How simpler labels boosted promotions, improved health and reduced price sensitivity!

This is a really interesting article by Cognitive Lode that outlines the power of simplicity of nutritional labelling. Something that I feel quite strongly about…

Inside the article you’ll learn how

  • Reducing product information helped strengthen a retailer’s price, promotion and user experience​​
  • A design-led relabelling strategy improved promotional effectiveness by 73% and reduced price sensitivity by 19%
  • You can create a win-win brand strategy that supports both your customers’ goals and your own financial aspirations
  • Click the image or the link below to read the full article.

    Source: ????The power of simplicity

Project update on ‘I will work for free’

Way back in May I blogged about working for free, in return for charitable donations to charities of my choice.

Talentpool Recruitment in Sydney responded with a brief of work to redesign their website. Since then, we have had a kick-off meeting to determine the projects goals. But to get things started I fleshed out a research plan to get the project underway.

Identifying the 3 sectors

We’ve identified the 3 sectors that the project will need to focus on:

  • Talent (Designers, Developers)
  • Hiring Businesses (Managers, Directors)
  • Other Recruiters (Other agents)

We started with a basic problem statement “How can recruiters better serve these 3 sectors”.

A refreshing project

This is such an unusual project for me, as there’s a real sense that we are doing something somewhat different. Usually there’s a client screaming somewhere in the background, that needs to be managed. But because this is a charitable project, and I am super busy with the NSW Department of Justice at the moment, I can really only offer 8-10 hours a month – there’s a really nice understanding and balance with the guys.

Another one of my side-projects, is taking shape, and we’re doing some quantitative research soon. Early stage research has highlighted that emerging user experience and service design talent are struggling to get a break and find mentors, and get experience. When I mentioned this to Talentpools’ Johanna Peirce, she straight away introduced me to super cool dude, Brendon Boulous, who is going to shadow me at my interviews, and workshops.

Brendon is new to the industry so I figured it’s a good opportunity for me to get to know Brendon and help him, but it’s also a good opportunity for Talentpool to get involved with helping emerging talent break into the industry.

We have a few interviews locked in over the next week or two, so will update you with our findings in due course.

4 of my favourite design tools

Here’s some of my favourite design tools that I have been using recently. You may know them already, but wanted to share anyway…

service design smaply

Mind Meister

This is an (oldie but goodie) awesome tool for brainstorming, tracking ideas etc. If you want to sign up, you can use this code (I get a discount on my monthly subscription for each member that signs up #winning!).

Persona, and customer journey mapping tool. From the guys who brought us This is Service Design Thinking book. I’m actually working with the guys with some testing of their latest release, and it is awesome. Well worth the investment if you or your organisation are doing some serious service designing.

Flinto for Mac

I loved this application when it was browser based, but now it’s native and much more advanced. Let the good times roll!

Principle for Mac (by Facebook)

Awesome prototyping tool!


Charitable donation project update

In May, I wrote an article about working for free, that seemed to resonate quite well with a lot of people.

A few days after, I had a call from Brian & Trevor at Talentpool Recruitment who wanted to speak to me in more detail about the structure of how this might work for them. (To be honest, I hadn’t really gone into the granular level of detail on how it might work in terms of payment and impact on tax etc.).

I’m delighted to say that today, work commences on their new site! I will document the entire re-design process on my blog but wanted to keep people posted on what has been happening.

They have just made a $2,000 donate to the The Kids Cancer Project. We’ll make further donations to further charities over the duration of the project.

Sketching like a pro

At the recent panel talk at Vivid Sydney, I highlighted the importance of being able to sketch ideas. I strongly believe the connection between sketching (pen and paper) and problem solving go hand in hand. You can obviously use other methods, but for me, sketching will always win out, as it’s the quickest method of getting ideas out of your head, and onto paper for you to build upon.

I would love to see more people use this method as part of their day to day jobs, but unfortunately I hear from people “I can’t draw” or “I leave that up to the creatives”. I’m here to help you get the basics down, so you too can sketch and get ideas generated with ease. So with that, let’s get started.

