I caught up with Emma Carpenter, Head of Design Experience and previously Group Director Fjord Johannesburg, Associate Director atAccenture Song. Emma had been introduced to me several months ago, as I was keen to speak to someone in consulting space in Africa, to get a better understanding of the social and technical implications for designing services.I am aware the blind spot in this conversation of two white practitioners of Anglo origins talking about Design in Africa, but nevertheless, I found speaking to Emma to be absolutely brilliant.They cover off some of the cultural implications around phone data ,and how this perceived restriction drives potentially a more inclusive service. We chat about how western mindsets and tech organisations design for western behaviours and how this may inadvertently result in global information exclusion to African natives who favour less data intense services, which are more likely to be localised. I know you’re going to enjoy this episode...
Connect with Emma:https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmacarpenter/
This transcript was created using the awesome, Descript. It may contain minor errors.
Note: This is an affiliate link, where This is HCD make a small commission if you sign up a Descript account.
[00:00:00] Gerry Scullion: Hello and welcome to this is H C D. My name is Jerry s Scalian and I'm a designer educator, and the host of this at H C D based in the wonderful city of Dublin, Ireland. Our goal here is to have conversations that inspire and help move the dial forward organizations to become more human-centered in their approach to solving complex business and societal problems.[00:00:28] Gerry Scullion: I caught up with Emma Carpenter, head of design experience, and previously group director f Johannesburg. An associate director at Accenture Song, Emma had been introduced to me several months ago as I was keen to speak to somebody in the consulting space in Africa to really get a better understanding of the social and technical implications for designing services in Africa.[00:00:50] Gerry Scullion: Now I'm aware of the. Blind spot in this conversation are two white practitioners of Anglo origins talking about design in Africa. But nevertheless, I found [00:01:00] speaking to Emma to be absolutely brilliant. They cover off some of the cultural implications around phone data and how this perceived restriction drives potentially a more inclusive service.[00:01:10] Gerry Scullion: We chat about how Western mindsets and tech organizations design for Western behaviors and how this inadvertently results. In a global information exclusion to African natives who favor less data intense services, which are more likely to be localized. I know you're gonna really enjoy this episode, Emma is fantastic.[00:01:31] Gerry Scullion: But before we jump in, if you'd like what we're doing here at this and say CD. Please help us out, believe in a review wherever you listen to the podcast, whether that be an Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, or Spotify. It only takes a couple of minutes and it really, really helps the findability of the podcast for other changemakers around the world.[00:01:49] Gerry Scullion: And if you share it out to your friends as well, it really helps go go on off a long way for me personally. Or you can go one better by becoming a a patron of the podcast. You can get an ad-free [00:02:00] stream of the podcast for as little as one Euro 66 per month. And you also get a shout out as Thanks from me personally as well.[00:02:07] Gerry Scullion: And there's other plans there. We can get exclusive and super, super cool items too, like an embroidered t-shirt and a really beautiful eco-friendly. And literally all the money goes directly towards editing, hosting, and maintaining a website, which is a repository for human-centered design. Goodness. With now over 240 episodes.[00:02:27] Gerry Scullion: Folks, let's jump straight in. Emma, it's great to have you here. Um, maybe start off and tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from. I know people are gonna get a little bit confused at your accent because it's British and it's also South African, but maybe talk about a little bit where you're from and what you're doing currently.[00:02:46] Emma Carpenter: Yes, thanks very much, Jerry. Um, so. Yes, as, as you pointed out, Jerry, I do have a bit of a blend of an accent. Um, I've lived for, lived and worked in Cape Town in South Africa for the [00:03:00] last 15 years. And before that, um, I've, well, grew up in the uk. Yeah, so interestingly enough, had the opportunity to be a designer in two different continents.