Fulden Dehneli

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Fulden. I’m born and educated in Turkey, then moved in Stockholm to work for Electrolux, a Swedish household appliances company. Sweden is where I discovered my admiration for Scandinavian design and became a place that I always feel deeply connected. After about 1,5 years, I was in search for new challenges in my career path and that is how I relocated to Shanghai. After working at Electrolux China branch for 2,5 years, I recently resigned to start my own venture, a global design consultancy and independent lifestyle brand, Fuldende. The dream of having my own brand/company was always there, yet I didn’t know how, where and when. After I realized I will never feel completely ‘ready’, I have decided to listen my heart and follow my dreams. I have no idea what’s going to happen and have tons of fears, but I’m mostly hopeful and crazy excited about where the journey will take me. If anyone would like to follow & support, they can visit www.fuldende.com and follow IG page @design.fuldende!

Have you always wanted to be a designer, or were there circumstances that led you down this path?

This is actually a great question and I recently asked myself a very similar question while building my brand. As the brand will represent my design philosophy, I needed to make sure that I align with my values and express it correctly. To do so, I dug a little deeper and remembered the reasons ‘why’ I wanted to become a designer at the first place. After connecting the dots, now I can easily see how my interests and strengths eventually led me to this path.

I was at heart an idealist and visionary, sensitive to my surroundings, yearning to understand how things work – and look for better solutions. This sensitivity helped me to develop not only a great empathy, but also a natural sense of harmony. In addition to being observant and having a critical eye, expressing myself with visual skills and tools were more natural to me. Moreover, I believe in the power of intentional creativity to shape a fair, beautiful and balanced living. That’s why I decided the title of Designer best allows me to practically realize my vision, as I believe design is the perfect tool to make my dreams come true.

What was the first project you designed commercially?

It was a nozzle for a vacuum cleaner. If the term is not familiar, a nozzle is the piece at the end of the hose, where the suction happens. As a trainee, this was my very first ‘real’ project where I could bring my design to life. The project was about understanding the need, the market and bringing the best solution within the limitations and budget. It was also one of the first projects that I realized how reality was different than the university projects. With no limited budget and production/technical limitation, everything is possible. Facing with the opposite condition is what the real challenge is and how you can develop much different way of understanding and thinking. 

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Everyone and everything. Even the simplest things that can be easily ignored can be inspirational. To me, it is not who or what, but more about how you look at things. If you have the right motivation and ask the right questions, anything can become a source of inspiration. And to find more things to look at, I try to travel a lot, experience more and put myself out of my comfort zone.

That has been said, I have a great admiration for Scandinavian design and its values. To me, these values including uncluttered aesthetical approach and the human-centered mindset bring out a balanced living and harmony. 

Likewise, I feel quite attracted to Japanese art & crafts along with the Zen philosophy lately. While some design values are aligned greatly with Scandinavian design, there is more purity and a spirituality in things. Anyone who saw a Japanese artist doing her/his craft would know what I am talking about. It is very soothing, like a subtle reminder of finding joy in simplest things. 

What is the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career?

Compromising. Although I learned this way earlier, it is still hard to implement in both private and professional life. I know it sounds a bit cliché, but I’m a perfectionist, so it is very hard for me to let things go or say ’this is good enough’. It is certainly good to have a standard, but this can easily become something that slows me down and even become a huge obstacle. Imagine you keep hiking but never reaching to the peak, then eventually you will stop enjoying the hike and it may even become torturous that the hike never ends. Things in life are similar, you need to finalize things to be able to enjoy the result and move to the next challenge. If your brain is full of unfinished projects, you will never have enough space and motivation for the next project.

There is this Japanese Zen philosophy called Wabi-Sabi, the art of finding beauty in imperfections. It says nothing in life is perfect and sometimes these imperfections are the ones which make things special and unique, even beautiful. I totally agree, but it is not that easy to find a sweet spot all the time, huh.

What is your favorite product you own from a design perspective?

