How Belkin’s Oliver Seil Approaches Industrial Design, Works in the New Normal
Oliver Seil, vice president of design at Belkin, has given a lot of thought to the future of the office (at home or out). After all, it’s his job as a designer. We caught up with Seil to talk about industrial design, skills, office space, and the importance of USB-C to avoid clutter, among other things.
Here are some key points from our discussion of how Belkin approach work and design.
What does it take to be a designer? Seil noted:
It’s almost impossible to define in one way for everyone because there are so many different ways to be a good designer. But the key ideas you need to have are a sense of empathy and a keen sense of curiosity about how people think and how to empathize with a situation so that you can resolve issues. You have to love problem-solving, so a good industrial designer is someone who listens very carefully and pays attention to the needs of others. A healthy sense of artistic creativity is certainly necessary, but these are the fundamentals that you must have.
The future of the office is a bit distant. Seil said:
What was so amazing was how easily most people were able to adjust to not being in the office. It’s really lucky because if it had happened a few years ago, we wouldn’t have had the same capacity to do videoconferencing; we wouldn’t have had the ability to put 10 people on one screen at the same time. We were missing some of the basic technology that we had, so we’re actually pretty lucky that it’s available to most people at an affordable price.
We find that productivity is really, really high from home. It has to do with the basic idea that you have a little more freedom to design your day. Some people start earlier, they finish later, they have more flexibility during the day.
We would be foolish not to carry over to the future some of this new learning about productivity at home. I think it’s clear that you can be very productive at home and you only need to be in the office maybe part of the time.
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What are you missing out on working from home?
We’ve done a lot of soul searching and research into what people look for in the office: why do they come to the office? Why is going to the office an attractive idea? We find that while some people may exist pretty much all the time working from home and that’s not a big deal, we find that the design team really suffers to some extent from the lack of unintended collaboration and also provides for collaboration. Designers must be communicators. Designers must be collaborators. Designers have to work with each other and the feedback loop of working with another person is an incredibly happy and productive exchange, so the idea that as a designer you have to be very practical, so come back to the office to It’s essential for us to collaborate and really push each other as we think about what we’re working on.
Home office and remote office equipment will be different. He said:
The head office is now a multiple of many of the size and reach of the head office offices, so now instead of having a large office building for a head office you now have hundreds and hundreds mini-offices. They all need to be outfitted according to the user’s needs, so we find that dockside products are extremely important because you want to avoid the amount of cables you have and the multitude of power adapters.
We collect sets of products that can help people. We’re finding ways to articulate the value proposition of products that more easily connect home working in a more compact space, and are more ergonomic, all of these things matter.
But generally, office space is precious. We care about how things look. We don’t want them to be ugly. We want them to be accessible and easy to use, and we want you to feel smart when using them. All of these things apply whether it’s a commercial product that sits on your desk, in an office building, or at home.
USB-C is important. Seil said:
For years and years we’ve been touting the values of USB-C, and it takes years and years for it to truly become something people are comfortable with, but we have it. now really seen settling everywhere. The idea that you can really replace multiple kinds of connectivity solutions with just one kind of cable and plug is slowly but surely here it’s catching on to every office.
Hospitality Products, thanks to the fact that Thunderbolt has also adopted the C connector, there are technologies that have converged that really allow people to invest in a docking solution that is small, compact, and allows all of your peripherals to be connected. ‘be connected without too much hassle. need to have a multitude of other cables.
Planning ahead means betting on technology, not future devices. Seil explained:
As a tech company, what we’ve accepted as one of our realities is that we really need to know about future technologies and maybe it’s a little different from future devices. Devices would incorporate new technology and we often have no idea what is going on until we hear it like everyone else does. The way we deal with this is that we are investing heavily to just be well informed about all future technologies. We have teams of experts who could speak knowledgeably and be part of industry forums and technology forums where these things are being developed.
We couldn’t make this work if we just waited for the devices to show up. It just wouldn’t work, right? We were involved in the creation of USB-C technology, so we knew how to do it from the start.