Make the Mundane Great Again with Graphic Designer, Xavier

Back to overview
  • 06 min. reading
  • Digital Marketing

“The art of noticing” by author Rob Walkers has recently been gaining traction in the discussion around mental health and happiness, with romanticisation being a top trend online. For some people, it’s one of their natural superpowers. We discuss the beauty of the mundane with Xavier, designer, photographer, aspiring UI/UX expert and details lover.

As we sat together with Xavier, Ariad consultant currently working in graphic design with ZEB,  to chat around the topic of happiness at work, we decided to start off with a simple question : What can we always find on your desk at work? Immediately and without missing a beat, Xavier answers : “my bottle of perfume”. 

Already we understand that with him, it is going to be all about details “I am always in office” he says, however, the desks are not assigned so all decoration needs to go at the end of the day. For Xavier, it is not so much the practicality of a small perfume as the aesthetic factor it brings to his desk. “My current perfume is in a bottle made of concrete, it’s beautiful”. Even more important than visual beauty, the calming effect of the fragrance is what helps him stay grounded during the day: "whenever i have a moment, i just grab it and smell it.”

Xavier - perfume bottle


It won’t be surprising to those familiar with Marcel Proust, but our sense of smell is a powerful one, capable of bringing back positive memories in just a whiff. In the workplace, it is a sense that is generally overlooked (that is, except when someone brings some leftover salmon to heat up in the communal microwave) which is a shame. A particular scent that evokes positive thoughts and emotions can be a powerful tool to help you get in the zone when your mind starts to wander off. As a bonus, it might also help you escape any fishy smell coming from your work’s kitchen.

We mentioned the sense of smell, but that is not the only sense Xavier uses as a way to kickstart his creative flow: “I always need to find new music to get my motivation going. It’s very stimulating”. You’ve definitely been there too, on the treadmill with a killer playlist, at a party with a skillfull DJ blasting all your faves, feeling like nothing can stop you. Music has a way to meddle with our brain, helping the creative side to flourish and getting the happiness hormones flowing, so don’t hold back and crank up (within reason) the volume. 

But where do you start ? Always on the hunt for new artists and tunes he’s never heard of, Xavier swears by his discover weekly playlist on Spotify. Should songs with lyrics not be your thing, you can perhaps give jazz or classical music a go. Maybe you’re lucky to live in the countryside, where the music of nature’s birds, wind and streams is all one needs to concentrate. There’s a thousand ways of incorporating music in your worklife, all you need is to find the one that works for you.

When asked about what got him into design, Xavier tells us that he actually first studied communication management in order to work for an advertising agency. “Advertising was my first main goal” he says, adding that he always wanted to do something creative : “typography, photography, creating your own style.. that’s what I am passionate about”. The reality of the job was a tad bit disappointing. He quickly realised that in order to get to the more creative side of advertising, he would need a diploma from an art school, which he obtained without a hitch from St Lucas.

Xavier’s passion for advertising stems from his initial love for still images : “I still think that a picture says a thousand words”. His inspiration : Helmut Newton. Iconoclast, provocative, controversial but above anything else, exquisitely editorial, his work resonates with Xavier on a deep level. There is a picture in particular that struck him like none other : two people, one falling forward and the other holding them with one hand. “That’s how I see myself in life, that’s my inspiration to go for it and jump”. It will come as no surprise that the picture adorned his laptop’ screen for a long time.


Xavier and his love for pictures


Once again, we find ourselves talking about one the five senses. In this instance, it is the sense of sight that takes the limelight, after the sense of smell and hearing. What Xavier’s story can teach us about happiness at work is that it’s not just a question of perks or pizza parties. It is also a collection of small gestures and habits, as well as details that may escape the unattentive mind. 

“The art of noticing”, a book by author Rob Walker which invites us to see the world with fresh eyes, probably holds no secrets for Xavier, as he whips out his phone to show us his instagram profile full of curated pictures celebrating the mundane things he stumbles on, like the stunning  and eerie reflection of a lamp post in a window “it looks like it is inside the house!”

Interestingly, the ability to notice is a trait he also looks for in a manager. “It is really nice when your boss can notice you are having a down day”. The office can sometimes feel like a stage where one is in constant representation. Between performance reviews and KPIs, having the space to be human is quite refreshing. There is nothing wrong with having a bad day, and having the opportunity to say it without sugar coating it does wonders for mental health. All it takes is to pay attention, allowing your people the space to be human.

At Ariad, we take pride in our ability to notice the individual beyond the resume. Getting to know our consultants on a personal level is not only in our DNA, it is also a source of inspiration. For example, we recently launched expert communities lead by our Associate Consultants, which was inspired by our consultant’s appetite for knowledge sharing and rich network.  The proof is in the pudding : “I just followed Sacha’s UX course” Xavier tells us, visibly happy to have had an introduction to the field from a real expert who is also a friendly face. And that’s the only validation we need.

As we wrap up our conversation with Xavier, we reflect on the meaning of noticing. Taking the time to truly appreciate our surroundings with all our senses is a crucial aspect of happiness that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially in the workplace. To quote Rob Walker “Anybody interested in thinking creatively seeks (needs) to notice what has been overlooked or ignored by others, to get beyond distractions and attend to the world.” 

We know one designer who won’t need schooling on the subject. We’ll surely be taking a page or two out of his book for our New Year’s resolutions. How about you?

Interested to know more about Happiness at Work? 

Get your access to our exclusive panel talk featuring industry experts

Back to overview