Will Brown, Analyst at Fahrenheit 212, was just awarded the 2017 Service Design Award. When he obtaining his Master’s degree at the Glasgow School of Art from 2015-2016, he partnered with Eloise Smith Foster, Ola Kozawska, a few of his peers and the Royal Bank of Scotland design team for four months to develop their human-centred design process and carry out research on the current and future financial needs of Millennials. The project was initially entered in the student category, but was elevated to the professional/commercial category because it exceeded the expectations of the student category.

We’re so proud of Will and his team. We sat down with Will to learn a bit more about the project, and what we can learn from his experience.

First, who are you, and what do you do today?

Hi, my name is Will, and I am an Innovation Analyst, bringing my Design Futures approach to the team here at Fahrenheit 212.

Tell us a bit about what you created with the Royal Bank of Scotland. What challenge did it aim to solve? What makes your solution so unique?

There were many moving parts in this project, so on a high level, we concurrently did two things for RBS: developed their user-centred design process, whilst researching a key target for them, Millennials. Since our outcome was predominantly a process, what was unique about this was the integration of futures thinking into an ordinary user-centred design process – particularly how to test futures with users in the present.

What did your process look like?

Our process mainly consisted of 3 stages: User & Futures Research, Future Forecasting, and Concepts & User Testing. This aimed to research and understand the current and evolving needs and perceptions of Millennials, alongside the wider trends related to banking. We then translating these insights into a future landscape from which we created physical artefacts to test elements of this future, creating recommendations for our client on how to act on now. You can read more about the process on the SDN website.


 

Where did you draw inspiration from?

Everywhere! We carried out a thorough trend analysis, covering the entire landscape of finance, drawing from social, technological, economic and political factors. In addition to this, we carried out ethnographic research, and expert interviews. We were particularly inspired by the thinking of a professor of sociology at the University of Glasgow who specialises in youth culture.
 

What was your favorite thing you learned throughout this process?

I love to have my preconceptions challenged (to me, this is a valuable aspect of ethnography), and this was certainly the case for our interviews with the youngest end of the spectrum, 16 year olds. They far surpassed our expectations of how much they knew about bitcoins, the 2008 financial crisis, and a general self-awareness about aspects of their digital life, such as data privacy. This age group should be taken seriously by brands who wish to attract them as first time customers (valuable in the banking industry which has high retention).
 

What are the next steps for your project?

We received great feedback from the client on how the the outcome of this project was integrated into RBS’s design practice. Some of the highlights were: that our thorough research on Millennials has informed their communication strategy with this generational group; our way of creating personas is used as a benchmark for what good looks like; RBS has a competitive edge through the use of design futures methods that is innovative to this sector; and revolutionised service design project timelines through demonstrating the level of thinking that can be achieved in 4 months as opposed to the usual 12.
 

What are your top tips for aspiring innovators looking to accomplish similar achievements?

Don’t be afraid of taking the long view and asking hard questions of your client! As innovators, we should never be thinking how to treat symptoms, or to ‘catch up’ with the competition. Rather we always strive to find the root cause of a problem, and to leapfrog the competition. Taking a long view of incoming changes through futures thinking helps inform this way of solving problems.