Dec. 11, 2020

#2 – The Value Of Strategy w/ Romina Kavcic

#2 – The Value Of Strategy w/ Romina Kavcic

In this episode, Romina Kavcic talks about the value of implementing a design strategy. We discuss how to communicate the value of research and the profound impact it can have on the success of a design project.

Romina is a Design Strategist who holds a Master of Business Administration. She has more than 14 years of experience in design and consulting in tech. She has worked with unicorns like Stellar.org, Databox, Xamarin, Singularity.NET, and others. She also has a post-graduate credential from Blockchain Strategy (Oxford University).

Romina has a course on design strategy that you can sign up for on her website designstrategy.guide that I recommend to check out.

You can reach out to Romina on

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Transcript
Ed Orozco:

Hello, welcome to the growing the podcast where we help you grow your design agency. If you want to learn how to price your services, how to sell your expertise and how to attract the right type of clients , you've come to the right place. I'm your host at Orozco let's get started. All right. And we're live. Hello everyone. Today, we have a very special guest. Her name is Romina couch . It , I think I'm pronouncing it correctly. She said the science strategist , who holds a master of business administration degree. She has more than 14 years of experience in the design and consulting across, u h, tech, which includes some unicorns like stella.org d ata box, simmering, singularity.net, and some others. And she also has a post graduate degree credential from the blockchain strategy program at Oxford university. Romina, welcome to the show.

Romina Kavcic:

Thanks for introducing me. Sounds like I'm a better version of me.

Ed Orozco:

so you, I know that you also have a podcast. I didn't mention that in the introduction, but I, I know that you have a podcast that's been running for about two years. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. I have a podcast which I'm recording in my Slovenian language. It's called tandem, like two people from different topics. usually I talk about technology marketing, and also I recorded episodes from self develop self development. be cause I think that we live in a digital world now, and it's important that we take care of self selves and, I wanted to provide some topics to, i n spire people to make more of themselves.

Ed Orozco:

Absolutely. So it's also about, it has a heavy focus on , design, right? Your podcast .

Romina Kavcic:

I introduce topics all from user experience and then how to , design some products and also then how to scale them. We were talking about growth hacking. So t here a re a lot of interesting,, episodes.

Ed Orozco:

And when you're talking about self-development and technology, do you also sometimes explore how technology can help? Because the thing about technology is that it can be very harmful for people with anxiety and, you know, comparing themselves to, you know, all of these Instagram influencers and whatnot, but it can also offer you a way to , improve your, your mental health, like there's apps like Headspace and all of these meditation apps and apps for, u h, working out and other stuff. Have you, have you talked about that in your podcast yet?

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah, I talked and I also wanted to show that, you know, there's a lot of , instructions, how you have to meditate and you have to download the app and you have to listen to the app e very d ay for five minutes and stuff like that. And then people are somehow scared to use them because this means that you have to follow specific rules. And I was the same, you know, when, before I didn't, before starting to meditate, I was like, Oh my God, there's so much stuff. Where can I learn more? But then I realized that, instead of being still and sitting, sometimes it's just better to go in to nature and enjoy the nature, listen to the sounds there and be quiet. And, i t depends, you know, everyone is different and it's cool that you find your way to meditate. But of course, if you don't know how to dec eptive, l ike Headspace and calm are a g r eat way to start, and then you just have to explore what works for you.

Ed Orozco:

Right. so I definitely checked out Headspace some years ago b ecause I had no idea how to meditate. So that was for me, my introduction to meditation. And it helped me a lot. I think I used it for like, I've r eally used it for like six months. A nd, and I think I learned the basics. And then after a w hile, I started to like read about other types of meditation. I'm also a big fan of the Sam Harris podcast where he, he talks a lot about meditation and he has a meditation app and there's, there's other types of meditation do ne t hat involve, i nstead of guided meditation, like wha t do you have with an app you can also have on guided meditation, which I think it's the purest form of ed in wh ich you just sit down, you close your eyes and then you just stay there and see what happens. I found that one to be very, that type of meditation, a lot more interesting for me personally. And it's what I've been practicing, fo r , for the past year or so.

Romina Kavcic:

Nice. Yeah. You have to find the voice that suits you, you know, so that it's also calming that you like to listen to. otherwise you're just alert to how the people speak or guide you.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. And then connecting that to the side, I do feel , design can be a very stressful practice. I feel like you have well, especially people working in like fast paced environments t hat they have to ship very fast. I feel like I always recommend meditation to everyone and you can apply to every type of, c areer that you have, but I find it specifically for des igners. I t helps you clear you r, y our mind. I find that sometimes when you' re try ing to work through a creative problem, having some silence and some quiet time by yourself, it can help you, so r t of c o nn ect the dots that you and, and see patterns that you were not able to see because you were so in the weeds of solving a problem.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah, definitely. And it's, I think it's also, I mean, it helps me that you learn to stop people. I mean, to stop people, to share your opinion in a nice way, and that you're always kind of, because sometimes people are afraid or they're maybe not. So self-confident, and they don't tell , a loud what they are thinking about. So when you're working in an environment, that's, u h, like you said, changing so fast, especially these days, you miss a lot of opportunities to connect with people. So if you're not prompt and to connect, o ver the Skype, I m e a n ov er zoom or whatever, y o u get really frustrated, you know, so when your boss tells you, uh , and nex t time you have to do something he'l l jus t explode. And also it' s important that you also know how to build relationships, in a quali tative way. And, you take care of the people because in the e nd of the day, that's the most important thing also in, crea t ing teams and being part of the team that's successful.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. It definitely helps you develop that , ability to hear yourself like, hear how you're feeling. I think w hat you brought up a very interesting point, which is sometimes people when they're in a high stress environment, and they're not used to meditating. They, they feel bad and they're not self-aware, they don't realize that they are very anxious and they are very stressed. So they end up exploding and that's not good for anyone it's not good for, for the person, because you know, is n ot going to sit well with everyone, with everyone in the team. And he 's n ot go od f or other people because they're not understanding you. And at the end of the day, they still have to move along and continue wo rking. So definitely meditating helps you listen to yourself so that you can reflect back and be able to more clearly express your thoughts.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. And now during the Corona times, it's also hard to , make a line between your business time and your family time, you know? So, in the same time you can be a mother, you can be someone that's having a meeting and then the next moment you're already creating design or strategy or something really high level that requires your brain. So, i f you're just always alert, you know, always going, it's really hard to be good at what you're doing. You know, you can depart time. I mean, I believe that you can not do something half baked and al s o yo u can not be a mother and, b e ing in t he meeting in the same time. so yeah,

