Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

Kim Goodwin ‘Decision Systems and their role in enabling human centeredness to occur within organisations’

John Carter
September 3, 2019
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Kim Goodwin ‘Decision Systems and their role in enabling human centeredness to occur within organisations’

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Episode Transcript

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Gerry: Hello, welcome to Bringing Design Closer. My name is Gerry Scullion and I’m a service design practitioner and trainer based in Dublin City, Ireland. I caught up with one of my favourite authors and design researchers recently, Kim Goodwin. Many of you will be familiar with her work, but for those of you who are not, Kim has written some fantastic articles and wrote the design design staple: How to Create Human-Centred Products and Services. A book that if you haven’t picked a copy up of, it’s still really relevant today, ten years later. We discussed the world of extending design systems within organisations, to decision systems to help steer the organisations towards more human-centredness.

Now, we acknowledge how design systems are excellent tools to help organisations create, but they’re lacking the critical piece of self-awareness, where they can still obviously be used to create products and services that harm. For want of a better description, the design system is the components of the body, where the decision system is not just the brain, but the consciousness or even the soul.

At times in the episode, you may hear some squawking birds in the distance, as I’m building a podcast studio up in my home attic at the moment. It’s been pretty hot in Ireland recently, so the windows are open, and we were heckled a few times from some of Ireland’s finest gall herrings. Now, towards the end of the episode, I selected a bunch of questions form the This is HCD Slack channel and pitched them to Kim, which was lots of fun. Anyway, let’s jump straight into the episode. Kim Goodwin, a very warm welcome to bringing design closer.

Kim: Thank you so much for having me. It’s my pleasure.

Gerry: I’m delighted to have you here. Let’s kick off, tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are and what you do.

Kim: Let’s see, I’ve been in the design and products space for 20 plus years. You don’t need to know how many plus, doing a variety of things. Lots of healthcare, mostly consulting, definitely some inhouse, as well. Outside of work, I like to life heavy things and photograph wildlife and cook, all that stuff.

Gerry: Yes, all the fun stuff. All the stuff that’s meaningful in life.  We’re going to chat a bit more today. We’ve been back and forth for a while about organisational structures and design systems and decision systems. Tell us a little bit more, I know you did a great talk as well, in IXTA in Buenos Aires earlier this year. Let’s start off, what’s the relationship between a design system and a decision system?

Kim: The genesis of that term actually is a conference organiser said, “Hey, Kim, come do a talk for us on design systems.” I said, well, I could talk about that, but… I would actually rather talk about enabling what I think is a much bigger issue. It is actually a systematic approach that I’m talking about. The design system addresses, in most cases, a fairly superficial aspect of the user experience. Colour, type, sometimes content, layout patterns, interaction patterns. Even so, that’s all still the surface of the user experience.

When our actual experience with a company or an organisation goes so much deeper than that. There are a million decisions that get made by lots of people who are not us and never will be about terms of service, revenue models, pricing, customer support, security policies, you name it, engineering performance, all of those things affect the user experience. The other thing that we do, if we’re doing our jobs right, I think, is we encourage organisations to be more human-centred.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve stopped even talking about that word design because we all get so wrapped up in what it means and who’s allowed to use it. Who cares? What I’m about is, can we get organisations to make more human decisions at every level across every discipline? Then, after that, they learn to value what we do as designers.

Gerry: What do you think it is about design systems that’s so appealing to organisations?

Kim: There are a lot to like about design systems. I think that they are very concrete, they give you gains in efficiency, that if you’re an organisation that values efficiency, not all do, is appealing. It makes decisions simpler. If you have an organisation that tends towards hierarchical decision-making, design systems feel really good, they feel repeatable, reusable, because they are. They make designers and developers lives easier, if you have an organisation of sufficient scale to support one. I love design systems; I think they’re worth doing. The only comment I want to make is that if you’re spending two or three full-time people on a design system and you’re not spending at least that much time thinking about how do you help the rest of the organisation make more human-centred decisions, is that really the highest value investment? My product view in your background says, no.

