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A Day in the Life of a Business Designer

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Feb 28 2019

When people ask me what I do for a living, I say, “I find innovative ways for companies to transform and grow.” I think a lot about the intangible parts of creating a new service. How do we make money? Who do we partner with? What resources do we need to begin?

While I occasionally geek out over numbers, I spend most of my time going deep with clients, sketching business models, and building prototypes to test our ideas with real people.

I’m currently working on a project to create a new taxi experience for Japan. We’re working to help our client, a taxi equipment supplier, stay relevant when taxis themselves are being disrupted.

There’s really no typical day for me at IDEO, but here’s a little peek at what a recent one looked like.

8:30am: Commute

On nice days I walk to work through Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s largest. It’s hard to believe that I live in a concrete jungle with views like this! Most days, though, I take the train. It’s exactly 16 minutes to get to work. (Perk of living in Tokyo: Trains run like clockwork.)

10:00am: Team stand-up

Our team has daily morning and evening stand-ups. We’re supposed to plan the day, but we get sidetracked and spend most of it playing with our taxi prototype.

10:30am: Business model review

I sketch out our current idea using our Business Model Tiles. They’re a quick, visual way to bring our plan to life, and they make it easy enough for anybody to come in and iterate with me. (The team liked this version.)

12:00pm: Monday lunch meeting

The entire studio gets together every Monday for lunch. The food is amazing—we have different caterers provide freshly cooked, seasonal dishes every week. Usually, we share silly photos from the previous week and studio/project updates. Everybody takes a turn as host, and shares personal inspiration. This week it's Ryo, introducing one of our new D4V (Design for Ventures) portfolio companies, Tabi Labo, to the studio. (More on that later!)

1:00pm: Crash course in graphic design

Outside of work, I run a pop-up curry shop with some friends. We make curry with a Japanese twist, using seasonal ingredients or flavoring that you might not usually find in curry. I’m lucky to be surrounded by talented graphic designers who helped me transform my very analogue potato stamp logo into a digital masterpiece.

2:00pm: Video shoot

We’re making a short user journey video to showcase what our taxi service might look and feel like. As a business designer, making things tangible is important, because it makes the service feel real, and empowers clients to take risks and launch new businesses. Our client got really into it, and even starred in the video as the taxi driver!

5:00: Design sprint

IDEO Tokyo is co-located with D4V (Design for Ventures), our in-house venture capital fund. I really enjoy working with the startups, which have different needs from our typical clients, and move really fast. Here, we’re helping Famzon (a company that makes shoes with interchangeable heels) create its first pop-up store in the Haneda Airport.

6:30pm: Heading home

It’s been a long day. Can’t wait to go home, eat dinner, and recharge for tomorrow.

  • Kei Iwashita

    Senior Business Design Lead, IDEO Tokyo
    Kei is an organic chemist turned business designer and part-time curry chef. She gets excited about building businesses from scratch, and can be found wandering around the city adding to her food maps, or concocting new spice creations in the kitchen.
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