As we embrace the new working norm, Notions are on hand to aid people with some clever modular design solutions for our home/office hybrid environment. Creative Director Jamie Maguire leads us into the good room.
How long has Notions been up and running? How did it come to be?
We’ve been on the go for just over two years now, and it’s been hectic since day one. Having been in the events and experiential marketing space for most of my career, I felt I could bring a unique offering to it in my own style. It wasn’t easy to set out on my own, but the process was made easy through good contacts and experience I’d garnered.
What’s your background and experience?
I studied Product Design in NUIM for my undergrad and then went onto do a masters in Medical Device Design at NCAD. Both introduced me to user experience and interaction design. I discovered that a well-considered design – right through from user experience all the way to aesthetics – could have a huge impact on the finished result. I quickly started to notice well-designed products and what set them apart from poorly planned ones. I went straight from college into an Experiential Marketing agency where I was given some great opportunities to work on a really wide range of projects. I moved from events and experiential into a more fabrication-focused role and developed my understanding of physical design.
When the pandemic hit, you were one of the first to create an opportunity with your Work From Home furniture. What gave you the idea, and confidence, to turn that thought into a reality?
If I’m being honest, it was completely fear-driven. I had worked so hard to set up on my own, I had no other choice but to figure something out or risk losing it all. I spotted the opportunity when my housemate was given an allowance to set up a workspace for home-working. I knew other companies would follow suit so got to work on a solution with another designer. We knew people would be tight for space and that each space would be different so we designed a customisable desk that could be folded away at the end of the day allowing people to reclaim their home – basically we applied design thinking to the situation. We turned it all around in a weekend and had them up for sale online that coming Monday.
How has it worked out for you over the last 12 months?
The support we’ve received and continue to receive is incredible. The last 12 months have been a complete rollercoaster, but we are so fortunate and appreciative of the position we’re now in. To date, we have sold over 3000 units, which is absolute madness, but more importantly, it has allowed us to grow as a company. We’ve just recently expanded our creative department and our fabrication team is due to grow next month. So, it’s safe to say that the last year has been pivotal for our success.
You started selling outside of Ireland. Are you hoping to expand beyond just your Dublin base?
100%, everyone is in the same boat and the solutions/problems we’re designing for apply worldwide. Last year, we sold over 800 units across Europe and we hope to build on that this year with the new range. We’ve found some sustainable and cost-efficient ways to make delivery further afield simpler, so that opens things up considerably.
You recently expanded on your Home By Notions range with a modular furniture solution. What do you think is the difference to that and what you did before? What’s the need you feel you are serving with people?
The intent is still the same – create a well-considered solution to an everyday problem. The focus has shifted from workspace to living space.
With people house-sharing more and more, storage has become a main priority. We want to address this with a unique and attractive offering. Watch this space. Literally.
What were the most important things you considered when designing the range, given the reality we’re all living and working through right now?
The main consideration with the new products is to provide people with a holistic working environment that has the potential to cover all the needs of working from home – essentially there are two parts to the brief, the working and the home, and it is crucial that these two elements are considered in the design. It’s so important to have a well-designed and organised working space, it has a massive knock-on effect on your emotional wellbeing and productivity.
Autumn will hopefully see the return to work, at least in a hybrid way, for many people. What do you see as the opportunities and challenges for everyone as we adapt to this new way of working and collaborating?
Yes, companies are proceeding with a range of different policies when it comes to the future of work, but the one constant seems to be flexibility. We’ve focused on addressing some key challenges that we highlighted through our research into this new flexible way of working. A quieter and more defined home working environment leads to improved work satisfaction and fewer distractions. The new Home by Notions range introduces a sense of comfort, organisation and separation in the domestic work environment by providing storage and privacy. It is designed to allow you to store everything you need in a suitable place; the new range will keep you focused and on track. It includes multiple modular products, created to help you maintain a consistent routine that can be as flexible as these new working environments.
What’s the plan for the new products? Sell these hard for the foreseeable or have you lots more coming to bolster the range too?
As product designers, this is an exciting time for us because it’s extremely rare that a completely new sector arrives/explodes overnight. Essentially, we’re at ground zero and see the massive potential to develop a wide range of solutions to aid people in their new working norm.
What do you see as the biggest trends in retail experience in the coming 6 to 12 months?
I would see the biggest shift being more towards a more immersive and exciting retail experience. Online shopping has grown exponentially in the last year and is continuing on an upward trajectory. It’s only natural to assume that retailers will want to focus on what online stores can’t provide – and that, to me, is a physical experience and a human, emotive connection.
What do you think the real-life retail experience offers over the digital habits we’ve adopted with vigour over the last 20 months?
A human touch – having the ability to directly answer questions in person gives you a massive advantage over the chatbot alternative. I received hundreds of calls over the past year and the majority of them were essentially just looking for reassurance and being able and willing to provide that is invaluable.
What advice would you give to businesses with retail footprints who are looking to adapt to this new reality?
Everyone’s journey will be different, but for me, the ability to add traditional customer service alongside the new world of online retail definitely gave me the best return. It’s amazing how impactful a five-minute phone call can be.
Words: Richard Seabrooke
Jamie & Nico – Image Credit Con O’Brien