Urban Nomad II

Revising my original Post

My special interest field: Mobile Professionals. People that relocate extensively during their work time, as a result of specific work needs.
(Note that the term “Mobile Professional” covers a variety of professions/people and does not necessarily mean that the person “labeled” as such is eg. a freelancer. We all move, some people more, some people less - its the “what happens when we move” part that i am interested in)

What i would like to find out, is:

  • Normal daily travels to and from work, that do NOT include use of a car (mode of transportation? - working while on the road? - if not working then what do you do?)

  • Short Term Stay trips - from 3 to 5 days, either intercity or international (necessary items being carried related to profession?(in this case industrial designers) - specific items being carried related to person? - again, preferred mode of transportation)

  • Workday’s field work (2-3 hours spent “on the road” - what are your “weapons” for addressing work related and person related needs when on the road?)

  • Implementation of ICT’s (Information and Communication Technologies) in a peoples lives - both at work and at a personal level (feeling “naked” without your phone/PDA?)

  • Level of satisfaction of specific carrying devices that are called to accomodate items needed during normal daywork activites - or STS trips

  • Gadgets, trinkets and occasional “special functions” a carrying device would be good to have.(eg. i hate the fact that i have to rummage through my laptop case to find that flash disk)

  • Security? (always underrated, until some wiseguy walks away with two months worth of wages)

If you feel disoriented and confused, please take some time and read some of the replies, i think i explain myself more extensively below.

Thank you

It’s borderline unethical to respond, because it would admit that surveying other designers (ie. self-referential design) is justifiable over studying your actual users.

Prove that you’re studying your market directly, earn some trust, and you might get some bites… (I for one, will promise to respond.)

More appropriate questions on Core would be:

  • How would you solve this design problem?
  • How would you go about identifying my target market?
  • What research methods would give me the most bang-for-the-buck?
  • I’ve surveyed my users, now I want to create a delta by studying how designers are different–please answer these questions…
  • Do you know of any products or brands that do X

to start with, it would help if you defined your problem clearer.

what do you mean by mobile professionals? what kind of time relocation are you talking about?

  • normal daily travels to and from work?
  • business travel, such as a 1 week trip, once a month?
  • on site travel/work such as for an EMT or field new reporter/engineer?
  • moving to a different country once every 2 years?

your questions are very vague, which may be reason you are not getting much repsonse. asking “what do people do when they are commuting to and fro work…?” is too open ended. what do you want to know? how far they go? where they get a coffee on the way? do they drive, walk, etc.?

frame your problem better and as cg suggested ask more specific questions and you will be in a better solution to find the “problem” that you can then address a solution for.


It’s borderline unethical to respond, because it would admit that surveying other designers (ie. self-referential design) is justifiable over studying your actual users.

Prove that you’re studying your market directly, earn some trust, and you might get some bites… (I for one, will promise to respond.)

First of all, thank you for the reply. I should have guessed that something like that must haver been the cause of the total absence of replies.

Defending myself i will just note this. Designers are in fact actual users. We are in fact part of the market, albeit one with the ability of shapeshifting it, nevertheless, we form part of it.

My purpose was not to “shoplift” ideas, i guess if i wanted the easy way out it could just say that my target group is specifically industrial designers, throw the hook and then sit back and wait for the rewards. Would that be more justifiable?

Truth is i do not yet have a specific target group. Why? Because the broadness of the subject, gives me the potential to explore a (seemingly) one size fits all solution. I know it is far stretched, and will propably will not work, but i am convinced through my intial research and personal observations that different professions and lifestyles, do have specific thinks in common. For example arent there many professions, apparently different at first sight that share many things in common? Laptop computers. I know architects that use them, i know electrical engineers that use them, hell, i know plummers that use them. That is common ground. And the fact that these people, these professionals, do endorse the advantages of laptop computer usage, doesnt that make them all mobile?

Laptops are the tip of the iceberg. Mobile phones, MP3 players (please note the deliberate absence of specific brand tagging!), common ground.

What i am looking for is the insight and knoweledge from industrial designers, but from a user perspective. I have conducted a small scale research amongs colleques, and academic staff at my university. Primal, not offering much insight, but nevertheless, gives me a hint, a taste of how people respond to these request, or even better, serves to prove my points that have been swimming in my head for so long. Could that be concidered unethical?

