Inside ROBRADY: An Interview With Robert Donovan
Q. Of the experience you have gained managing different projects and teams, how does that contribute to managing a diverse team like ROBRADY
Over the course of my career I have been fortunate enough to work hands-on with a huge variety of different types of projects, clients and people. I have been given considerable latitude to manage people and projects as I have seen fit and I have made plenty of mistakes along the way. Learning from those mistakes and building upon the successes has honed my ability to quickly cut through the static associated with any type of management activity and focus on the most critical factors. The team at ROBRADY is uniquely adept at managing the details of a project. For me, it's just making sure everyone is focused on the right thing at the right time and has everything they need to succeed.
Q. What do you think is the most important part of the design process?
In the last question I spoke a lot about making mistakes. I think failure is a hugely underrated part of the design process. The key is "failing early and often" and then building upon those failures to generate a positive outcome. The key is not making the same mistakes twice. This sounds really negative, but in practice its how design gets done. You try something, it doesn't work/fit/feel/look right, and so you make an adjustment and try again. Soon you have a solution that has been proven out during the design process. Then, when you implement this solution your chances of success are far greater than if you didn't go through this iterative design process. The biggest challenge is understanding that this is not a linear process. Many times an early failure sends you off on a completely different track. Most designers understand this intuitively but most business people want to know why we didn't just do that the first time?
Q. What do you like and dislike about your design related education? Was it worth it?
My educational experience is a bit unique. I entered Industrial Design school right out of high school in 1990. The first two years of my education were a blast. I was like a sponge soaking up everything I was being taught. But by my third year I was starting to struggle with figuring out how all of this stuff was going to come together and create a meaningful career for me. Right about that time I landed a summer job that turned into a 16 year career. In 2009 I returned to ID school to finish my last year and get my diploma. That was a terrific experience! I really enjoyed sharing classes with the up and coming generation of designers and learning about the way they view the World. My biggest frustration was how little real world experience design school provides towards preparing students to enter the workplace. So yes, it was worth it but not for the obvious reasons. The skills I learned in school have more to do with what I took out of the experience than what was on the curriculum. I just wish I had had that revelation 18 years ago!
As Design Manager at ROBRADY, Donovan manages the daily activities of the studio. He came to ROBRADY from Techtronic Industries, where he was the brand manager for the Ryobi TEK4 line of electronic tools. Prior to that he built and managed the in-house design team at Griffin Technology, the world’s largest Apple accessory brand. Donovan has an Industrial Design degree from Auburn University and has spent the last 18 years building and managing award winning design teams.
Fun Fact: During a school assembly in 4th grade I was misbehaving with some friends by making chicken clucking sounds while the Principal was talking. She heard me and called me up on stage to make my sounds for the whole school in hopes of embarrassing me and teaching me a lesson. Armed with a microphone, I went to town and the whole assembly quickly degenerated into a cacophony of barnyard sounds and laughing. After spending the rest of the day in the Principal's office I was then assigned the lead role in the upcoming Christmas play.