travel

Friday Five with our Lead Design Researcher: Naima

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1/ What attracted you to a career in Design Research? And what is your favourite thing about it?

Coming from user research, I was already familiar with the field of digital innovation. I like the challenge of uncovering and doing new things - when usually nobody can tell you how and what to design, build or test exactly.

I love how design research helps you uncover the drivers of human behaviour and understand it in the context of the culture. I like going out there, talking to people and solve their problems through great design.

2/ How do you feed your creative energy?

It’s a tough question as I never actively tried to feed my creative energy - but I feed it through my experiences such as travelling and studying languages. While travelling, I love to have super local experiences, talk to regular people, eat with them, try to understand their culture.

Other than that, I’m reading quite a bit about tech trends and like listening to TED Talks and interviews about all kinds of topics. And I like trying out new things such as taking a Mandarin class, joining a beach volleyball team or a Bachata Social. With these new activities, it’s easy to meet new people that have different mindsets and do different cool things - which never ceases to inspire me.

3/ You have been travelling quite a bit across Asia - what's your favourite discovery so far?

For me, the greatest lesson from travelling and living abroad has been what you discover about yourself. Learning, that I actually need a nature dose once in a while was new to me, having lived in the German countryside and in small cities where nature was always just a stone’s throw away. My nature highlight was Mount Bromo in Indonesia. Standing at the edge of an active volcano, just protected by a 30cm high railing that was more a tripping hazard than anything else, gazing into the smoky crater after taking a jeep ride in complete darkness to the top of the hill - is just indescribable.

Beyond that, I enjoyed deep diving into local cultures, being welcomed with hospitality in all places.

My favourite was spending Hari Raya with a hostel owner’s family and fellow travellers in Langkawi, visiting the open houses of three family members, eating delicious food in all places. I just imagined a group of strangers would walk into our house on Christmas - and my grandmother’s shocked face. I love these cultural differences.

4/ What advice would you give a young design professional, looking to move to Asia?

Do it! It's amazing. Come with an open mind, know that many things will be new to you and many challenges will seem very big and you'll work hard, but that's just what makes living and working in Asia so interesting and meaningful. For me, I achieved personal and professional growth. Understanding people and solving their problems while you're outside your own comfort zone of your native language or country broadens your horizon and makes you much better at your craft. Use this chance!

5/ Is there a design challenge you are keen to help solve - or a dream project perhaps?

Education. I know it’s super broad - there are so many ways in which education can be designed in a better way. In Germany, I’ve always found school uninspiring. Programs, classes and homework - all need to be designed differently to let students identify their passion and become great at what they enjoy doing. The learning experience has to be a more positive one and more customised to individual talents, needs and interests.

And then, in developing countries, I would love to make education more accessible. When I was in Myanmar, I met a group of village kids, that enjoyed speaking English to me. “See you tomorrow, see you tomorrow!”. I realised how curious and eager there are to learn - yet they don’t have a chance to study, often dropping out of school early to earn money for the family. This is a challenge I’d like to work on.

Dhaka Diaries

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We had the opportunity to spend a week in Dhaka late last year. We were invited by Start Up Week Dhaka and GrameenPhone to lead a week long design sprint. The focus was social innovation and we had the opportunity to work closely with some fantastic start-ups - education, travel, logistics and food. 

More, we were left inspired by the chaos and colour on the streets of Dhaka. From Louis Kahn architecture to bright rickshaws, and dhakai sarees to steamed balls of pink aubergine - Dhaka left us excited and filled with ideas on urban design issues. More to come....