Another questionnaire, a more specific one, is being forwarded at this time through e-mail, to friends, past - coworkers and their contacts. I hope that this will cover alot of ground and hopefully prove to me that i can link, and at the same time remain distinct - as these people belong to different professions.

I admit, i am propably not very clear or organised towards my requests. After all i am still a trainee of a sort and not a full blown professional. Feedback of any sort gives you a strong push, especially if it is negative!

I have to state again i greatly appreciate your reply! … sorry for the lengthy post.

Thanks to rkuchinsky.

I will try to be more specific.

Your observations were accurate and helpful.

Quoting Kakihara and Sorensen(Practicing Mobile Professional Work, 2002)
mobile professionals are a category of workers that:

1)own distinct and competitive work skills and/or knowledge

2)who work independently; largely freed from formal organisation constraints (although it doesnt actually mean that they cannot be part of an organisation)

3) whose work activities are highly mobile in terms of operation, location and interaction with the support of ICT’s, particulary mobile technology

To continue from where rkuchinsky and cg pointed out:

  • Normal daily travels to and from work, that do NOT include use of a car (mode of transportation? - working while on the road?)
  • Short Term Stay trips - from 3 to 5 days, either intercity or international (necessary items related to profession - specific items related to person)
  • Workday field work (2-3 hours spent “on the road”)

Coupling these with the definition quoted above - what are the essential items needed (profession related - individual related) by the commuter/traveller? What is the preferred way for carrying these items? Are existing specific carrying devices adequate for accumulating all these different items? Shortcomings?Preferences?

I guess practice DOES make perfect…


now im really confused. you are targeting designers, and have come up with the above 3 definitions? dont seem to fit to me.

  1. isnt that everyone? plumber, designer, accountant, ect. all have distinct works skills.

  2. not too many designers work independently, free from an organization (except for a freelancer, i suppose).

  3. i wouldnt consider a designer a highly mobile worker. you pretty much need a desk, a computer, studio etc.

to me, it seems like you started with some sort of idea of what you want to design (a super backpack or something?), and tried to find “research” to fit it. Although Im not familiar with the authors or work you quote, it doesnt at all seem relevant. Seems more suited to a plummer or something, IMHO.

How did you come to the conclusion in the first place that designers are “mobile professionals”. I think thats just something you seem to have in your head with no research to substantiate, and where you have gone wrong.

I dont really know what to suggest here. Either start from the beginning and really get a focus on a real group and target definition. Either mobile, or designer, could work, but I think you fabricated the notion of mobile designer…or, focus on the end product that you seem to have in mind and work the research more from a marketing perspective (but i wouldnt really recommend this as a student project).

hope these comments are read as constructive as I intend them. dont mean to be too critical, but Im sure your professors may see the same…



I never said i was focusing on designers, never used the term “mobile designer”. I was merely replying to cg’s comments when he noted that i was surveying other designers (self - referential design), by posting on the CORE discussion boards. What i said, is that i would be seemingly easier for me to come into an industrial design discussion board and go “hello industrial designers, you are my focus group, shower me with information”

Point no.1 on your latest reply was correct, it IS actually everyone. My contacts (that i am surveying at the moment) include architects, interior designers, civil engineers, industrial designers, computer analysts, bank managers and accountants.

  1. Not many designers work independently, but there are designers that do. And also as i noted, it is not an exact requirement, people that belong in organisation groups, do relocate extensively during their workday.

  2. Designers in particular are not “mobile” by default. They do need, their desks, they do need their computers, they do need their studios. What i am focusing on is exactly what happens when there is an absence of these things.

To give a more apt example, a designer that lives and operates in Sheffield (where i am currently stationed) either as a freelancer, or part of an organisation, that for the requirements of a specific project is needed to travel down to London, two days per week, to meet with potential customers, to visit industry related contacts, to observe an ongoing process that relates to his profession, couldnt be concidered “mobile” at that point? What if he has to take a “lightning fast” trip down to China, for a couple of days, to check firsthand on that particular batch of tooling needed for that project? Isn’t that the definition of mobility when refering to a profession?

