Sanofi Australia Innovation

How our innovation and design thinking techniques helped create new product and service solution ideas for a global healthcare company.


Client: Sanofi Australia

Engagement: Innovation, Design Thinking

Location: Sydney, Australia



In late 2015, Cognitive Ink ran a series of design thinking workshops with the Innovation Team from one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare companies. 

The company held a large amount of raw and detailed patient experience data which had been collected from targeted questionnaires and research on diabetes patients. They wanted to generate ideas for new and innovative products and services to help these patients, however were unsure how to derive ideas from the data and how to assess their ideas for viability.

Cognitive Ink helped the team innovate ideas for new products and services, using our design thinking methodology SEED (Strategise – Enquire – Explain – Design). We guided the team to emphasise with the patient journeys, and then to brainstorm and prioritise ideas to meet the needs of both the patients and their support networks, as well as to achieve the objectives of the business.



Define the business objectives

The strategy step of the process kicked off the project, which involved defining with the business:
•    What are the key business objectives?
•    How are these measured?  

Business objectives included meeting patient needs and integration with other company offerings as well as the development of valuable new products and services. We used these business objectives to determine priority and viability of any solutions brainstormed (ie, would these achieve what the company set out to do?) 


Background research: Identify insights into the experience of a diabetes patient

Our starting point was a large amount of raw data in the form of questionnaire answers from diabetes patients and research articles in medical publications. 

To analyse this data we sourced quotes which represented each type of answer provided by patients, and used affinity mapping to identify key insights, such as barriers to good health (eg, financial struggles, time constraints for appointments, a lack of integrated health records, etc), how technology was used to manage the illness (eg, planning and tracking) and social constructs that assisted the patients emotionally (eg, virtual support groups). 

Visual summary posters were completed to show overarching themes with quotes taken from the data. These were used as a starting point for our hands-on innovation workshops with the business team.

Workshop: Who are we designing for?

Before looking at the patient journey, we helped guide the Team to identify a number of personas who would represent key patient groups. These included variations in age, education levels, family/marital status and motivation levels and would be used to gain different perspectives into the journey, with the understanding that this would be different for different patient types.


Workshop: Who are the other entities involved?

Using hands-on workshop techniques, we worked with the Innovation Team to identify other entities who the patients may interact with during their experience (eg, professional support groups, family members, healthcare organisations, etc). These would be used to trigger ideas when mapping out the patient journeys and later on to identify others who would be impacted by possible solutions.


Workshop: What is the experience of patients and their support networks?

The next step was to put the insights and personas together to map out patient journeys for each different patient type, from wellness through to life end. We examined the challenges they would face at each step with maintaining wellness on both a physical and psychological level, their priorities, who would help them, what would help them, and why. 

This included the journey not just for the patients, but also for others indirectly impacted by the experience (eg, families, friends and health professionals). We also identified how and where the company’s existing products and services linked into the journeys, to examine how these could be enhanced or integrated into possible new offerings.



Workshop: What are the key problems?

Using the insights, emotional and structural understandings gained in the enquiry phases, the team isolated all the key problems associated with each stage of the journey, within customer needs and in inherent challenges of the domain itself. The problems were clustered according to the phases of a healthcare lifecycle and prioritised. 


Workshop: How do we solve these problems?

Using the problems identified in the user journey as a focus, the Innovation Team ideated with a variety of design thinking games what an ideal patient journey should look like – What would the ideal experience be for a diabetes patient from wellness through to their last days? What would the ideal experience look like for their networks? 

Solutions were explored for their power to potentially transform the existing patient journey into the ideal experience. The team wrote down any ideas they had, not taking into account any technological or practical constraints. 

The result was several hundred new ideas for products and services. We then prioritised these by examining the impact of each possible solution for the patient and the company, against effort/time required to implement it.



Cognitive Ink assisted the Innovation team in identifying a number of key insights and patient experience challenges which had not previously been considered. The overall outcome of our process was the generation of a large number of ideas for new products and services, resulting from a newfound understanding and empathy for the journey of diabetes patients and their support networks. Prioritisation was done by balancing the impact for patients with the impact in achieving the company’s business objectives, effort and time involved to implement and the potential for integration with existing offerings.

Money Brilliant User Research

Money Brilliant Logo.png

How our user research helped shape the design of the new MoneyBrilliant money management app for mobile.


Client: MoneyBrilliant (formerly Cha-Ching)

Engagement: User research

Location: Sydney, Australia



MoneyBrilliant was founded by Peter Lord in 2011 to help people better manage their money. Since then, led by CEO Jemma Enright, the team have developed a rich digital platform for tracking personal finances and providing guidance to better manage money by reducing expenses and saving more. Although the company focus is on empowering women to manage money, the tools are used not only by women, but also men and families across all walks of life. Since its reslease in 2014, MoneyBrilliant has attracted a growing following of dedicated users. 

Earlier this year MoneyBrilliant started planning a mobile expansion of their offering, engaging Cognitive Ink to carry out user research. The aim of this research was to help the team decide which features most effectively support their customers' money management needs and should therefore be included in the new mobile app.


"Which features will our mobile users really need?"

