Starting Over: From Designer to Consultant

Clive Grinyer’s career includes stints at brands including Samsung, Orange and Barclays but he is now going it alone as a consultant. We talk to him about why this is the “best time in design” he’s seen

Clive Grinyer

If you’re looking to find out how the design world has changed over the past three decades, there are a few wiser minds to draw on than Clive Grinyer. In many ways, Grinyer’s CV reads as a story of how the focus of the industry has changed in 30 years, moving from an emphasis on design as the creation of objects or products to design as a way for us to experience the world, most often through digital technology.

In his early career, Grinyer was a product designer, co-founding the design firm Tangerine alongside Jonathan Ive, before moving to Samsung, where he designed the first mobile phones for the brand in Europe. After moves to Orange and then to Cisco and later Barclays, he found the design work he was creating became increasingly invisible as he became involved in customer experience and service design. “You want everything just to work,” he says of the designs he created at these organisations, “the best customer experiences are invisible and work exactly as you would imagine they would work. Without somebody jumping up and down and saying ‘look at me’.”

Throughout has been an interest in demystifying the world of design for others, which has led naturally to his latest role as a design consultant, working in sectors as varied as financial services and with the government. His aim is to illuminate how thinking about design at the beginning of projects will create better outcomes, as well as saving time and money along the way.

“Early on it struck me that there were lots of ways design was really much more important to any type of organisation than they realise, and that realisation would really unlock their creativity and unlock a lot of the problems they’ve got and help them solve them,” he says. “That’s not the same as saying that design saves the world but it’s a bloody useful thing that I think people can embrace and learn from, more than they realise.

Aphrodite Music System, designed for TAG McLaren

“And also open the door to brilliant designers,” he continues. “I think as a designer it can be very frustrating when the world has already made all the decisions that prevent you from doing great design. That happened a lot when I was a product designer because if you’re designing a product, there’s questions of investment, and also, ‘how many people are we designing something for – is it one or a million?’ These make total difference … your creativity could either be horribly stifled or massively empowered by decisions that other people had made without realising there was a consequence of that decision. That always really interested me.”