My#StumbleUpon Joy Career

November 21st, 2018 Posted by Sanga Maqhutyana HCD, Design Thinking, Guest blog

A transformative cocktail of excitement and trepidation came over me when I got the invitation to be resident blogger at Tenaka. Excitement – Awesome, I finally have an opportunity to write! Trepidation – What will I write about? What conversation do I want to invite to this space.


First an introduction.

Nothing about my career and work as a creator in the digital and design space was ever planned. I stumbled upon it and simply said YES, trusting that the “how” would shape itself.

In 2006, I stumbled upon a Cape Town based start-up digital advertising agency called Liquorice…as in Liquorice All Sorts! This was the beginning of my #StumbleUpon career as a creator, designer, story-teller and joy seeker. Firmly lodged in what is now dubbed the ‘missing middle’, I had been financially excluded from University of Cape Town. So, I started as a temp admin receptionist at Liquorice, and took to it like it was my dream job.

Letting my heart guide my actions, I used what I call, the ‘science of feels’ – which involved 12 years of simply following the things that bring me joy. This sharpened my instincts and incubated both a personal and professional practice of allowing myself to stumble upon joy; being surprised by it again and again and ultimately finding myself here…

So once more, what conversation shall we invite into this space? Joy!

Let’s talk about joy and how to allow ourselves to stumble upon it…by design.

My work is about using design thinking principles that are enabled by emerging technologies, to create spaces for people to discover joy.

Joy researcher Ingrid Fetell Lee suggests that the aesthetics of joy are experienced as the subtle alchemy of feeling, sensing and perceiving in a way that makes us feel good in the moment.

Holding this idea in mind, as part of my practice, I’ve collected questions like, “Does joy have anything to do with the idea of creating value generating engagements between organisations and the people they serve?

Or, “Is the buying and selling of products and services far removed from the concept of joy?”

My hypothesis is that designing products and services with the goal of delivering joy in use, leads to joy in life and ultimately translates to joyful commercialisation for the organisations that create those products and services.

To test my hypothesis, I play at the intersection where technology meets people; exploring how data and emerging technologies can be used as design tools that enable the creation of products, services, experiences and processes that consistently deliver on the promise of joy.

Having consulted on strategic digital innovations across *industries for leading local and global brands, I am acutely aware that joy is not a business strategy metric that makes it to boardroom discourse.

*[FMCG (Unilever, SABMiller), Financial Services (Investec, Barclays, Nedbank), Pharmaceuticals (GSK Global) and Telecoms (MTN)]

This idea of joyless boardrooms has inspired the most important question in my collection.

“How might we introduce joy as a key performance indicator when designing products, services and experiences, given that people need joy?”

This question is my favourite because it’s a hypothesis worth testing, and therefore focuses and frames my current work, creating new possibilities to explore. It invites a unique combination of curiosity, the ability to see deep simplicity hiding under the surface of chaos, and the openness to the discovery of unlikely connections that lead to new value pathways…aka joy.

As such, treating my work as a practice allows it to deliberately evolve towards the mastery of stumbling up joy.

As Davos from Marvel’s Iron Fist says,

“With practice comes mastery. With mastery comes knowledge.” ~ Marvel’s Iron Fist (2017) s02e08 Citadel on the Edge of Vengeance

Here is what I know…Whether at work or at play, joy is the end game.

I invite you to a curious space and a conversation that explores the art of effortlessly stumbling upon joy both at work and at play.


Reading that inspired my ideas:
Ingrid Fetell Lee of Joy Aesthetics
Ted Talk: Where joy hides and how to find it.
Debrena Jackson Candy: All the joy you can stand
Liquorice –
Marcel Rossouw –