Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. Sat, 17 Aug 2019 12:52:40 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Copyright 2019, Sutherland Innovation Labs - Sutherland Innovation Labs Service design to improve customer and employee experiences. What I Learnt as an Intern at Sutherland Labs Fri, 16 Aug 2019 08:36:30 +0100 What I Learnt as an Intern at Sutherland Labs

Hi there! I’m Tom and I’m new here… or at least I was. I’ve recently finished a 5 week internship at Sutherland Labs in London, which was arranged as part of the Head Start programme run by the Hospital Club’s h Foundation.

UX process

Now, while just 5 weeks might seem like a short amount of time, the skills and knowledge I have picked up have far exceeded what I had expected to learn and accomplish in that time. Even at times when I’ve just simply been sitting in this environment and listening to what everyone has to say, I’ve been able to learn so much.

When I first started the internship I barely understood more than the basic fundamentals of UX design, which I had picked up through attending a handful of talks and workshops from when I first gained an interest in UX design a few months ago. I am now leaving with a solid understanding of what UX and UI involves, and confidence in the creation of wireframes and designs using Sketch.

Now I am leaving with a solid understanding of what UX and UI involves, and confidence in the creation of wireframes and designs using Sketch.

If I’m being completely honest, before my first day here I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but that was quickly resolved with a clearly structured plan to follow in which each week focussed on a different stage of the project for me to finish in time.

Now, after just a little more than a month, I have completed my first (of hopefully many) portfolio pieces by following the whole UX process from research and scoping through to ideation and concept design with the help of my highly skilled mentor Simon ‘Woody’ Wood and the rest of the design team.

I’ve had multiple crash courses for all the skills and software needed for this project and potentially all my projects in the future; from Sketch and general web design principles, through to guidance on how to run 1 to 1 interviews, for both trying to identify pain points users face with products currently on offer in the market, and also for holding a prototyping interview and how it differs.

My time here hasn’t been 100% focused though, I’ve had opportunities to explore and receive guidance on other interest areas of mine, such as illustration and animation, and I’ve also been a part of various green hat meetings, skill mixing workshops and presentations where members of the team talk to us all about the work they did prior to joining Sutherland Labs – something I haven’t seen before at other companies and found really interesting.

If you’d like to see the end results of my project during my internship, feel free to check out my portfolio piece here.

I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who is interested in a UX career and looking to make their first steps in the industry and expand their network with highly skilled people.



This post was authored by our recent intern Thomas Searle, thank you Tom!

To find out more about the Head Start programme visit the h Foundation, or to enquire about internships at Sutherland Labs please contact Jessica McDonald.

Labs Library: Open For Business Thu, 15 Aug 2019 08:56:56 +0100 Labs Library: Open For Business

I’m not saying that the people who work in the labs are “bookish” by any stretch of the imagination, but there is no denying that everybody on the team likes to read. So with that in mind, it is hardly surprising that we have started to pull together a lending library of Design related books so that we have some common touchpoints to spark conversations, and to keep our individual book budgets intact.

To prevent us from pestering you all individually with our latest recommendations, we thought it might be wise to gather up all of the books that we have added to the library in one place each month, so you can read along with us and join in the watercooler conversations.

Image by Sutherland Labs

Doorbells, Danger and Dead Batteries

by Steve Portigal

The subtitle of this book really tells you everything that you need to know about it; “User Research War Stories.” In DDD, Steve Portigal collects all of the horror stories and humorous highlights from a lifetime of user research. Containing all of the valuable lessons that he had learned along with enough stories to make anyone think twice about how much work User Research really is. Equal parts entertaining and enlightening.

Org Design for Design Orgs

by Peter Morholz and Kristin Skinner

We are all about practicality in the labs, it comes with the territory as a design agency, but the practical lessons that are contained in this book are the kind that we wish we could have been doling out from the moment that the Sutherland Labs was founded. More and more companies are adding an in-house design time to their roster and strategy without giving the first thought as to how those groups are best integrated into their overall organisation. Unsurprisingly, they aren’t using a design outlook when it comes time to bring in a team to provide a design outlook. This book aims to change that, giving the bare bones required to get design integrated into the bigger picture from the outset.

