What does a data scientist do at a design company?

Having literally just applied for a data science role in at Melbourne-based design company, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this short blog post about data science at IDEO. Only a few* design companies have integrated data science into their work; IDEO of course, and Dalberg Advisory.

As a global leader in design it’s no surprise that IDEO is leading the charge in this space, and at least once a week I find myself looking at the the IDEO career pages thinking “could I move back to the Bay Area?”. I know most people would probably think “Heck yes! put me on that plan”, but after spending my entire first career moving country/continent every 3 years in order to stay in the field – from Australia, to San Francisco, to Liverpool, Oxford, and back to Australia again – I’m not so sure. Data science was supposed to be the career change that meant I could stop doing that.

So I love seeing articles like this, because a) it makes it easier to explain my data science/design obsession to my family; b) it means that change is definitely coming (“I can feel it in me bones”), and; c) it makes it much easier to convince others about the enormous potential and opportunities that data science brings to design.

Just over a year ago IDEO acquired Datascope Analytics, which is how Lisa Nash started out at IDEO, and why their data science team is still based in Chicago. But it appears they are expanding their data science efforts, with positions advertised in Palo Alto… And while I was in London – working as a data science fellow for a tech startup, IDEO advertised for a Quantitative/Digital Design Researcher, that contained more than a splash of data science. I won’t be surprise me if IDEO London (or perhaps IDEO Europe?) establishes cross continental data science hub.

Meanwhile in Brussels, Dalberg Data Insights is working on a bunch of fantastic international development projects – mainly in Africa, around food security, healthcare, and micro-financing. Dalberg Advisory established their data science arm in 2017. At the end of my data science fellowship I couldn’t help but swing by Brussels on my way home, just to check out the city…. you never know…

Fortunately we have some fantastic design agencies in Melbourne.

Portable recently dabbled with data science as part of a their Design for Justice project, and for at least one of their internal projects. More recently Paper Giant advertised for their very first data science role** which is really exciting. I’ll keep you posted on that front. I have no doubt there will be some tough competition.


So who benefits the most when data and design come together?
The data scientist? or the designer?


The answer…


Both. Equally.

Designers benefit from having a data-driven design approach, where data is brought to the forefront of the decision making process. Rather than trusting their gut, or intuition, they have hard data to back things up. I can imagine scenarios where hard data might be really useful, where user interviews or anecdotes are hard to synthesise, or in cases where they may be misleading, or where there are many different perspectives.


The job of a good data scientist is not only to solve problems, but also to discover the questions worth asking.


Data scientists benefit from having a human-centred approach, where decisions around how to best to select and analyse the data, or to build the right algorithm or visualisation, ensure that the design goals are met. Combine that with rapid prototyping, where feedback can be integrated quickly, and you will undoubtably end up with a better design-driven data science solution.

– A.B.

*based on the two that I know of…

**she says with fingers tightly crossed….


I couldn’t help but love that podcasts made an appearance in her post, and that they’re considered part of her everyday work. About a year ago a friend of mine set up a private Love to Listen Facebook group and my podcast playlist has grown steadily ever since. After finishing Serial Season 3 (amazing — talk about wanting to redesign a justice system… ) I’ve moved on to IDEO Creative Confidence Series and the surprisingly amusing IDEO Futures. Definitely worth checking out…

Designing for Resilience

A few months ago IDEO published an article about designing for resilience and using technology can be leveraged to make services more intelligent and empathetic. Which got me thinking (yet again…) How do you actually do this?


How do you back up anecdotes or interviews with hard data? and what are the most commonly used algorithms, platforms and tools that data scientists, designers, and social entrepreneurs are using?


Kuja Kuja is one product that has made significant impact in Africa – the world’s first real-time customer feedback platform for refugee environments, I’d read about the development of this before and it’s a great example of how a successful platform co-designed and built for one particular organisation can become a tool help communities throughout the continent.

So one of my goals for this week is to…

Find as many examples of data science projects that have a significant level of co-design involved, whether that be for the social sector, for government, for research, the tech industry, or business; and try and identify the common tools, technologies, algorithms that underpin each one.

– A.B.

Why I love running RHoK


We’ve received a lot of RHoK love this year, but last weekend’s Melbourne and Sydney hacks was probably the most productive with respect to getting prototypes & solutions across the line, and the most satisfying in terms of how well the hackers and change makers connected with each other, and with their causes. It’s clear we’re doing something right ☺️

Now we get to relax for a couple of months (“and breath”… 🧘🏼‍♀️) before we prepare for the Winter Hackathon and find our next batch of amazing change makers. A massive congratulations to Eddie for a successful first hack as our new Melbourne Community Manager. Handovers are not always easy, unless of course your new Community Manager has been involved in RHoK before; as a change maker, a hacker, and steering committee member. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to take up the reigns.

– A.B.


The Original Lifehackers

For your Wednesday morning coffee...

Liz Jackson, and founder of The Disabled List, talks about the misconceptions around disability and shares practical tips on how to design with disability, not for disability. Brought to you by Creative Mornings NYC

11% of our college population is disabled and disability is an emerging trillion dollar market the size of China, and yet the [traditional institutional] model of disability still lives on
— Liz Jackson

Liz also WITH, a program that places New York City’s creative disabled talent into the city’s top design studios for a 3-month Fellowship. The goal is to create new pathways into design for disabled people.

... disabled people are the original live hackers. We developed an intuitive creativity because we have been forced to navigate a world that isn’t not built for our bodies
— Liz Jackson

The value of a Human Centred Design approach to Data Science

A flurry of 3am (ugh) thoughts…

  • The ability to plan, build, iterate, and test solutions quickly. 

  • A way to identify the most important questions. To understand the broader context.

  • The ability to hone in on the most useful problems to solve.

  • Real collaboration across team. Better still co-creation,,,

Most likely from reading this (yay!) Harvard Business Review article a few days ago…


Creative Mornings - Melbourne

Creative Mornings is a breakfast lecture series for people working in creative fields; art, design, literature, tech etc. and for those who just want a small dose of creative inspiration to kick start their working day. Each month a new topic is explored by the numerous Creative Morning chapters world-wide (currently there are 139 chapters). Melbourne has a pretty active community (@Melbourne_CM) and I've met some really fabulous and similarly tenacious people that I wouldn't normally meet. These folks have managed to get past the naysayers and have just gone for it. It's a fantastic way to meet people locally make real connections, even if you work in a completely different field.



Breakfast gatherings in Melbourne are held on Friday mornings at Donkey Wheel House on Bourke St (Spencer St station end), next to Kinfolk coffee and the School of Life. There is always fresh-coffee thanks to Clement Coffee Roasters and yummy food (croissants etc.) to start the day. The whole event is free which is fantastic and it's not at all intimidating. 

Talks are typically longer than TED Talks so you usually get a much better sense of how people have turned their ideas into something real. As much as I love TED Talks, there is something very scripted about them, like a final project presentation or a final performance. After a while you can start to see the TED talk formula. Creative Mornings talks are less about self-promotion and professional speaking and more about the stories and projects. Some of them are quite long, a good half hour or so, but they almost always include a fair bit of Q&A. Best of all, if once a month isn't enough to get your creative morning fix, all the Creative Morning talks (worldwide) are posted on the website shortly after each event.

One of best things about these events are Jessamy's (@JessamyG_draws) graphic recordings of the talk. These are done live at each event, and it's always nice to chat with her afterwards.