Bringing USERPALOOZA to life.

“Hey Mat, could you draw me a few people? I’ll describe some of the characters I’ve met … “

But why aren’t you doing it yourself?

Colleagues have been taken aback why I’m working with an illustrator on USERPALOOZA.

A book with a human focus requires pages which portray the glorious difference between people — how they live, their context — to bring their world to life, and to show how customer research activities look in those environments, so readers can see themselves in the picture.

The book is about people. How to put yourself in their environment, learn about their behaviour and understand how they think, in relation to a product or service.

Long a proponent of communicating visually, it was inevitable this work was going to be illustrated, but as the text started to take shape, it was clear I’d need to bring the human element alive in the work to a level well beyond what I’m capable of.

Enter Mat Tait. Comic artist with a gob-smacking talent for visual storytelling and a compulsive attention to detail which draws you in, seeing new aspects each time your eyes cross the page.

This ‘drone shot’ of myself and a colleague interviewing holiday makers at a motor camp perfectly captures the context I describe in the book, and in this article I wrote following the project, on the importance of immersion in your customer’s environment:

In response to a section describing how I like to ‘soak my senses’ — spending time in a neighbourhood before visiting a person — Mat drew this three-layer progression through a streetscape, perfectly capturing the NZ vernacular:

A couple of dozen illustrations will grace the pages, almost all of them including people. Each is a reflection of real moments I’ve experienced in the field, so seeing them takes me back to that slice of a person’s life and the insights gained from each.

It’s a walk down memory lane for me, but I hope will help others see how they can use these approaches in their near future, to inform the way they bring brands, products and services into the world.

While I tweak the text, Mat is finishing the final few illustrations with painstaking care. It’s going to be worth the wait.

My book, USERPALOOZA - a field researcher’s guide, will be launched via in a few weeks time.

Thanks so much for the messages of support, and the hundreds of sign-ups. I’m super-excited the two year journey is nearing a satisfying end.

All illustrations by Mat Tait. Images © Nick Bowmast.

Design Researcher, NZ. Work: Articles: Side projects:,

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