Coming up this year

We’ve hit the ground running in 2014, with some projects from the end of last year coming to fruition which we’re looking forward to implementing soon, also we have some new up and coming plans:


Workshops to support local food, drink and craft producers

We are doing a couple of really useful workshops on the Art of Display, mainly to help local producers of food, drink and craft in Caerphilly and Torfaen.

Michelle will talk you through the art of displaying your product and driving engagement, so you can really maximise your potential at festivals or retail events. Over the course of the workshop she will talk about important factors like your brand, product packaging and marketing, and how to operate within a tight budget. She will also be talking about buyer behavior in order to help you understand what drives a customer to purchase a product.

Dates are 25th and 26th March 2014 at Newbridge Memorial Hall.

Hosted by the Caerphilly Rural Development department, there are still places available, you have less than 10 employees and based in Caerphilly or Torfaen.

Contact Kevin Eadon by phone on 01443 838632 or
email him

More workshops…

The Art of Display, is a precursor to a series of three half day workshops that are running later this spring. They have also been specifically designed to support local food, drink and craft producers and will unpack the art of display in much greater detail. The themes are:

  1. Customer Insights – 29 April 2014
  2. Product and Business Values – 6 May 2014
  3. Brand and Marketing – 27 May 2014 Venues tbc.

We are also doing some research with “Local Retailers and Local Suppliers” for the Rural Development department in Caerphilly. We’ll be focusing on connecting local micro business to retail and plan to explore opportunities and uncover issues between them, with a view to creating a practical tool kit that will benefit both parties.

We are currently looking for local food and drink retailers producers as well as local people to take part in the research. If this is you do get in touch and let us know if you’re keen to get involved!

Insight Consultancy for Companies House

Screen shot 2014-03-13 at 16.51.34

We are currently embarking on a project that involves taking a closer look at users of their services, namely people that incorporate, file accounts/returns, and do company searches. We hope to uncover useful ‘human centred’ insights that will inform a useful and practical toolkit to support future service development.

If you are a user of Companies House services, and would like to contribute to our qualitative research during April 2014, do let us know. Incentives are available.
Send Michelle an email if you’re interested in taking part


Earlier this year, I met up for a chat with Sarah Lethbridge, of Cardiff University‘s professional development department. Discovering a like-mindedness about the subject of service design, I shared with her an outline of our projects that have been helping business with innovation and user centric market research.

Sarah invited me become an associate of Cardiff Business School – which presented an opportunity to give a seminar about some of the tools and methods we use to uncover what customers really think and how they use services. This is going to take the form of part seminar, part workshop on the 9th July.

I’m looking forward to meeting with the companies that sign up, I’ll be sharing a lot of my experience and knowledge that I’m sure will be valuable to them. Marketing types might find this really useful and inspirational to take back to their own businesses. A small business owner that needs to target a specific market will be able to use some of the tools themselves, and sales staff can be gain a different perspective on the ways their customers act, think, do and purchase.

Follow this link to sign up – its completely free!

See you there hopefully.

Personas in retail

Here at Insight we appreciate the importance of understanding your service users. It can often be a difficult process for you to remember how your services can affect different people depending on their personality. We observe these various user personalities and create persona cards that can be used to test customer scenarios.


A great example of personas being used as a tool within the workplace comes from a first hand experience by our own Matthew. Back in the day when a younger Matthew worked in retail, personas were a great tool used by a British high street fashion retailer.

The problem that needed solving was an inconsistency with staff engagement and customers. Some staff would almost be fearful of suggesting appropriate stock when approaching customers, whilst others communicated confidently but advised inappropriate solutions. Missed sale opportunities happened too often, but money issues aside, it was the lack of tactile service that needed addressing.

The company adopted 6 personas, 3 male and 3 female, to help staff understand the personalities of customers. Models dressed in relevant clothing were used to portray each persona enabling them to feel as realistic as possible. Posters displayed within each store acted as a visual reminder. Names were also given to really drive home the notion that these personas were real people and this allowed for staff to easily communicate about them.


Let’s discuss the male personas further…

Trendy Toby
Toby loves to shop. His week resolves around what he’ll be wearing Friday night. Toby buys whatever you tell him to. If it’s on trend, he needs it! Only worn it once? Never mind, that’s old now.

Fashion Flynn
Flynn is the shopper who keeps his eye on the trends but does things his way! He takes time to make sure he stands out from the crowd. Flynn doesn’t follow trends… he sets them!

Classic Chris
This shopper is your typical bloke; he hates retail therapy. Chris wants classic, clean-cut clothing available in traditional colours. He expects quality clothing that will last. He wants to look good, but not stand out.


Beyond the initial understanding of the fact that there were varied shopper types, the personas did help staff to engage with customers. With further training on clothing styles, staff members were able to identify whether the customers they were dealing with were more a Toby, a Flynn or a Chris.

When identifying an energetic shopper as a potential Toby, staff members could prepare to discuss the newest stock should they be approached. At the fitting room, a conversation starter of “If you’re trying this on, you might like the new t-shirt we’ve had in to complete the look!” would be ideal.

If staff encountered a Flynn, bestsellers and popular stock would take a back seat, in favour of offering different outfit combinations. Dealing with Flynn customers allowed staff to openly talk about styling that wouldn’t be appreciated by a Toby or Chris. “Have you tried layering with an extra tee?”

Quiet, disengaged shoppers were categorised as being a Chris. Staff knew to tailor their service tone to suit Chris’ personality – straightforward and fuss-free. Suggesting sophisticated clothing that would work within any wardrobe was a focus for the sales advisors. “These chinos could be worn with any colour shoe.”

The personas had instigated not only a higher level of appropriate service, but made sales advisors more aware of their role to advise. Staff members were more capable and management were confident in everyone’s abilities.
Happy team.


Photo Credit: laverrue via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jef safi \ ‘pictosophizing via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Joel Bedford via Compfight cc

Insane and Inspiring!

Chris Moss (FAMOSS) speaks at Cardiff Business School

Chris Moss (FAMOSS) speaks at Cardiff Business School on Innovation: Why insane ideas change the world.

This is a man who has ‘always done things differently’. He spoke about insane ideas in business, and how important they are to innovation. He exposed the fact that many companies don’t want to take too much risk, they would rather follow the crowd when it comes to how their business works. Chris built those brands that stand out with a difference, and he championed the cause for giving better service throughout those businesses, by changing how their service meets the needs of its customers.

Chris has an impressive background of building innovative ideas into multi-billion pound brands such as Virgin Atlantic, Orange and 118 118. We heard how his ideas (successes and failures) inspired a new way of building business. During his time at Orange, he explained that being last to market can actually give you an advantage, as it’s then that you can see clearly what your competitors have already done! Then you can position your brand as ‘first to market’ in a new and innovative bracket. Who else could get a telecoms company name like Orange approved and passed by the board of directors who felt a mobile phone network had to have the word ‘phone’ or ‘tel’ in the name? Chris explained,

“Never take no for an answer; always take it as a request for more information.”

He also challenged Orange’s billing team to bill per second (rather than round up to the nearest minute) as it was much more beneficial to the customer. We thank you Chris!

Chris encouraged us…

“Be brave. Innovation dies when you don’t put customers front and centre.”

We concur, and its also a part of our approach for Insights to put the customer at the start of all innovation. Chris explained how he was frequently met with “you can’t do that!”, to which he would come back with tweaked ideas or workarounds.

What did we learn from listening to Chris Moss?

There are many stumbling blocks to getting “that insane idea” green lighted, don’t take no for an answer, but tweak your ideas and ask for more information. We deal with many businesses and can see the potential to introduce something innovative within their brand, by looking at the needs of your users. I think we need to be braver!

Service Innovation Breakfasts for SMEs

Michelle will be speaking at the Torfaen SME Breakfast on February 6th 2013.

Michelle will be talking about how we at INSIGHT work towards simple services and what advantages they can bring to businesses. She’ll also be sharing her experience of working in a design and marketing company and how she sees service design and innovation having most impact in commercial situations.


For details about the event visit

User experience at Handheld Conference

Last week I (Valentino) took a day out to attend Handheld Conference at St David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay; an event organised by Craig Lockwood with the intention of sharing knowledge within the field of web and mobile design and bringing a bit of conference action to South Wales.

A handful of talented speakers talked through a range of interesting subjects from mobile and app development, what makes a great smartphone app, content management and book publishing. The speakers were a great mix of local industry talent and members of Facebook, Microsoft and Google’s teams along with leading names in app development and each one brought a passion and humour for their subject that made the whole day a delight.