Gerry: Yes, absolutely. It’s the organisational appetite for this new, shiny thing. At the moment, I don’t mean to bag on design systems, they’ve literally just arrived in the room, and I have to be aware of it myself. Kim, we’re sitting in a room, here they are, design systems, we’re sick of them already. I don’t think that’s the case. I think there’s a huge benefit in design systems, but I think you’re right, there is a gap there between understanding the North Star, what it is, where the organisational is trying to achieve by implementing them. How are you doing that? How do you bring organisations on that journey to bring them back to the cantered position of why they’re doing these things, the purpose?

Kim: Yes. I think how you go about it really depends on your starting point, right. As a consultant, if somebody calls me up and says, “Hey, help me with this”, I have a pretty easy entry point. It’s usually at an executive level. If you’re in-house that’s usually not going to be your starting point, you have to start small. If you look into the change management literature, there’s a guy named John Cotter, a professor at Harvard, who talks about one of the key components of leading change is building a coalition. What you have to do to begin is, build a local coalition.

Right, your immediate product team, your engineering leads, your products leads, all of those folks, you have to get them aligned around how we make decisions more broadly about at least our product in our local area of control. Then as you start to see that working and they start to see that working and start to evangelise it, you can branch out a bit bigger. Now, once in a while, you’ll have a, what I call, a teachable moment in an organisation, where something bad happens in the market. The FDA recalls your medical product because it killed people, or hopefully nothing like that will happen here.

You get beat up in the market a little bit. Then sometimes you have executive attention. You have an opportunity to say, here’s a way we could have gone about this differently. Here’s a way in which we have some tools to help people make better decisions.

Gerry: Yes. I think the design system thing is easy for people to grasp, especially in design teams and also executive teams. Once they get it, they get it. Like, okay, cool, so it’s like Lego bricks, it standardises the elements. It allows you to work quicker, work faster, but my thing is, it can also allow you to work quicker and faster in the wrong direction. That’s the critical piece that I think we’re both speaking about the same thing here, but what does a decisions framework look like?

Kim: Yes. I think that it’s important that we do have decision-making systems that reduce the friction. Just as design systems do for those front-end choices. I think the framework starts with a set of values, and I think that the values we hope that we all have as designers are that it’s about doing no harm to humans, right. I think that we don’t even necessarily have a shared definition of what human-centred even means. We talk about human-centred design, but does that mean accessible? Does that mean learnable? What does that mean?

This is where I find it helpful to turn to certain models of self-actualisation, right, yes, it’s a bit problematic, but start with Maslow, which is one everybody’s usually familiar with. People rightly criticize Maslow as being very western and individualist, which it is, but Maslow pauses to that: Until you have needs around food and shelter and safety and things like that met, you’re not going to self-actualise and meet your full potential as a human. Native American scholars rightly criticised that as too individualist, that the goal of self-actualisation is actually community actualisation.

How do we grow and thrive as a community? Which I like that framing much better. It’s also not really a hierarchy exactly. The needs aren’t quite sequential. You know how these models always oversimplify, but to my mind, if we think about human-centred design, what it does is, we’re going to help somebody get closer to self-actualisation without moving other people farther away from self-actualisation. That second part is really the key. If you look at even some of the Silicon Valley business models. Yes, I find it really convenient to hop in an Uber, but how is Uber treating that driver? Are they actually being manipulated in a way that makes them more money?

Okay, maybe. Are they being manipulated in a way that makes Uber more money and less money? Not okay. That’s what I’m talking about when I say we need that just as a baseline before we even get into how we make decisions.

Gerry: Just let’s take a situation, you do get a phone call, you do go into an organisation, and you’re there to help them design better. It might be your brief to become more human-centred, so to speak. I guess you arrive at a shared common language and a definition of what human-centred mean to both you and to the organisation. What next?