Exploring needs with real people has to anchor on what people understand best; the everyday stories of their lives. Asking someone directly about which features they need or want can often result in answers coloured by cognitive and social biases. In contrast, we wanted to understand peoples'  implicit needs when it came to the day-to-day management of their money; (how do they manage their money and why do they do what they do?)


Our research approach

To focus on implicit needs, our research sessions were therefore focused on storytelling. We talked with users about their successful moments in money management, failures and other areas of their lives where management practices came into play. 

This led into a brainstorming technique we called "The Genie". This works by proposing that a person's wishes can be granted by an imaginary figure, no matter how improbable or impractical the idea might be. This framing allowed people to brainstorm a wide range of "blue sky" ideas and solutions, free from the usual "reality-check" limits we would usually impose on ourselves when it comes to thinking about technology.

We also presented participants with a number of existing ideas (derived both from existing features in the desktop version of MoneyBrilliant as well as some from earlier participants) and let people react, provide their prospectives and suggestions and then rank their preferences. Presenting the ideas on"quick sketch" paper cards(as opposed to professional screen designs) allowed people to focus on the concepts of the ideas and how this would affect money management in the context of their lives. The "easy to change" perception of paper also encouraged participants in making suggestions for change.


Putting it all together

Ideas, material and notes produced during the interviews was synthesised alongside survey data and pure domain research. Using multiple types of research makes it easier to avoid biases adopted by using insights gained from a single style of research. The focus of the analysis was to create behavioural models that could predict the suitability of proposed solutions and to provide design guidelines for how to implement the features in a mobile experience.

We considered that mobile interactions often occur in the context of limited time and/or busy environments. Mobile users would therefore use the features differently from someone sitting down at a computer.



By participating in the research, the MoneyBrilliant team gained deeper insights into:

  • how people solve and fail to solve their financial problems
  • where financial activity fits into a person's daily life
  • what solutions suit novices versus those that suit experts

Twenty proposed features for the mobile experience were winnowed down to a short list of four heavily-validated features for the MoneyBrilliant mobile experience. Outcomes from the research were used to inform and revise screen designs.

The MoneyBrilliant mobile app was released early 2015 and we've been excited to hear its release has since resulted in a steady 50% month-on-month growth in MoneyBrilliant users.


Words from the MoneyBrilliant team

When we approached Cognitive Ink we had lots of questions around how to support our users for the mobile experience. At that point we had only created our product for desktop users and we understood that the mobile experience would be completely different. We had ideas around what we wanted to build, but were not 100% sure whether it would meet our users’ expectations.

Christopher and his team helped us dig deeper into our users’ needs, painpoints and behaviours around money, specific to mobile use. Through their research we identified different groups of users and were able to prioritise the features we needed to build in order to support them. This helped us to be confident that we were building the most important features to fit the market, design a brilliant and flawless user experience and also delight our users with a behaviour-changing product. We expect to continue working with the team at Cognitive Ink to keep building amazing products and services.
— Adrian Soldan, Head of Product & UX at MoneyBrilliant
We brought Cognitive Ink in to support the development of our first native app experience. This was a very important project for us because we knew the power of an app experience to drive engagement and support people’s financial lives. We had a mature desktop solution, so part of the challenge was to start with a blank slate and create something powerful in a mobile context. Christopher led us brilliantly with an intelligent and creative approach to understand the needs of customers. He’s one of the best researchers I’ve worked with, not only in the design of the research but also in his talent to explore the customer need in a free-flowing, yet directed way. This helped us achieve a clear direction we could be confident in, and the result was an app that has been praised both by customers and the broader financial services industry for its UX and UI. I’d highly recommend Christopher and Cognitive Ink.
— Jemma Enright, CEO at MoneyBrilliant


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Drop us a line. We don't bite and we'd love to chat.

Design Thinking Workshop for HealthTech Sydney

One hundred people, six teams and two hours. In early August 2015 we ran our largest design thinking workshop ever.


Client: HealthTech Sydney

Location: National Innovation Centre, Sydney


A taste of design thinking

In June 2015, Christopher from Cognitive Ink was invited to speak about design thinking at a presentation and panel event on the impact of wearable devices in healthcare, co-hosted by hosted by HISA NSW and HealthTech Sydney.

HealthTech Sydney is a professional working group founded by Gaurav Sood, Allan Manuel, John Ng and Santhosh Thiyagarajan in 2013. Based in Sydney, it organises panel discussions, workshops and events for the Health Technology community in Sydney, to identify healthcare opportunities and drive health tech innovations into the market. Its mission is to unite medicine, biotechnology and healthcare with technology, entepreneurship and business to grow and support innovation in health.


A design thinking workshop in healthcare

As an outcome of the excitement generated from the previous event on design thinking and wearable devices, HealthTech Sydney organised a public design thinking workshop to be designed and run by Cognitive Ink. The aim was to introduce the concept of design thinking and pair it with a  collaborative and hands-on first experience.


What is design thinking?

Though pitched as an innovative and new methodology, design thinking is actually a modern revitalisation of many older ideas drawn from design methodology, ergonomics, human factors and the scientific method.

From design methodology, design thinking has drawn the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking as well as well as the importance of ideation.

From ergonomics and human factors, a sensitive appreciation and empathy for the persons strengths, weaknesses, needs and emotions as a driving force for design requirements.

