new methodology for easier learning of 3D modeling applications for design students. He obtained his B.Arch from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi and his Master of Science in Design from Arizona State University. Professor Sharma is Chair of the IDSA Design for the Majority Professional Interest Section.

What’s your company known for?

Auto Desk is known for AutoCAD, a drafting software, which is the legacy of the company. Right now we are trying to be the toolmakers and facilitators for cutting edge design; software related, or not.

What is the next project or product that you’d be most excited to explore?

Everybody is excited about 3D printing! I would like to see a major impact on the majority of population in our world.

If I could create a prototype of a 3D printer that is less than $20 that uses commonly available material, I would take it to a remote village in sub Saharan Africa or in India; that would create an impact for everyone equally.

What are some themes that you find addressing over and over again?

I cannot think of anything else except “how do I change the situation where some people have everything, but the majority are struggling to make ends meet.”

I’m trying to understand sustainability and understand regenerative practices from people who can really teach us. We talk about sustainability here in regards to solar panels, but try and live on two dollars a day and figure out how to survive on those resources. That is sustainability.

How does the work that you do at Auto Desk fit into that world view?

We are re-imagining a world where things work for the larger population. The largest demographic right now in this country is people above 65 years.

My role is to facilitate collaboration between universities, design firms, community organizations, and manufacturing partners. We are currently working on a project with GE Appliances, Virginia Tech, and Auto Desk where we re-imagine appliances for the aging generation.

How do materials matter to you?

Materials are everything! What’s missing right now is the thoughtfulness. There’s a whole culture of use then throw away, and I would like to change that.

Who is doing work that you find inspiring?

I really adore Francis Kelly.

What advice would you give to yourself ten years ago?

The advice that I gave myself ten years ago would be not to worry about things that are not in your control. What’s in your control is what your passion is. Follow that, get good at it, show that you are passionate about it through your work and then people will start recognize it.

What technology gets you excited?

My favorite tool is just a pen and paper. I can sit anywhere and I can put my thoughts on a piece of paper. If we can get this level of intuitiveness into the digital tools with the same level of portability, that gets me excited.

What’s something that you’d like to get better at?

Spending more time taking care of myself, so I am getting into yoga. I also spend a lot time sketching in my head during my two and a half hour commute trying to find a solution for everyone moving in the cities and getting to work in one area.

What is your go-to reference book?

If I’m looking for happiness it’s my messaging system with my friends and family. If I am looking for something technical most of the time it’s Youtube.


Droid or OS?


Kindle or Book?


Sketch or Build?

Sketch and build.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading what I draw.

What are places you go for inspiration?

The technology section on Reuters and Arts. I look at a couple of blogs to see what students are up to, Yanko Design is one of them.