Taking clients on the design journey

The research and discovery phase of a design project is the most critical part of designing a solution.
That’s a big statement. But consider the consequences of getting the customer analysis wrong. You can head off in a design direction that is the opposite of what will relate to the clients’ customer.

Many designers prepare personas in an attempt to avoid this. However the persona focuses on the person, while a customer journey map (CJM) focuses on their experience. In designing for customers our job is to make the experience better.
According to Alex Rawson, Ewan Duncan and Conor Jones writing in Harvard Business Review

Companies have long emphasized touchpoints—the many critical moments when customers interact with the organization and its offerings on their way to purchase and after. But the narrow focus on maximizing satisfaction at those moments can create a distorted picture, suggesting that customers are happier with the company than they actually are. It also diverts attention from the bigger—and more important—picture: the customer’s end-to-end journey.

In short: we need to look at the whole journey and we need to look at it from the viewpoint of a number of customers.

We first came across the CJM in a case study for Eurostar. At that stage we had learnt to run focus groups as part of our discovery/research phase. The typical focus group has an underlying structure but it is largely free wheeling. They take a lot of post production to draw out the conclusions.

That’s why our approach to CJM is much more suited to designers. We believe the whole exercise should be like a large infographic. It’s prepared in the session and used to explain the findings to the client.


Designers are uniquely positioned to run customer journey mapping exercises. They are attuned to visualising the customers journey in a way that makes it easy for a client to understand the research outcomes.

Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.