Interview with Deborah Nas and Anna Filippi

Design Things That Make Sense – Interview with Deborah Nas & Anna Filippi

“Too many tech products simply don’t make sense and fail. I made it my mission to help tech innovators do better.” – Deborah Nas, author of Design Things That Make Sense.

Deborah Nas is a technology enthusiast, entrepreneur, keynote speaker and thought leader in technology-based innovation. She is a Professor at Delft University of Technology, a visiting Professor at Politecnico di Milano, and holds several board positions. In her new book, Design Things That Make Sense, Deborah transforms her 25 years of experience into a guide for practitioners working in tech innovation. The book introduces a human-centered approach to developing successful new products and services, seeking to answer questions such as: Why do so many new tech products fail? How can technology be applied in a meaningful way? What accelerates technology adoption?

Alongside her work as a Strategic Design Consultant at Qindle, Anna Filippi has been working with Deborah on the book and contributed to its research and design.

To mark its official launch, we spoke to Deborah and Anna about the book, and their motivations behind taking on such a project.

Deborah, how did it all start? What drew you into the field of strategic design for technology-based innovation?

Deborah: I was trained as a strategic designer at the Delft University of Technology and ever since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by the way technology affects our lives. My whole career, I’ve been working on innovation projects together with corporates and startups. I especially enjoyed working on the projects in which we applied new technologies to unlock new value for users. Over time, I made technology-based innovation my specialty. With technologies developing at lightning speed and tech startups disrupting almost every industry, this is a highly relevant topic.

What are your motivations behind writing the book Design Things that Make Sense, and what do you hope to bring to the world of innovation?

Deborah: When I began teaching at Delft University of Technology, I realized that a practical knowledge source for designing successful tech products was lacking. Much has been written about designing products in general, but technology-based innovation brings its own unique challenges.

Combining theory, my experience from practice, and many case studies, I defined a set of design strategies to help innovators develop better tech products. Over 70% of tech startups fail, often because of a mismatch between product features and customer needs. Their products simply don’t make sense to their target audience. The book Design Things That make Sense presents 24 design strategies to strengthen product benefits and 13 design strategies to mitigate consumer resistance. They will help innovators to design products that make sense; products that people love to use and continue using.

Anna, what motivated you to collaborate with Deborah on the book? 

Anna: I have a passion for research. I’m curious by nature, especially when it comes to consumer psychology and behavior. Technology is becoming integral to our lives, yet it sparks strong reactions – even resistance – in people. I believe we’re now at a point where it will be difficult to participate in society, without embracing technology.

There is a huge opportunity for design to play a role in this transformation. Design can help to turn the wealth of technology into value for people and our society. This book contributes to this mission, and guides practitioners on how to design things that are valuable, and ‘make sense’ for consumers and the world.

In addition, working with an expert like Deborah helped me to learn and grow as a researcher and designer. There’s no substitute for direct, hands-on, person-to-person learning, and this experience is has given me valuable knowledge for my future professional journey.

Deborah, tell us about your next steps to achieving this goal?

Deborah: Publishing a book is a great start, but insufficient to make an impact. Therefore, I intend to write blogs and articles, share case studies, give presentations and train innovation teams in working with the methodology and the design strategies. My dream is to grow an active community of tech innovators that use the methodology, share knowledge and help each other to develop better tech products.

Anna, what are the key take outs from this experience that you can apply in your daily work at Qindle?

Anna: I had the chance to learn about a whole range of innovations – what worked, and what didn’t. It was exciting to be involved in creating practical strategies for successful tech innovations from real-world case studies. These are both inputs that I can directly apply to my work at Qindle, where we often look to industry to inspire our own creative solutions.

“Design Things That Make Sense” is now available in the Netherlands. Use the code TechInnovator to get a discount. Valid until June 4.

For international purchases, preorder the book here. Available from June 24.

If you would like to know more about Deborah and the book, visit her page: designthingsthatmakesense.com