Silent Designers Podcast Series

Posted on: 29/06/2023

Join us as we explore the untold stories of innovators driving change in pivotal areas like Net Zero, Health, Technologies, and horizon scanning. Discover their motivations, challenges, and valuable insights that inspire and educate on the power of design.

Listen to the latest episode of "Silent Designers"

Episode Seven – Yasmin Ali, RWE

Can design take us to unexpected places?  

In this, seventh episode of Silent Designers, this month’s guest, Yasmin Ali, explores the theme of Net Zero and Sustainable Technologies, discusses the unexpected ways in which hydrogen could decarbonise our world, and reveals the most effective deployments of hydrogen happening in industry today. 

Award-winning chartered engineer, Yasmin Ali, is a Hydrogen Project Development Manager at RWE—a leading supplier of renewables worldwide. She’s also the author of the book Power Up, which looks at global energy systems and the energy transition.

Join us as Yasmin explains the impact of design on her work and her interpretation of the word ‘design’ and what it means to her. 

“For many people, the word ‘design’ conjures up images of fashion or graphic design. I think of it more as a thinking process to come up with a way of solving a problem or achieving something that hasn’t been done before.” – Yasmin Ali, Hydrogen Project Development Manager at RWE 

 Listen as Yasmin: 

  • Explores the importance of habit change in the adoption of hydrogen as a renewable energy 
  • Explains how she applies design thinking to enhance her working relationships and communications 
  • Reveals why her love of the energy sector and of writing resulted in the publication of Power Up

“It’s interesting to see what happens when you think about design differently and incorporate design thinking to creative problem solving.” – Yasmin Ali, Hydrogen Project Development Manager at RWE

About the series

The concept of “Silent Design” originates with an expression coined in the late 80’s by Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas in a London Business School paper:

 “A great deal of design activity goes on in organizations which is not called design. It is carried out by individuals who are not called designers and who would not consider themselves to be designers. We have called this ‘silent design’.”

Drawing inspiration from Innovate UK’s Plan for Action and its focus on growth areas such as Net Zero, Health and Wellbeing, Technologies, and Horizon scanning, ‘Silent Designers’ explores the untold stories of innovators who are driving change through design in these pivotal areas. Join us as we dive into the intriguing world of design and its impact on shaping the future economy.

In each episode, we unravel the motivations and challenges faced by these remarkable individuals as they navigate their unique design journeys. From industry disruptors to creative problem solvers, we delve deep into their experiences, extracting valuable insights and lessons that will inspire and educate you on the power of design.

As part of our commitment to empowering innovators, we invite you to join the Design In Innovation Network (DIIN), a vibrant community of cross-sector innovators who are passionate about driving innovation outcomes.

Our online platform serves as a collaborative hub, connecting you with sector experts and fostering meaningful engagements. Discover the vast potential of design and uncover new pathways to embed it into your own innovation journey.

Let’s redefine the scope and impact of design in the realm of innovation.

Meet our hosts

Steve Welch

Steve is half-engineer, half-scientist … all innovation! After a lengthy career in systems engineering applied to Spacecraft projects, he is now director of Innovate UK Business Connect’s activities in Knowledge Transfer, Place and Design.

Steve has long appreciated the overlap between engineering and design and is always delighted by fresh ideas—especially the fresh ideas that pay-off: and that’s where this series comes from.

Katherine Wildman

Katherine is a B2B copywriter working with multinational businesses on projects that can involve anything from video scripts and tone of voice development to marketing campaigns and case studies.

Katherine is interested where innovative ideas come from. What was the actual problem our guests identified and how they went about solving the challenge they faced?

Listen to previous episodes

Episode One – Anna Wilson: Redefining Design Boundaries

Join us for the inaugural episode of ‘Silent Designers’ as Anna Wilson takes us on a captivating journey into the world of design. With a fresh and innovative approach, Anna showcases the true essence of design in its purest form, while also sharing her unexpected path into process design.

Reflecting on her experiences, Anna reveals, “This doesn’t work so well, let’s come back to the drawing board and try to improve that. My main learning is that it’s an iterative process and actually, it is never finished.”

Trained as a vet and now Head of Operations at 52North, a Cambridge-based Health Tech start-up, Anna is transforming triage for neutropenic sepsis, a critical complication of cancer chemotherapy. Additionally, as the founder of Tortoise, a digital health solution, she aims to support people in their recovery journey after injury.

Discover the limitless possibilities of design as Anna shares her unique insights and challenges faced along the way. Tune in to be inspired by her multifaceted use of design.

Episode Two – Cat Drew: Design Council

The second episode of Silent Designers explores the theme of Net Zero and Sustainable Technologies with guest Cat Drew, Chief Design Officer at the Design Council. Cat shares how, in her role, she’s bringing together the very best knowledge, practice, and frameworks about how to Design for Planet and sharing that knowledge with designers, innovators, commissioners, and policymakers.

“The Design Council’s vision is for a regenerative world for all. The way we’re way going to get there is for people in the design sector—all 1.79 million of us—to Design for Planet and help us make the shift from a consumer to a regenerative society.” 

Join us as Cat explains:

  • The vital role people-centred design plays in the adoption of sustainable technologies,
  • The importance of ‘new-to-me’ innovation on the path to Net Zero
  • How she made the transition from policymaker to ‘Silent Designer’

An expert in Systemic Design, Cat started her career as a policymaker working across government and writing strategies for Number 10, the Home Office, and the Cabinet Office. Combining her 10 years of experience in Government with an MA in graphic design, she co-founded the UK Government’s Policy Lab. Cat has also held leadership positions in Uscreates and FutureGov, where she led programmes to make public services more user-centred and systemic in addressing local homelessness challenges.