Kim: Well, then I think we need to look at how the decisions get made, and what are the criteria we use to value our decisions. One that I find is really interesting and I think is applicable to us in the tech space is the Nuremberg Code. It’s a bit of a heavy topic, right.

Gerry: Yes, it’s great though.

Kim: For anybody who’s not familiar with it, this arose out of the Nuremberg hearings after Nazi doctors were doing horrible experiments on people. The world was like, I guess not everything is okay in the world of science, is it? If you’ve ever done any human subject’s research or any medical research, you get familiar with this idea that it’s about minimising harm, it’s about informed consent. It’s about having plans to mitigate any harm that does happen and making sure that you have the resources to do that. If you do any research in these areas, you’re subject to an independent review board that ensures that this happens. I think that this is an interesting framework for us on two levels.

One, I think independent review boards are a great model for us to consider in tech. Frankly, I think are a model that I think ought to be regulated into how we work. When you think about the kinds of harm that we can do to people’s privacy, their wellbeing, literally, their mental health. There’s lots of evidence that people’s mental health is being damaged by too much time online. All of these things tell me that we need to be governed in some way.

Even in the absence of that structure, I think we can all at least ask ourselves the questions in the Nuremberg Code. Is this actually of benefit to the population that we’re talking about? Is this the least harmful way to accomplish the goal? What are the risks, and do we have plans for mitigating them? Most important, do we have truly informed consent?

Gerry: Yes. I’ve spent time in several organisations. I lived in Australia and I’ve been back in Ireland for a while. I go into organisations and I see the big posters on the wall and the values and people first, and all of these sorts of things on the wall. Then you go in and you have some meetings with the teams and stuff. Sure enough, the designers might have some questions and some real concerns about the direction that things are going in, yet, the business trumps them. It’s kind of hard. It’s that grey area. That murky water where designers, for the best part, I think the ones that I’ve definitely experienced and worked with, they get doing good and they have a human-centerdness, but when it spells into other areas of the business, how can we work better with those areas to make sure that that type of framework exists beyond the design world?

Kim: Two things. One is, I can’t necessarily agree that designers are naturally more human-centred.

Gerry: I know, Mike Monteiro would kill me for saying that.

Kim: I think they are just as subject to deluding ourselves into thinking that something is good for you because it is going to help us meet that metric that we’re being evaluated on.

Gerry: Yes.

Kim: You’re also getting at the third component of decision systems, which is values. The way that organisations use values I think is mostly ineffective because you do have those posters on the wall that say: People first. Well, what the heck do you do with people first? You and I are going to interpret that in different ways. It’s important to have some overarching values articulated, but you also have to articulate values in a much more granular way, at the level of every single team and help them translate that into actionable ideas. One of the things that if you study organisational change, you’ll find is true is, people don’t actually know what to do with change messages, unless they come from their immediate manager, or at most, their managers’ manager.

The reason for that is because the senior executives can’t talk in enough detail to help people understand, here’s what that means for how I behave and how I make decisions.  One example is, I work in healthcare a lot, lots of organisations, say: Patients first. What does that even mean? The first step is that you have to break that down and user interviews actually give you some great fodder for breaking down what patients first means. What do patients think patients first means? Well, for example, if you talk to patients, one of the things that they’ll say is, “I feel in control of my healthcare.” Let’s say that’s one of the sub-principles of patients first as a value, that’s one of our principles. Then you have to break that down further.

If you’re talking to the facilities team, for example, the people who buy furniture and setup the rooms and so on, what does feeling in control mean? Well, it might mean that I get to sit in a normal chair and talk to the doctor in a normal chair. There’s not this weird physical position of hierarchy, where they’re just clearly in a position of physical dominance. That might be one example. Seat patients and physicians as peers. That could be a team-level principle you could break that down into. Then you would have different principles like that for each different part of the organisation, so that they can see, oh, here’s a thing I can actually translate into the decisions I make.

