portigal consulting posts

Portigal Consulting year in review, 2011 December 12th, 2011

Another year is speeding towards its conclusion and we wanted to share our highlights for 2011.

Really nostalgic? Check out summaries from 2010, 2009 and 2008.

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Portigal Consulting welcomes Tamara Christensen October 3rd, 2011

Today we’re pleased to welcome Tamara Christensen, coming to us all the way from Kansas City!

Tamara most recently headed up design research and directed integrated innovation efforts at R&D/Leverage. In her last gig she learned to play nice with both designers and engineers, and provided their culture with a creative fuel-injection. In addition to her love of research, Tamara has a few serious crushes on facilitating and teaching. She has taught at the University of Kansas and Arizona State University and given workshops on research and creative problem solving. Tamara is currently passionate about helping her son design the (am)bush costume of his dreams for Halloween and speaking at the upcoming Oklahoma Creativity Forum on November 1.

We are giddy with excitement over Tamara’s arrival.

Welcome to the team, Tamara!

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Portigal Consulting year in review, 2010 December 20th, 2010

2010 has been an amazing year for us. While we can’t talk about many of the incredible experiences we had doing fieldwork and working with clients, below are some of the highlights that we can share:

You can also see previous summaries from 2009 and 2008.

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Portigal Consulting welcomes Wyatt Starosta September 28th, 2010

We’re very excited to welcome Wyatt Starosta who has joined the Portigal Consulting team through the rest of 2010.

Wyatt is a Bay Area returnee, recently back here after several years in Columbus where he worked as a design researcher at Lextant. He finds himself taking pictures of manhole covers lately (a seemingly random noticing act that we can all relate to), negotiating social norms with the doggie parents at local dog parks, and exploring interpersonal dynamics in the Bay Area’s casual carpooling scene.

Welcome, Wyatt!

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Core77 Wiretap: Portigal Consulting talk about the Analog Human and The Digital Machine March 4th, 2010

Check out Core77 Wiretap: Portigal Consulting talk about the Analog Human and The Digital Machine. Here’s a teaser

Wonder what the conversation is like at someone else’s shop? Ever wanted to go backstage at a design firm? We asked Steve Portigal, Julie Norvaisas, and Dan Soltzberg of Portigal Consulting to sit down and share what they’re talking about. Here’s their open mike/chin-wag/theory slam.

Dan: I envisioned sitting down here to have this conversation and trying to figure out what we’re really talking about. So I pulled this statement out of some notes Steve wrote the other day: “The Analog Human; The Digital Machine.” I thought that was really provocative, so I wanted to start by asking you to say a little more about this idea?

Steve: I feel like there’s this tension that goes on in business and especially in marketing, this conceit that we can take humans-you know, messy, irrational, organic-and somehow cut them open and figure out the binary, rational, predictable, money-making algorithms that determine what they do. You see all this harnessing of science, you know, whether it’s neuro-this or lie detector-that or psychotherapy-this that gets used in the service of, not helping people, but helping marketers crack the nut of what people want, where is the desire center in the brain. You know, that we can learn things about people in a way that is “true”-that is predictable and true, and will determine consumption patterns. I find the idea that we should be able to do that just fascinating, because that’s not the world of people that we live in as people, so why as marketers or designers or producers do we think that we should turn people into things that they really aren’t?

Julie: There’s another aspect of that that I find really fascinating too: that you’re just talking about it in this dichotomy like there’s “us,” and then there’s “people.” Well, we’re people, right? We’re people trying to understand people and trying to create these scientific methods of doing it is just-I think you’re absolutely right-a conceit, and we often kind of remove ourselves from the situation. And I think empathy is a much more powerful tool than science in that case.

Meanwhile, here’s a few links we’ve come across in the past few days that pick up on some of the themes we explore in our dialog.

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Julie, in conversation January 14th, 2010

Dan Soltzberg: Welcome! Talk a little about what drew you to Portigal Consulting..

