Meet Piotr Gajos: Chief Innovation Officer

Piotr Gajos', Chief Innovation Officer of Sourcebits, picture wearing a headset.

Sourcebits’ tagline is “Design-Led Engineering,” and we mean it. Our design team is made up of everyone from former IDEO employees to Apple Design Award Winners, and they each have a story to tell. In this series, we’ll be highlighting a new member of our design team each week. Here is one of their stories.

When Piotr won an Apple Design Award in 2006, he caught the eye of our founder. When he visited India later that year, he left with a job — and the rest is Sourcebits history. Piotr recently moved from Poland to San Francisco, and now serves as Chief Innovation Officer. Piotr leads our Innovation Strategy Workshops, brings new ideas to Sourcebits and consults on projects for many of our clients around the world.

Piotr draws inspiration from film and music, and is enjoying the local scene when he’s not coming up with cool concepts and designing awesome apps.

What inspired you to become a designer? Any particular influencers?

Direct inspiration was my uncle, who got me Adobe Photoshop 3.0 as a present when my parents bought me my first PC, back in 1996. I launched it, started clicking around out of pure curiosity and minutes later I was hooked. As it turns out, for life. As far as artistic inspirations go, I would have to mention my favorite painters and designers: H.R. Giger, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Caspar David Friedrich, Waldemar Swierzy, and Alessandro Bavari. I also find inspiration in movies, particularly made by such directors as Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorcese, Darren Aronofsky or Neill Blomkamp.

What has been your biggest success as a designer so far? Biggest failure?

Biggest success so far — quite obviously — the Apple Design Award which I won in 2006. That was completely unexpected, propelled my career and I can’t thank Apple enough for the recognition. Even more so in recent years, I’ve been incredibly proud of forming Sourcebits’ design team into a self-sustaining, energetic and immensely creative organism. We managed to create such a fun and efficient working environment, whilst keeping it mostly remote. I’m very lucky to be a part of it all.

It’s hard to say what my biggest failure would be, as I usually try to learn my lessons and move on very quickly, without keeping failures in my brain for too long. I guess a perpetual mistake of mine is relying too much on my own experiences as opposed to performing extensive user testing. I design things which I believe I would use, which puts a lot of responsibility on me as an exemplary user. It obviously fails every now and then because my experiences and the way my brain works aren’t ideal or the most objective.

What’s your design specialty? What do you love to design the most?

I have an unending, nostalgic love for print design. It encapsulates a set of challenges completely different from UI design. Color correction, resolutions, typography, composition — I love to tackle all of these. I used to do a lot of print design before I started with UI, so there is a lot of very fond memories of those times.

What’s your creative process like? How do you frame a new project in your mind?

It’s a vicious circle of ideation, criticism, execution, prototyping and validation! I approach new challenges with a mixture of excitement, anxiety, impatience and eagerness. Having done it for about 10 years, I’m still a small boy on Christmas morning when it comes to new design work.

I guess it’s worth mentioning a major change I have recently introduced to my design process: I have compressed the static steps of the process (sketching, wireframing, Photoshopping etc.) into as little time as possible (we’re talking hours here) and shifted a majority of my focus to creating interaction prototypes. I have discovered that if a prototype is high fidelity, if it’s realistic enough, if it’s visceral — stakeholders, no matter how technical they are, will identify with it much better and be able to provide great feedback. Plus, working in After Effects or Quartz Composer is infinitely more fun than pushing static pixels.

What’s something you can teach your audience about your work?

The keyword is user experience design, and I’d like to tell you it doesn’t exist. If we define user experience as a set of emotions and reactions which are evoked in a situation of experiencing a product, through how individual reacts to the product, how the interaction shapes over time, how it is influenced by individual’s knowledge, experience, character, desires and mood — then it’s sensible to assume the experience happens spontaneously and is unique to each individual. It is impossible to design user experience, it’s just not possible to make accurate predictions as to how user will experience your design. All we can do as UI designers, is design for user experience: create facilities and tools which empower the natural skills of a human being. And if the reaction, the moment of experiencing our design becomes delightful — then we can say we created a UI which evoked a positive user experience. For more of my thoughts behind this concept, check out my Slideshare here.

Outside of your design career, what are some other things we should know about you?

Music is a pretty huge thing in my life. On a very general level, I search for moments which inspire strong emotions, whatever color they may be. Music as a medium is an incredible vessel which is easy to hop into and experience unspeakable things. On a more practical level, I’ve been getting into hi-fi audio equipment, headphones in particular. I was very lucky to acquire a pretty serious combo: Audeze LCD-X headphones and a Woo Audio WA7 amplifier. Both items carry exquisite design and absolutely mind blowing sound, which makes me a very happy camper.

I also love to travel, I’m a big foodie (which is my demise at the same time), and I’m a huge fan of Japanese mecha designs.

How did you join Sourcebits?

I was contacted by our CEO, Rohit Singal, sometime in 2006, shortly after I won the Apple Design Award. I worked with a Thailand-based startup called pzizz at that time. Rohit and I started by doing a few small projects together, and I slowly started to gravitate towards working more and more with him. I came up with the idea to pay him a visit in Bangalore and as soon as I entered the office, I was offered a full-time position.

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Piotr Gajos, Chief Innovation Officer

Piotr is Sourcebits Chief Innovation Officer. A 2006 Apple Design Award winner, Piotr draws much of his inspiration from film and music, and focuses on leading our Innovation Strategy Workshops, generating new ideas for Sourcebits, and consulting on projects.