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9–11 September 2015

McGrath Centre, St. Catharine's College, Cambridge

Working beyond the brief

Anna Kirah Making Waves
Meriel Lenfestey Foolproof

Session type: Keynote
Session duration: 75 minutes

About this Keynote

Challenging the brief doesn't always come naturally. After all, your client or boss knows best, right? Taking a brief at face value, without fully understanding the problem, could lead us to solve the wrong problem or approach it from the wrong angle. That's why it's important to push yourself beyond the brief and open up courageous conversations with your client, your colleagues, leaders and users.

But having these conversations can be difficult: it's far easier just to take the original brief and run with it. Looking beyond the brief means not only challenging business assumptions, but also broadening your own perspectives and forgetting your mental models or frame of reference. Ultimately, this is what makes us better designers.

Using real-world examples, this presentation will help you get comfortable with the uncomfortable. It will help you open up those difficult conversations, remove the blinkers and step outside your comfort zone.

About the Speakers

Anna Kirah

Anna Kirah is Chief Experience Officer at Making Waves, a digital consulting company based in Oslo, Norway.

Anna is an internationally acclaimed design anthropologist and psychologist who has worked in corporations such as Boeing and Microsoft, and consulted with customers in a wide variety of sectors including software development, advertising, transportation, retail, banking and public services.

In addition to Making Waves, she sits on the board of Design Without Borders, which applies strategic service design to solving challenges in developing countries, working with partners like the United Nations World Food Programme and Unicef.


Meriel Lenfestey

Meriel Lenfestey is a partner at Foolproof and the founder of Flow Interactive.

As the founder of Flow Interactive in 1997, she played a key role in shaping the new digital design specialism of customer experience, working with clients across transport, entertainment, financial services, education, consumer electronics, telecoms, retail and more.

Flow created a market for insight-led design and strategy by helping clients successfully embrace digital, and was the training ground for a new generation of respected designers.

Since combining forces with Foolproof 4 years ago, Meriel now offers clients strategic design advice as well as providing her unique viewpoint to company boards as a non-executive director.


Session Types

Need help planning which sessions to attend? We've provided a breakdown of our various session types below.

Case Study/Experience Report

A presentation and discussion of real-life (not theoretical) experiences of the application (or mis-application) of service design techniques. Case studies and experience reports include some discussion of lessons learned and an indication of how novel the work is.


Participants learn a new approach, tool or technology through using it to solve one or more practical exercises. Any software/hardware requirements are disclosed in the session description.


A session focused around some specific tool, technique or issue. Primarily led by the speaker, tutorials usually include some elements of interactivity or individual / group exercise.


An in-depth working session on a specific topic. May include paper presentations.