Graduates Today, Change makers tomorrow
New Designers, Islington July 2017
As we see another year of graduates showcase themselves to prospective employers at the New Designers show in Islington, Peter Fullagar our Head of Innovation joined a panel session to reflect on the changing needs of industry and what today's design graduates should consider as they begin their design careers. We share the key questions and answers from the panel discussion for today’s graduates to consider.
In what sectors does design play a role?
At Kinneir Dufort, our designers work flexibly across multiple sectors. In one month, they could be on a consumer packaging project, the next looking at medical devices and the following developing professional equipment used in industry. The ability to think and work across multiple sectors is an important and exciting part of our work.
What role does design play within your organisation?
We work at the intersection of design, technology and experience so while design is one of the core pillars of our consultancy work, our designers work together with engineers, researchers and other specialists to solve client problems and develop great experiences.
What skills do you look for in designers?
We work from front end innovation to technical product development so the question is around what part of the problem-solving spectrum you are most interested and can add the most value. Are you interested in the ‘Why’ - exploring and understanding the needs that underpin problems to get to initial opportunities? Are you interested in the ‘What’ - translating understanding into ideas and concepts? Or are you interested in the ‘How’ - developing the way something works and turning this into a functioning product solution? While we look for designers who understand all three, we are interested in people who can specialise and be experts in a certain part of the development process.
What advice would you give your “graduate self” if you were entering today’s job market?
There are many things that I don’t think I appreciated properly as a graduate in the early 2000’s, I’ve picked my top three. The first is who am I designing for, and I don’t just mean the end user. In my career as a consultant I’ve learnt the importance of understanding stakeholders. While the end user is the target, you have your colleagues and boss in the business you work for. Then the client, the other teams in the client business from Marketing, R&D, Insight, Finance, Regulatory affairs etc., not to mention your client’s boss, boss’s boss, you get the picture. In reality, you have a network of stakeholders all of whom need engaging along the journey to make your product a success.
The second is the importance of attitude vs. skill. While it’s important to have strong design skills, you will keep learning these throughout your career. What’s especially important at the beginning is having the right attitude, being proactive, supportive of others, recognising that you are not the expert from day one and most importantly the ability to listen and take guidance by others.
Finally, it’s about learning to be a good collaborator. While much of design education is about individual ability, in the real-world, problems are too big to be solved by one person alone so the ability to collaborate and work both with colleagues and clients with multiple perspectives is paramount to the design journeys that we now take clients on.
What should graduates look out for?
With an ever-changing world, it’s interesting to see the shift in where design is increasingly having influence beyond products and changing and shaping future business. It was interesting to be joined on the panel by design champions within Barclays, IBM and Google, not the types of business even 10 years ago we might have expected to have been championing the role of designers.
To reflect on one of the audience’s questions, where should they be looking today for jobs? I believe it’s not just to look at who are those taking advantage of design today, as is most prevalent in the consumer world, but look at who is yet to take advantage, like professional industries that are less obvious but where your future impact through design can be greatest.
Peter Fullagar, Head of Innovation at Kinneir Dufort