John Mathers and Mat Hunter

Judges Interviews

Chief Executive and Chief Design Officer at the Design Council

Judging all the entries for the inaugural Creative Conscience Awards is proving to be a long process. It is also a deeply inspiring one. Not just because of the awesome quality of the entries we’ve received but also because we also get to spend quality time with some of the creatives we most admire.

Aside from the judging, we’ve been chatting about what inspires them and why they’ve chosen to become part of this ambitious initiative.

Here’s what product designer, John Mathers (Chief Executive) and Mat Hunter, (Chief Design Officer) at the Design Council had to say…

What is the single most interesting brief you’ve worked on during your career?

John Developing ‘The Open’ brand for the ‘Royal and Ancient Golf club of St Andrews‘.

Mat Each new brief is the most interesting to me because I’m fascinated to learn how we will resolve the challenges that we face. But, if you really want to know one that I am proud of, it was to discover how we might live well despite a diagnosis of dementia. Ode, Dementia Dog, Buddiband, Trading Times and Grouple are all marvellously inventive ideas that we incubated and accelerated; and they are starting to have a positive impact.

Who has been your biggest influence?

John Young people, including my children.

Mat The late Bill Moggridge – co-founder of IDEO, coiner of the phrase ‘interaction design’ and so much more. He mentored me as a young interaction designer and exemplified the notion that a design leader can take many forms. Early in his career, he stepped back from directly making it in his own right to become an manager, enabler and storyteller of great design.

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

John Never be afraid to try new things.

What advice would you give a creative student today?

John See above!

Mat Get out of the studio, the house, the office, your familiar world and go and experience something new. Learning something new about the world and people’s lives is inspirational and grounding. I flicked through too many design magazines as an industrial design student only to find that the answers did not lie within.

In this culture of fear and cautiousness, what is the future of design?

John Never better! Design – true design – is at the heart of the recovery.

Mat Design is relentlessly optimistic and action-oriented. It imagines ways to improve things and then goes about putting that imagination to work. The future of design is to get better at understanding what we really mean by ‘better’ – for a long time design activity has been sponsored by slightly narrow commercial agendas. Hopefully, we can widen the context for design.

What is it about this initiative that has inspired you to get involved?

John Because it is totally in tune with the reason I work for the Design Council – I want to champion design and creative ideas – that will improve people’s lives.

Mat More and more designers are recognising that connecting their work with a wider range of issues is good for society and good for them. It’s not about over-dosing on ‘worthiness’, it’s about being slightly more rounded citizens. It’s important to celebrate and share examples of what this might look like.

How does your creative conscience express itself in your work?

John Championing design is what gets me up in the morning!

Mat I believe that design will be more influential in the world by being more conscious of what it is – as well as what it does – and deciding to engage with issues that really matter.

Interview by Kate Burton