Behind the Mic: Get to Know Susan Fernandez of ‘The Design Board’ Podcast

Recently, the SURROUND Podcast Network—home to the leading shows from design’s greatest storytellers—caught up with Tiffany Rafii, a host of The Design Board podcast. Here, show cohost Susan Fernandez, vice president at UpSpring PR, expands on The Design Board‘s narrative, offers her top tip for aspiring podcasters, and shares unexpected sources of design inspiration.

Get to Know Podcast Host Susan Fernandez 

SURROUND: What’s something new you’ve learned through The Design Board podcast?

SF: This is an industry of great people ready to connect, collaborate, and help one another. It is inspiring to meet so many people who believe in their work.

Susan Fernandez
Susan Fernandez.

SURROUND: Can you tell us about a guest or topic that inspired you?

SF: Our series, “How I Built This,” is my absolute favorite. I am inspired by the stories of each of the guests. I believe that every company goes through Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey;” there is so much to learn from hearing about how they face challenges and find ways to overcome them. From the surface, it can look like a very successful company. Going behind the scenes, we glimpse the grit and fortitude it takes to get there. 

SURROUND: Where do you find ideas for new podcast episodes?

SF: Working with great clients across multiple industries gives me insight into the challenges and victories they experience. Most companies are islands; they believe they are the only ones trying to solve a certain problem. Having the view from 20K feet shows me that everyone is going through similar battles, and sharing those can be very helpful. It’s a fertile ground for new content.

Want to learn more about the latest design trends? Listen to The Design Board podcast.

SURROUND: What is your number one tip for an aspiring podcaster?

SF: Consistency.

SURROUND: What are your favorite podcasts?

SF: This Jungian Life, Diary of a CEO and, of course, so many of the podcasts in our network including Design Nerds Anonymous and Design Tangents. I am drawn to anything that offers a story of transformation.

SURROUND: We know The Design Board is one part of your current work—what else are you up to? Tell us about your other projects.

SF: Aside from my role at UpSpring, I have a minority interest in two other companies: Daniel House Club and Cast Carbon. Daniel House Club is a resource where interior designers can source thousands of products on a single platform. It offers game-changing efficiency for small, underserved firms (1-5 people), making up 95% of designers in the U.S. Cast Carbon is an exciting novel material that can be used to make building materials that are strong yet so clean you could eat them. We have secured over $475K in phase one grant money and started initial testing. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Susan Fernandz in a podcast studio
The Design Board team at NeoCon 2023.

SURROUND: Looking back, what are your earliest memories of architecture and design that led you to your current career?

SF: As a child, my mom loved architecture and design. She made it a point to take us to visit historic homes/properties, art galleries, and significant public spaces. Unfortunately for her, I was the sullen, bored preteen who felt “dragged” along against my free will to these outings. Then, one day, without even realizing it, I fell in love and became the person pointing out the art deco buildings and coercing friends to see emerging art shows in the east village. 

SURROUND: Name an unexpected source of design inspiration and how you translate that spark into your work.

SF: The work of Carl Jung, astrology, and the philosophy of the stoics all use stories and symbols to convey the human condition and how it relates to the world. While the earth may have changed and technology would have us believe we are very different from our ancestors, we are not. When we rebrand a company or product, we are transforming a being—something that is living and dynamic. I love to apply the same teachings and principles to a project as Carl Jung did in his journey to become oneself because a rebrand should be a rebirth at the end of the day.

SURROUND: What’s one bold design prediction you’d make for the next 10 years?

SF: A move from “me” to “we” in all design disciplines.

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