Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Mon, 29 Nov 2021 08:26:05 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2021, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Global Views on Ethics, Sustainability and Inclusivity Mon, 25 Oct 2021 17:52:09 +0000 Global Views on Ethics, Sustainability and Inclusivity

From 14 – 16 October Usaria, our Mexican and Colombian partners at the UXAlliance hosted the 17 installment of the UX Masterclass.  This year’s theme was ‘design for the future, design for everyone’ and set out to explore our responsibility as UX researchers to cater to the modern challenges that we face such as ethics, sustainability and inclusivity.  There were so many interesting topics and talks that we couldn’t review them all, but here’s a few examples that we were fortunate enough to attend in person. Thanks again to our hosts and all our UXAlliance community!

Mark and Kellie presenting at the conference!

Mark and Kellie presenting at the conference!

Day One

The first day began with an introduction from María Isabel Murillo, the Director of Usaria where she welcomed the audience and talked us through what we had to look forward to over the coming three days. 

Ethics & responsibility in UX design (Susan J. Wolfe, OE Strategy, Australia)
In a post COVID world the implementation of QR codes and contact tracing has increased the need for us as designers and UX researchers to think carefully about the ethical implications that arise from these new technologies.  Susan suggested looking carefully at our own research in order to understand that at times we are the ones contributing to the problem, and that it is down to us to look for alternatives.  

Design is a political act: a framework for ethical and responsible design (Luca Baldini, Assist Digital, Italy)
In his talk Luca grounded his arguments in the use of design theory in order to prompt the listener to think about how they can go back and challenge their own designs, and think critically about how they will affect the people that they are trying to serve (as well as the people that they aren’t).  Luca raised the point that if the internet was a country it would be the 7th largest polluter, and we as designers are direct contributors.  Our favourite quote from the talk was that we need to change our approach from ‘egocentric to ecocentric’ in order to reverse the damage that has already been done. 

Why now is the time to ensure artificial intelligence captures the right data (Gavin Lew, Bold Insight, USA) 
Discussing all things AI, Gavin asks if we are doing everything we can to ensure that AI is evolving to be the best that it can be. We need to recognise the dangers, but at the same time humanise and make AI more approachable for the masses.  Gavin suggests that to overcome these barriers we need to start by giving better data sets to data scientists as the richer the data in, the stronger the data that will be produced.

Day Two 

Inclusive Research with Underserved Audiences (Mark Brady & Kellie Hodge, Sutherland Labs, UK & USA)
Mark and Kellie argue that it is our role as UX researchers to ensure that underserved audiences are represented in design, and furthermore that this lack of representation has created an innovation challenge within our industry. From recruitment criteria to ensuring we use accessible technologies – it is up to us to disrupt research practices and kick start the change for more inclusive design systems.   

Customer Centric Design vs Sustainability (Maritza Guaderrama, PhD. Senior Advisor & Strategic Design Professor, Spain)
Throughout her thought provoking presentation Maritza argued that customer centric design and sustainability are at odds with one another, and in the modern world design has to be sustainable in order for it to be innovative. Maritza argues that through the creation of a shared narrative it is possible to work towards implementing a shared vision, it just takes everyone working as a team to achieve this! 

Day Three 

Remote Research During COVID-19 What next? (Liezel Steggman, Mantaray, South Africa)
Referring specifically to Africa and the other emerging regions, Liezel explained how Mantaray have adapted their methods in order to make research possible during the time of COVID. Diary studies, in depth interviews and remote collaboration sessions are just some of the methods they used to continue to grow their outreach over the last two years. COVID is here to stay and we need to adapt to work with it, rather than against it. 

UX Needs Design Leaders (Wojtek Chojnacki, Symetria UX, Poland)
Wojtek argues that a design leader is not only someone who designs products and services, but also who creates the environment for others to flourish.  Some of the key challenges that leaders face is scaling and democratising research teams, as well as influencing company wide decisions, even if this means that uncomfortable conversations need to be had.

