The learning experience we found at a Design Symposium


Stuart Brown once said, “The best designs are timeless.” Good design is an integral silent component of modern society. But how does one create well-designed experiences and facilitate their creation? That’s what we went to learn at the Design Symposium organized by George Bernard Consulting that was held inside Colombo Cooperative.

Creating a design economy

“Most things inside this room are made by humans,” said Lee Bazalagette – Head of the Colombo Design studio opening his talk. Afterward, he went onto highlight the importance of promoting the design industry for the economy. He shared that design businesses generated 8.5 billion sterling pounds for the U.K. and is an industry that grows even when the economy isn’t performing so well.

Lee Bazalagette speaking at the Colombo Design Symposium
Lee Bazalagette speaking at the Design Symposium

Thus, Lee argued that it’s high time for Sri Lanka to recognize the importance of promoting good design. “When firms invest in design, they invest in other areas that generate values,” said Lee. He goes onto say that he believes Sri Lanka is on the road to doing so as there’s more talk about innovation these days. But this is step one. For Sri Lanka to truly be innovative and recognize design, it needs to adopt long-term visions.

Design Symposium
If you want more people to use public transport then make it a better experience argues Lee

Lee then went onto highlight that some of the most valuable brands in the world like Apple prioritize design. Afterward, he shared an example of how it can encourage society. He pointed that the buses in London offer comfortable seating for everyone and accessibility for the disabled. In contrast, Sri Lankan buses try to cram as many people inside as possible. This Lee argues creates a horrible experience and says, “If you want people to use public transport then invest in a good user experience.”

Yet he admitted that good design is hard, “because it looks easy.” Lee concluded by reminding everyone that investing in it pays off and its time that Sri Lanka does so as well.

Designing experiences that matter

“When we say wow designs, does it bring loyalty from users?” asked Nivedita Kamat – Head of Design at FriMi. This was the question she imparted in our minds as she began her talk. She went on to say the good experiences share a message and induce familiarity. Familiarity according to Nivedita helps people get used to experiences.

Nivedita Kamat speaking at the Colombo Design Symposium
Nivedita Kamat speaking at the Design Symposium

Afterward, Nivedita explained that products should give their user aspirations. That doesn’t necessarily mean users need to love your products to keep coming back. But how does one design good experiences? By telling a story and hiding complexity. Nivedita points to the example of Uber, which hides the complicated process of getting you a cab behind a single button.

So if you want to design something then focus on usability because that takes precedence over things that look pretty. “Design is simply a tool to get noticed,” she says, in conclusion, reminding us that as technology evolves, we must as well.

Understanding phygital

The final speaker we saw was Vasu Agrawal – Senior Industrial Designer at Kepler. He opened with a quote from David Ogilvy that said, “The customer is not a moron.” So he asked the audience how one can create experiences that make customers love products. It starts off with a good user experience that ensures that customers are engaged with you for a long time.

Vasu went onto list a few factors that convince people to buy. Afterward, he highlighted some of the pros and cons of shopping both physically and digitally. This is where phygital comes into play. “It’s all about combining the two forms of shopping into one,” explained Vasu. It’s all about using technology to create immersive physical experiences.

Vasu Agrawal - Senior Industrial Designer at Kepler speaking at the Colombo Design Symposium
Vasu Agrawal – Senior Industrial Designer at Kepler speaking at the Design Symposium

Afterward, Vasu shared a few examples of phygital experiences. One such example was a mirror inside a clothing store. When buying clothes, the mirror would let people see themselves wearing those clothes. Many of these phygital experiences utilized technologies like neural networks. But users aren’t expected to know that. “It’s all about shielding complicated ideas,” explained Vasu.

He went onto say that phygital doesn’t need to always be complex or expensive. But how does one think phygitial? It starts by looking at users and how they consume content. Then it’s about ensuring it’s available to them. But most importantly, it requires breaking out of silos. “You aren’t an expert that can work alone so you need to collaborate,” said Vasu concluding his session.

And that’s a wrap

With the conclusion of the three talks, the Design Symposium came to an end following an active Q&A session. So if you want to design good experiences then remember to keep things simple and think of your users. For more picture from the event, click here to check out our complete album.


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