Thinking Human – Acting Digital
Human Thinking Ltd (HT) is an innovative design agency delivering world class, cross-channel UX, design and build. We invited Founder, Rich Mumford to provide us with a thrilling overview of this dynamic and unique company, which has been elected as the London Representative of our prestigious 2018 Digital Elite.
Everyone seems to have jumped on the User Experience bandwagon in recent years. Demand for highly skilled UX practitioners has never been higher, yet a skills shortage in this domain is a very present reality. This situation has led to an influx of under skilled practitioners entering the market, ultimately delivering substandard solutions for agencies and clients alike in a space where delivering World Class Digital experiences has become a commercial imperative.
HT was conceived in 2012 as an antidote to this problem, where instead of focussing upon emerging technology as a solution looking for a problem to solve, the primary goal was to deliver Digital solutions of the very highest quality with end users’ real wants and needs at the very heart of the process.
The world is evolving at an ever increasingly rapid pace, digital has transformed the way in which we live and technology is now an everyday part of our lives. With such advancements it is easy to forget the stuff that matters. At the very heart of it all, we are still human beings with the same emotional needs and desires. Often, technology ignores this very perennial fact. Technology is an amazing toolset, but if not properly considered in a humancentred way it can often miss the mark. Instead of traditional technology-led approaches, we regard people as presenting the opportunity and technology as being the enabler. This ideology was internally dubbed as ‘Thinking Human’.
Six years on and that banner is still proudly flying high over the business and setting Human Thinking apart from its peers. It is woven into the DNA of everything that the business touches and is an integral part of its manifesto. The business has always believed that designing successful consumer experiences takes skill, but also needs to be grounded in meaningful research and insight so that the resulting service or concept is buildable, usable, measurable and, most importantly, delivers on the business imperative. HT bring a blend of brand experience design, business consultancy and formal experience architecture together to form the backbone of the business.
Human Thinking is classed as a London-based full-service User Experience agency providing research, insight and design services and was founded by Rich Mumford as a fully-fledged agency in 2012. He explores how the firm came into being and how its first, illustrious client set an exciting precedent for what was to come.
“Our very first client was in fact Google, we delivered some early concept work for the Stanley Kubrick Estate’s online archive and were then subsequently invited to work on the experience design for Google Science Fair, Google’s global online worldwide science competition. It was a really exciting time for the business.”
Since then they have worked for some of the world’s best-known brands on a wide array of different projects. Their main strength has been evident in business transformative customer-centric design – this roughly translates to the application of a flexible process that places the end consumer at the heart of the business, deeply analysing who they are, what their needs are and where the opportunities exist for the business to engage with them and deliver value. Often the output of this process provides something of an awakening for their clients, presenting a rare opportunity for genuine insightdriven business transformation.
Rather than be too rigidly driven by process, they see their offering as a more flexible, highly skilled stable of people with
well-honed toolsets, all coming together under the umbrella of seasoned discipline heads. The key value here is in the ability of the experienced individual to apply the right tools at the right times, it minimises wastage of effort and ensures economy for their client base. HT offer a wide variety of services from primary user research to detailed product specification. They also have extensive experience of planning and running mixed methodology research programmes covering quantitative and qualitative, as well as longitudinal ethnographic research.
Additionally, HT have a wealth of experience in the formal Digital design arena, covering detailed user experience design and visual / graphic design. They have delivered many Digital vision pieces, high-level concepts and working prototypes for their clients as well as market ready consumer facing products across most business verticals. They have worked with major grocery retailers, global consumer electronics manufacturers, media companies, utilities providers and academic establishments. They recently delivered a businesscritical online flight booking and management platform for a major UK airline. This covered early research, concept development, prototype development, user validation, formal UX design, visual design, front-end build and test – it was the largest single project undertaken by HT to date, and the most personally rewarding for the team and commercially successful for the client.
Each new project has to be approached with an open mind and a client focus, so that the overall outcome meets clients’ needs and exceeds their expectations, as Rich highlights.
“Typically, when we first begin a new project we are given some form of brief, sometimes really loose and sometimes quite tight and prescriptive. At this point, we always perform some form of research and insight generation, be it small and desk-based or more detailed and outbound, and always on our own time as part of a due diligence approach to our work. We use the output of this to probe the brief looking for points of validation or weakness. Additionally, we almost always find something of high value that augments the brief into something of greater worth to our client, sometimes pushing it up to the strategic level and at other times pushing it down to a more rigid, operational delivery level. Ultimately, our focus is on doing the right thing by the business and its customers – not just simply taking the brief and blindly running with it.”
As a key part of achieving this, HT constantly invests time in emerging trends and technology. Being at the leading edge of the digital revolution, the firm has to work hard to maintain its strong industry position, and working to be at the forefront of emerging developments is central, as Rich highlights.
“To ensure that we are always offering our clients innovative solutions, at HT we are always learning something. Be it a shift in consumer behaviour, interaction or technology, there is always something new to consider. The digital landscape is like a constant rolling canvas, if you don’t keep up then you quickly find yourself behind the curve. We have been actively exploring the area of IoT (Internet of Things) for over five years and it always features somewhere in our thinking. Also, we have recently started delivering VUI (Voice User Interface – think Siri or Alexa) solutions for our clients. Regarding VUI design, the principles are still the same as for traditional interface design, it’s just applied via a different medium and therefore has slightly augmented rules. Fundamentally, we are still human beings with the same set of needs, desires, hopes and limitations that we have always had.”
Looking to the future, HT has many exciting developments ahead. As part of their annual Digital review, they have drafted six trends for Digital design likely to be seen in late 2018, which they are keen to adapt around. Firstly, HT believes that channel agnostic design is becoming a basic requirement – service design should now be conducted across multiple channels as standard, rather than approaching touchpoints in isolation. Additionally, the importance of design strategy is set to increase, with seemingly more varied touchpoints, the need for a well thought out design strategy is key to ensure that brand, interaction patterns and services are applied consistently and appropriately.
User experience and visual design are set to become more specialised with the continued fragmentation of skillsets. Also, more specific roles will emerge within niche design areas, and project methodologies will continue to evolve in order to meet the challenges of lean UX methodology shortfalls and the end of traditional User Interface design as a separate step. The
team also anticipate that they will see an emerging demand for intelligent machine interface design. This will go beyond the visual and interactive and push design into the semantic realm.
Finally, HT expect to see an increase in VUI design activity and associated emerging mediums. All of these developments offer a myriad of exciting opportunities for this proactive and experienced team, and over the months to come they will seek to take advantage of them so that they can continue to offer clients a truly exceptional service that they can rely upon.
Phone: 0203 289 8008