From Product Design to Digital Product Design
I feel like my career has come full circle. Starting out it was about understanding user needs to create physical products and today it is to understand user needs to create websites and digital interfaces. In this journey I have moved from the physical 3D space to the 2D internet / interface world. It's been an interesting journey so far.
I've always had a passion about understanding users and their needs behind desiring a product or service. It is this - the psychology behind user habits - what drove me through my BA Industrial Design Product degree, and then on to my Masters in Design Innovation and Strategy.
Nothing gave me more joy than understanding if those user needs were met from an emotional, psychological and usability point of view. This is what interested me, so my career choice was also a hobby and a passion. I was certain that if these aspects were met, then the product would be a success.
Examples of successful products that were driven through ethnographic research and development include, Huggies Pull Up Diapers, and also the American yogurt for children, Go-Gurt. The secret to the success of these products lay in meeting the emotional and psychological needs of both parents and children. If it wasn't for the research behind this and then the analysis of these observations, the discovery of these products would not have been possible. To date the evolution of Huggies Pull Up Diapers lies with the continued research in observational studies.
As mentioned it was my passion for understanding user needs - as well as being inspired by IDEO - that led me to explore the "emotional connections that teenagers had with their mobile phones" for my MA Design, Innovation & Strategy degree. (Remember those were the days - 2000/2001 - where storing 10 text messages was the max). My conclusion was that the mobile phone would not only be used as a communication device but would also aid the development of teenagers in building and maintaining their relationships. The research I looked into at that time found that depression starts at the age of 15, and that age also coincided with teenagers starting to break and make relationships while transitioning into adulthood. My advice to mobile companies was to enhance and build on these emotional phases that teenagers were (and would) be going through. I presented some product and interface concepts that would enhance or build on these ideas, all using the mobile phone. Today, the Apple iPhone has made the development of apps the norm, and so many ideas come to mind that could take my old research to a new level.
So my last ethnographic led (product design) project was back in 2006, since then my career has moulded to where I am today; A Senior User Experience Strategy / Consultant working on 2D interactions and solutions.
In fact today I am mainly working on websites (desktop/mobile) and in the last few years this has branched into working on mobile apps and B2B banking applications. More often then not the direction of the product is usually defined and a UXer is needed to create the interface/wireframes. I have to admit I do miss the ethnographic elements, the ability to go and dive into finding out more about the user and their needs. A few years back, I had the privilege of working on a digital project for M&C Saatchi "The House of Peroni" where I was able to take the market research to create the strategic personas of the end users. I loved putting these together, understanding the users, before working on the user experience and wireframes for desktop and mobile interface. During my career I have been lucky enough to have worked on different types of projects and be led me into other digital areas.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Where to next is the question that is on my mind these days. Today the title "Digital Product" is also part of my LinkedIn profile.
Due to my experience - user centred research, ethnography, product design/development, to interaction design - I am very well placed to work back on the creation and discovery of digital solutions/products. It's for this reason (as it appears to me) that my career has come full circle: product design to digital product design. Only time will tell whether this is to be with an agency, client-side, a start up or maybe I go and build on my own ideas, which have been germinating inside of me for a while. What I do know is that when I started out as a Industrial Designer I did not know I would transition through to where I am today. The next phase of my career will hopefully bring me back into the discovery phase where understanding users emotional, psychological and usability needs is throughly thought through before moving onto creating digital solutions.