Seven Peaks Insights

A Practical Guide for Human-Centricity

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Erik Ingvoldstad has a background as a creative director at a global and regional level, living and working in four different markets; Norway, Australia, Singapore and China, as well as overseeing work across Asia Pacific, the Nordics and the globe. He has worked with some of the world's largest brands, helping them achieve their business goals and winning awards along the way. Erik has been distinguished to have served as a jury member at Cannes Lions, Ad Stars and a number of other competitions. In addition, Erik has published a number of articles, is a renowned speaker on the subjects of design and digital transformation, and teaches design innovation at Singapore Institute of Technology. We caught up with him to share some of his insights prior to his upcoming keynote address at the BKK Design and Dev Leaders Meetup at Seven Peaks on February 28th, 2024.


Embarking on a transformative journey from being a creative director in digital advertising to an entrepreneur, educator, and thought leader, what has been a constant in my career is a commitment to innovation, customer-centricity, and problem-solving. My passion lies in exploring and addressing the deeper challenges and opportunities presented by new design thinking frameworks within the evolving digital landscape, a topic of great interest to me which I have been working on and highly anticipate to share more about at our upcoming event, co-hosted with Figma this February the 28th.

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Living and working in Norway, Australia, Singapore, and China, and overseeing projects across Asia Pacific, the Nordics, and beyond, has provided a great many insights into the colorful tapestry of global user experiences. The diverse cultural nuances and regional variations have not only shaped my approach to design, but has provided insight to the importance of understanding both the unique and shared needs of users worldwide. This perspective has become a guiding force, influencing not only the products I design but the strategies I employ to ensure they resonate with diverse audiences.

As we navigate the global digital landscape, the challenges of creating products that transcend cultural and regional differences become apparent. The quest for user-centricity takes on new dimensions, demanding a deeper understanding of the dynamic interplay between technology and culture. This is not merely about adapting designs for different markets, but fostering a genuine connection that transcends borders, connecting with the human aspects and ensuring that digital experiences resonate on a personal level with users from all backgrounds.


A Thought Leader and Educator

Even though I have found fulfillment in contributing as a thought leader and educator, I still actively pursue design work and practical expertise. Publishing articles, participating in speaking engagements at design and digital transformation events, and my role as a design innovation instructor at the Singapore Institute of Technology are examples of my belief in the importance of and dedication to, knowledge-sharing and nurturing the next generation of designers.

As we discuss the significance of design innovation education, it's crucial to address the evolving role of designers in shaping the digital future. Design education is not merely about imparting technical skills but instilling a mindset that embraces continuous learning, adaptability, and a deep understanding of the fast-paced digital landscape. The challenge lies in preparing designers not just for today's technologies but for the innovations of tomorrow, equipping them to navigate the complexities of emerging trends, such as AI, and integrate them seamlessly into the human-centric design process.


A Vision for Authentic Customer-Centricity

My departure from traditional advertising coincided with a shift towards real customer-centricity and problem-solving. The consultancy I founded and the tech startups I co-created are testaments to a mission to bridge the gap between businesses and authentic customer needs. It's key to examine the notion of customer-centricity beyond being just a marketing slogan. Authentic customer-centricity demands a deeper understanding of user journeys, pain points, and aspirations. This understanding goes beyond surface-level analytics; it involves developing a genuine connection with users, empathizing with their experiences, and creating solutions that truly better their lives.

The challenges within the realm of customer-centricity are multi-faceted. One of the key issues lies in the often superficial implementation of customer-centric strategies by businesses. The desire to claim customer-centricity without making substantial investments in understanding the user journey creates a disconnect between intention and execution. Moreover, the pressure from marketing or sales to prioritize short-term gains can hinder the long-term vision of real customer-centricity. It necessitates a cultural shift within organizations, where the entire business ecosystem aligns to prioritize user experiences over immediate revenue goals.


New Frameworks in Design Thinking

Recognizing the limitations of traditionally linear design thinking models, the anticipation of introducing a new practical methodology has been met with excitement. This new framework, set to be unveiled, represents not just an evolution of design thinking but a paradigm shift towards human-centricity that can be applied by anyone. Before reaching further into the intricacies of this framework, it's imperative to understand the challenges that fueled its creation.

The digital landscape is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and traditional design thinking models may struggle to keep up. The linear progression, while effective in some contexts, can falter when confronted with the rapid iterations demanded by today’s design challenges. The complexity of these challenges requires a more adaptive and iterative approach, involving continuous feedback loops, rapid prototyping, and a deep understanding of user needs.

As we explore the nuances of this new design thinking framework, a critical aspect will be its potential impact on businesses at the executive or C-level. All too often, there's a gap between the design team's vision and the strategic decisions made at the executive level. This framework aims to bridge that gap by providing a practical guide tailored for human-centricity, emphasizing its relevance and utility for decision-makers at the highest levels of organizations.

“I want to offer something that you can use in every application, something that works for every person, any business, to be able to focus on humans and human-centricity.”


