Shaped by curiosity.
I discovered the importance of understanding my own customers needs in the early 1990s as a custom surfboard shaper. (One of my customers even became world champ riding my boards). In this environment I learned the difference between what people say they want versus what they really need, and the value of working to a brief informed by reality.
My 25 year design career spans industrial, digital and architectural design. Research and design collided for me in London while working as a consultant for user experience and behavioural research agencies. Here I discovered user centred design and have since applied my instinct for finding out what makes people tick to shape products, services, brands and environments both physical and digital.
Research to inspire and inform design.
It’s impossible to design without making decisions. It’s madness to make those decisions without evidence to base them on.
Outcomes from my research takes the guesswork out of these decisions, reveals opportunities, unites and inspires your team around what truly matters to their customers – uncovering insights to shape products and services into great customer experiences which meet real-world needs.
Beyond this, I see design research as a driver of informed change. Change in mindset – from the way your team perceives and understands the customer to how the problem space is defined. I’ve seen these changes lead through to confident decisions in the way products are marketed, communicated, and experienced by customers.
Deep-dive customer insights.
I’m a curious, analytical thinker with the instinct it takes to discover what makes people tick and what this means for your business. My ability to naturally engage and build empathy for people, is a key skill I’ve honed during thousands of hours of interviews and ethnographic field visits with my clients’ customers.
Getting under the skin of your customers is the foundation of my work, uncovering their motivations, needs, emotions, perceptions and behaviours to discover how your product can best fit your customer and even put a smile on their face.
Insight from my work has provided my clients valuable opportunities and strategic direction – from which market to launch in, to how a product feels in a customer’s hand.
I have ‘skin in the game’ too, having identified an unmet need, then developed a successful product and brand of my own to meet it. Mr. Tappy is now standard kit for the world’s leading UX design and research teams (Proudly made New Zealand of course).
During a project exploring how people used touch-screen devices, I noticed how difficult it was to capture and share this on-and-off-screen activity. After several home-made prototypes, Mr. Tappy was born and has now shipped to more than 50 countries and has a humbling list of customers.
The experience of bringing this product to market, complete with production, supply chain and marketing challenges was an eye-opening journey on which I fostered great empathy for clients in their own product development process.
Better by Design.
From 2012 – 2017 I’ve been a coach on the Better By Design programme – a New Zealand government initiative driven by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, with significant input and coach training from Stanford D.School, building on a ‘design thinking’ approach.
The role of the coach is to work directly with CEOs to help them adopt and benefit from a user centred design approach to product development. The aim is to build this capability within the company and the coach’s job is to make this happen.
This often translates to my guiding small teams of internal stakeholders into the world of their customer, learning first-hand how to apply design research methods to gain insights about the end user of their product. This is experiential learning at it’s best, with a 100% strike rate for those ‘a-ha moments’.
In my popular article ‘Redundant, by design’ I explain how it feels as a researcher, to pass these skills on to my clients.
From doing for, to doing with, to helping become.