Mentoring with Krister Gustafsson


I mentor designers who create physical spaces and online experiences to work together to form startups. Imagine creating smart rooms and urban spaces, and objects that are interactive and connect with users via the Internet. 

I help them develop emerging technologies using Design Thinking and guide them in breaking free of employment to start up on their own. We do it in small manageable steps. My process involves helping designers conceive ideas trough bouncing their ideas off a network of professionals and getting to know their customers. I then guide them in using Design Thinking and lean startup principles to prove their idea, keep a steady flow and make the launch as easy as possible.

We work in a time where educational institutions take too long to respond to shrinking opportunities in the arts, and redundancies in the sector increase as markets become more volatile. But it's also a time where the proliferation of emerging technologies open new opportunities for creatives to break free of employment and redundancies to start up on their own. Better still, they can create their own technology that allows them to express their ideas, and find unique ways of making money from their ideas. But as designers we think and start businesses differently to Business, Finance and Marketing disciplines. As a designer you just can't launch a business by being predominantly focused on fast growth of profit (which is the age-old purpose of a startup). Getting that principle wrong torments a lot of creatives from as far afield as chefs to designers.


As a mentee you have:

1. Mastery in a field or a hobby

2. A unique idea about solving a problem or a keen awareness of trends that speaks your values and that you know well

3. Great creativity and passion. I look for passion first because with that, anything is possible long term

4. It helps if you have gone into business before but it's not necessary.


All my projects have been vastly different to each other, so I have worked with a very broad spectrum of creative professionals even though the designer's process is my strength. Currently I'm mentoring a food writer and a UX designer on their separate international networking trips and a local luxury sports-car hire startup.

In 2014, I planned my career-break to go on a 5 month-long international networking trip. I did this in consultation with Mary Kurek Professional Networking Agency. The company helps "pro's in high profile, innovative and big impact businesses attain extraordinary business opportunities". All good ideas and solid plans are crafted through talking about them with the right people. My aim was to form a startup based on the information and contacts I had collected, a startup that uniquely expressed my values. I interviewed over industry 100 leaders across 12 countries in Europe and 12 states in the North Americas. Many remain today my strongest supporters, partners, mentors and advisors. It was the kind of trip that keeps on giving value years afterwards.

I have mentored like minded creatives since I formed a unique multidisciplinary team of best-in-class creatives that together pioneered educational interactive playgrounds in 2007, starting with the Bupa sponsored Magic Garden at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum. I specialise in designing educational experiences for large family audiences and producing emerging interactive technologies for physical spaces: Imagine a room where you don't always see the technology, but the space and its objects adapt to the way you instinctively learn best. It feels fun and natural to engage.


If I could catch a time machine back I would tell myself:

1. Model your projects on those you want to work with and sell to. Ask what drives and frustrates them in life and let the rest of the conversation flow naturally. Their unique answers are also your mentoring and keep giving value years afterwards.

2. Analyse carefully what causes global financial crises and use the next one to build capital to reinvest in your next career break. This takes time, researching and saving.

3. Keep a visual diary complete with core values, goals, strengths, routines and insightful lessons. This shaves weeks off your time on projects and builds focus.

4. Pioneering is my core value. My design mantra is to learn through play, just like my audiences do.

5. Lead by experimenting, prototyping and exhibiting frequently, it attracts optimism in abundance.