Six Questions from Kicker: Charles Goran

In honor of Device Design Day 2011, we’ve partnered with Core 77 to profile our exciting line up of speakers, and ask them our  Six Questions. For our sixth interview of the series, we’ve talked with Charles Goran.

Charles Goran has over 25 years of experience designing and delivering user experiences for devices, games, the Web, TV and everything in-between. He has lead award winning design and development on projects for companies like Apple, Microsoft, Motorola, AT&T, 3COM and T-Mobile. Charles is currently helping lead UX for T-Mobile USA and recently helped deliver the new Sidekick 4G.

He’ll be speaking at D3 about the challenges of evolving and reinventing existing products.

1. What is the most cherished product in your life? Why?

My mobile device. It brings my music and entertainment with me wherever I am. It connects me to the people I care about. It keeps me informed. It is my most personal possession.

2. What’s the one product you wish you’d designed, and why?

The Alessi juice squeezer. It was designed by Philipe Starck. It is an elegant solution to the juicing problem. It makes me smile and brightens my day.

3. What excites you about being a designer? Why do you keep doing it?

Solving problems in an endlessly changing technological landscape, helping write the narrative of mobile interaction, bringing delight and ease into people’s experiences.

4. When do you first remember thinking of yourself as a designer?

I went to school for fine art and majored in painting. There is a degree of problem solving that happens when you start breaking down a canvas for composition and form, but it’s more inwardly directed. I remember really thinking of myself as a designer when I started thinking about solving other people’s problems and removing my personal need for self-expression from the solutions. There is a certain purity and striving for truth in design, that can be very rewarding. Good design can be held to account for tangible impact.

5. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned, and who taught it to you?

Care that your name is attached to your work, regardless of size or scope. Have an opinion, a passionate reason why you have selected a particular design or direction. There is no such thing as a small or insignificant design project. Ask yourself, “Is this the best I can do?” and be honest.

6. What are 5 things all designers should know?

1. Care that your name is attached to your work
Everything you touch has your name on it. Take ownership. There is no such thing as a small, or insignificant design challenge. They are what we make of them.

2. Have an opinion
Have a passionate reason why you have selected a particular design or direction. If you are challenged on a design idea, or asked to change something the worst thing you can say is “ah, OK.” Be invested, temper your passion with the understanding that great design often comes thru collaboration.

3. Provide solutions that consider the audience, the content and the business goals, not your personal aesthetic or agenda.
Your primary concern should be right-fitting the solution to the problem. Your personal design aesthetic is minimally important.

4. Designing is problem solving
Consider as many facets to the problem as you can. Define the problem before you design the solution. Spend more time defining the problem and the solution will manifest itself. Be open to the fact that the right solution may not have a user interaction, or manifestation at all. “I know, what if we got rid of the need for that login screen…”


5. Have a priority and focus to your design solutions. What is the number one thing you are solving for? What are the secondary cases?

This process is fundamental to a positive user experience.

Don’t miss Charles’s presentation Bringing the Sidekick Back at Device Design Day,  August 5th in San Francisco.