Gerry: Kim, I want to ask you a question about the role of metrics and goals and values. How do you feel they’re interrelated?

Kim: The things that we value are the things that we measure. The things that we measure tend to be the things that we value. If a company tells you: People first is their value, do they measure that in any meaningful way? If not, it’s not a real value, it’s just marketing. This is the problem, a lot of teams, a lot of organisations will drive to a single business metric, so take social media for example, that engagement number, the more you get people coming back, the more ads you can put in front of them, the more that drives your revenue, but the problem is, think about how you make decisions in real life, do you ever optimise to a single metric in life? I certainly don’t.

I would like to maximise my fitness, but if I only think about that, I’m going to spend all of my time at the gym. I’m never going to eat chocolate, which would be a huge bummer, and I’m not going to see my family and friends. In real life, the way that I make decisions is, I say, “I would like to optimise my fitness without sacrificing certain other things too much.” We don’t have that balance concept in the way that we use metrics most of the time in business. Right, we don’t say, we want to optimise this engagement metric without sacrificing X, Y, or Z, right?

Without sacrificing functioning democracy and how people feel about themselves, and all of these other things that we know are so important to the human experience. How do we come up with a counterpoint metric? Here’s the way I frame it, which is, we want a metric that describes our business goal. The thing we want to accomplish, right. If we articulate the goal as, we want to optimise revenue, then, gosh, that maybe opens us up to business models other than advertising. That lets us be more creative if we don’t zero in on the metric first, but we start with the goal, then the metric. The second piece is, we need to say, how do we measure our values as well as those goals? Because we need to see if we’re hitting those values too hard. There’s always a balance point and it’s not going to be perfect, but part of why I think people don’t measure values today is you can’t just measure those things with click-throughs. If you want to understand the impact you’re having on somebody’s life, you have to ask them.

Gerry: This is a good area, because one of the things that I have on my mind is a situation in an organisation where teams are working on things where if you ask one set of customers, they might go, “That’s really cool.” Then another one might go, “Well, actually, that’s kind of bad.” The design team know intrinsically that this is something that’s not truly human-centred. You’re getting mixed messages and it’s not connecting with the organisational values. It’s very hard, especially when you’ve got business buy-in and executive buy-in into these initiatives to push back.

Kim: Yes. The thing is that if we try to have that argument, and I hope that we are, although, it’s difficult. You have to be a big gutsy to have that argument. I think when we try to have that argument based on our inner sense that something’s not right, then that doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight against a thing that you can concretely measure. The way that I frame it is, until we figure out how we can measure the things that we value, we’re going to overvalue what’s easy to measure. I think that’s what organisations are doing now. The ones that are trying to measure the human side are mostly doing it poorly. Every once in a while, I haven’t given up on Facebook because I have too many non-techy friends on there, but every once in a while, Facebook says, “Hey, Kim, do you believe Facebook cares about you?”

Gerry: Come on.

Kim: I just want to slap my phone at that moment because that’s a question that’s about Facebook, it’s not about me. It’s about, are you perceiving our brand well? Instead, it should be saying something more like, “Hey, Kim, after you used Facebook today, did you feel better or worse about yourself? Did you feel closer or more alienated from the people in your life?”

Gerry: Exactly.

Kim: Those are questions that are actually meaningful that measure the impact of what Facebook is doing overall, and it’s not about them.

Gerry: Yes, absolutely. I remember, I used to work at My Space back in the day, whenever Facebook came along, I completely bought into the Zuckerberg spiel of making the world a better and more connected place. That as a marketing approach. It definitely hooked a lot of people in, myself included, but I don’t feel that they’ve ever measured that. I never felt more connected and I lived in Australia.