Ed Orozco:

Yeah, yeah. So it helps. again, meditation helps you sort of like compartmentalize and t hat w e're, I think we're g oing t o stop talking about meditation. It's a , there's so many, podcasts and other resources that w ill talk about the benefits of meditation way better t han w e're going to be able to. so I wa nt t o t alk a little ab out, sorry, I want to talk a little bit about, t he website, the de sign strategy.guide is your website. The first time I saw it, I lov e th e visual design. It's very like, I don't, I don't know if psy chodelic is the right word, but, i t 's, it has very interesting colors and, an d the typ o graphy and the, and the layout, I thought the design was very interesting. And that was the first thing that, th a t I notic ed when I visited the site. But then beyond that, it's packed with a lot of very interesting on th e r eso urces. Like, there's your blog there? there's a lot of articles and then there's other stuff too, that explain ed the be nefits of design strategy that I thought very interesting. so, so h ow did you, how'd you come up with, did yo u design it yourself or did you hire a designer for the, for the website?

Romina Kavcic:

No, I did it by myself. Yeah. And it took a lot of time to create this , animation. I did it with the help of my friend. but yeah, I, c reated this because two years ago I gave birth to a little baby by an d during the ti me off. I had a lot of time to, to think about what went wrong, you kno w , in my process when I was designing. And I realized there are a lot of parts that, co m panies, especially like middl e comp anies, miss. And then I started writing, you know, in my little notebook, what could be done better and how I can help these companies, to l earn more about design er becau se it's our job as designers and also design strate gies to ed ucate clients, abou t design processes. And then I just said, okay, I desig n strategy guide s ounds good. And then I slowly started creating and putting content on it and also making it more beautiful because this is a WordPress site, you know, and it takes a lot of facts to make it , uh , is it is, but yeah, I gave permission to build it slowly, you know , because when you have a small baby, you cannot be there for f ull-time job, but yeah. Now after a year, that's outside. I think we have a lot of content al ready. That's interesting for people that want to be more business literate, literate, a nd also want to learn more about strategy.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. So , you mentioned a couple of things. One is , well, the first thing is I'm amazed that this is done in WordPress. I mean, not, I mean , WordPress is a great tool, but , if anyone, u h, in the audience, he said the s igner has s trive to work with WordPress. It's not the most flexible tool for designing layouts a nd, and, and intricate sort of like more, more creative, de signs. so I'm, I'm surprised that that's the wo r d. I t it ' s ve r y gr eat. Great job. the other thing you mentioned is as designers, uh , we are there, or one of the most important role in design is to solve a problem. I think there's a misconception, uh , eve rywhere that design is just making it pretty. And then it's just the aesthetics of it. But, bu t you know, really what it is is, you know, you have a problem that you have to solve. These are the constraints, these, these are the resources, what's the best solution you can come up with.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. A lot of times I'm also , I mean, people contact me and then they just think that you're some kind of a magic f airy that will come there and make their, u h, brief into something beautiful. And I don't think that's a design because, usually that means that they have some references on b eautiful designs or products or mobile apps, which they find on a d r ibble a nd there is no one size fits all process that you can just apply as a designer. and they will be successful with thi s. s o I think that the first step for each comp anies tha t, uh , the y research their problem and that they have a clear goal in their mind because the only then you can, cr e ate a plan, how to make, how to go. I mean, how to come to the goal. and I usually suggest them that they break down the goal into some, you know, smaller, tiny parts blocks, if I can call it like that. And then you can , uh , create tactics for each block. And also it's much, much easier to implement metrics. So when you explain to the client that this is the usual process, maybe sometimes they're like, Oh my God, but this is so expensive. You know , especially for the user research, they are very , very scared, but I always tell them, yeah, it might be expensive, but maybe you can try to , develop your product for a year, come back to me. And you will tell me, what's the number you just t hrow out of the window to do something that's not needed and your users doesn't even like it.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. It's always an issue of like, how do you tell them, how do you tell, how do you explain that to the client without seeming cocky and without seeming arrogant. But it's just the truth. These, like, we've seen so many , so many clients, that go out and, you know, do exactly that. It 's l ike, Oh no, you know, I'm not going to pay so much for design. I just need my D m y product built right now. And they go and build it. And after one year they realized they bu ild t h e w rong thing and they threw out, you know, $50,000, $60,000 or more building an app that no one wants to use, or it 's r eally difficult to use. And they don't know why. And then they go back to the designer and they're like, we have this project it's not really working and can you help us fix it?

