Rishad Patel runs T.Rex Design, a design consultancy in Singapore. Working across multiple media, cultures, markets and stakeholders, Rishad believes good design and good business strategies come from creating great content and experiences for one's customers. He talks about creativity, the circularity of design and his wish to design a better world.
I design digital products, experiences, and branding for businesses. For over twenty years, I've designed websites, web and mobile apps and developed branding, editorial, creative and marketing strategies for toy-makers, architects, stand-up comedians, universities, publishers, investment companies, podcasters, Fortune 500 companies, advertising agencies, Silicon Valley app startups, and the Super Bowl, among others.
A designer’s job is to solve a business problem, not to create art. A good designer focuses on how well something works, not on how good it looks. I am fortunate in that I am able to write, edit, illustrate, photograph, design, and code, but what I most love about my job is that my ultimate responsibility is to my client’s customer, so I succeed when I can design a way for them to engage with my client’s product or service - whether it’s a website or a brochure - in a way that is delightful and compelling.
About 80% of my job as a designer is research - into my client’s product, industry, competition, history, audiences, and business models - so my focus varies on the project I’m working on. I guess my signature style is that it’s never about me; it’s always about the customer. I’m not as interested in a signature offering as I am in using my skills and experience in being able to tell my client’s story to the right audience. Every person, company, or brand has a story, and anyone who has worked with me knows that I am focused on telling that story in the most effective way possible.
In the context of what I do as a commercial product designer, creativity means that I have a duty to harness all my skills and experience in order to solve specific business problems for any client that engages me, from brand perception and usability to lead and revenue generation. Designers are not artists. Beauty and aesthetics have a significant role in the work of a designer, but that should never be the primary focus.
I have a pretty detailed questionnaire I send to clients once I’ve heard their initial reason for getting in touch. It is comprehensive, and asks questions about who their customers are, their revenue models, their competition, how they generate leads, and so on.
Research, research, research! My workflow always begins with deep research into my client’s business before investigating the specific challenges that need addressing. It’s often a continuing conversation with multiple people like product managers and analytics people. Data can teach you a great deal about how to turn problems into opportunities, and it may be surprising to some that real insight and inspiration can come from good data. Once the discovery phase is done, I focus on content and architecture in order to figure out the nuts and bolts of the narrative and what goes where. Working the content to have just the right voice or tone for specific audiences comes next. It’s only at this later stage that I even start to begin making sketches for the actual visual form of what I’m building. This evolves into wireframes and more finished prototypes that test and iterate into a final first build. Again, this is a circular process - or should be: if it’s a website, it’s never really done. Bugs are ironed out, loading speeds are tweaked, findability is enhanced, and user flows are recalibrated until its user - usually my client’s customer - can ride it like the perfect, intuitive bicycle that they don’t even notice is there.
As far as my work and industry are concerned, technology has given us great tools and ways to communicate. Tools evolve and change over the ages. I think it’s important to keep that in perspective and have the intellectual honesty to work through ideas with rigour, regardless of the tools available.
I believe if adequate creative and cultural investments were made in our educational systems, we would see a corresponding prioritisation in global economic policy. We need to invent an incentive to work ourselves out of this chicken and egg situation.
Arguably, our universal educational systems tend to teach kids how to harness knowledge and resources in order to create wealth for themselves. A curriculum designed to create a generation that designs ways to provide adequate nutrition, water, and safety to the millions of people who have no access to these things instead is something I’d love to work on.
I am inspired by kind people, good steak, The New Yorker, Mark Rothko, xiao long bao, Mickey Patel, Richard Ford, the utter randomness of life, TS Eliot, a well-wrought idea or argument, and the Whanganui River.
I did the branding and web design for Audiomatic, a truly wonderful podcast company in India.
I designed the iOS app, and the branding, including the website.I am a cofounder of Givatude, a San Francisco-based startup. Givatude is an iOS app that enables you to send your friends gifts from local merchants in the Bay Area.
Sindhu Vee Comedy
I did the branding, copywriting, and web design for Sindhu Vee, a stand-up comedian in the UK.
Here’s a couple of quotes that I like to live by in my professional life.