Remembering Ofer Deshe

In the past 25 years, Design - the verb, not the noun - has worked its way into the Board Room of every smart, successful company on the planet, ‘design thinking’ has become a trope, and there are millions worldwide who earn a living designing the digital products and services that run our lives and our world.

Among the leaders and influencers in this industry, Ofer Deshe stands tall. Like the hundreds of thoughtfully-designed experiences to which he lent his considerable intelligence, Ofer left an indelible impression - on us, on our industry, and on everyone with whom he worked and played during his remarkable, too-short life.

I did not know Ofer as well as others, however, I had known Ofer from very early on in my career. I first met him when I was fresh out of university and in my first 'proper' job at BIMA. I always remember him being kind, funny and someone that would always give me - and anyone for that matter - the time of day to have a friendly chat and offer pearls of wisdom and advice to - that was something that was not always easy to come by to a recent graduate, thrust into the world of networking events with some of London's top agency CEOs. 

I was delighted to get back in touch with Ofer in February, and was both excited and honoured in equal measure that he accepted my offer to speak at Interact London 2020.  To hear of his tragic passing just a few weeks later was devastating. His warmth and advice to me as a fledgling in the digital industry has always stuck with me. 

We will be remembering Ofer by dedicating this year's Interact Virtual Festival to him.

Ofer Deshe

We asked Paula, his wife, and Julian, his friend and colleague, to share some of their thoughts and memories with us.

Paula Deshe:

'For the 24 years we were together, I was honoured and proud to call Ofer my husband, my best friend, and my soul mate. He was kind, caring, loyal, respectful, supportive, and trustworthy - he was my world, and I was his; only death could have torn us apart.

Ofer loved his work. He was passionate about UX - creative, insatiably curious, always learning, always pushing himself. Working on projects that would improve people’s lives mattered to Ofer - it affected him deeply; a privilege that he never took for granted. It excited him and it grounded him.

I saw time and again how Ofer’s charisma, his fierce intelligence, and his generosity left an impression on the people that worked with him. He was a born teacher. He loved to learn through research and practice, and he loved to share his knowledge and his experience. Many of the people Ofer supported and mentored became his friends, not just because he shared so much - so selflessly - but because you could always trust Ofer to be true. He would lend you his strength and his courage, he would share with you his vulnerability, and he would no more give up on you than he would give up on himself.

Ofer would often talk with me about the future of UX, the evolution of the industry, and his visionary ideas for elevating Design and Designers to new heights. He cared. Design has lost a giant - an inspirational leader who gave so much, and had so much more still to give. If you knew him, I hope that you will pick up where he left off, pushing the potential of Design, requiring more - always more - of yourselves and of the experiences you create.

Ofer will always be with me; he will always be part of who I am. Because of Ofer and everything he gave me, I will be able to do the impossible; to build a positive and wonderful future, and embrace the change that I must embrace. Thank you for a beautiful life, and may you rest in peace, my darling.'

Julian Hirst:

Ofer was my friend and my colleague. It took us minutes to become friends, and maybe an hour before I asked him if he’d join the company; my first hire in the UK! We hit it off immediately. He was kind and quirky, and brave and honest, and formidably clever. In his life as in his work, I never knew Ofer to accept half measures. He required as much of everyone around him as he did of himself. I admired that - it’s rare - and I learned a huge amount from him. In the years that we were friends, and in all the time that we worked together, I was always grateful to have Ofer on my side.

His passing is still unreal to me, despite the many, many people who called and wrote to me when they heard the awful news; despite the months that have passed; despite sitting down to write this today. When I think of Ofer, I still think of him in the present tense, which is where he will always be for me.

I have dozens of stories about Ofer. Stories stick to him. He’s one of those people. Of all the stories I could tell, I will share just one. It captures, for me, everything I will miss about my friend, my colleague, my co-conspirator.

It wasn’t long after we met. We were in the final stages of closing a deal with a FinTech business. It had been a tough negotiation. We needed the deal. Our client’s senior management - all Jewish, all New Yorkers, all super smart - invited us to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in London for the ‘close’. (Nice move.)

Ofer didn’t drink often, and when he did, he didn’t drink much. His stern advice to me, as we sat - tense - waiting for the clients to arrive was: “we are outnumbered, these are my people, you do the drinking, let me do the talking.” Sound advice. Fine by me.

The clients arrived, ordered a round of whiskies, pulled out our Statement of Work, and began making tasting notes on the back of it. They drank. I drank. They made notes. I smiled nervously through the small talk. And Ofer... he studied his glass, looked straight at me, and - with a huge theatrical wink - knocked it back.

My memory of the evening after the fifth or sixth whisky is fuzzy. By the time they stopped scribbling on the back of our Statement of Work and turned to the only page that mattered, Ofer was in his cups, telling childhood stories about painting houses in Haifa with his grandfather. I can hear him cackling away, even as I write this.

To this day, I don’t remember how we closed the deal. I do remember pouring Ofer out of the cab at the end of the night, still telling his stories. The deal hadn’t been the high point of Ofer’s night at all. He was on a roll - having fun - taking it all in his stride - squeezing every last drop out of another story.

I miss my friend.

Thank you for remembering Ofer at Interact 2020. (He’d wonder loudly what all the fuss is about, of course, but with just a hint of that knowing smile...)'

Ofer is dearly missed, and the void left by his passing is felt by so many but his impact on design, passion for excellence and mentorship and support of others ensures that his legacy will live on forever.

Two causes close to Ofer were The Wave Project and Surf Action. We’ve included links below. Please give generously.

The Wave Project: Helping young people with their emotional and physical wellbeing using surfing

Surf Action: Supporting the health and wellbeing of the armed forces community and civilian families in Cornwall