We loved this year’s UX Masterclass.  Thanks go to Usaria for organizing such a fantastic event, as well as the other partners at the UXAlliance who helped to make this happen.  The conference gave us so much to think about as our role as designers in shaping and overcoming the issues that the modern world is facing.  We can’t wait for the next Masterclass! 

To learn more about the UX Alliance or talk about global research please reach out to

International Coffee Day: Circular Design Fri, 01 Oct 2021 08:03:04 +0000 International Coffee Day: Circular Design

At the Labs we love coffee, like really love coffee.  If you have ever visited our offices in London or San Francisco you will likely see the team clutching their reusable Labs mugs filled from the many independent coffee shops in the Covent Garden or Bay area.  We always try to buy from companies that strive to help the environment, as well as the many people throughout the production chain.  In celebration of International Coffee Day we are taking a look at the rise of the circular design method within the coffee industry, and why it is something that we should all be buying into.

Image Credit: Sutherland Labs / Wogan Coffee

Image Credit: Sutherland Labs / Wogan Coffee

What is the circular design model? 

Think of the circular design model as a continuous cycle of self renewal; instead of a product or service having a definitive beginning and end, the aim is to continue the product’s lifecycle by refurbishing and recycling the existing materials for as long as possible. This model supports the circular economy and is a reaction to the throwaway economy model that has been plaguing the planet for many years. It places emphasis on creating prosperity while cutting greenhouse gases, waste and pollution in order to protect our planet for future generations. As designers it encourages us to  consider a product in the context of a wider economic system, and examine and understand the processes, people and technology involved throughout to minimise negative impact.

Why is this important in coffee production?

You only have to walk around any major town or city and you will see one of the biggest problems that is directly created by the coffee industry – disposable coffee cupsOften city bins are overflowing with them and according to a recent study 99% of these end up in landfill, and even paper cups take 20 years or more to fully decompose.  The coffee industry as a whole has been pushing for greater sustainability at every step for some time, and unsurprisingly  minimising waste byproducts is a top priority.

When coffee is produced only 0.2% of the bean is harvested for use, which means that a staggering 99.8% of the bean goes to waste. In a non circular model, this is where the life of the coffee bean ends and the waste products end up in landfill, emitting a methane gas that contributes to global warming.  By applying the circular design model a number of alternate uses have been found to continue the lifecycle of the unused coffee bean – coffee leather, reusable cups, furniture, printing ink and even renewable biofuel can be harvested as coffee is made up of 18% oil!

Coffee pickers in Africa, Latin America and Asia are often overlooked and exploited.  More often than not coffee producing countries have extremely high poverty rates, and due to the volatile nature of the coffee market both producers and pickers are highly vulnerable to changes in the supply chain.  In a circular model coffee producers provide sustainability from start to end, by working closely and consistently with farmers to allow them better access to goods and resources, which in turn can then trickle back into the local economy.

How can we support a sustainable coffee industry?

We have been shopping around for both companies and initiatives that are working to implement a circular model – of course there are many more out there that we are yet to discover but here are our top picks; 

Wogan Coffee, Bristol UK

Brewed in the heart of South West England, Wogan Coffee has a direct partnership with farmers and producers to ensure a fair price for the production of coffee in order to improve the living standards of the surrounding communities. 

The Circular Coffee Fund, Netherlands

This Netherlands based not-for-profit organisation works to support and enhance diverse ecological practices by investing in proposals that have been put forward by the coffee farmers themselves, and is cleverly funded by both donations and the sale of reusable coffee cups.  

Monmouth Coffee, Covent Garden UK 

Founded in 1978 right around the corner from our London studio and frequented by many of our London team, Monmouth sources and roasts coffee from single farms, estates and cooperatives.  By ensuring frequent trips to visit the farms and cooperative members, the roastery is able to build relationships with the community and understand the unique challenges that they face. 

Larry’s Coffee, North Carolina, USA

Based in North Carolina, the company is a founding member of an organisation of independent coffee roasters who import coffee directly from farmers called Cooperative Coffees.  Even the company roastery and offices are eco-friendly, they collect rainwater for the washrooms, have solar water-heated flooring and have implemented company-wide composting!

