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ThinkPlace is working with geospatial scientists at CSIRO to teach design research methods

Teaching scientists to do human-centred design (& why)

Scientists are excellent at carrying out research. It’s what they do. But what kind of research?

When the CSIRO’s Location Index team wanted to draw on staff to create a future strategy and program of work they realised a different set of skills were needed to the ones their people already excelled in.

Location Index (LOC-I) is a project that is vital to the future of evidence-based decision making in Australia. It brings together different forms of data about locations, from street addresses to map coordinates and more, into a single database. This means crucial information about what happens where can be shared, compared and put to use far more easily.

This information has many applications, ranging from how and where to mitigate the impact of climate change, to where water resources might be located. How to generate economic growth without depleting natural resources and how to protect Australia against biosecurity threats.

The LOC-I team engaged ThinkPlace to build the capability of human-centred user research within their team, providing training to inform the future creation and integration of their program of work. 



ThinkPlace was asked to create and run human-centred design training to build the capacity of a highly-technical team to learn the importance of understanding of the individual, human goals and needs.

The CSIRO team’s leadership wanted their staff to be able to conduct interviews to understand the broader government staff perspective that analysis and use geospatial data to create products and inform policy decision making.



The training started by focusing on building skills of the LOC-I project team. 

They began with the theory of why we conduct qualitative, user research and the value of this type of engagement could bring to inform LOC-I. 

Then participants were taught how to conduct 1:1 interview, capture observation notes, and how to distil their research into insights. This training was built into their project and with their new capability, staff conducted 50+ interviews.



The second phase of the training was a hands-on experiential learning workshop created to distil the research into archetypes. This 1.5-day workshop rapidly moved through understanding:

  • The user archetypes and their roles, needs and goals through user cards templates
  • The overarching cohorts by clustering the user cards to give the team an eco-system picture that highlighted how cohorts are distinct and have unique functions they enable within the life cycle
  • The depth of the research to synthesis the motivation, satisfaction and pain points, data use and tools, needs of the role for each user archetype
  • The persona of each archetype by defining them with a name, user story, role, actions and specific goals.

The above process created the foundations of the archetype personas and experience maps developed out of the workshop.


ThinkPlacehas been teaching design thinking to LOC-I scientists at CSIRO



Through this training, ThinkPlace was able to shift the mindset of technical scientists to understand why and how to conduct user research. 

The experience maps developed from the team’s research will help guide the development of LOC-I. This work, and the skills and tools that have been added to the organisation as a result of it, will ensure a user-focused product that supports users to integrate data, analyses and ultimately improve workflows and policy recommendations and decisions.

Our design and implementation of this training has allowed this organisation to add valuable capability to take charge of its future and reorient its future program of work in ways that will meet the needs of users far more readily.

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