Articles, Expert to expert

Where are we heading: Design track

Zane Abelite-Medne
By Zane Ābelīte-Medne

A good digital solution starts with a good design that answers all the important “what,” “how,” “to whom,” and “why” questions. We asked our Head of Design – Talvikki Heike – to share Wunder's design direction.

Where are we heading: Design track

Recently Wunder has become three Head of -positions richer. To highlight the company’s core expertise, the Head of Technology, Head of Delivery, and Head of Design have been nominated and started their new roles in December 2021. If counted together, these three persons have an impressive 27-year work history with Wunder. Therefore they have lots of experience and a clear vision of where we are heading in the particular area. Instead of just sharing the Wunder vision in tech, delivery, and design, we decided to invite the new Head ofs’ to a conversation and give them the chance to reveal their professional visions along with their personal Wunder stories.

Design work starts way before the technology is involved. It gives every digital solution the concept, reason, and human touch. Therefore we start our interview series with Talvikki Heike, our new Head of Design. She joined Wunder in February 2013 and filled the shoes of UX/UI Designer, Service Designer, Facilitator, and Guild lead. For a couple of months, Since December 2021, Talvikki’s responsibilities have significantly enlarged and made her a faithful Wunder Design Navigator.

Read the interview with our new Head of Technology, Janne Koponen on Wunder Technology direction.

"Everybody in the team contributes to the design and should be aware of user expectations."

Talvikki Heike, Head of Design at Wunder

As a Head of Design, what are your responsibility areas and your team’s role?

My responsibility is to help clients and teams remember the principles and benefits of design as a process, problem-solving, and innovation framework. I aim to strengthen the multidisciplinary collaboration and help to improve the overall quality of Wunder design and delivery operations.

Besides being the Head of Design, I’m also the guild lead for the Creatives guild*, a wonderful group of human and planet-centric design professionals whose roles and responsibilities in Wunder and customer work are: Analytics specialists** – the ones who enable data-informed design and development, Service designers*** – the ones who set the direction for development and keep the big picture in mind, and UX/UI designers**** – the ones who plan and create functional, accessible, and visually appealing user interfaces for various digital solutions (traditionally seen as “designers” in IT projects).

The design is a collaborative process by a cross-functional team, enabling business development, desired change, and tangible outcomes like digital services or solutions. Therefore the design work can not be done only by a single human-centric designer or Creatives guild. Everybody in the team contributes to the design and should be aware of user expectations, valuable features, epics and stories, architecture, components, interface, interactions, testing, iterations, etc.

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*Guilds – Wunder organizational structure that is formed around competencies and development areas.
**Analytics specialists define and set the goals and metrics of success, select the right tools for measuring service/solution user flow and performance, set up the monitoring, track consents, and GDPR policies, create dashboards, educate and provide training, so our clients can then follow their KPIs and do basic analysis by themselves. Besides that, analytics specialists support our clients and teams to gather valuable insights into the service users’ behavior.
***Service designers understand user, human, and system needs, to identify development possibilities and generate value from business and users’ perspectives. Their daily work includes workshop facilitation, research and interviews, user journey mapping, and other process visualizations. Service designers share the outcomes and help teams define what is valuable for the users and keep the big picture of service development in mind.
****UX/UI designers create different prototypes to validate the value of planned features and gather feedback from the team through user testing, design reviews, and accessibility audits. Besides being a valuable asset to the team in understanding user needs and executing appealing interfaces, the UX/UI designers also help teams create design systems for managing the service UI components and creating digital brand extensions or even completely new brand visuals.

“Being agile equals that we’re learning organization. Agility is the ability to learn from the things we do.”

Anna Suppanen, Account Manager at Wunder

What are the overall challenges we have to face when thinking about design?

Since companies don’t live in a vacuum, global phenomena like geopolitics or environmental changes may cause unexpected plot twists (as we have seen in the past couple of years). As digitalization is everywhere, platform economy, targeted marketing, legislation changes, development of AI and NFT, and the transition towards a circular economy, data-informed decision making, greener technologies, ownership of personal data, etc., are challenges for every business. The same challenges we face in the cognitive capacity to absorb and learn what these new things are, understand their purpose in our everyday lives and figure out what we should do with them – if anything at all.

