Design the future: An interview with Roger Rohatgi

“When you make innovation real and relatable for people, they get excited about the possibilities just as much as you are. Bring them along on your journey.” Roger Rohatgi, VP, Global Head of Design at bp


Welcome to the third instalment of The Interview by Designit, a new series to bring you perspectives, insights, and advice from business and industry leaders who are designing the future. In this edition, we chat with Roger Rohatgi, VP, Global Head of Design at bp.

Tell us about your role and remit within your organisation.

I’ve worked in design for over 25 years, across business-to-business and business-to-consumer perspectives, and on both the agency and the brand side.

In 2020, I became bp’s Global Head of Design, the first design leader in the company’s 100-year history. And really, my job is about finding a way to put humans at the centre of our designs.

I oversee bp’s design and change management discipline, championing human-centred design and building quality standards and best practices across the whole organisation. We’ve built a design system to standardise what we do at bp, which is becoming integral to the design of 5000+ apps and over 2000+ components.

Right now, I’m focused on how we combine sustainability and design to meet our ambition to be net zero by 2050. To further this goal, we’ve created sustainable design, a sustainability-based learning curriculum that runs throughout the entire company, with the aim of embedding sustainability into bp’s heart and DNA.

My team is also exploring how we, as designers, can continue helping bp have safer, more digitally secure operations. As part of this, we’re enhancing the design of bp’s safety and cyber security systems, while also using technologies like digital twin, the metaverse, and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise employee experiences and minimise risks.

Tell us about how you go about innovating. Is there a process you use?

One of my favourite sayings is “innovation isn’t taught, it’s caught.” And I invest great effort in fostering an atmosphere of innovation, an environment to dream, and a culture of creativity to do this.

I do that by embedding design into teams and sharing examples of best practice across the organisation, particularly related to human-centred design. I have also introduced our very own human experience library, Helix, which leverages sustainable and inclusive design methods to help people think differently.

What is one of innovation of which you’re most proud?

First and foremost, I’m proud of instituting sustainable design at bp, and helping the organisation lead the world in terms of designing for both people and our planet.

More recently, I’m proud of launching inclusive design at bp, shifting the company mindset to make inclusivity, accessibility, equality, and diversity a priority.

But overall, I’m proud of being able to elevate design within bp and place it on equal footing with product and technology.

What has surprised you most in your role in delivering innovation?

Coming into a company like bp is such a unique experience in many ways. It's a company with a 100-year history. It’s important to honour this history, even as we look to the future.

This history and the sheer scale of bp means that the impact we have never ceases to surprise me. I call what we do ‘Titan Design’ because we’re working at a level that impacts the world.

And finally, I’m always surprised by people, and how creative and brilliant they can be.

What do you feel is one of the greatest challenges to innovators in today’s climate?

Getting the right buy-in and support from the top is the greatest challenge for innovators in today’s climate. There are so many things competing for their attention. Earning trust and leadership endorsement is key to getting the right funding and the space to be innovative, to test boundaries, and to be creative.

Another big challenge is just keeping up with the pace of technology advancements. Technology has opened so many doors, but often comes with a steep learning curve. To be really effective as an innovator and as a designer, we must stay in the know on emerging technology and take advantage of it to enhance human experiences.

What advice would you give to others in similar roles given this challenge?

The best advice I can share is to always show value, have passion for what you do, and never give up.

You may be doing the best, most innovative work in the world, but if people don’t know about it, don’t see the value or don’t see how it relates to them, you’re not going to be successful. Use tools like OKRs (objectives and key results) and KPIs (key performance indicators) to set targets and track progress, collect quick wins to showcase your work, and always look for ways to tell your story.

When you make innovation real and relatable for people, they get excited about the possibilities just as much as you are. Bring them along on your journey, show them it’s worth it and constantly push boundaries or disrupt the norm to make a difference.

Is your organisation looking for ways to innovate? Let’s chat.