Most importantly, from scientific method, design thinking draws from a type of logic known as abduction. Formalised by the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, abductive reasoning is less popular then Deductive Logic (which reasons from a sequence of statements to conclusion) or Inductive Logic (which reasons from a sequence of observed examples to a general rule). However, abduction has become popular again due to its capacity to formalise the process of pattern synthesis and theory formation. At its core, abduction (abductive logic) reasons from observed patterns to a theory that explains the patterns. As noted by Peirce,

"Abduction consists in studying the facts and devising a theory to explain them” (Peirce, Vol. 5, p.145, 1931)

In this way, abduction it is the only true creative or generative style of logic.

"Abduction is the process of forming explanatory hypothesis...It is the only logical operation which introduces any new idea” (Peirce, Vol. 5, p.172, 1931)... “All the ideas of science come to it by way of abduction...” (Peirce, Vol. 5, p.145, 1931).

Design thinking makes heavy use of this type of data intensive, pattern seeking synthesis. Where hundreds if not thousands of points of interest are synthesised into a theory of behaviour, not just to explain, but to serve as a launch pad for a designed solution.

Abduction has been consistently identified as the core logic of synthesis by influential thinkers like the Nobel Prize winning Herbert Simon a social scientist/economist and Jon Kolko, a well known designer and thought leader.

With these separate influences combined, design thinking by these various lenses could be considered a systematic and creative process that begins with creating an explanatory theory about a problem space and then ideating and designing solutions with empathy and engagement for those that will use or be affected by the outcomes.

When carried out effectively, design thinking has the power to transform static thinking, identify new ideas and create energy between stakeholders.



Cognitive Ink's aim was to expose the workshop participants with the most engaging design-thinking activities possible, while catering for the constraints of a small amount of time and large number of people. 

The team at Cognitive Ink brainstormed with the team at HealthTech Sydney to understand the makeup of workshop participants and the duration of the event. Given time and capacity limitations, rather then carry out a full design thinking arc, the team decided to focus on a truncated synthesis, empathy and solution ideation exercise. Essentially, the team needed to find a way to create a ‘design thinking essentials’ experience.

As the concept of design thinking would be brand new to many of the participants, it was important to ensure that they were not rushed or overloaded by activity.

To accommodate for the number of participants, we made the decision to make smaller, more manageable groups (each guided by a coach), to allow everyone to be able to collaborate and contribute.

Rather than carry out a full design thinking cycle, the team decided to create significant seed materials, including a basic persona, and a textually documented user journey. Each team would be presented with a high level view of the entire user journey and would be restricted to one aspect of the overall journey. Ideas from each team could then be presented back to the entire audience at the end of the session.


Preparation materials

To provide participants with a basis for their design thinking activities, Cognitive Ink created a basic persona, "Olivia", and a full end-to-end user journey through the Australian hospital system based on previous real-world ethnographic research and cultural probes. The journey included information about the physical spaces, contexts, service activities as well as a deep dive of Olivia's and physical and emotional states including her needs, and fears. This ensured participants considered problems and solutions beyond specific digital considerations.

Initially, we considered each team working on the entire journey. However, to make the presentations more unique, we decided to split the journey into six stages (e.g., triage, follow-up care, etc), which would be tackled by each of the six participant teams. This way, teams would get to take emotional ownership of each stage and it would also reduce the risk of teams present similar solutions to each other repetitively. 

Dedicated hand-out packs were provided to both coaches and participants, which containing the detailed persona, background and and journey information were then prepared for the participants and their coaches. Teams were also provided with pens, pencils and Post It notes for the hands-on activities.


In action: Design thinking with one hundred participants

The event was held at the Australian Technology Park National Innovation Centre in Sydney. Limited to the space of the venue, the Design Thinking Workshop was a sold-out event, with more than 100 people having purchased tickets.

One of our biggest challenges was determining how to manage the flow of materials, tasks and ideas within such a large group. Splitting the attendees into six groups still resulted in teams of up to 15 people each. 

We were lucky to receive gracious support from a UX class from General Assembly and a medical student from Sydney University to provide team-specific coaching support. They provided an invaluable link between the principal consultants from Cognitive Ink who were moving between the teams and helping the teams carry out the design thinking process. 


Our fantastic team of volunteer coaches (above): Louise Isackson, Van Nguyen, Verica Nikolic, Philip Georgiou, Kate Baker, Havish Vemuri, Sara Javan (UX students from General Assembly), Ron Lui (their tutor) and Shelley Hubley (medical student at the Uni of Sydney).


In action: Warming up with empathy

Workshop participants warmed up with an empathy building review of the Persona and User Journey.

The purpose of the empathy building review was for participants to view the journey from Olivia's perspective, to introduce the concept of considering the healthcare domain not from the perspective of technical systems or political problems, but from the emotional and physical experience of the patient (Olivia).

This initial step also provided an opportunity for participants to bond as a group and kick-start discussion about the problems at hand.


In action: "Flip It"

After understanding and empathasing with Olivia's user journey, we then asked participants to brainstorm solutions to Olivia's negative experiences. To open up the best "anything is possible" ideas, we encouraged participants to base their solutions in the context of 2025, freed from the constraints of current day.

Participants were asked to 'Flip' each negative experience into a positive and to write each of their ideas on a on Post It note before sharing with the group, to ensure that everyone's unique ideas could be heard.

