User Centered Design

Student Projects

Solving User Problems

At the height of it's success, Nokia had problems recruiting experienced designers. While I was taking courses to complete my International Design Business Management Masters Degree, I sponsored student projects to give them the opportunity to discover what user problems to solve. The students got hands-on experience developing mobile apps using user-centered design methods. Many of these students became full-time Nokia employees.

Design Training

Design Over the Silos

During Nokia's rapid growth, design became fragmented within silos. I developed and taught user-centered design. I gave this training quarterly. The intent was for a multidisciplinary team to keep the user in mind throughout the whole design process. We started with the business strategy and brand promise. We developed personas, scenarios and storyboards. We user validated these early concepts. We iterated and pivoted the design. Finally we wrote user experience targets, which were like Agile user stories. I used workshop participants feedback to evolve the training into a Toolkit (see below).


Design Methods

Nokia Design had a very strong product focus. A product roadmap drove a very physical design and feature list design approach. Trends and Future forecasts determined the look and feel. User experience design was something new. It was met with resistance. The toolkit needed to be physical so designers were reminded to use it. It became a box of method cards from which designers could select a method to guide a team approach to user experience design. The toolkit also contained planning templates so the whole user experience could be project planned and managed.

Cultural Insights

Female Entepreneurs

As Nokia's business became more and more global, we needed to develop products that met real cultural needs and expectations. Our Mumbai research findings challenged all assumptions as we observed people using devices in ways we could have never imagined. We observed how especially female enterpreneurs use music to empower themselves. This greatly influenced how we targeted products, content and services to them.

Simplified Methods

Master Template

It became clear after conducting many workshops that the tools needed to be simplified to one pagers. One template that worked within one day workshops was the one that connected the user's problem to the concept solution we user validated and then to implementation. The key is to make sure that the user narrative is clearly communicated throughout design before hand-off as an Agile user story to implementation.

First User Experience


This was a project to better understand the first user experience that a consumer has with a Nokia phone. To do this we gave people phones and observed them setting up their phones for the very first time. What obstacles did they encounter? How did they try and solve them? What did they need to not only complete set up, but to optimize their use of the product. We not only encountered technical, user-interface but also cultural issues. These findings helped us redesign existing packaging and content as well as find new product ideas.



Within a workshop people have to approach the problem differently with user insights, and quickly collaborate on providing an early concept as stickly notes, which they then can iterate quickly when getting user feedback. Instead of settling on the first idea that comes to mind and implementing it as a product that doesn't fit the marketplace.