When it comes down to it, Mums have a lot in common with Design Thinkers. A day doesn’t go by that a Mum doesn’t use her deep behavioral understanding to prevent problems before they can develop. Helping both her clients (those delightful children that you can see screaming in the back seat of the car), and the end users (every unsuspecting member of the public who those children are going to be inflicted on over the years).

Empathize and Ideate While Hiding Carrots on the Plate

When a Mum first starts out, her role is pretty straightforward: milk goes in one end of the baby and, failing any hiccoughs in the process, comes out the other end in a less pleasant form. If that was all that motherhood entailed then there would probably be a lot more of it going around. After just a few short months of peace with a nice cuddly warm smelly lump in a blanket, the user requirements begin to change. Milk is no longer appropriate, so the “baby” project needs to be changed to include a catering service. Environmental modification, covering sharp edges, moving ornaments gradually higher, becomes the next pressing concern, not to mention the multiple training programs that have to be offered.

A few years later, the “Mum” service has turned into a full-time occupation for a team of at least three people, including a dedicated taxi service, a psychologist and a full-service cleaner.

Prototype, Prototype, Prototype… with Poster Paint

Any mother can tell you that a child in school is always only 24 hours away from a crisis, ranging from minor to major. Normally this takes the form of a school project that was forgotten until the night before it was due. Thankfully most schools seem to acknowledge the tight deadlines that Mums are forced to work to and the majority of projects like designing robots or rocket-ships require nothing more than a model made out of whatever recyclable items are lying around the home, normally followed by a reverse engineered design document.

If the good people of the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry thinks that they can turn around a fast prototype, they have never seen a mum armed with only a cardboard tube, some tinfoil, tape and a determined look in her eyes.

Child playing with toys

Deep Dive Research: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Pokemon

As with any other client, children are not a “one-size fits all” proposition. Every one of them comes with their own unique set of requirements, or more accurately, demands. A meal that was announced to be the best thing ever a mere week ago may now have become disgusting. The best friend that’s been scheduled to attend a party may have become a mortal enemy, due to a slight that adults cannot even decipher.

No moment in a child’s life more clearly displays the level of attentive research that a Mum undertakes as clearly as birthdays when, somehow, the exact gift that the child has been silently pining over, appears neatly wrapped before them.

Loving the Problem (Child)

If a child appears, fully dressed and not obviously starving at school every day, then it is likely that their mum has put together some sort of schedule for them. While the school run may start out as an intimidating flurry of early-morning tasks, it takes barely any time for a Mum to adopt a system of journey mapping to minimize stress and maximize every user’s experience on a daily basis.

Some Mums go a step further, helping to plan out their best results for their children’s entire future. The end result is the lesson that all experience designers learn eventually; no plan, however perfectly laid, survives unchanged after contact with the users.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all of you design thinking Mums out there, none of us would be here without you.

Communications Director

Sutherland Labs
Profile Image - Gemma Wisdom

View other blog posts by Gemma