Challenges in the Digital Landscape

My experiences in digital transformation have shed light on the commonly-found shortsightedness within many companies, which often manifests in their web experiences and digital product experiences. The undue focus on marketing or selling often overshadows the broader goal of enhancing the overall user experience. To fully grasp the magnitude of this challenge, we must explore the various layers contributing to this pervasive misunderstanding.

One of the primary issues is a myopic view of customer interactions. Many businesses perceive their online presence as a platform solely for selling products or services. This narrow focus detracts from the overarching goal of creating a seamless and engaging user experience. The digital space is not just a marketplace; it's a dynamic environment where users seek not only transactional efficiency but also a sense of connection, entertainment, and utility.

“It’s easier to make money if you do right by people”

Moreover, the disconnect between design teams and other departments within a company can exacerbate the issue. The siloed approach, where design decisions are made in isolation from marketing, sales, and other key stakeholders, can result in disjointed digital experiences. Bridging this gap requires a mindset shift within organizations, fostering collaboration and cross-functional understanding to ensure that every decision aligns with the foremost goal of enhancing the user experience.


The Human Experience Beyond Customers

SP_Figma_Erik-03As we go deeper into the challenges of the digital landscape, it's possible to expand the conversation beyond external customers to the internal stakeholders – the employees. The human experience, in the context of digital transformation, extends beyond user interfaces and customer interactions. It encompasses the entirety of an organization, including its workforce.

Improving the human experience for employees is not just a matter of workplace amenities or superficial perks; it's about creating a culture that values individual contributions, fosters innovation, and prioritizes employee well-being. The digital landscape has the potential to streamline workflows, enhance collaboration, and create an environment not only where employees can thrive, but are also able to take risks and get outside of their comfort zone to truly grow. This internal human-centric approach is not only morally sound but also contributes to increased productivity, employee retention, and overall organizational success.


Challenges in Design Innovation Education

While the importance of design education has been acknowledged, the challenges within this sphere warrant a more detailed examination. Design innovation education is not just about imparting technical skills; it's about cultivating a mindset that embraces continuous learning, adaptability, and a problem-solving mindset that understands the evolving needs within an ever-encompassing digital environment.

One of the primary challenges is the rapid pace of technological advancements. Designers need to stay abreast of emerging trends, from AI and machine learning to augmented and virtual reality. Integrating these technologies seamlessly into the design process requires a holistic approach to education, where students are not just taught how to use current tools but are equipped with the skills to adapt to new technologies as they emerge.

Another challenge lies in the balance between creativity and practicality. While fostering creativity is crucial, designers must also learn to navigate the practical aspects of project timelines, client expectations, and budget constraints. Striking this balance requires an education system that offers a blend of theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and real-world project experiences.


The Future of UX in the Age of AI

As technology evolves, the role of UX designers is facing new challenges, particularly with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). While some speculate that AI could render UX designers obsolete, I maintain a nuanced perspective. The potential for AI to streamline certain aspects of the design process is undeniable, but the essence of human-centric design lies in empathy, understanding, and the ability to connect with users on a deeper level.

The idea that AI could replace designers in the next few years overlooks the intricacies of the human experience. AI may excel at certain tasks, but the ability to truly understand user needs, emotions, and cultural nuances remains a distinctly human trait. The future of UX, in the age of AI, lies not in a battle for relevance but in a collaborative partnership. Designers can leverage AI as a tool to enhance efficiency, automate repetitive tasks, and glean insights from vast datasets, allowing them to focus more on the creative and empathetic aspects of design.

“I’ve been a great lover of technology, and have always embraced change. They are tools that help us live our best lives. Technology is the great enabler, and in many cases the great equalizer.”

In this exploration of my journey, perspectives, and contributions in the realm of design and technology, we have explored the intricacies of diverse human needs, the significance of design education, the challenges of customer-centricity, and the evolving landscape of new design thinking frameworks and implementation. The digital landscape is a dynamic canvas where designers, entrepreneurs, and businesses must collaborate to create solutions that resonate with users on a human-level scale.

Looking to the future, the challenges and opportunities within the digital landscape demand a holistic and human-centric approach. From fostering internal cultures that prioritize employee well-being to navigating the complexities of AI in UX design, the journey towards innovation requires adaptability, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the human experience. The unveiling of a new design thinking framework will attempt to signify a step towards a more agile, iterative, and human-centric future. By embracing these challenges with a commitment to continuous learning and empathy, we can collectively shape a digital landscape that not only meets but exceeds the expectations of users, propelling us into a new era of human-centric innovation.

“It starts and ends with humans.”


Catch Erik Ingvoldstad's keynote address at the upcoming BKK Design and Development Leaders Meetup at Seven Peaks on February 28th, in collaboration with Figma. Register for the event here!

Erik New Portrait

Erik Ingvoldstad
Principal Customer Experience (CX) Designer

Erik is a UX/UI designer, a strategist, an innovator and an entrepreneur. With over 20 years of experience in the digital sector, Erik co-founded two tech startups and now works on Design Thinking, Digital Transformation, Customer Experience and Innovation at Seven Peaks. He is based in Singapore, and connects Seven Peaks with potential customers there.



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