Participants were also provided with additional brainstorming prompts from NESTA, the UK based innovation project.


Participants then each presented their ideas to the group and added their Post It notes to the team board, dividing the ideas out into those which could be implemented by changes to technology, process or the behaviour of healthcare professionals.


In action: Grouping and evaluating solutions

As a group, participants then evaluated the solutions to find common themes or meta-solutions. Common themes and meta solutions were evaluated for their overall benefit to Olivia's mental and physical health outcomes as a primary goal and then operational efficiency or performance gains as a secondary goal. 


In action: Creating a Cover Story

After grouping and evaluating solutions, the team choose the best solution which they prototyped via a 'Cover Story' task, where workshop participants would describe the characteristics of their solution via an imagined ‘Cover Story’ for a popular magazine, which would encourage them to highlight key imagery, value propositions, statistics and other solution detail. 


In action: Presenting back to the group

Participants from each team then presented their Cover Story posters and ideas back to the wider group.


Although there was not enough time to carry out a deep analysis on interconnecting the solutions for the homogenous end-to-end journey, several trends come to life when reviewing the solutions after the workshop. 

Most significantly, there was a heavy presence of autonomous and adaptive, non flat-screen technologies, including:

  • Robots
  • Drones (really just 'robots in the air')
  • Artificial Intelligence (or at least expert systems)
  • Embedded devices, Wearables and Internet of Things

Perhaps the "Zeitgeist" of the moment suggests a surge in interest for these technologies? Or, perhaps there is a deeper desire to explore technologies that create new interactions beyond eye-to-screen?

Healthcare is fundamentally about our state of being, whether we are well, ill or end-of-life. Eye-to-screen technologies often get 'in between' our relationship with those that care for us as well those who care about us. In effect, they can reduce the quality of our human-to-human relationships. 

Do adaptive and autonomous technologies like robots increase or reduce the quality of human to human contact? They are undoubtedly instantiated in physical space, but at the same time, in their current design, they are still very artificial. Does that mean we cannot have a human connection to a non-human device?

Perhaps we should ask the many Aibo owners who desperately seek parks and technicians to keep their artificially created pets running and experience significant emotions as their robotic friends degrade and cease to function.

Perhaps even the simulacrum of something that is warm and caring is better then nothing at all.

These questions take us beyond the mere application of cutting-edge technologies to the deeper design thinking questions about the suitability and design of better healthcare experiences. 



Ideally, it would have been good to have more time for workshop participants to carry out activities that helped them engage more deeply with the person and the problem space before ideation.

Having delivered numerous design thinking sessions before, the scale of the event still presented a unique and significant challenge. This was accentuated by the emotive and rich complexity associated with the healthcare domain.

Though we conducted extensive planning, structure, trail-runs there were still surprises that gave us great insight for future events at this scale. (Did we say how important planning and structure were?) 

We had a desire to create both an overarching theme and relationship between groups as much as within groups. How might we do things differently? Group size is a significant force on the social dynamics and practicalities of design thinking. In hindsight, we will make sure we continue to sub-divide the overall journey until each group has a segment of the journey and the group sizes sit at 6 - 8 people. 

Though we only focused on three core activities, we may continue to simplify how many activities we attempt when dealing with such large groups. Do less activities, but do them better, for longer. 

Overall though, we learned that there is a unique and special excitement associated with teaching, motivating and leading a design thinking exercise with 100+ individuals. Where, for a moment, individuals become a group, unified with a single purpose and delivering against a visionary future. 


Can we help you with design thinking or innovation workshops for your team?

Drop us a line. We'd love to hear from you!

Enterprise ordering portal

Client: Large nationwide enterprise company

Location: Sydney (Australia)

In 2013 Cognitive Ink was asked by a large enterprise company to redesign a new frontend for their Siebel-based transactional ordering portal. This project required analysis, domain research, design and usability testing, as well as working closely with external development and internal testing teams. The result was something that revolutionised anything we've ever seen done  for a system involving Siebel.



The large enterprise client provided a number of its more complex products via a rich service network of sales and implementation partners. The partners are an essential part of the ecosystem of sales channels, yet they struggled with an outdated and complex user interface for ordering products. In time, numerous projects had failed to deliver a positive user experience, resulting in a strong negative association within the user base.

This is what the users had been stuck with:


Creating a new user experience

The purpose of the project was to create a new user experience for partners, while continuing to invisibly use the original backbone systems to provide uninterrupted ordering and direct tie into back end fulfillment systems. The deeper cultural goal was to regain the user's confidence that a better user experience could be delivered. 


How far can you push an enterprise platform? 

The Siebel front-end framework was pre-selected for the project long before user experience could provide guidelines for user drive capabilities. This created a fundamental challenge that impacted the entire project for it's year long duration. The user experience was to be created somewhere in between the two opposing forces of user needs and severe system limitations. The Siebel front-end framework is an extremely dictatorial and limiting design framework. Unlike a framework like Bootstrap UI (which allows heavy customisation), Siebel heavily restricts what can be changed or how interactions can be implemented. Unfortunately, Siebel is commonly present in enterprise user experience because it is the out-of-box front-end associated with Siebel back-end systems, which power a number of large enterprises. 


