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The boy from Capel Hendre looking into the future

23 Sep, 2018

Gareth Rees grew up in Capel Hendre, near Ammanford. He never expected that his interest in design would lead him to where it has. The former Ysgol Maes-Yr-Yrfa student has travelled the world with his career and has worked for some of the most notable national and global brands such as Tinopolis, Sky Sports and Land Rover.

After graduating from the prestigious Royal College of Art Vehicle Design MA course, he was approached by Daihatsu to research the future of the ‘Kei Car’ for their Advanced Design Center in Japan, before being snapped up by Adidas to be a part of their Future team.

Gareth now designs products as part of the team responsible for the innovation of the brand, working at the forefront and intersection of future technology and consumer culture. He currently resides in Nuremberg, Germany.

Global Welsh asked Gareth a series of questions on his perspective of Wales and it’s outlook from a creative perspective.

What's your message or hopes for the younger generation growing up now in Wales?

Be proud and grateful of your roots! With increasing globalisation, where everyone follows the same trends and communicates in the same way, they are what make you unique. I genuinely believe I have benefitted in my career from being Welsh. I have always had a global outlook, but my upbringing in Carmarthenshire has given me a different, yet highly valued perspective of the world.

In my experience, big companies seek to create multicultural and diverse teams, and with competition for positions so fierce, as well as the quality of your work, I see having a strong sense of identity as an advantage in standing out. You've got to be prepared to work incredibly hard and accept all the sacrifices that result from your ambition.

I feel many young people in Wales are extremely talented and aspirational, but when it comes to the crunch are not prepared to make the sacrifices. I know it can sometimes be difficult to envision what you would like to pursue in your life and be fully aware of all the opportunities that exist.

Improved access to potential career paths and advice from a young age is really important, and platforms such as Global Welsh can help increase the awareness of Welsh success stories.

Be proud of your roots - but look further afield

You have to be open-minded and if need be, look further afield than Wales. Leaving your family and friends to pursue something is difficult and if you can stay in Wales that's great, however, moving away does give you a great chance to develop yourself as a person and have a better understanding and awareness of the world, other cultures and ways of life.

You will have fantastic experiences that would be incredibly valuable to you should you then decide to return to Wales.

How can Wales punch above its weight? Do you think we need to challenge existing perceptions about Wales?

Wales can be a little inward looking at times, especially when it comes to creativity. As a nation, we are obsessed with the usual symbols, dragons, daffodils, and all the stereotypical ‘Welsh’ icons that get regurgitated with every new art piece, public sculpture or sports kit. I believe there is more to Wales than this, there is infinitely much more to our country’s rich heritage, colours and textures that can be explored, celebrated and inventively represented through a progressive lens.

We must accept that the World is ever changing, each generation is smarter and more emotionally intelligent than the previous, and we have to accept that Wales and Welshness will constantly evolve. I believe design thinking can play a significant role in the development of our country and our people, from communication, strategy, planning and envisioning the impossible.

I understand the economic and political decision making is not entirely in our own hands, however, it does not stop us dreaming of creating a future Wales, and what this might look and feel like.

It’s expected is what keeps us steady. It's the unexpected that changes things

I already believe that we punch above our weight. Throughout my time away from Wales, I have come across some of the most talented and dedicated Welsh people that are at the top of their game, not just designers but marine biologists, chefs, engineers, sports scientists that continue to have an impact globally and it would be amazing if their stories were celebrated.

How can we inspire the next generation if they have no idea about the successes of the people from Wales? I am of course a little biased from a design perspective, but I am continually astounded to think that Ross Lovegrove from Penarth, the most influential Welsh designer on a global stage does not get much attention in his own country!

Historically we have been preoccupied with the craft and achievements that have helped elevate our culture in the modern era; our amazing singers, our world-class actors, our national sport. It’s time to also celebrate new unexpected aspects of our Nation’s successes for a global outlook.

It was not expected for a Welshman to win the Tour de France... now let’s keep advancing, let’s break the boundaries of unexpected. It’s expected is what keeps us steady. It's the unexpected that changes things. We should continue our aspirations to have an extraordinary contribution and Welsh impact not only in sport, but global culture, research, innovation, sustainability, and new technologies.

Finally, do you have a message or any thoughts on young designers in Wales?

Yes - young designers in Wales have the potential to be the problem solvers…

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