A lot of my friends were in Ireland. I never felt more connected to them by using Facebook. In some ways, I felt more disconnected. As a result, I think that’s where the seed of distrust lay… we felt like we were sold a lie. Well, I definitely felt sold a lie. Since, unfortunately, for any Facebook employees out there, I’m not a fan of the organisation. It’s one of the organisations that I particularly hone-in on probably too much unfairly. They do have a bit of a personal vendetta in my mind. Sorry.

Kim: Look, I know lots of great designers who work at Facebook and Twitter.

Gerry: Same.

Kim: I think they have the best of all intentions. The problem is, there are lots of decisions that are out of their hands, that are getting made. I think in some cases, designers are complicit in bad decisions, right. I don’t want to let people off the hook either. The fundamental business model is challenging to work with. If engagement is your main driver, and profit is your main goal, and you don’t explore business models that aren’t other than engagement, then there’s only so much you can do within that, right?

Gerry: Absolutely. I think Facebook is probably a really good example of design systems and decision systems. Is there even an appetite at an executive level – I don’t expect anyone to answer this – in those types of organisations for a human-centred decision system?

Kim: That’s where I think we as designers and product folks and other people who make things have to look at the organisation and say, well, no organisation is perfect at adhering to its values, because values are usually aspirational. Do we make a sincere effort and is it just that we aren’t quite sure how to get there? Those organisations in my experience can be helped.

Gerry: Yes.

Kim: When we have organisations where the senior executives repeatedly say, “Yes, it’s just not pragmatic to actually live up to our values.” Then that is not going to change until you have a change in executive leadership.

Gerry: Yes, they reward that behaviour, they’re rewarding it. That’s what they’re… like you said, they’re measuring what they value and what they value is not sometimes what the teams align to.

Kim: Yes, exactly. In my experience, most organisations do sincerely mean to live up to their values, but there are lots of barriers in the way, right? There are hold habits, there are assumptions, there are poor systems, there’s no understanding how to use metrics. In my experience, most organisations can be moved closer to living under those values, if you give them the right tools.

Gerry: I agree.

Kim: I think that’s where decision systems play a role, right, can we frame what we mean by human centred. Can we agree on a set of ethics that sets boundaries on what we will and won’t do? Can we articulate values as team-level principles and can we put up pairs of metrics, so that we’re measuring the impact of our decisions? All of those things, once you have those in place and when you have a diverse set of people and a diverse set of user research input to help you spot the issues that you might not be aware of, that’s when you’re in a position to make better use of a design system.

Gerry: Yes, I totally agree. Kim, we’re coming towards the end of the episode here. As I mentioned before we started recording, you’ve got a bit of a fan club on our Slack community. I say that semi-jokingly, but semi-seriously, like, some people were like, “I just want to know what she’s up to”, versus, “Is she going to write another book?” That’s the first question, are you going to write another book?

Kim: Yes. I have a couple of books in my head that I honestly just have to take the time to craft. I have not found the time to do that because I’ve been busy with interesting client work and photographing wildlife and other things like that.

Gerry: Sure.

Kim: It’s overdue, I definitely need to do that.

Gerry: I’m sure. That was from Lar Veale, is she going to update her book, or does it even need an update?

Kim: Yes, I think it does, I think the fundamentals in it are still accurate. I think that the examples and such need and update. Honestly, it’s ten years old, so I’ve learned a few things in the meantime that I would like to update it with. For sure.

Gerry: All right. Another question from the Netherlands, and it’s Neil Cortson, Neil is a service designer in Koos, I was wandering if she could talk about the influence of decision frameworks and the adoption or maturity of design within the organisation, is there a link and how do we go about it? That’s a big question.

Kim: Yes, that’s an interesting one. I think if you have an organisation that still views design as purely superficial, I think it’s going to be difficult to begin having some of these conversations. In my experience, I don’t think working on decision systems really is super linked to design maturity in the organisation. I think that it relates much more closely to how well does the organisation already align to its own values. That in my mind is the bigger question. I guess you could call it, human-centred maturity instead of design maturity, right. I have one client where design is basically brand-new, they’ve had a little bit of it internally, but for all practical purposes, they’ve never done user research that guides what they’re building and that kind of stuff before.

