As a Design Strategist at McLaren Applied, my job is to ask questions, to understand people, businesses, and technology so that we can design things, better.
But design research is a messy process. It’s often exhausting, emotional, frustrating, and underappreciated. This means that it's difficult to embed into an organisation effectively. When done properly, it can change an organisation’s goals, change people’s lives, and become the most rewarding work you’ll do.
From unearthing insight in human performance to analysing airport behaviour with Deloitte, understanding the end user using data collected from research is a fundamental stage in our design process at Applied Technologies.
Experience and insight gained over decades in F1, and more recently, pioneering projects in the automotive, public transport, and health industries has developed our ability to find solutions to problems in the right way.
However, we realise that the products we create have come to exist within an increasingly complex world. Consumers interact with what we create over time and their expectations are always changing.
To ensure our product development is successful we focus on understanding the evolving needs, values, and behaviours of users using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
For example, when conducting research for our partners in health, we’ve been visiting the homes of patients, immersing ourselves in their lives. We then iteratively evaluate our designs by taking them back to the patients to understand how they would use the product and how it would impact their lives. In doing this we’ve effectively de-risked the medical product development process.
Here are three principals which guide our user-centred design strategy:
1. Encourage autonomy
In a growing team and large company, we promote a culture where people aren’t afraid to challenge an approach or suggest a fresh perspective. With autonomy comes control. Small and agile teams can move quickly, make decisions on their own, and can continue to drive iterations at a high velocity. This approach is key for conducting design research.
2. Look after research teams
Working in health brings its own challenges, it becomes more important than ever in looking after the team’s wellbeing. The research studies we undertake can be exhaustive and draining. Exercising high amounts of emotional intelligence and listening to powerful stories can be difficult. Let’s not forget that quite often, this may be the first time a participant has had a chance to vent, and it’s our role at that point to listen to them and translate their views into actionable intelligence.
It’s difficult to not let these stories influence you, or allow bias to affect the insight you’re trying to deliver. We spend a lot of time ensuring we share the burden of those experiences with each other. Ensuring that we have debriefing sessions, where we can offer each other different perspectives on what we heard and seen, and share these stories with the extended team.
3. Ideas live longer than insights
We deduce themes, insights, and opportunities from what we’ve seen people do, or heard people say during user studies. This synthesis process can be difficult to navigate. The fear of uncertainty and not knowing the answers can understandably derail research when in business you get rewarded for having the right answers. We only compound this when we hand reports over with insights and opportunities.
We’ve produced better results when we keep up the momentum and get to the solutions quicker. Solutions are exciting, they can be shared across an organisation. Capturing those solutions as artefacts that embody the uncovered opportunity means that they can be played with, understood, and experienced by people from across the business. In turn, they live longer.