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. And then they started the same thing again. And maybe sometimes, I mean, it depends what you're doing. You know, if you're just some kind of a barber and you want to have a website that will tell you who you are, of course you can copy a design and maybe it will be successful. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you have similar colors, but if you have a product that's completely new , you have to start with research and, you have, you need a focus, you know, otherwise it 's j ust the fluff. I don't know.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. I think you , you mentioned something that that's very, very important is like if the barber wants to put up their services on online, it's different because a barbershop has been essentially the exact same business model for hundreds of years, if not thousands, like people have been going to barber shops forever. And , so you don't really need to explain anyone what a barber d oes. Everyone sort of knows, even if you don't have a beer, you know, what a barber does. So it's, it's what we call, or I like to think of that in terms of it's a commodity service in which everyone sort of offers the same level of quality, and then you're going to be shopping for maybe price. And maybe you're going to care a little bit about the quality, but if everyone is sort of like offering you the same level of quality, w hat y ou really care is, okay, is it close to where I l ay for where I work and how expensive is it, that's all care about. So you don't really need these massive user research strategy and come up with , something unique because people don't really care. I t's like, you're as good as the other person i s. Like, if, if you have a barber s hop across the street from another b arber s hop, I'm just g oing t o go. I'm just g oing t o make my choice based on, you know, how cool the owner is, or if they offer me coffee, when I walk in things like that. But it's not like it's a diff you're not differentiating yourself by the service. You're just adding more stuff to the core service, which is just, you know, cutting beer.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. Here in Slovenia. It's a cool example. When the , younger males, younger people open the ba rbershop a nd they put in the PlayStation, you know, in the couch. So t h is h a s o nly got a lot of new customers, a nd they become really popular and it was also in the news. So, you know, it's just the ti ny thing that differentiates you from all the other people. And you have to find what's different, you know, why are you so different from competitors? And it's the same, f o r the products, you know, I think that, it ' s really hard to be, it's really hard to create something completely new these days. You just create something that' s, tha t works better in a more seamless way. but yeah, you have to find what that is.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. You know , way the currency is now, the attention, like that's really the most important thing. How do you capture people's attention? Because we're in a time in history where like, there's way too much information, like way too much. And then how do you cut through the noise and make sure the people that could be your potential clients, are going to pay attention to you? Like, how do you, how do you attract their attention? and that is a very, I think, strategy, when we're talking about design, that's really, what you're trying to do is you're trying to figure out who you're really define who your target audience might be. And then where do they hang out? Do they use Instagram or LinkedIn or data use social media at all? They just read a lot of books or, you know, where, where do they consume their information and, where do they spend their time and that's how you can connect with them.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. I think that the , the core of strategy , is actually always the same. Y ou n eed to identify what's their issue, like the most critical issue, and then make a plan, how y ou will face the situation. And, I like to compare it to it, h ow it is when you're baking a cake. So if you add too many layers, like if you make your plan too complex, it will just break. beca use you add yourself too much work in the w ork . It's not applicable to your goal. but if you make just the right amount of the layers that will lead you to the goal, you w ill be fine. And it's also, you d o n't bake a cake for the first time you're successful, you know, that you make it so yu mm y. so you have to tweak the recipe and you make it a lot. I like t ry i t a lot of times, and it's the same in design. and design strategy gives you the option, t o make it like experiment, you know, that you rei terate a lot of times, you see, a n d you get the user feedback and you make it better. And then again, and again, it's not something that you do and just, pu t out to the world and expect that it will be okay, but we did this like 10 years ago, you know, when I started designing, it was like that you creat ed a de s i gn, you put it, in s ource file, give it to the development guys. And that's it. You never saw a Phot o shop files again. So this is not, yeah,

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. Hopefully it's not the case. I think, you know, if you're not really testing i nto what your solution, how do you know it works? and then I think we should, it would be a great idea to define what strategy is for, for people who th ese w ould, might be their first, e xposure to strategy. I have my own definition, but I found that a lot of people define it in a different way. For me is the intersection between what the user needs needs or wants and what's profitable for a company.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. I agree. It's actually a bridge , that connects in one side, t he business strategy and your planning, and then on the other hand, s o also design thinking can design principles, but in the same time, I suggest that you also take a look at the current market situation and, y our current business model, of course, and the industry. And like you said, your user needs, because only then you can define, t h e course affection for your logo .

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. I like to , I think strategy has a lot to do with positioning as well and finding your niche and focusing on one thing only, I like to think it, think about it this way is, i f you have a factory with a lot of machines, you , t here's a lot of things you can, you can make, you can make, I don 't kn o w, y ou can make tables, you can make, u h , st uff for the kitchen. You can make, p a rts for cars. Ther e's man y things you can do if you have, you got a h uge factory for bend ing met al, but is that really how you're going to get yourself known when you're entering a super competitive market where there's a lot of huge companies already producing pretty much everything. So you' re, yo u're not really going to get known for one thing. So that's how I think when you're trying to break into a market and you have to compete with already established companies, you have to choose just one direction, choo se jus t one thing. It's possible that there's a lot of things you can do. Like all of the things that I just mentioned, but if you just focus and I'm just , I'm just gonna , you know, I don't know , just a crazy example. I'm going to design the best spoon ever, the best boon metal spoon ever. And, you know, I'll come up with a very revolutionary design. So if you want to do that, the only way to do it is through strategy. If you go and try to produce all sorts of things, so you can there, you know, you're going to spend a few years and a lot of money trying to find what's the product that people prefer buying from you, as opposed to buying it from another , from another factory or another company. because no one knows you, you know, you're a new brand, you're a new player in the market. So for me, is strategy is particularly useful when your creating something new or you want to reposition something that was already in the market, but i t was not working.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. it can be used whether you're just starting your business, or also, like you said, when you want to start something new. so no matter what it g ives you the ability to improve and grow. But if I follow up on your spoon an d g o , that was the best example, I think, yeah. You can either decide that you will just start creating like a lot of different sports or you will be known, t hat you're creating, c u tlery and on t he best ones, but it depends. What's your goal, you know, what was your previous experience? and also, for this case, you will also have to decide what's your target audience, you know, beca u se you, I , sometimes I explain to clients when you will have to add the details in Facebook advertising or what, wherever you wil l a dvertise who you will target, you know, you cannot just say, Oh, everyone from 16 to 60 years old, it's n ot feasible. And then they start thinking, okay, now we have to really think about who are we selling to?

