It was a rare treat this week to hear You Tube co-founder Chad Hurley speak first hand about what drove him into business.
From humble origins as a graphic design student at Indiana University with a penchant for computer science and a stint sorting out the payment side of Paypal, he and his compatriots created one of the world’s biggest online communities. And the motivation? ‘Money,’ he says.
The realisation dawned in those formative years that engagement with the digital world ‘would give me a better job’, he says. ‘The decision was financially driven.’ And, unlike many creatives, he doesn’t see design and engineering as different things, so that didn’t pose a problem.
A move to Silicone Valley was inevitable and, again driven by cash, Hurley joined online payment facility Paypal as its first user-interface designer, staying until it was bought by Ebay.
The rest is history, with video-sharing site You Tube launching in February 2005. It only took till October 2006 for the real cash to flow in when Google acquired You Tube for US$1.65bn.
How appropriate it was for Hurley to share his story than at the Royal College of Art’s Innovation Night last Tuesday. For while innovation is evident in the work of graduating students at London’s top post-graduate college, not many truly original designers make the leap between creativity and making cash.
Hurley even went on, perhaps unwittingly, to make a case for design in its broadest sense, touching on service design too. While still very much involved with You Tube, he puts creating a team as his priority. ‘If I don’t have a great team I can’t build a service,’ he says.
Hurley’s advice to students – and young designers – is to trust your instincts and be flexible. ‘Stay true to the core of your idea,’ he says, ‘but be prepared to adapt. Most successful online businesses adapt.’
Those words will hopefully be heeded across the land as fledgling designers emerge from college shows to face the world. If you’re in London a trip to New Designers in Islington or one of the other ‘collective’ graduate events will give you snapshot of what’s on offer. And the overall standard is good.
One note of caution for students and their colleges though is not to undersell yourselves. One Year On exhibitors at New Designers show what can be achieved in just one year after college if you have the drive to go solo – and congratulations to jeweller Imogen Belfield for winning this week’s prize. But a number of them patently don’t have a clue about pricing.
Some colleges pride themselves on arming students with enough commercial nous to make it into the world, but many are sadly failing designers gearing themselves towards hand-making and craft. Hurley’s talk made it clear that there’s nothing dirty about making money from design – and that serious cash is to be had for the best ideas.