André Gouveia is the founder of design studio Inngage. The firm recently won a Red Dot Award for their beautiful design of the Natura stove (Fogo Montanha.) I spoke with Gouveia from his studio in Portugal. Here’s what he had to say.
Every day is a different day so it’s hard to find a pattern. I’m always running between the office management, working with the team, thinking creatively, meeting with clients, getting new clients and following up the industrial production of our products. I also teach Product Design at the University of Lisbon (Faculdade de Belas Artes) where I spend about a third of my week.
We are a team of five and we work with some freelancers (research, design, and engineering). It’s fair to say that our office is somehow chaotic but in a good way. I like to call it our war room: full of things, prototypes, sketches, ideas. It’s a fun place.
I’m always very optimistic in the morning. I try to get to the office before everybody else so I can take care of bureaucratic work and organize the day.
We design to make sense. We design product experiences, this means we start with the product with a holistic approach, paying attention to every interaction between the user and the product. Everything we do must be a better experience to people, must have its place in the market, and needs to be feasible.
Our business is focused on making other businesses great. We are extremely focused on designing products and experiences that are better for people, fit for the market and possible for the industry to produce. If the thing we design covers this 3 areas it will work. If it works, our clients’ businesses will be better, and as a consequence, our own business will also grow. It’s a win-win situation.
At the end of the day, we are a business and we need to be profitable but we also need to do the things we love and care about. All my background is in creativity, design and innovation. I don’t have an MBA or something like that, so I’m still learning how to run a business effectively, it’s like a hands-on workshop in real time!
Doing great work is the way for business growth.
I love design, every bit of it. From the initial conversations with the clients to the research and strategy, till the actual design of products, prototyping, testing, and so on. I love the failures we make throughout the process: it’s where we really learn about what we are doing. And I also love seeing my business grow and the team happy about the work we do, plus the culture we nurture.
Our selling time sometimes takes one year. The product design and innovation recipe needs trust and I can meet a prospect this month and only close the deal after 12 months. Time is needed to gain trust and confidence; we need both to have a good fit between us and the client. I can estimate that about 60% of my time is dedicated to the business side.
We are working on a system that aims to disrupt the way people do laundry. We are also designing a new self-service ATM system for banking, a smart oven that involves the internet of things, off-road bikes protections and accessories, fitness equipment for smart gyms, LED lighting fixtures, a new system for bridge games, and so on. INNGAGE doesn’t have one single field of expertise: we work on everything.
We never start with a blank sheet of paper. We start with the opportunities we find during research, so when we need to be creative we already know why are we solving this problem and the constraints we need to work with. Believe it or not, this makes our creative process much easier and fun.
(When asked about a dream project) In South Africa, there are 60,000 people injured by paraffin stoves every year and this is scary. There must be a solution for this and I would love to be a part of it.
(When asked about a favorite designed object) Every object is designed! I believe that we don’t have pieces that we can call design pieces and others that we call nondesign pieces. Every piece/object goes through some process of design. The question should be if the piece is well designed or badly designed.
I can select a product for its functional side like my vernier caliper from Kanon that belonged to my grandfather; he worked his entire life with cork and used it to measure the thickness of the products. He passed it onto me and I still use it every day. It has almost 50 years and works perfectly. For me what is fascinating is that we work with 3d printing a lot, cutting-edge technology for prototyping. But in the end, we still rely on a 50 years old tool to check if everything went OK with the 3D printed piece.
On a more personal level, I feel so good looking every day to my Wishbone chairs from Hans Wegner. Wegner is a master of design that I really respect and these chairs never get old or out of fashion: it’s incredible.
What’s something that might surprise us by the design community in Portugal?
The diversity for sure. We have the most talented designers out here, in my opinion. Because there are no “secure jobs” for designers we are always hassling and this makes us really prepared to dive into any problem or challenge. We can find everything in Portugal, a more artistic approach to design, a consultancy way to introduce design in companies, companies focused on design thinking and innovation, other focused on pushing the boundaries of materials into new products. And you can also find a Portuguese designer in any of the major companies around the world; there’s always one Portuguese on the team!