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Nathaniel Giraitis came to give an industry Friday talk- he came to talk to us about design with meaning and how he works for Smart Design, where he tries to create services and products that are both functional and problem solving, but give something extra to the person using it.

Smart design is a design and innovation agency that has offices in New York, Barcelona and San Francisco and they have now opened an office in London. They have been going for 35 years and created thousands of products and services. Nathaniel’s role is head of strategy, like planning- what are you going to do and how are you going to get there.

I looked up after the talk more about Smart Design as a company and even their tagline is quite powerful, from what i have understood- smart design are the people you go to for mind blowing ideas- ideas that not only enhance your business but are designed and created with the greater good in mind. At the starting point of each of their endeavors Smart design think of who they are creating for, and how to benefit them- for example one client i saw on their website was Under Armour- a sportswear brand that had previously only appealed to a male demographic, but by creating a revolutionary new sports bra that solves the age old problems of previous sports bras (ill fitting- hard to gauge what size you should be wearing). The sports bra they created is measured by not only cup size- but rib cage size and provides proper support and protection whilst also maintaining an aesthetic quality that helps women feel less self conscious in sports wear. The role Smart Design played in this creation was paramount, because their in depth research into the needs/ wants of female athletes and their role in developing and marketing the product helped Under Armour make it a success.

“Products and services that matter.

We’re a design and innovation consultancy. We work across the digital and physical to deliver empowering experiences. We embrace the potential of design to improve lives, and by designing for purpose, not just appearance, we make design matter.”

There’s 3 things you need to think about when doing his job (strategizing as it were) that he spoke of, these are:

1. Whats good for business? Viability

2. What can we actually make? Feasibility

3. What do people actually want/ need? Desirability

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The focus of his talk was about consumer insights-  Research for design is important and varied and insights come from going deep into research and trying to understand people and their everyday lives. Focus groups are a group of people of varied backgrounds who come to an office and talk about a topic- but this can be limited that can be superficial. If you want to understand further, don’t make them leave their home and talk, research what you want to know as they do it and when they do it and then you might see more of what naturally happens. This could also be limiting because it limits you to the day that you observe that person, engaging people in conversation and showing them prototypes and ideas can make them part of the design process. This makes design that is inspired by real people and informed by what THEY think of your idea- insights should instantly change how you look at a problem because its a new perspective you gain from deeper research. Insights give you an answer to a question, but lead you to think “now what” and inspire you to consider many other possible answers and outcomes.

He spoke about 2 levels of insights- big and small. A big one tells you the opportunity and the little one tells you a bit more detail about it.  Nathaniel showed 3 examples of insights had at his company, the first was about smart phones and he then showed a contrasting image of a man holding an older video camera from 2006. He spoke about a client who wanted to create mini-camcorders and what the existing types all competed over like size, functionality and quality but when Smart assessed what they were going to be used for, you didn’t need a large camcorder to capture moments in time so the size of the camcorder was paramount. Also sharing instantly was desirable, before it a common thing. As Nathaniel spoke about these levels of insight, he spoke about how they created the flip camera in order to fulfill a selection of needs – the big insight was creating the flip camera and the little insights were the features of it.

He showed lots of examples- i won’t go into all of them but i found it interesting to see his process of abstracting the problem- i know what i have been asked to do, but what am i really trying to do here? This process of giving yourself more options opens new doors and i think this could help in my FMP because i have been looking at one “problem” of creating an illustration, but why am i creating it? who is it for?

Lastly he gave us some tips about how to design for others- you must get out of your comfort zone and into theirs and be inspired by their needs as well as your own. He encourages you to engage with people and not to be precious about your ideas, i could learn from this because sometimes i get so wrapped up in an idea and feel disheartened when its not as well recieved as i think, but then i find new things and am shown new things that lead me down different roads that i wouldn’t have previously seen. Good questions are also important- questions that engage with people and get people thinking aswell as yourself.

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