Designs of the Year 2015

That time again. My yearly reflection on my trip to the Designs of the Year show is as much a routine as the trip itself.

Here’s a categorised list of my highlights.

Design of the Year 2015

Close to home problem solving design
  • Double O theft-proof bike lights.  Simple, safe and secure.
  • Sabi Space from the Map Project Office – space-saving/curating shelves & storage. Need some of this for my space-lacking flat.
  • Disclosed – an app to help over-privileged people (like me) with the time and money to make informed choices about the food they eat by monitoring things like miles travelled, fat content and relative organic-ness. A service design project from a RCA student with a very rough prototype, but a neat idea nonetheless.

Kano DIY computer building kit

Slightly inappropriate use of design
Moocall sensor in situ
  • In this case by putting good intentions above being ever-so-slightly intrusive. The Moocall calf-birthing sensor alerts farmers to the crucial moment by sending them an SMS. Privacy is overrated.
  • Also, the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign that normalises abnormal shaped vegetables with the jolly fine aim of reducing waste of said outcast plants. Heart warming. Run by a French supermarche. Cute.
Design beauty
  • The Switch Light for Hay – no need for a switch when the design includes this feature.
  • Beautiful illustrations for the Kenzopedia – certainly not saving the world but definitely nice to look at.
Too much time to think design
  • The Extrapolation Factory – 99 Cents project. Future pound shop stuff imagined and then sold for one day only. In Brooklyn, of course.
  • The Walls Have Eyes – from the good folk at the BBC R&D, reminding us how scary surveillance is. Or something.
Winner, winner
  • I couldn’t argue with the absolutely genius winner. Human Organs on Chips grows human tissues on microchips allowing drug testing to be done without the need for real human organs. They join up chips to represent the full physiological state. Incredible, incredible.

Not so much

  • This year’s trip also reminded that I don’t seem to get that inspired by fashion and cars.

26. July 2015 by SharonAnneKean
Categories: Day Job, Tripz | Leave a comment

Future of the London Underground

A good excuse for a field trip. UX team visit to the enviable office of Studio Egret West in Clerkenwell to see their work on the future vision for the London Underground.

Many beautiful things including tiles and textures, maps and categories, and a craft beer pump in the office!

Design map of the London Underground

Best bit – the design-centred tube map which groups the stations by the era and designer responsible for them. Beautiful. And a great resource for any design tourist in London.

The output of the whole thing was essentially a massive style guide. And some crazy illustrations. And some conceptual stations.

Stdio Egret Design Principles

06. June 2015 by SharonAnneKean
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Award-winning service design

I’m going to claim some glory. The digital product/service I’ve been working on for the past year-and-a-half just won a best in class award.

I joined peer-to-peer lending start-up Zopa at the start of 2014 and spent most of last year helping to improve its personal loans product.

So, it’s great to hear that our users (customers, if you prefer) voted us Best Personal Loan Provider at the Moneyfacts awards.

Selection criteria included ease of use, customer experience, as well of course the great value for money thing too.

If you’re interested in the commercial side of things too, you’ll see the product is selling pretty well, too.

Congratulations also to Zopa’s excellent customer service team who took the award with their team name on it.


Moneyfacts AwardsScreen Shot 2015-06-06 at 21.18.37

06. June 2015 by SharonAnneKean
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Design of the Year 2014

I finally made it to the excellent Design of the Year 2014 exhibition at the Design Museum.

My favourites.


Chineasy characters

Illustrated dictionary helping people learn to read Chinese. The designs incorporate Chinese characters in up to 80% of the available space, mixing humour and beautifulness to help people learn a foreign language.

I want to give the West a real understanding and knowledge so that people can understand China and appreciate Chinese culture via their own eyes rather than layers of packaging, manipulation or loss in translation.” ShaoLin Hsueh

Chineasy book


City Mapper

City Mapper display at Design of the Year show


  • Making cities usable
  • Get me somewhere
  • A new way to see cities
  • Get me home


Lego Calendar

Playfulness meets efficient business management. Making time more tangible.

