Nathaniel Giraitis review from Paige Wyllie

This industry Friday saw Nathaniel Giraitis come in to talk to us, he’s head of design strategy at Smart Design and he also had a really awesome accent! He first said that design is all about people and not things, which is very true, designing really does have meaning behind it, and it can bring people together and creates a real value. Smart Design as a company has been around for nearly 35 years, with the main office being situated in New York. As a strategist it’s all about working out what’s your plan and then working on how they can get you there.

Then Nathaniel moved on to discussing about people’s understanding and insights (this word was used a lot!), the metaphor used was to think of it as an iceberg. It was all about looking at what people would want from a product being designed or a service, this information can be found out in focus groups. So you have the tip of the iceberg poking out of the water and this really only gives you a small amount of information, you really only see observable behaviour. But then once you go under the water you see much more and get a better understanding of what’s at hand and what consumers really want from a product or service. A lot of the time companies will run focus groups or will design prototypes as its design that is inspired by real people. Prototypes really work as it allows consumers to visualise something and give them something to look at and to hold.

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Why do insights matter?

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Nathaniel asked how many of us have a smartphone like the iPhone (most raise hands up) now a lot of us capture so much on our phones nowadays and I don’t think we truly always realise how dependent we are on them for capturing moments whether that be in photo or video.

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Video cameras were what was used back in the day and basically what people really wanted was a video camera that was more compact and still had tones of features. People didn’t just want to capture entire events they only really wanted to capture moments and then be able to share it instantly with people.

This is an example of how an insight can change the way you view something,

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So here we have the flip camera, a way of capturing moments spontaneously, due to its sleeker design in comparison to the chunky video camera it was something a bit more casual, it wasn’t so in your face. It was almost quite a shy thing in a sense. This is truly an insight that designed an entire platform.

How to leap frog the competition…

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So the Ford hybrid cars are another example that Nathaniel told us about. These cars had gone from dial based panels to digital screens, all designed with peripheral vision taken into account. With the technology available it really reduced the attention to the dash board. Here’s what the LCD panels looked like,

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Then we saw this leaf part of the panel, located in the picture on the far right. Well this basically gave an indication of mileage, the leaf image gives the driver feedback letting them know if they are hurting (less leaves appear) or helping (more leaves appear) their mileage by the way they drive. It was said that drivers could save up to 200 gallons of gas per year using this function on the LCD screen.


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It was then that we were moved on to a quote from Henry Ford,

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The idea being that you shouldn’t settle for the average person, you really have to look at the person with the lowest ability, an average ability and the highest ability in order to be able to make a product or anything that will encompass everyone’s needs regardless of ability and that it’s functional to everyone. Nathaniel let us know that you are more likely to find inspiration from the higher and lower abilities rather than just looking at the average.

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This is a potato peeler that was designed by a Japanese sword maker and this is a product that can be used by someone who suffers from arthritis all the way up to pro chefs. This is an example of looking at both extremes and designing something universal for everyone.

Another quote this time from Professor Theodore Levitt, Harvard

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He then discussed design process, so normally you would analyse a problem then create a solution right? Well this process is all well and good but it doesn’t exactly work in such a saturated market that’s full of products all trying to solve the same problem. So what’s another way of looking at this design process then?

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Again you are going to want to analyse the problem at hand and then you want to reframe the problem. So you want to find out what people are really trying to do, what’s the problem that they are truly trying to solve here. This then creates multiple directions to go in for many different options, be a little spontaneous; you don’t need to be an expert user in the product that needs designing. You get more options from the reframe and then you just have to select the best options and refine them, all this from simply reframing a problem. Try to see things in a more abstract way, what do people really want?

Nathaniel gave us some tips to take away which are,

-Leave the studio, don’t feel confined go out and explore something out of the studio as it is probably going to give you more inspiration rather than being stuck inside.

-Engage with people and don’t be afraid, show people your initial sketches and really get your customer or client involved.

-Ask good questions!

What are people responding to?

Prototypes was his answer, prototype fast and cheap, as the faster you prototype the faster you will learn. Just like going from sketch model making to producing designs for the final models of a project.

Collaborate; work with a variety of people. Teamwork makes the dream work right? Working in teams is great as it’s just like it’ll be in the real world, you could be a designer but working with engineers, product designers, manufacturers etc.

To finish off Nathaniel let us know that he originally done an architecture program which then led him to do a product design degree. He then specialised in research and strategy which has led to his job at Smart Design. Another example of starting off in one field and moving into others, it makes him better-rounded by being able to be multidisciplinary.

Another industry Friday Completed and I have to say Nathaniel’s presentation was really good, it was so interesting to hear about clients that Smart Design has worked with. I also loved hearing about looking at new ways of solving problems and to not just design and settle for the average person, really truly think about the extremes and encompass everyone. There is a lot that I have taken away from this talk and again I have to say Nathaniel’s accent was so cool to hear.