Design Leader Series – Mark Delaney

In our Design Leader Series we catch up with the people who are shaping Design in some of the leading companies across Europe. In this edition we catch up with Mark Delaney, Head of Design Studio at Huawei in London (http://www.huawei.com).

How would you summarise your career to date?

To quote the legendary cyclist Greg LeMond, “It never gets easier you just go faster.”

What are your ambitions for your Design team at Huawei?

To help Huawei navigate the ever-changing mobile communication market.

To anticipate potential future business opportunities, and then using design tools make those futures tangible so senior leaders can fully understand the potential, the challenges, and the most importantly the investments necessary.

To deliver products and experiences to market which are intuitive, delightful and above all useful.

To deliver positive and sustainable growth for the business.

What advice do you wish you’d been given when you started out in your career?

There is no such thing as design strategy – there is only business strategy, and design needs to align.

What has been your proudest career moment to date?

Still working on it….

Is it important to find your “niche” early on in your career?

No, early in your career you are still very much in learning mode, so I think it is a good idea to move about a bit, work in different types of company, different fields of design, different sizes of team. Get as much experience as you can and then you have a much better foundation upon which to build upon when you do evantually decide to bring a little more focus to your career.

How do you stay relevant and learn?

As a designer, you are constantly learning and building experience. You are like a ‘cultural antenna’ taking in visual influence, observing people, dissecting experiences – always looking for ways to improve and refine everything around you.

It’s important to look beyond design to understand the broader context – read the business press, talk to product planners, work with the portfolio teams, understand the brand you are designing for and most of all immerse yourself within the engineering teams to gain a deep understanding of how products are really made.

What’s your best advice for maintaining a healthy work/life balance?

It’s all about give and take, as a designer you are passionate about your work and sometimes, if you are busy, or just really excited about a project, then work can take over for a while. That’s OK, because at other times you need to prioritise life and you need to come in a little late or leave a little early.

The key thing is to avoid workplaces and bosses that drive a culture of constant long hours.  Working 9am to 9pm every day is not good for your health or creativity. Any company that expects you to put in hours of unpaid overtime is pretty poor at business and should be avoided

What’s the hardest career lesson you’ve learned?

I cannot expect to change large multi-national corporations just through my individual design efforts!

Which design leaders do you admire?

Often the best design leaders are not designers themselves, but they are business leaders with an instinctive understanding of the role design can play in their organisation and they are great creating the space for great design to happen. Steve Jobs is the obvious example with his pioneering use of design to build Apple into the world’s most valuable brand.

Today good design is very common, so to stand out you need to consistently deliver GREAT design.

I think CEO Bracken Darell has been doing a fantastic job enabling design at Logitech and in doing so has completely re-built the brand and delivered significant profits,. Simon Mottram has built cycling brand Rapha upon the foundation of great design and marketing, and has taken the company from a niche UK sportswear brand to become a globally influential, and hugely profitable. I also really admire the record label Warp, with their utterly uncompromising approach to music, design and video enabling artists like Aphex Twin and Chris Cunningham.

Finally … what’s your favourite interview question?

Do you ride a bike?  What music do you listen to? What’s your favourite book? – the person is as important as their talent as a designer.

Huawei is a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider. Their ICT solutions, products, and services are used in more than 170 countries and regions, serving over one-third of the world’s population. With 180,000 employees, Huawei is committed to enabling the future information society, and building a Better Connected World. You can connect with Mark on linkedin.

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