15 minutes with: Norio Fujikawa
Our experts are on the frontlines of bringing ingenuity to life for our clients. They accelerate new growth ideas from concept, through design and development to commercial success. And they revitalise organisations with the leadership, culture, systems and processes to make innovation a reality.
In this series, you’ll meet some of the brilliant minds creating change every day.
How would you describe your job to someone you’ve never met?
In our San Francisco Studio, we often explain that what we do is create products, services, and brands with a focus on improving the human experience. We cover a lot of physical hardware products within the studio, but also intangible things like company branding.
Whether it takes six months or several years to develop a product or service, what ends up being a part of a consumer’s lifestyle and how they interact with those things, that’s what design is about. It’s about delivering quality, meaningful experiences.
How do you bring ingenuity to your work?
As designers, we’re rooted in a desire to be creative, and find creative solutions to problems. We’re delivering experiences for others, based on our own life experiences. Across engineering and science, we’re drawing on our expertise as individuals and teams.
Ingenuity is trying to come up with clever and insightful solutions that aren’t just for invention’s sake, but bring new ideas and thoughts to things that will deliver solutions that are meaningful and solve problems.
What are you most excited about and inspired by in design right now?
I’m excited about all the different tools being invented right now. We’re going to have an interesting discussion at our next monthly get together about AI (artificial intelligence). Is AI good for design? We’re constantly pushing to find new tools to create with. At the start of my design career, that was the onset of CAD (computer-aided design). Because I was starting at the beginning of that transition, I’ve always been open to new tools and technology to create and envision the things we’re thinking about. There was also the transition from 3D modelling, to now you have desktop 3D printers. There’s a constant evolution of technology to make it more affordable and accessible. Finding new tools and finding new ways to incorporate them into the process is really exciting.
Which projects are you most proud of?
I don’t know if I could point to one specific project. I’ve been with this team for 19 years and have worked on so many great projects. I think what I’m most proud of is the breadth and range of projects we’ve worked on. It’s part of the reason I’ve been with the studio for so long.
I’ve worked on everything from consumer electronics, mobile, gaming, laptops, desktops, audio equipment… it’s all interesting for a variety of reasons. Kids projects are always fun to do. And then just meeting all the experts in all the different areas.
Working on the Backbone One controller was great. We’ve done so many controllers over the years – one of the first projects when I joined the studio was Xbox 360. That’s driven a lot of our controller business. Again, it goes back to experience. We build on past experiences and that brings a lot of value to the work we do. For Backbone, the owner was a fan of the Xbox 360 controller and came to us.
We understand what the gamer wants and expects and we deliver on that. It’s understanding those things on any given project, the end-human experience. In the case of Backbone, they brought the software expertise, we brought the hardware expertise, and we brought that all together to deliver a console-to-mobile gaming experience.
Auris was another cool project, it was a controller for robotic surgery. They also came to us because of our Xbox 360 controller experience. The surgeons were familiar with the 360 controllers and wanted to replicate the experience. Merging their expertise with ours we were able to deliver a better experience in a completely different space. We explored different devices and models but it came back to a game controller-like device. So, why break the model if it works?
Designers always want to challenge and push and explore new solutions. Sometimes the solution in front of you is the best one, but you have to keep exploring until you see it. Sometimes a client comes to you with an idea but can’t articulate it and they need people like us to take that kernel of an idea and make it real and tangible. We paint the picture for them, and it’s our job to make their idea a reality.
What are your goals, professionally and/or personally?
It always comes down to doing great work, whether for myself or the team, and creating space for the team to do great work. I want to do what I can to make our teams the best they can be.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a similar career path?
Try to get the best out of yourself and others. Be persistent. Keep pushing yourself out of your own comfort zone and push others to elevate themselves to achieve success. Success is a team effort. Singular egos never do well because design isn’t a singular goal, it’s about working together and collaborating to make the team the best it can be.
And remember that no matter what training or schooling you have, design is about drawing on experience. We’re all humans and consumers, and drawing on your individual experiences will make you a better designer.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
Design offers a lot of opportunities to do really interesting and great things. I run into old classmates sometimes and I think they’re envious that my career is creating things – products, brands, experiences – it’s just an exciting profession. We get to meet a lot of talented and interesting people; inventors, artists, and creatives. We work with a variety of technologies and industries and feel like we’re always seeing things into the future.