Inspiration from Charlotte Barker, Chief Executive of the Institute of Designers in Ireland, to celebrate National Women’s Enterprise Day 2021

As we look forward, we want to help “Build the Future”. We asked Charlotte Barker, Chief Executive of the Institute of Designers in Ireland, to share with us some insights on her experiences and how she draws inspiration from the environment around her, role models she had during her career, and what is, in her opinion, the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for building the future.









Voltedge: What is your current role and how long you have held this position?

Charlotte: I am the Chief Executive of the Institute of Designers in Ireland, the professional membership organisation representing designers from all disciplines such as product design, digital design, strategic design and more. I was appointed in September 2021 and am the first Chief Executive to be appointed to lead the strategic vision of IDI’s board of Directors.  

Voltedge: Where do you draw inspiration from? 

Charlotte:  Everywhere! I am a sponge, finding inspiration and joy in the smallest of things on a daily basis. I do believe though that people are my biggest influence, I find human beings and human behaviour fascinating and a constant riddle that needs to be solved.

Voltedge: During the course of your career, was there a role model or mentor that stands out for you? 

Charlotte: I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who was the Group Managing Director of a leading retail design agency in London, at a pivotal time in my life when I felt I needed a guiding light through my career. Struggling to balance a young family and the pressures of career progression is certainly not easy, and all too often spells the end for incredible, talented women who don’t have the support through these times and can’t see an end to the exhaustion. Having my mentor, Ros, gave me a chance to talk through all the thoughts in my mind about my working day, validate my thinking and tip me in the right direction.

Voltedge: What do you think the biggest opportunity is right now for building the future?

Charlotte: I may be biased, but I would say that it’s design. We are seeing a huge surge in our industry as the demand for human-centred responses to the crisis we have been through has shown many just how powerful design can be. Focusing on human beings is a means to providing the best solution to products, to services, to the spaces we share and the planet we inhabit. Design-led responses allow us all to challenge the processes and norms that we have become accustomed to.

Voltedge: What do you think the biggest challenge is right now for building the future? 

Charlotte: Investment in people, planet, and profit equally. While we remain fixated on economic success, we deplete our natural resources and burn out our people. This has to be led from the top, and in the developed world we are slow to move.  

Voltedge: Can you share with us 2 or 3 positives in your personal life that you have discovered over the last 18 months? 

Charlotte: Getting away from the mad dash of life and having better quality time at home as a family has meant we’ve enjoyed each other’s company more! It’s not great to get together late every day when everyone is tired and it’s a treadmill of cajoling kids to do homework, have dinner, baths and bed. Now there is time to discuss the day, eat earlier, laugh more. I’ve also enjoyed having time to read more; I love the escapism of fiction and have really enjoyed some super books this year. Finally, the power of community has been incredibly strong, and I am fortunate enough to live beside neighbours that I now count very much as friends.

Voltedge: What is your favourite quote and why?

Charlotte: ‘It is what it is, we are where we are’ – Not a literary quote, but a former client of mine used to say it! It’s a way of not dwelling on the past, accepting the present, and realising you have the power to change the future. No use crying over spilled milk!

The Institute of Designers in Ireland is the largest and oldest association of Irish design professionals, and longest established creative forum in Ireland. IDI is committed to advancing the value and impact of design – inspiring, supporting and learning from one another along the way.