“Design, in its broadest sense, is the enabler of the digital era – it’s a process that creates order out of chaos, that renders technology usable to business. Design means being good, not just looking good”

– Clement Mok, Graphic Designer/Author.

Design is the process of creating innovative solutions to problems. The process of connecting technology to its users, and of adding value. It’s organic and changes over time, as it’s influenced by our ever changing cultural landscape and fast-paced consumerism

The design process can be applied to quite frankly, everything. From economic and socio-political factors, cultural factors, problem solving (ideally identifying the problems before the end user), and in business can be used to solve the problems of both external and internal customers. It’s an integral part of any creative business, and one that can so-often be misunderstood or misrepresented. It is not the task of a select group of individuals, but the collective responsibility of the entire team through collaboration and guidance.

At Pufferfish, we’re proud to boast a Head of Design with Industrial Design experience spanning the globe. Starting his career in New Zealand, Bjorn Hulman has since relocated to the UK where he’s continued to develop his design career within the tech and consultancy spaces; and since joining Pufferfish, has been steadfast in continuing our commitment to design innovation. 

We sat down with Bjorn and asked him to share with us his thoughts, expertise and insights into the design world - The following are his design fundamentals.

Design as a Considered Approach

#1 – Design is Everywhere, and correlates to Everything

To silo a design team within any business can be your first mistake. The design process is a concept that should integrate with all business practise and feed into (and create efficiencies for) all teams; whether that be sales, software, technical, concept and strategy, business planning, and more. It’s a collaborative concept; it begs for insight, for cohesiveness, and when all aspects of a business feed into and work in connection with design, problems can be considered and resolved with a holistic approach. 

#2 – Design starts with Empathy

The design process is always about the user. Who are they? What are they doing? How are they doing it? Is there a better way? Is there a simpler way? Are there new or improved technologies we can apply? The idea is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, ‘and use other people’s experiences to inform the design of products or services.’ (Design.Think.Make.Break.Repeat)

Sounds basic right? “It involves learning about the difficulties people face, as well as uncovering their latent needs and desires in order to explain their behaviours. To do so, we need to have an understanding of the people’s environment, as well as their roles in and interactions with their environment” (Interaction-Design). It’s a considered approach to design, a thoughtful and solution-based approach, and in the realms of Industrial and Product Design, a pivotal principle.

It's about knowing the end user’s physical and emotional needs, it’s about understanding the problems they face, knowing what they’re trying to achieve, and solving it before they even know it’s a consideration. With product-based sales this can differ between purchasing models and rental models, and with seasonal sectors like fashion and retail, this can be different again. But it’s about knowing the ‘persona’ of the user, knowing their mind set, and understanding it.

Think of a Designer as a problem solver, a brain stormer that follows through, a creative thinker that tackles practicalities with innovation – a wizard of creation, if you will. But all of the above with an inherent commitment to empathy, and considering the needs of others.

#3 – Design is embedded in Culture

Look around you; from the streets we walk, to the houses we live in, to the parks we explore – our culture is designed and curated for us. No surprises then that design is an inherent part of our culture. From a business perspective, this culture can be as simple as knowing your client’s situation; Who are you dealing with? What’s their head count? What is their financial situation? Are there budget constraints? What are their parameters? And from a design perspective, how do we help them. It’s ensuring the design process is ‘richly textured, highly personal, fragmented, and partial’ with strong ties to culture, and therefore far more likely to result in an ‘inspirational resource.’ (Design.Think.Make.Break.Repeat)

As with all cultures (and clients), this is always changing and is always fluid. It’s imperative to ensure your design focus is agile, adaptable and resilient. In other words, an agile culture is a well-designed culture, and a well-designed culture (as with anything designed well) is comfortable and unassuming. 

Designing a Complete Product

#1 – Design and the First Impression

Everyone knows the power of a strong first impression. The initial interaction with a person or a product that can craft someone’s opinion of it, sometimes forever more. But within Industrial Design this idea goes further; it’s controlling the first impression, designing and curating it so it’s positive and eventuates to respect, love, and hopefully a purchase of the product. Designing with this first impression in mind is controlling ‘the sequence that we encounter matters in how we judge subsequent information.’ (Psychology Today)

To make this process seamless within a business, it stresses my first point above – get everyone involved, and allow design to transcend the layers of people and minds in any project. For example, the creative conversation from end-user / client to agency / integrator and hardware provider can be varied and include many opinions. Design processes should be set in place to allow cohesion in this process, and streamlining, to ensure the first impression for everyone is consistent across the board. I like it, I want it, I’ll buy it! 

#2 – Design and the Product

This is where your Empathetic Design methods come into play. It’s about knowing your audience and how your product can add value to their lives, about making the product an exciting part of a user’s journey. It’s about taking out the unknowns, about making set up efficient and easy (in the tech industry especially), and taking out any worries surrounding your product. Special Disclaimer: This doesn’t have to result in an ‘out of the box’ product.

And all while considering aesthetics, saleability, and the constant movements of consumer desires… No easy job, but one that design processes can solve before going to market, and manage through active R&D.

#3 – Design and Relationship Management

A key to understanding good design, and knowing if your product design is working as you intend, is maintaining relationships with clients and end-users following purchase. How you make this a unique process is business vision dependant, but through maintaining these relationships and managing their feedback you have a clear vision of how to consistently improve your products. 

Most have heard of Laddering as an interview technique to identify ‘the links between attributes, consequences and values and can add a unique perspective to design research’ (Design.Think.Make.Break.Repeat). There are other strong techniques too, like offering long term service contracts and putting value in the product’s long lasting, adaptable capabilities. This is a strong way to assure end-users that their needs stay at the forefront, even post-purchase, and that your empathetic design processes don’t stop overnight. 

The saying ‘we live and we learn’ comes to mind…

For more on the Pufferfish point of view when it comes to design, don’t hesitate to get in touch; and otherwise watch this space for what the future will bring for the business. 

We take great pride in constantly evolving and improving our product solutions and global offering; and with the mind of Bjorn on the team, we can’t wait to see what’s next. 

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