Cohort Spotlight: Experience Design
As the choreographers of our ventures, Experience Designers bring together venture ideas, brands, and people to impact the future
Building innovative ventures with the world’s leading companies requires a wide spectrum of skills, along with a spirit of collaboration and experimentation. At BCG Digital Ventures we cover all bases of venture building, from the initial idea to testing and validation to building the product, finding users, and launching it into the world.
This takes experts from all fields. In this series, we’re introducing you to each of our 8 venture-building cohorts, showcasing their approach, the role they play in building a venture, how they work together, and the skills that are required to succeed as we build businesses with groundbreaking impact. For this edition of the cohort series, we’re looking at Experience Design.
Although there are many important aspects to building ventures, from a strong business model to seamless technical execution to an effective growth strategy, all of these elements rest upon one thing: understanding the customer’s needs.
In a nutshell, Experience Designers at BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV) are responsible for bringing concepts to life, and making the big ideas into something tangible. Anouk Sylvestre, Lead Experience Designer at BCG Digital Ventures, Singapore, describes Experience Design as having a “secret power of making things real.” Elaborating further, she explains: “Being an Experience Designer is about bringing concepts to life — Experience Design has this secret power of making things real. On the one hand, it’s about understanding and prioritizing user needs, on the other it’s finding innovative ways to serve those needs and shape user behaviors through tangible solutions”
The Experience Design cohort is important to the venture process in its incubation phase. In a crowded market, good design is the differentiator that helps the cream rise to the top and elevate the product or service to become the market leader, even in the most mundane and every day of products and services. Flávio Bezerra, Lead Experience Designer at BCGDV Berlin, describes the objective of Experience Designers in plain terms: “We make sure we design the right thing, and then we go about actually designing the thing right.”
Experience design bridges strategic design and product management, converting the insights that come from research into product features, product components and ultimately into a meaningful experience for the end user. Flávio explains that part of the job is trying to understand the ‘why’ — “why do we need this product or this feature?”
Design creates a difference, and Experience Design makes that difference — ventures and products could not launch without the involvement of Experience Designers. It can help to rethink what an interaction is and define opportunities for the business, in order to create differentiation and impact. Customer, once again, is king, and the aim is to determine how the customer will interact with a product or service, and then utilize Experience Design to optimize this end product.
Experience designers work closely with their engineering and product management counterparts — bringing together the best of strategy, design and technology development — to also map out solutions, break down tasks and create a manageable work package with which to produce tangible outputs for a venture. The value that Experience Design adds is summed up by Anouk as follows: “Experience Designers are sort of the translators of the needs of different cohorts. We weigh out all the different inputs and explore solutions until we get the balance of business needs, user insights, and build requirements right”
In terms of the key qualities necessary to success, Anouk champions the need to be resourceful. In order to test hypotheses, Experience Designers constantly try out different ways and tools to put the product in the hands of users as soon as possible. Flávio underlines the need for humility, noting that designers must be humble and understand that what they build might not necessarily be the right thing for the user ; they need to be able to go back to square one, pivot and start again in order to get the right result.
Just as the Experience Design role can be varied, so are the profiles of BCGDV’s Experience Design cohort. Flávio notes one team member who started out studying computer science, before discovering a passion for design. Others come from a more classic graphic design background, and Flávio himself was a previous startup founder in his native Brazil.
The typical career path is equally varied; some lean into being a designer and hone in on their craft to create different technologies. Others will lean in a more entrepreneurial direction — Anouk notes that working in an environment as varied as BCGDV opens up those possibilities in a way that working at an agency doesn’t. She says: “At DV, I am so inspired by the talent. Everyone is really, really good at what they do. You’re constantly being challenged by people with an amazing and varied skill set.”
At BCGDV, ventures begin as a blank canvas and develop into a fully-fledged startup. Experience Design is a key discipline that bridges this journey from concept to a tangible end product.