PRISM: Finding Design Nirvana
The pandemic caused us all to readjust our values and focus on what truly matters. It also forced us to alter how we communicate and innovate.
In this episode of Prism, Dan Harden moderates a discussion with founders Fred Bould and Caroline Flagiello on how we can use the lessons from this experience to create an exciting new era of Design. The panel reveals:
- How to make the most of our newly realigned values, the work-life blur, and virtual creative collaborations
- How to put the new design thinking that’s emerged into action, which values experiences, quality of life, and purpose
- The ideal vision of Design and the roadmap needed to get there
Listen to their perspectives on how we can all find design nirvana.
Caroline Flagiello, founder of Akin, is an innovation expert with two decades of experience leading teams and designing for every kind of organization, from nascent startups to high profile Fortune 500 companies, in industries ranging from consumer electronics to fashion to food and beverage.
Fred Bould, founder of Bould Design, has collaborated with leading innovators such as Nest Labs, GoPro and Roku. Their work has met with both commercial and critical success. Recognition includes numerous IDEA, Core77, D&AD, and Red Dot Awards, as well as the Cooper Hewitt and SF MOMA Permanent Collection. Bould’s design solutions are noted for usability, simplicity, and elegance.
*This episode was originally recorded as a live Whipsaw virtual event on July 28, 2021.
Dan Harden 0:07
Hello and welcome to Prism. Prism is a design oriented podcast hosted by me Dan harden, like a glass prism that reveals the color hidden inside white light. This podcast will reveal the inside story behind innovation, especially the people that make it happen. My aim is to uncover each guest unique point of view, their insights, their methods, or their own secret motivator, perhaps that fuels their creative genius.
Okay, hello, and welcome to finding design Nirvana. I’m Dan Harden. Whipsaw’s Founder, CEO and Principal Designer and with me are Caroline Flagiello and Fred Bould. We’re here to discuss how we can evolve from this somewhat dark time that we find ourselves in. We’ve experienced something truly extraordinary in the last Well, now what year and a half, and it’s still going on. But how can we evolve from that time that we have all experienced into a better we’ll call it designed to future. That’s why we call this finding design Nirvana. We think we should be learning from these tough times in order to advance design to a higher Well, maybe even more ideal state, if that’s possible. That’s what we wanted to investigate with this discussion. Tonight, we’ll talk about the lessons we have learned from the pandemic that can help us re examine how we think about design, especially in terms of what design should be focused on where the opportunities lie to innovate, and how design should or can be practiced. So without further ado, let’s meet our panelists, Caroline, Fred. Fred is the Founder and Design Director of Bould design, Bould, has collaborated with great companies such as nest labs, GoPro, Roku, and many, many others. They’ve won lots of Design Awards. They’ve got worked at the Cooper Hewitt and SF MoMA. They’re designed many of you know it. They’re designed as noted for simplicity, elegance, and a focus on usability. They always do great work can always count on Fred and his company. I met Fred in the 80s when we both worked at Henry Dreyfus associates. And we’ve been great friends ever since. Good to see you, Fred.
Fred Bould 2:21
Great to see you. Carolyn. Good to see you. Yeah. My first got to know Dan, when I was an intern at Henry Dreyfus associates. And Dan was one of the young hotshot designers there that everybody looked up to. So it’s, it’s really, it’s really gratifying to find myself here, you know, 100 years later. We’re working in close proximity to Dan and, and his elk. So this is great.
Dan Harden 2:52
Thanks for joining Fred. My other guest is Carolyn Flagella. Carolyn is Founder and CEO of Akon a firm she founded in 2015. Caroline is an innovation expert with two decades of experience leading teams and designing for every kind of organization from Little startups to high profile Fortune 500 companies. She also worked at Pentagram and IDEO, and I’ve known Caroline for over 25 years. She helped me chair the National idsa conference in 2002. I still can’t thank you enough for that, Carolyn. And you may have also seen Caroline on the CBS series, California by design. Welcome, Caroline. Thank you for joining.
Caroline Flagiello 3:33
Oh, thank you for having me. Yes. And good to see Fred. Um, yeah, Dan, when I first met you, it was at the MoMA. And it was during an idsa Awards event. And you were President of Frog at the time. And I was like, Oh, that’s Dan. And so, you were you know, you were the god. Oh, well, I was still, you know, starting off in my career. So anyway, it was a long time ago, but you were still the god.
Dan Harden 4:05
Oh, my God. Okay, we did not practice Believe me this.Okay, so let’s, let’s get into our discussion, but thank you. So, let’s start out kind of broad. Alright, so this crazy pandemic that we’ve been through, I mean, it has rocked us all to the core in so many ways. But let’s talk briefly about its impact on work, especially, like, How were your practices impacted? And how did you adjust? Did you survive obviously, or how did you thrive?
Fred Bould 4:41
Carolyn, you want to take?
Caroline Flagiello 4:44
Sure, so, um, when I started Akon seven years ago, it was relational based consultancy. So basically, our goal is to have long term key clients and reduce that churn and spend And I also thought that there was a different way to be able to create a consultancy that didn’t look like the consultancies that we’ve all you know, and love and work for, and thought that we could leverage global talent in different ways. So I leveraged a distributed teams, as well as our core team. And so like, our practices really haven’t changed. But what we did is we really honed the ability to connect in hybrid ways and connect through video, you know, seven years ago, and that, you know, being able to access global talent is just really important. And I think, really, we’ve seen the the fruits of that, through hybrid work, quite honestly. And I think organizations are really realizing the power of accessing global talent and that way. But in terms of our practice, we’re continuing to thrive in this hybridized environment. Now, others who see the power of that are really appreciating and understanding that, and our clients are getting even more comfortable with that now that it’s become more of the norm. So we haven’t changed so much in the way that we have practiced, but I everyone around us has. So that’s been really nice, because now it’s elevating all of us.
