Phil Banks: Growth through design

New kid on the block

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some outstanding folk over the last 18 years. The maturing Digital industry has benefited from an amazing melting-pot of interesting minds and talented craftspeople.

Having only been a Pragmatist for a few months myself, it’s such an honour to now welcome Phil Banks, our newest Human-Centred Designer.

Phil Banks smiling in a hipster warehouse somewhere in Surry Hills. No wonder his nickname is Banksy. Photo © James Horan

Phil Banks smiling in a hipster warehouse somewhere in Surry Hills. No wonder his nickname is Banksy.
Photo © James Horan

Whilst it’s normal to respect colleagues and sometimes even have a few “work friends”, it’s far less common to work with people you actually admire and enjoy their company outside of the work context. And this is something that sets Pragmateam apart.

I’d respected the Pragmatists I’d worked with before joining. The values shine through  without being up-in-your-face, which is why it was such a logical progression to seek ways to bring Phil into the mix at Pragmateam.

Phil & I started working together in mid-2016. I remember the first time I saw him present at our regular ‘Show the thing’ design critiques, and was so impressed by his calm and egoless manor. He seemed to embrace feedback like it was a gift being shared.

“Good design requires context. And empathising with users is the fundamental building block for providing it.” Phil Banks

Always practical and pragmatic, Phil puts user needs above his own design aesthetic - even though his visual design skills are a force to be reckoned with. He’s passionate about the human-centred design process and is just as artful at leading contextual interviews, as he is at crafting an interface.

Amazing sandpit to play in

Our founder Sarah has been leading an engagement with SBS for about 6 months now. As an organisation, they have an inspiring charter, and the On Demand product team that we’re working closely with have a purpose that’s very easy to excited about:

 
SBS On Demand’s Vision: We connect people with inspiring content through a delightful digital experience to celebrate our difference and shared humanity.

SBS On Demand’s Vision: We connect people with inspiring content through a delightful digital experience to celebrate our difference and shared humanity.

 

Phil’s joined the On Demand team, headed-up by Abigail Thomas, to expand their Customer-Centred Design capabilities. In addition to getting to know our new teammates, our first activity has been to get out of the building and begin researching with a range of diverse Australians to empathise with how they choose what to watch.

Lean and clean

Pairing together also allows us to explore what’s working well with the team’s rhythm and where there are opportunities to improve. One of the key challenges for a live, operational product like this is managing the balance between ‘hygiene’ and ‘hero’ work. As such, we’re experimenting with a modified version of the ‘dual track’ model discussed by Jeff Patton.

Dual track agile, with 6 week product increments that include discovery and experimentation.

Dual track agile, with 6 week product increments that include discovery and experimentation.

In our 6-week approach, we have 2x two-week sprints dedicated to developing and testing meaningful increments to the product, whilst the 3rd sprint is focused on managing technical and experience debt. This last sprint of the cycle also allows us to research the next increment with users.

This model provides a collaborative environment for both continuous learning and quality delivery. It also means that we’re able to explore, change and kill ideas as required. But it’s worth noting that ‘dual track’ doesn't mean team separation - after all, user research is a team sport. Dual track can be interpreted as another handoff between design and development, but we believe that our approach proves this isn’t the case.

All grown up

Since its inception in 2014, Pragmateam continues to work with amazing strategic partners and to maintain a strong pedigree. But like “digital” itself, we’re growing organically and maturing with our clients’ needs.

Phil’s got that thirst for learning and iterating that pre-qualifies him to excel at Pragmateam. However Phil also brings new skills that help us to evolve our Service Design offering. We’re humbled to have him on-board, and excited to see where this might go next.

Welcome Phil!


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