Passionate about architectural, urban, and product design, Alex Donahue believes that design is best approached through a humanist lens. After honing his architectural practice at several internationally recognized design firms in New York City and D.C., including Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), Pei Cobb Freed, and SITE, Donahue now works at Michael Graves Architecture and Design. There he works on projects of all scales—both domestically and internationally. In addition to his architectural studies, he also received the GOOD Design award from the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Center for Architecture and Urban Design, the A' Design Award, and the Gold International Design Award.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story.
I began to understand myself better as an artist and designer while collaborating with SITE (Sculpture In The Environment) in New York. I would never refer to the work with common labels such as "design" or "art" to free the process from disciplinary assumptions. I care about concepts or ideas that resonate with people, as many people as possible, and I enjoy approaching creative work in this way. Whether it is a wristwatch or a city block, I try to ask the big questions first, regardless of scale.
We’re all about celebrating creators and their projects. So, what’s your project?
I admire creative expression which engages any or all the senses, whether it is sound, sight, anything that can be perceived. I am also interested in the problem-solving associated with the creative process. It is most exciting to me when the solution and creative expression are intrinsically linked.
Three words to describe your work/craft.
I am not a fan of mindless form-making. I see many current designs, whether it is products or buildings, which feature arbitrary angles or curves without purpose. I gravitate toward work that asks a question, takes a position, or is rooted in a big idea. Nonetheless, I am not following your three-word rule here, but in short, I try to create a conversation with my designs rather than a statement.
What does the act of creating do for you?
Most of the time, it is a great joy, and sometimes it feels more like a compulsion. Also, I draw by hand every day; usually, with just a #2 pencil and scrap paper with no intention to share with anyone else, I find it calming.
What advice do you have for other creators?
In general, imagination is undervalued. Whatever your creation, stay curious and love the process. When it starts to feel derivative, move on!