Take a photograph of the wall-mounted analogue calendar and send it to a special email and the digital version updates. Best thing since lego + car motors.

Lego calendar



Also liked:

The Bradley Timepiece (an aesthetically pleasing tactile watch for blind people)

75 Watt (a choreographed celebration of mass manufacture centred on an object designed solely for that dance)

Hello Lamp Post (an app design to spark conversations around postboxes and telegraph poles in Bristol)

Rick Owens ‘Vicious’ Spring/Summer ’14 fashion show (an aggressive fashion presentation challenging the dull/nasty industry norms)


And, finally:

Well done (again*) to Australia for winning the prize for best simultaneous use of bad taste and good intention.

This year’s Dumb Ways To Die is a ‘viral public safety video’ about the dangers of messing with the metro. A bit like Southpark’s Who Killed Kenny but  x 5,000 and actually meant for children.

* Among last year’s finalists was the design for the Australian cigarette packet (now enforced across brands by law). It features the most visually unappealing colour (Pantone 448C, a sort of olive green), san serif block caps warnings about the baby-killing tendencies of smoking and a picture of said smokey baby clinging on to life. Nice.

Australian cigarette packets

11. August 2014 by SharonAnneKean
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Financial product management: an insider’s guide

This is a blog post I wrote about working in the finance sector for the 10 Digital Ladies network.

When I got a job as a Product Manager at Zopa (a peer-to-peer finance start-up) I wondered whether my complete lack of financial experience would hold me back. I couldn’t have explained the concept of Annual Percentage Rate, or told you what a Representative Example was, or even pretended to understand a conversation about markets.

At Zopa we run an online platform that matches people with money (lenders) to people who want a loan (borrowers). By bringing together those two groups of people we remove the need for a bank or building society, and offer a more efficient and (hopefully) better value service.

But surely if you’re designing an experience that centres on money, you need to understand how the things that make money work, work, right? Wrong.

I quickly realised that the people who use financial products are no different to you, me or pretty much anyone else we know. They are just regular people, with attitudes, beliefs and goals. And the things they choose to do reflect those attitudes, beliefs and goals. Like any normal person they research and evaluate before making a transaction and becoming a customer. And like many normal people they have questions and need support when using a product.

One of the first things I did when I joined Zopa was to work out exactly who was the target audience for a Zopa loan (I work on the borrower side of the business). The result of that piece of work is ‘Borrower Rob’, a persona representing a pretty average type of guy, who just happens to want to get a loan. As well as informing pretty much every decision I’ve made at Zopa since, Rob also reminded me that designing products or experiences is not a sector-specific skill.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it probably helps that ‘I don’t do finance’.

At Zopa we try our best to clearly explain our service, tell customers what to expect and provide answers to the questions that we know they will have. We do this in Plain English and use accessible and user-centric design principles to create a digital experience that works for our audience.

We don’t use jargon or marketing puff, we don’t hide facts or conceal details in small print and we are completely open and honest about what we do and how we do it. Sound familiar? Probably not in the financial sector.

Perhaps most importantly, we listen to our customers feedback and comments and use that insight to help us improve and refine what we do.

Anyone who’s worked as a UXer or product type job could well be rolling their eyes and saying, ‘oh, that’s obvious’ but the financial sector remains a hotbed of awful UX and obnoxious jargon. It’s everywhere!

Knowing your audience (or customers) is one thing but listening to them is quite another. Especially if you think you know better. Treating non-financial people like financial experts may sound like an ridiculous thing to do, but there are plenty of people out there creating terrible products by doing just that.

Being a non-financial person designing a financial product actually makes my job easier. And, before you ask, I do now know what a Representative Example is but still wince when explaining Annual Percentage Rates and tend to avoid conversations about markets. The key to product or service design is knowing people, not sector-specific knowledge.

22. July 2014 by SharonAnneKean
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FutureBookHack. Life’s a beach

Just back after a mini break (from reality). I’ve spent the weekend at the FutureBookHack – a bit like the one I did about hacking to beat cancer last year but for the publishing world.

