Seth Minard, Designer at Cooper: Success Directly Correlates to How Well You Understand the Client

This interview is with Seth Minard, Designer at Cooper. A full-service design house based in San Francisco. He will be speaking at the Uncharted Minds Design Gurus Summit on May 17th. Click here to get 20% off tickets to the event.

Q. When you were growing up, were you always interested in design?

A. I was always interested in the intention, logic and effects of everything — whether or not it was made by people or nature. I didn’t know design was a practice and something that I could do for a living. I specifically remember being obsessed with reverse engineering the thought process of the humans behind the TV ads I watched.

Q. What were some early influences on your career choice?

A. I lucked out and was exposed to people, like Amy Cueva at Mad*Pow, who were at the forefront of user-centered design, as an internet marketing intern in college. The approach and purpose of user-centered design made sense to me, it was love at first sight. I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in.

Q. What did you study in college?

A. I was a Business Admin major with a focus in Marketing. I minored in art studio. Basically, I would show up to accounting class with paint all over myself and answer the teacher’s questions. I enjoyed challenging the status quo.

Q. What did your parents do?

A. My mother is a child and family therapist and my father is a musician. I grew up sensitive to the human experience, analytical, and expressive.

Q. Tell me about your first design job.

A. I was an experience designer at Mad*Pow learning everything by doing and patient mentorship. I had no ego and did what I thought was right for the client without hesitation.

Q. What were some early lessons you learned about design?

A. When receiving feedback from a client, receive the feedback rather than react. The client isn’t an expert in the design process, you are, guide them. Don’t form attachments to “my” designs.

Q. Tell me about your approach to design today.

A. My approach varies, depending on a number of factors. But the basic principals to approach include:

  • Listen deeply to the client and their needs. Ask good question to make sure I understand what they are saying, and so they feel heard.
  • Challenge the client’s assumptions early and often during the design process.
  • Shape the process in such a way that we’ll be excited executing it.
  • Use sketches and white-boarding to visualize our thinking.
  • Always give time to explore compelling ideas and questions.
  • Use constraints to encourage creativity.

Q. How do you find clients today?

Designing at cooper, great clients with trust us with their most important projects.

Q. What career advice would you give to young people today?

A. Practice design early and often for real problems. Maybe, help you friends or family refine an existing product or service they use. Or pick something you’re interested in creating. Get people to use it, learn from them and iterate. It doesn’t have to a website or an app. It could be a game you play outside or a tool for the kitchen.

Q. Hardest part of being a designer?

A. Shaping design projects and tasks that will meet the needs of the client. In my experience, the success of the project directly correlates to how well you evolve your understanding of the client and their needs.

Q. Favorite part of being a designer?

A. Right now, it’s pair designing at Cooper. Design is a discussion with my design partner, facilitated by thinking out-loud and on whiteboards. It’s helping me get out of my head, not get attached to my ideas, be more fearless with what I create and share, and actively listen to others. I’m becoming a stronger designer and person, a correlation I’ve enjoyed throughout my career.