Julie Norvaisas: I have been really impressed by the way Steve has built his business over the years, with a lot of integrity, and his own very active brand. so when I saw that there was an opening, it was really exciting. The Bay Area has always been really attractive to me, so it was a real convergence of opportunity!

DS: What would you say your brand as a researcher or consultant is about?

JN: My brand is about humane collaboration. It’s about not using consult-y words or being intimidating or too intellectual. The process that I enjoy participating in is gentle; everybody is comfortable coming together and sharing ideas and they feel safe doing that. And as much as I want to bring insight and enlightenment I want to guide people to have their own insight and enlightenment, especially clients, so that they have more ownership of the end results. They lived it, they believed it, they discovered it themselves!

DS: What do you like the most about the kind of work that we do?

JN: I love being proven wrong. I love it when my assumptions are completely off and my own biases are exposed. I love it when I am able to go into someone’s home and learn something that is not only insightful, but human. That not only makes me think about the project and the project objectives in a different way, but also about people. You can’t judge a book by its cover is the oldest clichĂ©, but I think we all do. I know that I do, and I love that my job gives me the opportunity to challenge that on a regular basis.

Another thing that’s so fascinating about the work we do is that human beings are wired to fix and solve and improve and evolve things. So all the companies that we work with are putting things out in the world and once they are out in the world people are starting to work with them, fix them, identify what’s wrong with them, discover their own needs that are adjacent, use them in different ways, work-arounds, whatever you want to call it. We get to identify that process of evolution and bring it back to clients; this is what you intended vs. this is what’s happening in the real world.

DS: Do things make you mad or irritate you, things in the built world?

JN: One of the things that we all have to contend with is the fact that on just about every research project that I’ve done, one of the conclusions is that people are overwhelmed by how many choices they have. I don’t care if it’s a service, technology, shoes, toothbrushes, it doesn’t matter. Consumers are overwhelmed. And our job is to help our clients bring more to the marketplace. That is a challenge we face as participants in the design process, and we can work with our clients to communicate that it’s not enough to just bring something new to the market. It has to be a compelling enough offering to eliminate other things from the marketplace. It’s something we can conceivably do to help society and help the planet.

DS: And sometimes it’s about helping them redefine what “more” means. More isn’t necessarily more in number. It might mean better, or more focused. There’s so many directions you can go with that.

JN: How do you feel about another person coming on to the firm?

DS: It’s cool to get an injection from outside. For the same reason it’s nice for our clients to hire us to come in and get that external perspective, it’s great to have that happening in the firm as well. We’re both excited to see what you bring in terms of approaches to doing things, methodologies, and different perspectives.

Interview edited and condensed by Dan, Steve, and Julie

Also see: Portigal Consulting welcomes Julie Norvaisas

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Portigal Consulting year in review, 2009 December 22nd, 2009

It’s been a busy year and as we head into the home stretch, looking forward to 2010 (supposedly the year we make contact), we wanted to take a look back at the past 12 months and call out some of the highlights.

Previously: Our 2008 review

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Design an “Experience” for Users – Profiled in a Japanese technology magazine March 13th, 2008

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Portigal Consulting is covered in a recent cover article (Design an “Experience” for Users) in NIKKEI ELECTRONICS, January 28, 2008 vol. 970.

A large number of companies are seeking detailed information from end users that will hold clues for products offering a brand new experience. But for an idea to become reality, companies will have to discard any basic assumptions they already hold.

The magazine is print-only, and is in Japanese (link above is only to the article summary). If you’ve got a copy of the article and want to share, please let me know. We’d love to see the piece and someday even find a translation.

Update: scans are posted here. Thanks, David!

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Dan Soltzberg joins Portigal Consulting May 25th, 2007

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Today is Dan Soltzberg’s first day here and (at my request) he wrote a little reflective piece about his day, and his background.

Welcome, Dan!