Ed Orozco:

Yeah, exactly. It's like this idea . We've had so many in, in my, in my career, I have heard so many entrepreneurs and product owners that when they come to , to us to create a new project, we asked them, okay, who's your audience? And they'll be like, yeah, everyone, like, what do you mean? Everyone is like, well, everyone. And I tell them, you cannot have everyone as your audience, like choosing everyone is choosing no one. And there'll be like, well, you know, everyone uses Amazon, everyone drinks Coca-Cola . And I'm like, yeah, but you're not Amazon. And you're not Coca Cola. These are massive companies that have spent a lot of resources getting well-known . you don't have those resources and more importantly, you don't have the time that they had to position themselves themselves. you should always try. I watch a lecture by, P eter Thiel, which was, he was one of the founders of PayPal, uh, t oge ther with Elon Musk. and he talks about how you, when you start, you need to monopolize a very specific part of the market. You start with the most specific par of, the day that was more like you have to choose a very small, v ery well-defined part of the market own the market, understand their needs, cater to their needs, offer something that no one else is offering them. And when you get wel l-known in that specific niche, you can add an, u h , y o u can add another layer, u h , o r expansion like around that niche. So like, if you're catering, l e t's say let's take, let's change the example of the spoon. Caus e I d on't think that was really good. Let me g o back to meditation apps because it's a popular market. That's growing, you have some big players, but you also have, you kno w , ne w apps coming out all the time. So let's say you wanted to create a new app for meditation and then the owner shows you. Yeah. So everyone needs to meditate. So we're just going to market to everyone. Yeah. But then you're competing with Headspace and you're competing with all of the others. So you're going to have a hard time , you know, capturing a portion of that market. However, if you choose a very specific target, let's say I'm g oing t o create a meditation app for anxious, teenagers that are also gamers, something like that. Now you have something you can work with t hat. You're going to be the meditation app for, f or teenage gamers. And then, you know, that you can promote on Twitch. You can go on YouTube way that, where they hang out instead of, you know, advertising on Facebook where probably your target market is n ot. I mean, I don't think teenagers are using Facebook anymore. I don't think they even have Facebook accounts. S o

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah, no , they are all on Tik TOK.

Ed Orozco:

There you go. So you will probably advertise on Tik TOK as opposed to Facebook. Facebook is for old people.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. But , I think that no matter w hat's the challenge, you know, design strategy and, that's closely connected to design thinking actually allows you that you do risk going to the market. So let's say that we use your example for meditation and yo u'll f ind out that th is t eenage gamers, a ctually miss the connection with their friends, you know, because now enduring the Corona gaming is very popular, but they don't have this real connection with people. They don't, they cannot talk with them in person. And then you find out when you 're a r e s earch re searching that they, c a n create a community, you know, so you offer in your app or c om munity part, and you're already different on a s your competitors. So you can up s el l som ething that they are currently not doing. You know, so maybe you add some different, ro o ms there so they can talk about specific gaming stuff, you know? so in this way, so like I said, no matter the challenge you can, use t he user research insights into, in a smarter way and also iterate on them. And while you're making prototype, like a lot of times, a lot of iterations, you get your feedback, and th e n you go to the market. So even if it's a spoon or a meditation app, it's a s marter business to go step by step, not just, creating something that alread y ex ists.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. That's very interesting because , uh, w what does that, even if you're established product, but you discover there's an opportunity, you can use the science strategy to target that over is Trinity. Let's save your Headspace. You can probably come up with either another app, or you can come up with a feature inside your app that targets the teenage gamers. so you create something specifically for them. I think it's also a matter of, determining what, what market you want to cater to, or where do you want to go with your product, and then de termining w hat's the best way to get there, because I' m g oing back to what we were saying recently, that if yo u j ust ju mp i nto, bu ild a m ode and start creating features and adding stuff, and just developing the product, you're going to go around. An d l ike the fa sters t he fastest way between a and B is a straight line. And when you're just jumping into building, you're just going to be going around in circles, or you're just going to be in zigzag or, or, you know, you're just not going to go straight. So the science strategy allows you first to determine who's your audience. And second, to determine what's the way in which you can serve that audience. And the way I say you can serve, because you have to take into considerations into a consideration of the things that you are good at, the things that you're actually capable of producing with a fair level of quality. like if I go back to the factory, the f actories probably not well equipped to, to create a meditation app, or the guys at Headspace are probably not well equipped to create spoons. So you also have to take into consideration w hat a re, you're good at what your expertise is and what part of your expertise is applicable to the target market that you want to go to?

