Why experience design is a team sport

By Leslie Fountain @LjkFountain

Christmas is always a time for reflection. So I’ve taken this time to reflect, not only on the year gone by, but also on my 18-year journey from graduating as an ergonomist to becoming the MD of Europe’s largest experience design agency. Looking back it may seem that this was a well-planned career course, but in fact it was a journey of exploration.

I recently spoke at NUX3 in Manchester. It was in fact my first time attending a Northern UX event and I was thoroughly impressed by the organisation and attendance – over 500 people! At this event I spoke about why experience design is a team sport. If you want to see it, check it out here along with excellent presentations from fellow speakers.

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This got me thinking about other events I’ve attended over the years, particularly ACE (Association of Canadian Ergonomists) conference in the late ‘90s. I remember discussing with my fellow ergonomists the need to work in multidisciplinary teams if we were to truly improve the design of work. Specifically, we were looking at how to design the working environment and processes to improve the comfort of the worker while also improving productivity and quality. This meant we needed an understanding of the abilities of the workers, anthropometrics, workstation design, interior design and architecture.

Jumping ahead to today, as experience designers, we are having similar conversations. But this time we are talking about how to improve the user experience while improving conversion and customer engagement. In order to do this, we need an understanding of human behaviour, psychology, interaction design, visual design and information architecture.

The merging of the physical and digital world for me has been a dream come true. It is giving me the opportunity to practice my craft as an ergonomist and design researcher, as well as combining my passion for improving human experiences. And more recently, I am able to apply these skills to managing an experience design agency. At Foolproof I am lucky to work with a talented team that herald from a wide variety of skills, disciplines and backgrounds.

Whether it’s working with my fellow Directors or on an experience design project with a client, to design great experiences you need a few key ingredients:

  1. Embrace a variety of skills and disciplines
  2. Look beyond the usual suspects when building your team
  3. Facilitate better conversations through understanding user and business needs
  4. Be a captain of a cross-departmental rugby team (not a siloed relay team)
  5. Bring them on your journey


Leslie Fountain

As the Managing Director of Foolproof I have the luxury of combining my passion for human-centred design with helping some of the world’s biggest brands to solve complex design challenges, as well as leading and nurturing an international team containing some of the best talent in the industry.

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