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

by Nick Bostrom

In this book, Swedish Philosopher Nick Bostrom considers the problematic nature of designing artificial intelligence that may surpass the capabilities of human intellect within our lifetime. While this sounds vaguely like the premise for a science fiction novel, he approaches the end of human supremacy as a design problem. How do you design your evolutionary replacement in such a way as to ensure that your species survives? How do you create a controlled detonation of the Singularity?

Think Like a UX Researcher

by David Travis

While the rest of the books in our little library focus on specific instances of user experience research and design, Travis’s book provides its readers with a rapid education in the basics of how we do some of out most important work. Providing practical advice and topical examples, it explores how the research methodologies of UX can be tailored to suit any organization. So, whatever your role within a business, this book shows you how to apply UX techniques to optimise the experiences of your users, and retain their custom.

That is all that we have time for this time, but check in again next month after we have brutalized our Amazon wish-lists for the next crop of books for you to leaf through!

Design Red Herrings: The Fashion Show Effect Mon, 12 Aug 2019 11:21:58 +0100 Design Red Herrings: The Fashion Show Effect

Every year it seems that we catch a distinctly familiar – and fishy – smell wafting around a number of high profile product launches and demonstrations. It is the unmistakable aroma of a migratory species that is attracted to large events full of hype, hyperbole and razzmatazz, the infamous red herring. They aren’t always easy to spot. Red herrings can be extremely high quality and impressive in terms of both ingenuity and their use of cutting-edge technology. However, in design terms, these products are not what they appear to be, i.e. genuinely useful or intended for serious public consumption.

Images by Sonja Kozik

Images by Sonja Kozik

Spotting red herrings – the three lenses test

We have developed a framework for assessing new products and technologies in the Labs, which is very handy for spotting design red herrings. Red herrings generally lack the following qualities, which can be described as three lenses that all successful innovations have to be visible through.

1. Human need

This is the essential starting point for user-centered design, design thinking, and sustainable product design. It’s the point where we identify a problem that needs to be solved and start to explore tech solutions. This is the lens through which, for example, a caveman saw a need for a way to shift stuff from a to b that was easier than carrying it. So begins the long process of designing solutions, like domesticating wild donkeys to carry stuff, experimenting with sleds, or rolling stones on logs to your local henge.

2. Equipment

Once the human need – or problem that needs solving – is clearly defined and solutions are visible, humans need to see those solutions through a different lens. They see methods to equip themselves with tools to accomplish their goals. The wheel, for example, becomes the tool that we equip ourselves with to help us move stuff around. Our equipment can also be combined: take a tamed donkey, a sled that used to roll along on logs, attach them together and add wheels and you are fully equipped with an animal-powered cart.

3. Enabling

Of course, once you’ve identified the need, and equipped yourself with the necessary tools and innovations to solve your human problem, successful technologies have to be viewed through a third lens: enabling new human experiences. So, in our early human scenario, once there’s a donkey pulling your cart, can you see it enabling you to do more? Like growing more food than you can personally consume and trading the surplus crops with other cart-enabled people?

So, hey presto, the need for early man to shift heavy stuff about (lens 1) becomes the driving force to invent transportation (lens 2), which in turn creates new ideas like trade (lens 3). Lens 1 is discovering the human need, lens 2 is equipping ourselves with tools to meet the need, and lens 3 is enabling new, valuable experiences through the tools we create.

Let’s take this 3-lens framework and look at some of the headline items we’ve seen this year. Are they red herrings?

Flushed away?

Much attention was paid to a voice-enabled toilet back at CES in January. There was clearly talent in the engineering, automatically lifting the seat, mood lighting, the ability to perform all the expected toilet pan functions with a voice command. However, what is the human need being addressed here?

  • Is hands-free operation useful in a toilet? Yes, but we’ve had self-flushing, light sensor automation on public toilets and washbasin taps for decades. So, the talking AI loo needs to do more than that, surely?
  • Mood lighting? Playing music on demand? It’s not the most hygienic place to chill out, is it? It’s not a leisure location, unless you use the loo for listening to music while you are in the bath or something like that. In which case, why not make the bath voice activated?
  • Automated lifting of the lid? That appears useful at first, but is it? Lifting the lid is a preference, it’s also hit and miss in homes with young children, teens, multiple users with different habits. And they wash their hands anyway (hopefully) so touching the seat isn’t a hygiene issue. So, what problem does it solve? The problem of lifting up the loo seat, which isn’t really a problem in the first place.