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah, definitely once you know, how you can make your customers' lives easier , and help them be more effective, it's much easier, to create tactics in your company for planning an d o ptimization. And also, o nce you ide ntify th e se bu siness problems, you will easily create opportunities. in this is the smart business because you're bridging the design and business world. So design strategies for me are actually like a tr a nslators. You know, you understand in one side wha t design brings to the table in a way that you can creatively solve problems. And on the other hand, also what business, uh , br i ngs. and of course, if you don't have money, you cannot serve customers. So you have to sell your product. sometimes I think this is the simplest way, but we, but c lients, I mean, the companies forget about it. You know, they, they wa nt t o create something, sell it , bu t t hey forget that maybe there is no monetization plan behind.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah, I, I love your , your, y our analogy of translators for designers. I definitely think designers are translators. They translate the business, talk into user or customer talk and customer talk into business talk. They help those t o communicate.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah, I think there are still , u h, like before we talk that a lot of people see strategy, u h, in a different way, because also like designers see design strategy, more like art direction while business people see it more, as a strategy, yo u k n ow, like a plan, yeah, I w i ll, we will do this and this and this, and that's why it's right now, it's hard. for them to understand the value that can bring the design, the de sign strategy can bring to your business. so yeah. I think that slowly with this kind of conversation and podcast, they will get to know the process in a bit, you kn ow, more deep, in, i n a m uc h broader, situat i on so we can, be more effective or like we a s design strategist and Domus comp any l eaders.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. You mentioned value. And we already talked about how design strategy adds value to the, to the business, by saving them, saving them time and money. But , there's also some other benefits t o strategy. you can streamline your processes because if you know, you're going to be building spoons and ed its, we should probably abandoned that example already, but you can optimize your mash, your machinery and your production line to only bu ild s poons. So you build them faster in less time with less people, w ith less resources. Uh, an d he's jus t, j ust a good idea for business users being more effective as a, as a business.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. That definitely you're more effective because you have more effective design processes. And that means that you will also spend less money and all let's just take, for example, design system, your employees , n ot have to do a repetitive work once you have a design system in place and they can focus on important stuff. And that also means that you will reduce overhead. And like we mentioned before, you can use design thinking principles to solve problems more creatively. There's a lot of exercises that will lead you to better results. and I really believe, a nd also see firsthand experience that you decrease time to market, b e cause you get feedback so fast, you know, you' re ite rating on your product, you' ll get feedback, and then you can go to market much, much faster. Otherwise you're just, pe r fecting your product. And then in the end, like we mentioned before, it's not useful for the user. and also once the design is part of the DNA of the company, I really believe that you i ncrease trust because, people like everyone that works there are aware that, w e have to use the similar, I mean, thi s co nsistent visual language and that like in a branding aspect means that they will see like, p e ople will see how, ok ay , th er e's the same brand. I trust them . And of course, if we take all this into consideration, that means that you will perform financially much, much better because the users would be m ore satisfied and, als o come back regularly.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. But the only way to get there is to start with the research to really understand. And I find you mentioned the science systems. I find that when you're talking to clients for the first time, it's a lot easier too , for them to see the value of a design system, because it's more tangible. It's something that it's more, you can see the impact in the, in the production process, especially in development. You don't have to design new screens every time. It's , it's a lot more efficient because you already have all of the building blocks for new pages, for new features, your engineers don't have to ask Dodd many questions to the designers because they already know what they're going to build and how they're going to build it. And that is a lot, does that an easier conversation to have it's like your design system is just going to make you save a lot of money because you're going to design and develop way faster. So everyone, you know, it agrees with that. But the, the research part is what I find is consistently the most difficult thing to , let's say not to s ale, but it's the most difficult thing for a client to see its value. It's the c lients. Sometimes don't some don't want to spend resources on research because it's this ethereal thing that they don't really know, o r, or a dult they're g oing t o come to you and say, Oh, we already did our research. U h, we have analytics and we know, you know, how many users we have and, and, and all of that, we have the numbers. So how do you go about telling that? I mean, we understand that research is critical, is like, u h, the most important part of the design process in my experience, but how do you communicate that to a client?