What is sketching?

First of all, sketching is not drawing. Drawing is a different discipline altogether, where I’ve always felt leaned more towards creating a visually appealing piece of work. Sketching on the other hand, is 100% about problem solving. It allows you to work quickly through an idea and capture it, and is usually quite lo-fidelity.

The basics

So let’s get into it. Before we begin, you will need a few things to get started:

  1. A pencil and pencil sharpener
  2. Some paper – bigger is better (I usually use A3)
  3. A pen (to begin with this can be a Bic pen or a sharpie)

So as you can see, it’s quite non-technical. It’s the bare bones. Don’t get fooled into thinking buying the most expensive gear will make you a better person. We’re here to nail the basics – so keep it simple.

Loosen up

So stretch out your arms, and hands by clasping, and unclasping. I know it’s not seen as a strenuous activity, but it’s still important to loosen the muscles up, as this allows us to create drawings that flow. It’s super important to get into the right mindset, so try and be calm, and relaxed. Focus on the fact that by doing this, you will get better and improve. It make time, but every time you sketch, you will get better at it.

Now you’re loosened up, let’s get cracking and start making lines.

HOT TIP: Holding the pencil?

There’s no right or wrong way to hold a pencil. Whatever works for you, and feels “right”. But you should try and focus on not holding the pencil too “tight” as this can tend to make you lean heavier. Your pencil should glide across the paper, and not really make imprints on the pages below it.

Exercise #1 – “Dots”

Start off by drawing dots on a page. Initially start off by drawing two dots that are close together, then try and draw a line joining the two dots. I start off by drawing a “pyramid of dots” and join all the lines at once.

page with dots on it


This exercise is great at forcing you to gain more accuracy with your lines, and helps strengthen your hand to eye co-ordination. I do this everytime before I start working (or if I’m “zoning” out in meetings! Yes. It sometimes happens 😉


The method I use is building up drawings from pencil first, then pen, then applying markers. This works when you’re trying to create assets for reuse in presentations, but if you’re just problem solving, then feel free to use whatever medium works best for you.


Exercise #2 – “Circles”

When I was studying industrial design, we learned “rendering” from our tutor, but we also learned and swotted over Dick Powell’s book “Presentation Techniques”. A lot of Dick’s methods were around using circles to form structures, so as a result, I place strong emphasis on practicing circles. This exercise is good as it should force you to “open up your shoulder” and not draw with your wrist.

page with circles on it

Start off by doing quick circles on the page, again focussing on letting your pencil glide over the page, and not making indentations on the pages below. Don’t try and place too much emphasis on creating perfect circles that are beautifully formed, but try and create quick suggestive lines that will come together when you rotate to create a circular shape.

Exercise #3 – “Concepting Emotions”

The end goal for us here to have people sketch out a story that is engaging for the end user to use. In order to do this, you are going to have to get good a sketching a few core elements. These elements will get you to a level of core competence that should (in theory!) gain you some sketch cred!

We will focus on creating quick sketches of emotions. The basics are joy, fear, frustration, and anger.This exercise works best with some post-its, and with another person. The goal should be to create 10 post-its of each emotion in 1 minute. (e.g 40 post its in 4 minutes! It’s not easy!)

example sketch of a face

If you are on your own, you can take photos of yourself with your webcam or phone “doing” the emotion, and refer to them when trying to visualise the emotion. This is a super exercise to get you thinking visually on how to depict fears that you will need to convey in your sketches.

What we will work with in the next tutorial:

  • Arrows (to help show process, and next steps)
  • Computers, phones, tablets and laptops (to help demonstrate interactions)
  • Cars (to show real world transportation)
  • Real world (offices, buildings)

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I will work for free

I feel privileged to be doing what I am doing day to day. Not many people know this, but as a new born, I was pretty sick and if it wasn’t for the care and attention at Crumlin Childrens Hospital in Dublin (a partially Government funded hospital then, and still is to this day) I may not have made it.

