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Philippe Guichard: Designing For the Greater Good [Interview]

‘In school, I was called ‘the original’, because I didn’t really fit in anywhere.’ Philippe Guichard, an award-winning Industrial Designer reflected as we sat in a busy Nursery Cafe in Coburg, Melbourne. Although at the time being a misfit was hard, he has used it to his advantage and built a career outside the box.

From a young age Philippe saw the need for products and services to look after people and the environment. At the age of 8, he flew to America and was astounded by the vastness of the ocean. Then, at the age of 12, he watched a sailor on TV remark that he doesn’t need a compass or map to figure out how far from shore he is, he could tell from the amount of plastic in the ocean. The negative impact people and products can have on the environment has stuck with him.

Horizontal thinkers

Philippe spoke about the importance of designers being ‘horizontal’ thinkers as they need to see beyond one department to understand the whole system. By exploring the ecosystem a business operates in, it is possible to drive more creativity and unlock new value streams beyond just profit.

It is a mindset that allows people to see their role span across finance, marketing, design, manufacturing and product management. For example, digging into the financials can help designers understand main cost drivers which can be a great area to start sustainable design development.

Purpose and profit

Using sustainability to make more money was at the forefront of his career in industrial design. This led him to create award winning products in a variety of sectors, including his most recent product Cable Stop, a sustainable product to manage cables on your desk.

‘We are starting to see a complete mindset shift. Ultimately profit comes first, but so many leaders used to see profit and social good as mutually exclusive. We are proving this is not the case and leaders are listening.’

Philippe Guichard

Philippe shared the challenge of vision in current day business leaders and how he prefers to work with startups or small businesses. ‘It is easier to talk with the CEO in smaller organisations which allow for richer conversations about looking for creative ways to maximise profit and purpose.’

Long term change in short term cycles

As businesses focus on short term innovation cycles, it is important to acknowledge that design and solving social issues can often take time. Philippe shared insights about creating common ground between short term expectations and visionary thinking.
Firstly, understand the market. Is it in a growth phase? Who are the current competitors? Is the market running efficiently? What is the profit potential?
Secondly, believe in the vision. Too often people lose sight of the vision in short term cycles of innovation. Keep the purpose and reason for developing the product at the core of these short term cycles.
Thirdly, keep iterating. Build momentum prototyping the produce. He spoke about James Dyson and Thomas Edison’s thousands of prototypes. They had a vision and kept iterating until they reached product success.

Philippe’s Top 3 Tips

If you’re an employee trying to figure out how to bring purpose and profit together in your job, here are Philippe’s top tips:

1. Find your tribe

Often, thinking differently can feel isolating in a business environment. It is really important to find like minded people and work together to prove out some of your concepts. Create an impact project team across functions and carve out time (inside or outside work hours depending on management endorsement) to build the business case.
Stuck trying to find people in your organisation? Check out our recent post on ‘How to find your tribe’.

2. Respect the KPIs

In order to drive sustainability and social change, you need to talk the language of the organisation. If financial metrics are the most important, then aim to ensure the product can satisfy these. Then you can start to introduce new ‘value’ metrics including sustainability impact measurement and life cycle analysis.

3. Use case studies to build momentum

It is best to have previous case studies of how your product and services created profit and positive impact. However, if you don’t have any, go online and find some to help shift the mindset that purpose and profit are mutually exclusive. When you build your first product, take the time to write a case study and share stories with colleagues. Organise a lunch and learn for colleagues, share insights at your weekly team meeting or ask to present at a local Meetup.

Follow Philippe

Philippe’s company is D2 Design and Development.
Philippe is also on LinkedIn and Twitter and shares insights and posts regularly!

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