Abbie Walsh is the Service Design Director at Fjord London, a leading global service design consultancy which also has offices in Helsinki, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, New York, Stockholm and San Francisco.
The London agency, based on Margaret Street, offers a whole range of services such as User Research, Product and Service Strategy, Design Management, Concept Development and Motion Graphics.
Clients include BBC, Foursquare, Nokia, Flickr, Greenpeace, Mastercard and Vodafone.
We spent five minutes chatting to Abbie to talk about herself, her background and why she loves working at Fjord...
Tell us a bit more about yourself
I'm passionate about how design and digital converge to create disruptions on the peripheries that eventually become adopted at the centre. Examples of where I see this happening right now are in education, healthcare, retail and financial services.
How did you get into your creative field?
I've had a meandering career in terms of the different directions I've taken, which have somehow converged on my current position. I started life in the world of finance as an insurance underwriter, but realised after my two-year graduate traineeship that wearing suits everyday and mingling with city types did not rock my world after all. And so with the ease afforded someone in their early twenties, i decided to take a new direction and trained as a journalist.
This allowed me to tap into my creative side, whilst rekindling my love for writing and storytelling. It also opened the door for my next career which was working on that exciting new thing called the internet. Combining my love of words and new interest in the world of online I worked as an Information Architect at Ask Jeeves and then at the BBC, where I struck gold in working on the actual team that designed the iPlayer.
After four incredible years at the BBC, I took another huge leap for a job as service design lead in Fjord Berlin, where I could take all I'd learned at the BBC and apply it in an agency context. In fact, working at Fjord has allowed me to combine all the different skills I've picked up through the years: commercial understanding, information architecture, service design and storytelling. Three years ago I relocated back to the London studio, where I got the role that I have now.
Who, where or what did you learn the most from during your career?
There are a few people I've worked with throughout my career who've really had an impact on me. Quite honestly though, in my current role I learn something from someone every day. We have an amazing team of talented designers, all of whom bring something unique to the studio. We have a thriving internship scheme, which quite regularly leads to new hires and the designers coming in astound me with their confidence and skill levels. There is a definite move towards rounded designers who don't stereotype themselves in old specialism brackets. This brings operational challenges, but means that the way we can run projects stays fresh.
Is there anything you’re currently working on we should know about?
Internally, we've recently done some non-project work with clients in order to tackle some of the big digital design topics, such as music, education and the value of design. The format of these sessions is roughly that we invite a client to present some of their thoughts to us and then we have a discussion/workshop to generate ideas and concepts that we can collectively, or separately take forward. This has been a great way for us to be creative outside of project work and make new friends to work with.
Are there any moments of your career you’re especially proud of?
I'm a sucker for winning big new projects, but honestly, handling difficult client situations successfully is equally as important to me.
So what’s next in the pipeline for you?
For me personally, I hope to continue to grow the phenomenal team we have here and to keep learning every day.
Who or what inspires you?
I'm inspired by my friends who work in different creative fields, such as fashion designers, photographers. art directors, stylists etc. It's great to get different inputs from these tangential industries as they help me to think laterally about the problems I have to solve. I run a fortnightly design inspiration session with the design team here in which everyone has to do a 'show and tell' about something they've seen that has inspired them in the past 2 weeks. It's always a great session, with really useful and very diverse topics.
When you’re not working, what are you up to?
Being a mum, loving London life (making the most of the Tate, Southbank, Barbican, V&A etc etc), having the odd posh meal out, weekend cookathons, keeping fit (running, personal training, gymming etc)…
Finally, what advice would you give to others just starting out in your creative field?
Don't rush to pick a specialism; service design is as much about the bigger picture as it is about beautiful design. Be hungry to learn about the commercial side of design and how we impact not only users, but the companies we design for.