Britt Smulders.

Strategic Designer, passionate about changing the way we design the world around us.

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Vision.

The challenges we face every day as a society are becoming increasingly complex. When looking at the healthcare industry, for example, it can be seen that there are a lot of different stakeholders who are more interconnected than before. The current developments in both society and economy have been identified by Brand and Rocchi (2011) as signs for a paradigmatic shift from the knowledge economy towards the transformation economy. Therefore, challenges cannot be solved by just one individual player, but rather a collaboration of stakeholders is needed. These stakeholders are organized in so-called innovation ecosystems. Value can be amplified through implementing multiple solutions at different points in the innovation ecosystem. Companies will therefore need to rethink their activities and business models. However, I think that the transformation paradigm does not only change the economy and the business models of companies, but also the role of designers.

Societal problems are often ill-defined, which is quite similar to tackling a design brief. However, due to the change in perspective it is necessary to rethink the whole design process that is used. I believe that designers can not only play a role in eventually solving societal challenges, but also in developing the necessary methods and tools. Working on related problems in different local settings can help in building an overarching understanding over the problems. Based on these insights it is possible to create design templates for a more parametric approach (Guardien et al, 2014). I want to design methods or tools that help other designers to create change in these complex situations, especially in the field of healthcare.

Next to that, I think that working in this new paradigm implies that designers need to know more than just the traditional design skills. It becomes more and more important to get a broader understanding as the problems we face become increasingly complex. This could mean being competent in design as well as business to understand the way value flows through these systems to create change. It could also mean being competent in design and sociology to get a deeper understanding of the systems that we need to work with.

About me.

Ever since I was little I have been a very creative person. Arts and crafts have always been my biggest passion, which is what sparked my interest in design. In my design project it can often be seen that the subjects seem very abstract at the beginning. Getting an abstract challenge and then having the freedom to adapt my process is the way I also like to work as a designer. Within my process I use many visual communication means to convey my message.

My strength lies in the exploration phase of the design process as I like to work on abstract projects that still need to be defined. However, in these projects I do aim to maintain a structured overview of the process to keep track of progress and know where it is going. I work well both alone and in teams, but I prefer to work in teams when there are clearly defined roles for each team member.

I evaluate designs with different perspectives that can together form one whole. These perspectives are the first (yourself as a person), second (empathy with the user), and third person (observing the system) perspective. It comes natural to me to analyze the system around the design from a third person perspective in order to see the impact of my design. This all combined led to the choice of my Final Bachelor Project where I could explore it even further.

Past.

Even as a little kid I have always been very creative, but at the same time analytical and curious. I would always be busy drawing or making something. During secondary school, I had trouble to find a space for this interest. I specialized in the Beta direction by choosing both physics and biology. However, I later added an art history course which really interested me. This combination also led me to study Industrial Design instead of pursuing a career in medicine as I first had planned.

In the first two years at Industrial Design I took courses relating to all five of the competency areas. Next to that, I specialized in ‘business and entrepreneurship’ as well as ‘user and society’ through my USE learning line and electives. Within the projects at Industrial design I have focused on designing for ‘creatives’, meaning that I worked on designs, tools, and methods that would help other designers. At the same time I was part of the Honors track ‘Empowerment for Health and Wellbeing’, where I focused on designing for vitality and healthcare.

Through doing courses in the areas of ‘business and entrepreneurship’ and ‘user and society’ I learned that I am really interested in design on a more strategic level. Also, I knew that I still wanted to develop more when it comes to ‘math, data, and computing’. This led me to a minor in Innovation Sciences where I gained more experience in the field of strategy and economics, but also different types of data analysis.

When looking at these activities as well as my vision and identity, I can see that strategy in design as well as designing for other designers is something that fits me very well. Also, my main interest would still be to apply this knowledge in the field of healthcare, which is why the topic of my Final Bachelor Project was very interesting.

Work.

Throughout my Bachelor I have worked on creating tools for designers. Next to that, I have worked on designing products for healthcare. In my Final Bachelor Project these two interests have merged into one.

Future.

As mentioned in my vision I think that in order to solve societal issues we need to create meaningful and valuable designs through carefully analyzing the environment surrounding the user and the design. During my study at Industrial Design I have discovered what the core competencies are for me as a designer to fit with this vision. In my work I want to focus on combining the areas of ‘business and entrepreneurship’ and ‘user and society’.

In September I want to start my master at Industrial Design. Next to this, in order to gain a better understanding of innovation and strategy, I will be following courses for the ‘Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Management’ program. In my master I want to explore how these two fields can be combined in the design process.

Growth.

In the next part of this portfolio I describe my growth as a designer throughout the past three years here at Industrial Design.