AKQA Design Director: How An Hour In A Government Office Changed My Outlook On Design

AKQA Design Director: How An Hour In A Government Office Changed My Outlook On Design

In a design career that’s taken her around the globe, Ros Horner [feature image] has had the opportunity to work with top brands such as Adidas and global agencies like Wunderman and SapientNitro. Now AKQA’s design director, Horner tells B&T why an hour in a government immigration office helped change her career.

Ros Horner has worked in London, Amsterdam and New York. But it was a government immigration office where she learnt one of her most important lessons – the value of diversity in design.

“It’s our job as designers and technologist not just to seek out and work in diverse multi-disciplined teams, but to understand the diverse needs and circumstances of customers,” she tells B&T.

“One hour as a customer in a government immigration office, where every interaction was self-service on a screen, taught me more about design than anything else I can remember.

“Design is decision making, and even with rigorous research and testing processes, we can’t help but bring our own perspective and viewpoint when designing.

“If your team is made up of people with the same background and experience as you then you are limiting the quality and impact of what you’re creating.”

It is Horner’s opinion that as an industry, we are still prioritising profits over inclusion.

“There is always a time and cost pressure when creating digital experiences,” she says.

“So, we tend to prioritise our own expertise and previous learnings over deeply understanding or researching another point of view or way of experiencing the world.”

The solution?

“Diverse teams enable us to quickly get more insight and a variety of perspectives into the work, and along with solid research practices go a long way to creating more useful and usable products and services,” Horner explains.

“Diversity of thought, experience, gender, culture, age, race is absolutely vital in the design process.”

Leading the way

Talking about diversity in technology and design is one thing. Putting effective strategies into place is another.

Horner puts it to the industry leaders to start changing the tide.

“I don’t care what the motivation is for tech leaders promoting diversity, it has proven impact on innovative work, happier employees, increased revenue,” she says.

“But people working in organisations need to hear their leaders speaking about diversity consistently and often and see plans being put into action,” she says.

“To really have a long term impact on gender balance in tech every part of a business needs to be considered, internship programs, hiring processes, pay and benefits, org structures, staff allocation, and this holistic change can only really come from senior leaders working together.”

Continue the conversation and hear from some of Australia’s leading female technologists at B&T’s inaugural Women Leading Tech awards gala lunch on 8 April 2020 at Linseed House, The Grounds of Alexandria, 7a/2 Huntley St, Alexandria.



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