Charitable past

In 2002 and 2003 I raised e8500 for the hospital doing various fun things, like running a mini marathon in Ireland as a women, shaving my head (the irony isn’t lost on me today!), hosting quiz nights and raffles etc. In January 2005, I organised a sold-out concert with 13 of Irelands best up and coming songwriters, and raised e4 for the Tsunami disaster.

This was an amazing experience, and something I’m really glad I did. It opened my eyes to how amazing the Irish people were when it came to putting their hands in their pockets. I also learned a valuable insight into how amazing it felt to just work for free and work towards helping a great cause. It honestly felt amazing.

Music Box

In 2009-2010 I did everything almost humanly possible to get a charity off the ground called Music Box for Life in Ireland. The plan was to get 50 Irish artists to donate an MP3 and sell it as a digital pack download for e10. Licensing and legality eventually bit us, and it never saw the light of day unfortunately.

I spent hundreds of hours trying to get Music Box for Life off the ground with some key Irish music industry people, but in the end we had to call time on it. In retrospect it was probably a good thing, as later than year Spotify entered the market, and devalued music globally. So I am not sure how successful the venture would have been.


So this brings me to today. I’m super busy with work, pretty healthy and (most days!) enjoying a great life with my amazing wife.

I get hit up a lot for additional design and consultancy work, but resist most of the time as my current role takes up a lot of my time/energy. But I had a brainwave recently, and wanted to try something out.

“I am proposing to try out for 6 months free consultancy/design in exchange for a charitable donation to a charity of my choice.

What do you think? Good idea/bad idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this –

Examples of some of the work I am available for:

User-experience Design

  • User script creation
  • User interviews
  • Persona development
  • Wireframe creation
  • Workshop facilitation

UI design work

  • Mobile design
  • Interface design
  • Interaction design

Design Consultancy

  • Start-up validation
  • Setting up a website
  • Brand/Styleguide guidelines
  • Pattern Library creation

Note: I have 8-10 hours free each month and work will be completed on weekends/evenings. If you know of someone who might be interested, please pass this page on to them.

Interested? Then please feel free to get in touch.

Update: Read the exciting update to this post

Vivid Ideas Event Sydney

Delighted to be on the stage with some great people, speaking about working in digital design. May 28th at Fishburners, Ultimo. It’s free, so get your tickets now!

Nn the panel that night are:

  • Eduardo Kranz, CX Lead, SMS MT
  • Buzz Usborne, Head of Design, Campaign Monitor
  • Jonathan Clegg, UX & Design Lead, Bupa
  • Kate Linton, Experience Design Principle, ThoughtWorks
  • Gerry Scullion – UX Lead, CBA

Source: Design Your Future: Making the Transition to Digital Design – Presented by GA for Vivid Ideas Event | Sydney | General Assembly

My learnings from running a beachside Swarm

Whilst at MYOB, we ran a very successful UX and UI swarm in Avalon Beach. We did this as we needed to get offsite to break some of the corporate habits the business had inherited over the years.

So what’s a Swarm? A swarm is an intense gathering of the core people (who get stuff done) on a project, with a view to getting through large amounts of work in a short amount of time.

Now, granted Swarms can be seen to be disruptive to the flow of a project, especially if it’s done in the middle of sprints as it was at MYOB. But when done right, can catapult you into pole project position. Ah look at that, a little bit of alliteration.


At MYOB, I’d been looking for an opportunity to execute this idea, but the thoughts of going to source a location, get all the supplies, move the team up there, get approval and budget etc. was a little bit off-putting. But I knew that my friends at Domain had recently done something up in Avalon, and was blown away by what they had achieved in such a short space of time, in a great location that was not too far from the city (50 minutes north) at Avalon Beach, that had a decent wiFI set up.

So rather than go looking for somewhere, I managed to get the name of the house from Damon at Fairfax, and rented it directly. This saved us a massive amount of time and effort “searching” for a suitable abode!