UX between a rock and a hard place

How do you create an award winning user experience between the rock and the hard place? Between a technical framework that cannot be set aside and a user experience that must be satisfied. 

We selected an agile / lean UX approach to provide early and rapid concepts in conjunction with immediate user feedback. This also had the advantage of dovetailing with the agile development process that was already in place for the project development stream. 

The UX design would be delivered using Axure RP software, which allowed for richly interactive and hosted prototypes. This was extremely important, as a significant portion of the team was located in Melbourne, with the development team located offshore. Using Axure would allow them to experience the proposed system before it was even built.


Sprint Zero - The Architecture 

Using existing detailed user research that had been conducted by a previous user expeirence team, we initiated an Agile Sprint Zero, architecture stage. It is a crucial step for user expeirence in an agile context. 

Though subsequent iterations may deeply amend the concepts, it is essential to create a baseline design concept that expresses a first perspective of the fundamental user experience architecture. This includes transactional user experience assets like: 

  • Entity (data) model
  • Information architecture 
  • Navigation model

We tested the user experience architecture derived from sprint zero with users and made adjustments directly post feedback. 


Sprint Two to Four - The Iterations

Using the feedback and improvements gained from Sprint Zero, we entered a sequence of two week sprints, delivering blocks of functionality into the larger user experience design. We carried out a repeated pattern of internal business feedback, technical feedback and then user feedback. Each round of rapid feedback resulted in updates and changes to the UX design. 


But we thought that would work!

Although the system functioned effectively, and many UX design solutions proved to be implementable, the process was not without significant challenges and occasional road blocks. 

In several cases, UX design proposals created parallel technical experiments as the implementation team struggled to develop the proposals as dictated by the design. Daily stand-up meetings (conducted virtually) were supplemented with bi-weekly UX - Technical negotiation sessions. 

In these sessions, UX design proposals were discussed in the context of the outcomes of the technical experiments designed to test their feasibility. In many cases, significant changes needed to be made. In a number of cases, compromises needed to be made. To help organise the challenges, especially as new feedback arrived from end users, a triage system was developed to grade the user experience challenges into a sequence of Deferred, Minor, Trouble, Critical and Blocker. 

All UX challenges were recorded in an online Kanban style card wall (Trello), so that the entire team had access to the state, priority and status of the UX challenge. Because both the UX challenges and the Axure prototype that represented the entirety of the solution were hosted online, all team members across all locations were constantly up-to-date with the content. 



After nearly a year's worth of work, the team had transformed an out-dated and difficult user experience into a modern and user tested solution that revolutionised a complex enterprise ordering process. 

Note: Screenshot below has been changed to greyscale to obscure the identity of the client.

Demibooks iPad app for creating books

Demibooks Composer

Client:  Demibooks

Location: US and Australia

In 2010, Demibooks created the world’s first iPad app for creating interactive books. Originally targeting the iPad 1, this was an ambitious project that pushed the edge of what was considered possible on the iPad, from technical, user experience and design perspectives. At that time few realised the potential of using iPad to create complex content. The goal of the project was to create a tool that authors, creators, artists,  animators and educators could use to create richly interactive books, apps and resources… without touching a line of code. 

As a founding member of Demibooks, Christopher from Cognitive Ink was responsible for the user research, requirements gathering, concepting and design of the Demibooks Composer Pro app. 

Demibooks Composer Pro.png



The journey toward an iPad based interactive book creation tool started with the release of the iPad 1 in 2010. For the first time, the iPad combined a full screen touchscreen, graphics capabilities, audio, touch sensitivity and battery life into a single package. 

From a technical perspective, the iPad came directly with a rich library of programming interfaces that could make use of a number of the devices hardware and software capabilities. Unfortunately, using any of these capabilities required deep programming skills, licences to use Xcode (Apple’s development framework) and a deep understanding of the Apple Developer’s program. Beyond Apple, new entrants to the iPad ecosystem were replicating their game, physics and animation engines to the iPad, providing yet another layer of capability to an iPad app developer. Yet again, deploying or using any of these tools requires deep programming knowledge. 

None of these technical capabilities would help an author, artist or teacher, as most would little to no programming skills. As such, it was extremely limiting for authors, artists or educators with vision and need. They had capacity to create the assets, images, sketches, audio or video, but they had no way to fuse the assets into a framework. Nor did they have a way to add the layer of interactivity that transformed a static experience into an interactive one. Even though the iPad and associated engines had created the technological platform, they were unable to make use of it.

What many artists did have, however, was a vision and drive to create rich, interesting, educational, entertaining and meaningful interactive experiences on the iPad. So the Demibooks team set out to design the impossible. A fully capable on-iPad design and testing app, that would let creators focus on creating, testing and publishing their interactive books, without needing any programming knowledge. 


Research through real world inspiration

The roots of the Demibooks Composer design started with the real world inspiration of authors, artists and educators at work. We worked with Stacey Williams-Ng, who acted as a dedicated user representative. Stacey is an author, illustrator from the United States and provided crucial insights and feedback on how authors and artists created assets, how the authoring workflow worked and what capabilities the tool would need to offer to tell compelling stories. Stacey was interested in turning one of her story concepts into a living interactive book and we used her story, Astrojammies, as source material and test cases for the requirements and design process.

