Q&A with WDCD Live São Paulo speaker Juliana Proserpio

‘Design for big systemic change, but start small’


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Entrepreneur and educator Juliana Proserpio, is the co-founder and creative director of ECHOS. The innovation lab, based in Brazil, focuses on human centred design solutions and founded the first school of design thinking in Latin America. In 2017, after five successful years in Brazil – and over 2,500 students enrolled – a new branch of ECHOS School of Design Thinking opened its doors in Australia. As well as creating transformative learning experiences, ECHOS develops consulting projects to help businesses create value and innovation for good.

Ahead of Juliana’s main stage talk at WDCD Live São Paulo on November 22nd, we found out more about her design approach, the shift in working processes that comes with international expansion and what questions we, the creative community, should be asking ourselves.


What has been the pivotal moment in your career so far?

Surely it was when I left my steady job and decided to open a new business that shifted the perception of design in the market. From the design of tangible (packaging, product) to the design of the intangible (services, culture, systems design and learning experiences. Becoming an entrepreneur makes you learn exponentially, you have to become a design leader, a culture designer, an implementer, a salesperson and everything else. 

What challenges do you face in your work?

The biggest challenges I am facing today is working remotely and digitally. We’re expanding to Australia and I have moved, but the team in Brazil is still growing. Everything we used to do through conversations and a closer, human approach to design management can’t be done like this anymore. Another big one is shifting our company from founder centric to culture-centric (it’s much easier said than done). The notion of design changes completely when it comes to the design of invisible things such as culture. When thinking about industrial design, the designer must focus more on the action of creating the product and after all the prototypes and tests, you could just “sit an relax”. For things such as services and culture, design also means implementation and constant iteration. There’s a never-ending process of designing, implementation and iteration in real time. 

What keeps you up at night?

Thinking about the future of design and the design of desirable futures. 

What do you hope will be the takeaway of this year’s edition of WDCD São Paulo?

I hope that the takeaway will be around seeing ourselves as designers of solutions to the complex issues that are surrounding us and especially to feel ready to face such wicked problems like climate change and violence against women. 

What advice would you give to designers addressing societal challenges?

Design for big systemic change, but start small on focused behavioural changes. 

What would you like to share with the creative community?

Are we really designing what we should be designing or are we wasting our time with unimportant projects?  Think about how can we transcend design to create exponential positive impact. How can we design desirable futures? A question that I would like to pose is: Such as Bauhaus had the mantra” Form follows functions”, what is the new big mantra for contemporary design nowadays?

Image: Juliana Proserpio at the press launch of WDCD São Paulo 2017

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