[00:03:11] Emma Carpenter: So first seven or eight years I worked in the UK and London for different agencies. And then the last. 16, 17 years I've been working, um, in South Africa. [00:03:25] Gerry Scullion: Wow. So that's a, that's a nice juxtaposition between, um, mindsets, which, um, I'd love to get into a little bit more around that transition. Into working within, um, the African continent and how, how design differs a little bit more.[00:03:40] Gerry Scullion: Um, but tell us, you're at Accenture, um, you know, a small little consultancy in the world, uh, on you joke and, and absolute behemoth. Tell us what you're doing, um, at the moment cuz you were with formerly fd, um, and now Accenture song. Is that correct? [00:03:58] Emma Carpenter: So about 12 months [00:04:00] ago, we had a consolidation of our acquisitions and agency partners within, um, Accenture.[00:04:06] Emma Carpenter: And our, um, sort of senior boss, David Droga, um, put those together under Accenture song. And so Fjord, um, obviously has a very well known design innovation practice now falls into song, which gives us a really nice blend of design, um, analytics data. Um, development capabilities as well as all the really great marketing capabilities in, in the advertising teams that we also have.[00:04:36] Gerry Scullion: So, Let's jump straight into one of the topics that I wanted to cover off, and that was the, the differences, like when we were doing our pre-chat, we were talking about, you know, my poor Western mindset in terms of understanding what it was like to design services in the African continent. And one of the bits that we were kind of talking a little bit more around is, Data.[00:05:00] [00:05:00] Gerry Scullion: Um, you know, I'm from a mindset of I've got infinite data. I walk around, I get 4g, 5G most of the times in Ireland or from Europe. How does this differ in, um, in South Africa in particular, and what does that look like from the customer's perspective as regards how they actually used data? . [00:05:21] Emma Carpenter: Yeah, it's a really good point.[00:05:22] Emma Carpenter: And I think the way, and I by no means I'm a and a Telco expert, but we, whilst we do have data plans from. From our communications companies that do give us unlimited data, they're very, very expensive. Our sort of what I like to call the everyday man on the street or the everyday lady on the street. Um, data is a very big, uh, consideration.[00:05:44] Emma Carpenter: So what that means is, you know, if you are looking at large, um, bundles to buy or if, um, people are looking to potentially. Um, contracts that are uncapped, they have [00:06:00] to base that against or reference that against the other things that are in their life, like feeding their phones. Um, unlimited data is not necessarily as in as important there.[00:06:11] Gerry Scullion: That, that would obviously have a massive impact on the customer experience, especially the digital customer experience. Um, and access to other services that might be created out of, say the US or Silicon Valley in particular. A lot of those tech businesses will, you know, have high resolution images. What, how, how does this really affect, um, access to global information, um, across those services?[00:06:35] Gerry Scullion: Does it just mean that they're localized? Uh, and the localized version is what gets, um, gets used primarily? [00:06:43] Emma Carpenter: Yes. I mean, so yeah, I think we've got a good point there. Local is definitely better. Um, you know, any services that can be slightly cheaper. Less heavy on the data. Um, as we spoke about a number of our, um, banking and also Telco clients, [00:07:00] um, in infected, those that aren't clients as well will zero rate their websites and their experiences to make that, um, cheap.[00:07:07] Emma Carpenter: Because as we've said, um, before, people are very savvy in terms of understanding what things cost. They're not necessarily gonna watch video or sort of the immersive experie. if they know that that is going to be very difficult for them or they're not gonna get through the month on the data that they've got in their package.[00:07:25] Emma Carpenter: So interestingly enough, um, it's a debate that we've been having, um, recently with the Accenture Life trends, um, that came out, uh, just before Christmas. And the one that was interesting was really around, um, sort of what's next for, um, loyalty. We are also looking at more immersive experiences around.[00:07:48] Emma Carpenter: Loyalty and communities, um, that obviously ties into the metaverse. And I think in South Africa, whilst there's been some great inroads and some innovation around the metaverse, it's not being picked [00:08:00] up as much. And I'd say that's not because people aren't interested. It's because you can't, they can't control the data that's being used whilst they're in these, these new, um, [00:08:10] Gerry Scullion: Sort of experiences.