Original Interview: March 2015

For the People

We get the inside scoop on where Andy Wright, co-founder of For the People based in Sydney gets his inspiration, mistakes he has made along the way and how he has learnt from them.

Whats your take on internships? Did you do any? and do you take interns now?
Internships are great opportunities.  I’ve seen some students thrive and take the opportunity with both hands, but I’ve also seen many just go through the motions and be grateful to get away from lectures.

Businesses can approach them similarly. Either a chance to develop and shape young talent, or a tick in the box to feel like they’re giving back. The cynic in me says they’re too often treated as cheap labour. But when the 2 positives combine, great things can happen.

We’ve recently tried a different approach. We partnered with UTS to run a 3 month incubator. Teams of students working on (and owning) specific projects with mentoring from us. They have full access to the inner workings of the agency as well as the Founders of the business. It seems to work well, we’ve learnt plenty from it though and are looking forward to the next one being even better. Our journal / podcast was one of these projects.

Where do you gather inspiration, on and off the web?
Personally, and for our business I’m driven more by what’s coming out of Silicon Valley than anything else. There are some very interesting perspectives on design that go past the purely graphical and into the design of experiences beyond just a single moment. Like, how should the design of a product or service change based on the relationship a user has with it over time? How do you balance the essential utility of designing a product with the necessary magic to ensure that someone actually gets excited about using it? And how do you break free from the new design ‘guidelines’ set by Apple and Google to stand on your own. How do different types of design drive more engaging, stand out experiences? Like spatial design clashing with interactive design, architecture with technology.

I’m regularly reading on Medium, Fast Company, and picking up articles from people I follow on Twitter. Reading about new or disruptive businesses like: Slack, Buffer, AirBnB, Uber, Valve also challenges my thinking. These aren’t necessarily design driven, but I believe they have a big impact on the world of design. Here are a few things I’ve found interesting recently: Articles: Silicon Valley Killed the Design Agency & A Five Day Recipe for Startups. Website: Product Hunt – a now daily source of inspiration. Books: How Google Works – we’ve used this a lot for how we think about structure and behaviour in our business & Zero to One. Podcasts: 99percent invisible, RadioLab & StartUp.

FOR THE PEOPLE - The Design Kids FOR THE PEOPLE - The Design Kids

Whats the big goal in the next five years?
We’re really keen to scale our business across a number of disciplines. These include strategy, design and digital services as well as go-to-market strategy and execution. This isn’t because we want to be master of all, but moreso because we’re working with an interesting combination of clients. For example, if you’re working with a startup they need to see immediate value in the work you’re doing for them. That means we have to be able to follow things through, execute and help deliver the growth that they need for their businesses. Sounds obvious, but in my experience too many designers / agencies can feel their job is done once they made everything look pretty. There’s a real opportunity to address this with new designers coming into the market.

We also want to help our industry. From the incubator program we have with UTS to the journal we have running on the site, documenting the startup of our business. If we try and create change on our own we won’t succeed. If we’re able to share learnings with the rest of the industry then we’ll all be in a better place. We’re not precious. I’m not really into the need to create and defend proprietary tools.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Give a shit. About your colleagues, your work, your clients, your own development, your friends and your family. The minute you take something for granted or go through the motions you’ll lose a bit of what it takes to make those things special.
2. Always be questioning. Curiosity is a big asset in people I look for and in what I try and do myself. I assume that there will always be better and new ways of doing things.
3. Get inside people’s heads. I’ve always tried to get inside the heads of the people I work with. Not in a ‘Get him to the Greek’ kind of way, although that’s also a useful skill. But in challenging myself to do and be better – and to use the lessons I’ve learnt from others on the way. I have 2 or 3 people that I use in my head as a filter when working on something.

FOR THE PEOPLE - The Design Kids FOR THE PEOPLE - The Design Kids

How do you deal with non creative clients that don’t see your vision?
Ohhh… This is a loaded question. It may be that the vision they’re presented with is in some idealistic, utopian bubble. Safe from the reality of everyday business, competition and paid for with Monopoly money. Sometimes clients don’t see this vision because it’s completely abstract. You have to help your client see the practicalities of your solution (if they exist) and their immediate application as well as the long term ambition.

Also, clients don’t think about design as much as we do (I’ve been one for half of my life). It might be about 5% of their headspace on any given day. Think about what type of person they are and therefore, how you should present your vision. Some might not want to be bored to death with a 20 slide lead in, others may want to be fully convinced of the rationale upfront. Overall, it’s up to you to share the excitement and expose the potential of your ideas.

Website: forthepeople.agency
Journal: bythepeople.agency on iTunes
Twitter: @adwrighty
Linkedin: Andy Wright