But their values are pretty strongly human-centred and even if they’re doing it inexpertly, for the most part, they’ve been making pretty good decisions, even if the surface level of the product doesn’t look great. They are a relatively easy change, compared to some organisations where… they maybe are not quite as invested in the human-centred values. I find those organisations make slower progress. I actually think the strength of the human-centred values is the better predictor of how well that organisation is going to evolve in a human centred way. It’s kind of dependent on the design maturity, per se.

Gerry: Yes. I think design maturity can sometimes be interpreted as how quickly they can work to get something out into development, into the people’s hands. It’s more of a design as a service perhaps.

Kim: Yes. I think there are a number of interpretations of design maturity, right. I like Jared Spools’ definition that design is peculated through all parts of the organisation when it’s really mature. Again, that word, “Design” is so problematic. That doesn’t mean that designers are doing all the work. There are not enough of us to do it. That’s why I think human-centred maturity might actually be the better metric, which is, does everybody in the organisation understand, how do you talk to humans and understand their needs to make decisions that aren’t about you?

Gerry: Yes. All right. Again, I’m picking questions out here like out of a hat. I’d love to know what Kim feels about the influence of AI and design systems and how that enhances or degrades the experience as a user? It’s a good question.

Kim: Let’s consider the case of YouTube for a second. I think everybody has probably heard about this one, where the YouTube recommendation algorithm, in order to drive engagement and pushing people toward pretty extreme content, at whatever end of the spectrum they’re looking at. If we have an algorithm deciding, what size and colour should the button be based on who’s clicking it? That sort of thing, then the design system is only going to be as good as the ethics and guidelines that we build into that algorithm, right? Algorithms appear to be amplifying our biases as humans more often than not, based on how we define them and how we apply training date to them. I think we’re going to get some weird effects.

Gerry: Yes, it’s kind of like the Marie Antoinette guillotine, you’ve got the designers looking at the rope, going, “Do you think we should make it more ergonomic, so the blade can fall quicker?”

Kim: Yes. Just as has been true since when I first started in design, we don’t want to automate the misery.

Gerry: Yes.

Kim: We don’t want to automate bias.

Gerry: True. I’ve got another question here from Rub San in New York. In past encounters, I’ve noticed Kim focusing a fair bit on Team dynamics and building team and organisational culture. I would love to hear about her perspectives and how to best evaluate culture entering into a workplace or building/forming culture and organisational partnerships in nascent design departments. That’s a massive question. How am I expected to get that out in under…? I feel sorry for Kim. Like, that Gerry fella, he just keeps on throwing massive questions to me, expecting me to answer them. Let’s take one part of that.

Kim: Yes, what I think they’re getting at is, if you’re trying to join an organisation or consultant, to decide if you want to work with this client, how can you do this quickly, right? I think there are a couple of approaches that I find really useful. To my mind, if I were going to do a job interview in an organisation, for example, one of the questions I would ask is about how decisions get made. Just as we tend to do with user research, it’s better not to ask that question in the abstract, but to ask for a case specific example. Think about your last project, company I’m interviewing with, how did this or that decision get made? How did you decide what to even build? How did you decide which audience to target? Who made that decision and how? What data influenced that decision or who influenced that decision? You start to get people telling you stories about how decisions get made, that revealed a ton about the culture. It revealed a lot about how they make decisions, about whose voices are valued, about how effective their processes are. You can also ask; how did you measure success?

How did you know? What metrics were you trying to optimise? Did you look at any metrics that might be opposed to that. That starts to tell you what they value. Culture is partly about what people value, and it’s partly about the ways in which they make decisions, decision styles, which lots of different decisions styles can be perfectly effective, just some of them may be a better fit or not for you, as an individual. That in my experience is the magic question. Tell me the story about how decisions got made on this project?

