Design is no longer riding back seat to business. The two are inextricably linked, as evidenced at almost every major technology company in existence today. This week at Semi Permanent, Australia’s premier arts and design conference, some of the world’s best design talent will take the stage to talk about what makes design so integral to their success. Below, we asked seven leaders at some of the biggest companies how design impacts their business—here’s what they had to say.
Jon Lax, Director of Product at Facebook
On design’s role at Facebook:
Quite frankly, Facebook is a technology company, but technology without design is just code. The balance of engineering and design is what makes great products. I think of our role at Facebook as trying to identify and solve problems people have. If we aren’t building things that solve problems for people then we’re not building the right things. Design is a major contributor and driver of this conversation at Facebook, but not the only one. Design does not exist in a vacuum.
Dantley Davis, Design Director at Netflix
On designing outside the Silicon Valley Mindset:
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is not designing the service for ourselves. We spend a great deal of time talking to our customers and understanding how entertainment fits into their lives. As a company based in Silicon Valley, that means we put very little emphasis on feedback from people who live here because we do not feel the are representative of the broader country or the world. Designers at Netflix travel all over the world learning new insights from people from all walks of life. We visit them in their homes, go to their work, or accompany them on their commutes. These insights fuel our product instincts and provide a level of empathy that is immeasurable.
Credit: Dantley Davis
Jon Wiley, Director of Immersive Design at Google
On how designers will play a role in the growing virtual reality space:
Design is about problem solving, about understanding the needs people have and creating useful, usable, and beautiful solutions. That hasn’t changed and the overall process is pretty similar. The tools and the medium are very different. And I’ve had to call upon topics I haven’t studied for decades: architecture, interior design, set design, ergonomics and how people move through and perceive different spaces.
Hector Ouilhet, Senior Design Staff Manager at Google
On how design can help shape the future of human-computer interaction:
The thing that excites me the most is building a future that my daughter can just use without having to learn how to use it. She can be how she is with me, or her classmates, or the dog. I want to be part of this vision and momentum that drives technology in a way that is tailored toward people’s needs. In a perfect world, technology shouldn’t shape people, but we’re not there yet. The ideal would be that tech adapts to each of us. Technology should be able and resilient and adaptable enough to allow that.
Credit: Hector Ouilhet
Philipp Steiner, Creative Director at Teague
On the value of designers in collaborative teams:
Designers have the ability to focus on the bigger picture and focus on what some of the opportunities and objectives might be, and how to get there through collaboration. So rather than assuming right from the beginning that innovation and intellectual property is something that needs to be protected and kept under wraps, there are scenarios where companies could jointly develop ideas with design teams that collaborate and then figure out, how do we make sure that everyone involved in this endeavor will have some kind of a benefit from this innovation? Designers are a small enough community and they know how the process works, and how innovation works, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. All they need to focus on is how to break down the barriers and allow freer communication between these companies.
Credit: Renata Steiner
Kelly Sawdon, Partner and Head of Marketing at Ace Hotel
On what role design plays in a hotel experience:
We see design as the foundation or backdrop for when a hotel comes to life. To start with a good beautiful foundation allows for the events and moments and activities and experience to be that much more memorable. In this day and age, people are really seeking out experiences more and more and see luxury more as something that’s a unique adventure or experience than it is necessarily an expensive item or good.
Credit: Lindsay Byrnes
Jurgen Spangl, Head of Design at Atlassian
On building an experience-led corporate culture:
We decided to be experience led, not design-led, deliberately. We had those discussions internally, and the reason we chose experience-led is because it’s about the experience our customer and users have with us. And experience is bigger than just design. It’s not semantics. I actually think it’s an arrogant view to saying it’s design-led because that would be saying that only designers own the experience and that is way too narrow. We together as a company, we together as a team, need to deliver an awesome experience. At the end of the day it’s every individual support engineer or support rep out there that delivers a great exp. Things like this only happen if you have them fundamentally in your company culture.