Sarah Gold

"IF gives me the opportunity to work on problems that I believe are the most critical challenges of our time"

CompanyIFLocationLondonCourse BA ArchitecturePositionFounder/Director

About IF

IF is a design studio which helps build services people trust. We are an agile team of 10 designers and developers, based in London. Every project involves “thinking by making” – building prototypes to understand problems and approaches. IF works as a design consultancy, collaborating with clients to build better products. The studio has a not-for-profit research aim, taking on wider briefs and publishing in the open.

What are your main roles and responsibilities?

As a new business, my role covers lots of different things. Recently that’s included setting a vision for the studio, service design, recruitment, people management, budgeting and business development.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

IF gives me the opportunity to work on problems that I believe are the most critical challenges of our time. My job gives me a lot of satisfaction, because I’ve given myself the freedom to work on privacy, security and transparency with a truly exceptional team.

How did you get from your architecture degree to where you are now?

By doing a lot of quitting, trying new things and taking risks.

I didn’t take an architecture placement immediately, I worked at a startup affiliated with Sheffield University and I was made redundant 5 months later because of hold-ups with their funding. I learnt a lot about resilience there, and also about the spirit of entrepreneurship. The redundancy encouraged me to finish my part 1 with a placement in an architecture office, but I didn’t enjoy it and I became increasingly frustrated with designing houses to maximise developer profit rather than thinking about the quality of space. So I quit and got a job working for Apple managing the design intent of Apple shops across EMEA which was a real eye-opener. At this time I also started working on a project called WikiHouse with Alastair Parvin (also a Sheffield Architecture graduate), we went on to co-found (with others) WikiHouse Foundation. Then, 2 years after finishing my bachelors course at Sheffield University I started a Masters in Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins in London. In my last year the Snowden Revelations came out, and I based my final project on digital privacy.

The rest is history.

How has your architecture degree shaped your career, and what knowledge, skills or values developed at SSoA have you found relevant in your progression?

I’ve always been conscious of how design can impact society, and I believe that derives from my architecture training where everything was taught on a big scale – design for whole communities or cities. Architecture gave me a strong sense of the importance of public space and design for the common good, because with every building you designed you had to consider the public realm too. It was through this lens of design for civic, with a sense of urgency following the Snowden revelations, that I developed and designed my final student project the Alternet.

I think the other key area has been learning how to illustrate an idea. It’s easy to talk about ideas, but it’s only when you draw or make something to represent the idea that you can have good conversations about it. My ability to draw, simplify complex ideas through a drawing and think about the user of that drawing came from architecture. Particularly the practice we had of drawing plans and sections when we were taught about line weight and shadow.

What top tips would you offer architecture students who are considering alternative careers to architecture?

Don’t be afraid to try something different, architecture gives you a lot of transferrable skills that will be useful to other sectors. Build your network because having a group of trusted, critical friends to help guide you through big decisions. Lastly, follow your instincts – a lot of your life will be spent working, so give yourself the chance to find something that you’re going to enjoy.

Where do you see yourself in future?

That’s a hard question right now, but at the moment I’d say in digital, with a team, working on services or products that empower people and that hold power to account.