Putting People First

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October 2005
30 October 2005

Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito on mobile phone use [Red Herring]

Ms. Ito says older generations have a lot to learn from how the rising generation is taking up these new technologies — sometimes adults don’t recognize that young people are developing innovative uses for technologies.

“I see my work as an anthropologist as identifying and describing what these natives of the digital world are doing, in ways which are informative to people who may not have grown up in that environment, as well as to people trying to develop those kinds of technologies,” she says.

Read full story

29 October 2005

Exclusivity as experience

Nike’s now (in)famous Nike ID Design Lab in New York doesn’t allow more than three customers in at a time, with visits limited to one hour max. Furthermore, customers need to make an appointment, by invitation only.

The haute-design store has three booths, or pods, each with a computer that customers can use to assemble their own unique sneakers.

From Josh Rubin, one of the store’s visitors: “Clearly the focus of the Design Lab is on the experience of customisation. The fact that three weeks after visiting a pair of shoes arrives in the mail is almost like a delayed party favor. Wearing them is as much an opportunity to express your individuality, as it is a chance to tell the story of being in the Design Lab.”

Read full post in Trendwatching newsletter

28 October 2005

Shopping for innovation

What you need to know before hiring a design firm

Steve Portigal and Niti Bhan write about what you need to consider when bringing on strategic design services and hiring a design firm and focus on three key issues: The Problem (defining your needs), the People (who the players are), and the Partnership (the nature of the engagement).

Design firms are businesses, but with unique perspectives and unique work processes. Understanding a bit of the industry culture will go a long way in helping you to establish a successful engagement.

Read full post

28 October 2005

Studying the creation of the Kindergarten

Bill Lucas of Maya Design just pointed me to his recent post on Boxes and Arrows where he discusses the notion of experience design by drawing parallels to Friedrich Fröbel’s invention of the original Kindergarten.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a handful of European theorists rejected the purely dispensational tenets of mainstream pedagogy in favor of a trend known as “natural education.”

The new doctrine called for nourishing a child’s innate curiosity through hands-on activity. In turn, proponents transformed the instructor’s role from lecturer to facilitator. They replaced rote learning with object lessons, extended the classroom beyond the walls of the schoolhouse, and encouraged sensory engagement in, and about, the environment.

According to Lucas’ thoughtful article, Fröbel’s historic innovation provides an informative case study for all who endeavor to compose experiential systems in the future.

28 October 2005

The experience of a mobile phone concept shop

Régine Debatty of we-make-money-not-art just posted about the A1 Lounge in Vienna, a new store concept EOOS created for mobile phone company Mobilkom Austria.

“The most tangible thing in the mobile phone business is the signed contract – a sheet of paper. The services you purchase cannot be seen nor touched. In the course of the project, EOOS pursued the concept of re-materialisation.”

Read full post (with images)

28 October 2005

Nokia’s mobility site now devoted to mobile imaging

Nokia has updated its “culture of mobility” online magazine with a feature on mobile imaging.

It is in their words, “an exploration of the creation, and creatives, behind the trend that’s reinventing the media landscape.”

28 October 2005

Vodafone’s new way of communicating to its customers

Vodafone is initiating a new way of communicating itself to its customers. The most obvious aspects of this image repositioning are, initially, a change to the design of the Vodafone logo and a new Vodafone communication platform, with the now famous question ‘How are you?’ changing in Portugal to ‘Viva o momento’ (Make the most of now) followed by the word ‘NOW’.

Vodafone Portugal is the first company in the Group to introduce the new logo and one of the first to use the ‘NOW’ communication concept.

Read press release
Read backgrounder
See campaign animation

28 October 2005

Business Week discusses innovation labs

Much of the critical work on the Razr, Motorola’s half-inch-thick, ultralight cell phone was done at a downtown Chicago innovation lab known as Moto City — rather than solely in the company’s sprawling traditional research and development facility in suburban Libertyville, Ill. […]

Innovation labs are a key part of a movement to overhaul old-style R&D. They are designed to complement, and sometimes even replace, the intensive traditional system — which required that scientists or engineers toil away privately for years in the pursuit of patents, then hand their work over to product developers, who in turn dropped it onto designers’ and marketers’ laps for eventual shipment out to the public. […]

The need for speed in innovation stretches beyond high-tech companies. Outfits as varied as Mattel, Steelcase, Boeing, Wrigley, Procter & Gamble, and even the Mayo Clinic now use such labs to shatter bureaucratic barriers that have grown up among inventors, engineers, researchers, designers, marketers, and others. […]

Instead of assembly line, think swarming beehive. Teams of people from different disciplines gather to focus on a problem. They brainstorm, tinker, and toy with different approaches — and generate answers that can be tested on customers and sped to the market.

Read full story

28 October 2005

MIT and Nokia create joint research lab

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Nokia Research Center announced a research collaboration to advance the state of the art in mobile computing and communications technologies.

CSAIL and Nokia will establish a new research facility – the Nokia Research Center Cambridge – near the MIT campus, where researchers from MIT and Nokia will work closely together on a new vision for mobile computing.

“Information and communication technologies are becoming ever more critical in all aspects of our personal and professional lives,” said MIT President Susan Hockfield. “By carrying out long-term research in these fields, including novel uses of hand-held devices, MIT and Nokia will make new communication opportunities and services available for people around the globe.”

Read press release


28 October 2005

IBM on user-centred design

I have no idea how recent this is, but here are about ten web pages with what IBM has to say on user-centred design.

“User-Centered Design is a well established process that has been widely adopted by many organizations to deliver products that meet users’ expectations. IBM has regularly enhanced this process, which has now been consolidated within the broader framework of User Engineering. For completeness, the key information on User-Centered Design is retained for reference.”

(via CPH127)

27 October 2005

Philips Design CEO Stefano Marzano featured in Business Week

The current issue of Business Week has devoted an extensive feature to Dr. Stefano Marzano, CEO and Creative Director of Philips Design.

“Marzano’s passion lies in humanising technology. His goal is to make homes and offices less cluttered with bulky gadgets, while still retaining a sense of logic and order. This tenet forms the basis for an ongoing Philips project called Ambient Intelligence, which sets out to create smart, interactive objects that are sensitive to people’s needs and can anticipate their behavior.” […]

“In a bid to keep them in touch with what consumers want to use, rather than what simply looks cool, Marzano and his designers work closely with market researchers, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and anthropologists. It’s a concept Marzano has called High Design.”

Read full feature

(see also my older post with a speech by Marzano)

27 October 2005

Business Week reviews IDEO’s most recent book

Business Week just published a review on Tom Kelley’s new book “The Ten Faces of Innovation” (see also my earlier post).

Though critical of the fact that all insights are filtered through only one design consultancy, IDEO, the reviewer praises the book for its capacity in building processes for an idea-generating culture within companies, and in the end boost companies’ level of innovation.

Read full review

25 October 2005

Motofuture, Motorola’s vision of the future

Motofuture is a (broadband optimised) site where Motorola presents its vision of the future. Through a series of of people-based future scenarios the company introduces its prototypes of products and services.

The site was design by Digit and features a certain Bill Hammond, a retired man from Yorkshire, who looks an awful lot like Bill Moggridge, the co-founder of IDEO.

25 October 2005

Turning kids into fierce consumers [The Guardian]

The Guardian has a fascinating and slightly depressing article about the multi-million-pound industry intent on turning teenagers and toddlers into passionate consumers.

British child is familiar with up to 400 brand names by the time they reach the age of 10. Researchers report that kids are more likely to recognise Ronald McDonald and the Nike swoosh than Jesus. One study found that 69% of all three-year-olds could identify the McDonald’s golden arches – while half of all four-year-olds did not know their own name.

Researchers have found that children barely able to speak will still communicate a preference for certain brands, associating them with fun. One mother of an obese five-year old told Ofcom’s research team that her kids wouldn’t eat “normal shop spaghetti”, but tucked in once they saw Bob the Builder on the tin.

(Thanks Régine at we-make-money-not-art)

25 October 2005

Dutch introduce phones for kids

Two Dutch telcos – KPN and Scarlet – have introduced mobile phones specially made for young children, reports The Register.

“On Wednesday, national carrier KPN will unveil a kid phone – iKids – with a built in GPS receiver, which remains working even when the phone isn’t activated. Parents can select three ‘safety zones’, areas where their children are allowed to play. If they wonder off to another area, parents receive an SMS message. They can also look up the child’s whereabouts on a virtual map. If one pre-defined number isn’t answered, the phone will try the next one.

Scarlet, which launched its Buddy Bear on October 15, targets 4 to 9 year olds. Kids can receive calls from all over the world, but they can only phone and SMS to four pre-defined numbers. The € 129 handset can also be used as a baby phone. Parents receive a warning SMS when the battery gets low.


25 October 2005

European research needs a wake-up call, says EU

Not just industrial jobs are under threat from China, India and other emerging economies, but also jobs in knowledge-based industries as these countries combine growth in low-skill, low-wage manufacturing with an expanding presence in innovative, hi-tech sectors.

This was the warning in two EU reports presented yesterday.

In the words of Janez Potočnik, the European Commissioner for Science and Research:

“[Our research] shows worrying trends in R&D investment and innovation in Europe. The growth rate of R&D intensity, i.e. R&D expenditure as percentage of GDP, has been declining since 2000. It is now close to zero.

I am afraid that Europe is on track to miss the objective it set itself to boost spending on R&D from 1,9 to 3% by 2010. And the most worrying conclusion of the key figures is that Europe is becoming a less attractive place to carry out research.

I am convinced that Europe needs a wake-up call. If the current trends continue, Europe will lose the opportunity to become a leading global knowledge-based economy.”

Read story in The Guardian
Read Potočnik speech
Download various related documents

25 October 2005

Wired on the technologies of tomorrow

This week’s column by Joanna Glasner of Wired News includes input from an assortment of experts who share their views on top contenders to be the technologies of tomorrow.

Interestingly, Ian Pearson, futurist at British Telecommunications, focuses on simplicity and mobile socialisation as major opportunities for tech development.

Read full story

24 October 2005

The New York Times on interactive bed sheets

This week WestPoint Home presented smart bedding and other interactive furnishings to store buyers at its showroom in New York. One new product will be available next month: a Cinderella-theme coverlet that lights up like Broadway and makes the sound of a fairy godmother’s wand sweeping through the air.

For grown-ups, WestPoint Home displayed a deep blue coverlet that keeps itself busy turning a chandelier on and off. Enabling this to work requires wiring the chandelier to an outlet, but once that’s done options abound: plug in a coffee maker or a television and they will be activated too, allowing countless seconds of additional bed time in the morning.

The company’s poly-fill pillows, meanwhile, can nudge you toward the land of Nod with an embedded speaker that makes the sounds of twittering birds or lapping waves. Other pillows will tune in a radio station, operate a television or hook up with an MP3 player.

If such interactive furnishings sound strange, they are. In the case of the adult coverlet, an invisible touch point causes tiny “conductive particles” in the pattern to send a signal to the outlet, said Andrew Ferber, a co-chairman of T-ink, a New York company with a patent on the technology. “The printing is ‘wires’ going through the comforter, but it’s integrated into the design and it’s invisible and washable,” he explained, all but pleading for a suspension of disbelief.

Read full story

24 October 2005

Customising the experience at Illy Caffe SoHo [The New York Times]

The New York Times reports that Illy, the Italian coffee, has opened a new Galleria Illy in SoHo.

It’s a coffee themeland in this temporary experience featuring an art gallery, library, classrooms and espresso bar. Visitors can thumb through hundreds of volumes about coffee, turn to plasma TV to watch a silent 20-minute video about coffee, sit in classrooms educating about coffee or just enjoy international music along with their $5 cappuccino.

Gregory Fea, CEO of Illy’s North American operation says, “People can customise their experience. They don’t feel trapped.” About the “temporary (Sept 15-Dec 15) exhibit, “it a tremendously insightful to sit in the library and on the couch, engaging in conversations with them (customers).

(via Experience Economy Evangelist)

24 October 2005

Show it and Tell it

“The burgeoning field of strategic design is splitting up into an artful and a scientific design approach. Hard, explicit skills give the scientific agencies the upper hand in becoming innovation partners for global business. That is why design agencies need to…Show it and Tell it.”

Download article (pdf, 820 kb, 2 pages)

(Content from NextDesign Leadership Institute: New York,