Model and flow

Learning from real-world behaviour, and in parallel with the development of the user stories that formed the requirements, we created the backbone workflows that defined the entire application. 


Rapid concept and wireframe cycles

A rich set of workflows, paper prototypes and research led us to develop more formalised concepts and wireframes.

Learning from real-world behaviour, and in parallel with the development of the user stories that formed the requirements, we created the backbone workflows that defined the entire application. 



Rapid concept and wireframe cycles

A rich set of workflows, paper prototypes and research led us to develop more formalised concepts and wireframes.


Rapid concept and wireframe cycles

A rich set of workflows, paper prototypes and research led us to develop more formalised concepts and wireframes. 



Facing design challenges

There were so many interrelated design problems to solve that we would often have to pause on creating the framework of the application to deep-dive on a specific design problem. 

In this example, a deeper exploration of the content library, where users could bring in their content to add to the interactive book. 

In-market testing

The scale of the problem was obvious early and instead of waiting until we had a final product, we released Composer 1.0 into the market, even before we’d created a final visual design and treatment.


User testing through an online community

We built a user community and selected user champions using Get Satisfaction to learn more about use cases and user behaviour. The combined sources of feedback lead to a radical treatment and usability update with Composer 2.0. 


Visual design updates



Using an Interactive Book.jpg

Since 2010, Demibooks Composer has been used to create hundreds of interactive books in many different languages, which have educated and delighted children around the world.

The app currently has a 4.5 star rating in the Apple App store.

Emergency response mobile app

Emergency response mobile app

Client: Partnership with Symmetric delivering to St John Volunteer Service

Location: Australia

Cognitive Ink provided strategy definition, requirements analysis and user research, which then led to the interaction design for a first response app for the St John Volunteer Service. The purpose of the app was to provide St John volunteers with guidance to the severity of triage cases.



An off-shoot of the St John Ambulance Service, the St John Volunteer Service provides extensive emergency response support to local community events, as well as raising funds and running youth programs. Cumulatively, their 15,000 volunteers provide over 1 million hours of volunteer community service every year. 

St John’s Volunteers are a well trained and dedicated medical support team. Many of their members are drawn from the ranks of the fire-service, police forces and practicing St John’s Ambulance officers who continue to contribute their time and expertise beyond their normal paid roles. The senior leadership are responsible for the continual induction and training of volunteers, many of which who later join the ambulance or medical services. 

Medical triage can be a mixture of many low risk cases, punctuated by sudden and more serious high risk cases. Paper based patient record assets are the main method of tracking a case.

St John Patient Record.jpg


Workshops with St. John senior staff representatives suggested that there were a number of contextual and social forces that shape the triage process and would need to be factored into any analysis, including: 

  • Speed of interaction - A triage process must be rapid. Any tools are assets that slow the process down will be discarded.
  • Bedside context - The triage process (and any associated tools or assets) must fit within the patient interaction. The patient is the first priority and any tools that get in the way won’t be used, won’t be useful and may even distract from triage. 
St John Affinity Mapping.jpg
St John Event Christopher.jpg

Onsite research

Rather than presuming that a digital solution was necessary, we challenged why existing methods needed to be replaced, given their robust and well understood use. To gain a deeper insight, we went into the field at an early morning major event in Sydney and conducted interviews with St John’s Volunteer response team members. 

St John Vital Signs.jpg

Feedback and analysis suggested that experienced responders had developed a rich set of effective internalised rules for carrying out on-the-spot medical triage. Using a Skills, Rules, Knowledge framework to analyse expertise, we suggested they were operating via well-defined, internalised and rapid Skills and Rules frameworks; classic signs of expertise. 

In contrast, junior responders operated using slower and more effortful Knowledge based frameworks. This means that junior members were more likely to be negatively influenced by social influences. Essentially, junior responders may have been more likely to deprecate evidence out of fear of appearing over-reactive. 

Even more, although junior responders can record the evidence as accurately as senior responders, we proposed they were likely to struggle with the multi-factor decision making involved with combining the various pieces of recorded evidence into a decision output. The vital signs decision frameworks are complex, with a number of interrelated severity factors across ~30+ recorded measures.  

The social and cognitive pressures suggested that a digital was a perfect vehicle to automate the aggregation and computational process of comparing the various rules. In effect, we needed to create a first response rules engine. 

An offline app (mobile) model was selected as the right channel, given the realities of ‘in-the-field’ triage and likely lack of consistent access to a computer or internet connection as well as the likelihood of ‘one-handed’ use. 

Early sketch concepts

Leading from the strategy, user requirements and research, early sketch concepts were used to plot major navigational flows and views. 

Feedback and analysis suggested that experienced responders had developed a rich set of effective internalised rules for carrying out on-the-spot medical triage. Using a Skills, Rules, Knowledge framework to analyse expertise, we suggested they were operating via well-defined, internalised and rapid Skills and Rules frameworks; classic signs of expertise. 

In contrast, junior responders operated using slower and more effortful Knowledge based frameworks. This means that junior members were more likely to be negatively influenced by social influences. Essentially, junior responders may have been more likely to deprecate evidence out of fear of appearing over-reactive. 

Even more, although junior responders can record the evidence as accurately as senior responders, we proposed they were likely to struggle with the multi-factor decision making involved with combining the various pieces of recorded evidence into a decision output. The vital signs decision frameworks are complex, with a number of interrelated severity factors across ~30+ recorded measures.  

