Week 9

In essence, the term describes the method for improving the quality of user service.

User-centered design is based on a few fundamental principles that can be applied for the product design process:

Users are involved in the design process from the very beginning. Critical design decisions are evaluated based on how they work for end-users.
Importance of requirement clarification. The product team always tries to align business requirements with user’s needs.

Introducing user feedback loop in the product life cycle. The product team collects and analyzes feedback from users regularly. This information helps the team to make more user-focused decisions.

Iterative design process. The product team constantly works on improving user experience; it introduces changes gradually as it gains more understanding about their target audience.

In other words, user-centered design is about designing and developing a product from the perspective of how it will be understood and used by your user rather than making users adapt their behaviours to use a product. The idea is to offer a product which would support its users’ existing beliefs, values, attitudes, and habits.

Embracing human-centered design means believing that all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones like poverty, gender equality, and clean water, are solvable. Moreover, it means believing that the people who face those problems every day are the ones who hold the key to their answer.

Human-centered design offers problem solvers of any stripe a chance to design with communities, to deeply understand the people they’re looking to serve, to dream up scores of ideas, and to create innovative new solutions rooted in people’s actual needs.


Unity through culture (trailer) from Eye & Mind on Vimeo.

This is the process of absorbing yourself in the lives of your potential customer. More than speaking to them and asking them pertinent questions, the immersion technique allows you to fully experience every aspect of their existence first-hand. Sometimes it may be difficult for people to express their needs or desires or they may not have the right communication tools available to them to fully articulate themselves. By occupying their environment, you become attuned to your target audience’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing. You build up a level of trust and understanding which is hard to come by any other way.

Immersion to me is a two part process. Initially, by imeersing yourself in ethnogrphic research, you are able to learn things about a culture or section of society that you would not have using traditional methods. People can be nothing but themselves when viewed in their own environments so opportunities to learn present themselves in unimaginable ways. If you ask a question, you only have a finite number of responses. Going into a situation with no preconceived ideas will reap its rewards. The first video above shows the people of the Baluan Island in the South Pacific. Their culture and way of life is very important to them and they are now on a journey to capitalise on this, rather than letting the ‘white people’.
Ethnographic research allows you to learn a person or brand’s story. without this, how do you expect to replicate this in a visual outcome?

The second video shows how learning this story allows you to recreate a story in a way which immerses your public. If you had never seen the film about the Baluan people, would you expect them to have such strong race beliefs? Would you have anticipated them wanting to commercialise on their culture? I certainly wouldn’t. By knowing this, it would allow me, if hired by them (very unlikely!), to produce an outcome which manifested their beliefs and culture.

It would also allow me to immerse their potential publics in a way where they buy into the story, history and heritage of their way of life.

“immersion might take up to 70% of the process, as great observations can lead quickly to great ideas for solving real problems. It’s a process of opening up opportunities to explore, not shutting them down. This is where, from a teacher’s perspective, all control sometimes feels lost as students explore unexpected tangents. The trick is keeping out of the way, and letting students justify to themselves and to others why some tangents are worth exploring and others less so.”


Who am I? Who are you? Personas are a breakdown of what makes you unique in terms. Usually used as way to predict customer’s behvaiour when engaging with a product, it can be misleading or generated in an erroneous manner.

When you think of what defines a person do you initally go for their ‘personal data’ -i.e age, gender, location?

Todd Yellin, the VPof Netflix once said, “Geography, age, gender? We put that in the garbage heap.”

For them these factors do not determine which shows or films an individual likes to watch. I know of old, young, males and females who love marvel, as an example. Some things are not predictable.

The best way to avoid stereotyping sections of society is to use real people. This could even be used in conjunction with the previous page on ethnographic research. Every member of the Baluan people will have small nuances which make them different.

I suppose then, before using personas as a reseach tool for better service design, a company needs to ask themselves who their target audience is and how do they identify them.

As an example, if i were to start my own design studio, I would have at least 3 personas in mind when creating my offer:

Small startup businesses
Charitible and public sector organisations
Off shore energy companies

In reality, I am sure there would be more than this, but this was off the top of my head.

Each of the above would need differing approaches when taregting them. They will also need an engagement plan to ensure they are aware of the services on offer.

A good way to do this may be to speak with actual businesses that fit into these categories and ask them pertenent questions.

I keep going back to this idea of inhibiting potential responses or leading questions which would tar the results.

Is there another way, apart from immersion, to engage with people in a way which does not affect their responses?

Photo Journal

To me a photo journal is a visual diary of a personal ife and experiences. By giving a camera to potential service users with no agenda, you enable them to create a visual journey of what they deem important.

It could be argued that this technique is more effective than immersive research as you are not there to effect the subjects actions. I know that I act in a different way with people around and when they are not.

However, the simple act of asking the subject to produce a photo journal may involuntarily invoke them representing their ‘best life’. Instagram is the obvious example of this. It is a visual photo journal app where people share images of themselves and their lives.

Often, we see celebrities and even Dave round the corner celebrating the wins in his life and hiding the less so glamourous side.

An instagram influence, Rianne Meijer, has become famous for showing the unseen side to instagram.

The question is – Would your chosen subjects show you the real them? Or some digitally enhanced version which is far from the truth?

Workshop Challenge

  1. Research and select one existing campaign or service design project that tackles a social problem and analyse its effectiveness. Please remember to include information about any user-centred design processes that may have been used and the impact it brought about.
  2. Write a 300 – 400 word description with screen grabs to illustrate your research findings.


Youtube.com. 2021. This is Service Design Thinking – Book Trailer [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JywQiJO4TRo [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Suhr, C. and Otto, T., 2011. Unity Through Culture – Eye and Mind. [online] Eye and Mind. Available at: https://eyeandmind.dk/project/unity-through-culture/ [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Bonds, S., 2021. Susan Bonds — Connected Immersion. [online] Futureofstorytelling.org. Available at: https://futureofstorytelling.org/video/susan-bonds-connected-immersion [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Ellis, M., 2018. How to create a user persona – 99designs. [online] 99designs. Available at: https://99designs.co.uk/blog/business/how-to-create-user-personas/ [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Morris, D., 2016. Netflix says Geography, Age, and Gender are “Garbage” for Predicting Taste. [online] Fortune. Available at: https://fortune.com/2016/03/27/netflix-predicts-taste/ [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Youtube.com. 2017. About personas and how to create them. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNvLpfXCge8&t=109s [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Schild, D., 2020. An influencer turns her Instagram outtakes into hilarious side-by-side photos to prove that social media isn’t real life. [online] Insider. Available at: https://www.insider.com/influencer-rianne-meijer-expectation-vs-reality-photos-2019-8 [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Good Innovation. 2019. Lift the Lid – Sustainable Services – Our Work – Good Innovation. [online] Available at: https://www.goodinnovation.co.uk/our-work/sustainable-services/lift-the-lid/ [Accessed 14 May 2021].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *