Active Department

using design research and participatory design to discover new opportunities for fashion retail in an active lifestyle


In order to help inform the Active Department refresh, business partners within Nordstrom approached the Nordstrom Innovation Lab to discover design-led innovations that would help discover ways for the Nordstrom active department to help active customers using their fashion, fit, and function authority. 

Role: Design Researcher, Visual Designer

Research + Synthesis

Customer Interviews

In order for the team to gain empathy for the unique requirements for form and function in the activewear experience, we conducted interviews with active women and semi-professional athletes in Seattle and trainers in order to understand the role shopping and inspiration.


We quickly realized that even though interviewing women in Seattle was good for directional evidence, we needed to get out of the building and out of the region in order to understand the active experience for women. We conducted a week-long design sprint in Miami that included customer interviews, ideation and participatory design sessions to gather feedback. 


Contextual Interviews

We conducted contextual interviews women with varying active lifestyles in Miami. Prior to shopping with them in their preferred active wear supplier, we had an hour-long interview in order to understand how their active lifestyles evolved over time. 

Socio Cultural Trends >

The team merged concept ideas, research-based evidence and trend sensing methodologies to deliver 5-10 year socio-cultural trends impacting the active landscape. These trends were meant to illustrate what women wanted to do or become in the future so we would be better inspired to design for the present.


Building to Think

During our design sprints in Seattle and Miami we employed a "build to think" model of ideation. We built minimum-viable-products in order to prompt insights and feedback from customers 

Amongst these minimum viable prototypes was a visual fit-guide poster I designed to be placed in the fitting rooms of the Active Department. The set of fit-validating instructions was meant to act as a low-tech way to empower customers leave the store with confidence that their active wear fits well on their body, not just on a mannequin.

For the purposes of our co-creation sessions, I intentionally left prototypes rough in order to create a sense of mailability so customers would feel empowered to build upon the idea.




Evaluation Research


Participatory Design Consumer Co-Creation Sessions

We met with out original set of Seattle active semi-professional athletes and active women in order to collected their feedback and collaboratively build upon our concept sketches. We used a combination of rapid sketching and collage techniques in order to refine our ideas with our co-designing customers.  

During these co-creation sessions, customers helped identify the four signs of a great fit to further refine the fit-guide placard concept.

Focus Groups

Prior to presenting our concepts to our business partners, we held one last directional, focus-group study with a new group of potential customers. We recruited a group of sorority women from the University of Washington in order to get feedback from customers who tended to approach activewear more for fashion than function. Their feedback helped us identify further fashion-related opportunities to be met through our concepts.



Test-Drive: Fit Instructions in the Dressing Room

Amongst the ideas that were implemented as a result of this project was the visual fit-guide poster I designed to be placed in the fitting rooms of the Active Department. The paper prototype developed over the course of several ideation and co-creation sessions was transferred for further refinement to Nordstrom's Creative Visual Department. 

The final placards were introduced to re-designed Active department fitting rooms in the Spring of 2014.