The social and cognitive pressures suggested that a digital was a perfect vehicle to automate the aggregation and computational process of comparing the various rules. In effect, we needed to create a first response rules engine. 

An offline app (mobile) model was selected as the right channel, given the realities of ‘in-the-field’ triage and likely lack of consistent access to a computer or internet connection as well as the likelihood of ‘one-handed’ use. 

Early sketch concepts

Leading from the strategy, user requirements and research, early sketch concepts were used to plot major navigational flows and views. 

Rapid prototyping

Quick prototypes were then loaded as static images and used as part of in-field ad-hoc concept reviews with junior, intermediate and senior responders. 








Sketch feedback

Early on-device image prototypes were essential at driving immediate sketch feedback


Interactive prototype

Following from an iterative sketch and basic wireframe process, we developed a rich interactive prototype using the Axure wireframe tool. The advantage of an interactive wireframe was that it could be clearly and quickly communicate to user representatives and tested directly on mobile devices as a pseudo application. 





Development prototypes

Feedback was extremely positive and led to early development prototypes on the iOS platform. 

The same design patterns and frameworks were also translated to the Android platform. 

District 8 Online Shopping

District 8

Client: Discovery Shopping / District 8 

Location: Sydney, Australia

Cognitive Ink helped Discovery Shopping to create a revolutionary online shopping experience that captured the rich and enticing experience of window shopping. The goal of the project was to translate motivating elements of the real world experience into an online environment that promoted product discovery. 

We conducted user research and provided the information architecture and interaction design for a beautiful website launched in December 2013

District 8 Home Page:

District 8 Home Page:

The challenges

Shopping in the real world continues to feel kinaesthetically rich, when compared to many online experiences. This is especially true when considering online stores that push products stripped of any significant experience, brand or product information, and in the process removing the visceral enjoyment associated with shopping.

In contrast, a well-designed physical shopping precinct is a multi-sensory experience.

Copyright Cognitive Ink 2014.

Copyright Cognitive Ink 2014.

The concept of discovery-based shopping extends from the richness of the offline shopping experience. 

Early themes included design elements like Google Streetview, as this was intended to capture the ‘offline, real world’ nature of shopping.However, online experiences that literally replicate the real world (like Google Streetview) provide too little bandwidth to communicate the literal feel of the street. 

Further analysis suggested that a shopping experience on either end of the spectrum is not ideal, from a site that is too close to the offline experience of shopping or conversely is totally abstracted away from any shopping experience.

Later themes progressed towards a conceptual model that focused on the ‘flavours and tones’ of the offline experience, but provided the convenience and filtration power of the online environment.  

Christopher in action.

Our approach

To understand what customers enjoyed about window shopping and what sparked their interest, we carried out a series of user-focused research activities. Taking the outcomes of these, we then ran internal workshops with the Discovery Shopping team, starting an iterative cycle of defining requirements, narrowing these down to design themes, and then providing the interaction design and architecture for the solution.



User themes

  • 56 % female
  • Social
  • Generally sophisticated from a fashion and online perspectives
  • Leans towards discovery over familiarity 
  • Desires unique experiences
  • Benefits from social recommendation
  • Shops at lunchtime breaks and on weekends


Design themes

  • Location awareness – The experience should use location as a key anchor point throughout the content. Much like news site provides section specific sub-branding; the location must ‘run through’ the site.
  • Relevance levers – The user must have easy access to relevance controls in the form of a survey, navigational control or other technique, to ensure they can filter the relevant stores for likely relevance.
  • Dopamine novelty – New information encourages the release of dopamine, which provides positive reinforcement for more information seeking activities. The site should encourage this novelty with new information, secondary journeys and imagery based content.
  • Store context – Use of various contextual indicators that give the flavour of a store, including: style, colour, brand imagery etc.
  • Large imagery - Promote and make use of large, eye-catching shop window imagery. Large images increase engagement by providing a larger field of view to the user. The real world window-shopping experience is fundamentally a visual activity, so the online environment must provide a visual experience. The most visible example of this type of image-focused design is Apple’s product pages.
  • Window context – Although the online site should avoid skeuomorphism (representing physical artifacts in a virtual environment), there is value if providing a sense of context, an awareness that the user is looking into a sequence of shop windows. This could be as subtle as including the shop window frames into the product imagery. This will also help localise and providing separate identity for each of the shops.
  • Avoid literal geographical imitations – A journey through an online environment is not identical to a geographical journey. Although we want to imitate the key elements of context associated with window-shopping, there may be little value in literally imitating the geographical arrangement of shops, or forcing the user to move across a map to move between shop windows.
  • Elegant treatment – Window-shopping in the world’s most popular shopping districts in an intrinsically elegant experience. The treatment must emulate this prestige.



Initial sketch concepts explored crucial positioning of the filter based navigation.  

Search and filtration were a key value gained through District 8 being an online experience.

Various concepts were explored to reflect the breadth associated with the various real-world shopping precincts for the home page, which was considered the initial key entry point.

Later concepts focused on methods of exposing large scale imagery that evoked the detail of a precinct. 


The outcome

The Discovery Shopping team launched District 8 in 2013.