The next time you are looking for a coffee, think about trying to find a cafe or roaster that follows the circular economy model, and we guarantee that it will leave you with a fuzzy (non caffeine related) feeling that you have done something good for the day – and try not to forget your reusable mug!

Interested in developing a more inclusive design mindset? Join us at the UX Masterclass this month where we’ll be discussing sustainability, circular design, DEI in research and much more. 

UX Masterclass 2021: Design for the future, design for everyone Wed, 22 Sep 2021 08:00:17 +0000 UX Masterclass 2021: Design for the future, design for everyone

We are delighted to announce that the 17th instalment of the UX Masterclass has returned and will be taking place from October 14-16.  This year the event will be virtually hosted by Usaria, our Mexican and Colombian partners at the UXAlliance with the theme of ‘Design for the future, design for everyone’ and will explore our responsibility as UX researchers to cater to the modern challenges that we face such as ethics, sustainability and inclusivity.  Our very own Labs members Mark Brady and Kellie Hodge will be presenting on the topic of diversity and inclusion. It is not one to be missed!

Image Credit: Usaria

Join us as we explore ‘design for the future, design for everyone’, with speakers from more than 15 countries around the world.

We hope to see you there, if you have any questions about the event or the topics that will be covered please reach out to!

The Rise of Super Apps Wed, 08 Sep 2021 08:46:56 +0000 The Rise of Super Apps

By 2021 the term ‘Super App’ had become commonplace in China, but what can we learn from this growing trend? In this short series we try to unpick if Super Apps are a fad, or if they are the future of app design.

Image Credit: Afif Kusuma

Image Credit: Afif Kusuma

You might think of Super Apps as the Russian doll of the homescreen app; one interface with layers of different services built into a single location on your homescreen.  The original and most successful example of a Super App originates from China in the form of ‘WeChat’ which was developed by Tencent at its Guangzhou Research center, and was launched to the Chinese market in 2011 and now boasts 1 billion active daily users.  What began as an instant messaging service similar to WhatsApp, quickly grew to become an all encompassing platform for virtually any product or service.  Amongst other things the user can schedule doctors appointments, purchase insurance, check crowd density and even pay traffic fines. A large part of WeChat’s success is the integrated digital wallet ‘WeChat Pay’ – a single sign in model providing instant access to the users banking details, saving time and hassle when reentries don’t have to be made for every payment.

You might think of Super Apps as the Russian doll of the homescreen app; one interface with layers of different services built into a single location on your homescreen.

Well known brands have already begun buying into Super Apps and household names have signed up to be part of the growing market, such as Tesla, TenCent Games and global ecommerce giant JD.  WeChat hasn’t quite been able to monopolize the market as other competitors have been vying for a spot in the growing industry and other notable names include Alibaba and Alipay – both similarly to WeChat were initially created for Chinese industries, but have begun to cross borders.  These apps have quickly become ingrained into users’ lives as they appreciate the ‘one-stop shop’ that a Super App can offer them when it is user friendly, functional and friction free.

The question is – can these super apps have the same level of success in the West that they have seen in Asia?  Only time will tell but it could be said that their popularity has been in part due to the unique situation in China where the population’s first contact with the internet is via mobile phones. They are effectively a user group with no previous desktop experience.  A mobile-first market, a largely unbanked population, and the important element of government backing allowed for the Super App concept to really take off.

A mobile-first market, a largely unbanked population, and the important element of government backing allowed for the Super App concept to really take off. 

Despite the unique situation within China, there are signs that Super Apps have begun to gain traction in other parts of the world such as India, South America and Southeast Asia (see Go-Jek and Grab). Key success factors in these areas include untapped markets where there is infinite room for emerging technologies, which have little preexisting tech infrastructure, and a cultural appetite for embracing new offerings.  These fast growing countries are becoming increasingly ‘connected’ which is allowing a boom in the tech sector and Super App companies are expanding aggressively to fill the gaps, and similarly to the Chinese markets, these populations are largely unbanked.

