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Welcome to Modernity, the first of a monthly email from me and the team at Modern Human.

We spend a lot of time reading and researching in pursuit of designing products, services and workplaces that make a meaningful difference to people, to our clients and to the world. Along the way we find all kinds of fascinating information that contributes to how we think and shapes what we design. We wanted to share more of that with you.

We’ll be sharing more Modernity next month so if this issue piques your interest, sign up to avoid missing the next.

Until next month, never forget that the process of creating the kind of future you want to see starts today. Stay brave. Keep being disruptive. Believe in a better future. Reach out for help. We can do it together.

— PJH.


Imagine if your bank actually listened and fixed your complaint

Tesco Bank asked us to partner with them to design a complaints experience that would turn customers who have had their complaint resolved into advocates; empower customer service representatives to do their jobs more effectively; and identify opportunities for long-term service improvement. The result was a strategic service redesign that has addressed the root causes of complaints and reduced the time taken to resolve a complaint by up to 63%.

Read now


Recently, we’ve designed two completely contrasting working environments: a call centre for a bank and an office for a tech firm. So it’s perhaps inevitable that one of the themes covered in this first issue of Modernity is the Modern Workplace.

Designing a call centre feels important. We love designing offices for tech firms and libraries for elite universities, but designing environments like contact centres have a bigger potential to make a meaningful difference to people in their everyday lives. Over 750,000 people work in call centres in the UK and they have a significant impact on the experience we get as consumers. When we're confused, concerned, disappointed or angry, we phone. These emotional moments are proof points for a customer, and the environment, culture and tools within a customer support centre should support employees in dealing with these difficult situations. That's often not the case.

studio thoughts

As the Modern Human team pointed out at a recent meeting with senior management: "Contact centres have reached the limits of Digital Taylorism. Attempts to make the current processes more efficient lead to unforeseen human costs that reduce staff happiness and have impacts like increasing unplanned absence. They are actually reducing efficiency. Rather than optimise the current work practices, we need to rethink how we organise work to optimise employee happiness, effectiveness and engagement."


Workplaces are just one part of any cityscape. Zoom out and you notice that the way cities are being designed and thought about is changing. What risks do we run if we continue to allow our cities to be built and developed in spite of residents instead of for them, and what can we do about it? As Jane Jacobs argued in The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961): community is the answer. From the sense of identity created through co-designed housing developments to the rallying of local people to protest unwanted smart cities, the articles below suggest that we all have the power to shape the future of our cities and we should use it.

Studio notes

Our design studio is always busy, but July seems to have been busier than ever. We’ve put the finishing touches to the Customer Experience (CX) Strategy for a challenger Bank. We’ve delivered a redesigned workplace for a tech firm and a call centre for a Bank and we’ve created a CX Vision for a Publisher. We’ve won a pitch for the BBC and been appointed to their design research roster.

Amongst all of this our newest Mods, Lauren and Tom, have been working hard on new ways to share our ideas, start conversations and have a positive influence in the world. Last month’s Pizza Block event was part of their work. As is this new newsletter. We’re also working on a new series of interviews with leading thinkers, and in the next few months we’ll be releasing our first Modernity Report. The first one will examine the Modern Workplace.

We’ve been announced as finalists for the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) Awards in 2 categories for our work on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Results will be announced at the ceremony in September.

And finally, we’ve launched 4 new case studies on our website. You can find out about our work for VisitScotland and Oxford University’s Gardens, Libraries & Museums. You can also read about 2 service design projects for Tesco Bank: Collections & Recoveries and Insurance Renewals.

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