Four elements of solid insight

Read about how we combine robust analytics with a healthy dose of creativity.

Written by:

Åsmund Eikenes


Leader for Content Design

August 14, 2023

In order to understand people and see the whole in our design projects, we need a solid data base and accurate analyses. In this way, we gain insight that gives power and direction to the design choices we make together.

Here are the most central activities we use in large design projects:

1. To be where it happens

We love meeting people to find out what they are interested in, what they need and how they feel.

Sometimes we go to a construction site to understand more about how sustainable urban development happens in practice. At other times, we are allowed to shadow a single nurse to experience a working day at an elderly center from start to finish. And sometimes we get to be with a submarine on a mission along the Norwegian coast.

An important part of fieldwork is the ability to observe and take notes, and we use our experience to see everyday life and situations as they are experienced. We notice things that work well, and systems that make it difficult to work safely and efficiently. We see challenges, connections and opportunities, and use design methods to improve everyday working life and develop the systems that support them.

In most projects, it is wise to build on previous experience and good advice from professionals. We also talk to experts from other fields to get the latest news from the research front and see the big picture.

2. The good conversation

As designers, we have our own ability to be curious about most things between heaven and earth. Sometimes we let the conversation flow from one thing to another, and other times we follow a carefully planned script. Sometimes we talk one-on-one, and other times we gather in small and medium-sized groups.

Most often, we conduct the conversations as what we call semi-structured in-depth interviews . Then we get the answers we need to proceed systematically in the analysis, while at the same time giving the informants room to share their sides of the case. The flexibility gives both room for the diversity of viewpoints and experiences, but helps us to cover the central topics we need to understand the situation and the people.

3. See what happens - together

It is very effective to see the challenges instead of just talking about them. We often use line figures, arrows, icons to show how users experience a product, a service or a challenge as a journey from start to finish. The result is user journeys and service flows that show contact points and relationships between people, products and systems.

At other times, we need to look up even more, and map out how several small systems are connected. Then we draw large maps that fill the entire wall of the meeting room, to see relationships, bottlenecks and dependencies that affect important and complex areas of society. The maps can both show how a detail belongs in the big picture and where we need to understand the situations better, while the graphic elements help to highlight the most important findings.

4. Analyze adapted to the data and the context

To analyze input, ideas and suggestions on post-it notes and other objects we have created together in work meetings, we usually use visual methods to sort and group the data together . We form a larger picture of the whole, and get a rich description of the problems we investigate.

To analyze data material from in-depth interviews, we can also use the method called thematic analysis . Thematic analysis is very suitable for discovering underlying themes that lie between the lines of what the participants say, and helps us to answer the questions we have asked well. More often than not, we discover new contexts and spaces to explore new possibilities.

Sometimes we also use specialist expertise in the fields to analyze the data we collect in line with the theoretical framework within the field. It could, for example, be the OODA loop to evaluate decisions in critical situations, or AT ONE to map services in the light of the users' experiences in a given service course.    

And when it's useful to answer our questions, we collect and analyze large data sets. We use data from website usage patterns, survey responses and user test data to build an accurate overall picture of the situation. And then we make choices about direction, create new sketches, test and adjust.

Insights that matter

With solid insight work at the bottom, we can explore new opportunities that have value for users. Our experience is that good insight work gives accurate ideas with a great effect on the services and the users' experience.

Therefore, our ambition is for the insight to provide a solid basis for choosing direction and priorities.

Åsmund Eikenes
Leader for Content Design