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Let’s go Smooth Sailing ⛵

Published May 21, 2021 | Written by Hannes D’Hulster

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It has been 5 years already since I went my own way, head-first into design research. I was a bit scared, naturally, but I was also really eager to be my own boss. So I became a freelancer, first alone, then later with my wife in Mrs. & Mr.

Even building a sand castle requires good team communication

In those years a few things were very important to me:

  • Working on quality projects: where user research is done properly in order to understand the real problems of real users
  • Making an impact: not only directly for customers but also within an organization by talking to the C-level and making long term changes.
  • Having time for my family: I live in Bruges (very nice) and have two daughters to see grow up. Having control over where and when I work is a prerequisite.
  • Work with and coach young people: for instance, Nerdlab, an informal art and tech school, or Open Summer of Code, a hackathon for students that got a bit out of hand, are great places to help others.

As a freelancer, especially working from home — in a pandemic, it is a necessity to have great people to work with. I worked with many beautiful people but the smartest of them all were the tech wizards of madewithlove. Their expert knowledge, remote and open culture made completing projects pretty smooth.

Jonas and Hannes digging

At the beginning of 2020, my work at Flexmail was coming to an end and I asked Jonas, a partner at madewithlove, if there was a project where I could use my talent.

He said, “Well, yes… six. Maybe we should think of building a team?”

Pieces started falling together. Having an impact on high-quality projects and building a team! Talented young people to guide and coach! Highly ranked design professionals! Yes, I want to be the captain!

And so our own design studio, Smooth Sailing was launched.

The sea towards good software is rough; these smooth sailors will make sure you can experience the journey in a much more relaxing way.

Ow yes, check out our Product Design page to see what it is all about!

The focus on Durable design

We believe that design is not a phase or a project but a continuous process in your organization, a process of matching the user insights with business goals and the engineering roadmap.

Durable design is about internalising the design mindset within your team: making sure the client's needs are at the centre of your processes and ensuring feature ideas are validated before being built. Durable design is about a team taking up that responsibility without having a designer to point it out.

I wrote an article on durable design and why it matters.

That’s why Smooth Sailing is focusing on:

  • Product management: guide the processes within an organisation to get sales, customer success, management and engineering working together on a valuable product.
  • Design research: placing the end-users at the heart of the organisation, deeply understanding their needs and the effect those needs have on the software product.
  • Digital design: shaping these needs into features and interfaces so they fit the technological and client service reality.

We believe that sharing our knowledge on these with our clients is the key to changing their organisations. So user-centred design becomes a natural reflex. This way design is really durable and valuable.

Team pictures made in Oostende by Ine

We can’t wait to onboard!

Our whiteboard is full of ideas, our stand-ups and retrospectives are planned, but there is a spot for new projects where we can set sail to and discover new lands!

If you’re bobbing around in client requests, prioritization and interface patterns, let us know, we’ll come and save your soul!

Contact your captain… And be prepared for endless word jokes.

Published May 21, 2021 | Written by Hannes D’Hulster

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