Designing for Humans, From NYC to London
If working at Havas London for the past couple weeks has taught me anything, it’s that human centric design is alive here... and it’s as important as ever. Of course, as an Experience Designer (XD), that was more of an affirmation than a lesson. But either way, being able to step away from some of the work I’ve been doing in NY, in some cases multi-year projects, and see the process in action in the London office has been very valuable.
Prior to arriving I’d of course seen some of the digital work being produced here, such as the famous eagleAI, but I hadn’t been exposed to the process behind it. That all changed on the first day when my coach took me through some past projects, and a bit of upcoming work. It quickly became evident that the XD processes, and a focus on user needs and behaviors, was a central theme in the success of that work.
One good example of this comes from work around a product soon-to-be released globally. Without divulging any secrets, the brief called for creative ways to introduce said product to the market. In true XD fashion, the team dug in, first to understand who would be using it. The process started with interviewing people from different parts of the world to see what their daily routine looked like. From there, they conducted story-mapping sessions to leverage collective thinking, and identify any pain points that people face over the course of a day. Creative ideas were then developed in response to the pain points, and tested in the different markets. Unsurprisingly, the ideas that they thought would lead the way were shot down while others rose to the top. Since this was all based on input from real people, the result was a new understanding of why and how they would use the product, a very smart idea for a companion app and well-informed strategic positioning that serves as the foundation for future creatives.
I mention that work in particular because it’s very similar to how we function in NY. As product designers, and particularly XD’s, our top priority lies in how people will use what we’re trying to sell. The first step is always to understand who those people are. From there we go through processes like story mapping or OOUX to help us get the answers we need.
Another theme I’m noticing is the use of cognitive services both in products, and to internally help mine insights from data. As a hybrid XD/Developer, I’ve been building prototypes for years, but up until recently they all centered around front end design. It seems the tide has shifted though, as I’m now working on a prototype for a dynamic chatbot that intelligently responds by cognitively understanding both a prompt and it’s possible response repository. I’ve also been tasked with seeing how we can leverage these AI services to monitor real-time social conversations to then inform a potential app and broader content ideas. Both prototypes align closely to a lot of the work I was doing before Lofts, highlight the promise of cognitive, and the need to design with a direct understanding of it.
I do have to mention one big difference between how we work back home compared to here in London. In NY the walls around the product design team, and even some conference rooms, are covered with printouts, sketches and post-its from the various projects we’re working on. Taking over the space that way really helps us stay organized, look at things as a whole, and more easily spot gaps in the thinking. As beautiful as the HKX office is, the layout doesn’t really support that same ‘work on the walls’ approach. Granted, it is something that we had to grow into after moving into the NY office years ago, and perhaps that will happen in London too. Hopefully it does, because it’s made a big difference to our team in NY.
However, whether that happens or not, it appears that the same design processes are very much succeeding across both offices!