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IBM Studios Ottawa

How might we create a sustainable culture of design and collaboration at IBM's Ottawa Lab?

The Project

As an intern at IBM Studios Ottawa, I worked with a team to enhance the studio experience for employees of IBM's co-located Ottawa Lab. We found studio information and resources were hard to find, and there was no standardized process for getting in touch with the studio. As a result, employees of the Lab rarely used the studio to its full potential. 

My Role

UX Research, UX Design


Our users consisted of product team members whom we divided into three user segments: designers, developers, and offering managers.

Group 8.png

Age: 29

Occupation: UX Designer

Income: $83,000

"I like when Design is valued."



- Educating and activating the lab on IBM Design Thinking

- Sharing experience with new designers

- Providing visual and UX design



- Not respected, not heard by Development

- Feeling overworked because there are not enough designers

- Burden of feeling responsible for IBM Design Thinking advocacy



- Being part of a cohesive design team

- Air cover and support for IBM Design Thinking

- Receiving clear direction on project roles

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Age: 36

Occupation: Lead Developer

Income: $93,000

"I want direction for my team."



- Coordinating and communicating with other teams

- Providing direction to team

- Coding and development



- Experiencing timeline misalignment between teams

- Lack of collaboration tools and support for IBM Design Thinking

- Unclear requirements and planning at the start of a sprint



- Aligning early and often throughout sprints

- Being confident in creating a good product

- Having a happy and cohesive team

Group 10.png

Age: 49

Occupation: Offering Manager

Income: $117,000

"I like being on the same page."



- Sales and customer support

- Producing good products by coordinating teams

- Envisioning future products



- Misalignment from insufficient big picture planning

- Interdisciplinary stress disrupts collaboration

- Business organization does not facilitate communication



- Effectively communicating with others to align teams

- Feeling personal satisfaction in your job

- Shared ownership through a supportive environment

Empathy Maps

We used empathy maps to empathize with what our users do, say, think and feel through their experiences as employees. We then invited employees from each of our user segments to validate our Empathy Maps by telling us what resonated with them and what was off the mark.

Designer Empathy Map
Developer Empathy Map
Offering Manager Empathy Map

As-Is Scenario

Next, we ran through a scenario during a second round of interviews to understand how our users have interacted with the studio from their first encounter until now.

Offering Manager As-Is Scenario
Designer As-Is Scenario
Developer As-Is Scenarios

Problem Statements

Using our Personas, Empathy Maps and As-Is Scenarios we were able to define our users' problems through 5 Problem Statements:

  1. How might we connect the value of the studio resources to the work and interests of Non-designers?

  2. Design a better way for employees to access and use studio info and resources.

  3. Design a better way for employees to feel welcomed and non-disruptive when using studio space and resources.

  4. How might we provide education and support to employees using design thinking so that they don’t abandon the process?

  5. How might we empower a small number of designers to provided design mentorship to a large number of employees at the Ottawa Lab?


Using our problem statements as prompts we generated ideas quickly by using short descriptions and sketches. To include our users in the process we invited designers, developers and offering managers to contribute their ideas. Afterwards, we used a prioritization grid to determine which ideas combined the highest impact for users with the least feasibility issues.

Collaborative Ideation Process
Idea Prioritization Grid

To-Be Scenarios

We created storyboards for each prioritized idea to imagine how they would impact our user’s experience. We then linked together our best ideas to create a To-Be Scenario for each Problem Statement, showing how the overall user experience would change if we implemented our solutions.

Story Boards
To-Be Scenarios


Now that we had a plan in front of us we used Hills, or statements of intent, to align our team on specific goals before creating any assets. Forming Hills was a great way to realign on our goals and share opinions on the process so far. After completing the process, the Hills we agreed on were:

  1. IBM Employees at the Ottawa Lab can easily find relevant ISO information and book resources in the studio to support their work, without direct interaction with a studio employee.

  2. Design thinking practitioners who seek to become facilitators in Ottawa can participate in a community that supports them and the value of design thinking, by offering valuable resources at a personal level.

  3. IBM employees at the Ottawa Lab can access design thinking support and education the Ottawa Design Thinking Chapter, that effectively leverages design thinking in support of clients and product development.


To organize the pages and components of our website I created a sitemap. 


Mood Boarding

We compiled inspiration for the visual feel of the website on a mood board. Afterward, we clustered related examples to find themes which were synthesized into three descriptive words to define our visual direction.

Mood Board Image 1
Mood Board Image 2
Mood Board Image 3





Visual Identity

IBM’s Carbon Design System provided a structure for our choice of user interface elements, font and color palette.  For our main visual elements, we decided to mix IBM’s identifiable blue color pallet with complementary colors to create original gradients. These are meant to reflect a mixture of different perspectives to create a forward facing product.

Low Fidelity Wireframes

For the rough layout of the studio website I created low fidelity wireframes and refined them through reflection with our team.

Low Fidelity Wireframes

High Fidelity Wireframes

Next, we added color and styling to the wireframes to create high-fidelity wireframes, which laid out the design for development of the site.

HiFi Wireframes 3.png

The Result

Using an IBM Design Thinking process of research and design we arrived at a website that provides an easy way to connect with the studio and use its resources for product team collaboration. 


We incorporated the following components into the website to achieve this result:

A shared calendar to show events happening at ISO


An interactive map of  the studio


An informational page for the Ottawa Design Thinking Chapter


A contact form for easy communication with the studio


An organized list of resources for IBM Design Thinking


A booking system for using space in the studio

Booking Form2.0.png
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