Lynton's Design Hero

We've been asking our team who their design heroes are, next up is our senior digital designer Lynton

I don’t really have a design hero, not because there are too many to choose from, but because I find the idea of a ‘hero’ at odds with an industry whose success is usually found in collaboration and team work. That’s not to say there aren’t individuals making excellent work, it’s just that the work that impresses me most doesn’t usually have an individual’s name associated with it. With that in mind, I’ll focus on someone who I admire for their way of thinking and approach to problem-solving, instead of someone who I admire for their individual design talent or creative output. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce Rory Sutherland. For those of you who don’t know him, Rory is currently the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, one of the world's largest advertising and communications agencies. Throughout his career, Rory has become known for his unique perspective on the role of advertising, branding, and marketing in modern society, and his way of communicating complex ideas that is both accessible and entertaining. 

Rory's particular area of expertise is the field of behavioural economics, which he has written and talked about extensively. Behavioural economics is the study of how people actually behave, as opposed to how they should behave according to traditional economic models. Rory argues that traditional economic models often fail to consider the many factors that influence human behaviour and decision making, such as emotions, intuition, and social norms. 

It would be impossible to cover all the ways Rory has challenged my approach to problem-solving, but here are the ones that have stuck out to me over the years: 

  1. Start by asking the right question. According to Rory, many problems can't be solved simply because we're asking the wrong question. By reframing the problem, we can often find a more effective solution. 
  2. Look for second-order effects. This refers to the idea that when we solve a problem, we often create new problems as a result. By considering these second-order effects, we can create solutions that are more sustainable in the long run. 
  3. Embrace the power of lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is a problem-solving technique that involves looking at a problem from different angles and considering unconventional solutions. Rory argues that by breaking out of our usual patterns of thought, we can often find new and innovative solutions to problems. 
  4. Consider the power of small changes. This is the principle behind ‘nudge theory’ which suggests that by making small changes, it's possible to influence people's behaviour in a positive way. This is especially important on jobs with low budgets, spending lots of money isn’t always the only (or best) way to solve a problem. 
  5. Keep in mind the concept of functional fixedness. This refers to the idea that we often become so used to seeing things in a certain way that we fail to consider alternative possibilities. By breaking through functional fixedness, we can often find more effective and efficient solutions to problems. 
  6. Try to find the underlying mechanisms of the problem: Understanding the underlying mechanism is crucial to finding a solution. Rory suggests that it is useful to try to understand why something is happening and how it is happening, as opposed to just looking at the surface symptoms of a problem. 
  7. Don't be afraid of failure: It's important to not be afraid of trying new things and to be open to the idea of failure. Failure can often be a valuable learning experience, and it's important to not let the fear of failure stop you from attempting to solve a problem. 

If you’re interested in hearing Rory speak, I’d recommend searching him on any podcast platform – he is in high demand and frequently interviews on well-respected podcasts like The Knowledge Project. You’ll also find videos of his talks on YouTube and TED Talks. He has also recently published his book ‘Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense’, which is an entertaining and informative read.