Fred Bould 6:30
Yeah. I guess I, my experience, I’ll be really honest, I was, even though at the beginning of my, when I first started Bould design. I worked actually worked from my house for several years. And, and even despite that, I was kind of To be honest, I was a work from home skeptic, I really was I felt like, you know, it’s, how are we going to review mockups, and, you know, share sketches and things like that. And, but then when I kind of saw it coming, but I have a brother who lives in Shenzhen, so I’ve been talking to him about, you know, he was on lockdown, months, months before we were and it was still in question whether it was going to sort of make its way here and you know, what the, what the depth would be and so on. But at some point, I turned to my partners, and I said, Hey, we need to get set up for this. And, you know, we got our we got our system set up so that people could take computers, we’d all be connected and be able to connect to the server and whatnot. And, and sure enough, about two weeks after we did that we you know, the word came down that everybody had to be work from home. And I wasn’t, I didn’t have a lot of anxiety, even though I was kind of a work from home skeptic, I kind of said, Well, you know, we don’t really have a choice. So let’s, let’s, let’s do this. And, you know, 24 hours later, we were set up, you know, 16 people working from 16 different places around the Bay Area. And it worked fine. It was I, you know, I can’t say I was surprised because we’re, we’re very good communicators, and we’re well organized. So I think that that that helped us. But it it went pretty well. I think some of our some of our clients saw things go quiet on on their side, you know, in terms of sales, because I think people were, you know, hesitant to go out and buy things when they didn’t really know whether they would have jobs or not. I’m talking about the the general population, whether they would have jobs and whether they would be getting paychecks and things like that. But you know, I think when the government stepped in and said, Okay, we’re going to, we’re going to give people money and people felt reassured and they said, okay, you know, there, somebody, somebody has our backs. And so a lot of our clients have done extraordinarily well. You know, we have clients that are involved with, you know, streaming entertainment, well, guess what, when people can go out, guess what they do? networking equipment, sick, things like that all became very important. So it’s actually it’s been a pretty good year. And I think we’ve we’ve learned an awful lot about the boundaries of what works, you know, for work.
Dan Harden 9:29
Yeah, it sounds like you’ve adjusted. I know. Personally speaking, I would agree with you. I’ve always been a wfh work from home skeptic right when when I would get an email as an employer, you don’t want to see wfh, I’m down I’m going to be working for like, Yeah, right. But you know what? My team blew me away. They’re so effective. I mean, I never would have guessed that this was possible. But but it does take adjustment and adjust. We did and not only survived, but I think we’re thriving more than ever because of it, we learned a lot about one another. Partly because we’re all on this equalizing grid like we are right now. And people that didn’t work together before, you know, especially the certain engineers and designers or the UX team working with engineers, they get to hear one another’s problems and issues. And it’s, it’s really created a lot of empathy and understanding among individuals in the company. But I can’t tell you like, you know, like that first week, when it all came down, this pandemic is going to be such a big problem. I can tell you in one week, we lost three clients. It was like 10% of our business in one week. But you know, this is like, Royal Caribbean, like everyone’s like, No, no, I’m not getting on a cruise ship. So you know, they call they’re like, stop all work. Some of the gaming industry stop all work. There were a few clients like that it was kind of alarming, I must say.
Caroline Flagiello 10:58
Yeah, I think a lot of clients gave pause. Right. And they did it, whether it was a couple weeks, or a couple months, you know, we all paused quite frankly, we didn’t know we were stuck at home, literally couldn’t move. Right. And we didn’t know what the virus was doing. A very scary information was coming every day. We were it was social unrest. I mean, we had some major things all happen at once. So I think it was a lot as humans to take in. But Dan, I love what you mentioned about humans, because we saw each other’s humanity. I think as as work has changed, our work has completely changed forever, right? We have seen each other’s humanity in ways that we’ve never thought were professional, or we’ve redefined professionalism for ourselves now.
Dan Harden 11:49
wOkay, but what does that mean, when it comes to real effective virtual collaboration, because collaboration, you know, it’s just it was a buzzword 10 years ago, you have to collaborate, build your team. And we’re, we’re all used to doing that, you know, in jam rooms, or war rooms, whatever you want to call them. But what about virtual collaboration? And the creative fields? Where are the challenges that you guys have found? And how have you overcome that? Do you think it works?
Fred Bould 12:17
Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, because we looked at things like, you know, like getting tablets and stuff that we could sketch on, and things like that. But then after not too long, we ended up just basically saying, you know, here like this, and, you know, flashing sketches up on, on on the camera, and then on the other side, people go click, and they capture it. And then we’d have these, like, documents, these, like, you know, shared documents running all the time in the background. And it I guess, it was a little bit ad hoc, but it was effective, you know, like, we’d have like a Google present, you know, document going that we would just throw stuff into, we’d like take pictures of sketches and throw them in there or cap, you know, do you know, screen captures and stuff like that. And we kind of got pretty fluid, it was a little bit, you know, a little bit Herky jerky at first. And I have to say, at the end of the day, I would be I would be exhausted. Because you, you know, when you’re having a conversation with somebody face to face, you’re taking in all this information cues, you know, all sorts of things that are absent when, you know, you’re talking to people on little boxes. And so your brains kind of working in overdrive to fill in, you know, to, you know, pull out all the information to camp. And so I would, you know, I enjoyed work, but I have to admit, at the end of the day, I’d be like, wow, I need to go stick my head in a bucket of cold water.
