Luca Picardi is Head of Brand Strategy at Kallan & Co., a design studio with a virtual working model (and offices in Helsinki, Melbourne and Christchurch). He has been working across brands and digital products for the last decade.
Given Picardi’s schooling at Central Saint Martins and current teaching work at BAU school of design in Barcelona, we wanted to ask him about his philosophy of digital product design, as well as whether GenAI makes him laugh or cry, what inspires him outside of work, and who would be the dream client.
Econsultancy: Do you have a philosophy when it comes to designing digital products?
Luca Picardi: Your brand is your product. Your product is your brand. For me, the most important question to tackle first whenever building digital products, is how it speaks to the ambition and vision of the brand.
In my mind, this principle should affect every decision across the digital product — from the more fundamental questions on features and roadmap through to UX or UI details.
I’m most fired-up about signature moments that glue the brand and product together.
I’m most fired-up about signature moments that glue the brand and product together. Like Spotify Wrapped giving me some sense of what my year in music says about who I am or sharing a pre-pinned Google map for an upcoming trip with a friend.
I think these seemingly simple moments in a digital product end up being pretty definitive for our perceptions of a brand.
E: What have you worked on lately? What was fun about it?
LP: There’s been a whole range of interesting gigs I’ve worked on lately — everything from fintech to creator platforms. One project which stands is about how to strategically position the city of Helsinki, Finland, on the world stage to international audiences.
It’s fun to tackle such a big and important challenge as an outsider looking in. Having moved to Helsinki from London, I find myself playing the role of both the audience and a co-creator of the city’s cultural narrative.
The project has all the ingredients I look for, from exploring the role and brand of the city to building out its marketing and communications across different digital mediums and channels.
E: Who would be a dream client? (present clients excepted)
LP: As a general reflection, I tend to think it’s less about who the client is in name and more about the drive the people have in that organisation. The ambition of the client is often the glue that makes or breaks a project.
However, to answer the question, a dream client, beyond a specific brand or industry, would be a business that comes in with a totally open brief but big ambitions. Maybe, it’s a client who doesn’t know what they want or need but just has a hunger to change things up.
…it’s less about who the client is in name and more about the drive the people have in that organisation.
What I like about this model is the project has the capacity to grow in many different directions and can be truly tailored and responsive to the client’s context, ambitions and challenges. Perhaps, the outcome could culminate in an incredible piece of immersive research into the culture of their audience or a speculative first-of-its-kind product for the company to build towards. Alternatively, it could be a total brand overhaul touching on everything from look and feel, to cultural behaviour and sound, smell and taste.
I find the ‘unknown’ of what the potential outcome of a project will be particularly intriguing.
E: Tell us one good thing and one bad thing about ‘the open talent economy’.
LP: The most powerful thing about tapping into a wider talent pool is it enables your studio to become a more powerful curator of ideas.
Much like the movie industry, bringing in collaborators helps you take an idea to its extremes by crafting immersive worlds across all kinds of mediums and touchpoints — from physical buildings or wearable products to VR/AR experiences. All these things wouldn’t be possible to construct alone.
Of course, one challenge is how to make an open talent ecosystem work seamlessly with the realities of your business and project scopes, which is always an ongoing process and a continuous effort to fine-tune.
E: How does the design world talk about generative AI? Do you laugh or cry?
LP: I gave a talk last year to a room of business leaders that encouraged people and businesses to look at generative AI from a more fundamental perspective. This starts with your brand’s vision and asking the right questions.
Speaking to clients, colleagues and peers, it seems we can easily get swept up by the transient trend cycles that define a lot of GenAI these days. But, I think its key as an industry we take on a longer and more meaningful view on how this technology can genuinely help our internal teams, businesses objectives or brand initiatives and shape better outcomes.
E: What has inspired you lately outside of work?
LP: Outside of work, I’ve started teaching an MA in Communication Design. Reflecting on the practice of design more deeply and learning from the next generation of designers has been highly rewarding. You’re always exposed to new ways of thinking, and unexpected responses to problems — which I think is a really healthy and important process wherever you’re at in your work-life.
…a healthy rhythm of saunas and ice-dipping helps keep the harsh Nordic winter at bay.
I’m also reinvigorated by seeing art and interfacing with nature. I was recently at an exhibition by Japanese artist, Ryoji Ikeda, which wove together a pixelated world of data and sound waves in a very cinematic way. I find immersive art experiences can temporarily suspend you in a completely different way of seeing the world, which is fascinating.
Also, a healthy rhythm of saunas and ice-dipping helps keep the harsh Nordic winter at bay.