Lucky Beard’s Elaine Devereux discusses the “relentless speed of innovation” in the digital design industry and the importance of “designing for good”.
Elaine Devereux is the Managing Director of Lucky Beard, a digital design and consultancy firm founded in South Africa with European headquarters in Dublin. Last year, the company announced it would be expanding its Irish team to help it grow in the areas of user experience and digital product design.
In his role, Devereux works from Dublin to grow the business, build relationships with clients and partners, and help the team deliver their design work.
“Digital design should make a positive contribution, whether you use an app, website or any other online tool”
– ELAINE DEVEREUX
How do you prioritize and organize your professional life?
I get up early and start the day with yoga. I’m on my mat at 6:45, then I take the kids out to school. We start the day with our check-in call at 8.30am where the Dublin and London teams meet, plan the day and make sure everyone knows what deliverables they are responsible for. It also helps to stay motivated and focused as most of us are working from home these days.
The day then turns into a series of customer and partner meetings, where we pitch new products or find new opportunities for brands to reinvigorate their relevance in the world. Lunch is on a bench in St Stephen’s Green or I hide at Green Bench on Montague Lane, which sells the best sandwiches in Dublin.
Afternoons are often spent with the team checking project status, reviewing new initiatives and planning workload, ensuring things are moving in the right direction and getting products to market . Some days, if the kids finish school early, they stop by the office with my husband and we go home together for dinner, homework and the usual mid-week activities.
What are the biggest challenges facing your industry and how are you addressing them?
As a consulting and digital design agency, the pace of change in our industry is always a challenge – the continuous and relentless speed of innovation. Managing this for us and our clients while keeping a watchful eye on the ethics and impact of our work, both positive and negative, can sometimes be difficult.
With our company, we strive to hire designers with strong ethical sensibilities who understand the importance of designing for good and making a positive contribution to the user and human experience. This means creating products that are useful, easy to use and, dare I say, delicious – products that ultimately make the user feel better and not products that are addictive or potentially induce aggression or frustration.
We are passionate about ethical design – adding more empathy, consideration and humanity to the digital world. There should be joy in the little things in life and now, as we live in a predominantly digital world, digital design should positively contribute to that feeling of happiness, whether using an app, website or any other online tool.
What are the main sectoral opportunities on which you are capitalizing?
At least $87 billion is expected to be invested in edtech over the next decade. Edtech is a great growth opportunity for us at Lucky Beard and a space we are very comfortable in, having worked with the Institute of Banking to deliver their e-learning program.
There is no doubt that the forced shift to online education during the pandemic has transformed the landscape and created a huge appetite to democratize education and make it open to all. Digital is helping us achieve this goal and we are working with businesses to help them rethink how their offering can be changed or enhanced to take advantage of it.
Health technology is another area we are targeting. A record $51.3 billion was invested in global health technologies last year, up 280% from 2016 levels. that are developing technologies to improve healthcare research, delivery and consumption, but healthcare delivery today is clearly broken and needs fixing. Like education, it must be accessible and affordable for all and not a privilege.
We also see crypto as another growth area – when the CEO of Santander talks about crypto, it goes mainstream.
What put you on the path where you are now?
I have always loved business, brands and design since I was young. I studied marketing and languages at Dublin City University, which led me to work for major telecom operators around the world.
I was part of the team that created Vodafone Spain. We had nine months to launch – from getting the bid to going live, so it was complete. Then I moved to T-Mobile where we did a lot of pioneering work. I was part of the team that brought T-Mobile to its inauguration at GSM World Congress in the early 2000s, and Wi-Fi to Starbucks across the UK. I’ve had the privilege of working with Amy Winehouse and the Black Eyed Peas to bring amazing music and other content to the mobile world.
Innovation and design are part of my DNA and I founded my own online furniture and interior design company when I was living in Australia. I always love new ventures and building things from scratch, working with incredible talent and bringing a vision to life.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Put up with mediocrity.
Some of the best advice I got years ago was to hire better people than yourself. It can be quite intimidating, especially when you’re young and still learning. So in my early days in managerial and leadership positions, I put up with mediocrity more than I should when it came to people.
They say you’re the average of the five people you surround yourself with and I found that to be so true. Surrounding yourself with the best of the best is essential to the success of any business. Always strive to find the best talent and build the right team from the start. It saves you a lot of time on the track by untangling the complexity of having the wrong people or the wrong people in the wrong roles. Hire great people and hire those who take pride in what they do every day.
How do you get the most out of your team?
By being human, by checking in, by tuning in to who they are, by truly caring about who they are, by being on their level, by being a team player and a role model. A smile, a sense of humor and a reward – lots of little positives along the way.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?
Lucky Beard was established in South Africa, so we are very aware of ethnicity and diversity.
We are very careful to ensure that we employ extraordinary people who are diverse, well-rounded and have truly global perspectives. We’re passionate about creating exceptional, human-centered design that needs to be empathetic and thoughtful, and we’ve found that – more often than not – women do this very well. Just over 60% of our employees are women. We are a mix of 11 nationalities who speak over 16 languages and we believe this is essential to our global success.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
- Daniel H Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brains Will Rule the Future
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, which tells the story of the Patagonia brand
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the work week?
Yoga, sense of humor, being organized (we use Forecast), my amazing PMs, my husband and kids keeping me up.
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