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. I explained them that they are not their users, you know, so because , if you want to be closer to your customer, you have to talk with them. And usually in this kind of companies that are not aware of the user research, I, instruct them that they should listen to the customer support calls or just read the most. It depends what kind of the companies, so a lot of times this company leaders or p r oduct m anagers are not even aware of what's going on th ere. You know, they have their own timeline and workflow, what they have to do a s p ecific l ist of features they need to build, u h , w h ich t hey decided on, like in the start of the year. And then they're just chasing th is n umbers and features by the end of the quarter or by the end of the year. and if you show them like the different perspective, like the cus tomer's pe rspective, sometimes the y ar e re ally shocked, you know, in companies that don't connect this, i n sights from customer support and sales guys, ar e usually not really successful. I mean, they can do, they can sell as much. They can sell some products , and earn some money just to be alive f rom. But on the other hand, they cannot make a step forward. and when we start in like the beginning, a nd when they see the value of this, t h ey can somehow start to trust you, you know, and once they trust you, it's easily, it ' s easy to go forward with user testing and then they can listen to the videos or maybe they can be in the same room. Okay. Now it's grown and they cannot be. and also if you, as user r esea rcher, expl a in and show them the report, like in a translated version, let's say a very s imple version. Uh, so wha t's good, bad. an d t he worst they can, uh, qu i c kl y understand, okay, yeah, this is going on. We cannot rely just on our numbers. We will do this and this. And usually my trick, or I don't know if this is a trick, is that , I create, like little tiny, a ctions that we will do in a week or 14 days. Uh, so they will quickly see that the numbers are cha nged, c hanging, and that people are responding much, much better. so like I said, then they trust you. And once you have their trust, it's much easier to work on. and usually when I'm, you know, I work as an outsourced, con s ultant, and I 'm not there every day. So it's important that they do what's needed to, uh, t o be done in their company. And they also provide reports on what's done, you know, because otherwise you can create a great strategy and workflow, but if it's not, imple m ented properly, you didn't do anything. You know? So, like I said before, you need a whole team to go higher.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. You mentioned a couple of things that I thought of we're very interested in. the first one is, u h, y ou a re not your user. So I think when y ou w ere in the production side, like, behind doors working on the product, you see the numbers, a nd you see the analytics, but without, u h , q u alitative research, you know, what's happening, but you don't know why is ha ppening. And the only way to know that the , t o, to, to figure out why, why the user is behaving in a certain way is to do qualitative research. Is the yo u , I mean, there's many met hodologists th at you can implement for qualitative research, but looking at analytics is no t one of them. And so you have to go and , a nd , a nd, you know, interview users. So there's this, there used to be this concept. I don't know if it's a thing any more of the mystery shopper in which the owner of the company, it wo uld go, you know, if you 're th e owner of a r e tail, s o me retail stores, it w ou ld walk into one of the stores, this guy' s as a regular customer, make sure no one recognizes you and buy a f ew things. And or if it's an online store, you , you know, you order something online, you go through the process yourself and then take note of what are the things that are not working for you when you're looking at your product from a customer perspective, because there's a lot of biases when you're building the product, you know exactly how the product works, and you don't really look at the product the way a customer is going to look at the product. s o, so that's a great, a great way of like, understanding that your experience i s not g oing t o be the same as the customer experience. And the other thing you mentioned that I wanted to expand on is, uh , i n order to sell strategy or like the value of, of strategy and research, u h , y ou need to earn their trust and prove them that th ese t h ings w orks. So those early wins, when you're starting an engagement with a client, showing that very quickly, the value of what you're doing, you said, like breaking it down into smaller pieces and then setting up , uh , metrics for each one of those pieces, and then showing them really quickly, okay. We already found out that , customers are really not liking this f ar of the process or whatever. Like they, you know, they, they get confused in t his part of the checkout flow. That's already something that they don't know that they wouldn't have been able to figure out through, uh , t hrough analytics, b ec ause yo u know, you went and talked to the customers and the customers are going to be like, yeah, you know, u h , wh en I'm at the ch eckout stage, I want to see how long it's goi ng to ta ke for these ite ms to arrive, to, to where I live to my house. And they're like, Oh, we didn't know. That's the reason why you were not completing the checkout process. So I think that was a very important thing. so mystery shopper and earn their trust.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. like, u h, when you're checking the drop-off, you know, like if you have any commerce site and you're researching what's going on, a nd you might do like a lot of different stuff, you know, user research interviews, a B t esting, I don't know a lot of different stuff, but then you will realize that maybe they don't buy because there's too many decisions to be made. Let's say a lot of times people drop off because there's, I don't know, 10 or e i ght o ptions for delivery. Then they don't add tw o c a rds b ecause they don't know how to decide for their je ans. You know, like they have gr eat o ptions for style. They have eight options for color, and it's just too much. So sometimes adding too many options on a lso doesn't help. and let's say the re is th e me tric for spending time in the app, you know, of course you want to have a higher time. but we have a , we had a situation when we were designing an app for elderly people for tablet. So y ou m entioned, like 70 plus year old, p eople adding their weight daily and their temperature and their level of oxygen. And of course you don't want to have like higher time in th e ta blet because tha t's, I mean that people are not really familiar with the layout, but when I was starting doing this user research, I was like, yea h, y eah, yeah, we need to have a big but tons an d we almost solve everything. and, uh , the interesting insight here was also that we were implementing the branding guidelines. So that means that we had to use the orange color because of t he logo of the company was orange. And they freaked out, you kno w , wh en we had the user testing, they wer e lik e, Oh my God, something's wrong with me? so, you know, simple things like this, you canno t, fin d out with numbers, you know, we will, so you need to have interviews one on one, you ha you need test b ased testing. So a lot of different, I me a n, combination of tests, user research that you come up with, better insights.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. Open open-ended interviews for me are one of the most interesting , mechanisms for, for finding out these s orts of things, because you don't know why y ou d idn't, you don't know what you don't know. The users will always come up with something that you w ere not even thinking about. U h, finding out i s like, you're gonna, you know, test something a nd, you know, take test t he checkout flow. And then you'll be thinking about, Oh, maybe, you know, they don't like the t ypography or there's too many steps, or there's not enough options or there's too many options. And then t he, the user will tell you, I don't like the orange button. These a re there's too much orange. or I don't know, [i naudible], I just don't like, and you were not expecting that. Yo u're g o ing t o b e like, Oh, you know, there's no way you can find out, u h , j ust by looking at analytics that they don't like a certain color an d, and, you know, or measuring the wrong thing. Like, what you were saying is like sometimes measuring quote unquote engagement is not the best way to determine the success of a , of an application. Sometimes what you want is the user to do things faster and, and to have a higher success rate in less time. you also mentioned, u h, something, around, u h , t h e, having too many options that I think it 's, it's a problem for everyone, but especially for elder elderly people, having too many options puts a lot of stress in the user's mind. And there's a ton of research on th is. There's, there's a term called cognitive overload, which is wh en t here's too many decisions and there's actually a formula thing. It was a paper back in the sixties or something. Someone discovered that th ere i s a correlation between the amount of options, the number of options that you have and the time he t akes you to make a decision. And also the amount of stress that making that decision, u h, i s putting on you r, o n yourself.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah, I definitely agree. that's why you, I mean, you can never, also, if we're seeing a layout for a simple b log post, you know, if you have a lot of words in one line that's also stressful, and it's just simple rules that we can follow and, u h , y ou will already have a better conversion rate. so that's why I think the de sign, d e partment shouldn't be as a silo, but you have to organize your organization around design, you know, so we can all talk together, an d transparently share our information about users and that we also know what's our end goal. and also if we touch the, t he goals, you know, you can no t j u st say, okay, our goal is to improve the customer satisfaction because I think that's too weak. And a lot of times, uh, y o u c an see that company was, I don't know, scor ed for t he NPS, t his X num ber, but what does that mean? You know, what's the difference between number seven and number six or five and seven. It doesn't tell you anything. So you have to define like concrete goal. So for e-commerce site, you will probably say, you can probably say, okay, we need to come to 1 million sales revenue in four months, and then you will create specific tasks that will bring you to 1 million. And you will also involve people that you need, for t hese s pecif ic tasks.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. Well , one important part of the strategy is making sure that everyone knows about it, because if you conduct research and you have this set of goals and your , transformed your metrics and all is good, you're not really achieving anything if only two or three people in your company know about this, you need to make sure everyone from marketing to support, to development, to design, everyone needs to be on board with what the goals are. So I know their role of the designer when, when implementing a strategy feel like is , making that strategy actionable and actually useful for the companies. So, you know, whether that is, collecting two or three key insights, and then making sure that everyone understands them, and then all the time setting goals and all the time reviewing those goals, make sure that we are adhering to what we said was going to be our path to achieve those goals. Otherwise, the strategies is just, Oh, okay, we have this research. We have, you know, this instructions of what we need to do, but we don't really know how to, how to implement this. And we're just go ing t o g o back to the old ways.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. Because in the end, also, your CFO is part of making decisions for your customers. And , if w e a re all aware of the cost and also on the other hand opportunity costs, we can adapt the workflow, but usually when you come on as an ou tsourced p erson, you know, to the company and you tell them, ye ah, yeah, you will have to change the workflow. Otherwise you will not be successful. That's very stressful. And also in the other hand, ti me-consuming, so I think at s c hool t hat you level up, you know, yo u l evel up, t he workflow in som e sp ecific timeline, otherwise your employees can be very resistant to change. And once they will start to know the process and you will educate them about every step, o n the way they will understand the design process, and then they can also implement, an d start using it by themselves. And I think that's the win, tha t you can be really proud of if you learn people to do that.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah, absolutely. So, so far we've talked about , the value of strategy, why i t's important, u h, the value of research, u h, when should be, should we be doing research and, in what way and how research is, u h , d iffers from just looking at plain analytics. I also want to talk about for , f or ou r audience, when you are a designer that you want to sell the value of a s t rategy and like explain all of this, u h , c o ncepts that we've been talking about to dec line, w h at I fee, I feel like that the selling process starts before you, uh , yo u 're ever contacted by the client. I feel like you need to market yourself in a way that educates the client, an d put like craft your online presence and your marketing in a way that the client knows what to expect when they reach out to you. Like, if you're all about design strategy and you have your website design strategy.guide , and you talk about it, you write it , you podcasts about it. A client is not going to come to you and say, Hey, I don't want your research. I don't want your strategy. I just want you to do this visual design. It's not going to happen because that's not the way you are seeing online. So what would be your advice for agencies and for designers that want to change the way they are perceived by their clients, or how to like altered their online presence so that they can filter out the clients that only want these tiny visual thing, or this tiny thing that they don't really understand the value of design. And they start attracting the right type of client, that values research that understands the value of strategy.