The challenge: trying to rethink how to inspire people to read more.

Well, that was the way I approached it.

I feel more attached to the idea of reading than the idea of books. Although I do really love books. They’re like trophies that stand as talismans for the mighty endeavour that is finishing a book. They’re also nice to have and hold and gradually wear in as you discover the contents.

They also look great on a shelf.

But for the purposes of this event the thing for me was reading, and how you might be able to inspire people to do more of it.

My completely self-centred take on this was to think about the thing I like doing even more than reading (usually) – listening to music.

For me, records, tapes and CDs became, iTunes and Spotify over the course of 20 years and now all six of those things come together make up my musical equivalent of a bookshelf.

The things that really struck me when I started thinking about this was that the way I listen to music has evolved, a lot. But the way I read hasn’t.

Digital, digital, digital and paper. Data, data, data and print. Completely imbalanced.

Well, not quite. This weekend I discovered Nielson (not Jacob), ONIX and OpenLibrary. Books do have a digital footprint and so do their sales, prices and points of sale. But there’s no equivalent of an iTunes library or a Spotify playlist. At least not on the same scale.

So, back to the hack day.

It was full of publishers and bookish types (Penguin tote bag, anyone?). Full of programmers. And a few design types too. A good mix, and as someone pointed out, 40% female (which is possibly some sort of record).

And some of the ideas were truly amazing. Everything from tablet-told stories with changeable moods and smart search tools that can turn ‘that red cover book with the man in a hat’ type queries into meaningful search results. There was the book equivalent of the Bat Phone and a pop-up book that triggered digital content when it was opened. Wow.

Like I said, my approach was to look outside the sector to try to inspire more people to get excited by reading. The basic idea was matching songs to books to create a suggestion engine that gives you clever tips about what books to read.


We created a prototype to explore some of the 1,000-or-so ideas we came up with over the weekend. Plenty of refinement needed.

I still love the idea and while the adrenalin is still flowing I’m committing myself to try to pursue it in some way, shape or form. Any takers? I’ve got some *interesting* ideas about how to connect the songs with books…

Here’s a slight refinement of the idea.

We didn’t quite nail the data-meets-tech bit (relying on some slightly unhealthy stereotypes to create content) but as I sit back and relax my brain after a weekend of intense thinking and complete escapism from normality (or, work) I have a thousand crazy ideas flying around my head about how mixing music and books could turn on a few new lights. Great.

What’s really great is that my mind’s completely relaxed and recovered and ready for the start of another working week. Who needs beaches?

15. June 2014 by SharonAnneKean
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Hello, alternative finance and Zopa

3 months in feels like a good time to reflect.

I joined Zopa in the first days of 2014 not really knowing anything about either finance or what it’s like to work for a start-up. Both good reasons for joining a peer-to-peer lending company.

The familiar bit – or so I thought – was that I would be doing a product job.

So, how’s it going? 

I’ve learned the difference between borrowing and lending (very important, and always to be confused with loans and savings, or was it savings and loans…)

I’ve seen more ideas get released to live in 1 week than I did in quite a lot longer than 1 week elsewhere. Which is fun, for someone who likes instant gratification. It’s a bit like the Polaroid version of product managering.

I really miss my Cancer Research UK colleagues.

There’s a lot of enthusiasm for new ideas, new stuff, new, new, new. Great.

There’s a lot of emails.

I’m just about getting used to feeling like the person that keeps asking ‘what’s the process for…’ (which is the polar opposite of what I said about process before)

There’s a lot of freedom to just do stuff. But there’s also a lot of stuff to do, and not very many people to do it. I’m pretty busy. But I believe in the cause, so that’s OK.

There’s all the challenges that come with getting used to a new team, a new product and a new office. Which is cool. I like challenge.

I’m pretty certain that I wont be able to predict what I’d be writing about if I did this again in 3 months time. Which is exciting.

10. March 2014 by SharonAnneKean
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Leaving Cancer Research UK and Race for Life

Just a quick one, here.

Two things I’m very proud of having worked on are now live and helping people to raise lots of money for a very good cause.

