Design Director Mike Jones discusses how part of his role is to encourage the team to “push the boundaries” in order to create innovative products.
What do you do at Design Reality?
As a Design Director I’m extremely fortunate to be in an exciting and varied role. On one hand I’m tasked with assisting the other Directors with the vision for the company. On the other, guiding the incredibly talented design and development team.
Working with a team of highly creative people is fascinating, fun and challenging. But above all else I learn something new from them every day. An important part of the role is building the right culture to encourage innovation. The products we work on are often cutting edge and have never been done before. They may not be even be possible but my role is managing and allowing the team to push the boundaries. By accepting that problems will arise, mistakes will be made, risks will be taken but resolving those issues and navigating the difficult path is key to creating innovative products.
It’s a constant juggling act of allowing designers to have the freedom to fail. But knowing when to apply time pressure and when to release, ensuring the highest quality products are delivered on budget and within the time frame. To paraphrase JFK “we choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard”.
What did you do you before working at Design Reality?
I’ve always been involved in R&D and again fortunate to have worked in many different sectors. Before joining Design Reality, I developed products for the nuclear fuel industry, retail packaging, consumer products, child car seats, cosmetics and garden power tools. I started my career styling products through hand drawn sketches and renderings. Then moved onto becoming an advanced CAD surfacing engineer. I’ve even acted as a technical expert witness in intellectual property cases!
Very early on I got into management of design teams. Although that means less hands on, my background means I do understand the nuances of the design process and the challenges faced by those I manage. This understanding allows me to mentor, challenge and assist the team in problem solving whilst still having a creative input on a daily basis (even if I’m not physically putting pen to paper- which I still do enjoy some days!).
What do you enjoy most about working for Design Reality?
It’s so difficult to single out one project as I’ve been lucky to work on so many different products over the years across so many sectors with fantastic customers. The most important thing for me is seeing something I’ve been a part of being used in the real world.
All R&D projects are difficult and that’s the real appeal to me. It’s the challenge of starting something at its inception with no obvious solution. That gives me the real buzz and satisfaction.
I don’t think I would be in this industry if the solution was obvious or easy. The challenge of problem solving is the most interesting part of any project.
Describe yourself in 3 words.
Outdoorsy, dependable and trustworthy.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
I’m fortunate to have a great family, so being with them is the most important thing to do in my ‘spare’ time. I do also have a passion for photography. And for the last 14 years I’ve also volunteered for Mountain Rescue.
I do a lot of outdoor sports and when I learnt that Mountain Rescue was made up of unpaid volunteers that receive no government funding, I felt that it was something I had to get involved with. It’s an amazing organisation made up of people from all walks of life, with a common goal of helping people in need. It’s not just mountains either. We can be searching for people that may have dementia one day. Or someone stuck in a flood the next.
The same skills and principles that I use in the ‘day job’ are transferable to mountain rescue too. As it’s all about remaining calm, problem-solving dynamic situations. And then coming up with the best solution. Tthe only real difference is, it can make the difference between life and death.