#26 The Design Writer and Doer

I'd like to introduce Sam Dunne. I first had the pleasure of meeting met Sam many years ago at Glasgow School of Art where he interned as a Snookster with our tiny Snook team of three. He worked with me on projects such as Matchable and Studio Unbound. Unfortunately for us, after graduating he decided to leap to London and joined product strategy agency Plan – working on all manner of strategy projects for clients like Samsung, Microsoft, Mars Inc and Bacardi amongst others

He founded Cohere in 2014 with his partner Lottie – working with businesses and organisations on a whole host of design and innovation projects. Recent clients include BNP Paribas, Coloplast, University of the Arts London and Mars Inc. 

Sam is also a writer. Writing on design, technology culture and innovation for Core77 for last 6 years. He also contributes to Quartz, Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Gizmodo and others.

I'm very happy Sam is joining the students to lead them through their Design in Business project. Here's what he has to say.... 

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?

The last year has been a huge one for me and my work – I’ve learnt a crazy amount and it doesn’t look like it’s about to slow down any time soon!

One particular lesson has crept on me and had a profound impact. For years, I’ve had the unconscious and unscrutinised belief that if I throw everything I’ve got at my work I will get to where I want to be. At some point, I realised this contradicted the advice I was giving to my clients – instead pushing them to think long and hard about what they are trying to achieve and subsequently carving out a realistic strategy to get there. Whilst a scattergun approach has got me where I am today, I’m now taking greater personal responsibility for where I’m moving and (cliché alert) learning to say no more often.


2.   What’s your burning question of the moment?

How can business transformation tackle some of the biggest challenges the human race is facing? There’s a growing antipathy towards ‘business’ and the follies of recent decades, as we’ve all seen the destructive power of greed and dishonesty, but I think this brings with it great opportunity for change and disruptive innovation. Business doesn’t have to mean evil and self-interest. I share Alain de Botton’s vision for a future in which businesses make money and grow loyalty by focussing on the real and higher needs of their customers rather than simply attempting to arouse our basest desires. 

3.   What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen / heard / read in the last year?

I’ve been following the progress of bay-area food revolutionaries Hampton Creek closely over the last year. They’re embodying the kind of purpose-driven innovation that really excites me, andgrowing a huge, well deserved following off the back of it. 

The real genius behind their success (and $$$ of funding flooding in) is the compelling David and Goliath story they tell about their mission to mend the broken food system by reimagining food products from the ground up (‘What if we started over…’). Their ambitions to make healthy and sustainable plant-based food as tasty, cheap and convenient as existing products are striking a real chord with a dissatisfied and disillusioned consumer base that are becoming increasing ethically, environmentally and nutritionally informed. The big boys are being blind-sided – and making some embarrassing PR blunders and some uninspired ‘me-too’ products in the process.

Hampton Creek are more than just hippies/hipsters with axe to grind – they’re smart business thinkers, bringing deep understanding of changing consumer attitudes (desirability), cutting edge food technology (feasibility) and financial and strategic savvy (viability). Their choosing their battles wisely, starting with small, low-hanging fruit like mayo and cookie dough, before taking on bigger targets. At the same time, they’re sure to keep their growing tribe gripped with updates on where they’re going – recently releasing a glimpse of their plans to eliminate the need for eggs from human diets entirely (the healthsustainability and ethics of the breakfast staple being increasingly called into question), with the development of some seriously impressive looking plant-based alternatives.

Whether it be evolving incumbents or revolutionary start-ups, its this ability to ask seriously challenging questions and chart a nobel, visionary course that I believe will determine success in the coming decades.

4.   What would be your one piece of advice to students on Hyper Island’s new MA in Digital Experience Design?

Try not to worry about the future. I wasted far too much time and energy in my education fretting about where it was all going. The thing is, you don’t have to know yet. Your job is to immerse yourself in exploration (read, read and read some more) and create stuff (every damn day!). There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there, but in my experience if you have some tenacity, a good network and stay curious (all things that Hyper Island students have in abundance) there are plentiful opportunities in employment or entrepreneurship.

You can read the rest of my interviews with designers here...

#25 The Behavioural Designer

#24 The UX Leader

#23 The Behavioural Researcher

#22 The Service Designer

#21 The Local Government Designer

#20 The Start Up Designer

#19 The Human Centered Designer

#18 The Strategy Designer

#16 The UX Designer

#15 The Data Designer 

#14 The Experience Designer

#13 The Design Teacher

#12 The Creative Technologist

#11 The Creative Generalist

#10 The Hyper Island Designer

#9 The Conscious Designer

#8 The Business Designer

#7 The Networked Designer

#6 The Speculative Designer

#5 The Digital Maker

#4 The Craftsman

#3 The Storyteller

#2 The Dreaming Maker

#1 The Go Getter