There’s many articles online that suggest that Super Apps are unlikely to enjoy the same level of success in the West as they have seen in Asia and other developing countries.  Factors such as anti-trust regulation, cultural differences and privacy concerns are amongst some of the reasons why people believe that these apps are destined to fail.  However, it seems too easy to shrug off Super Apps as a purely emerging market phenomenon; yes, the West might be moving at a slower pace, but we are starting to move towards a reintegration of services after decades of fragmentation. Banks, for example, are just one sector that need to be aware of the space that these apps are creating.  Uber (after starting up as an app that moved people from A to B), is beginning to look towards banking and the boom of digital first banks such as Monzo support the well established idea that we are moving away from the traditional brick and mortar style of banking.

It seems too easy to shrug off Super Apps as a purely emerging market phenomenon; yes, the West might be moving at a slower pace, but we are starting to move towards a reintegration of services after decades of fragmentation

It is hard to speculate what role Super Apps might play in our complex digital world, but it’s a trend we’ll be exploring more. Watch out for our next posts where we will explore the user experience of Super Apps, as well as issues around trust and privacy for the user.

Labs Library: The Ethnography Edition Mon, 06 Sep 2021 14:56:38 +0000 Labs Library: The Ethnography Edition

Today is Read a Book Day, and as a team that loves to read, our Labs book club decided to put together a list of book recommendations to celebrate!

This edition has more of an ethnographic focus, as after all the work we do and love is focused on the study of humans and their behaviours. We hope you enjoy our top picks!

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

The Digitizing Family

By Geoffrey Hobbis

We found this book to be incredibly informative, published in 2020 this book is the first in a series that aims to address the lack of ethnographic research into the Oceanic societies and their use of technology – with this study looking specifically at mobile phones and how they have become embedded into the everyday life of rural Melanesians.  We particularly enjoyed how the moral ramifications of mobile phones usage was tackled head on, and how it is down to future anthropologists to address this.  The book does a great job of looking at the unique situation we are facing in a world where a fast-evolving technological culture is affecting the way we operate at a societal level.  We can’t wait for the next in the series!

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous 

By Gabriella Coleman

When I asked the team for ethnographical recommendations this book came up more than once.  The author, Gabriella Coleman set out to look into an internet group known as ‘Anonymous’, a worldwide movement made up of a group of hackers, pranksters and activists.  Through her research Coleman managed to infiltrate the subculture of individuals who make up Anonymous, and what we found interesting is as the book goes on you are struck by how the characters emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people.  This book is great for those who are looking for a deeper understanding of today’s complex world of digital activism, and the various forms that it may take.

Tea and Solidarity 

by Mythri Jegathesan

This book was the 2020 winner of the coveted Diana Forsythe prize, an award presented for the best book or series published in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology.  This book uses the critical lense of feminist ethnographic methods to look at the lives of women and families in Sri Lanka following the tea industry’s economic crisis and the twenty six year long civil war in the country.  Jegathesan does a fantastic job of using her writing to incoorprate both a historical, as well as a feminist account of the tea industry.  The result is a book that provides an all encompassing and eye opening account of the country and South East Asia as a whole, and seeks to move past the romanticization of the tea industry that is often portrayed by the media.

Automating Inequality 

by Virgina Eubanks 

This investigative style book takes a look at how the digitalization of the world has become a tool that exacerbates the gap between the rich and the poor.  Eubanks looks into the impacts that new age technological processes such as data mining, policy algorithms and predictive risk models have come to negatively affect those who are already poor in the United States – and as a result Eubanks makes the argument that these systems are working to undermine democracy as we know it.  For our team, reading this book made our researchers take a step back and think critically about their own work and how it may be affecting the world around them.

We hope you enjoyed reading our top picks, and be sure to check out our previous book reviews on our website. Please reach out to us if you have any industry related books that you have enjoyed reading recently – we would love to hear them!

A Smarter Approach to Customer Support Tue, 28 Apr 2020 16:19:00 +0000 A Smarter Approach to Customer Support

Our client wanted their digital customer support to work better for customers.

