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FutuStories - Meet Joana, Design Director

Our Design Director Joana is committed to passing her experience on to a new generation of builders, enabling future designers to remain conscious human beings and stay true to themselves. She is an advocate for Interactive Design of Services and Products - invested into the future societal implications of improved culture work.

I am interested in emboldening new generations of thinkers, doers, and change-makers to work together in cross-functional teams and coup with fast technology growth. I have over ten years of professional experience in different contexts and organisations. At Futurice, I feel I can finally live and work on these topics that are so close to my heart.

With experience in Communication and Interactive Design, you are currently working as a Site Design Lead at Futurice Stuttgart. What excites you about design?

I have always loved art, and was drawn towards a combination of arts and IT. So when my parents were bold enough to allow me to leave for another city even though I was only 16 years of age, I joined a course to become a Multimedia Technician. In Portugal, people tend to appreciate marketing/advertising and aesthetic design, but not so much the technical and functional aspects of it. So, to find the perfect combination of arts and technology, I moved to Germany to finish my diploma studies at HfG Schwäbisch-Gmünd in Communication Design. That’s where I created my first interactive installations. Later, I found my passion in human-centered design and how to create user-friendly and meaningful user experiences.

We all have role models and people who inspire us in our careers. Who has been the biggest influence on your ways of thinking?

The books that had the biggest impact are “Designing for Interaction” by Dan Saffer, which inspired my vision of building services that people can interact with and envision zero UI design, and “Everything is miscellaneous” by David Weinberger, which shows how data is interconnected and relevant to identify better business models. I also find inspiration in philosophical thinking, like Marshall McLuhan’s theories that describe communication as societal evolution. To sum it up: the way I perceive the world might be very different from yours. No matter the speed of technological development, it is the human user that matters in the end. You can program nearly anything, but you cannot program human behaviour. User behaviour can only be explained by neuroscience, psychology and sociology.

Where do you see the biggest potential to make an impact with your work?

I find myself in between two generations: one that had limited technological possibilities when growing up and the digital natives who were born with technology in their cradles. With this societal transformation, the impact of design and my work has changed, too. Today, my focus is very much on leadership. I want to pass on my experience to the new generation and give a voice to the builders and designers of the future. Thinking about a more general legacy, I think that design has the power to identify problems anywhere, solve them and make life more meaningful for people.

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In your role as Design Lead, you interact with many different stakeholders. Do you remember any challenging situations? What have you learned from those?

People really appreciate our caring working culture as well as our open and honest communication. I think all challenging situations can be solved by showing vulnerability in an honest one-to-one conversation - especially with a client. Despite the speed of business development, I am convinced that we should disconnect from unhealthy competitiveness and engage in honest communication instead.

Project work requires you to change teams quite often. What are your tips for building happy teams and getting the most out of the collaboration?

My tip for building a happy team is to raise the right questions and to listen carefully. Good collaboration can only happen in a safe environment where every team member can openly share their thoughts. To make sure everyone feels confident enough to bring all their ideas to the table, encouragement is fundamental, too. It is crucial to know your own weaknesses and strengths, but also to get to know those of others. When we know what to approach and when, we can all grow as individuals. We spend quite a large share of our time with our colleagues at work. That’s why establishing a trusting relationship with my work peers is so important to me.

Let's be honest, we all have bad days every now and then. When feeling stuck creatively, how do you usually get back on track?

The question is: how would you define creativity? Creativity is not finding the fastest solution that makes everyone happy. To me, creativity is feeding your brain with positivity to ultimately achieve the ‘aha moment’. When I feel stuck, I first analyse the problem from all different perspectives and ask my team for feedback. Usually, they help me see that the ‘aha solution’ is already there.

What will people be nostalgic for in 40 years?

Books are a big part of me, so I would probably be nostalgic for good old printed books, especially their feel and smell. I sincerely hope that I don’t have to feel nostalgic for relationships with people. I hope that despite the speed of our digital era, we can maintain good relationships and deep conversations where we philosophize about the world together. We will need to keep thinking, questioning, talking and being idealistic about what matters – simply put, we need to remain conscious human beings. I am an optimistic person and like to think that we will always find ways to deal with transformation and create something good from it. So maybe there won’t be a need to feel too nostalgic.

What would you like to say to someone who is standing in the starting blocks of their career?

I would encourage them not to rush, and take time to experience different fields and opportunities. Especially in the very broad field of design, you want to give yourself time, try out different things, and reflect on what the different experiences trigger in you. Don’t be afraid to listen and stay true to yourself!

Interested in reading more stories about us and our people? At Futurice, we celebrate diversity and cherish everyone's unique journey. Check out our Welcome Home page and get inspired by more journeys shaping our culture. If you would like to read more stories and get to know our people, our sites and the community better, check out the global version of our FutuStories Booklet.


  • Portrait of Christina Klein
    Christina Klein
    Marketing & Communications Manager