Design Club #1 – What It Takes

Posted 12 months ago by Murat Mutlu

Last night we were the proud sponsors of a new design event, Design Club. Like us, Design Club is for digital product designers working in startups, big tech companies, and agencies. Sam, Tom, Camilla and Charlotte, who are behind the event, launched it as a way to bring the new creative community together to figure out what’s next. You can read more on that here.

Mat Heinl (CEO, Moving Brands) and Jeff Veen (Design Partner, True Ventures) were the inaugural speakers, and both shared candidly about what it takes to evolve from a designer to a design leader.

Mat kicked the evening off with some real talk about the much feted, discussed, and opined HP identity — a project that Moving Brands completed in 2009, but that wasn’t officially launched until a couple of weeks ago. Talking about the start of the relationship, Mat described the all-encompassing beige-ness of HP that spanned everything from their products and offices to their internal culture, politics and business strategy. For Mat and the Moving Brands team, their task went far beyond a surface-level identity project, “this was about creating a movement, not a military operation”, he said. Such a big, complex challenge takes a lot from the team, and it was refreshing to hear Mat open up about the realities of working in this way. Frequent long-haul flights, many, many late nights, and tough challenges throughout all took their toll. In reflection, Mat explained how important it is to “fall in love” with the work and what you’re trying to do. Closing with a short film of his young daughter scooting at full-speed down a steep hill, one leg out triumphantly, Mat said that radical creativity often just takes a massive leap of faith and going for it.

Jeff Veen — newly arrived on British soil from San Francisco — shared his (jaw-droppingly impressive) career that’s seen him designing some of the internet’s first websites, getting cryptic feedback from Sergey Brin and Larry Page, starting agencies, founding start-ups, and now spotting product/market fits as a VC in London. It was inspiring to hear how his belief and background in design had led him on such a broad and winding journey. Today, as a Design Partner at True, Jeff is only too aware of the poor odds stacked against startups (90% fail). He talked about why design-driven startups are increasingly in the 10% that do make it, and shared the qualities he looks for and nurtures in the companies he works with: users and user experience at the heart; a diverse team that promotes empathy; and a sense of psychological safety that outputs exceptional creativity. Lots of nodding heads in the audience — largely the people powering London’s startup and digital scene — supported Jeff’s theory, and he closed to a mass of questions.

With 200 people in attendance (and another 200 on the waitlist), it is clear that the creative community are really up for meeting each other, and hungry for inspiration, guidance and ideas on what it means, and what it takes to do design in today’s world. In their own, distinct ways, Mat and Jeff have both forged paths that many are now looking to follow. Their talks revealed what could come next for those in the audience, and even what comes after that.

To sign up and be first to know about the next Design Club click here.

Photographs by Joe Watts.

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Hi! I'm one of the co-founders at Marvel and a Product Designer by trade. You can often find me asking why Arsenal haven't signed anyone this season. Follow me on Twitter.

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