District 8 Home Page.jpeg

The Rocks


Client: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (working alongside Sputnik, a leading creative communications agency).

Location: Sydney, Australia

One of our favourite places in Sydney is the Rocks - a historic area steeped in culture and charm, and located right on the waterfront. So we were thrilled to work with Sputnik and the Sydney Foreshore Authority last year to develop the new website for the precinct.

Work completed by Cognitive Ink included the interaction design and information architecture of the new website. We also conducted domain research to best understand the history and aesthetics of the area and the reactions and emotions of its visitors.


Project background

The Rocks area has a distinctive and quirky sense of charm - some of its treasures include historic warehouse buildings, cute cafes, waterfront views, buskers and markets. The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority wanted to capture and reflect this in the web experience.

How can the web give someone the experience of a place? Let’s face it. Digital in general and the web in specific can be a thin experience. By thin we mean stripped of all the immersive sights, sounds and most importantly smells of a location. 

As much as we’ve occasionally had to resist the impulse to go the full Blumenthal on a digital experience, budget and practically usually outweighs it (see Heston Blumenthal for how you bring the sensations of the sea to a small restaurant in the middle of the UK). For the moment, the web is a primarily a visual experience. 


History of the Rocks precinct

Granted, it usually isn’t important to smell the head office of a large corporation (what would a head office smell like?). But what if the client represents one of the most iconic tourist and entertainment quarters in the largest capital city in Australia? 

This was the case with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore and their management of The Rocks. 

If you don’t know the story, The Rocks is a small area of the Sydney Foreshore that preserves a significant portion of the buildings, history and most importantly the spirit of energetic creativity from the 1800s and the foundation of the Sydney colony. 

Source: Cognitive Ink, Copyright Cognitive Ink 2013

Source: Cognitive Ink, Copyright Cognitive Ink 2013

The Rocks is one of several fundamental cultural, tourist and heritage sites in Sydney. It has a long and storied history.

In the 1970s, under the pressure from both the NSW State government and development interests, a significant portion of The Rocks was to be demolished to make way for an entire district of large monolithic housing complexes rich with the brutalist, concrete cinder block style of the 1970s. Battle lines were drawn and the underprivileged working class people of The Rocks banded together with unlikely allies in the form of construction union supporters to demonstrate. 



Through speeches, resistance (not always peaceable) and perseverance, the developments were compromised and The Rocks retained it’s unique heritage as a place for creativity, artisanal work, food and street fairs. 


The brief

Until 2013, the digital experience of The Rocks was sadly lagging behind in communicating both the history and the modern richness of the precinct. 

Working with Sputnik, we responded to a brief to radically re-think the digital experience of its sister precinct around the corner at Darling Harbour ( 

Previous website for the Rocks precinct (pre-2013)

Previous website for the Rocks precinct (pre-2013)


Information architecture

In project inception, we took to the streets of The Rocks; talking with both locals and tourists. Though relatively small, The Rocks is wonderful rabbit warren of twisting streets, cobblestones, old buildings and the waterfront. It became clear early on that the backbone of the digital experience should be centred on the rich and varied offerings, including: 

  • What to do
  • Where to stay, eat and drink. 
  • Where to shop. 
  • Things to explore. 
  • The Rocks Markets

Fusing on-the-ground feedback with user surveys, we developed a simple and scalable information architecture that placed Events, Food and Shopping at the forefront. 

Information architecture for The Rocks website (Cognitive Ink)

Information architecture for The Rocks website (Cognitive Ink)

Exploring ideas for the site's navigation

We explored a number of options where the navigation itself was an experience that mimicked (metaphorically or literally) the winding experience of moving through the physical spaces of the precinct. 

Ideas for the site's navigation

Ideas for the site's navigation

Although many of the ideas felt exciting and fresh, based on internal testing, they appeared to actually impeded interaction with the content and were abandoned in favour of a more straightforward horizontal navigational model. 

Main menu in wireframe deign

Main menu in wireframe deign

Main menu on final site

Main menu on final site

An emphasis on imagery

It was clear from user feedback and our own experiences in the precinct that large and expressive imagery was a crucial link between the digital experience and the real-world emotion.  We created full wireframes and an interactive prototype of the proposed site, gathering feedback from the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority as we went.

Our layout and design reflected this both at site wide and page-level, with an emphasis on imagery:

Wireframe for the Rocks home page (Cognitive Ink)

Wireframe for the Rocks home page (Cognitive Ink)

Wireframe for the Rocks event pages (Cognitive Ink)

Wireframe for the Rocks event pages (Cognitive Ink)

To make the best use of the developing solution, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority committed significant resources to commissioning rich photography assets from every one of the businesses within the precinct. 

The result was stunning. 

The Rocks home page against wireframes designed by Cognitive Ink.

The Rocks home page against wireframes designed by Cognitive Ink.

Cognitive Ink has designed solutions with Sputnik/BWM Group for key client Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. They were able to quickly make sense of requirements and sprawling content and distil into a clear structure and user flow. The sophisticated Axure wireframes/prototypes for desktop & mobile have been an invaluable tool in bringing sites to life and enabling testing, validation and adjustment of the design before the build. Christopher is a pleasure to work with and his insight, skill and experience adds value to every project.
— Digital Producer at Sputnik/BWM, March 2015