We are very excited about our brand new digital venture – Conran Singh.
It’s an entirely new design-led business within the Conran Group that will give brands strategic advice and interactive design thinking.
Stephen Barber joins Daljit Singh as Strategy Director – over a coffee at The Design Museum he tells us a bit more about what’s going on at Conran’s newest company…
How would you describe CONRAN Singh?
We’re an interactive design consultancy. We’re convinced that design should be elegant, simple and effective regardless of the medium and we’re paying special attention to how digital services and utilities can make life easier for people.
Do you think it’s possible for a company whose history is so firmly rooted in retail, product design and architecture to extend its reach to the digital world?
I really don’t think it’s such a stretch. Most retailers – Conran included – are already selling things on the web, and they’ll be selling them through social networks, mobile devices and TV before too much longer. That innate knowledge of knowing how to sell things works just as well on a screen as it does in a physical shop.
And product designers are all over this too – one of the things I’ve noticed during my career in digital is the diverse backgrounds of the people you meet working in agencies. Many of the digital designers I know started out by studying product design, and then felt that it translated over to this new medium. If you think about it, designing for the screen has a lot of things in common with designing real-world products: we think about the tactility of the interface – how it feels, how it looks, and how it behaves; and then we think about the things that are going to attract people to it in the first place.
As for architecture, it’s clear that when you talk about digital now you’re not just talking about people sitting in front of screens in their homes or at work, but out there in the world, doing the things that they’ve always done. We just have many more digital ‘helpers’ doing things for us – phones, laptops, apps – and these are starting to shape how we interact with the built environment. We’ve seen lots of people trying out new things in retail environments recently (check out this nice prototype by a team from Hyper Island: http://vimeo.com/18499643 ) but I’d suggest that we’ll start to see real digital utility and service start to integrate with the very fabric of the buildings we occupy before too much longer…
What are you working on at the moment?
We’re busy creating the DNA for the company, really. I mean, we’re having all sorts of interesting conversations with other businesses about how we can help them, but we’re also at that point in starting something where what we decide now is going to influence the next few years of our working lives. So it’d better be good!
What’s been the best thing you have done so far in your digital career?
Some of the best things I’ve done have never even seen the light of day, that’s the sad reality of working in a digital agency. I’ve helped one of our largest education companies redefine what it means to be a qualified learner by thinking about measuring learning differently – that was one of my favourite things, but the proposition we worked on was never taken up.
Probably the best thing recently has been working with a Middle Eastern airline to help them design the best airline web site in the world. Did you know that if you’re a first class passenger, you get to take your falcon on board with you?!
What’s the most exciting thing about being part of CONRAN?
I love the fact that you’re working within this immense design heritage when you sit in the CONRAN building. It’s everywhere around you, and our opportunity is to start to pull together some of the strands of the different businesses and tie them into a single consolidated offering that takes the best bits of product design, branding, architecture, digital thinking, and mashes them up into a unique, problem-solving design consultancy. Daljit has his own inimitable way of describing this: if you see him, just ask him about his döner kebab…