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Meet the team - Olly

Name: Olly Needham

Job Title: Product Designer

Degree Background & University: I studied Product Design at the University of Leeds, with an Industrial Placement year as a packaging designer at Unilever.

My course was very multi-disciplinary, with a focus on human-centred design and modules which spanned the entire process from creating & answering a brief to manufacture and materials selection.

What does a typical day in your job involve?


A ‘typical’ day is difficult to summarise for most designers. We’re lucky at Crux to have a really wide variety of clients and one project is rarely similar to the last. I could go from researching people and product interactions one day, to ideating novel and innovative solutions the next; from helping build a marketing proposition to refining the surface details of a CAD part.


I guess the easiest way to describe the day-to-day would be around solving problems and exploring new ideas, and that role often leads you down some pretty interesting paths. 


Crux Designers have quite a wide reach in terms of the projects we touch and the roles we play; acting as a conduit between clients, marketing teams, management, engineering and a whole range of specialists in any particular field. That mix makes the day-to-day fresh and exciting, tackling multi-faceted challenges and balancing often conflicting project needs. Ultimately, I aim to champion design work which works well, looks great, doesn’t destroy the planet and answers unmet user needs.


Whatever day of the week, my one routine is my invigorating cycle commute, a strong dose of visual stimulation from Pinterest and a stronger dose of coffee!



What was the pathway into your role?


I joined the design team here after working with Crux on a packaging project whilst I was working at Unilever in my first design role after graduating. I was looking to jump agency-side to answer the kind of briefs I had been setting as a client and, fortunately, Crux were enjoying a period of growth, especially at the creative end.


I was lucky to graduate having already secured a position in Unilever’s global design team, which gave me really good exposure to great design work as well as a host of wonderful agencies. I gained that first grad position having completed an industrial placement year at Unilever between my second and third year of study. Looking back, my role now really pivoted on that placement year, as I was armed with the experience, contacts and industry knowledge to be employable after graduating. Gaining the experience required to take on client briefs at an agency can be tough – a chicken and egg sort of situation with needing a certain amount of experience to start. Placement opportunities, if you can get them, are so valuable to setup your career trajectory into a full-time role in an agency design role. 

What has been the latest change in your sector?


Even in my relatively short time in the industry I’ve seen a whole host of changes which are keeping us on our toes with the way we work and the expectations of designers. The growing amalgamation of physical and digital is changing the way products are used and designed; the design-thinking approach now takes a stronger role in the way business are run and challenges are solved; new ways of researching and exploring user behaviour is changing the way we answer design briefs.


Most excitingly though, the ever-evolving conversation around sustainability is the biggest change the sector is facing and my generation of designers are turning their creative eye to solving. How do we continue to innovate and serve new user need without over-exploiting natural resources and damaging our planet? The challenge is a deeply complex one, and we are having to think as creatively as ever to solve it – but a change in priority, and a change in the way we approach all projects is what is needed to resolve the most pressing issue of our time.



Do you have any tips for students looking to get into this sector?  (Including any good resources, websites or events?)

As I mentioned earlier; finding a placement and throwing yourself into live briefs would be a must.


Getting comfortable with being outside your comfort zone is something I wish someone drilled into me whilst I was studying. Design is fundamentally all about the unknown, seeing things from other people’s perspectives and exploring in the areas where others have perhaps missed. Whether it’s ethnographic research in a farm or co-creating a concept with a bunch of opinionated focus group participants, all the interesting and important discussions are had when your somewhere unfamiliar, both physically and mentally. Feel empowered to ask big, challenging questions; but equally don’t be afraid to ask the simple things to get there.

LeManoosh is a great place for design trends. 99 Percent Invisible is an amazing podcast exploring the hidden stories behind every day designed objects. I’m using Instagram more and more to keep up to date and to find insight into work by other designers/agencies.


Stay curious, keep an open mind and get comfortable with Adobe shortcuts!

Oliver Needham