Italian-born product service system designer Caterina Bellavite, 32, who cut her professional teeth via a five-year stint in design in Milan, enjoys a unique role at McLaren Applied Technologies.
Appointed seven months ago as the company’s first design and technology analyst and operating across all areas of the business, she works with a multidisciplinary team to fulfil client briefs and “help make peoples’ lives a little better,” she says.
Her all-round design thinking and problem-solving skills are currently being put to use across a diverse range of projects including healthcare and wellness at the firm’s Design Lab in Woking, Surrey.
It’s the firm’s “unusually-integrated approach to product design” which helps it “create a unique fusion of product design and data intelligence,” she believes.
The Design Lab works with global brands creating different product solutions so Miss Bellavite’s job is far removed from the high-performance automotive world with which the firm is usually associated.
Earlier on in her career, a successful internship with Samsung in Milan led to a seven-year experience with the brand, with the last four years as a UK-based senior design researcher; covering home appliances for the Korea-based firm across the whole of Europe.
A specialist in “user experience” as well as design and macro trends, she believes that understanding different lifestyles and contexts is a critical skill for product designers working across multiple markets.
“One example would come from my previous role, when I was asked to work on the European fridge-freezer category,” she says.
“It soon became apparent that while we Italians need plenty of space inside a fridge for the masses of fresh produce we buy every day, in the UK, you are more concerned with the capacity of the freezer.”
“As a designer, understanding and catering for such cultural nuances can make the difference between a successful product and a failure.”
Now absorbed in her new world at McLaren Applied Technologies, Miss Bellavite believes that her job is at once broad-brush and finely-detailed.
“I see my role as both micro and macro, because while I always have an eye on product performance overall, I also need a good understanding of the details which cater for the specific needs of an audience and make life more enjoyable.”
While it is often the norm for engineers and product designers to work in separate silos, at McLaren Applied Technologies, collaboration – as well as constant attention to data driven design – is seen as key.
“I work closely with other disciplines right from the initial brief stage, and a key part of our approach is that we share our insights and our problem-solving expertise with our partner clients; whatever sector they represent.” she says.
“Whether it’s a research lab looking for better diagnostic tools, or a consumer-facing fitness organisation wanting to offer more motivational, wearable technology, it all comes down to understanding how to apply the right technology to improve the user experience.”
In order to create cutting-edge products in different markets, the lab plays close attention to analytics; underpinning the insights from researchers and designers with hard-nosed algorithms.
Says Miss Bellavite: “All of the decisions we make here are taken according to the data, and it’s an approach which truly works.”