Romina Kavcic:

I think that's closely connected , to defining your ideal customer. So if your ideal customer is, student, and you want to educate them about design, and also for me, like if I w a s, I want to educate design students about design strategy, then I would probably be very, a ctive on Instagram, or like we said before on Tik TOK and et cetera. But if you are attracting, co m panies, you will probably be more active on LinkedIn, and also do more content strategy because once they will read your blog, and t he kind of resources you share, they will start to know you better. And also, I think it's very important that you are authentic so that you are the same person online as you are, offli n e, becaus e once you will prov ide, worksho p s for them and also the workflow, and you will engage with them in a more regular basis. it's important that you are the same person, you know, if I'm writing , I don't know, humorous blog posts. I'm probably more funny person also when we w ill talk. so you have to find some people that you like to work with and that you also have the same values, you know, and I do do that in the same way, because it's really hard to work with clients that don't respect you or don't agree with your opinions. i n the end, you're just some, I mean, they act with you, like you're some kind of trash and that doesn't help anyone, you know, you don't want to be that person. So it's the same for agencies. So

Ed Orozco:

Yeah, absolutely. You definitely don't want to attract the wrong type of client and a way to filter out those clients is with your online presence. I think , as a, design consultant, or as an agency your sell your sales process, let's not call it a sales process, but sort of like your relationship with decline starts before the initial conversation that you have with them. It starts when they, when they see you online, they read your content or they're to listen to your content or watch your content or whatever you choose , to, to put out. And, u h, that's how you start building trust. there's th ese, I don't know where I read this. Uh , b ut, u h , i t goes like people do business with, o r clients do business with people. They like and trust. I think I read it on Chris Do's book. I don't remember, but it's true. You don't want to do business with someone you don't like, or , or you don't, you don't, let's call it vibe with is like what you mentioned. If you're not authentic, if you're one person in your online content and a completely different person in, in real life, there's going to be this off balance. They're going to be like, Oh, this is not really how I thought you were going to be. So when you are being really yourself, instead of trying to be someone else just, you know, be authentic, they know what to expect, and they know if they already know before they contact you, if they, if they want to work with you or not, or if they would consider working with you or not .

