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This is the third edition of the competition, which began in 2009 and is a way for us to support design schools and young designers, and get them to provide us with fresh ideas on subjects we regard as important. This year we really wanted to open the competition up to international students, more than ever before, by inviting a school in Cape Town to take part. It is also worth noting the presence of Margaret Stewart, Director of Product Design at Facebook. We’re delighted to have her chairing the jury. Regarding the theme, the digital space of the future, we tailored it to our concerns but also to the experiences of the students, who are completely immersed in it.
The competition began in October, and depending on the school, work will be spread over a period between now and February. The jury will meet in March, then the results will be published and we will communicate the key takeaways from the competition.
The Orange design and marketing teams began with a list of ten or so themes that related to issues we are addressing ourselves. The choice of the digital space was soon made, especially as we have launched our own cloud service. The product exists – depending on the subscription type we provide 50 or 100 GB of storage space – but we hope this competition will provide ideas on how to enrich it, make it more intuitive, and enable us to offer more and to expand the range of features available.
That’s the real advantage of this competition. They are designers and they’re capable of bringing their experience to bear in a very concrete way. When you tackle a subject as vast and complex as digital space, it’s interesting to pull together sixty or so projects which can then give you pointers. It’s much more rewarding than having work that is just based on customer surveys or in-house research. It moves us from a subject that is difficult to get to grips with to a reality, to things we can get a feel for. And that really is valuable for us. It broadens the horizons of the people tasked with working on it in a very concrete way. We always strive to find subjects that are closely related to the questions we’re asking ourselves and the challenges our teams need to rise to.
We aren’t asking them to produce something that can be brought to market, but rather to provide us with an ideas book. To make a parallel with the car industry, it’s as if they were all designing concept cars. We might say to ourselves: “Look, the idea behind that rear-view mirror is very interesting. Drill deeper and see if there’s any advantage to be gained from putting it in our own cars.” The students open our eyes to a world of possibilities that we can only generate internally by using this type of method. The result is 50, 60 or 70 concept cars, and there’ll always be something we can take from them. Not to put unchanged into a product, but to incorporate into our own thinking on the product’s future development.
To some extent that’s the aim of the competition: to define it better. The departure point is that we have cloud services. But today those services are, to caricature them a little, little more than virtual USB sticks and hard disk drives. What we’re aiming for, having settled on such a broad subject, is for the students to grasp that yes, the cloud is that, but it could be so much more. So what are they capable of imagining? In their view, what more does the cloud have to offer, what services could it provide in the future? That’s really what we’re hoping this edition will provide. The Young Designers competition is a hugely powerful tool for exploring subjects whose stories are only just beginning.
There will be an exhibition this year as well, we’re very keen to do that because everybody enjoys it. The students are proud to take part in a competition that they know will lead to an exhibition. At Orange, that forces us to work on the staging and therefore to think on our feet about what we take from the submitted ideas. Putting on an exhibition is demanding, it forces you to identify the quintessence of the competition, and adds an extra, positive element of difficulty for the students – creating a prototype – who are therefore faced with an all-round challenge. The projects will also be showcased on platforms like Le collectif, and via everything we try to do on social networks to explain the approach we’re taking.
As the subject is very broad, my advice would be to start with the most precise customer need possible in order to tease out a thread, a story for the project you’re developing. That’s what will be shared with them in the schools and colleges when the competition kicks off. They’ll be given a number of factual elements: customer feedback on existing services of this type. My advice is very much that: let the customer be your guide.