Dan Harden 13:58
That was such a surprise that that that condition ones mindset after day, it feels like more work even though it sounds like it should be less right working from videowall to design is so social, you know, that’s why I was worried about it working in this manner. Because you learn so much through nuance, you know, the subtle look on somebody’s face when you see our concept that may not quite resonate with someone, it’s enough of a signal to tell you Oh, maybe I should work harder on that detail.
Fred Bould 14:28
So we’re even like the curve of a line on a whiteboard sketch. You don’t need it. It can you people will look at it. You can say yeah, it’s sort of it accelerates here. And it’s harder to do that like this.
Caroline Flagiello 14:45
It definitely is. But I do think with tools like Miro and like you said screen capture and being able to you know, draw either virtually or you know, I am being able to post you get really fluid. And I think what’s really interesting is that we haven’t ever leverage the power of video in the way that we have recently, right? Like, we have all these tools. And we’ve talked about the future of work and what it looks like. But the pandemic accelerated all of these tools in our toolbox. And honestly, like our mirror has been a lifesaver. We like Nero vs mirror roll. But you know, obviously, there’s, they’re both there. Because our clients are now being able to jump in the boards with us see, the process, it doesn’t have to be the tidhar that we’ve, you know, used throughout our careers, and they get to see the workings we collaborate a lot easier. And then from a design perspective, we get to populate what we want to and then what’s great is you can turn those into pages, so you can make those into a presentation. But, but like the design piece of it, like when you’re designing physical products, yes, I mean, that’s probably the more challenging component of design. But when you’re designing systems, culture, change, you know, all of those things, that’s a lot easier within the virtual environment. But I do think that we’re honing our skills and being able to read each other.
Dan Harden 16:18
True, there’s a really great question that just came in, where do you go for your creative inspiration when you’re stuck in your house?
Caroline Flagiello 16:24
That is a good one.
Fred Bould 16:25
For me, it’s about it’s about asking questions. I obviously I want to know, the environment that I’m that I’m operating in. But I think for us, you know, we just looked really closely at who you’re designing for, you know, what the what the newest nuances are the function of the the device that you’re developing? And, and and prototype.
Dan Harden 16:49
So, yeah, I would even I would add that design for me is, yes, there’s a physicality to it. But even more so I think design is more of a mental construct, requires seeing, observing, feeling sensing, while simultaneously thinking and solving pragmatic problems. And sometimes there’s a benefit to having environmental context. In other words, getting out and seeing the world. Yes, sometimes those acts are benefited by having people around you being in a studio. Of course, I missed that. But I can always jump on video as a medium, it kind of replaces that in person. In order to get those juices flowing. And get creative with whatever is around, you might have one one of our designers, he didn’t have any polyurethane foam, and he couldn’t get in his car to go find polyurethane foam because the stores were closed. So he used aluminum foil to create this, the Hand tool thing I was like what in the world is this pile of aluminum foil, but I’ll be darned the shape was there. The idea was there, the ergonomics were there. It was it was really cool to see that. So get creative with whatever is around you. The most important thing is to just stay creative, no matter where you are. I mean, if you’re stuck in a little village and in Vietnam, and you get a design idea, figure out with what’s around you to whatever you need to do, do it.
Caroline Flagiello 18:23
I think that that we our creativity has been pushed to new limits, right? How you get access to content, where you search for content, and spread, you aren’t stuck in your home, maybe you can go out with a mask. We definitely have done that we literally do are designing this cooler for camping. And I had the design team Meet me at the campsite. So we ended up camping over the weekend. And we were designing in context. Which, you know, normally you visit and then you leave, but we were literally designing and context as a team. So I think you just get creative about how you do things. But I feel like in that creativity, it’s opened up new processes for us and new ways of gleaning inspiration and and inspiration from a material standpoint. Like if you think about sustainability, I think we’re thinking about what are those materials out there that we can have access to you start making phone calls, you get stuff shipped to you I have boxes coming multiple times a day, write to our studios so we can see the latest, the greatest get get your hands on stuff. So hybrid work does not replace physical touch physical experience is just how you do it. And this process does take longer. That’s the other thing. I will say that does design in general has taken longer during COVID
Dan Harden 19:52
It has that something’s longer something faster because you have the tools to make certain decisions like right now. With your client, you know, we’re drawing online in video and showing concept literally real time. So there is there is some odd benefit. So considering that the process has certainly changed, did the type of work that were coming into your companies change it certainly did it whipsaw I mean, we got way more health care, work, protection work. Certainly a lot of home goods, because people aren’t spending money, you know, their budget allocations going more toward material things that will help them in their home versus getting on an airplane and flying somewhere. And also service design. But where have you guys seen the the uptick and different kinds of work?