Particular stand-outs for me included a superb collection of user experiences with everyday interfaces such as ticket machines, lift controls and drinks dispensers which highlighted that a lack of focus in design can lead to poor and often confusing experiences with such services. It was one of the most hilarious talks about what could be such a mundane subject delivered intelligently and passionately by Experience Designer Aral Balkan.

This particular talk was a great highlight for design thinking and the outcome for users of services. What seems to be a lack of common sense in such services as ticket machines can easily confuse us and make us feel a bit simple when enquiring to a nearby staff member about how to buy a ticket. If the service is not a necessity then bad experience could mean we don’t return to using the service.

Another highlight for me was a talk by Microsoft’s Creative Technologist Andrew Spooner who spoke about the value of putting ideas out there, and the people who can take an idea and run with it to create something incredible.

By the end of the day we’d got through 13 informed speakers, their Q&A sessions, some tasty food, and a small bag of goodies kindly put together by the host and event sponsors. The team will definitely have our names down for next year’s event.

INSIGHT on wayfinding and navigation problems at Ystrad Fawr Hospital

Typically, most hospitals struggle to show people clear way finding and access. Who knows of a hospital that you can visit, without being disorientated and lost on the first visit? Does it have to be this way and what is the cost to both the service users and the NHS?

We were driven to investigate by stories we had heard first hand, how an emergency service vehicle struggled to find access to the right entrance and how an elderly patient missed an appointment, as she couldn’t find the main entrance. These stories amongst others became the reasoning that made us want to help. They needed insight.

Our business ultimately, is to connect users to services, in all manner of situations, from the brand of a bank, to retail service. We alleviate risk for businesses and service providers and we use design thinking to do it. We start with real people, real needs and issues, like this one. Our approach is always to come alongside the organisation to help, support and find a way forward that is both practical, budget aware and moves towards a positive outcome.

We asked these questions, which helped to inform the reasoning that led to our proposal.

What is the cost to patients and the NHS, when its service users can’t easily access or navigate a hospital service?
The time and energy it takes for patients to get into the hospital, and not actually find their way.

The confusion of finding their way to a department, and the distress of a missed appointment that have often been several months in the waiting. A missed appointment costs the hospital the consultant fee/salary, administrative costs in appointment letters can phone calls. It costs them their reputation as unable to treat and care for its patients. It may cost the NHS more for treating a problem that wasn’t looked at sooner. These are all risks that compromise good quality healthcare. Negative press is easy to stir up, especially when the feeling that a lot of money has been spent on a new development, with little thought to how the various users are going to find their way in and around it. Missed appointments, delivery vans blocking access, ambulances driving around and around… it all paints a picture which shouts out for help. Our help.

How do we reduce cost and risk to the hospital and its users?
By taking a closer and more in-depth look at the problems, we used service testing methods that revealed the real issues. Then we used workshop tools to address costs involved, cost savings, reputation, service, value and worth to the hospital.

Who are hospital service users?

  • Elderly patients attending outpatient appointments
  • Pregnant women needing the maternity ward
  • Delivery drivers delivering medical supplies to maternity unit
  • Hospital staff going to work
  • Emergency services taking patients to the emergency centre
  • Other direct and indirect users

How did we identify and represent those users?
By creating persona profiles.

What are the different problems when they try to access and navigate the hospital?
To start with we accompanied two service users; a delivery driver in his company vehicle and a pregnant woman and her partner driving in by car. Both had very different issues when accessing the hospital and navigating through it.

We documented a customer journey map with photos and noted the dialogue as they thought aloud. These revealed enough problems and issues to warrant further problem solving exercises if the hospital were willing to get involved. Our proposals involved suggestions for wayfinding both internally and externally; signage reworking and a map redesign.

What information do they have, prior to their visit, that would help them find their way?
Letters; generated by a booking system get sent out to patients to indicate the department and specific room to attend. These are useful once you are in the building and if you can understand the wayfinding tower. A map doesn’t accompany those letters.

Other service users may attempt to use a sat nav to find the building (no use as the roads have been completely changed in the area). They may look online to download a map and search for access. The current maps are illegible, blurred and based on hospital plans that have changed since the completion of the building.

How did we help them with way finding information?
We showed the beginnings of a redesigned section of the map that is used to navigate to the hospital birthing unit.

The insights revealed have been put forward to the capital project director in the planning department and the public involvement officer and are being considered for future hospital projects.

