Prior to joining Motorola, Germade led design groups in multinational firms including Sapient and IDEO. He has created global solutions for companies like Xerox, Polaroid, Fila and IBM.
Germade has received several design awards including the IDSA Design Excellence Award, ID Interactive Media Awards and ID Magazine Awards. His work has been exhibited in Boston, London and Hong Kong.
Curve Editor, Belinda Stening, spoke with the leading designer while he was in Australia to promote some of Motorola’s latest top line models.
How did you first become interested in industrial design?
I studied Applied Arts in Malaga, Film Making in Madrid and Architecture in London. But most of my learning has come from working as a designer.
I am not a traditional industrial designer from the perspective that I have worked in many different design disciplines. My first jobs were in advertising and graphic design and I have done a lot of work on branding and interface design.
I guess that industrial design was a natural step in order to be able to address all the different aspects of the user experience. If I had to define myself as a designer I would probably use the term ‘Interaction Designer’ as that is, at the end of the day, how I approach any design problem.
As design director of Motorola’s UK and Singapore centres, where is the majority of new concept design based?
While I am primarily based in the UK I do travel quite a lot, so my wife would probably disagree with that statement. There are three other design centres around the world as well as the UK and Singapore, so the design of any product is a collaboration across all of these centres.
Can you briefly explain the design management structure?
We have design directors for the other three design centres who all report to Jim Wicks, VP of Design. We also have heads of design for each of our core disciplines such as human factors, user interface and so on.
We have around twenty designers between the UK and Singapore. A third of them are industrial designers, one-third interface designers and the rest focus on materials, human factors and colour.
We work in a very interdisciplinary manner where people do not just think about their part of the product, but really look at it from a holistic perspective.
What appealed to you about Motorola and how long have you been in your current role?
I have been with Motorola for four years now. Previously I was creative director for Sapient’s headquarters in Massachusetts where I led a team of fifty designers. Before that I worked as head of interaction design for IDEO in Boston focusing on interactive products and spaces.
The reason for joining Motorola was that I knew (and admired) some of the members of the team and I felt it was a place where I could continue to grow and learn.
Do you hold a personal philosophy that marries with the Motorola design direction?
Absolutely. We built our design strategy around our personal beliefs. Connecting with users at an emotional level or being able to tell a story with a product – or collection of products – is something that I have been committed to for many, many years.
Motorola products influence the lives of many. How do you ensure the design of Motorola products is focused in the right direction?
As designers, we question everything that we do to understand how valid it is. Our role is to be the advocate for the user. We spend a significant amount of time and resources researching user needs to be able to create meaningful solutions. Ultimately, our goal is not to create needs but to address them.
One of the most significant changes to the way I think about design came about from an early ethnographic study I was involved in. Observing an elderly lady at home interacting with complex technology helped me to fully appreciate the need for empathy in design.
It became clear to me that design is part of a conversation with the user and that you need to truly care for (and listen to) someone in order to have an interesting conversation.
As head of consumer experience design, can you explain what the term means for you?
The name works as a reminder that we are not just designing objects, but more the experiences users have while interacting with our products or services.
To achieve this we need to address all the different aspects of the user experience and to do this, you need people with different skills, talents and backgrounds.
You mentioned the success of the research involved in sourcing the material for the control pad for the RAZR. Can you explain how this was achieved?
We have a team of materials experts who work on developing opportunities for the use of new materials. One example was the RAZR’s keypad, which needed to be unlike anything on the market in order to achieve the thinness of design.
The resulting keypad is made from a single sheet of nickel-plated copper alloy and is one third of the size of a typical keypad with the numbers etched into its surface.
Traditional keypad suppliers did not have experience dealing with a metallic keypad so we found and used a new supplier that had experience dealing with metallic parts for watches.
What about future directions for Motorola; how do you plan to build on the notion of consumer experience design?
We are constantly looking at the sociological aspects of mobile phones and how they evolve over time. There are many emerging technologies that will allow and enable new experiences and we are focused on investing significantly to understand what new interfaces and product typologies can be created to drive, support and respond to these changes.