Fred Bould 20:46
I just want to go back to the collaboration thing, because just for one second, because I would actually venture a guess. And like, if I go into the room next door and say, Tell me the truth. Did you guys like the fact that you were kind of, you know, for long periods of time, you were kind of on your own, you had more independence, you had time to think you could try things that maybe wouldn’t try when you were in the studio, you know, that there was just a little bit more, I’m guessing that a lot of designers probably felt more independence. And that was probably, you know, liberating and refreshing. I mean, we tried, you know, trying to give designers space, but you know, their schedules and meetings and stuff like that, but I’m venture I’d venture to guess I’d say a lot of designers felt like it was.
Dan Harden 21:37
I would agree with you, Fred, I might even venture to say that the creative people. Well, you’re either more creative when you are very relaxed and your zone, not pressured. Or, or under extreme anxiety. Like I’ve got a deadline tomorrow morning, Daniel, I got to figure this out. Now, you know, I find that I’m either in one of those two extremes, or I’m very, very heady and kind of like trying to reach my subconscious for solutions on the one hand, and the pandemic has been good for that actually come up with some wild ideas, just like sitting around in my sweatpants. I don’t wear a sweat pants, but we don’t need to discuss what I wear. So yeah, that’s it’s really interesting. I think there is an upside to it.
Fred Bould 22:27
To answer your question, we saw a continuation of what we were what we were saying before, but we did, we did pick up some medical and we actually, one client was COVID, a COVID related project, it was this disinfecting device for commercial spaces. And you know, that had to happen really fast. So we started, you know, we started the project in June last summer, and they were like, yep, we want to be shipping in October. So that’s June, July, August, September. That’s four months, including design for manufacturing and everything.
Unknown Speaker 23:09
Caroline Flagiello 23:11
I mean, our work stays pretty consistent. I mean, we’re purpose driven and the work that we take on. But what was interesting was the focus is shifted to even more culture, more, the future of so I’m a big futurist, we love the future of tight projects. And the future of work was one that we’ve worked on in many different sectors, within industry, within governments, and thinking about what it means to reinvent work for ourselves, and or embrace this new way of working because we’re in a working Cultural Revolution right now. Where big companies are, like, you know, come back to work, or else and workers are saying or else, right? And so, we need to be flexible. And because we started realizing what’s really important to us as humans, we started reevaluating our own values around life work, and it’s not work life balance, it’s actually work life fluidity. And those boundaries between work and home, they were already starting to shift with, you know, Fridays off or, you know, flex Fridays, etc. But no, it’s actually very different now. And so being able to, as designers think about how we’re able to incorporate that fluidity in a way that really services people, their heart, their their soul, and feeds us in a different way. We were missing our family, we’re missing the life with our heads down work ethic that we have all experienced. And so that’s the kind of work that we started seeing more of as well as transitions. What does it mean to transition Thinking about as a culture and as a human, as you go through these transitions? How, what support do you have? What models do you have out there? And, you know, what is your ecosystem? What’s your network? And who are the people that thrive in transitions and don’t? And so that that’s the kind of deeper human work that we started getting into over the course of the pandemic.
Dan Harden 25:23
Very cool. You know, one, one thing in addition to that, I’ve also seen that the pandemic has acted like an accelerant for certain businesses and technologies, for example, we’re starting to see way more interest in different kinds of precision medicine, or very specific solutions around healthcare. Partly because the technologies are realizing that that’s where the answers are, if you look at, you know, what Pfizer and moderna had to go through to create that, that vaccine. And of course, all of this relates to design because we have to ultimately package these solutions and present them in a way they’re palpable and understandable intuitive to those end users that that we want to have consumed these products. So we’re starting to see way more AI driven diagnostics, lots of biology plus electronics, netting products that are very weird and wild, something like we did recently for this company called Conoco just really unusual things. And the pandemic is, it’s been like this, this catalyst in some way good. Some people are like, well, the heck with it, let’s do this.
Fred Bould 26:34
Yeah. There was a doctor at the National Health Service in England, who said that they’ve seen 20 years of innovation in two weeks. And I, I experienced it myself, I had a pinched nerve in my neck from doing stupid things. And so my doctor said, Well, do you want to do PT on zoom? And again, I was skeptical, but I said, Yeah, sure, that sounds great. Let’s do that. And it worked. It was a little bit, you know, was a little bit odd. But it, it worked. You know, here I am three months later, and no more pinched nerve than I, you know, other than seeing the physical therapist online, I’m sure it made their job much harder. Because they couldn’t, you know, like bend my neck and say, Hey, Did that hurt, or things like that. But I think we’ve seen a tremendous amount of innovation in a very short time. And I think that it’s opened people’s eyes to opportunities for new types of products and services.
Dan Harden 27:41
Yeah, it is a plus. I think that, you know, when things get tough, people have a tendency to really reassess what they want out of life, and start to think about things like quality of life being more important than quantity of life. And this is, this is really where I want to move the conversation is, it sounds to me, you know, all three of us are experiencing the same kinds of changes in our companies. There is more of an emphasis on quality of life and health care and home centric design. But will it stick? I want it to stick, because it seems like people are being a little bit more sensible. I think quality of life and quality of design go together like peanut butter and jelly. I mean, they work well together. So but but we all live in a wild world, and everybody’s trying to make more money, and they’re, you know, the traffic’s coming back. And are we gonna fall back into these patterns? How can we make it stick in the foreseeable future?