[00:08:10] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, it's, it's really interesting. And, and I was at a conference with Jerry McGovern, actually, I dunno if you know Jerry, um, a number of years ago in Belfast called Pixel Pioneers, and there was a fantastic speaker from Nigeria called our. Aid or Intercom, I think is their name, and they're a front end developer.[00:08:30] Gerry Scullion: And I remember their talk. Um, I think it was the next billion users and it was primarily around African, um, usage of the internet. And they, they explained what it was like, um, for mothers. In, uh, Western Africa that they would sit around and they would discuss which websites to go to, uh, to purchase things, um, as opposed to just us naturally just consuming, um, you know, in, in Western world.[00:08:59] Gerry Scullion: I'm talking about [00:09:00] just naturally, just go to the website with the best deal. They were, they were talking about. the websites with the lowest amount of data because the data cap was so expensive and there was, as you said, a decision there made between data versus feeding, uh, their family. So how, how does this transfer itself into the business processes, uh, within Accenture as regards.[00:09:23] Gerry Scullion: How we get stuff done that meets the, the criteria for, for the businesses. Do you have strict guidelines as regards what's, uh, possible from a technology perspective to, to be delivered to the customer? No. Um, [00:09:36] Emma Carpenter: not necessarily. I think, you know, we are looking at design, innovation, you know, and technology.[00:09:43] Emma Carpenter: innovation first. Mm-hmm. , we're looking at obviously the business objectives, what the, the clients need to con, you know, consider and also achieve. Um, and so we are gonna put that experience first. We're going to, you know, really look at what's best for the customer first, but we're gonna be very [00:10:00] cognizant of it at the same time.[00:10:01] Emma Carpenter: So it's not like we have a playbook or a rule book of, you know, pages or apps who'd only be. Size to download, we'll just keep them as tidy and as neat as possible, I think is what, what we would say. Um, the other thing, um, that's just struck me because we're all so used to it here specifically in South Africa, is, um, our issue with our energy provider in terms of what we call load shedding, which is power outages.[00:10:29] Emma Carpenter: Um, in order to keep the national grid going, there's certain times of the day the power. will be out and you get a schedule and you kind of know when that's gonna happen. So the other thing that we also have to be mindful of as designers is providing an experience that's not gonna actually cut out. So yes, you'll have your phone charged, but if the tower, so we are now looking at infrastructure, it doesn't have a generator that's running, you are not going to be able to connect to that experience.[00:10:57] Emma Carpenter: Um, if, if the, [00:11:00] if the cell phone tower goes. So I'm noticing a lot of our colleagues at work clients as well. Um, we'll reschedule calls around load shedding schedules, um, to ensure that our colleagues aren't dropping off calls. So even if your phone is charged, even if you've got data, you can't control what's happening with the Marston Tower infrastructure sometimes as well.[00:11:25] Emma Carpenter: So that's also a consideration. So if we're designing a form or a long process, So, you know, if you imagine being at a bank and you are doing an onboarding exercise and you are wanting to take out in new account, then you've gotta really consider how long is that going to take? Because the frustration, obviously, as a customer, if you get halfway through that form and then everything drops and then you've lost everything is also quite intense.[00:11:49] Gerry Scullion: There's two things here, like I'm, I'm hearing one, um, it forces you to really th those restrictions. Can actually work in your favor sometimes to deliver a more of an inclusive [00:12:00] service, um, especially if you're. If you, if you're, there's a reliance on digital all the time, which, which, you know, we've all fallen into the trap of like, just, just throw technology at the problem.[00:12:11] Gerry Scullion: Um, is there a, is it fair to say that sometimes the fallback of paper-based services and the paper-based, um, information exchange is kind of more proliferated in that sense? So [00:12:23] Emma Carpenter: that's actually a really interesting question, Jerry, and sort of brought to mind another. We also do some government work, and the colleagues that run those, uh, those, those clients or in, um, government clients for us, are very cognizant of the requirement that the governments give us, which is not just having digital experiences, but also having the opportunity for an experience that's offline as well.