Episode Three – Marie Williams, Dream Networks

What happens when you bring children as young as seven together with businesses, senior designers, and architects and ask them to design a space to play?

The third episode of Silent Designers explores the theme of Knowledge Transfer and Design with guest Marie Williams — Chartered Engineer, Design Lecturer, TEDx speaker, and Founder of Social Enterprise, Dream Networks.

Join us as playful engineer, Marie Williams, explains what took her from a career in innovation across aerospace, nuclear fusion, and software engineering to launch a social enterprise, Dream Networks and her drive to address the need for more equitable access to play areas in socially deprived areas.

Join us as Marie explains:

  • The impact of design on social or environmental value
  • How children approach co-design and design thinking opportunities
  • The importance of context and equity in effective knowledge transfer

“I think about one in eight children in the UK has no access to a garden and relies on public play areas. However, the data reveals that many of these children live in deprived areas that don’t have play spaces. So that’s when design is the catalyst for change and a response to more than an economic need. It can be our response to growing social and environmental needs and problem sets.” 

Marie Williams is a playful chartered engineer, design lecturer, TedX speaker, and CEO of Dream Networks.  She founded Dream Networks in 2016, and has collaborated with businesses, schools, and communities to co-design and build engaging play spaces in economically deprived communities worldwide. To date, Dream Networks has adopted sustainable design practices to create inclusive play spaces for over 60,000 children in the UK and Africa.

Episode Four – Tom Inns, Cofink

What role does design play in our healthcare systems?

In this fourth episode of Silent Designers, our guest Tom Inns explores the theme of healthy living and technologies. Tom is the director of the consultancy, Cofink, a visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde, and a coach on the Innovate UK Design for Growth programme. 

Join us as Tom explains his fascination with the role design can play in helping the silent designers within healthcare teams understand complex challenges, undertake the necessary phases of discovery, and innovate to deliver change.  

“Each time I run a project I learn as much as the team about nudging and evolving our processes, tools, and methodologies. How we can push the boundaries and make collaborations happen.” – Tom Inns, Director of Cofink 

Tom shares: 

  • The powerful impact of design thinking approaches and ethnography in healthcare settings 
  • How mapping out a visual ecosystem of healthcare pathways creates a fantastic focus point for collaborations 
  • The real-life impact of healthcare innovation—in trumpet form 

 Want to learn how to apply design thinking to your own work? 

In the second half of this episode, Tom also shares three simple yet fascinating new ways of looking at the world and how you can introduce design thinking into your own practice at work. 

“If you take these three little pieces of mental gymnastics on board, you’ll be motoring when it comes to design and systems thinking.”Tom Inns, Director of Cofink

Episode Five – Mark Price, Queen’s University Belfast

What role can design play in our journey to Net Zero?

In this fifth episode of Silent Designers, we explore the theme of net zero and sustainable technologies with guest, Mark Price.

A professor of Aeronautics at Queen’s University Belfast, Mark Price is also the co-founder of Biohaviour, a research initiative exploring bio-inspired rules for innovative engineering design.

Biohavior aims to bring bio-inspired concepts and ideas into the realm of engineering design and cloud-based manufacturing within a single fully integrated environment.

“I’ve found that the decisions that design supports are absolutely critical, not just for products, but for businesses and organisations as a whole and beyond.” 

Mark Price, Professor of Aeronautics at Queen’s University Belfast  and co-founder of Biohaviour

On making things better and making things differently

Join us as Mark explains how the challenge of Net Zero has driven a shift in his thinking beyond his background as a systems engineer in the aircraft industry to his discovery that design thinking can help us challenge requirements, lessen constraints, and open up new paths to innovation.

“When you innovate as an academic your inclination is to peel everything back, layer by layer and put foundational principles in place as you learn about the different frameworks. But it’s only then, as you begin to learn about a system, that you can open up different avenues of thought and start to explore new opportunities.”

Mark Price, Professor of Aeronautics at Queen’s University Belfast and co-founder of Biohaviour

Listen as Mark shares:

  • The understanding of foundational principles that can open up new avenues of thought
  • The potential of bio-inspired systems to create new products, processes, and systems
  • How design thinking can help us reach Net Zero

And discover how the incorporation of design thinking in one’s own practice demands a high level of self-reflection and questioning.

Episode Six – Ahmed Wobi, Tonus Tech

How AI and design thinking are helping us live better for longer

In this, the sixth episode of Silent Designers, Steve Welch and guest, Ahmed Wobi, explore the theme of healthy living and tech.

Award winning writer, director—and national basketball champion, Ahmed Wobi, is also the co-founder of Tonus Tech. Tonus Tech provides preventative health companies with wearable solutions and AI-driven movement analysis and personalised workout programmes to optimise people’s fitness age.

Ahmed and his team’s focus is on keeping people moving better for longer using sensors and artificial intelligence.

Join us as Ahmed explains how his academic medical background helped him apply creative design thinking to the early discovery stages of his formative research areas. How AI is enabling academics to manipulate large data sets – lowering the threshold for early exploration and encouraging greater experimentation. And the impact his experiences as a national basketball champion have had on his career.

“When you play sport at a formal level, you have to be able to make quick decisions and know how the members of your team will react. That translates to life in general but also to academia, entrepreneurism, and design, because there’s an iterative process in going back to concepts, in trial and error, and then in testing what works and what doesn’t.”  – Ahmed Wobi, Co-founder of Tonus Tech 

Listen as Ahmed shares:

  • The positive implications AI tech holds for our better health and fitness
  • Why it’s crucial to embed people from diverse backgrounds into early stage design processes
  • The importance of user-focused design

“Design processes? They will take you on interesting journeys…” – Ahmed Wobi, Co-founder of Tonus Tech

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