Ceuta-blog-Mike-Webster

What does your role entail?

I am an industrial designer and head up 1HQ’s 3D design and experience team. We focus on the design of physical products and experiences, which can range from new bottles and biscuits, to retail consumer journeys and immersive brand experiences.

My role comprises two areas of focus. The first is as a designer, working hands-on with the rest of the team. Being a relatively small team, we work very closely together, and bounce off each other. We also work closely with the core 2D designers. The second is as a business unit manager. I am responsible for growing the team and our contribution to 1HQ’s success. As part of this I work with some great people to find and woo new clients, inspire current ones and make sure the books balance!

What do you enjoy most about your role and why?

It will come as no surprise that this is the design part. The focus changes throughout the design process; we transition from deconstructing the challenge and thinking big at the beginning, coming up with innovative designs, to zooming in and crafting the detail so those designs can be produced and work functionally and aesthetically for people.

Two moments stand out here. I absolutely love getting lost in the craft. This is when I’m happiest; sat at my desk, pen in hand and headphones on, sketching away trying to shape a new look or solve a particular design problem. Psychologists refer to this as ‘flow’, when somebody performs an activity and become so absorbed that they lose sense of time and space.

I also love the moment when all the early thinking comes together and becomes ‘real’. This is when we have moved into 3D CAD to create models of our designs on the computer, the output being visuals and physical models. This is a shared moment for the team as the emerging designs are a blend of all our contributions.

What are the top trends for this year?

The products we design have to be made, distributed and ultimately disposed of, which means sustainability is a massive focus for us. We see some interesting emergent trends in this space that will begin to take hold this year.

We’re all familiar with the anti-plastic movement. I heard Sian Sutherland, the founder of A Plastic Planet, speaking at an event recently about recycling and how it is not working – only 9% of plastic is actually recycled in the UK with the rest being sent to Asia. She claims producers are simply making ‘branded pollution’. Genius! Watch out for this term as I think it will catch on.

The second is the shift from purchase to access. Ikea have announced plans to become a circular business by 2030 (that means no waste in their supply chain) and shifting their business model from selling furniture to renting it to people, with the intention of re-using or re-purposing all the materials. There are already many examples of this, but they are the first big global business to go for this. Again, watch this space as we will see more big businesses choosing this path.

What top tips would you give to clients to ensure they face the challenges appropriately?

I have three tips that are entwined: don’t be reactionary; define your own trajectory; do what you should, not could. The world is in flux at the moment (it has been for quite some time) and this will continue. People’s aspirations, behaviours and expectations are changing, and they are looking for new values in their experiences. We try and help clients to pause, take stock of what’s going on and establish how to add value for now and the future. Then deliver it. Too many businesses operate in reactionary mode, which means they struggle to retain control over their future; they are continually dictated to by the whims of the market. They will always be playing catch up. The businesses that will prevail and ultimately succeed are those that see beyond the now and lead the market. This requires courage to avoid following the easy path and simply doing what the business feels comfortable doing, rather than doing what it should do.

What are you the most proud of in your career or life?

My family. My wife inspires me personally and professionally and I’m enjoying watching my two children grow up.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

Continually question what you are doing to ensure you have arrived at the best possible solution. It is easy to make good progress early on and assume you have solved the problem. 3D design is a fluid and iterative process though and new challenges arise as the solution is developed, hence the need to critique it at every step of the process.

What song best describes your work ethic?

‘Don’t worry, be happy’ by Bobby McFerrin. It is our job to make things better, so we need to have a positive outlook on everything we do.