Caroline Flagiello 28:38
Well, I think one of the things that we are missing, and we’re seeing this in our, we’ve been auditing Silicon Valley companies and honestly, nationally as well. And what’s missing is that friction, that friction and that need that, that innovate helps innovators and creatives Spark, and if we don’t get back to that level of Spark, which comes from interacting with each other, and or, you know, seeing things and being inspired, you know, like going to see us For example, when person brought up how CES was important to kind of Spark. She used the word envy, but I don’t I don’t know if it’s envy, but like just Spark, you know, that that creative, Uh, huh. Like I want to get in the mix, we will start seeing a push for the lack of comfort, you know, in the home so that we can get to that creative spark. So that’s one of the things that we need to think about how do we create that spark or keep that spark going, and we’re also posting on a lot of our relationships that we had pre pandemic. So starting a project with a client that you’ve never met in person and or teammates that maybe you have new hires that just started really hard to do. If you haven’t met in person, a lot of projects are failing, all around and every company with teams that haven’t met in person. So how do we keep it going in terms of that balance and and honoring what people are feeling like they’re missing? But then how do you just keep that that creativity, that hunger alive? haven’t figured that out yet?
Dan Harden 30:32
What do you think, Fred, about that?
Fred Bould 30:36
I think that there was a lot of friction to enough friction to start a lot of a lot of different fires. So I, you know, I think like
Caroline Flagiello 30:48
creative friction, versus like, destructive fire affection.
Fred Bould 30:53
Yeah, no, I, I think that the, I think that the pandemic, just really, I mean, for me, personally, it, it definitely helped me kind of realign, I feel like there’s, you know, within the studio, there’s just, I think there’s a lot more empathy for everybody. And I think that when people are more empathic than they, they, they’re more attentive to each other’s needs, and they’re kinder to each other. And I think that plays into design, I really, I think that helps you know, us, you know, when we’re because we’re always sometimes we’re the uses of things that we’re designing, but a lot of the times where we have to imagine and so I think that when you’re more empathic, it’s easier to imagine, you know, and you go that extra mile to make create a better experience.
Dan Harden 31:42
But Fred, how do we make this the tangible benefits that we just heard? And I think there are more unforeseen dividends, right, that have happened from this pandemic? I mean, it’s, it’s been held for a lot of people, let’s face it, not to mention that the disgraceful loss of life, but how do we make some of these, these these good things stick?
Fred Bould 32:04
I think they’ll stick because it’s a value shift, the underlying, you know, like, he talked about, you know, mass flow, I think the shape of the pyramid of the base has changed, and what what people are, are going to support and tolerate, it has changed. And so, you know, they’re some of the biggest companies in the world, you know, come back and said, Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. And people have said, No, I don’t think so. I’m not doing that. What else do you have? And so I do think that there, there’s a shift and that that employees feel and understand that they have more power. And so and I think that, you know, whoa, whoa, to the, the organization that doesn’t take that on board, you can, you can go and pick up the Economist magazine and read, you know, dozens of articles about this kind of thing. Things have things have changed, and things have shifted, and I don’t I don’t, you know, I feel like it’s a, you know, the toothpaste has come out of the tube. We’re not you can’t put it back in.
Dan Harden 33:24
Yeah, like, I really, I agree, I hope that some of these, these benefits that we’re talking about, really, really do stick, I think it’s incumbent upon us designers to make sure that we we do we do carry a new kind of torch, and that we are strong and persuasive, and making sure that we’re offering good sound meaningful, truthful solutions to the clients and be brave stand up and just, you know, proclaim what innovation means to you. That’s okay. I think there’s, I think the big message here is, it’s okay. Make your Proclamation. Everybody is we’re in this time now.
Fred Bould 34:03
Yeah. I also kind of wonder, like, so, you know, as a work from home skeptic, you know, I was proven wrong. And I think that, that kind of has emboldened people to say, Okay, well, what other things that I held to be true, are also incorrect. And so I see, I see my designer is asking questions like, well, do we really have to do it that way? Or, you know, is, you know, why is that a sacred cow? Why can’t we change that? So? I don’t know. I think that I think there’s I think there’s a shift going on.
Caroline Flagiello 34:44
Right. Well, I do think as I mentioned before, the idea of work fluidity, that you we as designers need to design tools and experiences that allow work fluidity, so that we are It’s not flexibility. And this is the difference. So and I stumbled across this Aha, you know, thinking about the future of work, that it isn’t about either or, it’s about that we are working in our cars, at the cafe, at home with our teams that are home office back, you know, hopping on a plane working on a plane, like work happens everywhere. And while we may have thought about that, we still think about it as binary work from home, right? Well, actually, it’s not just from home. So work fluidity needs to happen as our devices pick up from one area to another, you know, content, our access to content, our access to people, we need to think about that even more, because honestly, our tools are still very limited in what they can do and how they support idea generation collaboration. Well, it’s great that we have what we have now, they’re really still very, very limited. So I think, to keep it going and moving forward, we need to reinvent our tools for creation, collaboration, communication, and start thinking about other dimensions. So we’re even playing around with VR, right, and collaborating conducting meetings, we have, we are just on the precipice of an amazing time, if we choose to take it, our muscle memory is so strong to the way it used to be or normal, I think that we may be missing a big opportunity in advancing how we create, how we work, how we think, how we transmit ideas. And so VR is the real untapped dimension, quite frankly, on how we can collaborate together and start bridging some of those arenas. But I don’t want to diminish, you know, the, the in person power because we as human animals can communicate and transmit energy that you just don’t get anywhere else. So we need to not forget that, obviously, in person is hugely valuable. But I don’t want to miss out on all of the other dimensions that we haven’t really tapped fully.
