Inside Design

Inside the Design Team at Fjord

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We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, inspirations, workspace must-haves, and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. Today, we’re talking to Fran Merino, Design Director at Fjord, part of Accenture Interactive. We chatted to Fran about leaving a legacy, being a life-long student, and the need for time.

Hi Fran, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us a little bit about Fjord and your role there.

Fjord is a global service design consultancy that has been pioneering service design since we opened our doors in 2001. Together with our clients, we’ve created services that make millions of people’s lives a little better every day. We make complex systems simple and elegant. Our first office was opened in London, but now we’re in 10 cities around the world – we like to say that we have 10 offices, but only one door. I’m a Design Director at the Stockholm studio.

One of my favorite things about InVision is that you can feel that there are people behind the service.

One of our guiding principles at Fjord is “design for the heart”. We want to create services that people will fall in love with. And we’ve found that falling in love with a service is just like falling in love with a romantic partner. It starts with matchmaking: You find a product that is relevant to your interests and meets the needs you have. Then comes dating: You go and meet the service, ask it questions, and see what it’s like. The third stage – and this is the most important stage – is true love: You decide if this is a product that adds value to your life and that you’ll want to use over a long period of time. We’re looking to foster loyal users and create services that become life companions. Just as with a human partner, we want users to feel they can rely on the services we build.

Fjord

And how does InVision fit into your process of creating products people can fall in love with?

Many of our clients have become familiar with InVision, as it’s one of the solutions and applications we use to help us better communicate our designs. Personally one of my favorite things about InVision is that you can feel that there are people behind the service. Things are being changed or upgraded every week. You can see the improvement over time, and every change is communicated well.

Fjord

If you could change one thing about how the design industry functions today, what would it be?

Digital products rely on your eyes alone to tell you everything about how a product works. We designers need true discipline in order to craft simple, useful products that delight our users. For that reason, I’d like to have more time for design. Time to think twice. Time to approach a problem from two or three directions. The market is super-fast these days. We’re simply not used to factoring time into the equation.

I don’t think we acknowledge the importance of visuals enough. I’d like to give visual design a more prominent place in the creation process.

Fjord

What do you see as the future of technology, design, and our role within it? Is the role of designer breathing its last?

I don’t think so. I hope not. No matter what happens, technology cannot replace the human mind. I think we will interact with technology in a very different way, but I don’t think design will ever disappear. Design goes beyond the technology. It’s a way of thinking about our surroundings.

What sort of legacy do you want to leave for the design world?

I recall seeing a study that claimed that 94% of first impressions are design-related. When it comes to user perception, visual appeal is more important than usability. Despite this, I don’t think we acknowledge the importance of visuals enough. I’d like to give visual design a more prominent place in the creation process.

A great "visual" service design process consists of many things. It is the successful combination of design elements that make a compelling, engaging, and intuitive product. We have to take away labels like "good" or "bad". This is design, not art. That’s what I would love to give to the design world.

Fjord

Can you remember the first thing you designed that you were proud of?

I designed a medal for a swimming competition when I was 11 years old. My father was the president of the club, and he asked me to design it. I’ll admit, because I was only 11, he helped me a bit with the drawing and composition of it.

As designers, we have to look at our work through the eyes of 100 different people.

Funnily enough, I then swam in that competition and won one of those medals. Years later, I found the medal in a box. The great thing about it is that I can hold it in my hands. I can feel the weight of it, the texture. I can hold this piece of my life in my hands, something that represents me as a designer. This medal – that I designed when I was 11 and before I had any idea how my life would turn out – will outlive me. To me, that’s very special.

Fjord

What was the best piece of advice ever given to you?

I remember hearing the phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none." Many people see it to be a bad thing, but to me, it has always held a positive meaning. The way I look at it, it means you can become a lifelong student and experience as much as possible about the world around you. Learn as widely as you can. You don’t have to be stuck in just one field.

And finally, in your opinion, what makes a great designer?

A great designer has to be flexible and empathetic. As designers, we have to look at our work through the eyes of 100 different people. You have to be a 12-year-old kid and then a 60-year-old woman. You need that fluidity, that ability to play those roles. I think that’s the key to great, user-centered products.

Fjord "Design for the heart. Create services people will fall in love with."
Fjord "Approach a problem from two or three directions."
Fjord "We will interact with technology differently, but design will never disappear. "
Fjord "For user perception, visual appeal is more important than usability. "
Fjord "The phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' has always held a positive meaning."
Fjord "Become a lifelong student and experience as much as possible"
Fjord "A great designer has to be flexible and empathetic."
Fjord

Photography by Klara G/Söderberg Agentur AB

Author

Conor O'Driscoll
Interviewer for InVision, designer for lack of a better word. Has more questions than answers.

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