Sarah Mennicken, Ph.D.

UX Research and Design for Startups.

Email. LinkedIn. Google Scholar. DREI Solutions.

I'm an experienced UX and innovation partner with over 15 years of expertise in human-centered design, user research, rapid prototyping and successfully leading research projects from inception to product launch.

Due to my background in computer science, a diverse set of experiences in the big tech industry ( Spotify, Google, Microsoft,) startups (perceptiveIO, This One) and academia (RWTH Aachen, University of Zurich) in the U.S. and Europe, I love the challenges of technological innovation, fast-paced startups, and cross-cultural collaboration.

I specialize in helping businesses deliver novel user-centric experiences with emerging technologies including voice assistants, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), personalization and AI. From product discovery and conceptualization phases, to product design and prototyping, I offer comprehensive support and knowledge to ensure that products and services are user-friendly, intuitive, and align with both user needs and business goals .
Email me to discuss how I can help you achieve your goals and tackle your problems.
User Research, Wireframes, UI Design
SnapTag is an iOS app I created for my company DREI Solutions working with a freelance iOS developer. "Snap. Tag. Remember." The app is designed to help users tag photos and screenshots they take for reference – but later forget about anyways. To refine the initial concept into a design that addresses people's existing pain points, I conducted a user survey to identify different categories of content and current workarounds. A WhatsApp-based diary study helped provide more qualitative data on the moments in which people take or retrieve these "snaps." I defined the product design, detailing user flows with wireframes and final iOS screen designs, complete with logo and color palette in Figma for developer handover.
This One
Product Discovery, User Research, Personas, Design Sprints
I partnered with the team of This One to define and iterate on the functionality of their domain-specific recommender system. Starting with the domain of movie recommendations, we conducted Design Sprints resulting in concepts and wireframes that showcase innovative potential solutions. Based on user interviews and a set of user tests, I derived data-driven Ideal Customer Profiles and supporting Personas. By conducting think-aloud studies of competing products, I also identified categories and severity of pain points in the existing user experience. These UX deliverables informed the prioritization of the product roadmap, driving continuous improvement.
“Working with Sarah turbo-charged our Product Discovery process. By drawing on her considerable professional expertise, and implementing a wide range of research techniques, she helped us understand our customers in detail, created crisp personas, and helped drive our strategy for building authentic trust with our users. She was an awesome member of our team, and we loved working with her.”
Martin Gould, CEO at This One.
Product Discovery, Research, Prototyping
During my time at Spotify, I primarily worked on projects called "Mountain Bets" – special projects that explored the feasibility of emerging technologies, such as voice assistants, speech synthesis, and reinforcement learning, within a business context. I led and participated in numerous activities that are also crucial to the success of early-stage startups and any company in need of user interfaces for novel technology. This included rapid prototyping, efficient user evaluation, design iterations, synthesizing published work, and tailoring communication to various members of multidisciplinary teams. For each project, I quickly picked up new skills as they were needed, so I also crafted design specs for developers, defined the tone of voice for voice assistants, and coded simple prototypes in Python and JavaScript.

Several of the projects were launched publicly as products. Press Announcement for Hey Spotify, Car Thing, AI DJ.
“Sarah combines a deep knowledge of scientific methods with a pragmatic and goal-driven mindset. At Spotify, she was a key contributor and leader in product discovery on multi-modal experiences across multiple products. I can strongly recommend Sarah to any product team working on innovative products.”
Thomas Glod, VP Product at Pley.
Prototyping, Use Case Development, Market Research
As part of the founding team, I took on various responsibilities such as on anything to help the startup succeed: from designing a logo and a website to showcasing our technologies' competitive advantages. In addition to conducting literature review and market research, engaged in creating and illustrating use cases that highlighted our technologies' unique capabilities and 3D-modeling prototypes for camera mounts. Leveraging my computer science allowed me to tightly work with the machine learning researchers and engineers to understand the limitations and novel advantages of the technologies and communicate the competitive edge efficiently in the use cases and demo scenarios.
Microsoft Research
Prototyping, User Research, Use Cases
At Microsoft Research, I conducted the initial user research for a cutting-edge telecommunication technology called Holoportation that captures the 3D scene in real-time and visualizes it in Augmented or Virtual Reality. This involved comprehending the research prototypes' capabilities and limitations to enable seamless user testing and generate reliable data for subsequent research. I closely collaborated with machine learning researchers and engineers to effectively orchestrate the study setup involving the various technologies.
User Research, Surveys
While at Google, I learned and applied best practices and a diverse array of user research and iterative design methodologies for different stages of product maturity. I conducted semi-structured interviews to gather initial requirements for early product ideas as well as traditional usability techniques ranging from think-aloud walkthroughs supported by eye-tracking technology to in-app survey designs for more developed products. Working with multidisciplinary stakeholders I created various formats of research communication to drive product improvements.

Public Speaking

Invited Talk at University of St. Gallen (HSG), Switzerland, “Innovation, Insights, Impact: Human-centered Computing in the Wild.”
Invited Talk at Siegen University, Germany, “Living with Friendly Strangers: AI in our Homes”
Podcast interview on OMR Silicon Valley Update
Invited Lecture at Interaction Design Studio, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. "Creating an Assistant”
Invited Talk at RWTH Aachen University, Germany, “HCI at Spotify”
Invited Attendance as one of ten selected smart home experts in Switzerland at Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute. Related Publication.