[00:12:48] Emma Carpenter: Mm-hmm. . So, as designers, we wanna make things efficient. We wanna have everything at the, you know, that, you know, be able to. touch everything very quickly on your phone, but [00:13:00] there's many people that don't have that opportunity. There's many people that will get in a queue and drive to a government office and do everything that they need to in front of a person, and the government makes them, wants to make sure that we are not excluding those people.[00:13:12] Emma Carpenter: Hmm. So we still have to design for queuing. We still have to design for paper-based processes. We still have to consider what the experience is when somebody. Standing outside an office in a long queue, um, what they're going to be doing when they enter the office, how they've spoken to face-to-face as well.[00:13:32] Emma Carpenter: It, [00:13:32] Gerry Scullion: it's, uh, I can almost hear listeners, um, kind of going, shaking their heads, saying, wow, that's, that's kind of crazy. But in my mind it's kind of refreshing, um, because I think most of the, the, you know, the western world, Has this been fooled into this sense that we can create any service, we can just, you know, rely on all these services and you're actually creating a more of an equitable service with these restrictions.[00:14:00] [00:14:00] Gerry Scullion: Um, how, how does the conversation of design equity and enter the conversations here? Or is it just a given that, that this is something you need to do, um, across the board? Yeah, I [00:14:11] Emma Carpenter: mean, I wouldn't say we have specific conversations. It's not like we set up a team call, teams call and say, right, okay, um, how are we gonna cater for the other side?[00:14:21] Emma Carpenter: Right. How are we gonna cater for the manual side? It is, as you've said, a consideration that's kind of baked into Yeah. Um, culturally, Yeah, it is. I mean, I think from a South African perspective, and obviously I've, I've been here for quite some time, but I didn't grow up here. The sense of community here, the sense of helping each other out here is very much more mature.[00:14:43] Emma Carpenter: I would say. If you can, you can say that than, than, than, you know, your more than whereby is based more around the individual. Yeah. This is, you know, and also it's more about the collect. . So people will assist each other here. Um, people will do stuff where [00:15:00] they can for their neighbors and so that kind of community thinking mm-hmm.[00:15:04] Emma Carpenter: is kind of baked in because those that are working as designers here are thinking like that anyway. Yeah. Because that's what you are encouraged to do. Mm-hmm. , um, so. The, the community aspect of what does that mean again, and go back to the, the average person on the street, um, that has these challenges, that has the society difficulties that don't have the money that, you know.[00:15:29] Emma Carpenter: Other people do have. Mm-hmm. is, is, it is a consideration. All points. [00:15:34] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. It's, it's crazy because, um, over the last number of years, I mentioned Jerry McGovern here, so this is the second time, a hat tip to Cherry McGovern. Jerry McGovern, um, has a podcast on, this is Ako Worldwide Waste, and he wrote a book about worldwide waste and, and how data is and digital is destroying the planet and, and the contributing factors to, to the global warming.[00:15:57] Gerry Scullion: Um, And we just released an episode the other day [00:16:00] about the weight of data. Um, and I'm really interested in. The, the, the mindset that that has been adopted in South Africa as we just identified, is culturally, um, that's more than what mindset that we would need to see happening in the western world in terms of more consideration about how we design services to be more data sensitive, especially if we're trying to reduce our, our, our emissions or carbon emissions or alliance on, on data as being the, the, the contributing factor for, for data transfer in terms of knowledge transfer as.[00:16:31] Gerry Scullion: Actual digital data. It's, it's like these restrictions have, um, have, have created a new set of principles that I, I, I wish we could talk about a little bit more. Um, in terms of the, the di, the diverse, um, kind of customer base that you have in South Africa, obviously, you know, many people will be aware of the, the cultural, uh, so societal problems that have happened in South Africa over the last 50 to [00:17:00] a hundred years.[00:17:01] Gerry Scullion: How does this, um, how does this change how you approach design projects, uh, within your. , how do you design for equity? Like to make sure that we're not just targeting the rich, because there's a huge gap in my understanding in Johannesburg between the rich [00:17:17] Emma Carpenter: and the poor. Yeah, that's, that's, that's very true.