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. b ecause I was thinking a lot, you know, I was, I had th e o ne call with a consultant, f or the communication. And, u h , sh e told me like, yeah, you know, you have to be very, a p proachable, you know, and like American people, a lot of times are like, Oh my God. Yeah, this is so cool. You know, they're really excited about everything. And I told her, yeah, I know that that's a way to sell more, but I'm not like that. You know? So if I act that, I' m really excit ed and all over the place, and then I attract a wro n g kind of clients, you know, I will never be like that when we ha ve a call, of course, I will show my positive feelings, but that doesn't mean that I will jump around like crazy a woman, you know? So this is a cool example of being authentic and also knowing what you want to, who you want to work with.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. It's funny because it's, it's true. clients, you know, depending on their personality, your personality flows through your content as well. And through your online presence, if you're being authentic and, and y ou're, y ou're, you know, being honest to yourself and you're g oing t o a ttract t he people that also match your personality i s not so much about the people that want to hire your services for their professional quality, but also they i t's, you're going to track the people that have similar personalities or compatible personalities to the one you're putting out online. I t's like w hat you s aid, i f, if you're more calm reflexive, u h, you're not going to track, you know, very loud people who talk a lot and, and more are more extroverts because it's not go nna, it might work. You can be both very professional, but it's not going to be an ideal fit. Whereas if you're a very by nature is you're a very extrovert person, very loud who likes to talk a lot. You're probably going to be attracting that type of clients. He's like, you need to get out of this mindset that there's only a few clients you can go, you can work with. There's literally hundreds upon thousands of new tech companies requiring design services that are coming up every single year. And they, I know those because I know a lot of founders and a lot of people that are creating digital products, they have a really hard time finding good talent that they can work with, that they can trust. And then they can see , t hat, that they can keep working together and build a relationship. And that is because so many agencies and consultants are not, are putting out these undef differentiated offer out there. They're , they're all selling the same thing and they're all selling it in the same way and marketing themselves to sell the same way . It's like, Oh yeah, we're a UX agency. And we sell, you know, we know we do the wire frames and we do the applications , uh , user experience and things like that. And there's thousands of companies just doing the exact same thing. So how do you expect the client to choose between one of those it's like going back to the barbershop , if they're all selling the same thing, you're not going to be choosing based on , the quality of this. Well, maybe the quality, but not the type of service, u h, you're going to be choosing by other things. You're going to be judging by proximity to where you live. And, you know, if they g ive y ou, you k now, t ea or whatever, when you walk in i s the same thing. W hen you're marketing yourself, if you want to attract the right kind of people, you have to give them more than just a professional, just more than the deliverable. They're not buying your deliverable, they're buying the way you think and your ability to solve problems and, and, and how you are, who you are as a person. Can they trust you? Would they like to work with you? And the only way for them to find you and to, and to even reach out is if you've been working on crafting your online presence, based on those , uh , o n th e, on those qualities that we just mentioned, if you were putting out your personality and stuff.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. But building relationships is hard, you know, not just in business world, but also in personal life. And I feel that a lot of people just want to have something instant. And when you're searching for instance, relationship , uh , that means that all your designs are also have the big , because you will probably , work on a short term project, which means you don't even have time to get to know the stakeholders, get to know their customers. You will do something that's trendy and leave w ith t he behind and jump on another project. and that's why I believe in lo ng-term p rojects because you can sy nc y our energies, a nd also get to know the business owners in a really, e x tensive way. And that's the magic moment then, because you will, it wi ll know each other so well that you can do amazing stuff. and we 're not just talking about fluff now, but also like connecting the whole team together, on a more personal level too. Of co urse.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. And that's invaluable for that . That's invaluable for businesses. That's getting to work with someone they trust and they've known for a long time. Uh, it's a lot easier just to know that the relationship flows just like every relationship in your life. It's the same thing. You know, your clients are our people too. Of course. So they're going to is just the same as you would treat your friends or, or your partner or , or your family. if there's, u h, if there's t his, trust that you build up and you've cultivated, this relationship is g oing to be a lot easier to have discussions, especially the difficult discussions that happen when you're defining a direction for a product, and there's so much risk involved. So, a gain, you, you put all of that in your, in your online presence. And I guess that's going to tell the client who you 're, w ho you are and what you're like. And once they started working with you, like you said, it's important to make sure that is a lon g-term re lationship. That you're just not, u h , I use ones and these car d ty pe of service, but that you 're an expert that they can trust. And that you can keep coming back to you to no w for help when they have new problems, which keep happening. Like, you know, unless if, if, if companies are not solving problems, the y're, y ou know, the y're de b t.

Romina Kavcic:

Mm . Yeah, I think so now it's , uh, because it's, everything is changing so fast. You can't ever take your foot off the guests, so you , it's not, I'm interested in specific months in the year that you will connect with your UX designers or designers, and then they will change some stuff. And then you will forget about them for a month. it's important that you innovate constantly, that you iterate on your problems, that you do experiment, and of course, that you're also inclusive and let your employees share their ideas, from different perspectives, you know, from sales, from customer si de, l ike we mentioned already before. So

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. absolutely. So, I know that you have a course that, u h , t hat's sort of like an introduction to the sc ience s trategy and how to get started with design strategy. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. So , in the start I had like a n e mail course where you received 10 different lessons every day for 10 days. but now I changed the ch ange t h at f rom email course to actual course, it's still just te xt t e xt-based, but it's actually crash course because you can go from research in , you also get some exercises, what you need to do, then you are introduced to design strategy. I also share some specific stu ff. a case study from Samsung can, how they come, how they create a design strategy process. and they actu ally become a top tier company. Then I also touch like business objectives and design ROI. What's the d esi gn system. And also you get a ste p - by-step guid e how to do a remote design sprint together with the printable templates. So I think it's really useful if you'r e a de s i gner that you go through all the steps, bec a us e you g e t a pretty good overview of the design strategy.

Ed Orozco:

Yeah. That's, that sounds very interesting. I actually signed up for the course , u h, I think last week or something. Yeah, I'm g onna, u h, yeah. I' m, I'm very excited. And then, w here, where can people go to find more of you online?

Romina Kavcic:

well, I think the best ways to contact me on LinkedIn are, u h, just typing the design strategy guide, and connect there via email. but yeah, I'm also on Instagram. I have a hand le, a Lu m i na des igner, so you will probably, I mean, I can, I'm very prompt to answer on all the questions I always like to connect with like-minded people, th a t want to share some feedback. And also of course I can provide you some resources if I know an answer to your question.

Ed Orozco:

That's really awesome. all right. So, I think that's all for today. Ra mina t hank you so much for your time and for sharing all your knowledge. Uh , i t's be en r eally, really interesting talking to you. I'm gonna write down all the, in the, in the show description or the episode description, I'm goi ng to ad d links to where people can find more about you. I'm going to link your, your website and your, your accounts. yeah, it's been, it's been a pleasure having you on the show.

Romina Kavcic:

Yeah. Thank you . Thank you for inviting me. And I hope I shared some insightful , thoughts that will inspire people to research design strategy more, and of course, u h, start with the research.

Ed Orozco:

Excellent. Okay. Thank you so much. and see you guys next time. B ye. B ye

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .