Born in Taiwan and living in Belgium since the age of 12 (“I still count in Chinese”), Jade first took a Masters in Industrial Design at La Cambre. Hesitating to follow a typical career path into industry, she started working in the aeronautical industry where she optimized 3D product conception within the design team while completing an Advanced Master in Management at Solvay to explore how design thinking can help businesses and teams unlock new strategies, products or services. “Design is so vast and difficult to define. I needed to discover what I wanted to find in that word.”
Was a design career always on the cards?
Not at all! Before university I took one year to think about what I wanted to do. I hesitated between business studies and engineering. I liked both, but there was something missing. Industrial design was a good combination of the two plus a creative aspect. But already by the end of my degree, my focus had shifted away from pure product design towards user experience and finding ways to better organize design teams.
What experiences informed your decision to study business management?
The first was working on a school project with two former engineering and business students. It made me realize that I wanted to understand the whole picture, the context, the ‘why’ of design, rather than receive a design brief and create an object according to that brief. Our partnership resulted in a startup to redefine products. The urge to leave my comfort zone and face complex challenges from different perspectives included various internships. For example, I spent six months working at JungleFish, a product branding design agency in Shanghai. Another internship opened my eyes to the fact that designers still work in siloes with limited interaction or involvement in the thinking phase before the actual designing begins. Meanwhile, design thinking had become a buzzword in the business world so I decided to question that.
How does business management complement design?
Many aspects of product design relate to management. La Cambre taught me how to be resourceful and deal with complex situations. We were challenged and questioned every step of the way. Solvay brought me deeper insights into the functioning of the business world. As a result, I can deal with the type of complex situations we face at Namahn. I have an understanding of all the parts, not just design, but also the vocabulary, the processes, such as a supply chain.
How did you discover Namahn?
My first encounter with Namahn was during a service design internship at another company. I then chose a human-centred design (HCD) approach for my final year product at La Cambre, a mobile dental unit for patients with disabilities. The design was successful due to the collaboration and participation of all stakeholders: patients, dentists, sales representatives and engineers. These experiences convinced me that service design and HCD are really important. I continued researching HCD during my Masters at Solvay and this led me back to Namahn, first as an intern, and now as a member of the team. The main attraction was that creativity, strategy, technology and human-centred design are key values embedded in our company mindset (and the people seemed really fun!). Namahn was serendipity for me and better than what I was planning. I can even write on the walls here!
How do you see your role as a designer?
The most challenging (and exciting) aspect of being a designer today is that there comes a moment when you are taken out of your comfort zone and enter the chaotic phase. I’m still struggling with the chaotic phase! I like structure, but now I understand better why you have to go through this phase if you want to be a designer. It’s the fact of wanting to search for innovation, for the unexpected.
Your life motto?
A teacher once told me to find something I was good at, and then go deeper. It took me a long time to find what I was good at, but now I have and I can finally go deeper.