[00:17:19] Emma Carpenter: I mean, I think we have the large, one of the largest gaps in the world between the average and the, and the super rich. Um, what we tend to do, and I'd say if I'm looking at the majority of our clients or projects, of course, sometimes we do projects specifically for high net worth individuals. Um, yeah, everybody, everybody does.[00:17:39] Emma Carpenter: And then they, they kind of have their own separate requirements, separate briefing, um, separate sort of understanding of that business challenge. Mm-hmm. . But the majority of our, our, uh, project. Are focused on the mass market, are focused on the everyday worker and the laborer and those that, [00:18:00] um, are at the lower end because that's actually where, to me, the insights and the, the innovation and the, the, the des the thinking really light.[00:18:11] Emma Carpenter: That's where all the growth opportunities exist. Um, and also that's potentially, For, for our clients where the majority of their, um, sort of business impact is gonna come from. So yeah, the majority of our projects are for, for those individuals that are less well on. [00:18:33] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. And you mean like for FM, CG kind of clients?[00:18:37] Gerry Scullion: Um, [00:18:38] Emma Carpenter: yeah. More or less, um, anything that we are not doing from an internal employee experience. Yes. So if we are doing, um, I'm just thinking of a retail client that I worked on recently. Um, we did, we looked at how we could improve one of their, um, sort of. Financial functions with interactions, [00:19:00] um, on the cashiers.[00:19:01] Emma Carpenter: So we were actually doing a lot of research around the cashier interactions and understanding from the cashiers the kind of questions and the kind of, um, customers that are coming through the door and the challenges that they have to then build a better experience for the employees on that interface to enable them to serve customers faster.[00:19:20] Emma Carpenter: Interesting. [00:19:21] Gerry Scullion: Effectively. So I think an, an awful lot of the time when we think about service design and we think about. Any of the interaction design projects that we might typically think of? Am I right to say that there's, um, there's more work to be done in the backstage of the, the services to, to ensure that that stuff can actually occur and the processes need to be refined to enable that as opposed to just throwing technology at the problem?[00:19:49] Emma Carpenter: Yeah, I mean, I. Specifically, and, and I can only speak for our sort of South African market, we, we've got, um, the technology you. [00:20:00] Is typically, obviously it needs overhauling and and updating, but that's the same everywhere you go. I mean, obviously everything gets a bit older and then they need, it needs to be replaced.[00:20:10] Emma Carpenter: What I think we can do more of is getting out and meeting the people that are actually. At the, you know, at the frontline or at the cold face of those experiences. So that, whether that is a consultant in a call center, whether that is, you know, um, uh, a bank, uh, branch teller, whether that's, um, Someone in a, in a, in a, in a, um, a mobile phone shop, we need to do more of that.[00:20:37] Emma Carpenter: So, and again, that we need to enable our employees, um, in those organizations to be able to have the confidence to do it. Um, typically there's always a, you know, a reason why. We never quite get to speak to the end user or never quite get to speak to the customer because there's rules and there's processes, or there's other work to be done that's more important than what a priority.[00:20:59] Emma Carpenter: So yes, [00:21:00] I'd say business impact comes from systems design, process change, um, and typically looking at those kind of key moments that we can really have an impact on. And it's those small interactions, those small micro interactions that. I feel is where the innovation actually lies. Difficult to find, difficult to get to, but when you get those, um, then we can make some real affect.[00:21:27] Emma Carpenter: Some real change. [00:21:29] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, absolutely. So where are the challenges then for the next, um, say couple of years for you and the work that you're gonna be doing in, in your studio? Like where do you see it going? [00:21:42] Emma Carpenter: You know, I think there's a thought that I had actually this morning when I was considering what we might be talking about and I'm sort of really happy with the way where our conversation's gone.[00:21:52] Emma Carpenter: But I think specifically in the last few years, and we all understand all the challenges, um, socially and financially as well. [00:22:00] Um, I think we've got to a point where we're really focusing on delivering work that works, which is great and useful. Um, , but what we've sort of lost focus on is the work as designers that are, is remembered.