So far, in all the ways I usually measure my days, this has been a great one. I’m at my new desk at Portigal Consulting eating my first lunch (a tasty roast beef sandwich from a little cafĂ© down the street), Steve and I are preparing for a trip next week which will be our first time in the field together, and there are two Beagles and a Golden Retriever lounging around the office. (The dogs are wonderfully insightful when it comes to developing business strategies.) I’ve just joined Portigal Consulting as a Design Researcher, which is the perfect cap on a year which has been one of those wonderful periods of convergence where everything I’ve done so far in my life adds up to create something new.

I’m refocusing my Masters program at SJSU on a hybrid of Industrial Design, Applied Anthropology and Human Factors, which is to say that what I’m really interested in is the intersection of creative problem-solving, collaborative processes, things, and human beings. Four-and-a-half years living and working in Japan, as well as living in California married to a Midwesterner after growing up in Boston, have taught me to respect how deep culture runs, and how important understanding context is if one wants to understand people’s behavior and desires. I’m really looking forward to working with our clients and helping to decipher and communicate these contexts and the design opportunities they illuminate.

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Wanna work with Portigal Consulting? February 28th, 2007

We’re looking to bring on a Director of Business Development. If you are interested, let us know. If you know someone else who might be a good fit, please let them know!

About the Job
Portigal Consulting is preparing to enter a new stage of growth and needs people who can bring the right set of skills to guide that growth. As with many small consulting firms, the key abilities we have in-house revolve around the consulting work, not the business of the firm. Indeed, we are asking for a combination of sales and marketing and business development, related but often separate job functions.

Although responsibilities will be customized to the strengths of the candidate, they will likely include a mix of (in descending order of priority)
* lead generation
* sales calls
* evolution of service message
* proposal writing

We envision a 3-month contract, with the possibility of extension or full-time, depending on results and interest.

Location is not an issue.

Qualifications
* Experience in a professional services setting (creative services such as design a plus)
* Experience in generating new business
* Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
* Excellent organizational skills
* Comfortable with Internet communication tools (email, IM)

About Portigal Consulting

Founded in 2001, we are a boutique agency, based in the coastal community of Montara, CA, 25 minutes from San Francisco, and 30 minutes from much of Silicon Valley.

Our clients come from a range of industries and include both B2B and B2C programs. Recent clients include: Avaya, BIC, Bosch, Chevron, France Telecom-Orange, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Nestle, SC Johnson, Shure, Sony, and WNBA.

Portigal Consulting brings together user research, design and business strategy to help innovative companies discover and act on new insights about their customers.

We conduct contextual research with target users in order to uncover their unexpressed needs. We then develop a suite of concepts that can address those needs. We also work with organizations to help them introduce or expand their customer-centric design and development processes, including training and facilitation.

Applying
Send a resume to hr AT portigal DOT com. Important: include a cover letter about yourself, your relevant experience, and what you would like to bring to the role.

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The cradle will rock June 7th, 2006

I’m quoted in today’s Boston Globe

Like a lot of design-conscious urbanites with modern tastes, Alberta Chu and Murray Robinson have put a lot of creative energy into decorating their home, a fashionable loft in the South End with 20-foot ceilings, spare white walls, and a spectacular wall of windows.

It’s furnished with vintage chairs by Harry Bertoia. An Italian sofa by Massimo Morozzi. A giant minimalist print by Richard Serra. Even their dish rack has a big-name designer: Marc Newson, the Australian superstar.

So when their daughter Kaia was born two years ago, the thought of disrupting their carefully considered contemporary landscape with fussy, frilly baby furniture wasn’t exactly appealing.

Not all designers, however, agree this trend toward upscale, adult-centric children’s furniture is a good idea. “There is this idea out there that we have to protect our children from the chaos of an ugly world. Well, we’d better not let them go out of the house . . . because that garish aesthetic influence they are trying to insulate them from is ubiquitous,” said Steve Portigal, founder of Portigal Consulting, a California firm specializing in research, design, and business strategy.

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