Experience Design Lead
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Grew up in Lisbon. Studied software engineering, then left to go study Interaction Design in London in the 90s. Worked in London as creative technologist and interaction designer for media and arts organisations between 2001-2006. Worked in Paris on different interaction design and user experience projects, freelancing directly with own clients or employed fulltime at agencies such as Matchbox, TBWA\365, Publicis Modem and DigitasLBi.
I have a long and broad experience in research, strategy and design of complex digital products, services and ecosystems.
Having worked in-house, at digital agencies and as a freelancer, I had a diverse range of clients such as Orange, Samsung, Sainsbury's, BBC and the iPlayer, Carrefour, UGC Cinemas, Nissan, Intermarche, Michelin, UEFA, Rolex, Philips, Moet-Hennessy, La Poste, among many others.
Over the years my work has become increasingly strategic in nature, rethinking large multi-channel experiences across digital and physical channels, employing principles and processes from Service Design and Design Thinking.
When undertaking new projects I start by looking at the big picture and ask: Who are the users? What are they trying to achieve? Under which conditions? How can we help them achieve their goals? How can we delight them? How can we add value?
User-centred design can ensure the proposed solutions meet (and ideally exceed) user's expectations and business goals. Typical tools include conducting user research, design thinking workshops, experience maps, personas, user journeys, flow diagrams, wireframes, specifications, prototyping, user testing, and so on. I apply these tools according to the scope of projects and their intended outcome, and I brief other designers accordingly. My design process has always been iterative and I've been working in Agile environments for the last 3 years.
But user experience isn't just about productivity, qualitative aspects also come into play, less tangible factors. The best user experiences are able to touch users at both the cognitive and emotional level, by understanding user's intrinsic motivations it's possible to design for the heart as well as the mind. Truly innovative solutions answer customer problems in ways they and the competition hadn't anticipated. Qualitative user research will help you find which factors can make the difference and lead to deeper engagement with a brand.
I take great pleasure in guiding and mentoring less senior designers, people learn by doing so I train them on new methods by working together. Learning new skills gives designers confidence, it is a powerful motivation tool and it helps them grow and defend their decisions in front of developers, business stakeholders, and their peers. Designers are sensitive people and more care and nurturing is needed than for other types of role, fostering a protective environment is essential for design to flourish inside a company.
There's nothing particularly new about the user-centric methods I employ, although certain techniques have evolved over time the same basic principles haven't evolved much, despite the claims of Lean product development.
Everything begins and ends with customers. During the discovery phase I will learn as much as possible about the business and the people we're designing for: Who are they? What are they trying to achieve? Under which conditions? How can we help them achieve their goals? How might we delight them? How to create value?
At the same time, I will interrogate the business according to different prisms: Business goals; KPIs; Customer knowledge; Initial understanding of the problems to solve; History of the products or services they sell (if any); Brand values; Future strategy or vision.
Often times there are more questions than answers, and certain answers open up further questions as you probe. It's a bit like a detective movie where the initial understanding keeps being challenged as you gather clues to define the real problem.
This is when I employ generative user research techniques such as interviews, field trips, workshops, service safaris, design probes, … and combine them with quantitative sources such as site or app analytics, social media monitoring, call centre statistics, and so on.
After research there must be synthesis. After absorbing all the different inputs it becomes necessary to distill the essence of what we've learned and give it a shape so it becomes immediately understandable by those concerned. It is often necessary to reframe the initial understanding of the problem, as research casts light on false preconceptions and reveals new opportunities for creating value. These opportunities tend to range between small incremental optimisations to existing experiences up to whole new products or services that address unmet customer needs in a disruptive manner.
In order to communicate findings I avoid long text reports and prefer more visual deliverables: Experience maps, mind maps, conceptual maps, journey maps, personas, videos, …as well as other types of problem statement. In any case there are always explanatory decks to tell the story.
Armed with a clear definition of the problems to be solved and underlying opportunities, it is time to generate as many solutions as possible. Divergent thinking is encouraged. Idea generation exercises work better in groups but some care is necessary for picking participants. People with experience in XD / innovation tend to produce better design solutions, but business stakeholders can help cast light over less visible aspects and influence output in a beneficial way.
The goal is to create a plethora of solutions, then pick or combine the most promising ones and distill down to a few scenarios with enough definition before testing them with people.
I am a big fan of storyboarding usage scenarios to show how a product or service solves a real customer problem via a sequence of vignettes. Storyboards, sketchy diagrams, photo sequences or videos tend to be involved.
On agile projects, a hazy draft of a product backlog may be produced, but I prefer to do this after validating the new experience concepts with potential users.
Everyone loves shiny new product or service concepts, but will people actually want them? This is when we get to test solutions and learn about real customer needs, again. Testing can be done in a Lean way, privileging quick quantitative methods and KPIs, or non-Lean, privileging richer qualitative learnings.
In any case the goal is to compare and evaluate different solutions to the problems identified earlier, and understand why certain solutions perform better than others. This also enriches further our understanding of customers and their problems.
Eventually, we end up settling on a solution or combination of solutions to take into production.
Most products are built in Agile mode these days. Although Agile's iterative principles mirror those of the Design process, there are some challenges for integrating UX research within sprints. I always recommend having a dual-track UX activity: one is short and self-contained, sprint-based, oriented towards designing and testing the UI details iteratively with users; the other track is continous, long-term research to help us learn more about customers and the problems they face. This slower research track enables Experience Design to identify further opportunities for creating value, and opens up the way for new product or service concepts, or even whole new business models and value propositions.