Primo Orpilla: What Is the Real Enemy of Creativity

When you think of your career, you may think it would be impossible to pursue what you really want to do. Is it true? The story of this designer tells us the importance of having passion for what you do. 


Primo Orpilla: Entrepreneur, Desinger

Primo Orpilla is the award-winning co-founder and principal of Studio O+A, the San Francisco design firm responsible for groundbreaking offices at Facebook, MicrosoftAOL, Yelp, Samsung, TATA, Levi Strauss, and many other companies. A leader in the field of workplace environments with an emphasis on “democratic design,” O+A’s expansive, open-plan offices have become a signature look for some of the country’s most forward-thinking tech innovators. Studio O+A’s design for the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, received the International Interior Design Association’s 2010 Northern California Honor Award and was a finalist in Frame Magazine’s 2009 Great Indoors Awards. Also, recently, Studio O+A won. Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, and he was named to to Interior Design Magazine's Hall of Fame 2015. He is a professor Professor of Design of Work Environments at IE School of Architecture and Design as well.

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Cisco Systems
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Uber 5
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-----For those who are not familiar with you, please let us know more about you. You have founded several companies, gained successful exits, experienced working in huge corporations, How come you did you become an evangelist and what is its role?


Evangelism comes from Greek words meaning “bringing the good news.” Evangelists bring the good news about a product or service. I originally brought the good news of Macintosh—how it increased people’s creativity and productivity. Now I am the chief evangelist of Canva, an online, tool. I’m bringing the good news about how graphics-designCanva can democratize design.



-----You engage in a number of keynote speeches every year. You have written more than 10 books. You often get a lot of media exposure. What does motivate you to empower people?


It’s my calling. It’s what I enjoy doing. I want to leave this earth slightly better than when I got here by empowering people.



-----What is the greatest moment you have ever had in your career and why?


My greatest moment was probably the three years I worked in the Macintosh Division of Apple. We changed the world with Macintosh—it was enormously satisfying to help democratize computing.


-----When you start something new, like starting a new company, what is the first thing you think of and what is the first step you actually take?


The first thing to think of and do is to build a prototype and get it into the hands of people. This is more important than planning, pitching, and forecasting.



-----You have a deep understanding of social behaviour. Do you think people can truly evaluate the value of contents or they just follow what other people follow? What do you need to remember when you deal with a large number of people?


People make instant judgements about the quality of content. The clues are the inclusion of an attractive graphic or short video, bulleted or numbered lists, and subheads. These are all functional clues—but they are good indicators of the quality of the content.


The social clues are also good indicators of quality. Social clues include the number of “likes,” comments, and retirees. By considering the functional and social clues, it’s easy to make a quick judgment about the quality of content.


-----Most people know the price of everything but the value of nothing. The price is visible and the value is invisible. Normally the majority of people cannot understand the value of great visions. People can understand figures given by a market as a price. How can you convert the value into the business?


I would not say that value is invisible. Value is the totality of the costs and the benefits. The costs are not only monetary but also support and training. The benefits are not simply getting the job done but also the pleasure and coolness of working with a product or service.


-----What does “be successful” mean to you? Who is the first person you can think of when you hear the word successful and why?


Success means making the world a better place. It’s not necessarily tied to money. Teachers, for example, make the world a better place and are highly successful in my book.



-----What is the greatest advice you have ever got and what kind of situation you had then?


The best advice I ever got was to never ask people to do something that you wouldn’t do. This is applicable to customers, employees, and partners. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who gave me this advice!



-----If you can make a call to 20-year-old Guy Kawasaki, what kind of advices you would give to him?


I wish I had a bit more engineering in my background so that I understood product development better. In other words, I could tell when programmers are lying to me. I would also have lived in other countries besides the US when I was young.


-----If you can leave one message to make the world better, what would be your message?


The ultimate way to judge people is whether they made the world a better place. Everything else pales in comparison to this goal.