They began by looking at the current experience in a holistic way, involving both their customers and their own support agents.

Customer Journey Maps and Personas identify pain points and reveal opportunities for innovation

Customer Journey Maps and Personas identify pain points and reveal opportunities for innovation

The Challenge

Our client, a major technology brand, needed to make improvements to the support experience for their digital work tools. While analytics had identified pain points in distinct areas of the experience they lacked a full picture of how customers were using their digital support channels, or the role that customer service agents played in that process.

To build an effective strategy for the future they needed to understand real customer behaviors around support.

The Approach

Over a series of engagements we helped our client gain a better knowledge of the end-to-end support experience of customers, as well as gather intelligence from their own customer support agents.

Workplace Shadowing with Agents and Home Visits with Customers

We spent time with both customers and agents in their own environments, observing each as they dealt with support issues in real time. Immersive research methods helped us to reveal both the issues users could vocalize, plus unspoken needs and desires. Furthermore we explored problem solving strategies and the language or terminology used by customers and agents to feed into the design of a future support experience.

Customer Journey Mapping and Personas

Our team translated research insights into Customer Journey Maps, providing a holistic view of support journeys for key customer types. These maps, alongside rich behavior based personas helped to identify further pain points and opportunity areas – such as the desire among users for greater self-serve.

Prototyping the Future Support Experience

To inform future design direction, our UX designers produced wireframes to be used as tools to illustrate, test and refine design recommendations as they might appear in future support journeys.

The Results

Our engagements have provided the client deep insight into what makes an ideal support experience from both customers and their own agents. This has been instrumental in shaping their future digital experience.

70+ design recommendations were implemented to improve the overall support experience, including navigation, page design, terminology, content.

40% reduction in support volume since improvements to navigation, self-serve channels and UI design.

Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare Thu, 21 Nov 2019 15:59:44 +0000 Reimagining Graduate Hiring in Healthcare

Our client wanted to rethink their entire approach to hiring graduates.

The global healthcare and pharmaceutical brand was investing in graduate programmes in EMEA, but a low proportion of these graduates converted into full time positions.

Graduate insights report

The Challenge

Leaders were questioning the effectiveness of graduate hiring in EMEA, and wanted to see a more strategic approach that would better serve the needs of the business. The hiring and retention of new capabilities is critical to the long term health of the organization and for building a talent pipeline for the future.

We devised an approach to help our client understand pain points in the current graduate experience, identify opportunities for innovation, and to build a strategic roadmap for the future.


Research activities

The Approach

Voice of the Customer Research

We knew that exploring graduate needs was important, but to improve internal confidence and create a shared vision for the future we wanted to view the challenge from many different perspectives. To gain a wide view we began with a ‘voice of the customer’ study, during which our teams carried out over 150 in depth interviews and focus groups with business leaders, HR and Talent leaders, graduates and hiring managers from 5 key sites across the organization.

Strategy Workshops

Next, we analyzed and unpacked these insights in collaborative workshops with the client, mapping out graduate journeys and creating behavior based personas. These artefacts were used as communication aids internally, and also helped to illustrate design recommendations to create a more user friendly user experience.

All activities fed into and culminated in a clear and executable strategy for graduate hiring, which was tailored to be delivered to different levels of the organisation.


“When you’re designing workplace systems to support graduates you need a deep understanding of their needs, behaviors and expectations.”

Anton Artemenkov – Creative Director, Sutherland Labs

The Results

Strategic Roadmap

We helped to develop a holistic, multi-year, EMEA-wide strategy for graduate hiring and development which received full leadership support.

Key insights were translated into workstreams spanning Planning, Attraction, Selection, Onboarding, and Development stages of the graduate journey.

The client has since launched a Planning Toolkit to help capture capability and business needs and ensure they are hiring strategically for the future. As well as, a  new ‘go to market’ approach on campus and a marketing campaign to enhance their Attraction strategy.

“The VOC Research has really helped us to accelerate this initiative and ensure we have the customer at the centre of our approach – thank you!”

