The Questions | George Daniels, IDSA | Hewlett-Packard (HP)

Based in Houston, George Daniels, IDSA is design navigator at the HP Enterprise Design and Customer Experience Center. He is primarily responsible for the development of HP Enterprise Design strategy and its tactical implementation for all HP Enterprise hardware products and much of its software, which represents one-third of HP’s global business. His team’s core competencies include industrial design, human factors and user experience design.

We talked with Daniels about how design is currently positioned at HP, an IDSA Patron, and learned a bit about his management philosophies and the design trends he is following.

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Do you view your work more in terms of creating culture or creating value for business?

I do not consider these two areas mutually exclusive.  My role in leading experience design for HP Enterprise hardware and software requires me to do both.  

First and foremost, I see the need to create and drive a culture of innovation, both within my team and within HP. The business is all about time-to-market, budgets and delivering on schedule products and services people desire and will pay for. There is no CIO, meaning chief innovation officer, within HP. So my senior management looks to me to drive that and inspire others to do the same.

Additionally, if we as designers are to establish our own value, especially in an engineering-based culture like HP, we must establish the value that design brings to the table. How can design differentiate us from the competition in markets that eventually become commodities? To me that means creating the best customer experience in the business and creating a passion for your products that customers cannot evade.

How broadly is the design function being used at HP outside of the normal product development role?

Design in the HP Enterprise space is not just involved in products and interfaces for customers, but in the design of what we call our “Customer Experience Center” where we bring in major accounts for presentations. I was asked to participate in the design of the area including the physical space, overall theme and ambiance, colors, furniture, media choices, etc. working with an outside firm.  

I am currently helping marketing hire their first product management person to help drive user experience inside the company. There is no precedent, no existing job description nor defined educational background.

The company is asking my team to develop an overall user experience strategy, uniting the product hardware with the management software for the first time. This is quite a challenge considering the diversity and complexity of the software applications we currently sell.

Is there a single guiding principle you use to manage your design team at HP?

Yes….that it is my job to create an open, non-intimidating environment where creativity is encouraged; where there are no failures, only new ideas; and where my people have the tools to do their job to the best of their abilities.  It's not been stated anywhere that I've worked before but I believe the most important things I can do is to encourage great design, to build morale and to allow our people to be the best they can be.

What emerging design trend are you most excited about?

I see the boundaries that used to separate designers—or pigeonhole them into either product, graphic, interaction, user interface, etc.—blurring into experience design.  For instance, the first user interface designer I hired has a dual degree in architecture and graphic design.  We also now call our team Experience Design because that is the new era…really not new but newly recognized.  We were in the “information era,” and now we are in the “experience era.”

As most of us know, and Apple recognized long ago, tools like the iPhone are really portals to the experience.  While nicely designed tools, they complement and enhance the experience that Apple sells. Our team is made up of traditional core competencies of industrial design, human factors, graphic design and user experience or interaction design. I do not restrict or limit their engagement in programs on the basis of their core competencies. The broader experience they have, the better...for us and them...it's a win/win scenario.