[00:22:15] Emma Carpenter: So what work are we doing that is memorable? Um mm-hmm. . So that kind of unexpected interactions, the unexpected experiences that we can actually give people that really makes their day. Um, it's actually a conversation I was having with someone, um, this morning. Um, and I feel like we've lost. Art of playfulness actually, um, in the work that we do.[00:22:38] Emma Carpenter: And that to me is how we sort of, how we where we need to be aiming for that should be our north star in a, in a way, which is, yes, we can all deliver great work. Yes, we can all deliver work that works and technology that puts it all together and deliver. Features and functions and you know, a tick in the box, [00:23:00] but where is the playfulness?[00:23:02] Emma Carpenter: Where is the stuff that's remembered and, and how can design actually get back to that sort of lost art? That I think, and I was also sort of reminiscing back when I was a, a student and I sort of devoured those books that had those kind of visual puns and the unintended consequences and the great copywriting and, and all of that.[00:23:24] Emma Carpenter: I just feel like we've. that direction and that's what I'd like to see design doing Nexus. [00:23:31] Gerry Scullion: So are you referring to more of the, the employee experience or more of the, the end customer experience? [00:23:36] Emma Carpenter: Um, both. I don't think you can have a great end customer experience without having a first starting with a great employee experience.[00:23:43] Emma Carpenter: So across the board. [00:23:45] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. So in terms of the, the challenges for that, um, what do you feel is holding that back at the moment? Um, [00:23:55] Emma Carpenter: I think there's, if I had to say, I think austerity measures and that's, you [00:24:00] know, all the way down from the top, whether that's government or um, sort of, I suppose managing organizations or bodies where, um, there's quite a lot of restrictions, quite a lot of regulation, obviously all for the right reasons, you know, if we look at compliance and ethics and, you know, all the good stuff that we do need to make sure that we're protecting our employees and, and customers with.[00:24:25] Emma Carpenter: But I think it's become so regimented that we. Losing the creativity in those interactions, in those experiences and in that, in those services. And I think that, um, it's something, if we go back to what song is trying to do in terms of, you know, the blend of creativity through those services, from marketing, from advertising, um, all the way through to the build development and the, the data that's produced and how we use those insights.[00:24:53] Emma Carpenter: It's that playfulness that I think that we are losing. And that's what I'd like to see more of. [00:24:59] Gerry Scullion: You'd like to see more [00:25:00] of. Um, that's probably one for a another episode, but I'd love to invite you back to talk a little bit more around that when we've fleshed that conversation out a little bit more because it's something that's close to my own heart.[00:25:12] Gerry Scullion: Um, but Emma, look, we're, we're coming towards the end of the time here, um, with you. Like if people wanna reach out to. , Emma, a carpenter. Uh, what's the best way to do it? Like, do you, uh, I know you're on LinkedIn. Mm-hmm. , I've been on a morning, so I know you're there, but what other social media, um, channels are you [00:25:29] Emma Carpenter: on?[00:25:30] Emma Carpenter: Um, so actually Jerry, I prefer LinkedIn. I'm one of those, um, old school people that actually prefer to just manage one or two key things well than trying to be everywhere at. [00:25:44] Gerry Scullion: Fair enough. So I, I'll put a link to your, um, LinkedIn on, uh, in the show notes here for people to reach out and get in touch.[00:25:52] Gerry Scullion: Cause I'm sure there's, there's plenty more, um, conversations we can have cuz uh, it was really interesting to get the perspective on what it was like. [00:26:00] Designing, uh, within the African continent. So thanks so much for your time, Emma. Thanks so much for your openness as well and, and sharing with all that information.[00:26:07] Gerry Scullion: Thank you, Jerry. And there you go folks. I hope you enjoyed that episode and if you enjoyed it and want to listen to more, why not visit? This is hate cd.com where you can learn more about what we were up to. And also explore our course as well through there. Thanks again for listening.
We provide remote, flexible training options to help you grow your design and innovation capabilities. We also offer bespoke training programmes for teams and organisations on any of our courses.View all courses