JournalNov 2017

The State of Hanno: Our new focus on health & sustainability

Over the past two years, we’ve progressively moved towards doing more meaningful work that has a bigger impact on the causes we care about. But it hasn’t always been a simple journey.

Raising our social awareness, from our early days to today

When we started out, we’d take on any type of project with any kind of client—there were startups and corporates in all sorts of industries, even gambling. Over the past six years, we’ve had a growing social awareness as a team which has led to a lot of thought on what we really want to achieve with our work lives.

We’ve realised that the areas the team is most passionate about and which are most impactful—in terms of having a positive net effect on the world we’re living in—are health and sustainability.

In trying to shift our work lives towards solving meaningful problems, we’ve gone through a journey including pro-bono work, being picky about client selection and turning down projects where we were unhappy with the ethics.

Less is more: focus is everything

We felt that our initial exploration of being a social business was worthy but ultimately lacking in focus. To actually make the jump to working on meaningful social projects on a daily basis, we had to pinpoint what we were doing and who we wanted to work with.

There were a few problems that were clearly important and that, as designers, we felt we had the skills to approach. So we asked ourselves, “Who’s into what? What do we feel we want to do?”.

We spent a lot of time thinking about our social purpose a few years ago and that was a very big step for us as a team. But we didn’t do much more than make an internal announcement and say that we’d look to prioritise these kinds of projects where we could. The thought of putting this as a statement on our website and scaring off potential clients was too intimidating.

And so we still took on a lot of projects that weren’t health or environmentally focused, simply because we didn’t have the lead generation and networks in those specific areas.

We realised that strategically, it’s very hard to build a successful and sustainable consulting business if you spread yourself thinly across different areas and industries.

That lack of focus means we’re never going to be top-of-mind when someone mentions to their contacts that they’re looking for designers who can help them on a health project.

I read a lot of great books that really shaped my thinking on this, including ones by Al Reiss and Tim Williams.

We had to be far more direct about our new focus, not just bury it on our website somewhere.

We’ve incorporated this mission statement and focus into our website, decks and content. Now it’s time to take things one step further.

HealthRedesigned is a weekly podcast on building digital products for better health & wellness

Essentially there are two aims behind launching a podcast like HealthRedesigned:

  1. To put information out there that helps the kind of people we’re working with. This includes insights, stories and advice from experts in this area.
  2. To give ourselves a really great platform to talk to experts who are working on health and wellness problems every working day and to learn from them ourselves. This is very much a journey of discovery for us as well.

There aren’t that many people starting conversations around this kind of thing, so we want to put that information out there and provide a resource to our community: our peers and people we work with, and people we feel like we can help in doing something positive in health and wellness.

Giving exposure and sharing what we learn

We’re aiming to feature a mix of companies/startups, health experts and specialists. We want to uncover knowledge on what others need to do to build great products for health and wellness.

This includes talking to people who we maybe wouldn’t necessarily meet or don’t often get this kind of exposure. One of our upcoming guests is Headspace, and that’s a big name; everyone’s heard of them and it would be really interesting to find out how they’ve built a successful app.

But it’s also interesting to hear from an expert in the public health market who you’d probably not have heard of before. Their work might not be as consumer-focused, but they’ll have deep specialist knowledge which could be really valuable to our audience.

Podcasting and future-casting: where do we go from here?

For us, there’s an element of the unknown about this. We don’t know the depths to where this journey will take us. As long as we can continue producing quality content, our aim is to release a new episode every week. But we don’t want to become one of those podcasts where you hear the same insights over and over again.

In terms of what Hanno is doing, we’re very committed to these 2 different areas—health and environmental sustainability. From a business point of view, we want to establish ourselves and become known as experts in both. They’re big, important problems for us to solve as a species: the cost to economies and the inefficiency around healthcare is absolutely massive. And the environmental crisis is probably the biggest issue of our time, as far as I’m concerned.

This isn’t just a business move to get more cash: we really want to spend our working lives attacking these problems and finding ways to solve them because if we don’t, then we’ll start to question whether we’re doing something really important and relevant with our time.

As a team of designers, strategists and engineers, we think we’ve got the skills and experience to boost bigger or smaller teams who are trying to tackle these problems head-on. Hopefully, we can look back on this years from now and say we took a step forward, did something to help solve many problems in the health and environmental area and feel proud that we’ve helped change lives through our work.

Posted by
Jon Lay

Jon is a Partner at Hanno. He wears many hats, but his primary focus is on leading our engineering and technical operations.