BlogTask #3 – Woolies get a makeover

Design Brief


Everyone has to shop. But unless it’s for a new pair of shoes or a new gadget then it’s often a less than pleasurable experience.

Supermarkets are so focused on sucking you in, making you spend and getting you out the door that we have lost the pleasure in shopping.


The latest in convenience is the self-serve checkout, a device that you can scan your own purchases and get out of the store quickly, unless the disembodied voice informs you there is an unexpected weight in the bagging area…..

These checkouts are for speed, convenience and shoppers with just a few items. But just the same as the 10 items or less checkouts, they are hopelessly misused, awkward to queue for and hard to exit. The main problem seems to be that the areas are not designed to accommodate trolleys, however, customers want to use trolleys for convenience and child safety.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to redesign the self-serve checkout area to provide a faster, more user-friendly service for trolley users and other users alike.

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 1.14.16 pm

What we know

The Self-serve checkouts:

–       Have a limited queuing area, blocked by a fruit display and another queue

–       Have only 6 tills with bagging areas encroaching on each others loading areas

–       Are used by trolleys which must be placed at an angle to be unloaded for items to be scanned

–       Scanners are fixed. Items to scanner is the only option

–       The exits are constricted by security posts and displays

–       A member of staff often has to ‘hover’ to help out till errors

What we don’t know

–       What customers think of the area

–       What the staff think of the area

–       What the management think of the area

–       How much loss from theft there is from those checkouts

–       How effective are those checkouts or are they there because every other Supermarket has them

What we don’t know we don’t know

–       Well if we knew it wouldn’t be here! But that doesn’t mean we can’t plan to review as new ideas come up.

As Paul Bennett explains in his TED talk (Paul Bennett, 2007)

Designers often have to point out the obvious to their clients and in this case this is simply true:

–      There isn’t enough space for trolleys

–      Customers will always want to use trolleys

Therefore the solution is clear – redesign the area with more space to accommodate the trolleys

However this only solves one problem, and as– concentrating on only the knowledge will reduce the design to simple problem solving, (“2.3 Designing for the unknown,” Weil via McIntosh 2014)

However, Design Thinking is much more that this process, it involves the use of the somehow indefinable ‘Concept’ space where Crazy Ideas and Wicked design reside. (Hatchuel, Le Masson, Weil, & others, 2004)

Deciding that barricading trolleys off from the self serve checkouts would be counter productive to Woolworth’s Mission Statement:

“Our mission is to deliver to customers the right shopping experience – each and every time.” Retrieved from

Then we are left with these design ideas, in ascending order of craziness

‘Put yourself in their shoes’

–       Have a parking Bay in the middle of the space for trolleys

‘Parody as Design’

–       Have removable scanners installed

–       Remove the scanners to the Trolleys

‘Wicked Design’

–       Create an incentive for trolleys to use the other tills, eg promotional incentive sticker availability, celebrity endorsement, free to your car service

–       Rotate checkouts 45 degrees to create a herringbone space where trolleys could be unloaded

–       Completely redesign the checkouts to be trolley friendly, allow plenty of space

–       Make the entire store manual checkouts only

–       Make the entire store self serve checkouts only

–       Redesign the store as a ‘marketplace’ where fresh food is paid for on the spot to ‘stall’ staff and barcoded goods are scanned by a QR reader on your phone, the cost of the goods is then debited from your bank account electronically


Coincidentally, it would appear that the order of Concept or ‘craziness’ matches the order of change required, confirming Paul Bennett’s assertion to “pick your battles” and make changes that are “small enough to win but big enough to matter” (Paul Bennett, 2007)


Bennett, P. Design is in the details. (2007). Retrieved from

Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., Weil, B., & others. P2-3 (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia. Retrieved from

McIntosh, E. (n.d.). INF536 Designing Spaces for Learning. Retrieved from

Schrage, M. (2013). How Parody Inspires Great Design. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from


Commented on Liz

Comment on James

Commented on Matt


8 thoughts on “BlogTask #3 – Woolies get a makeover

  1. Ronnie, it seems to be that you have tackled a ‘real world’ problem here. I particularly like how you have made your suggestions hierarchical finishing with the ‘Wicked Design’ ideas. You have also interpreted and applied the ideas in Hatchuel to your Design Brief making them much clearer to me – thanks. I am off to do some shopping, I think I will avoid Woolies! Margo

  2. Hi Ronnie

    There are so many good ideas in here! We all do have to shop – unless you get online – but that doesn’t always work. It seems you’ve done half the work for the store and thought well and truly outside the square. The complete redesign as a “Wholefoods” type store sounds very appealing and a really good response to the design issues. Maybe you need to sell your ideas to them!

  3. Ronnie,

    Woolworths used to be a big chain in the US with a history dating back to the late 1800s, but I don’t see many of the stores around anymore. When I first read your post, I thought the US business had expanded to Australia, but according to Wikipedia, there’s no connection between the two:

    Regarding your design brief, I thought you laid out the problem well and I liked how you organized your design ideas in order of craziness, but I was surprised you suggested early on that the solution was clear, namely, to redesign the area with more space to accommodate the trolleys.

    Given Woolworth’s mission statement is delivering customers the right shopping experience each and every time, I would think that some customers would want full service check out with a person rather than a machine doing their check out, and wondered if the way the problem was framed limited possible solutions, as Simon talks about in The Structure of Ill Structured Problems?


    1. Thanks Jim
      I guess I though the solution was clear – but failed to see it was also a constraint – this Woolies are trying to do too much in a small space but don’t seem to be willing to sacrifice one inch of space for a better design of Checkouts, so this in itself was a constraint – but one I don’t know – not without the next step in the Design thinking process – finding out the answers to what I don’t know.

  4. Ronnie,
    Following up on my earlier comment, full service checkout seems like going back in time, but the disembodied voices at the self checkout seems too impersonal. perhaps there’s a happy median between the self check out lanes and a full service checkout by using some humanizing technology described in the Design for Public Good article.

  5. Hi Ronnie,
    I would love to go to this ‘supermarket’ you have described. The design of supermarkets still seems driven to make profits and to make you buy more – understandably, but like other shops have tapped into to – the customer experience is very important to. My local Westfield (shopping complex) had a makeover resulting in a shopping experience that is very enjoyable and visually appealing for the customer – I choose to go there because it is fun, interesting and just a pleasant experience.
    When watching the video included in Module three ‘This is Service Design’, the main principles rang true to me about your design brief; user-centred, co-creative, sequencing, evidencing and holistic.
    Captain Motion (2011).’This is Service Design – Book Trailer’. Vimeo

  6. Hey Ronnie,

    I really liked your very simple point in your Parody Design area to simply make removable scanners, or even scanners on a tether. this one very simple idea could streamline the self scan process. Taking that one step further so many of us use the supermarket apps on our phones to build a shopping list, pehaps that technology could be employed at the end of the ‘shopping experience’ so we are not waiting for a checkout.

    Loved all of your ideas.


  7. I also keep hearing Brown in my head – finding the balance between feasibility, viability and desirability – we know what we desire for Supermarket shopping, but they aren’t always going to match up to the Corporate values of a large National Supermarket, so feasibility become tenuous and viability goes out the window, actually Supermarkets don’t have windows!! How on earth do Designers find a balance of all three?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *