Designing is collaboration – interview with IDEO’s Charlota Blunárová

Interviewed by: Martin Andrle

Image credits: Charlota Blunárová, Instagram: @lotka_

A designer is usually a “jack-of-all-trades” who does not only understand the importance of customer experience, but also knows marketing, code and products. They are an indispensable part of startups but many times, because of their broad responsibilities, it’s difficult to comprehend what it is that they do. That is why we took a moment to talk with Charlota Blunárová, visual communications intern at IDEO, to understand the role of designers in teams. 

Charlota Blunárová Graphic designer, photographer & occasional illustrator

  • Charlota, thanks again for giving us the possibility to catch up with you and introduce your wonderful life story with the Startup Weekend community.

As long as I know you made incredible shift from being a photographer and illustrator to become a multidisciplinary designer, currently interning at IDEO, one of the best design companies in the world. On that way from Brno you stopped by in Pearlfisher, London, another world class agency. Could you tell us how all these things happened?

Well, my background is an industrial design. I’ve always been interested in relationships between people and objects and I thought studying industrial design would be interdisciplinary enough to keep my curiosity satisfied… But along the way I fell in love with all things visual, started freelancing as a graphic designer, then I started my business as a wedding photographer. This year has been pretty busy so far –  I decided to make it sort of my gap year, but dedicated to learning. I’m doing rounds as an intern in different countries, to learn and experience as much as possible about design culture and how to become a better designer. At Pearlfisher London I worked mainly as a 3D designer, I did a lot of packaging design, at Q Designers I was half a graphic designer, half a product designer. Right now I am a visual communications intern at IDEO, an amazing place which allows me to to continue questioning the world as it is today and designing for what the future can be. So, long story short, right now I would call myself a designer-generalist.

Charlota Blunárová

  • Who is a designer for you? How would you define her role in teams/projects and are there any desirable skills?

The specific skills of actual jobs may vary by different field, but I think the work of designers share many essential features. The designer must be capable of receiving the most important information from his teammates, such as engineers or marketers, and make decision upon them. It’s a collaborative role, there is no such a thing as a work in isolation.  Also I believe where the magic happen is a team where everyone thinks a bit like a designer, collaborate, share their knowledge and expertise and are included in all parts of a design process.

  • I simply love the statement from your website. “I design because I have a desire to create products and experiences that impact people’s lives positively and resonate emotionally”. What does that mean for you? Are you following it in your design process or how does it influence your design?

I simply want to create meaningful work. I try to choose projects based on positive impact they can make. I’ve worked on a large variety of projects in the past, and I’ve always tried to fit into one of these boxes: to be a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator… At some point I realized that I don’t aim for an exact job title or expertise. I’d rather be a generalist with a skillset I can bend for each project, but I always want be confident that we create something valuable and useful.

  • What kind of questions one should ask when she is creating a new product and ultimately a new business?

I would say, aim to create products/service desirable by people, feasible to produce, and viable as a business. I believe it is about balancing of desirability:  do they want this?

Feasibility: can we do this?, and viability: should we do this?.

What problem will this help to solve? Will this solution fill a need? Will it fit into people’s lives? Is the technology needed to power the design solution available? Who will pay for this and why? The most basic questions, but also the hardest ones.

Charlota Blunárová

  • You have experienced working in startup and to say it publicly pretty successfully. You ended up on 2nd place in one of the Czech accelerator with your game design studio. Could you tell us more about this experience?

I joined a start-up focused on gamification right after high school. It was a big learning experience – I have had an unique opportunity to work with team of talented, smart, hard-working people and got my hands-on some interesting projects for several companies in scopes of design, consultancy or even full-scale solution. At that time I didn’t know much about anything, and I this accelerated my will to adapt to a fast paced environment and learn quickly.

  • Perhaps little bit silly question but what advice would you give to younger yourself? Except attending the startup weekend of course.

I always used the sentence “I’ve never done this before.” as an excuse. Now I use it rather as a opportunity to actually face the unknown and try something new. Wish I’ve had this attitude  sooner! Also, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, they are learning opportunities. Being afraid to make them is like being afraid to learn something new.

Thank you Charlota!

Designers, use the promo code: welovedesigners to get a discount for your Startup Weekend Oulu ticket!

Five months later

By Marjaana Annala

Whenever someone asks me what Startup Weekend was like, I always have difficulties answering to it in a short way. To me, and I believe to many others as well, it meant a weekend where you totally step out of your comfort zone and do things you never thought were possible before. So how do you explain everything that happened, or everything that lead there, in a couple of sentences?

My best variable so far is this.

After a lot of pondering, I went there with an innocent idea that was a result of a 3-minute conversation with a friend a few months earlier (“Hey you know what would be cool?” “Oh yes that WOULD be cool!”) but no actual clue of what I should do with it. Truth be told, I still had no idea what I was going to do when I got there. To pitch or to not pitch my idea? I was extremely scared of even the mere idea of that.

I also did not have any idea of what I should do during the weekend – or how to do any of the things I should do. Complicated, huh? But shortly after I arrived I realized that it is perfectly fine, because on top of unlimited coffee and food, what was offered was unlimited support.

So I guess what happened was that a bunch of genius minds got together, were inspired by the same idea, joined forces and started working. No talk, all action, they said. And it truly was just that. All you really need to do is stop thinking, roll up your sleeves and start working.

Creating Go Swap It

Five months later?
I have my own company with the same awesome people I met at Startup Weekend.
I have pretty much my dream job.
I also have at least some kind of an idea what I’m doing.
As icing on the cake – and most importantly – a whole lot of new, amazing people in my life.

That is the beauty of Startup Weekend.

Three Physicists meet a Business Guy and ….

By Simo Kekäläinen

Three physicists meet a business guy and ….

Now you might think this is the beginning of a really good joke or a scene from Big Bang Theory but believe me, to see what happens next you don’t need to go to Reddit or to your TV screens – just take a bus to city centre.

Six months ago I found myself in a place called Business Kitchen taking part in the first-ever Startup Weekend Oulu.  The room was crowded with people who were given a simple task – present or join somebody who’s presenting an idea, build it into business in 54 hours and have fun!


Well a couple of hours later, after hearing dozens of pitches and after people had voted for the top 12 ideas, I was feeling really puzzled (and honestly thought about going home) since none of those ideas really struck a chord with me.  But then I saw these two guys looking for people to join their idea, which was about turning the unused potential of smart phones into raw calculating power.

We chatted for a while and since the idea wasn’t one of the audience’s top picks we decided to ask the organizers if we could form a “shadow” team and enter the competition. And this is what happened next:

30 seconds later our team of three physicists and one business guy was already busy building a business and racing against time.

48 hours later we were pitching our idea on stage.

49.125 hours later, out of 13 teams, we were announced as the runner-ups of the weekend!

3600 hours later we have an office, a startup called Piecewise and an objective to deliver our first working product within two months.

Startup Weekend is like life in a nutshell. Not only do you get to meet, work, eat great food, (and most importantly) have fun with wonderful people from different backgrounds and cultures, BUT you also realize nothing is impossible.

If there’s one lesson Startup Weekend teaches you, it’s that with the right amount of determination, perseverance and support from great people around, you can do whatever you want in life.

And that’s a lesson we at Piecewise believe everyone should learn, and there’s no better place to do it than in Startup Weekend Oulu. Hope to see you there!

The End (?)

-Definitely not!

Startup Weekend kicks off for the first time in Oulu


Startup Weekend Oulu

It is finally happening! For the first time in history Startup Weekend comes to Oulu. This action packed event which has been organized in over 150 countries and hosted +190k people will now make a mark in our Northern community.

We invite all of you designers, developers, business people, philosophers, educators, and innovators to join us.

You are now probably asking why would you participate. Read on my friend and get to know what Startup Weekend Oulu is all about.


What are Startup Weekends?

Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where people gather together to innovate and build startups. In just one weekend, you will experience the fun highs and nerve-racking lows that are part of the fascinating life at a startup.

The event is designed to provide superior hands-on education by actually driving you to create things.

Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through testing, business model development, and basic minimum viable product (MVP) creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night pitches to a jury of potential investors and local entrepreneurs. See the full schedule here.

You as a participant are challenged with building functional startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of your daily networks.


Who you’ll meet at Startup Weekend Oulu:

You’ll meet the very best mentors, investors, co-founders, and sponsors who are ready to help you get started. Startup Weekends attendees’ backgrounds are roughly

50% technical (developers, coders, designers) and
50% business (marketing, finance, law, creatives).

But notice that anyone who has passion and spark for making startup magic happen is welcome, regardless of your background.


Why you should come to Startup Weekend Oulu:

The main three reasons people get involved with Startup Weekend are

  • desire to network
  • enthusiasm to develop a product
  • eagerness to learn how to create a new venture.

After the event, over 50% of attendees plan on continuing to work on their startup after the weekend.

It is although impossible to measure all the people who will later go on and build new ventures with the people they met in Startup Weekend. Many people take this event as their first training session that gives the needed confidence to leap to the path of becoming a startup founder or an employee.


10 great things you’ll get out of the event:

1. Education: Startup Weekends are all about learning by doing, whether you’re learning a new skill or a new way of thinking.  Don’t just listen to theory, build your own strategy and test it as you go.

2. Co-Founder Dating: The people who come to Startup Weekend are serious about learning how to build and launch startups. Create relationships that last long past the weekend.

3. Have fun: During the weekend working alongside awesome people who share your ideas. Startup Weekend Oulu is meant to be fun and entertaining so enjoy it.

4. Solve local problems with your ideas. Do you think that one of your idea can change your town or have a positive impact in your group of people? Bring your idea notebook with you and start making a positive change in your local community.

5. Build Your Network: Startup Weekend works hard to recruit high quality, driven entrepreneurs – like you!

6. Learn New Skills: With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Startup Weekends are perfect opportunities to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or give marketing a try.  With nothing to lose there’s no reason not to step outside your comfort zone.

7. Learn How to Launch a Business (and Actually Do It!): Startup Weekend is the epitome of Lean Startup Methodology.  

8. Mentorship: Local tech and startup leaders participate in Startup Weekends and give feedback to participants. Interact with the movers and shakers in our community. Check out who you’ll meet on our website.

9. Get Access to Valuable Startup Resources: By participating in Startup Weekend Oulu you are given instant access to great products and tools. No one leaves Startup Weekend empty handed! Click here to learn more about some of the offers our Global Sponsors provide during the event.  

10. Save Money: Startup Weekends are affordable (typically 99€, only 50€ for this edition thanks to our amazing sponsors). Your ticket includes seven meals, snacks, and all the coffee you can drink.

Weekend on April 22-24 is going to be no talk and all action. Save the date and get your ticket! 



Startup Weekend Oulu Team


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