NAME: Fred Dust
BORN IN: Orlando, Florida; raised in Chicago, Illinois
RESIDES IN: New York City
JOB DESCRIPTION: Trained as an architect, Dust is a partner at Ideo, a global design firm that advises companies and organizations on issues of innovation and growth. Clients include the Rockefeller Foundation, Peru’s Interbank, Marriott Hotels, and the Mayo Clinic.
TIME SPENT ON THE ROAD: 2 weeks every month
PLACES VISITED IN THE LAST YEAR: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, Greece, Italy, Peru, Switzerland, and various locations in the United States
Q. Beyond its role in your work, what is the appeal of travel for you?
A. Travel is the only experience that lets us play at having more than one life. I imagine what it would be like to live in Paris for the rest of my days. Or to be a Dane in Copenhagen. To do this, it helps to have a short term apartment rental or to stay at a smaller-scale hotel that allows you to live your life. Airbnb is changing the way we travel today. We’re seeing the birth of a new kind of upscale travel, with stays in homes or smaller hotels that are simple, basic, and don’t involve a porter carrying your luggage or chocolates being placed on your pillow. Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel, in New York City, for instance, was designed for celebrities who want privacy. The library and courtyard are off-limits to anyone but guests, and the rooms feel like you’re in a home.
How do you acquaint yourself with new cities, or rediscover cities you haven’t been to in a while? On my first morning in a new city, I go for a run. That’s how I map the city. These runs invariably bring discoveries. The last time I was in Hong Kong, I intended to head down to the water but ended up on a mountain path along the edge of the city. I rounded a corner and came across several high-rise buildings shrouded in burlap and woven bamboo, which immediately made me think of some of my favorite artwork. It turns out this is traditional Asian equipment used in constructing and cleaning buildings. The fact that a simple, age-old system would work for high-rises in the hills of Hong Kong amazed me.
How else do you spend your free time when you’re on the road? Shopping is my other way of getting to know a city or town. Istanbul, for me, is about buying a rug and spending an entire day sitting and chatting in the vendor’s shop. I’m also fascinated by department stores—which are often situated in a city’s historic core. In Sydney, my partner, who’s half-Australian, took me to David Jones, the department store where he and his grandmother used to have dress-up lunches in the fine-food court on the ground floor. Today, we’re seeing the rise of concept stores like Merci in Paris. With the variety of home goods and clothing they sell, they’re like a return to the old-fashioned department store. And I visit independent bookstores everywhere, regardless of language. The books are a reflection of the people who work and shop there, and of the immediate community. I also go to museums, but I prefer the intimate, idiosyncratic ones. They tell you what’s important in the local culture.
Any other advice for getting more out of travel? From a designer’s perspective, there are two key things. One: Train your eye to appreciate the mundane, the details. That means staying off your cell phone. As for taking pictures, I’m OK with that. A camera keeps you alert. It helps you pay attention to your surroundings. Two: Write about what you’re seeing. Keep a blog or a travel diary to record the details of what is around you. I also recommend reading up on the places you’re visiting—not in travel guides but in history books, for instance. When I began developing an interest in Delaware County, an agricultural region in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, I read a farm manual about the area. Also, talk a lot to the people you meet along the way. You learn so much that way.