Qual research is often part of a much bigger and longer process, be it developing a new product, creating an ad or segmenting customers. So it’s satisfying when you see something you have worked on come to fruition. I’ve really enjoyed working with Swedish design agency Pond on a couple of projects now, ethnographic work looking at how people really use products and tools and helping find ways to improve them. I’ve just come across videos Pond and their end client Snickers made about the tradespersons’ gloves innovation work we did together a few years ago – I did the British interviews and creative development groups for them. Here they are: Snickers work gloves – Pond design video.
It’s a good example of how ethnographic work can lead to a big insight and, more importantly, a genuinely new and better kind of product. The insight on work gloves was a simple but radical one (watch the video!). It came through getting tradespeople to talk about and show us what their handling and grip issues were, callouses and all. It turned out, gloves were one of those issues that generated really strong views among tradespeople, but which just did not get discussed in detail in normal working life. You could see the potential for innovation immediately: this was crying out “unmet need”.
It’s not always the most talked about issue which is the most important one. Careful probing, observation and (here’s the key) lots and lots of analysis and creative thinking is how you make a product design breakthrough like this. It helps that Pond have razor sharp research-savvy designers who “get” end-users. But crucially even they realise, you have to do the legwork, you have to watch and listen and you have to think hard. You have to immerse yourself in the complexities of real life before you can distil something simple.