I’ve been fortunate to work alongside many, many talented professionals in my career, including designers and non-designers alike. While I benefitted from the influence of each, I also know I could have learned so much more had I been more perceptive at the time. Shamefully, I’m not sure I have let all of them know how helpful their influence was.
While all of those people have helped me to understand new things, or old things in new ways, none of them qualify as a fully-fledged mentor. The lack of a singular mentor figure has increasingly niggled at me, causing me to ask whether I had suffered because of it, where others had the opportunity to learn the craft of design. I like to think however I have made up for this in other ways; I have put in countless hours, compensating for what I see as an incomplete oeuvre.
There are a number of individuals that I feel represent the best design thinkers of our time, and thankfully their thoughts and writings are available to read online and off, available to all.
Dave Gray’s book Gamestorming, I can say without any hint of hyperbole, changed my professional life. My entire approach to client meetings and project research altered as soon as I got to know this book. 2013’s ‘The Connected Company’ is a modern design classic. For what my opinion is worth, I believe we’ll be referring back to The Connected Company for years to come such is its insight into the changing world of business and the challenges that need to be addressed both now and in the coming decades.
Roger L Martin Roger Martin’s books ‘Designing Business’ and ‘Playing to Win – How Strategy Really Works’ are must-reads for any design strategist. Martin is a tremendously articulate, motivating and understated speaker. I highly commend his speaking to you.
Jim Kalbach I was fortunate to see Jim speak at UX Brighton 2012, subsequently following him on social media and refer to his blog regularly. His thoughts on design’s place in the development and adoption of new products have brought to me head-slapping moments of clarity.
Unsurprisingly, a degree of synergy has emerged between the thinking of the three individuals mentioned above, and their work complements each other perfectly.
In the field of UX specifically, some of the professional heroes I’ve acquired need no introduction – Don Norman, Susan Weinschenk, Alan Cooper et al.
Long before UX became the standard buzzword it is now, DesignByFront were banging the drum for user-centred design, very much a lone voice in the wilderness in Belfast and perhaps the whole of Ireland. The considered approach they brought to client work was eventually focused into product development – and Typecast was born. Front also was something of an incubator for great design talent, with many individuals now dispersed throughout the design community in Northern Ireland who either started their careers, or passed through Front early in the careers. Paul and Jamie were pioneers.
Locally, there are many individuals I look up to who continue to inspire day to day. I see Chris Murphy, Paul McCormack and Tim Potter at the University of Ulster, building the next generation of designers through truly effective education.
I watch Richard Weston, so much more of a design craftsman than I ever was or could be, and read his blog on design finds and observations with glee.
I look to Darragh Neely, building a design agency now in its nineteenth year of operation.
Rory and Anita at the Creativity Hub, designing, innovating and marketing globally in breathtaking manner.
And there are many, many more I could and should mention, particularly a plethora of designers in the very early stages of their careers who make me shudder at just how together they are already, and the great things they will undoubtedly go on to achieve.
I think of all this, and find myself simply thankful to be working at a time when all of these people can be an influence on me, and I can channel that back into my own work.