Emerging design strategy through sketches and stories

Session Title

Emerging design strategy through sketches and stories


Penny Hagen and Michelle Gilmore

Session Type: Presentation

Many of us have experienced the pain that comes with working on projects that lack a coherent vision. This presentation outlines a collaborative approach to emerging a shared project vision which accounts for all perspectives (e.g business, technical, marketing, brand), but frames the project from that of the intended user experience.

Enabling this shift in perspective requires taking the client team on a journey. At the centre of our approach are user stories. These help us translate existing project documentation and ideas into a language that describes what the project needs to deliver, from the perspective of those who will use it. User stories become a common language and reference point through which the client team explores their future vision, allowing the overall strategy to emerge.

The approach has been developed over a number of projects and we draw on examples from case studies to share techniques, experiences and learnings. Key aspects that we’ll be sharing include:

* The use of user stories to facilitate and frame discussions and decisions about the shape of the project (what), its purpose (why) and its possible implementation (how).

* The use of scenarios and light weight, tangible design tools to allow project team members to think through issues in more concrete ways, often revealing vital questions we didn’t know existed.

* The way in which project goals, and possible ways of achieving those goals, simultaneously (re)emerge as a result of working through the project from a user perspective.


Penny is a Design Strategist with over 10 years experience designing and producing community focused projects in Australia and New Zealand. Penny is currently completing a PhD in participatory design methods for social technologies at UTS in Sydney. Previously Penny worked as the Projects Director/Strategist at Digital Eskimo, driving their experimental design research program. Penny assists project teams in identifying a shared vision, providing creative and strategic insight. She combines hands on design experience with a knowledge of design research methods to develop stakeholder engagement programs for social change projects.

Michelle is a freelance Experience Architect with 7 years experience in design across User Experience and Industrial Design fields. As a UMAT grant recipient she spent a year in Malaysia implementing sustainability principles and methodologies within university infrastructures. Michelle leads teams in the collaborative design of services and products, guiding user experience and overseeing production. Michelle was a founder of the creative network Ground Floor Collaboration and is a regular speaker at design events, sharing a vision for social and sustainable design.


  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 1:50 am

    After seeing this dynamic duo in Canberra recently, I can highly recommend this refreshing thought provoking presentation.
    So much covered and right at the cutting edge of this exciting industry.
    A must see.

  2. Posted September 15, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Penny and Michelle are great, engaging presenters with experience and insight in spades.

    I would always go out of my way to see their memorable and extremely applicable presentations.

  3. Posted October 1, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    totally would go to this.