A B2B solutions designer
talks about business in Europe
- Yuhei Yamamoto Lead Designer Panasonic Design Europe
- Yuhei Yamamoto is a lead designer developing Panasonic's B2B business at the Design Centre Europe in London. He is working to build the future in collaboration with several partner companies, making broad use of his skills from product design to design solutions and design thinking as he moves around from place to place in Europe. We asked him about his work in Europe and his ambitions on his short return visit to Japan on business.
Why did you decide to become a designer?
My father was a big influence on my decision to enter the world of design. He was a graphic designer, so things related to design were always around me as I grew up.
Are there any jobs that made a particular impression on you since joining the company?
Since entering the company 13 years ago, I was constantly involved in the design of consumer audio products. Of the many projects I worked on in that area, the design of the compact audio HC series left a particularly strong impression on me.
A requirement of the design was that we couldn't change the internal components, but by rearranging their positioning and configuration we were able to significantly slim it down. I put in a lot of thought into how to make best use of the space we were working with and used materials such as aluminium and fabric. This concept was extremely well received and became a major hit.
Although I'm not involved in it anymore, the same series is still continuing now; it's up to its eighth model.
Tell us about what you are currently working on.
I'm currently working at the Design Centre Europe in London.
My work mainly involves B2B design, so for example I come up with solution designs for finished car manufacturers. We're using Panasonic's new technologies and design thinking together with UK and European car manufacturers to come up with vehicles that end users will find both convenient and enjoyable to drive.
How is B2B design different from B2C?
I try not to think about the difference. Though the consumer is different, I would concentrate on drawing pictures to spark my ideas. I started to listen to the customer more than before. After carefully listening to what they want, I create a sketch or diagram and confirm with them that that's what they want. And I constantly go back to ask them more questions. Through this process, projects without a distinct focus gradually start to take shape.
The development period for a car is around three or four years, sometimes five, so this sort of back-and-forth process goes on for some time. Consumer electronics go from planning to mass production at an amazing speed of just a year, so how the time is spent is quite different.
What are some key points in this long back-and-forth process?
Of course it's necessary to grasp what the customer is saying they want, but it's also important to try to figure out what they will want in the future as well. We can make something straightaway with the technology and components we have now. But from conversation with the customer, I can identify new areas which the customer hasn't previously considered. The designer has to fulfil a vital role of translating the customer's ideas with a solution combining both, then communicating this to the organisation inside Panasonic.
Please give a word of advice or encouragement to someone hoping to become a designer for Panasonic.
You have to have an interest and a passion in product manufacturing.
With Panasonic's increasing involvement in B2B, there are more opportunities coming for designers who create services and solutions. But the process of making products, from developing new technologies and incorporating them from platforms and systems into hardware will still continue.
That's why I hope people don't limit themselves to being service design but also actively stay interested in products, user experiences and graphics, to be involved as a designer in making products.
Lastly, can you tell us about your day-to-day life in Europe?
In the mornings I spend a lot of time in meetings and contact with Japan. After that, I often have meetings in various parts of Europe. You can go pretty much anywhere in Europe in around two hours, including Germany, so mostly I take day trips. It's sort of like going between Tokyo and Osaka. After this interview I'm going back to London, and then I'm off to a design office in Italy to kick off a new project. That will be a day trip too. Though I'd like to take some time off in Turin. Life is busy.
*All information is correct as of 2017.