With his background in product development, especially electronics and firmware, Allan's main focus will be on projects with a significant electronics element. Since joining i4pd, he has helped expand the company's internal capabilities in electronics and firmware to benefit all of our clients.
Allan graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a degree in Electronic and Electronic Engineering, and then moved to the South of England to work on Digital Communications projects (electronics and digital signal processing) for Philips before switching to writing software for Philips’ Compact Disc Interactive (CD-i) platform. He then founded a multimedia and internet consultancy with two colleagues, and ran this business for 5 years. Having moved back to Scotland he then spent 20 years working with SKF in Livingston, developing handheld vibration measurement and shaft alignment instruments (working with i4 on some of these projects), and latterly running their Project Management Office.
What is your approach to design?
I believe very strongly in understanding the end-user’s problems and then having the engineering team and the customer work together to find solutions, rather than starting from what you think the answer is! I believe in Agile Development principles, which although originally created for software engineering have a lot to tell us in other fields. Agile means that we should favour creating models and prototypes to let users get hands-on as early as possible, that we should regard requirements as being starting points for a discussion on how to solve user problems, and that we should frequently assess what we have done so far, decide how well it solves the end-users’ problems, and change tack as required so that what we deliver is a solution which delights the customer – not necessarily what they initially thought they wanted, but something really gives them value.
What are your three favourite designed products?
Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar – an elegant and simple design, which was created with Design For Manufacture and Design For Maintenance in mind! The body is a simple slab of wood with minimal machining, the neck is screwed on rather than glued for cheaper assembly and easy replacement if required, and the headstock is designed so that the strings have a straight path to the tuners to minimise jamming in the nut. Usability is excellent too: all the tuners are on the top side for ease of access, the controls are placed far enough away not to be knocked accidentally while playing, and are a simple minimal set (one pickup switch, one volume, one tone control).
Microsoft Natural Keyboard – after years at the keyboard, writing documents and coding, I used to suffer from wrist-pain until I switched to a Natural Keyboard (which lets you keep your wrists at a straighter angle while typing, and also makes sure you know which hand is meant to cover which key, so you improve your typing speed at the same time!). The original Microsoft design – without any additional fancy programmable buttons, and with a nice reliable cable to connect it to your PC – is a design classic: I brought mine, which must be 15 years old by now, with me when I joined i4pd.
The Supaclip – I have used these for many years to clip papers together. They are reusable (unlike staples), grip more securely than a paper clip, don’t need holes punched in the paper, don’t try to punch holes in your fingers, are neatly held in their dispenser until needed – and come in a variety of colours. What’s not to like??
What interests you?
My family – my wife of over 30 years and three (more or less) grown-up children.
Listening to and playing music – I play guitar, bass and a bit of piano.
Walking & playing with my dogs (two Miniature Schnauzers).
Reading – everything from Thucydides to Antony Beevor, John Buchan to John Le Carré, Charles Dickens to JRR Tolkien.
"I believe very strongly in understanding the end-user’s problems and then having the engineering team and the customer work together to find solutions, rather than starting from what you think the answer is."