Photo by David Rodriguez

Samuel and I connected last year and have had an on-going conversation on design and leadership. We emailed recently to discuss his interests and design philosophy.


Samuel López-Lago is a Spanish designer and researcher currently based in Spain, working as a Lead Designer for PayPerThink, an innovation-focused agency responsible developing creative, profitable, efficient and sustainable solutions for companies and organizations that wish to perfect determined aspects related to their business method.

Since last year, Samuel is also collaborating with the Contemporary Crafts Studio Terracota Mérida. This collaboration originated the project Ars Fatum, a collection of fine art that is nominated for the National Prize of Crafts of Spain within the product category. 

Samuel holds Master Certificate in Systems Design and Project Leadership (Cornell University), a Master Executive in Craft Design (Escuela de Organization Industrial) and a Master’s Degree in Design in Engineering and Architecture (University of Córdoba). 

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What drives you in this business?

Within my perspective, the intersection between design and project leadership conceives an exciting area of knowledge. My goal is to resolve complex problems in the projects that I am involved with by using the principles of human centered design, to ultimately have as a result an efficient and sustainable solution.

As Herbert Simon once said, “the ultimate goal to improve people’s lives is the transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones” (Sciences of the Artificial, MIT Press, 1969, p. 55). How could anyone not feel drawn to such a noble aim? 

The inherent social character of the design discipline is something that deeply captivates me since the very first time I was ever exposed to this area of knowledge.

What is your greatest challenge? 

To meet the expectations of the user in the systems, products and services that I create or manage. Something that I try to achieve by following the life cycle of the project and convoying it so that all requirements are in check.

Achieving a highly inclusive design while considering the wide and interesting meaning that the word inclusive detains is, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges facing the discipline of design. In order to overcome such an obstacle, one must develop their empathy skills as it is a crucial factor.

Also, making unbiased decisions is really challenging, at times, nearly impossible. At least, one should try to recognize and count them when making decisions. It is essential to zone out prejudices and auto-imposed thoughts if our aspirations scope to a universal design.

How do you cope with the unknown?

The unknown is usually the starting point for a discipline that is characterized as a fuzzy front end one, as design is. Within the vast majority of the design problems that we as a collective usually need to face, the starting point is most definitely the unknown.

A good approach that I personally enjoy to assume is to be Socratic and ask questions. Something so apparently simple as the 5 whys technique developed by Sakichi Toyoda can be quite helpful when it comes to clarifying the darkness of the unknown. 

Other techniques are based on the deployment strategies based in anthropological and ethnographical research, to be observant and curious, to immerse ourselves in the problem and be emphatic with the people affected by the problem. 

Also, we need to understand that even if we try to prepare ourselves to face the unknown, out there we can always find Black Swans, a concept popularized by Nassim Taleb, the unpredictable, rare, but nevertheless high-impact events. 

In order to be ready to face these same events, we must stand strong against negative ones and willingly accept and fully take advantage of the positive ones.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Samuel, and I look forward to catching up with you again soon!

If you have an interest in participating in a Q&A to tell your story, reach out to me on Twitter @scottjancy.

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