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Spotlight: Jenny Winfield

Jenny Winfield
Jenny Winfield

This spotlight was part of USERWEEKLY - a weekly email to understand what is happening in user research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies, insights across the industry, and meet new researchers. Each week, the newsletter captures the pulse of our community and answers a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

Hey Jenny Winfield, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Jenny Winfield and I’m a London-based User Research Director. I specialise in research that tackles taboo issues, using trauma-informed methods. That means I’m usually working with creative people who are designing digital services for people who are underserved and ignored because of a social / cultural taboo. In the last year, I’ve been researching with people in recovery from opioid addiction, healing from sexual assault, and coping with suicide bereavement. These experiences are challenging to talk about but absolutely ripe for design solutions. I’m freelance and work 1 day a week with Chayn, an amazing non-profit which supports survivors of gender based violence. Time out for me means immersing myself in all the nature.

What’s the best career decision you’ve made?
Leaving IDEO to go freelance. I had a good experience there and worked intensely on all kinds of briefs for almost 5 years, gaining a strong grounding in innovation strategy, and design.  But so often, I found we were assuming that the world-changing ideas were 5-10 years out - we were innovating for the future. I love creating ideas and solutions that are game-changing now; that give individual people a sense of solidarity and tangible support when they need it. I’ve found that start-ups and non-profits are hungrier for having this type of impact, so they tend to be my clients now.

As a freelancer, I’ve built my business so that I get to work exclusively on projects that I care about, while bringing a lot of that ‘IDEO-style’ value for my clients; being an all rounder in design thinking with a deep expertise in research.

What was the funniest/weirdest experience you had in a user study?
Oh, so many. I spoke directly with a woman in prison who told me about how she’d murdered someone once. I was working on designing a digital service that would support women to cope in custody, and we talked about the mental health effects not only of having committed crimes but having experienced severe trauma both growing up, and while being inside prison. Something I found quite weird at first in my interviews about taboo subjects is how often people both cry and laugh in the same research interview - it can be a real rollercoaster of tears and joy. It’s my job to create that safe space for people’s emotions, while returning to my team having identified powerful insights for design, too.

What would you like to talk about with other researchers and how can they find you?
At the moment I’m learning about and practicing trauma-informed research methods. So much of my work in exploring sensitive topics intersects with people who have experienced trauma, and the world is pretty traumatic right now, so it feels very….current. Using these methods is a way of bringing the principles of safety, transparency, co-design, hope and agency into research experiences. To be honest I think these are principles that we should all be operating by, whether we work on sensitive issues or not, so I’m excited to see UX practices evolve in line. Recently I’ve started sharing UX tips and insights from my work on Medium, and people can find my website here.

Thank you, Jenny!