As I do not see myself settled down yet, I am really careful about not buying big pieces of objects/furniture. So, I don’t really own much physical products. The precious ones I own are mostly technological devices like my phone, my camera & lenses, laptop, tablet, drone. I really appreciate this eco-system overall, especially I enjoy how Apple products talk to each other and ease your life with more human-like intuitive interactions. It is a great example of creating a good experience and blending the lines between physical and digital products. To me airdrop is MA-GI-CAL, as I hate cables. But on the other hand, I also hate the fact that I have to carry many different dongles to connect with some other products. You see? No one and nothing are perfect. Let’s remember Wabi-Sabi, and accept the imperfections with joy, ommmmm… ☺

What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to a design student?

Hmmm.. There are many that come to my mind, I actually even want to start a blog/YouTube channel to share these with anyone who is looking for a piece of advice, wants to learn from or/and get inspired by others. Sharing experiences is really important, especially within design profession, because we do not have a book or guidelines that we can follow, no special formula. We mostly learn by doing or from other’s experiences. When I was a student, I was dying for a piece of advice, to find someone can tell me what’s going on after university, how the reality is, how I can be ready, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so it is really important for me now to be that person for some others.

So, yeah.. If I had to choose one of the advices I have in mind, that would be trying to define your WHYs better. What is your aim, why do you want to become a designer? Why do you want to design this product? Honestly, the world doesn’t need another product, it is already oversaturated, so what would you do differently, what is your purpose, what is your motivation? I believe if you are doing design, especially industrial or digital product design, your purpose should be much more intentional. You are not only doing it for yourself anymore, you aim to reach people, so you need to give a better explanation than ‘I like it this way’. Also, you need to be patient and be willing to learn, destruct and construct your beliefs and ideas many times before you can define strong WHYs. No one will give you the answer, they won’t appear over a night. It is a process, just be willing and open to figure them out.

Who is your favourite designer, living or dead?

I do not have a short answer for this, because I actually never had ‘favorite’ things, like a favorite musician, a favorite color, a favorite genre etc. Likewise, in design, I like many things regardless who designed it. For me, it is about the aim, vision, execution, and whether all these are creating a harmony together that touches my heart. So, of course, there are many designers, design agencies, projects and people who I like, but this doesn’t mean I like every single thing they design. In short, I do really appreciate anyone who dare to share their vision with the world, put his/her heart out, bring new perspectives and question the norms.

Who is your dream client?

Of course, I have some names, but it is much more important that our values are aligned. So anyone who wants to do good for people and the planet, appreciate and understand the value of design and willing to pay for it can be a dream client. ☺ 

What has been your experience in the design industry in Asia as a foreigner?

I think it is time for Asia to shine. Europe and the US has lots of great things going on, but it is much more settled and matured. On the other hand, Asia, especially China at the moment, is going through very exciting times. In China, the speed of things is incredibly high, there is so much will-power and capability. However, due to same reasons, the things might be lacking real purpose and vision. So that, design becomes a tool to re-shape things. I hope this will change as I see there is so much focus in design and design education. They are willing to learn and understand from the West. In that sense, I feel lucky to get to see both European and Asian mindset, and their pros and cons.

Another interesting thing is the digital platforms and their capabilities. In China, unfortunately you cannot get to reach many worldwide known platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google without using a VPN. But while eliminating these, they give some other interesting platforms, so you never feel like you are lacking something. One of my favorite apps is WeChat. I can pay my bills, call a taxi, send money to my family, sell second hand goods, chat with friends, share moments and photos while look for apartments, find/create groups for my special interests, introduce my brand, connect with other brands and sell products and do many more. It is like Facebook + Whatsapp + Instagram + Linkedin + and a slight touch of eBay. Yeah, sometimes it is good to turn off notifications, haha. But overall, it is very useful.

For also design related things, this platform opens up many possibilities. You can find potential clients/designers to work with, come across some interesting projects, follow many different brands and follow their articles. I also started my own design group to connect with other designers in Shanghai. I think it is really important to create communities, especially within design, to share and inspire each other. Now as I also started my own company based in Shanghai, I’m sure there will be many more interesting insights and learnings I will get to experience. 

What has been your favourite project to date, and why?

