Kia ora Ōtautahi.

After 10 years living in towns with no traffic light, I’ve come full circle. Back to where it began.

My first NZ client was a hardware startup based in Christchurch. Their success with a niche product inspired me to launch my own product, Mr. Tappy, which I relied on Christchurch manufacturers and suppliers to prototype and launch, and to keep running today.

My patient experience work informed ward design for the new Christchurch hospital and inspired new ways of working I’ve enjoyed sharing with many clients and colleagues.

Meanwhile …over the years the bulk of my work pulled me further from the city, NZ and my family, while working increasingly internationally from Motueka.

Now I’m excited to have moved back to where it began. To reconnect with, and in a city rebuilding itself.

I’ve used an illustration from my book USERPALOOZA where I talk about how clues to understanding your customer start at street level, with ‘neighbourhood icebreakers’…


Now I’ve moved and unpacked, it’s time to venture beyond my own street (and local dairy) to connect with colleagues old and new.

If you’re based in Christchurch and would like to meet, invite me to a meetup group, or even to talk to your team, sing out. Break the ice.

…And if you’re passing through, I’d love to show you my new neighbourhood.

Illustrations by the amazing Mat Tait.


Flipping the lens, and becoming Neil. [Podcast]

Cicadas chirping, cabbage trees awakening to a summer breeze and with the rest of the house emerging to another day of an island escape UX retreat, I was interviewed for a podcast by Chris from We Create Futures.

This was flipping the lens, because interviewing people is the basis for so much of my work, but now for the first time I was the subject.

And becoming Neil? … well, it’s not the first time I’ve been confused with a musician … Most people know me as Bomo, not Bono. But in his introduction to the podcast, Chris likens me to a Neil (Not Young or a Diamond).

You’ll find out which Neil, by listening online.

Or you can download it as a file.

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Userpalooza car seat 760

USERPALOOZA! I wrote a book.

Yes, an actual book. Spine. Cover. Pages. Ok, it’s a draft in the photo, but …Somebody pinch me!

USERPALOOZA is a how-to for planning and conducting field research – to connect with customers in their context – to understand how they think and behave around your product, service or category.

…Because it’s easier to design for a customer you understand.

It started two years ago, when I wrote this sticky note and slapped it on my monitor:

This sticky note travelled with me during fieldwork. I couldn't escape it's call to arms. It won a two year battle of wills.

This sticky note travelled with me during fieldwork. I couldn’t escape it’s call to arms. It won a two year battle of wills.

The sticky note soon became a companion, a travelling and motivating call to action as I squeezed writing time into my working days.

Friends asked:

‘Isn’t that shooting yourself in the foot?’

‘Won’t people buy the book instead of hiring you?’

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Safety in numbers during design research


On the edge of NYC in a sleeting-cold January storm, two colleagues and I arrived at a home visit with instructions to ‘go round back’.

Without going into detail, ‘round back’ did not look like a safe place to visit, and we made the joint call to bail out.

This was the first time I’ve abandoned a user research session, and I was so pleased not to be alone. In fact, had I been alone, I’m fairly sure I would have gone ahead out of duty to the client and the project, brushing off any safety concerns, despite what my instinct was telling me.

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Breaking the wall in design research

Breaking the wall in Design Research

Film directors use a term to describe zooming out from the scene to deliberately demystify the production process.

This reveals backstage activity usually out of the frame, like the edges of the studio set, sound crew, equipment etc..

They call this ‘breaking the wall’.

Thanks to an ambitious client, and a two minute edit from a mountain of footage, I feel like I can do something similar, at least trying to answer some design research FAQs I’m often asked. In particular the approaches and practicalities of fieldwork. Continue reading

Architectural design, meets pop-surrealism to communicate research insights

See what I mean? (Video)

A few weeks back at our very own UX Homegrown conference, I shared my story of how I combined visual communication styles from two former careers into a way to make research insights visual, and generate conversations that matter.

Here’s the video:

It was the first time I’ve spoken at an event in NZ for over three years, but it’s a story I love telling.

The story plays out over years as confidence grew, and clients encouraged me to put down the bullet points, and pick up a sharpie.

You’ll see what a slow learner I was, but I share my ‘how to’ techniques to help you get there quicker. And it seems to be working – since I first shared this story and these techniques, I’ve had some great emails from people who wouldn’t consider themselves a ‘visual person’ attaching their ‘first stabs’ – examples of visual artefacts, explaining the impact they noticed in how their team responded etc.

If you’re tired from the insights from your work gathering digital dust, and you’re feeling sketchy after the video, I go step by step through my approach in an article ‘Visualising Design Research‘ from a couple of years back.

Now go sharpen your pencil, and send me some shots!

double diamond image

Duped by the Double Diamond?

It’s a masterpiece of over-simplicity and an idealised vision of the human centred design process, but now there’s proof this blueprint for breakthroughs is a long way from reality… At least in New Zealand. (But we’re probably not alone)

Yes, I’m talking about the well-accepted Double Diamond model with its four stages of discover, define, develop and deliver.

It rolls off the tongue nicely, but what follows is a sobering view of how lop-sided it may be…

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My expert-ness, mapped over time

On being an expert…

There was a time I was comfortable being the expert.

That’s changed.

I was asked to do an ‘expert’ experience review recently. Ever since it’s been playing on my mind – surfacing internal conflicts and self-doubt around how comfortable I am taking the role of ‘expert’ in this field.

It’s a feeling that’s changed with time, so I mapped it.

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