Ashika Chauhan, Digital Creative Director at the missiontm Agency, bigdog talks about designing for humans.

Ashika Chauhan is the Digital Creative Director at bigdog – part of the missiontm, headline sponsor of this year's Good Web Guide Website of the Year Awards. Passionate about engaging content, immersive user experiences, beautifully crafted design and creatively harnessing emerging technology. Over the last decade Ashika has worked in the UK and Australia on campaigns for the likes of L’Oréal, Domino’s Pizza, Bridgestone and EA Games, to name a few.

Most recently, Ashika has been appointed to the bigdog management board and is responsible for leading the charge in producing best-in-class digital and integrated creative. Here Ashika draws on her experience on the best way to design for humans.

Digital: It’s infiltrated our everyday lives, so much so that it’s almost become the air we breathe.

From Netflix, to Deliveroo, to Uber, to Airbnb and Tinder. From our phones, to connected fridges and thermostats, to drone deliveries, self-driving cars and AI assistants. The list goes on. We have witnessed more change in the last ten years than there has been in the last one hundred and it only looks like it’s accelerating.

Perhaps, it even leads us to question how our very humanity is being affected or even eroded? How many real relationships are being missed out on because there’s always more Tinder options to swipe right on? How many of our friends are just digital ghosts on Facebook? Or actually, is it humanity’s best ever invention – allowing us to monitor our health, Skype bringing families across the world closer and apps like Headspace enabling us to be our best selves.

If you work in advertising or digital, or even if you run your own business, we can all get caught up in producing more of what’s in the existing ecosystem of comms or at the other end of the spectrum, jumping on whatever is shiny and new.

When we step back from it all and consider our own experiences – the brands we buy and align ourselves to, it’s likely that each one will have different emotional and/or rational reasons for us to want that association. Each and every one of us is unique and unpredictable.

The reason why the likes of Airbnb, Netflix and Uber have managed to disrupt whole industries is through redefining human experiences – questioning what we had all accepted as the norm for so many years. Whilst you may not be looking to launch the next Uber, every brand and business has the opportunity to innovate, not only within the business itself, but to make an impact on how we all live our lives.


Tell stories
Storytelling isn’t just for writing that tear-jerker of a TVC or piece of branded content. It’s one of the most powerful tools we can use to map out how real people will be going about their lives and how your brand can play a part. ‘Personas’ and ‘user journeys’ have become part and parcel of the discovery phase and we’ve been conducting surveys and focus groups for decades, but let’s consider more than this. If you generate personas based on observing real people in their own environments and create stories based on their genuine human experiences, you’ll find true insight, be able to look beyond averages and realise that normal is no one.

Get real
Pixels can have real-world consequences. People don’t only live in the digital or physical, they’re often floating seamlessly between the two. Omnichannel has become a massive buzzword over the last few years, but what’s happening beyond this? What if your Airbnb host lets you down, your Tinder date is a nightmare or your Uber driver takes you on a joyride? People’s experiences with brands are woven into the DNA of their overall lives, so consider all the moments in between the obvious. It means that you can help people when things don’t go to plan and retain them as brand advocates moving forwards.

Challenge the status quo
My favourite brands are the ones coming up with solutions that simplify life. I love not having to top up my Oyster card, I now just use contactless. I love not having to wait days for an Amazon order, Prime means I get it the same or next day. I love not having to print out my Virgin Atlantic boarding pass, it’s all on the app.

Beyond micro-innovations for micro-moments, businesses can also innovate more drastically by introducing whole new offerings that enrich people’s lives. The launch of Airbnb Experiences for example, provides people with a new way to see the world – through locals as guides.

Build relationships
It’s a two-way thing. Just like any relationship, brands and consumers are both looking for value in return for what they’re investing. So, if you’re looking for advocacy, think beyond generating more spam and add value with a product/service that’s the best out there and content that people actually want to engage in.

Gimlet has provided a valuable way to do this via their branded content offering – Ebay, Microsoft and Virgin Atlantic are some of the first to produce branded podcasts with the publisher. These ongoing shows provide a way for brands to build audiences, add value, and get genuine feedback on what’s of interest.

Embrace the unpredictable
Real people are interacting (or not interacting!) with what you've put in front of them. It's not just visual design trends and technology that are changing ongoing but the wants and needs of people changes all the time too. Whilst big data via AB testing is great for stats and can help aid conversion, micro data from an individual can provide valuable insight and allow you to personalise experiences for each person.

Spotify are possibly the best brand to harness data in terms of being beneficial to the people consuming the service. With playlists like Daily Mixes, Discover Weekly and Your Year in Music, people are getting bespoke, relevant content that they actively want to engage in. It also means that Spotify have unprecedented access to, and perhaps control of, where music tastes are headed.

What does the future hold?
Things have been and will continue to change all the time, so much has been said over recent years about digital vs traditional, big ideas vs innovation, creative vs technology. It’s only now we have the opportunity to bring it all together. It’s not only about having data or knowledgeable instore staff or standout advertising, but actually how the right combination of these elements can create the ultimate experience for real people.

From a personal perspective, as advances in technology drive us towards automation, we’d do well to remember what it is that makes us human. Perhaps get in touch with that Facebook friend you haven’t seen in ages, resist that Deliveroo urge and get your hands dirty in the kitchen or maybe even smile at a stranger, you never know.

September 2017