I think designers intrinsically, are so good at that. Because many of us are crafts persons, artists, musicians. And it allows you to have this, this touch point with your own humanity. And it’s often that that element of that designers bring is sometimes sidelined by big business and managers and CEOs that maybe value the bottom line more than an individual’s big idea. So if it’s allowed us to bring out more of our humanity, that’s, that’s awesome. I love that perspective. Carolyn, do you think it’s do you think,
Fred Bould 38:02
you know, like, great tools, right, we have zoom and Google Hangouts, we have all these other things. And when we first you know, I think that the people who develop them were sort of like, Oh, crap, we have like, you know, 500 times, number of people using this now. And I think that they really, they probably, you know, people generally, like, I’m very thankful to be able to talk to people like this. But in fact, the software could be better. You know, it could be easier to use, it could be more flexible, it could allow us to share more easily. And so I’m, I’m guessing that there’s this sort of unseen groundswell of people out there going, Wow, there’s a lot of opportunity for making this a lot better. And so I think that when you say, how are we going to do it? I think it’s probably happening, you know, you know, out there in Silicon Valley and across across the world, people are probably imagining great new ways for collaborating.
Dan Harden 39:18
To do you think this pandemic in both of your opinions has made us especially designers, has it made us more accountable? Is it going to make us more responsible? Will it prompt us to really think about the essence of a problem and how to how to really go about solving it that might additionally be very sustainable in every way, not just environmentally sustainable?
Caroline Flagiello 39:44
For sure. I mean, honestly, at the beginning of the epidemic last year, I was on a panel where scientists were talking about from the UK we’re talking about you think this viruses bad wait till the Climate change hits you, and you’re worried about being in the home now. Just wait. And it’s in years, not in 10 years, it’s in a couple years. And I honestly, you know, we’ve heard climate change. And it honestly, it doesn’t stick with you, as much as when this scientist was talking, it scared the bejesus out of me. And ironically, from that, that conference to when clicked, you know, client work started picking up again, it was all about sustainability more than ever before. And, and it really gives you pause about, and especially as design leaders, being able to say, Hey, wait a minute, I don’t know if that deserves to exist, this product that you want to create, like, let’s prove, why does that deserve to exist. And I don’t know if I want to partake in creating that thing. And I think also when we think about sustainability, for the product, its lifecycle. And the onus that we have as designers, not just in sustainability, but in the creation of things, or services or experiences, just because I think we really have a lot more power and being able to redirect a refocus. And also be able to shift and build a business case for maybe something that’s an alternative that actually has much more positive outcomes. And that process of development as well as much more positive. So in that, though, I will say as designers, it is crucial for us to get up on many different manufacturing techniques out there for let’s say sustainability, because I don’t think that we have in our toolbox, enough sustainable knowledge to really design effectively, cradle to grave. and beyond. I just thought why don’t just think I know. And I think it behooves all of us to really get deep into what this looks like. And sustainability, not just in physical product, but and the whole cycle of our experience, from product services, culture, everything needs to be sustainable. We worked on a program years ago around human resilience, human resilience as part of sustainability, right? And thinking about how we’re able to tap into ourselves to be sustainable, which also mirrors back into a earlier point that you made down around. How is this changed us? Like how were we more sustainable as humans in the condition that we’re in right now, but also sustainability and the products, as I mentioned, and the services that we design? Yes, we do have greater responsibility than ever before, because we’ve seen the effects.
Dan Harden 42:55
Yeah, I also see this, there’s has been for the last 50 years, this relentless Corporate Drive to make more money through design. And honestly, I know I do design for a living, but that kind of motivation simply does not inspire me. I mean, my my definition, and the pandemic has really driven this home is of my definition of prosperity is totally the opposite. And like a lot of designers, I mean, I think we have to value meaning over money and outcome for users of our income for corporations. I think growth of cultural value is more important than growth of shareholder value. I think we have to somehow through the means that you just mentioned Caroline, keep pushing for these, these values that are more sustainable, and more holistic definition of what sustainability even is. And I think that’s our big challenge. I mean, Fred, I know you because I’ve known you for a long time. I know so wholeheartedly, you would you would believe in that or tell me maybe that you don’t? What do you think
Fred Bould 44:10
I i’ve always I’ve always been frustrated by the, in order to see real change in sustainability. You have to have a change in you know, it’s like steering a supertanker. They are like we’ve we’ve gone out many, many times and looked at you know, different types of material that are more ecola more environmentally sound. And they’re always these these nice things, but I think it’s things are slowly changing, because people are starting to understand, well, you know, I can still do well, by doing good and, you know, at some point, something’s going to happen. It’s like I’ve always said with With consumer electronics, if you go and look at the reviews, or you’ll get what’s selling the best, it’s not like something selling 40. And this one’s 40%, this one’s 30%. And this one’s 20%. This one’s 10. It’s like this one’s 90%, because it’s the best. And then this one is 6%, because it’s cheaper, and then this one selling 3%, because it’s really, really cheap. I think we have to get to that situation with, with sustainability, where we can go out and there there are options for you know, for materials and systems that are better. And that we can and that there we can be they can be deployed on a massive scale, not Nish. I’m not talking about, you know, making lamps out of orange peels. I’m talking. Go Go look on the scene, it’s there. But no, I’m talking about like, really, really meaningful ways of doing things like, you know, at the at the Tokyo Olympics, they made the they made the beds out of cardboard. Okay, that’s awesome. Why, you know, I would it be okay, sleeping on a cardboard bed? You know, I don’t I don’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t need to weigh 600 pounds. You know, I? So I think that there’s, there’s two things, there’s the systems, the infrastructure, and then there’s our limited ways of thinking about them.
