When craft meets problem solving: a design career path

It can be useful to think about a career in design as not just a craft, but a method of problem solving. These two threads have featured together throughout the 25-year career of Sam Daley, Liquid’s Head of Product.

But he’s not the only designer who’s familiar with this theme. Sam recently joined a panel of peers to give their insights into what a modern design career looks like, and all spoke of their winding paths.

The online session, hosted by UQ, also featured Dr James Novak, a biomedical designer and senior research fellow at the Herston Biofabrication Institute, Jennifer Michelmore, CEO of urban design studio THI, and Costa Kassab, art director at Ludo Studio — the home of everyone’s favourite Blue Heeler pup, Bluey.

The message from the speakers was clear: no two design careers will be the same, but there is one key feature common to all of them – an approach to problem solving.

Human-centred design is just as effective for thinking about digital services as it is for solving problems in biomedical engineering, urban environments, and a world-famous kids’ show.

At Liquid we work on many diverse problems. Being able to dive into complex issues or topics requires a deep understanding of the needs and priorities of the people who are affected by them.

For example: How do you turn a student portal into an assistant that proactively helps students get prepared and stay organised?

Sam and the Liquid team undertook a comprehensive research phase with students before kicking off a cycle of concepting, testing, and refining that continued well after launch.

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“My problem solving is very much informed by my craft experience,” Sam says.

“On one side it’s really getting to know the problem to be solved – understand what problem you’re solving for whom, and understand what matters to them.

“Then on the craft side it’s really about understanding how to apply your craft in a way that’s actually effective at solving it.

“Design is a process aimed at knowing what you need to do, and knowing how to actually do it.”

Sam values the turns his career has taken and considers each step in his work journey valuable because they have helped to shape his experience. Graphic design, animation, interactive design, and digital product design are all craft skills that led him to Liquid.

“Things have coalesced in a way I couldn’t have anticipated when I started out,” he says.

But curiosity and restlessness are also traits that can propel careers forward. That was reflected by other members of the design panel — James’s path started with an architecture degree and meandered into areas that interested him, including interior design, and Jennifer began as an industrial designer before her interests led her to urban strategy.

Broadening your skills and being open to new experiences can be valuable for individual careers and be hugely beneficial for work teams, where diversity and varied insights can elevate problem-solving capabilities.

That’s who we are at Liquid: our multidisciplinary teams work together to solve all kinds of worthwhile, complex problems, with digital experiences at its core.

If you’re interested in what we do, applications for our 2022 Graduate Program are open and we’re looking to hire multiple roles, including: 

  • Senior Product Designer 
  • Product Data & Performance Analyst 
  • Customer Insights Consultant 
  • Delivery Manager 
  • & more - check out our Careers page.