Cheers, Erika Osti
This week we chat to Erika Osti, senior experience designer at R/GA in Melbourne. Erika is a creative & collaborative designer with a focus on balancing customer needs and business value. Erika brings an incredible energy, approach and wicked sense of humour to the table.
We love a happy hour around here, what shall we drink?
I’m going through a rosé phase… a bit cliché, but almost chic enough that you can drink it anytime, anywhere? Cheers to that!
Tell us, what’s your design superpower?
I can make doubt disappear! I mean, I certainly try to. I remember being asked this in the first class of service design, and I still feel that it applies. When I think about designing anything I want to make sure anything you put forward is clear on actions and next steps.
The last thing I want when I’m designing is having too many options or to feel confused. I’m trying to put myself in the clients shoes, we design for the customer — but we also need to design for the teams that implement our designs, we need to provide simple instructions and clear next steps.
As designers, it’s easy for us to understand something that we created because we went through that process and learning first hand, but it can be difficult to take someone new on that journey through artefacts alone. How to bring the essence of what you’re saying to life can be difficult, we need to design the experience for our teams, peers and stakeholders too.
As a designer, what are you most proud of?
My resilience. Oh dear, navigating the project lifecycle is a rollercoaster, you have to stay strong. It comes with exposure and experience, being in an environment where things often move very fast, a project might last 1–6 months, you learn so much with each project and gain more maturity through that exposure. When you are starting your career there’s a lot to learn and you have to push through that uncertainty. It’s important to find someone to talk to that has that experience, someone that you connect with and can be really honest, open and vulnerable with.
What motivates you to keep doing what you do every day?
The opportunities. Every time I interact with something that doesn’t work I feel that design will never die. We have so much work to do.
The way I see it, everything we design needs someone to interact with it, to make it work. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, humans are complex, so there is always going to be something we need to fix .
If you could share one piece of advice with other designers, what would it be?
Learn to say no! Otherwise you’ll go crazy. Right now, I am involved on 3 different projects. I’m excited about it, in fact I wanted to do it, but now my
to-do list is huge and that can feel quite overwhelming. So it’s not just about saying no to others, you have to prioritise what you want, and be disciplined enough to say no to yourself as well.
What was your pathway into design?
I started off in industrial design in Brazil in 2008 but worked as a graphic designer for a very long time.
It was frustrating to me that elements of design can be used poorly or without much consideration for who needs to interpret it.
I wanted to come back to research and was lucky to find a job that allowed me to reflect on customer needs when I made the move to Sydney and joined a furniture store in 2014. There I got involved with understanding all of the different bits and pieces that have to come together to bring an experience to life, while creating opportunities for the business to grow. I then moved to Melbourne, took a course at Academy Xi to learn more about Service Design and here I am today.
What is a current challenge you are facing in design?
Client maturity… It’s very hard to put design thinking forward when clients can’t understand its value. Digital is fast paced, I get it, but you need to have a well understood focus to understand where to go when you want to move fast and hit those goals. And understanding takes time, effort, investment… Which clients don’t always have time for. It’s an interesting conundrum.
How might we, as a design community, approach this problem?
I believe every design practitioner should understand economics so they can work with clients to help them see the value we can create. Trust me, if you are a designer, take an economics crash course. It’ll change your life.
What do you do to disconnect & unwind for increased well-being?
I cook a lot. Especially when it is cold in Melbourne, all the soups and stews are on the menu! I also enjoy spending time with my own thoughts and do a 15-minute journaling exercise each morning. This really helps clear my mind and makes my days more productive. In my spare time, I look after my devil cat and work on personal projects.
How do you make ‘flexible work’ work for you?
It started off rough for me, I can’t lie. Having to adapt to not speaking to people in person, especially while running interviews, was a big challenge as you just can’t read the room the same way in virtual settings.
Creating that separation between work and living was key to making the new normal work for me.
These days I’m getting used to it and it’s become easier to work from home. Things that helped me were purchasing a massive desk and turning a corner of my apartment into a workstation, where I keep my books and all my non-digital tools (who remembers post it notes?).
What do you do to inspire creative thinking or get ‘un-stuck’?
I find that opening a random book and reading a few paragraphs usually helps! I always try to reflect on what I’m reading to get my mind off the problem. The exercise of switching the focus gets me unstuck every time.
I also find that chasing solutions doesn’t work too well for me. If time permits, I drop the work for a couple of hours. It does wonders.
Do you have a go to playlist to get into the flow of work?
It really depends on what I’m trying to achieve. I find instrumental hip hop goes really well when doing synthesis and I’m unable to put a pack together without a soundtrack that I can’t dance or sing to.
What is the best customer experience you have had recently?
The Iconic. As much as I love being around humans and asking questions, COVID has made me anxious about visiting stores. Being able to get stuff delivered and send them back if they don’t work has become my go-to for everything these days.
On a separate note, Uniqlo has a new checkout system that allows you to get in and out so fast you wouldn’t believe it! You literally drop your items onto a tray and all the prices pop up on the screen like magic. You pay and go in less than 2 minutes. Dangerously easy.
What are some of your go to design tools?
Any other books, series or resources that you would recommend?
This is a bit of an old one but More Human by Steve Hilton was a book that opened my eyes to all the services we have the opportunity to fix as designers.
edge.org is a brilliant website for inspiration on how people think and other philosophical matters.
I’m currently re-watching Mindhunter because that really reminds me of the level of crazy you hear during interviews sometimes.
If you’ve enjoyed our chat with Erika as much as we have, you can watch our deep-dive chat online!
Continue the conversation in the comments, or connect with Erika online
Erika Osti - Service Designer, PwC Digital - PwC Australia | LinkedIn
Hi, I'm Erika. I'm a Multidisciplinary Designer with 5+ years of experience applied to Service/UX Design and a solid…