How Large and Boutique Consultancies Can Partner for Better Design

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Which is the better athlete: the marathoner or the sprinter? Both focus on hitting the finish line but possess far different skill sets. Yet any successful track and field team needs both types of athletes to win awards and recognition. Having a collection of overlapping and complementary skill sets makes any group better able to confidently achieve desirable outcomes.

This same principle holds true when contemplating partnerships between giant management consultancies like Accenture, McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., or Boston Consulting Group, as well as boutique design consultants like my own, MU/DAI. Although both types of entities have their niches, they gain tremendous value from working in tandem to move projects forward.

Management consultancies often employ rapid design sprints, driving immense value for their clients. But these sprints can be more effective and less risky overall by partnering with a smaller design consultancy. Whether the major consultancy white-labels or acknowledges its smaller partner doesn’t matter; what matters is that both organizations, as well as the client, gain valuable benefits from the relationship.

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Changing Minds

A Conceptual Framework for Relational Cognition by:   |  Posted on

Changing Minds - A Conceptual Framework For Relational Cognition - Clifton EvansAs you are reading this, how many times will you check your phone for a text, an email, a shared link, or photo? Some of these moments of attention will be based on alerts, but how many are habitual, simply checking the device for potential updates?

Our minds are continually looking to continue earlier conversations or to start new ones. We have sometimes dozens of ongoing conversations, not to mention the long list of open tabs and draft emails containing trains of thought we intend to follow up on.

We are living in a continual shift of focus, and this article aims to provide some understanding on how our minds are adapting to constant changes in train of thought.

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Book in Brief: Meeting Design for Managers, Makers, and Everyone

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Editors’ note: This “Book in Brief” feature here on Boxes and Arrows is from Kevin Hoffman’s Meeting Design for Managers, Makers, and Everyone.

We’ll publish an excerpt, up to 500 words, of your book. The catch is that we’ll only publicize one book a month; first come, first serve. Other rules will certainly occur to us over time. Hit us up at idea at boxesandarrows.com.


How to Design a Meeting

When hundreds of hours of his design team’s sweat, blood, and tears seemed to go up in flames in a single meeting with a group of vice presidents, Jim could have easily panicked. So that’s what he did.

Image of the cover of the book, showing chairs around a conference table that is a flat, level surface on the left but turns into rising stairs on the right.
Meeting Design for Managers, Makers, and Everyone

Jim is a creative director at a successful and highly respected boutique design agency—let’s call it “Rocket Design.” He found a fantastic opportunity for Rocket through a former coworker’s new job at a Fortune 100 client—they were ready to spend half a million dollars to build the best website expe­rience possible in a competitive market: online meal delivery. After several weeks of discovery, his team had assembled a design direction that they believed could be effective. Baked into a collection of mocked-up mobile screens were strategies guiding content voice, brand execution, photographic style, and user interface functionality. To move into the next phase, Jim’s job was to make sure that the senior leadership at the company believed in the proposed direction just as strongly as his team did. Project managers on the client side navigated the rat’s nest of the leadership’s meeting availability to find a standing monthly hour in which Jim and his team could provide progress updates.

At one of these check-in meetings, Jim walked the gathered group of vice presidents and directors through a series of screens, stopping to accent unique elements and key decisions along the way. Despite ask­ing people to hold questions until the end, there were a handful of odd interruptions, like this gem:

“That’s a really strong yellow. I just don’t know about that.”

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Are We Taking the “U” Out of UX?

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What is a UX designer?

I recently saw a great ad for a senior UX specialist from MathWorks. Some excerpts:

  • Work with the development team to follow a user-centered design approach as you work collaboratively to brainstorm and design innovative solutions to complex problems.
  • Make recommendations to team members about which usability methods to use to answer their questions about users and design directions based on projects’ needs, goals, and constraints.
  • Work closely with team members to conduct user research, identify pain points, develop user profiles, and create task lists.
  • Collaborate on paper and functional prototypes.
  • Run usability tests, conduct interviews and site visits, organize surveys, and perform other usability assessments you think are appropriate.

It outlines exactly what I would expect in a UX job. We learn everything we can about a project from stakeholders and competitive products, find ways to research what users want and need, evaluate those needs with stakeholders, modify the project plan, and create solutions which are validated with users before finalizing the product.

But when I was looking for a new gig, that was the exception. Many of the job descriptions I saw asked for a wide array of UX skills, with some even asking for more than listed above. But it seemed that they really wanted a visual designer who could prototype.

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Case Study: How to Build a Digital User Experience Monitoring System

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Most software user experience and product management teams have similar questions: How do users feel about our products? How is our product experience changing over time? How do users feel about a recent change we’ve made in the product?

Our user experience (UX) and product teams are no different, so we set up a system that provides an ongoing stream of data that answers these questions and does much more.

In this case study, we describe our user experience monitoring system at Qualtrics.[1] With data collected through this system, we are able to monitor the overall UX of our software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, share dashboards and reports with stakeholders, and send automated messages to individuals and groups based on key performance indicators. This system complements our existing traditional UX research initiatives (such as interviewing, surveying, usability evaluations, and reviewing telemetry data) with an actionable stream of high quality user experience data collected with very little ongoing effort from our team.

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