Before we left, I created a shopping list of items we knew were going to need. These included:

  • 20  X Post-it books
  • 3 X A2 sketch pads
  • 20 X Sharpies
  • 1 X Blu-Tac pack
  • 1 X Box of tricks with markers
  • 1 X 27″ iMac
  • 4 X Power-Boards
  • 1 X Apple TV for HDMI presentations
  • 1 X Telstra Broadband wiFI

Arriving at Avalon

The success of this Swarm was down to one thing – allowing for organic collaboration amongst the team. Giving people the room they needed to work as effectively as they could. This was going to take a strong team effort, and no one person was going to make or break it.

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So before we did anything, we defined each persons role in the Swarm and also defined what our achievable goal was for the 3 days and 3 nights away. You need to do this. You need to set an end-goal. Once we did that, we worked back on what we could realistically achieve by the end of each day.

Forming small teams

Once we knew where we were going, we split the groups into teams. We had 9 people in total with us, including the Product Owner.  So we split into 2 teams/streams of work. Each team consisted of:

  • 1 x Business Analyst
  • 1 X User Experience Consultant
  • 1 X Project Manager

Basic Daily Structure

  • Morning Session
  • Pre-Lunch Session
  • Lunch
  • Post lunch Session
  • Break
  • Afternoon Session
  • Break
  • Evening Session

Day 1

On day 1, we were still really uncovering things. By the end of the day, we had still managed to get through quite a bit of work, but our goal of achieving a designed prototype to validate with users was beginning to elude us. But not to be too disheartened, we celebrated the success of getting through what was still a big amount of work. We stopped working at around 9pm, had a big BBQ and downed some well earned beers.

Day 2

Following on from the mini-success of the first day, we started as we left off from the previous day. But in hindsight, we should have changed things up a little bit, and each moved onto a new stream of work. I guess a certain amount of complacency started to kick in, and the problems or hurdles that we faced in the office started to emerge. This was the slowest day of the 3 1/2 days that we were away, and if I felt the goal was eluding me after Day 1, I started to feel it a little bit more after Day 2. But in saying that, we still managed to get through a decent amount of work. But one thing started to happen, that hadn’t happened before – the teams started to click.

Day 3

The structure we had in place was working, but it wasn’t really allowing for a successful flow of work. Each of the “sessions” was in effect a sprint, but the time block was too long. Meaning that after 2-3 hours the teams would present back to the other team members, and if we had suggestions for improvements it would always involve rework. In any other circumstance this would probably be deemed fine or part of the process, but when you’re in a swarm, these inefficiencies are massively magnified.

So, what did we do? We reduced the “sprints” to 1-hour. After the hour, we have a review of the work, and provide feedback. By doing this, we removed the chance of the team going down routes of inefficiencies. We were able to raise problems, and solve problems in real time. Once we did this, something amazing started to happen. Communication went through the roof, and we were producing work that was tangible and solution driven. The best part of this was, everyone was involved, and was group-collaboration at its fullest. Everyone felt a sense of ownership.


By the end of Day 3, we’d managed to get through probably the same amount of work as Day 1 and Day 2 combined. By moving to 1-hour sprints, we worked at the fullest capacity. It was demanding, but really really enjoyable. Would I suggest running all 3 days with 1-hour sprints in place? I’m not so sure.

Days 1 and 2 were like intense research sessions in hindsight, and by having that time, we were able to nail Day 3 with the 1-hour sprints.

Everything clicked. Literally, like prototype we created (sorry bad joke!), and was successfully presented back to the Senior Stakeholders on the Friday. It was a great exercise in team building, and a great opportunity to show just how effective successful collaboration can be when done right.


Special thanks to the amazing UX/UI team at MYOB Sydney, Kapil and Phil, and the great Rob Cameron for their stellar effort at the Avalon Swarm.

Check them out on Dribbble.

Roy Arrellano – UI Designer

Arlen McCarthy – UX Designer

Matt Hurley – UX Designer

Peter O’Dwyer – UI Designer

Joshua Kelly – Front-end development ninja