Interview with : Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer at 3M Company
Updated on: 16 Nov 2015
3M is highly regarded for its research and development in the fields of science and technology. the global innovation company stands to bring forth solutions to simplify and enhance our daily lifestyles, whose success would not exist without a commitment to developing products that have a deep emotional impact on users. 3M is focused on building a holistic approach to design that is inclusive of product, brand, graphic and interactive facets, with the purpose of transforming even the simplest of solutions into objects of desire. with a culture of creative collaboration, design holds a very important role for 3M, challenging the status quo and pushing new ideas forward in order to provide a better future on all levels. designboom interviewed 3M's chief design officer, eric quint, to find out what the firm's keys to success are, and his future design vision for the company moving forward.
designboom: what is your role as chief design officer at 3M?
eric quint: as chief design officer at 3M, I am responsible for driving design leadership as a vital creative platform for the enterprise. this involves the management of multi-disciplinary design teams that strengthen both innovation and brand experience for our customers. we are shaping the design culture at 3M, which requires creative talent management, design processes, tools and company-wide understanding of the value of design and how it can be delivered across the businesses and geographies of 3M. another task is to explore future areas of interest for the company, translating trend research into scenarios. my position sees me maintaining a conscious dialogue across the main stakeholders of the company, with design acting as the 'lighthouse' to help us navigate the future.
DB: 3M works across a range of industries. could you elaborate a bit on the skill set and expertise that your design team possesses?
EQ: the diversity of 3M as a company impacts the varied skill set and expertise we require for our design organization. this encompasses a community of creative professionals whose backgrounds reflect multiple design disciplines (e.g., strategy/research, product design, user experience, brand, fashion, packaging, etc.). as a creative driver of the 3M brand experience, design is applied to all manifestations and touch points of the brand that connect to our markets and consumers.
DB: how has the creative development of 3M products evolved as a result of innovative technologies?
EQ: our 46 technology platforms are core to 3M's innovation, and we have thousands of scientists, engineers and technical professionals who constantly discover uncommon connections among these technologies to solve people's problems around the world every day. this process is always evolving, and collaboration between design, R&D, marketing and business is critical in order to keep this development moving forward. fundamental to the success of our design organization is what I call 'collaborative creativity,' ensuring that our team is constantly engaged in vibrant idea exchange across disciplines, to accelerate the path toward new and sustainable 3M solutions.
DB: how much of your work would you say is divided between research and development?
EQ: the success of 3M's innovative culture relies heavily on the connections between departments within the company, along with the general culture of curiosity. so every day, in one way or another, design is connecting us with technical colleagues in research and development, whether in the laboratories or at the executive management level. this is not just about relationships; it's about partnerships, and creative collaboration – an integral job requirement to work at 3M design. design is involved in both the short term to develop solutions entering the market every day, as well as the longer term context of research to explore how future technologies can impact people's lives.
DB: how much of 3M's innovation is a result of companies approaching you with a detailed design brief; and how much of it extends from internal R&D as a response to general industry needs?
EQ: since the design sector at 3M is still under development and relatively young, the majority of innovation is a result of a solid approach successfully driven by the R&D department. the contribution of design has to be seen as an enrichment of this approach, translating customer insights into solutions that build emotional connections to our markets through our brands.
DB: can you share some of the particularly challenging projects you are currently working on?