Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Fayssal Loussaief (FL) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Fayssal Loussaief by clicking here.
Interview with Fayssal Loussaief at Wednesday 20th of April 2016
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
FL: Arts, humanities, and architecture, in particular, caught my attention from a very early age. My mother started studying arts in Paris IV and had me drawing, painting and writing when I was young. My father asked me to design endless versions of our summer house in Bizerte, on blueprints. But none of that made me become a designer. I believe it was the endless fights between them. That made me come up with ways to stop my parents fighting, without them knowing. I have a deep passion for the beauty, but looking at something ugly and changing it to something harmonic is surpassing that passion way beyond.
FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
FL: FLF DESIGN LIMITED is rather clever than large. As digital has changed and will do so in the Future, the way we work, we are using an independent pool of top-notch talents around digital, technology and Innovation. We are very flexible in our ways of working, the tools we use and always manage to make a profit due to our development teams across all over Europe.
FS: What is "design" for you?
FL: Design is invisible. We make a clear distinction between the things one can see and feel and the tings that we want to achieve in the background. Both can have the same goals. But for many reasons, it makes sense to start with the best possible customer experience to create commercial value.
FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
FL: All design work I do not do. That is architecture and furniture design. I hope, I wish that I will find a time and a way to switch to these disciplines. For now, I will stick with typography, photography and clean layouts, UIs that are ultimately the result of a great product or service strategy.
FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
FL: A bench in a park is an excellent service. A big well during a hot summer in the city is a much better product. But my favourite design of all time is the phrase "Made in Germany". They say German design is efficient and lasts a lifetime. That phrase makes people subconsciously act in a certain way. What the effect of positive preconceptions has on society is just impressive.
FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
FL: I think it was a special edition mug for the brand Nescafe in Germany. But my first thing I created and found in a museum shop was a book called "Room 23" by daab media publishing. The book was a special edition for one of the many Oscar after show parties in L.A., and it featured celebrities from Elton John to Dennis Hopper.
FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
FL: The digital age and its technological endeavours are taking the democratisation of things to the next level. That is the creation of the shared economy for example or the blockchain technology. I would put everything digital in favour to its non-digital predecessor. Mostly of course and with caution I would advocate for the absolute transparency of purchased objects and their environmental footprint.
FS: When do you feel the most creative?
FL: Writing is a great way in which I sense the process of creating something in a much more intense way than with others. But this feeling is nothing compared to the team sessions we have. I prefer creating design or business concepts in teams when we take unusual body postures or when the lights are shut-off. To discuss something in the dark and when you and your team are laying on the floor brings straight to the point questions, you would not expect.
FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
FL: Now I instantly separate the 3 phase of production in digital product design. Pre-prod that is to gather requirements and review our strategy and vision. Mostly that's where all the writing happens and the initial sketching of the products and features. Even a day or two before signing off with all teams in various offices, something rather odd can happen, and I have to redesign sometimes up to 50 scenarios before the development kicks off. That is putting a lot of pressure on timelines and budgets and naturally demands a lot of focus from my side. The production phase is thankfully smoother and can take up to 4 weeks. Sometimes I have a day without any issues, and the teams can work without me being around. The last step is to look into the post-release incidents from customers and read our data. This phase will partly inform our next sets of features and that is the most exciting part for me. That is when we see our mistakes and new opportunities to make a great service a little bit better.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
FL: None. Having started with publishing taught me the unforgiving character of the physical world. I misspelled the name of a fashion design on the spine of a book. That was a very expensive mistake. Now in digital that's a bit less dramatic, but it is still true that every little detail counts. Feeling what our customers might feel is not something I'd describe as an emotion, but that's the state you'd find me in during the design process.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
FL: Pride! And a sense of achievement, that doesn't last very long, because we are sometimes in three simultaneous production phases. But looking into our performances after a product release and seeing the numbers performing better and sometimes in a way we predicted them to change, makes all the work worthwhile.
FS: What makes a design successful?
FL: It might be easier to observe digital design products, and depict what makes them successful than it is with physical objects (not IoT objects). Because we can track our performance in so many different levels and real-time, for example, the responsiveness of a screen, the position of the design elements, the different messages we want to start a conversation about, et.la. Constant improvement makes a design successful when it is inclusive of all the people.
FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
FL: Mostly it is an emotion that hints to a good service or design. Some sort of a eureka moment. I feel impressed by the obvious choice the designer took to answer a question. The opposite emotion is comparable with real life satire. It boils down to simplicity versus overcomplication or overthinking.
FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
FL: Firstly and the most obvious is the need to feel thankful for being allowed and beeing able to do what we do in a world in which inequality has become seemingly less but has worsened instead. Today you can follow artists like Ai Weiwei on Instagram documenting the naked truth of the different ways we can treat people or deem different people less worthy than we are. Design can make a difference and change this. Not today but slowly working towards absolute equality every day. If it is gender quality, accepted in pop culture influencing from the ground upwards or the digitisation of the political systems with blockchain, we can see a tendency that must make us believe we already live in the future and that we must do more to know more about our neighbours.
FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
FL: In 2005, Petr von Blockland proposed the first version of responsive design. Designers in the workshop were shocked and disgusted. A computer would layout the other 90% of possible screen sizes now. That was one hint that even today – real hardcore designers will never accept. The second hint was when PvB said that he come up with the technology as well. He did not wait for "Adobe" to offer something he needed. He asked us to be flexible with technology, use it but also create the technology that is the right one for our needs. Ultimately he argued to extend your tools using technology to design something. That's still true and will be true for the future. The last point is a tendency or pattern I have observed, and that is the increasing need for self-efficiency and self-production or production in general in all households. It will take a while to reach the critical masses. But with the 3-D printing technologies advancing quicker and becoming more affordable, this trend is beeing backed by the internet of things. Thinner and even stretchable electronic components that will allow for smaller computers on everyday objects like jackets, pillows or door handles. And by 2020 consists of over 50 billion objects. The consumer from today will become the producer of tomorrow.
FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
FL: My last exhibition was in 2012 in Cologne with my first employer daab media publishing. If the time allows, I will be back one day.
FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
FL: Observing the next generation, go out with our group and making use of my different cultural backgrounds is how I feed my creativity. I have a big family; my mother has six siblings and my father even more – I think he has got eleven. Growing up in a competitive but protected environment tickles all your creative resources you have I believe. I ty to travel a lot but also shut down my brain with very short but intense mindfulness moments. If you don't panic, you can be the most creative version of yourself
FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
FL: If I look into my work now from seven or nine years ago when I started to become a professional, I can see the Bauhaus influence from my school and the philosophy of Lucius Burckhardt's "Design is invisible." Today I think the same way but added a reasonable bit of how to manage budgets and raise funding or how to be commercially astute with more experience of financial modeling. The design is as much about the way of working as it is about the product itself. So many times I have seen great designs were not being shown to the public because a CEO changed and his or her replacement had to review the product. That meant mostly to freeze it or stop it instantly. I design with the operational side of any business in mind the same way as I take the accountability for customer servicing in all of my product developments. Finally, I'd say that I'm comfortable influencing at C-level and that I have to be an adept technical communicator. I'd call my style Bauhaus 2.0
FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
FL: With Tunisian parents, both growing up in Europe when they were in their teens, I was born in France and mainly grew up in Germany. That trinity of my upbringing was Tunisia, France, and Germany. An efficient francophone Arab. I will always be thankful for all the right things I took from each of the cultures, and it helped me to be a German in the way I thought, wrote and worked. But it was only outside of Germany where I was considered a German – this was a big topic for me until I reached the age of twenty and I started to ignore the concept of nation states. Mainly because I was never fully accepted in any of the countries. When I was thirty and traveled to London for the first time, I felt home like I have never felt in thirty years. From an emotional side, that was a big revelation to me, and I can not imagine living anywhere else at the moment than London. The way I design is still German, and I love that.
FS: How do you work with companies?
FL: The best is to get a spot as close as possible to the product and the customer. And if possible to create a sense of "Mannschaft". to include the right minds and make working together easier by pulling down barriers. I have seen companies are not communicating with their offices abroad, and I happily acted as a mediator. Sometimes that's what we do, but ideally, you do not want to work in that kind of environment. I will always try to strike the best possible outcome between the companies capabilities and the minimum a customer expects today from a new product. That can be a very high standard depending on each industry. I can help startups to make the right decisions on the quality of the call centres, for example, to assist them in saving cash in the initial phase so that they can release a compelling product without the panic of running our os money. That has always worked out for them.
FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
FL: There is no rush – You will not make a good decision by overthinking something nor will you be by rushing things. The Designer of today is not the same as he or she was ten years ago. They are very flexible which can be an advantage; they do not need to come to the office every day – because that's not what a good designer should do in the first place – right? Designers are becoming more and more aware of their abilities to create their companies and products. It will become increasingly hard to hire great talents on a permanent basis, and if you happen to have found someone you believe can treat your service/product and customers in a sustainable and relevant way, then you should consider yourself lucky and enjoy the time together.
FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
FL: From a digital product design perspective, most people are aware of the appropriate ways of working. They can vary from agile to duo agile work streams and allow to ungroup innovation work streams from the day to day business. There is a lot of planning involved, and that can span a time of two years considering the changing data protection legislations, the definition of personal data and even the increasing level of authentication needed for payments and bank transactions. That means that we try to become quicker in the things we do know and put more caution in the things we don't know so well. In general, this is forcing us to release more but smaller improvements in a quicker way. That makes the product look fresh all the time and because we constantly talk to our customers our langue style changed and our tone of voices has been modified to mimic our conversation styles.
FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
FL: The Fritz Hansen genuine B table by Pathein and Bruno Matheson, the iPhone 5S, the Little Printer by Berg, the Bourgie Take by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell and the La Marie chair by Philippe Starck
FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
FL: I rush through all my notifications on the phone, using various calendars and think about what time of the week it is. Shower before coffee. I can get ready for the office without rushing. In the tube, and on the way to the office I do not consume any information because the tube is busy enough. The breakfast is usually a pear juice or two, and then I can start the day. My fiancee and I enjoy to laugh a lot, so I do text some silly messages when I'm on my way to one of our suppliers. That can be a design review in the morning with our agency Nimbletank near Hatton Gardens or our research partner Foolproof near Old Street. Back in the office I usually have a brief conversation with our CEO and COO before I design a concept for a new revenue stream. Working together with our head of sales we do plan to conquer the world, and that's the exciting part of the day. We usually close the day in a review session with the core team. These sessions look tough, and the make me sweat a lot. That's the official end of the day – which will most suitability end up in one of the traditional pubs near Bank Station.
FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
FL: You will encounter crap in your life – that's criticism, rejection, a***** and pressure. That is normal and natural in our environment. It is important to appreciate these forces but also to put them in perspective and never panic. In many ways, we can describe them as noise and will become more silent over time – Don't panic. Enjoy every moment you are one of few.
FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
FL: I can attribute a certain amount of meaning in my life to the fact that I design something for a lot of people. Sometimes products and services for millions of individuals on a daily basis. That can be a boost in your life whenever you need it. My partner would say that she can't watch a movie without me commenting on the screenplay or virtually anything that is being presented on screen. I do complain about many things, services and also about the level unpoliteness or lack of form we encounter today. I try to reduce the articulation of these frustrations every year a little bit more.
FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
FL: Be practical – be flexible – enjoy. Our landscape is changing on a daily basis, and some rules need to step aside from time to time to get to the next level.
FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
FL: Observing goes along with listening and the ability to empathise because design is a service and it is not about personal feelings in the first place.
FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
FL: Lucius Burckhardt's rules to start with as a source of inspiration as well as my parents who work so incredibly hard – they remind me how important it is to take a break now and then to enjoy the things we are designing for, a better life. I'm leading in all the tools of the trade from Agile, Jira, Basecamp, Slack, AppSee, Parse, Swift, Sketch, POP prototype, Hype, Adobe, MS Office and Glyphs Font Editor.
FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
FL: In the past, I took on everything I could and never said no to anything, because I wanted to create something. I quickly felt the positive and adverse effects of that approach. Today I am part of a good team that faced a similar issue. One has to focus on getting the right people on board, and that does save valuable time and hard earned funding.
FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
FL: In the digital proposition phase with a light prototype, it can take up to three weeks. It is possible to do it in two, but that will require a perfect project setup and an experienced team working together for each other. Releases, on the other hand, can take 3 to 4 or even more months.
FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
FL: And you may replace the ellipsis with any possible request. I try to answer the questions before the arise and document my work for all possible teams and locations. At one point I granted access of a product to our call centre team in Romania weeks before the release. That did not reduce the questions but made people feel more included.
FS: What was your most important job experience?
FL: It is important to reduce the panic in a room and start by asking the right questions and plan a project to the last detail before the team members are being confronted with the issue. My experience at daab media publishing was important to me because we had no deadlines. We produced and designed until the product was perfect. The appreciation for the physical object and the level of attention one had to dedicate shaped my attitude to the work but also what I expect from my peers, partners and even leadership.
FS: Who are some of your clients?
FL: NatWest, FIAT FCA, Reneé Burri, Ai Weiwei, Daab Media, Santander, Visa Europe, Toyota, Lexus International, Saatchi&Saatchi, Publicis, Unilever
FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
FL: The solving of complexity, or rearranging disjoint to something meaningful and more accessible for people.
FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
FL: To get an e-money licence and create a finance product that will help every person in the world to grew wealth and live a healthy and educated lifestyle in balance with our recources.
FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
FL: I have an idea or vision of things but I can step back with the exact execution of ideas and work out the right propositions with the team. That brings two sides to light, design in committee, which must be stopped with polite but clear voice and the fact that you win more advocates for the core purpose of your product when everyone adds a relevant part to it.
FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
FL: Currently, I'm working on a board game to increase to quality of debating together with my partner. It all has a behavioural touch to it and some game theory. We hope to complete our first prototype this weekend and later test it with a wider audience.
FS: How can people contact you?
FL: The quickest way is via Linkedin. Just enter my name Fayssal Loussaief. You won't find many with this name – that's an advantage for me. I'm good in replying emails: email@example.com
FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
FL: I have a positive view on how we evolve with design, digital, and technology and think we'll see very impressive generations ahead of ours making a great difference. I'm looking forward to witnessing this.
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