When is a door not a door?

Also featured at CES was a rather complex, but nevertheless impressively engineered, expanding door that facilitates deliveries being made when you are out of your house. The smart door expands with secure storage spaces built into it. Now this clearly meets a human need for securing your parcel deliveries, but not so much for working as a door. A door needs to open, easily and quickly, in a variety of circumstances where you need the full width of the doorway (with bags, shopping, kids, babies, prams, old people with limited mobility, wheelchair access, escaping a fire etc.). Presumably this is why, after thousands of years of doors, and hundreds of years of postal services, we’ve never really gone beyond doors with a letterbox, and possibly a small letter basket on the other side to stop your dog from eating the junk mail.

Say meow?

A smart food bowl that scans and recognizes your cat’s unique features, and ensures only your cat’s face can unlock the secured food compartment? Clever tech, sure, but is that really solving a human need more than, say, securing the cat’s access to the food area, or changing the feeding routine to prevent stray cats from accessing the bowl? Or anything else billions of cat owners have done for thousands of years without there being a clear demand for biometric cat bowls? No.

The fashion show effect

These products are hugely competent – technically – and the engineer in me is impressed, but they are not sustainable designs. They are more like a proof of concept, designed to show how much tech can be packed into a certain shape, or form, and showcasing the potential applications for enhancing products with technology.

These high profile, headline-grabbing red herring products are very much like the fashion shows of avant garde new designers. In 2018 at Milan there was a much reported Krizia show with completely see-through clothing; another show in London featured models with multiple, prawn-like extra legs on their trousers. This is nothing new. When I was in my teens Jean Paul Gaultier was hitting the headlines by putting men in transparent lampshade mini-skirts. The conceptual, artistic element of fashion shows serve an important industry function, they shine a spotlight on new designers, who get hired by fashion houses and high street brands to shape the clothing collections we’ll all be wearing someday.

The voice toilet might never take off, but a major bathroom furniture brand might well acquire the same tech talent to develop more useful voice applications for the bathroom.

In the same way, the technological red herrings at shows like CES bring crowdfunded tech talent and venture capital-backed innovators into contact with major manufacturers. The voice toilet might never take off, but a major bathroom furniture brand might well acquire the same tech talent to develop more useful voice applications for the bathroom. The expanding door might not work for consumers, but maybe a security firm will adapt the tech for large scale warehouse security doors. Even the facial recognition cat bowl might provide new layer of identification for pet IDs and passporting.

The red herring product is a strategy for getting noticed, which is no bad thing – we all want to be noticed – but getting noticed is not a design philosophy. If it was, presumably I’d be writing this wearing a transparent lime green mini-skirt… in a beautifully mood-lit lavatory.


The red herring might not be useful when it’s grabbing the headlines, but it can evolve into a really effective innovation when it’s put into the right environment. In part 2 of Design Red Herrings we’ll look at other species of red herring: the product that lacks an ecosystem and the product design mindset that draws a distinction between physical products and the services they need to become sustainable.

Pokémon Go: More Than Monsters Wed, 31 Jul 2019 11:04:52 +0100 Pokémon Go: More Than Monsters

When Pokémon Go first launched back in 2016, we were just as giddy about getting out there and capturing our very own pocket monsters as everyone else – we even wrote a pretty glowing review back then – but for all the excitement that surrounded the game at launch, technology like this is no longer a product to be consumed but a service, so to get a good look at the successes and failures of Pokémon Go, we really need to examine how it works today.

Playing Pokémon Go

At launch, the game was a roaring success, attracting massive attention and downloads numbering more than 500 million by the end of its first year. It was one of the most used and most profitable mobile apps of 2016 using a freemium economy and it was widely acclaimed for promoting physical activity among gamers and increasing foot traffic to local businesses.