Caroline Flagiello 46:33
Right? Well, I wanted to ask, so we’re working on sustainable running shoes right now. And it’s interesting when you start investigating, like in the running shoe category, you know, all these proclamations, right, from big companies that we all know and love and have worked for around their sustainable shoe. But you know, there’s a lot of carbon credits that they’re buying, right? And as does he mean, you know, it’s kind of cheating, right? It’s not, it’s not really being sustainable, or using an ecologically sourced material, but it’s still last forever. As designers, you know, how now I’m taking your role dance, as designers. How do you feel about pushing back in that arena? Like, what would you work on a project where you knew the client was buying carbon credits, and, you know, basically buying their way into sustainability? Or, you know, how does that fit with you guys?
Dan Harden 47:36
I think as long as you are able to make the positive change that you should be as a designer, then the means in which that occurs, providing the ends is a good result, some benevolence, some benefit to the end user that I’m okay.
Caroline Flagiello 47:52
Yeah, it’s kind of interesting, because, you know, our client isn’t necessarily advocating for that. But it was just the investigation out there seeing the greenwashing if you will, and it doesn’t sit well with us, we’re like, Huh, if you’re really willing to make a change, we’re there for you. Right, we’re gonna take it, we’re gonna see this through. But if you’re, it’s a marketing ploy. We’re not really that interested in engaging?
Dan Harden 48:20
Oh, I misunderstood your question. And then I hate anything disingenuous. So you know, we and we are often every design firm will you’ll pick these moments when you have to ask yourself, should we be doing this? You know, we’d turn one down this morning, a client that wanted to work with us, and we’re just like, no. And, yeah, you’re those are hard decisions sometimes, because they’re, they’re often not black and white. Right?
Fred Bould 48:47
You know, I think you have to ask yourself, okay, is this is this supertanker? Do they want to make a turn? Or do they just want you to, you know, get on the deck and cheer them on? And I think that if you can, if you can make even even an incremental positive impact than it, then it then it’s worth doing, because there’s definitely somebody else out there who won’t care and will just say, yeah, sure, we’ll do that. So, you know, if you can, if you can get in there and and even make, you know, like, if we could, if we could get a client to just make a change in their packaging, to go from say, you know, a plastic insert to a compostable insert, you know, from go from like a styrene, or something like that, which is horrible to, to, you know, an egg crate or something like that. Then it’s, you know, these these things are, they’re all incremental, but they’re, I think they’re meaningful.
Caroline Flagiello 49:53
Yeah, and that’s a really good point, right, like, increments do add up, they do stack up It is important. And I think to answer the circle back down with your question around responsibility. I do always we’re all saying that yes, we do have responsibility to bring up these really hard questions. And then also to guide the process to guide the process towards a better answer are utilizing things that they’ve already used but a new way. And that’s where doesn’t always have to be reinvention. Right. It could be rejiggering of an existing system, but just optimized in a way that actually improves exponentially over time. So I just want to circle back.
Dan Harden 50:38
Yeah, good. Very, very good point. If there’s ever a time that we have the IRS, you know, in the C suite, or clients, it’s probably now because with all of this change, we’re seeing, I mean, whether it’s social change, climate change, changes in the Delta variant. I mean, there’s just so much that we’re dealing with right, it’s hard to cope. designers are good at coalescing solutions, at culling from what we see in the world into some form of betterment. I think that spells when there’s so much change going on, that spells opportunity to me, change occurs, and very difficult times and very positive times. So I think that’s what we’re seeing here. And it is our moment to do exactly what you’re just saying. So this is this is awesome. we’ve, we’ve covered so many interesting things. There have been so many incredible questions coming in. So there are so many here on our list. I’m going to just hand select one or two or three, maybe let’s see if we can get through them. These are real time. Let’s see. Work From Home is made everyone worked more than ever. And where to guess that end is blurred the line between work and home life? What’s your plan for returning to a healthy balance of work and rest for your employees?
Fred Bould 52:21
Well, we’re actually we track that pretty closely, we actually we actually go to people and say, we think you’re working too much can what can we do to help you balance your workload? Because I mean, we know that when, when people are working too much, the actual productivity goes down, their happiness goes down. And, you know, the work just isn’t as good. There’s, there’s definitely, you know, there’s a limit to how much you should work. And we, we we actually be reviewed that every Monday, we look at how much people the leadership team here looks at it and says, Okay, well, everybody’s good, you know, sort of like everyone’s somewhere around 40 hours. If somebody is above, then we’ll go and talk to them and say, Okay, well, how can we help balance your load? It’s, it’s super, it’s super important that people have known this for for ages to there’s, you know, somebody works 70 hours, 70 hours a week is not doing a good job for a number of those hours.
