Since October 2019, Senior Product and Strategic Designer Erika Lauro has been on the Zalando digital experience team at the prestigious firm’s headquarters in Berlin, the most creative and cosmopolitan city in the world.
Zalando is leading the fashion e-commerce market in Europe by offering unique online shopping experiences to about 20 million customers every day.
A true achievement for Erika Lauro – being part of one of the major tech businesses in Europe, which gathers highly qualified professionals from the field.
Thirty-year-old Erika Lauro was born in Rome of a family from Sorrento. After earning a scientific high school diploma, she studied Industrial Design at IED – Istituto Europeo di Design (European Design Institute) in Milan, then graduated from a Master in Strategic Design at the Politecnico, and from the University for the Creative Arts in Kent, England. Her career took off in Milan as she started working at specialized agencies like Publicis and Carmi&Ubertis; she then moved to Amsterdam at AKQA, and finally landed in the German capital.
Together with Erika, we will take our readers to the discovery of strategic design, and particularly of the relationship between this little-known yet important field with the world of luxury, eagerly waiting for recovery.
Erika, could you tell us what strategic design is?
Only in recent years has strategic design been recognized as a specific academic branch of industrial design, and design in general – as a key to business success, with its own scientific, theoretical background, and thus requiring dedicated training resources. Its mission – or rather, goal? Working on systemic visions that in turn might lead to unprecedented innovating solutions.
What skills are crucial to such a vital role for the future of businesses?
Skills related to specific fields, both professional and psychological, that need to interact with one another – from economics to technology, from culture to intellectual curiosity, the latter constantly stimulated by a relentless world, all including beauty, a love for art, taste, and outright creativity. An empathetic view of the world and humankind, able to envision new experiences to improve the quality of people’s lives.
How could these professional skills, so close to the world of luxury, influence senior managers in their decision-making process?
In the past few years, such skills have become crucial to business managers for interpreting the complexity of markets and consumers’ ever more sophisticated needs, in order to elaborate bolder visions and more appreciated systemic innovations. In order to design innovation strategies for managers to review, strategic designers need to analyze all the main economic, technological and cultural factors that determine changes in society and business. They should thus find prompts to design socially and economically sustainable projects. Economic sustainability is at the basis of sustainable development. Economic growth now needs to go hand in hand with the respect for the ecosystem. Sustainability is the future of economy, of manufacturing, of the world, and simply of humanity. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic might be a turning point for luxury and fashion too. Your magazine also seems to be already green-oriented.
Indeed, thank you for noticing. As our readers will surely be interested in this, what training should be undertaken in order to work in this field?
Despite this being a brand new professional role, many academic paths are already available and internationally recognized. The most common one starts from an architecture or industrial design background, plus some specialized training with a Master in Service Design or Experience Design. A business background is just as common, to turn economic principles into design projects. However, intellectual curiosity and a sense of beauty are always a must. A continuous cultural enrichment is key, even critical, to this profession.
An absolutely intriguing professional opportunity. When it comes to operations, what’s a strategic designer’s role in a corporate team?
They take care of a project’s foundations. In order to do this, they consult with several stakeholders so as to identify the end consumers’ real needs for every product or service. Based on these, they develop project roadmaps.
I can see how strategic design is related to innovation and change. To what extent will this new profession contribute to the challenge awaiting business management in fashion and luxury, which this magazine explores, after the Covid-19 storm – the challenge of change?
In my opinion, this monumental challenge will involve economy as a whole – manufacturing, trading, marketing, communication, and social organization in itself, as well as individual needs and consumption. Just think of remote working, a mere necessity during the emergency bound to become a virtue, thus radically changing the very essence of professional organization, private life at home, and urban mobility between the city center and the outskirts. The pandemic of this one devastating virus will spark a new global revolution, and even stronger than the ones that followed the discovery of the New World, or the invention of printing and combustion engines. This new revolution, which I would call the sustainability revolution, will find an ally in the digital era that we have now entered. Among all fields that will be faced with this challenge, the world of fashion and luxury will be in the front line to embrace change.
A world likely to disappear, the way you see it?
The old one will completely disappear only if it fails to keep up with change. The new world will be rooted in sustainability, such as clean energies, which are progressively replacing the polluting ones. Today, we are witnessing an incredible acceleration in all fields due to the pandemic, and nothing will ever be the same again. Fashion and luxury will never be buried, as the need to dress well, enjoy goods embodying beauty, take care of oneself, buy fragrances, or furnish one’s home will not fade. However, in order not to yield to change, all these fields will have to come to terms – and quickly – with the sustainability challenge, in terms of creativity, use of raw materials, protection of natural resources, and communication and marketing. Newly-come strategic designers will be called to promptly investigate the new, more demanding needs of fashion and luxury prospects, and to provide corporate managers with new strategies to produce new goods and services, based on and aiming to sustainable development.
If such a change will take place, can a new renaissance be expected for this world – and for Made in Italy too? A bright future?
I do believe so. History shows that after all great pandemics, natural disasters and wars, free from the smell of death, the reign of fear and the siege of anguish, survivors explode with a new desire to live, an urge to rethink their future, a will to look for beauty, a love for beautiful things and – why not? – for eros. Strategic designers will contribute to this near, brighter future, firmly believing that through sustainable development, the world of luxury and fashion will be back to shine with a new light. And to (re)do business!
Thank you, dear Erika, for your sharp, reassuring observations. From all staff at our magazine, I wish you the greatest professional success. You truly deserve it!
Erika Lauro | Senior Product Designer & Strategist