On the other hand, it was a technical failure in many respects. The fundamental mechanics of tracking the location of capturable monsters was broken at launch, with users relying primarily on luck and purchasable in-game products to secure the rarer offerings. The GPS mapping was imported directly from a previous game, and the placement of different monster types, which was meant to be based on the surrounding area, was almost entirely randomized as a result. Except in a few particularly awkward places, such as the Holocaust Museum where there was an abundance of “Ghost” type Pokémon. On top of that, the app burned rapidly through data allowances, was a massive battery drain and stopped functioning if the screen was turned off, resulting in an unintended limitation to the amount of hiking that the game could encourage users to do.

Despite these flaws and the limitations of the game, Pokémon Go continued to attract new users with an ever-expanding roster of creatures, new customization features and the addition of Pokémon Go Plus. A wearable Bluetooth watch released late in 2016 that allowed users to capture monsters and claim rewards when they visited landmarks without the requirement for the mobile device to always be on.

Playing Pokémon Go

The modern version of the game still hosts a devoted fanbase, and draws in a regular crop of new players that maintains the number of active users even as some drift away from it. Many of the minor technical difficulties of the game’s early days have been resolved as the infrastructure behind it has improved and become more specialized to suit the specific challenges of hosting a global AR game, and some of the fine details have been tweaked to make for a more enjoyable experience. The biggest focus for the new development seems to have been in the social aspect of the game. The developers recognized that users were grouping together and began designing their new content with that in mind, with group battles against particularly rare monsters and a chance to capture them becoming one of the new core mechanics of the game. That social aspect is amplified with “community days” where the usual crop of monsters is replaced with a single unusual type, encouraging all of the irregular players to get out on that day and drastically increasing their odds of bumping into other players and forming real-world connections.

The perennial popularity of the Pokémon brand was definitely one of the contributing factors to the game’s success, with an inbuilt market that had always desired a game like this, but even among demographics with no exposure to Pokémon, Go was a success.

Augmented Reality itself was a sufficient draw for these users, even though the AR offerings of Pokémon Go were limited to a purely aesthetic optional mode during “capture” sequences and the GPS positioning of certain in-game landmarks. Novelty was certainly a factor, as this remains one of the only success stories in AR gaming, but that does not explain the longevity of the game beyond the initial period of excitement. Instead, it is reasonable to assume that the ongoing success of Pokémon Go is fuelled by the public’s growing desire for more AR and the success in integrating the social aspects of reality with the game.

Labs Life: Meet Belinda Deschamps Wed, 17 Jul 2019 12:00:35 +0100 Labs Life: Meet Belinda Deschamps

Welcome back to Labs Life, our ongoing interview series where you get to meet the people behind the scenes at the Sutherland Labs. This time we are have tracked down the illusive Belinda Deschamps, a Design Researcher who was born in France but is now nestled comfortably in the heart of the London Labs.

Belinda Deschamps

What did you do before you came to the Labs?

Belinda: I graduated with a Masters in Industrial Design from Central St Martins, then spent six months acting as a Design Research intern at an ergonomics agency in London before joining the labs team. My experience in setting up communication and creative strategies has been very useful in designing and delivering research projects. I understand the whole process from end to end, from design research through to the creation of a working solution. I am a free electron.

What inspires you?

Belinda: My family and friends all have qualities that I admire so much. The authenticity and benevolence of my grandparents, the patience and humour of my dad, the braveness and empathy of my mum, the optimism and generosity of my brother, the cleverness and joy of my friends. Just spending time with them is inspirational.

Travelling around the world to meet people from completely different cultures, who have completely different needs and problems, and being able to solve their problems through design is pretty inspirational too!

Belinda Deschamps

The Labs have just invented an incredibly chic time machine, and we have travelled back to ask the ten-year-old Belinda what she wants to be when she grows up. How would she answer?

Belinda: During the holidays that I used to spend on the South West French seaside I always wanted to make the most of my time by planning my everyday activities. This was not easy, because the weather at the seaside changes very rapidly. I knew that I could not control the sky, but I could predict the weather by studying the patterns of the clouds. If you had asked me then, I would have told you that I wanted to be a meteorologist!