Caroline Flagiello 53:35
Right. Right. I think also, you know, not capping vacation time, I think, what’s been really interesting is, you know, people don’t tend to abuse that. I mean, some people can, but if you take the time that you need, and expect everyone to be responsible adults, obviously tracking what’s going on, you’re able to flex and people are happier, as you had mentioned, Fred. You know, I think also, at least for us, like Gone are the days of, I need to see you working in, you know, your desk, 40 hours plus a week, if I don’t see you working, then you’re really not productive, right? I think, being able to understand that work in life, if they’re going to be more fluid, they’re going to happen. And you know, what’s interesting is that you need to also take care of your wellness. And we are big advocates of that meaning like, Hey, I just need to take a little bit of time to go for a walk or, you know, I you know, at certain time I’m taking this Pilates class or you know, you know, what have you or I want to take a painting class, and it’s, you know, started it this time in the evening. That that says it being able to be fluid, but also you can’t abuse it, right. So trying to find that that fluid line, and we’ve been pretty successful in doing because everyone has that drive to do well, I mean, that’s we’re hungry, if you’re a hungry designer who needs to create and innovate, that’s great, but then you have rest time, otherwise, you will never replenish. And when you go, go, go, which is what I think as a society we’ve been doing, but as designers, if you do not give yourself that downtime, you are an empty husk, empty husk and you will not be able to give your best give your all it’s why great ideas come in the shower, right? You need that experience during the day, to be able to and it’s daily, to be able to do that. And I think with the way that we’ve been working, and how easy it is to get on video. I mean, I have to admit, I have not myself been very good. At the end of the day, like I just told my husband, also a designer, I’m like, you know, at the end of today, we’re running out of here screaming and going to go get dinner, we call it purple dinner, because we eat in our car, but um, you know, mobile dinner and myrin. So, you know, whatever that is, you need to find that joy,
Dan Harden 56:23
I would agree that also design it’s it’s one of these professions where you’re so informed by the things that you’re not necessarily at the moment thinking about or trying to solve, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s the subtle observation you made about an individual in a conversation that somehow informed the way you’re thinking about a design problem a year from now. It all goes in, it all goes in, and then it’s your job as a designer to sort of readily access it when you need it the most. And, and apply it and sometimes walking around in your sweatpants. A that’s all of a sudden you use career something you see something. Yeah, that’s all. So here’s my final question for you too. What does design Nirvana mean to you, you know, society as gone through something. And as designers, if we’re to learn anything from this, we should be able to carry our profession forward in some way to elevate what we do to advance it to bring it to a higher state of existence. I mean, that’s kind of what Nirvana is. But is there such a thing as designer about a will the world really benefit from design? And if so, how? How can we move our, our society you know, we went from an industrial society to a creative one, where are we going now? And what is design Nirvana?
Caroline Flagiello 57:55
So I will say, for me, I have, personally this mix of futurist with light. And I. So think that we are in this age of technology, and design, much like fashion, where it’s hope future, it’s in your face, we are we’re tethered to our products were tethered to our phones, were tethered to our technology. I think for me, design Nirvana would be that technology recedes into our environment more than it ever has. And we call upon it when we need it. But we need to be able to get back to our humanity in a way that I don’t think that we have, and it’s why home family, and you know, family values, all these things have resurfaced, when you have a very serious question of life or death, right? And for me, I would love to see technology recede into our walls more recede into our environments more, like I said, and populate, you know, when when we need it, and then it recedes back again. And so for me, if we can as designers almost get over ourselves, and the flashiness of look at the cool thing I just made or the cool system I just designed, and be like, wow, and then it just goes away. That to me would be Nirvana.
Fred Bould 59:27
I would say for, for me does design Nirvana is and we were talking about this recently, is just meaningful, meaningful, hard to solve problems. Because I think that that’s, you know, that’s, that’s what makes work interesting is to have have a hard problem that that needs to be solved, to work for clients that recognize and value our Our efforts and are supportive of the process that we go through. And I, I would say we have that in our clients are generally very, very supportive of what we do and how we do things. And then, you know, to be to be working with a team of a team of experts, people who are super engaged, and, and really engrossed in love what they’re doing. I think that’s what that’s what makes the the studio special is that there’s this, this just sort of, kind of, sort of unspoken understanding amongst everybody that, you know, that we’re, you know, what we’re doing is, is, is, is challenging, but but fun. And, you know, and we all grow, sort of engaged as a group and supportive of each other as individuals.
Dan Harden 1:01:01
Awesome. You know, I think we’re out of time. And it’s a shame because we have received so many questions. There’s got to be a way well, you can find all three of us online. Sorry to have just volunteered your more time Carolinian friend. But if you wanted to ask any of us individually, any questions I know, I’d be open answer a few questions. And I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can certainly follow us at whipsaw design. I just want to thank everybody for tuning in. It’s always a pleasure to do this kind of thing. We do have to just stay connected. What we’re trying to do is really just keep our community together and have stimulating conversations like this with really cool people like Caroline and Fred. So thanks, everybody. Huge. Thanks, Caroline. Fred, wonderful. As always seeing you guys and good night.
Caroline Flagiello 1:02:00
For you, Dan. So good to see you, Fred, too. Thank you for having
Fred Bould 1:02:04
likewise and thank you to which song for organizing this. I know a lot of work went into it. I appreciate everybody on the team for making it happen.
Caroline Flagiello 1:02:14
Yes, great job team. Right,
Dan Harden 1:02:15
that good set. Yeah. Great. Thanks to my team. Alright. Goodbye, everybody. Thanks a lot. Thank you for listening to prism, follow us on whipsaw.com or your favorite streaming platform. And we’ll be back with more thought provoking episodes soon. prism is hosted by Dan Harden, Principal designer and CEO of Whipsaw, produced by Gabrielle Whelan and Isabella Glenn, mix in sound design by Eric New