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Design Disruptors

Design Disruptors; my kind of people!

A couple of weeks ago, on a cold and blustery Thursday 150 folk braved the un-Tauranga like weather to come along to watch Design Disruptors – a documentary from Invision which Cucumber and Priority One partnered to bring to Tauranga. The screening came about from a simple conversation (as these events often do). Kyle Turner, who leads the design team at Cucumber, mentioned in passing that there was this new design film out and it would be really good for our team to watch it. It turns out that in order to view the documentary you have to pay for a licence and host a screening so one designer looking to watch a film turned into close to 150 people in a room. The film details how various companies had used different design solutions to answer business objectives and generate economic gain.

Design Disruptors Clare Swallow Cucumber GM
Photo Credit - Richard Robinson Photography

This film also reinforced to me that much of the world has an out of date view of what design is actually about. I was one of these people in the early part of my career in the marketing team of a large NZ company. Design to me at the time meant how do we layout things to put them on a brochure in order to sell more stuff. I remember the exact moment that I knew in order to be a better marketer I needed to get out of marketing and get closer to the customer.

I was sitting around a boardroom table one day with my manager, a person from the comms team, 2 from the product team, one of the company lawyers, 3 people from Saatchi and Saatchi who were our design agency at the time and me. We were there to sign off a one page flyer that would sit on the table at an event we were sponsoring. So close to 10 people for one A4 piece of paper! Throughout this meeting my inner voice was screaming – what about the customer – who wants to talk about what they want, do they really care about paper stock. No. The company's view of design at that point was something you outsource to designers so they can figure out how to make things look nice on paper.

Design Disruptors Tauranga
Photo Credit - Richard Robinson Photography

I’d love to go back and tell early twenties Clare that there are a huge amount of people in the world that think design is so much more than that, that design is more about how we make our customers' lives better, how we redesign our businesses, how we build better products that don’t have to kill our environment or exploit people, that fundamentally design has the power to change the world and that I believe that change can be for the better.

And the great news is – I am not alone. This documentary was full to the brim of designers, problem solvers, advocates for the user, people brave enough to say no if something was amazing on the surface but didn’t add any value. People from some of the biggest companies in the world who we could look at and think that their work ‘shapes the future’ but in reality they are “proposing a possible future and letting the users decide which direction they want to go.” My kind of people!

My two highlights:

  1. The discussion around Art vs Design. “Art is about questioning and Design is about finding solutions.” As such “art doesn’t have to make sense because it makes us think, whereas design's purpose is to make sense of the world”. Therefore in the Cucumber camp – if we aren’t helping our clients' clients to do more with less then we aren’t doing our job.
  2. The sense of putting yourself in your customer's shoes in order to truly empathise with the context in which you are designing solutions for. For example Facebook has 2G Tuesdays whereby they can switch their phones to 2G so they can experience Facebook like it would perform for the bulk of their users in areas with sub-optimal internet speeds.

All in all a great watch if you can get along to a screening in an area near you. Thanks to all involved in bringing it to Tauranga.

Design Disruptors Cucumber Popcorn Stand
Photo Credit - Richard Robinson Photography