Making Walls Great Again

Throughout history people have used walls to share stories about their culture, traditions and to make sense of the world around them.
In the office where my team works lived a particularly uninspiring brown cork wall.

People walked past it everyday on their way to the kitchen for lunch.
Never paying attention to the outdated staff notices and workplace health and safety reminders pinned to it haphazardly.

But its size and visibility made it the perfect platform to share customer stories and to grow organisational understanding within UnitingCare of how the projects we undertake should be designed to intersect with our customer’s lives.

We started with 4 main design goals.

1. Help people understand the different methods we use as a team to solve problems, and the importance of looking at them through a customer lens.

2. Retell the stories that we hear from people when we are out in the field (whether they be customers or staff) in order to build empathy within a cohort of people who don’t get out into the field themselves.

3. Share the impact of our work — whether that be success or failure.

4. A showcase of all the work being done around UnitingCare and an invitation for people to work with us.

Getting the Story Right

Creating the wall was not a linear process.

It was pure trial and error.
Fundamentally though we had to create a story that was authentic to our research, interesting enough to engage seasoned employees, and encapsulate the life stages we had identified in our customer segmentation work.

These being:

Meet the Family

The main character of the story is Nell.
She’s the loving wife and carer of her husband Siggy.
As well as the Mum of two adult kids, Kate and Mikael.

Using ‘Storycards’ we brought to life Nell’s hero journey as she confronts her challenges as an older Australian managing the demands of being a carer, grieving the loss of her husband, parenting across generations, whilst trying to not lose her sense of self.

It was important for the supporting characters to have a strong narrative as well.

From Siggy experiencing a fall which triggered an extended stay in hospital.
Kate travelling vast distances to visit her parents every weekend.
Mikael moving back home after a divorce to help take care of Kate’s son Toby who was diagnosed with Autism.

We endeavoured to show how each moment within a family is entwined with each other, and how UnitingCare can impact people across their life.

It’s ok, but a bit boring

After completing the story, we then built Project Cards
The purpose of each card was to explain why we started a project, what we did, what happened and what we learnt.
As well as the some of the methods we used on the project under the banner ‘Tools You Can Use’

These were then placed on the wall where the logical moments from the story intersected with each project.

For example when Kate suspects that ‘something’s not right’ with her Dad, but doesn’t know how to broach the subject with him we placed the project card for Lightkeeper (a prototype web app we’ve built for carers) next to this moment in the journey.

But when all the cards were stuck on the wall, it looked static, blocky and text heavy.

We tried to create movement by making a zipline out of string that we used to pull the characters along the story, but this was cumbersome and hard to use.

That’s when we realised what the missing component was.

Stringy Emotions

Emotion Based Design (EbD) is a valuable tool I’ve used previously on Journey Mapping projects.
Pioneered by Steve Randall, it visually articulates the emotions that the customer has said they are feeling, or that you have observed. You can also map the emotions the customer wants to feel. The difference is then what’s described as the ‘emotional delta’.

It’s a powerful tool when scaling empathy within large organisations, as it provokes conversation and debate around what the customer is thinking, feeling and doing in the moment.

The emotions we chose initially were:

Frustrated, Anxious, Guilty, Happy, Peaceful and Satisfied

However, based on customer / staff feedback we revised these to:

Frustrated, Guilty, Anxious, Content and Happy

Emotional journey lines were created with different coloured string for Nell (Red) , Siggy (Blue) and Kate (Yellow)

Once we added these emotional lines the wall started to come alive.

A powerful moment was when Siggy moved into Residential Aged Care and away from his wife Nell.

Seeing the emotional lines diverge visualised the emotional burden and immense change that happens to families when this moment happens.

Finishing Touches

For personalisation, we added bitmoji style caricatures of the leads for each project.
Outputs from each project such as early stage prototypes, research quotes and images were added for authenticity.

These touches were designed to help those experiencing the wall progress from commitment to capability, in the sense that not only could they appreciate the value of knowing our customers, but also who within the organisation they could talk to and the tools they could use when solving future problems.

Wall Walkers

The process of building the wall generated many questions and comments from different areas across UnitingCare.

“What are you doing, that looks really interesting?”

“Are you allowed to do that?”

“I wish I could do arts and crafts in my job”

This interest generated into official “Wall Walks”

Our change manager Brooke would walk people through the wall, sharing the customers story & the purpose of our projects.

The benefits of creating the wall have been phenomenal.

  • It’s led to a deeper empathy for our customers lives and what we need to understand in order to shape their experience.
  • Simplified a very complex story in one place, making it digestible for people to take in whist also appreciating the sheer scale of it.
  • Wrapped a tangible narrative around the work being done as it makes it clear who we’re solving problems for and what parts of their journey they are at.
  • Enabled people to personally connect with the characters of the story (Siggy, Nell, Kate and Mikeal) as they find their own lived experience in the story, either where they are today or where they see themselves in the future.
  • Engendered a feeling of pride about the work UnitingCare is doing now to address problems that exist.
  • Provoked questions and ideas about what else we can be doing or “why aren’t we doing x y or z?”
  • Highlights the need for further customer exploratory work, and that we don’t know enough about people outside our traditional ‘Siggy and Nell’ type customers, let alone UnitingCare’s future customer base.
  • Provided a real appreciation of the work our team does and exemplifies the value of it beyond being a “shiny, nice to have” to a team they understand how they can, and want to work with.

The next challenge for the wall is moving people from a commitment to understanding problems through a customer lens, towards building capability so we hear people having different conversations and ultimately start working in a different way.

Designing, Drumming and Dadding. Opinions are my own