As designers, understanding our customers' needs, wants, and motivations is key to solving their problems effectively. This often involves going beyond surface-level feedback to create products and services that genuinely resonate. We've developed workflows to keep the customer at the heart of our design process.

In projects, the initial brief can evolve, sometimes leading us away from the customer's perspective. That's why we ensure each team has a dedicated customer spokesperson. They advocate for the customer, ensuring our designs stay aligned with their needs throughout the length of a project.

For gaining customer insights, we employ various tailored methods. One of our favourites is this trick - Take redesigning a screwdriver, rather than asking customers what they wanted—which can be influenced by their preconceptions or our perceived problems— take a different approach. You could provide customers with a chair assembly manual under the guise of testing instructions. As they assemble the chair, you observe how they use the screwdriver. This method reveals both strengths and weaknesses of the current design, guiding you to a solution that genuinely meets your customers' needs.

Some of our Favourite Methods for Understanding Customers:

  1. Why:Asking “Why” until we get to the beginning. Continuing to ask the person why is a great tool to allow them to go down the rabbit hole. At least 5 times usually does it!
  2. Think Aloud Protocol:

    Getting a person to talk through a process. Encouraging them to outwardly verbalise their thoughts and feelings to connect on a literal level.

  3. Read All the Bad Reviews for Similar Products:

    Dive into a sector and look at the bad reviews, identify patterns, and look to improve them. This can often be a valuable tool in word-of-mouth marketing and ways to deeply understand the pain points of people who have lived with a product.

  4. Mental Model Diagrams:

    A map to visualize the process of decisions. We often visualise this for designing websites, catalogues, or marketing material. Identifying each point where there is a decision or goal. It is a great way to quickly identify assumptions in a concept.

  5. Behavioural Mapping:

    This is excellent for interior design or wayfinding. Looking at people’s behaviours through physical observations and documenting their journey. An excellent way to identify patterns or points of congestion or misdirection.

  6. Empathy Maps:

    Says: What do they say, their opinions, beliefs, and verbal expressions.
    Thinks: What do they think, their assumptions, worries, and preconceptions.
    Feels: What the user feels, such as their emotions, attitudes, and reactions.
    Does: What the user does, such as their behaviors, actions, and interactions.

  7. Open-Ended Questions:

    Don’t ask, “Did you like my talk?” Instead, ask, “What did you find most interesting about my talk today?” Let them speak!