BOXPARK Shoreditch – a year down the line, is it working?

Last Sunday, a friend and I headed to Shoreditch for coffee at Translate.

Afterwards we wandered to find a gallery – Rocket, which we never did find thanks to iPhone Maps!

Shoreditch has become über cool since I last went there. In this post, I’m talking about the pop-up shop concept that is BOXPARK. Businesses are trading, but I wonder if they have missed a trick.

So, I stumble upon BOXPARK and learn how the street used to be full of local traders and often homeless folks selling the little they have on railings and the pavement. I can see that Shoreditch has started attracting an affluent crowd; media and creative types, helped along by its proximity to Brick Lane. BOXPARK may have been an attempt to overhaul the street and uplift the area to ‘up’ the brand.

It’s made up of industrial, harsh black containers, virtually on a railway bridge and nearly busting out onto a busy road junction; aesthetically it fits into the environment very well.

A walk along the container shops, thinking out loud…  Great. Small businesses, interesting products. I begin to applaud the concept for getting onside of local business. Then I struggle to adjust to the retail feeling, as I see RayBan and Nike are part of the retail outlets. What is the deal? Either these retailers have jumped on low cost rent, outdoing the local traders, or the smaller businesses are paying a huge premium of rent to be there. BOXPARK, you are playing with my senses! I am more and more disappointed as I walk along.

Then, I notice the people on the other side of the street. There are the totally not ‘media types’, those scratching for a living, on the edge of society and struggling to get by, still selling their stuff on the railings. Hmm… I feel that they may have been dealt an injustice. The fit isn’t quite right for me.

Replacing or reviving the Shoreditch scene?

I wonder that the culture and ‘down beat’ scene it tried to replace is creeping back in? You just have look over the road! Peer over your salad and espresso, go on admit it, the ‘less privileged than you’ people are still there. It’s a shame how this retail concept hasn’t tried to embrace its roots and encourage the local people to do something with their entrepreneurial spirit. Instead it looks like Shoreditch has attracted high-end brands into a trendy container shops, rather than solve matters at heart in the local community. Couldn’t it have done both?

I think they could have been a little more innovative at the planning stage. Could they have created a way to allow those original traders (that don’t fit the ‘media type’ box) to be included, helped, educated, made to feel valued in their community?

All things said, I believe that retailers have a lot to learn from the pop-up shop concept. It doesn’t matter where you plonk them (obviously), as you can generate a retail storm by creating something different.

Service Innovation Breakfasts for SMEs

Michelle will be speaking at the Torfaen SME Breakfast on February 6th 2013.

Michelle will be talking about how we at INSIGHT work towards simple services and what advantages they can bring to businesses. She’ll also be sharing her experience of working in a design and marketing company and how she sees service design and innovation having most impact in commercial situations.


For details about the event visit

Go Faster Services? Let’s slooowwww it down

Has anyone noticed a shift from automated services to human-centred ones? The recent project that we undertook for a bank made us think about this seriously. So much has been done to de-humanise the banking service for general public users in a quest for service efficiency. It’s a ‘get it done and quick’ mentality that the service providers have been trying to get right for us. I am totally on board with this, I love online banking; great. I think the app has a huge future; great. Those auto machines in branch that make you wait for your number to come up before you go to a cashier, well that’s good service – at least you can take a seat while you wait – nice of the bank to think of that for us.

But when I stop and think, I ask whether the banking industry may have been missing a trick – the human part. How can a bank remain efficient and yet still make a touchpoint with the user that creates a sense that we are still in a world where people talk and interact and that has huge VALUE? A touchpoint that we can connect with in some sense. Can our bank branches become places where real people can interact and not be confronted with such strong brand presence it overpowers everything else? Is there a place for being real and feeling at ease to handle our money? Where is the sense of place and belonging? It’s lost in the corporate world that is bank branding. I think that something can be done about it. What is the missing element in those services that are technically efficient and digitally fandabbydozy? I note that one of the high street banks is actively highlighting that customers can call up and speak to someone ‘in person’. Maybe they’ve realised the gap.

At Insight Service Design, we examine the elements and complexities of a service that are either interactional or relational. We might challenge those and innovate ideas around how to bring change for improvement. Services need to be reviewed and changed as our consumer world puts more and more value on the experience that they have. Services also need to adapt to digital solutions that need a fluid and flexible approach that allow for testing, reviewing and change.