From the learnings perspective; I’d choose a blender project I did while working for Electrolux. I was the lead designer and worked with this project from the start to the end. It takes very long time for corporate companies to finalize a product, because it involves the production side, too. So, I get to learn a lot about the whole process and the production, as well as how to collaborate and work with other departments and suppliers. 

From the motivation perspective; I’d choose the Samsung TV stand project as it really made me believe in myself. Like many creatives, I was also full of self-doubt and was not even going to send my concept to the competition. It is painful to look back and think what if I didn’t send it, because there is literally nothing to lose. But while you are in the moment, it is hard to see these facts. In addition to be selected as the first-prize winner, the concept is also purchased by Samsung. The whole thing was an incredible experience and had an amazing journey. In a way, I proved myself what I can achieve and what I am capable of.

You’ve got a great eye for photography; do you think that has any effect on your design work?

Well, thank you so much. You’re right, I believe it does, and vice versa. One thing photography thought me is looking for the right emotion. Reaching people’s minds and hearts with one single image is so powerful. So, you really need to know what you are trying to tell with that shot. Similar to designing a product, you need to have a clear message. Another thing is about finding new perspectives. You might take a photo at the same place as others do, but you may still have something else to show. Getting inspired is totally fine but instead of repeating exactly what others do, I care about pushing myself and aiming to find new perspectives, new stories. These are also what I care and want to achieve with my design work, so yes, I think there is a clear link.

How would you explain your philosophy towards design?

As I mentioned, I have just announced my own brand and the whole venture is actually result from the need of expressing myself, bringing my own philosophy to life and sharing with the world. I’ve spent months to create the right tone and the message for the brand, so if anyone interested and would like to know the whole story, please visit fuldende.com

But I think this paragraph below (from the website) summarizes my intention nicely;

Every life is a unique story. We each try as hard as possible to shape our stories into something beautiful, something we can take pride in. The places we choose to live in, our daily routines and the products we use are all elements that contribute profoundly to the shape of our stories. It’s awe-inspiring to realize how important the selection of these elements is not only because they reflect our taste, values and even define who we are, but also because every interaction can deeply affect our experience, emotions and perceptions, positively or negatively. Hence, I feel responsible for making your story and mine as fulfilling as possible. I want to contribute to the creation of a world where design solutions are thoughtful, genuine and functional so that you can proudly make them part of your life and your story.

I do not want to design just because I can. I’d like to add a value and have a purpose. I’d like my designs to be powerful statements as well as blend in people’s lives harmoniously.

What does the future of design look like?

I think the future is exciting and I hope we can keep it that way. Recently, I had a presentation about this topic and my top 3 were (still are) these below:

  1. The future is collaborative, 
  2. The future is sustainable,
  3. The future is purposeful.

Collaborative, how? One thing that will change more is how we work. The freelancer numbers are increasing. Thanks to internet, anyone could create their own platform, share their work and get exposure. Also, anyone from anywhere can work together. To work with someone, you do not need to be in the same company, same industry or even same country. Blurring the boundaries and limits will open up more opportunities, while putting individual talents more in focus.

Sustainable? Yes of course! Sustainability was always there but maybe it was one of the hottest topics for 2019 and I’m sure it still will be for 2020 and for many upcoming years. It is because we came to a point that we have to do something. As individuals, we might not feel strong enough to create a big change. But I think even the smallest steps in the right direction matters. We should realize how powerful we are as consumers. Every company is there to meet our needs. If we demand and support the sustainable options, it will certainly create a strong trend and a clear direction for brands. 

And purposeful… Instead of producing the same things again and again, can we define the problem in a different way? Can we solve the problem in a different way? Can we execute the solution in a better way? I believe, by asking these kinds of questions, we can go out of the box and have a stronger intention. While the technological developments open up a lot of possibilities and ease our lives, it also creates an overly saturated, fact paced and competitive market. Sometimes I feel like companies really lose the reason ‘WHY’ just to speed up, earn more money or/and show existence within the market. But we need quality rather than quantity. By prioritizing the right things and having better purposes, we can keep the future bright!