1. The Race for Life website

with it’s brand new content, super sharp SEO and it’s user-centric multi-device friendly registration form

(I hear conversion is through the roof)

2. The Race for Life app

with it’s slick user journeys, amazing content and generally beautiful digital design

Race for Life website screenshotRace for Life app screenshot

Two months after leaving Cancer Research and probably the best team I’ve ever had the privilege to work with, it’s great to see both of these things doing so well.

The stuff you can’t see online is equally amazing – the KPI framework we designed to make our targets matter, the multiple teams that now work together and share stuff (most of the time) and the explosion of Agile and rabbit-like multiplication of Product Managers.

Quite fitting that the flagship product has a flagship product culture. Most of the time.

Wait there. Why did I ever leave?

05. March 2014 by SharonAnneKean
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Cancer Research UK Hackathon

Where did the weekend go?

Spent hacking some bright ideas to make more money for Cancer Research UK.

Great fun to be making Things, it’s been a while.

Things I learned

  • Photoshop CS6 is really different to CS4, especially when you’ve used neither for 2 years
  • User journeys are GREAT for bringing big teams together
  • Axure is rubbish for collaborative working / demo-ing
  • Mock-ups / lo-fi designs make quick decisions
  • They are also amazing at helping you get your own way influence ideas
  • How things look is really important (knew that already)
  • Code (and people who know how to write) it is King
  • Technology-led campaigns need to become a Thing
  • The view from the 39th floor is amazing but easy to ignore when you’re busy / having fun

Some pictures showing what went down up (we were on the 39th floor).

Hackathon plan of actionHackathon morning view from the 39th floorCanary Wharf6Hackathon presentation notesHackathon digital user journeyHackathon page takeoverHackathon sunsetMyMarathon

22. September 2013 by SharonAnneKean
Categories: Day Job, Make Stuff | Leave a comment

20 tweet guide to creating the perfect online form

keep it short, simple and easy to complete. design to reassure and build trust. don’t surprise or challenge people. reward their efforts.

  • make it easy to fill for mobile and tablet users. fastest growing audience. think web traffic 2years ago. expect growth at an alarming pace.
  • in-line validation. let people know immediately if they’ve not given you the right info. clearly explain the problem and how to fix it.
  • label fields clearly. don’t make people have to think about what information to give, it should be obvious.
  • make error messages easy to understand. if you want a mobile phone number without country code then show people an example.
  • use cookies to remember field contents. minimise what people have to do to complete your form and give you the information you need.
  • include product information on summary/confirm pages. people want to know what they are paying or signing up for. reassure them it is there.
  • anticipate and deal with common errors. if you need their email address twice then make it clear. even better make it clear why.
  • don’t clear fields after user error. if you don’t understand how annoying this is then you are in the wrong job. go employ a UX person now.
  • make forms short. people are busy and impatient. filling in forms is not fun. don’t make it harder than it has to be or you will lose people
  • make forms fun. not easy but humour at the right moment could make the whole experience a bit more tolerable. or not. careful here.
  • give people feedback at the end. especially if you’ve just asked them to pay. no one likes sending details/money into the ether. it’s scary.
  • mobile UX. thumb-friendly buttons, scan-able spacing, minimise user input. yet to meet anyone who finds it easy to type on a smartphone.
  • disable auto suggest for mobile and tablet users. your name and email are not in the dictionary. auto suggest won’t help you.
  • serve the right touchscreen keypad. who needs letters when you’re being asked for your mobile phone number? and where’s that @ symbol…
  • reduce decisions to a minimum. forms are for transactions not selling extras. people have committed just make it easy for them to get there.
  • use descriptive wording / actions on buttons to be clear and reassuring. don’t make people worry/wonder about committing / paying.
  • use a progress bar. ensure people always know where they are, what they have done and where they are going. reassurance builds trust.
  • if it’s secure then make it look secure. padlock symbols and reassuring wording works. it’s the internet, it’s scary. make it less scary.

19. July 2013 by SharonAnneKean
Categories: Day Job | Leave a comment

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