Embedding Design into a Small Organization

Client: Unchain.io

Date: 2019
Duration: 6 months


Project type:

Key Activities:

The client, Unchain.io is a validated and funded small company that bridges business software with various types of blockchain networks.

The starting point for my work was a high fidelity prototype – a technical demonstrator. The predominant attitude was “we will open it up for feedback only when it works and is ready”.

The project’s goal was to upgrade the usefulness (relevance) and usability (user-friendliness) of the digital platform.

My work consisted of two parallel tracks:

Key Takeaways (~1 min read)

Instead of being experts, assuming the perspective of a beginner

By cultivating a humble and empathetic mindset the team became more open to rapid prototyping and validation:

  • bringing assumptions to the surface
  • getting closer to building the right thing
  • saving costs and helping team dynamics by avoiding walking down unnecessary paths

Why are people resisting reality-testing their ideas with the target audience ?

Are they trying to avoid being perceived as annoying? Are they defending against criticism and damaged reputation?

Ecosystem map

Tangible props helped engage people who wouldn’t normally sketch

A Participative approach in a multi-stakeholder environment

When applied well, participative sessions save cost because feedback is given in real time, when it can still be useful.

This approach helps motivate colleagues and builds buy-in (having a stake, feeling listened).

πŸ” A Process with Iterations

Asking “what is the minimum we can show to get a helpful reaction which teaches us X”
NOT: “what else should we build and improve before publishing our work”

Not trying to get it right the first time, instead, trying to avoid costly mistakes late in the process.

This new mindset involves organizing the incentives and processes in such a way that the new way becomes the easy and automatic thing to do.

For more – jump to the Chapter on ‘Organizational Change’ πŸ”—

The rest of this article covers:
Research (1 min)
Orchestration (2 min)
Organizational Change (3 min) – important

Wide and Qualitative

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so – Mark Twain

Click to read more | Service vs UX Design

In Service Design, there are more perspectives (business strategy, operations management, organizational change, etc.) and more stakeholders to take into account compared to UI/UX Design

Empathy, an in-depth understanding of the users and their context is still necessary but not enough. It is important to have the same awareness toward all relevant stakeholders.

Other stakeholders with an influence over the success of the service include: the internal employees in various departments within the company and other relevant external stakeholders (complementary service providers, regulators, client’s clients, etc).

Adapted from Fabrique

A constantly evolving understanding of the users (and their context) is necessary but not enough. It is important to have the same awareness toward all relevant stakeholders.

After listening to team mates for their perspectives as well as collecting Raw data through:

  • Observing and Interviewing the target audience
  • User-testing parts of the journey

The findings were interpreted into a Persona– the user being different than the customer (Read more πŸ”—)

Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD)

User Stories

Key Insights

(Click above to see free templates)

Ecosystem Map

(visualizing the flow of value)

The ‘JTBD, User Stories and Key Insights’ got the team talking in terms of scenarios. These tools also showed the difference in needs and goals between the 3 main stakeholders.

The Ecosystem Map provided a wider overview which covered Actors, Organizations as well as Human-Machine interactions.

Part of the wide research was understanding the Enterprise Blockchain Landscape and Consortia between Organizations (Read more πŸ”—)

Journeys out of Interactions

Zooming in for the important details…
And zooming out to ensure a holistic experience

The Blueprint map provided a holistic perspective over what must happen within the organization (facing the customer + behind the curtain) for the service to be delivered, while managing the emotional arc of the intended audience.

It also contributed to a shared understanding within the team on how various hidden details and internal process work to create a bigger picture for the customer.

Read more... What is a Blueprint map ?

Micro-moments are individual interactions. Put together they create a holistic experience, for instance from pre-purchase to post-purchase. The wider perspective is called a Journey map (or Experience Map if it covers more customer segments/personas).

By asking through which channel the interactions take place, and what it is required in terms of support or back-end processes to deliver that experience, we create the Blueprint map.

Source – frankly.studio


You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure what you don’t see…

Other work:

Building on top of a mature Design System (IBM)

Rapidly prototyping the MVP and beyond

Investigating the competition using Moodboards

Organizational Change
(that lasts)

Empathizing with your own team members is perhaps even more important than empathizing with other stakeholders

Why are they doing X ? Is it how the system is set up or what it incentivizes ? Are they trying to protect their work from criticism or their process from too much interference?

Leaving behind an organization that embodies Service Design is a project that takes more than half a year and more than a part-time Junior Designer.

But its a start.

This effort included:

  • organizing Sessions – some things are only learned by experiencing and doing, not observing
  • lobbying Decision makers for budget or process changes
  • creating Ambassadors at key levels in the organization who speak and act in key moments

Design impacted Business Strategy

Presented a tailored roadmap, including milestones on capability building and achieving higher and lasting design maturity.

Shaping the path

By building on top of an existing SaaS Marketplace platform, the creation of it would not become a technical challenge but a human one (community building, trust creation). It would allow for design sprints in which the developers would not be asked to code, but to fake it.

The team now had:

A new creative process: Presented earlier ( Jump: Takeaway 3 ⭐)

Templates and preparations for future co-creation sessions to make user engagement less intimidating or risky

Left a copy of the Book

Signs of Change

  • The only person in the team with a design background was given more time to do it
  • Addition of one more full-time designer (not a freelancer – very important)
  • Opening the platform for public beta and experimentation


I am grateful to
Jelle who made space for Design and Learning,
Thatcher for being a Cheerleader and Design Ambassador


Having good Designers on the team does not guarantee that their work will be relevant for the key stakeholders.

They need to be Empowered and integrated not assimilated.

Designers need to be involved during planning and strategy too. They need to have a say over how work is accomplished, not just what work is to be done.

Design Operations (DesignOps πŸš€) has the purpose of shaping an organization in order to ensure that the 3 activities are happening together consistently:

Technical work done based on design decisions, which in turn would rest on understanding, validation and user research.