Vice President HR EMEA, Global Healthcare and Pharmaceutical brand 

]]> An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy Wed, 23 Oct 2019 14:43:23 +0000 An Employee Led Digital Workplace Strategy

Our client had ambitious plans to improve the daily working lives of employees.

The financial institution had a workforce and working practices were disparate and varied, spanning 7,000 employees in 25 countries. They wanted to build a strategy for digital channels and workplace tools that would increase productivity, build community and lead to more contented employees overall.

The Challenge

To develop a strategy to meet these aims and increase the likelihood of employee adoption, we needed to ground ourselves in the needs of their employees. Our goal was to understand employees day to day challenges and pain points, their preferred tools and workarounds, and to do this at scale to account for employees in multiple locations across the world.

Exploring employee needs

The Approach

To capture insights from a large number of employees we began with a survey, which helped us to refine the focus for subsequent rounds of immersive fieldwork. Over the next 2 months, our team travelled to six countries to interview and shadow a range of employees in their own work environments to understand their workflows, day-to-day working practices, tools, and obstacles. We also used remote interviews to reach employees in another six countries, and to ensure we covered a representative range of roles and responsibilities.

I used to think innovation was in motion here, but I just don’t see it happening as quickly as it should be. Or it’s change for no apparent reason.

Sample participant

Employees in the workplace

The Output

The insights from all rounds of research gave our client a rich picture of how employees really work, including the organisational culture, tools and processes, and current challenges. This fed into their overall digital workplace strategy, with more specific outputs including:

  • Behavior-based personas as a tool for creating empathy for employees amongst stakeholders making strategic decisions.
  • Digital channel strategy recommendations including collaboration tools and internal communications, broken down into quick wins and long term goals.
  • Employee experience best practices which were rolled out as use cases across the business.
Design thinking to improve candidate experience Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0000 Design thinking to improve candidate experience

Our parent organization, Sutherland, asked us to experiment with new ways of approaching existing recruitment challenges through a Design Thinking approach.

talent acquisition workshop


In an extremely competitive marketplace, how might we better attract the right talent? How can we improve retention by better understanding the end-to-end recruitment and employment journey of our employees? These are some of the questions Sutherland Labs have been tackling in our own organization – working alongside our Talent Acquisition teams.


We used immersive research to ‘walk in candidates shoes’ to understand a candidate journey throughout the recruitment process. We created behavioral personas, helping to segment, identify ‘star’ target audiences and better understand their idiosyncrasies. We also created journey maps that gave a visual representation which help to articulate pain points and crucial insight that often lead to ideas for improvements and solutions.

Talent acquisition journey maps


The insights helped our colleagues to reframe the story during the recruitment process, which in turn impacted their messaging, advertising and social media activity. The results have included a significant increase in social media followers and engagement, following a reworked advertising campaign. The project also contributed towards wider strategic goals of improving employee engagement, and aided a change of mindset within HR functions.

Rethinking in-hospital entertainment Tue, 14 Jun 2016 10:17:09 +0000 Rethinking in-hospital entertainment

Our client, global provider of hospital entertainment systems, asked us to analyze customer experience of their current system and inform the design of a cleverly user-centric new one.

TV remote and tablet


TV, radio, games, other interactive content: hospital bedside entertainment has the power to positively transform patient experience. But many patients in this study were not engaging with our client’s current system and opting instead to use their own devices. We were called on to conduct deep analysis of patient needs. Our findings then inspired the design of a revolutionary new system – to make hospital stays infinitely more entertaining.


From registering for the first time, to tuning in to the radio or finding a good film, we first identified key user tasks. We then conducted interviews with staff, patients and family members across different wards – Elderly, Stroke, Children, etc. – to find out how these tasks could be carried out most efficiently. Insights from discussions, interviews, focus groups and a visit to the client call centre were then translated into different personae and journey maps. The outcome? As many as 50 different propositions to guide development of the new system.


These propositions included: a friendlier, more accessible user interface; a promotional loop on the homepage to raise key feature awareness; a simplified VOC library structure to enable easy browsing; and extended account management features for families to enable them to make purchases on a patient’s behalf.

Hospital ward