Gerry: Yes, or tell me when you decided not to build something, is another way of saying that.

Kim: Yes, most people can’t answer that one in my experience.

Gerry: Yes, it’s like, what? We always build what we’re told to build. I’ve got one last question. We’ve just got time for one more. This is, okay, regarding interviewing with Kim, I’d love to hear her opinion on the differences, if any, between UCD, HCD, UX, service design, and design thinking.

Kim: Well, I guess it depends on who’s doing the defining, right, versus how people use the term in reality. Look, I think that we get a little bit hung-up on language sometimes in a way that’s not super helpful, but the underlying meaning of words is powerful. I’ve been talking about human-centred design as opposed to user-centred because I think a lot of what we design has effects on people that aren’t sitting in front of the application. That’s why I tend to lean toward human-centred. I think if we talk about user experience design, back when I started, interaction design was sort of the new sexy term because we wanted to not be thought of as just interface design and deeper and richer.

Interaction design became the term of our… then somebody decided we needed to do a great big land-grab and claim the entire user experience. Well, how arrogant is that, right? I think user experience is an important concept that users have an experience with all aspects of a system, including customer service and everything else that we don’t touch, but claiming that we own that I think is, let me be blunt, ridiculous. Because there’s no way we could possibly own that because too many other people are making those decisions. User experience as a concept makes sense, I think as a discipline, it’s a little bit silly as a distinction. That may or may not be a popular opinion.

Gerry: Absolutely.

Kim: I think when we talk about user experience design, or interaction design, so interaction design to me is a skillset. Human-centred design is a value system. I think that interaction design is not inherently pro-human or not. We can use the tools of interaction design and visual design and persuasive writing for good or evil. You can look at a million products and see ways in which they have been used badly. That’s kind of a distinction I would make between skillset and value system in a way.

Gerry: Yes. Service design and design thinking? What’s the definition?

Kim: Well, lots of people would argue that service design, user experience are the same thing. Yes, or no. Obviously, service design is bigger than purely interaction design because it does address more aspects of the user experience. I think service design is probably the disciplinary, why it’s the closest to looking at the user experience holistically. I think design thinking is just one method that is useful in those various places, right? Lots of people criticise design thinking as making it seem like design is easy and something anyone can do, which guess what? Parts of design are something anyone can do. At the same time, it glosses over a lot of the very difficult aspects of system design. It’s just one flavour.

Gerry: That’s great. I know, it’s one of those questions that’s always asked and it’s always interesting to get different perspectives on it.

Kim: Yes. I don’t tend to get hung-up on the terminology. Honestly, do you know how when you’re at a party or something and people say, “What do you do for a living?”

Gerry: Yes. What do you say?

Kim: I don’t even use the D-word anymore, I just say, I help companies get better at humans. I help them make products and services that don’t suck for humans. Usually people respond with, “Well, thank god somebody is doing that because it needs to be done.” Then they don’t get confused about what I do. It works great.

Gerry: I know. I switch between different explanations of what I do. In the end, I just say I’m a designer, which maybe I’ll stop doing from now on, and take your advice.

Kim: Yes.

Gerry: Kim, how can people find out how to stay in touch with you?

Kim: It’s probably easiest to find me on Twitter @kimgoodwin. I am slow at responding to email because my inbox gets overwhelmed. I’m a little bit better at Twitter, to be honest. I would start there.

Gerry: Great, I’ll throw a link to your Twitter in the show notes. Also, I’ll throw a link to your excellent IXTA talk that you did in Rio in 2018. It was a really fantastic talk and I really enjoyed it. Kim, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kim: Thanks so much, take care.

Gerry: So, there you have it. Thanks for listening to bringing design closer. If you want to learn more about the other shows on the This is HCD Network, feel free to visit:, where you can also sign up to our newsletter, or join our Slack channel where you can connect with other human-centred design practitioners around the world. Thanks for listening and see you next time.  

End of Audio

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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