Can an intelligent design approach address these challenges?

Design thinking and systemic thinking are excellent methods to figure out core questions like: Do we understand the cause and effect relationships we want to change? Are we solving the correct problems? Do we have the right goals?

Recently, at Wunder, we talked about the definition of agile and different versions of its methodologies. One of our account managers – Anna Suppanen – stated quite accurately: “Being agile equals that we’re learning organization. Agility is the ability to learn from the things we do.”

In my mind, the best potential lies precisely there – in valuing teamwork and collaboration, learning and evolving together.

What potential threats might we face in the design area in the nearest future?

Potential threats and issues are the opposite sides of the “potential opportunities” coin. The old proverb “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” is true when particular technology or process is seen as a solution per see.

As our minds are wired to get pleasure from problem-solving and uncertainty is an unpleasant state of mind, we tend to hop directly on solution-phase without clarifying the root cause of the problem. The greatest threat is solving non-existing problems and investing time and effort in something nobody needs. When organizations and processes don’t support user-centric or agile development practices, they skip testing, iterations, and learning, thus questioning the development goals and making it impossible to prove the value of the investment.

I warmly recommend anyone interested in a profitable business get familiar with design maturity and user-centric design. InVisions design maturity report clearly describes the potential and benefits that good design can provide to the company and the challenges or actual losses a potential company may face when the maturity is low.

How can Wunder stand out in the crowd design-wise?

My first designing experience with the Wunder was in 2012 when I joined the agile development team as a third-party designer. Although the situation was new to everyone, the team welcomed me right away. I enjoyed the collaboration, especially the combination of lean UX & scrum practicalities. It was easy to see the benefit of sprint retrospectives, and iteration and learning while doing made perfect sense. I actually enjoyed it so much that I decided to join Wunder when the opportunity came.

Since then, what has happened has been quite an expedition and growth journey, but the core idea has always remained the same – research and discover the changeing needs, ideate valuable solutions, plan and build solution prototypes, test and learn. Those always have been the fundament of design and development as we want to benefit from the best parts of agile and design practices in the changing world.

"I’m proud when clients trust our expertise, and we do an open, honest collaboration with client stakeholders and specialists as one team."

Talvikki Heike, Head of Design at Wunder

Is there a particular Wunder value that drives your actions?

For sure, it is – We are open and curious. When I’m open and curious about the world and other beings, I’m also consciously aware of my own thoughts, mental models, and possible biases. When I am curious to listen to others openly, without expectations or prejudice, it becomes easier to understand the reasons behind the demand for change, plan actions and decisions accordingly and support others when needed.

Are there any great designers who inspire you in your professional work?

Maija Itkonen. Maija is an entrepreneur, musician, mother, and multi-talent who turned from industrial designer to food industry disruptor. Throughout her career, the design has served as the connective tissue, inspiring her “to envision alternative futures and what kind of things could be possible in society.”

Maija’s career is an excellent example of what a designer can do. Even though the industrial design has traditionally been seen as planning the mass production of tangible (non-edible) artifacts, design thinking does not narrow down the format of problem or solution. Creating humane and sustainable food production solutions in changing environments is challenging.

What project or solution have you been most proud of?

Oh, the pride, where do I start? I’m proud when clients trust our expertise, and we do an open, honest collaboration with client stakeholders and specialists as one team. I’m proud of teams committed to continuously developing services and solutions based on measured user activities, feedback, and business insights. I’m proud of those deliveries where we, together with a client, can evidence the created value through the quality of user experience and usage of digital services and solutions.

However, every business/organization is unique, and every design and development cycle is an extraordinary journey for the team. Naming one over others would be unfair.

What has been the most memorable moment at Wunder that you have experienced?

The most memorable moment is here and now. There are plenty of those good memories – big moments like festivities or WunderCons before Covid, small moments like reflections in the middle of intense work, or the feedback sessions during retrospectives after solution releases.

The best thing in Wunder, without a doubt, is the possibility to work with amazing and fun people, incredible professionals with skills and attitudes. That is something I am thankful for every day.

Willing to work miracles together with Talvikki? This is your lucky day because we have a few open positions you might be interested in!

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