This student, Industrial Design travel kit got what he wanted, because he focused solely on industrial designers, i suppose. I could just use the information from that thread and be done with it.

But as i said again, i seeked help from fellow designers in these discussion boards, solely from their user perspective. I used the term “mobile professional” not “mobile designer”. It sounds generic, but in reality it is not.

Thank you for your comments, they are very welcome

I apologize if i misinterpreted your above statement thinking you were only targeting designers or some sort of “mobile designer”. (would that maybe be a designer of mobiles?..haha). I think I maybe misread your comments and cg’s post to infer that was your target.

So…back then to the start. In that case I would have to agree with cg that asking designers and not your market with no research presented on YOUR findings wont get much replies here. How are we supposed to know how to target the problem if you dont and supposedly have looked at the market.

I agree with cg that you should first do some research and present a more focused question to get a better reply.

Aside from the obvious (backpacks, bags, pockets, etc.) i dont think you can expect much insight here to such a broad question. Any personal experience of how we designers tackle our own issues would be such a small subset of your target that might skew a result, and any supposition of how others tackle the issue would just be a guess…

Perhaps to rephrase, start with a specific problem rather than an open ended question.

Something like “for short trips many people use only carryon luggage- how to effectively manage such a small space and address both packing and field work use from one bag”.


“how would one manage the packing/unpacking of many things in an organized way that is required for short trips”.


(from personal experience) “how do you manage having to pack all the relevant chargers, power adapters, plugs, etc. for all the electronic stuff you need on a short trip?”. I know everytime I travel I bring one whole small other bag inside my suitcase just to contain the adapter for my phone, plaptop, ipod, ipod base, camera charger, battery charger, world power adapter etc. and its kinda nuts how much all that stuff takes up since every electronic thing has a different proprietarry plug.

hope this helps,


It helps.

I will rethink, revise, and reply appropriately.

Thank you!

As a student, you need to consider that this is for your portfolio. Employers (like me) are less interested in the final product than we are in how you work and think (ie. design is about process!) I want to know is that you have solid methods that you can apply to new, unique problems (like my staff encounters every day.)

Ideally, this is how you’d present this project to me in your portfolio:

“For this project I had an interest surrounding the unmet technology needs of mobile workers. I did some quick secondary research and discovered that a lot of mobile professionals tend to hang out in certain areas. I went to those areas and observed them. I took these pictures. I discovered these things. I sat down and struck up (seemingly) casual conversations with some of them, leading me in new directions. Then I went back to those areas with flyers offering a small stipend (coffee gift cards etc.) for completing a short online survey that I set up with surveymonkey.com (for free!) I also found internet forums where they tended to converse. In the analysis of this research, I mapped out the following user archetypes (Personas) and market segments, which included unique needs and opportunities. From there, I started concepting, and met back with a few of my earlier subjects to get their feedback for further iteration. In the end, the final concept elicited the following response from target users, revealing the breadth and depth of the potential market opportunity…”

Me: “You’re hired!”

Okay, since you satisfied my request of talking to actual users, I’ll live up to my promise of answering these…

a. Money, identification–worst case, everything else can be bought.
b. Plan my activities once I arrive. Catch up on phone calls. Listen to music.
b2. I don’t know what an ICT is…
c. I use pockets for those essentials. I like wearing sportcoats, because they give me more pockets for other things, like my Blackberry. I also carry a briefcase for a laptop, digital camera, digital voice recorder, moleskine notebook and other designer tools.
d. Sure, but I like only having to grab one thing when it’s time to go. I use pocket compartments to organize.
e. An easy way to charge all my electronics. More stabilisation and easier access while in the car. Sling for my coffee mug (it’s hard to open doors when you’re carrying a briefcase and a mug!)

look at investigators. private detectives.

i have a close friend who does this for a living sucessfully. he works out of his honda element, which is wired like computer control center. 3 phones, laptops, sound and video suveilance equipment, GPS, transponders, etc. all organized neatly in the car so he can find it quickly and transfer data back and forth. of course, he has other implements of the trade in there. enough room in the car for his dog too.

i always found his mobility and connectiveness very interesting.