Brothers Brett and Sven Newman: both designers, both alumni of Stanford d.School, and both leading social innovation and design consultancy Daylight Design. With expertise in building digital experiences and physical products, the brothers’ shared vision is for the Daylight team to create meaningful experiences through digital media, physical products, social innovation and brand strategy, using human-centered design to drive impact.
Some of Daylight’s recent work includes a complete overhaul of the branding for Wickr, the messaging app that leaves no communication trail, helping keep employee and executive communications tightly under wraps. Daylight also recently redesigned South Korea’s fastest growing foodie tech startup Mango Plate, reimagining the app’s UI, UX and branding such that downloads increased from 400K to more than 2.2 million.
We talked with Brett and Sven to find out more about their prior experience at Azud and IDEO, the leaps it took to make Daylight a reality, and their thoughts on design’s contribution in the world today.
How would you describe Daylight’s work in just three words?
Different, Better, Right
Sven: Inspired, Impactful, Diverse
What’s the philosophy at Daylight?
Brett: Only do work we believe in.
Sven: Good work begets good work. We are very intentional in the work we do. Close to half our work is social impact work. And all our work is for clients we genuinely believe in.
What led to your founding of Daylight in 2007?
Brett: Sven and I had long discussed starting up a consultancy together. We graduated from Stanford’s d.school within a year of each other, after which I left for Barcelona with my Spanish wife and was putting down roots there. I was heading up product development for Azud, a large agricultural products company. We had two kids, bought a house and I was developing a taste for Fideuà (a strange local dish). After Stanford, Sven spent seven years at IDEO and had assumed a leadership position. We were in fact so comfortable in our respective lives that we realized that we would soon pass the point of no return and that if we didn’t take the leap, it might never happen.
Sven: Before we started Daylight, we were at a point in our careers where we were leading the teams that were leading the teams that were actually doing design work. In our heart of hearts we were happiest when we were able to roll up our sleeves and design. By starting something small, we were able to harness our large-firm experience but provide small-firm service. And have a more fun, meaningful experience doing it.
What would you say makes your firm stand out from the pack?
Brett: We only do work we believe in. Because we believe in it, we hold ourselves to super high standards of doing great design.
Sven: Big-firm know-how with small-firm service. As a small group of designers who cut their teeth working at top global firms, we have strong experience, but are able to focus on work we really believe in.
Your areas of expertise range from building digital experiences to creating physical products—and your clients range from Unicef to Instagram. Is there a common thread in all of your client work?
Brett: The human-centered design process, or design thinking.
All of our work starts with understanding human needs and developing solutions that resonate with those needs.
Sven: While our designers certainly have different craft depths, our work is surprisingly blurred. Physical products are mashed up with digital experiences. Digital products end up being part of a broader service experience design. And so on. By having a range of design tools, it makes it easier for us to design what’s needed rather than simply wielding a hammer and treating every challenge like a nail.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned this past year?
Brett: Designers and their work are part of a larger system. To effect meaningful impact, we need to think holistically about the system and how our contribution influences it.
Sven: There is great synergy between design thinking and systems thinking. Systems thinking helps you figure out where to act, and design thinking helps you figure out how to act. Systems thinking helps you find the opportunity areas which have the greatest potential leverage if you can create inspired, effective solutions. Design thinking harnesses the creativity and empathy of human-centered design to do just that.
What do you consider to be your team’s biggest win of the past year?
Brett: Getting the Munich and Seoul Daylight offices to San Francisco for three weeks of collaboration including a one-day, all Daylight hackathon.
Sven: Creating Daylight Europe. With studios in the United States, Asia and now Europe, we are better able to serve clients across the globe. And having offices in San Francisco, Seoul and Munich is a great cultural experience for our team.
What are your hopes for the future of the firm?
Brett: We don’t want to grow for growth’s sake, but we do want to grow as designers with the goal of effecting even greater impact.
Sven: Sustained positive impact, with lots of bold, fun experiments along the way.
Any words of wisdom for other designers or firm owners?
Brett: Design your life, always.
Sven: Iterate relentlessly
Despite what many think, user experience is not just the domain of designers. What is more, it definitely does not stop at the user interface. Creating a great user experience involves people from across an organization coming together. So whether you are a designer, developer, project manager or marketer this presentation is for you.
In this workshop, user experience expert Paul Boag reveals the truth behind this misunderstood subject. He encourages you not to stop at designing screens but take UX further than ever before. Most of all he equips you with the tools you need to put user experience at the heart of your organization.