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Meet Duane Smith and Stefane Barbeau: Driving creativity for brands all over the world

Duane Smith and Stefane Barbeau are two native Canadian product designers living in the US. They are best known for founding Vessel, and innovative company that won several prizes for its housewares products, such as the Candela rechargeable lights. From Boston to Chino Canyon, their innovative yet pragmatical style reflects on the simple solutions used to approach design efficiently.

Duane Smith & Stefane Barbeau
Duane Smith & Stefane Barbeau


Over the years, Duane and Stefane have been coaching and advising professionals from many different industries all over the world, on how to improve their design process and better manage their creative teams. This fall, they’ll start their new workshop series at Pi School, to provide new tools to leaders in the creative industry, and we can’t wait for it!

We talked with them to better get to know their design leadership workshop series, and answer some questions that you might have in mind.

"A product manager becomes a creative leader by understanding design"

How can a product manager become a creative leader?

“The most successful ventures have learned they must practice good design. Whether it’s a product or service they’re offering, teams find innovative ways of solving their customers’ problems…and the best problem solvers are creative.

A product manager becomes a creative leader by understanding design: learning the language of design, making decisions like a designer, and managing the nuances of a design team and process. This is through hands-on practice, but also through the knowledge that cuts through the mystery surrounding ‘design’: design is not magic; ‘good design’ is a process that is basically about ‘good planning’, with thoughtful consideration for function, appearance, the user and the market.”


Candela rechargeable lights
Candela rechargeable lights


Can creative and innovative thinking be practiced?

“Yes! We’re taught to believe only some people are born creative… but everyone is! We spend our early years unlearning our creativity, unfortunately. People in the creative industry have the opportunity to hone their creativity, and to become innovators. We’re in a time now where good design is so highly regarded as crucial to companies’ success that there’s an opportunity to identify and learn from a solid design methodology. Now, learning to think like a designer is what separates you from your competitors. ‘Eureka moments’ and developing a designer’s ‘intuition’ comes from practice; having a solid design methodology helps to ensure that you can filter ideas efficiently and expertly, so that each time you work through an idea, you become a more effective creative leader.”    


"Learning to think like a designer is what separates you from your competitors"

How can product development contribute to the success of a creative idea?

“A good product development process helps to ensure that a creative idea is tested against a rigorous series of ideation, prototyping, refinement and confirmation procedures. This strengthens the idea and helps ensure that nothing is missed, whether it’s a hidden opportunity or a flaw in thinking that might have been catastrophic, and a massive waste of money and time. Sometimes, the product development process helps turn good ideas into even better ones, and sometimes the process shows that ideas are bad and should be abandoned before it’s too late!”


Duane Smith and Stefane Barbeau
Duane Smith and Stefane Barbeau


As a team, they will be helping startup entrepreneurs and corporate executives to become creative leaders. From speaking the language of the designers to make a product stand out and succeed, this programme will give you all the tools thrive as a leader behind outstanding creations.

  • Marta Romão

    Social Media Marketing Specialist, Pi School


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