My grandpa spent a summer teaching me how to recognize the different types of cloud and how to predict the weather. When the stratocumulus clouds were dominating the sky, it was not a good time for the beach! I would stay home, drawing and painting, building and crafting, and playing games. I opened a restaurant with my grandma, I created a range of jewellery, I organized fashion shows, I was a postman – to deliver my creations – the list of different roles that I assumed was endless, but through them all I realized that I did not just want to study things and predict their outcomes. I wanted to create. I wanted to be an inventor!

As a design researcher at the labs, I get to do both of the things that filled my holidays. Studying to predict and inventing new solutions. If I had to explain my job to little Belinda, then I would say that I am something a little like a doctor, but instead of repairing people, I fix the things around them to make their lives better.

Will Belinda ever learn to control the weather? Will that time machine of ours ever come out of beta testing? Come back next time for another instalment of Labs Life, to find out all of these answers and more!

Design thinking to improve candidate experience Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:21:26 +0100 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 +0100 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
Designing a better patient experience Tue, 07 Jun 2016 13:37:57 +0100 Designing a better patient experience

From billing and online payment to registration and insurance, effective healthcare requires effective administration. And, for a joint study by Sutherland Healthcare and its non-profit partner, this was a starting premise.

User on iPad


Our globally renowned healthcare client asked us to observe administration across its facilities and decipher what was working well, and where there was room for improvement – with a focus on billing, registration, online activity, signage and numerous other non-clinical issues.


Our starting point was to closely observe over 100 patients and staff in a variety of settings across its two hospitals and contact centre, considering factors such as environment, education and general operations in order to enhance day-to-day experiences. Our six main areas of exploration were as follows: transition from paper to online processes; online self-service; medical payment issues; education and awareness of costs in relation to healthcare; healthcare insurance; and the possible overuse of brochures and posters in medical environments.


Our research enabled us to identify pain points in the customer and staff journeys and to offer inspired solutions. These included: a new patient portal providing self-service registration and access to clinical information; text message reminders and late running notifications; a mobile app updating family members on patient status; cost estimator tools to make costs more transparent; online application and payment for financial aid; a loyalty programme; and a new strategy to increase awareness and uptake of health insurance exchanges.

Doctors walking in hospital
Designing a roadmap to customer loyalty Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:37:40 +0100 Designing a roadmap to customer loyalty

Enhanced customer experience equals greater customer loyalty. And for one client, a successful pet services retailer, this is what we set out to achieve.

Pet store dog beds


What does the future hold? This particular client envisioned a future full of opportunity, one in which their loyal customers reaped the benefits of better services and experiences. But they needed our help in shaping this vision and transforming bright ideas into positive actions.


The challenge was to improve customer loyalty by identifying opportunities for innovation and better aligning customer experience, at the same as exploring the potential for moving certain services online. Sutherland’s ethnographic researchers sprang into action – observing and interviewing over 100 employees, partners and customers, at home as well as in store, to build up an-in depth picture of their experiences. Insights were then shared with the client through documentary film and behavioral profiles of common customer types.


Our research led to greater understanding of the drivers of customer loyalty, and provided the basis for suggestions on how to make pet-lover customers happier. These suggestions ranged from improved mobile scheduling and in-store product placement to the development of more effective employee training methods – illustrated through vision maps for a brighter, better future.

Dog check up
Bringing a health insurer closer to its customers Mon, 14 Mar 2016 10:16:54 +0100 Bringing a health insurer closer to its customers

A strategy for smarter, more concise digital communications and a refreshed, customer-centric mindset: this is what we achieved for this rapidly expanding health insurance multinational.

Journey mapping workshop


Our client, a global provider of health insurance, wanted to reconnect with its customers. Having grown significantly through acquisition, in order become a company that today spans cultures, countries and time zones, they asked us to help re-centre customer experience and restore coherence to their channels of communication.


You can’t connect with customers without understanding them, so our research team analyzed the personae of the company’s key customer groups, involving stakeholders across its business – from IT to sales, operations or customer service. Our creative team then presented initial insights via reports, films and journey maps, before validating them with customer focus groups.


We helped our client develop a customer-centric mindset internally, gaining deeper understanding of the needs and behavior of its predominantly senior customer base, while developing a brand new digital roadmap for the years ahead. And while education starts at home, we also delivered board-level educational sessions to raise awareness of the benefits of customer-centric design – leading, ultimately, to a more unified company vision.

Patient being examined