Ben Hardman is a product designer at heart, with a meandering career through design, engineering and innovation. His current position within the Speedo Aqualab® challenges the role that technical innovation has within a global sportswear brand, and how it can inspire people to swim. Ben has a passion for the human element of what he does – tapping into the emotions and making a connection with people through their interaction with a product and the experience that creates.
You’re speaking at PD+I 2015, what made you decide to get involved?
Speedo have been working with Chris Lefteri recently, and he asked if we’d share some stories and insights into who we are, what we do and how we do it. I’d heard some really positive things about PD+I and wanted to come along to make new connections and hear some interesting talks.
What are you currently working on?
Speedo have recently introduced the Fastskin Lazer Racer X. The Fastskin Lazer Racer X was created through collaborating with hundreds of swimmers and experts throughout the world, the suit is designed to help them feel fast and be fast.
Why did you become a designer?
I’ve always loved crafting ideas and thoughts into objects, both useful and/or purely aesthetic.
Is there a designer or company you particularly admire and why?
I get really excited by brands such as Bang&Olufsun. They have such a precise and reserved image, but manage to flip this into very radical concepts. They explore new and unchartered territories and have fun in the process.
Should you meet your heroes?
I don’t think it’s necessary to meet your heroes, or idolize people or organizations. For me it’s enough just to appreciate them and feed off their ideas and energy.
What product or design you wish you’d worked on and why?
I love the VW Golf and Jetta MKII cars from the late 80’s – from the age when car makers seemed to have a clearer visual identity. If I’d been on the team I would’ve encourage them to include a cup-holder and a curry hook!
What is the greatest challenge you face as a designer?
I think the biggest challenge as designer or an engineer is to flip between a subjective and objective viewpoint. Great experiences can only be created when there is a bit of magic thrown in, a pleasant surprise – but this is hard to achieve by committee, so the designer’s vision should always be protected and respected. But what we do also has to also be rooted in insights – and this requires a large degree of separation from any personal vision. A healthy dilemma!