Interview with Rudolf Greger

Über Rudolf T. A. Greger

Loft Design

Rudolf T. A. Greger is an Austrian designer and design philosopher. His mission is to improve people's lives, his vocation is designer, his profession is management designer. Over the past 30 years he has worked as a designer in corporate design/branding, product design, UX/CX/interaction design and service design. Rudolf is a prolific author who has written numerous books about innovation, service design, and how to build a better business model.

We caught up with Rudolf right before the New Year in his office in Vienna.

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LOFT:
Rudolf, we've known each other for a very long time, can we go back in history and talk about your journey to innovation management? How did you end up with service design? Is it something that you always practiced or was there a long journey? When was the first time when you said: “Well, I wish I could help this client a little better”. When was the first time you discovered the service design framework? Maybe we can talk about that?

Rudolf T. A. Greger:
The point is that I have never distinguished between the various design disciplines. I encountered Industrial Design when I first read an article about Luigi Colani and another one about Raymond Loewy.

Loewy did so many things, different things that I thought to myself, an industrial designer can design flatware, cars, trains, coke bottles, corporate logos for Spar, BP and Shell, but also gas service stations and the interior of the Concord and the Skylab and everything. 

So a designer designs everything. And so that's what I want to do. That's why it was called Industrial Design. So I tried to find out where I could study industrial design, which led me to the University for Applied Arts.

Even as the education was just focused on strictly products, I always had a broader perspective and over the years wrote a few books, “6 Sentences About Design”, and prior “Designing in Marketing - a Methodology”. I proposed that we should think about objects, artifacts, processes and services when we think about products, and these days most of the time products are a mixture of all three components. 

So how did I come to service design? In a sense, I always used the framework, even before it was explicitly named service design. When we started our design business in 1992, then called gregerpauschitz and later renamed to GP designpartners, we wrote a book called integrated designing. I updated and republished it in 2002 for the 20th anniversary of GP designpartners, it is available on Amazon under the title integrated designing – reflected.

If you design a door handle, then you will need to consider how people interact with the door. The experience is more important than the physical shape of the handle. Wrongfully designed handles need additional band aids (like signs to push etc) Therefore designers always have to consider the greater context of their creation.

Massimo Vignelli is right, when he said once, “if a designer can design one thing, he can design everything.”

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LOFT:
I think you agree! Industrial designers are the Swiss Army knife of designers. We will add a link to your book at the end of the interview, everybody should buy it. It really has its place in the market, because using the business model canvas is a pretty complex endeavor. Your book caters towards a very practical kind of audience which might be intimidated by the overall framework, you have a good way to dissect it and make it more actionable. Congratulations!

I'm gonna ask the first question. Just to dig a little deeper, your insights are always invaluable. You have been a design consultant for 30 years focusing on services design and innovation management. What do you see as the biggest challenge that companies must overcome to innovate in the current post COVID market conditions? 

Rudolf T. A. Greger:
I see two big challenges which, while omnipresent, COVID has magnified and they have become even more challenging. In the last years, it has become more and more obvious that companies often don't know Why they are doing something. Simon Sinek is correct, if you don’t know the answer then you can’t be successful in building the right product or attracting the right talent.

Most companies ask. What do you want? And the user responds: A faster horse, A better Blackberry. But the entrepreneur — and one good benchmark is Apple under Steve Jobs — observes what people might want and interprets their behavior to build revolutionary products. Nokia asked people what they wanted and people said the better Blackberry, so Nokia brought them a better designed Blackberry. This is not what people really wanted. They really wanted a smartphone but at the time nobody could imagine that it was possible to have a keyboard on a screen.

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LOFT:
Going back to your current client base? How do you use your knowledge in guiding them? What's your typical answer when you are getting involved in a process that is misguided?

Rudolf T. A. Greger:
First I try to interpret why a client does what they do. Understand the boundary conditions and how a company can find their Why. I am currently working with a tech CEO who wants to leverage AI to use electricity more efficiently. He is on the mission to stop climate change. The company’s board and management however want to mainly push that consumers can save money by using their App. We finally settled on a UI that increased transparency around energy consumption, that way both wings of the management team were on-board.

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LOFT:
This is very interesting. We are talking about a Trojan horse strategy. A good example is Alexa. Amazon knows that voice can supplant the smartphone, so it wants to be first in building an ecosystem to deliver their goods and services. Or Nest which is giving you the convenience of controlling your thermostat. But in the end, it’s really about consumer data. Users get sold on benefits, but companies make money on the ecosystems. That’s where service design comes in.

What advice do you give companies that never worked with a service design framework?

Rudolf T. A. Greger:
Start using such a framework is better than not at all, even if you only use it partially. Better, of course, is you start with the guidance of a knowledgeable person, for instance, a designer. And best is, you know your "why" so you get your team and customers more energized. And then you begin to realize your vision, what you want to achieve, which becomes more rewarding for the company itself and for the people.

Using such a framework means that you can slip into the skin of your customers, you act from the point of view of your customers. The good entrepreneur, the good manager most of the time knows what would be best for the customer. But he knows also that it is often more expensive and harder to do. Therefore he sees increasingly a conflict, that’s natural. Therefore the function of the service designer is, to push the entrepreneur in the right direction, reinforce what he already knows. Make the entrepreneur listen to their inner voice.

More information and links to purchase the books can be found here:

https://rudolfgreger.at/

9 Steps toward a better Business Model: Instructions for Business-Model-Canvas

integrated designing - reflected

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