Bill Evans got his first taste of Silicon Valley back in 1987, on a study trip to Xerox Park post- Royal College of Art. “I found my nirvana as I learnt how micro-processors could radically alter the user-interface of products,” he explains. “That was before the recession bit hard in the UK, so when I moved permanently to America there wasn’t too much British competition for jobs.” Evans became vice-president of Lunar Design, working with Bob Brunner before he went to Apple.
“I was lucky,” he explains, “Ã¤ because I arrived in the US when it was going towards its zenith of design. A lot of entrepreneurial Europeans were coming to America to work on computer projects – Frog, Steve Peart, Bill Moggeridge and Mike Nuttall – and that injection had a dramatic effect, upping the standards of American design. In addition, the new technologies and the establishment of global markets for products also drove the change.”
A by-product of manufacturers thinking globally was that design teams required personnel from around the world. And in a culture of “start-up” companies, where a busy vice-president of engineering knows he wants a certain look but is happy to delegate, designers were being trusted to fill in the blanks. “I found the culture so confident, fantastically professional and ethnically diverse,” recalls Evans.
“After six years I was flushed out of Lunar in a down-turn. I’ve had the full American experience,” he jokes. “But there’s so much design opportunity here because there’s so much economic activity. It’s the hottest place to be a product designer because consumer and professional electronics (PCs, laptops, palmtops, cell phones and the like), driven by the new technology, are constantly being re-designed.”
When Evans set up his own group, Bridge Design, working with start-up companies he took stock in every new concern and used his contacts in the venture capital industry to secure backing. Splitting its workload 50-50 between consumer and medical products, Bridge can ride out fluctuations in the economy and has earned itself an ISO9000 international quality standard. Now it has launched its own product, the Bumper, a shock-proof case for the Palm Pilot personal digital assistant. With five National Design Awards and two Business Week Awards, Evans’ integrated engineering, design and manufacturing approach is proving popular with the locals.