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Meet Design Researcher: Emma Rose Metcalfe

Emma Rose Metcalfe

I listen, watch and talk with people from all parts of society, to understand what needs to be designed into products or services.
And I keep track of cultural, societal and tech trends so that I can pair together patterns that I learn from people, with the bigger picture, to help organisations make decisions about the strategic directions they want to move in.

My job title?

Design and Research Lead

What is your typical "day in the life of a designer"?

It depends if I'm in a field-work phase or a desk work phase.

In field-work I'm typically running or observing sessions with participants. Sometimes this is in interesting places where participants live or work or study or play, more recently a lot of this has been via video calls which is definitely a less fun and intense way of working.

In the desk days there's a lot of making sense of what we saw or heard, trying to find patterns and meaning, organising data that's been gathered, and idea generation or development.

Today I'm working with a team in two timezones so I will do a morning session with engineers in Tokyo and then take a break and go play with my daughter and have a relaxed lunch then do a late afternoon/evening session with Palo Alto.

5 Design principles you live by?

Not 5 but 7!

1. Do things with integrity - reject the superficial

2. Our visible solutions are shaped by invisible forces

3. Never waste a crisis

4. Go, look, see

5. Collaboration matters

6. Creative growth doesn't exist without personal growth

7. Cut yourself some slack

What problem can't you stop thinking about?

Re-distribution of equity...(not just financial, but social, education, gender etc)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Think about the lifestyle you want to lead - then think about how your work can help create that lifestyle. I think this extends to the type of person you want to be as well.

When is "Design done wrong"?

It's literally everywhere.

Things that were not made with people or out planet in mind, interactions that are designed for the convenience of what a machine or system needs to work are usually good examples. For example I picked my partner up from the airport yesterday and he was a bit late because so many people couldn't figure out which way to hold their passport in the customs scanner, or for how long to hold it. The person standing-by kept giving un-helpful advice like "turn it around", "hold your hand in the machine" which was in-precise and just flustered people more. All these things in my opinion could be better designed by observing how people behave and tweaking the system, the interface to the technology, the training, the interfaces and the instructions.

What skill do you wish you picked up really early on?

People don't (and shouldn't) care about your design. So should stop worrying about it.

Design tools you can’t live without? (Physical and/or digital)

Post-its - sad but true. They help to gather and synthesis thoughts, highlight patterns and consolidate ideas.

What’s in your bag?


A thin stack of post-its

Muji 0.38s

2 contrasting colours of sharpie

Child's snacks

Usually a few lingering toys (to entertain any child - my own or otherwise)

Recording devices and my laptop if there might be real work to do!

Books you highly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in design?

Design for the Real World - Victor Papanek

Doing Visual Ethnography - Sarah Pink

The Field Study Handbook - Jan Chipchase

Two Designer friends you admire and we should talk to!

Product lead at Runway ML, the best kind of hustler - also always trying to be a better version of himself for his team and his work.

Design lead at, super fun and radically laid back whilst doing awesome work to bring healthcare to the fastest growing parts of the world.

Where and What did you study?

Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, Bachelors Ceramic Design,,

MFA Experience Design Group


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