Hussain’s multidisciplinary approach to design
Hussain Almossawi’s approach to design has led him to working with some of the largest brands in the world, including Apple, Nike, Adidas, Google, and Ford Motors. One of the keys to his success is having an open mind and a willingness to continue learning and adapting. He describes himself as “a curious sponge”, being inspired by everything around him, and everybody he talks to.
This curiosity has meant a less than linear path to industrial design: Hussain started off as a graphic designer picking up work for logo design, web design, and even NBA and AFL players – all before he’d even started at college. When he did start at college, he studied graphic design; it was here that he fell in love with 3D. 3D in turn led to an exploration of product design, which led him to finding industrial design.
He took this new found passion for industrial design for postgraduate study at a masters level, with a particular focus on innovation. Through the masters, he also started to explore the world of CGI. He now utilizes a wealth of disciplines in his work as Founder and Chief Designer at Mossawi Studios, which forms his recipe for innovation: “there’s always these two different worlds coming together. So that’s been kind of the theme of my career so far, I guess.”
Blurring lines between imagination and science
Hussain talks about the constant consideration of combining imagination with science in his design process. “If I’m doing a product, for example, how is it going to function? But at the same time, aesthetically, how is it going to look? So those are the two things that are always trying to blur together and fuse together. It doesn’t just work well, it also looks good.”
In the past, Hussain felt that bringing 3D into the design process was looked at professionally as a big ‘no!’. At that point in time it wasn’t properly understood, and 3D artists weren’t even considered designers. However with the advancement of technology, this has changed.
Hussain notes the increasing role of visual effects and 3D modeling software in the design process, and that includes for industrial designers. For him, it’s the merging of different processes from different programs and disciplines where the real magic happens. This has been made possible by new software like Gravity Sketch, which has helped open up new possibilities for his exploration and inspiration.
The Innovator’s Handbook
Innovation can be overwhelming and scary for aspiring designers, but it can be approached in a much easier way when broken down into smaller insights and nuggets, according to Hussain. This is the idea behind his book, The Innovators Handbook, which offers actionable, practical examples and insights into innovation.
When working with companies such as Nike, Adidas, Apple, and Ford, he noticed common patterns in the way they were thinking and generating product ideas. He wanted to cultivate them and bring them together in one small book that would be a fun read.
One approach he notes is the first principles method, something that has widely been reported as used by Elon Musk within Tesla and SpaceX. It involves breaking down a current product into every basic part, questioning each part’s necessity, and seeing where there are flaws or opportunities. The product is then reconstructed with changes or additions. The process is a constant evolution as technologies change and our understanding of the product’s flaws improves.
Hussain spoke more about the process of innovation and unleashing creativity at his Around Design Festival session in 2022
It’s never a one man show
Diversity and collaboration also play a huge role in any innovation. Hussain believes a team with different backgrounds, expertise, and mindsets allows for diverse perspectives, opening up ideas and approaches not thought of before. The more diverse the team, the more innovation it can produce.
For example, with a team of designers, scientists, and industry experts working together, something truly brilliant can be created from their expertise and different points of view. Hussain thinks that blurring the lines between different industries will inevitably lead to collaboration and improvement to existing practices and products.
Different teams and industries may also communicate in different ways, just as marketing teams often deliver messages in a much more friendly and understandable tone. Learning from the ways others work and approach tasks is a huge part of the collaborative design process. Hussain likes to think of it as learning languages from other specialisms and experts for him to then use in his projects.
“The more diversity we have in terms of people, in terms of expertise, in terms of mindsets, it’s just going to allow us to come up with more exciting ideas that we never thought of as individuals,” he states. “Perspectives are critical for innovation as different people have different experiences and views of the same thing. It’s important to understand these diverse perspectives as it can lead to more exciting and groundbreaking ideas,” he added.
Keep to your timelines
Hussain cites two types of innovation mentalities that designers can take: the leaders’ mindset and the followers’ mindset. The former is about introducing something entirely new, while the latter is about using existing trends as a springboard to innovate from. Neither are wrong. Both lead to continuous innovation in different ways.
And where does the innovation stop? Hussain champions the importance of having a strict timeline with a clear path to develop an idea, bring it to market, test it, and improve on it. He thinks deadlines are crucial for projects as they bring them to an end.
“the same with the university projects. You know, students, when they do some projects, they’re always trying to improve it until the last second. But a deadline is a deadline. That’s the only thing that brings the project to an end is a deadline, really. Otherwise, you can always improve it,”.
More from Around
You can listen to all the Around Design Podcast episodes, or watch previous sessions from the Around 3D Design Festival — all on the Around website.
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