Building a relationship beyond data collection

Social Innovation Design project @ Statistics Estonia/
Tatiana Rubiano Goubert and Lydia Petrova
Mentors: Tanel Kärp(, Riina Raudne and Karl Annus(Statistics Estonia).

For this project we worked with Statistics Estonia (SE). They are the main entity in charge of gathering and analyzing data for the country. The work they do is crucial in guiding public policy, understanding trends and exploring directions for a more data-driven future. However, despite their importance, collecting information can end up being a big burden for everybody involved.

Presenting data is compulsory by law but this seems not to be enough. 20% of companies don’t do it at all and of the ones which do, 30% don’t do it on time. Why is this happening? In what ways could we intervene to make this better?


To try to dig deep in the core of the problem we explored what was going on from within SE, how the process went for the companies and what other external things influenced this behaviour.

Exploring the inner workings

After several interviews with different departments, observing meetings and testing procedures we found out key things:

  • It is an organization that is currently wanting to undergo a big transformation. They want to become pioneers in data gathering automation and visualization.
  • It is very fragmented on the inside and there are lots of communication gaps.
  • People with whom we talked are extremely passionate about their jobs and statistics in general but realize that they are not transmitting this to the people and companies that have to present data.

People behind the companies

After talking to a lot of people in different roles (CEO’s, accountants, project managers and freelancers) we were able to identify two types of users and three opportunity areas.

On one hand we saw that people were either driven by cooperation or by obligation. This means that for some people the fact that presenting data was mandatory by law was enough for them to actually engage in the behaviour. However, for others, this was not enough. For them, there needed to be a feeling of cooperation. In this scenario presenting data is also depending upon other factors such as type of communication, values, respect, user friendliness and perceived usefulness amongst others.

Diving a little deeper into this cooperation based mindset we discovered that there were three main areas that needed to be addressed.

  1. Perceptions of SE as an entity

They are like the police and have a very dry and official approach

2. The actual process of collecting data

I said: If you are not making your environment user friendly, I refuse to fill them and talk to you any more.

3. Perception of value/benefit for the users

I tried to find average salaries according to sector and years of experience, they had just average salaries in given sector, that’s too general to make decisions on

Defining our project

Based on the insights from the research and a feedback session from our direct collaborators from SE we understood that:

  • Perception and communication were key elements. Core things that needed to be transmitted from SE to its users were getting lost in the way.
  • They needed something that could be implemented fast and not directly involved with the actual survey taking.

Our research question became then:

How might we create a relationship between companies and SE that goes beyond data collection?

We knew that we wanted then to

  • Make people not perceive SE as the Police
  • Show you a different way of doing something that they are already doing
  • A solution that is easy to implement but could have powerful impacts

Aligning ourselves to their goal of becoming the most effective and innovative producer of reliable and user-friendly statistics in Europe by 2022, we understood that the type of relationship they establish with the companies is crucial.

Final Result

We placed our focus on emails, as a main means of communication. First of all, we have reviewed their emails and discovered that they are basically text-based and have no visual structure, which makes them illegible and perceived as something time consuming and too official.

We decided to design a set of emails which could be used as a basis for further improvement and applied psychological principles to each of them. Also we created a design that could set a friendlier tone to the conversation between a user and SE, set a distinct visual hierarchy and broke the information into pieces that are easy to read through. In addition, we added easter eggs, such as hand-written signatures and stories from people working in SE, to make them more personal.

Let’s take a closer look at some of them!

For example, for New Year email, which opens a new reporting cycle we applied Fresh Start Effect, which is based on the fact that people tend to start something new and set new goals on certain dates, such as New Year or Birthday. Also we suggested a user to select date and time when they want to fill in the survey, thus creating a feeling of voluntary choice within a mandatory time frame.

For a Thank you email we created a report comparing a user to other people filling in the survey, thus giving him a sense of closure and nudging him to align his behaviour with other people.

On books and design