Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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Social change


November 2005
22 November 2005

A debate on design, innovation and business

Michael Bierut of Pentagram argues in the piece on “Innovation is the new black” at Design Observer that corporations are uncomfortable with the term “design” and prefer to call it “innovation.”

This provoked a very insightful response by Larry Keeley of Doblin (posted in its entirety on CPH127) where he argues that innovation is not equivalent to design and should not be used interchangeably.

22 November 2005

UPA announces business speakers for 2006 annual conference

UPA 2006: Usability Through Storytelling brings together engaging speakers from the fields of education, culture, design, technology and entertainment, including:
Steve Denning, “organisational storyteller extraordinaire”
Kevin Brooks, senior staff researcher, Motorola Labs
– Nelson Soken, senior engineering manager, Cardiac Rhythm Management business unit, Medtronic
– Annie Archbold, lead web communications specialist, Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Andrew Massey, resident conductor, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
– Carolmarie Stock, development professional and “storyteller”
– Tom Landauer, EVP, Pearson Knowledge Technologies, and Professor of Psychology, University of Colorado
– Leigh Rubin, cartoonist
– Roymieco A. Carter, assistant professor of graphic design, Art Department, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
– John M. Carroll, Edward Frymoyer chair professor of information sciences and technology, Pennsylvania State University

Further information

20 November 2005

Yahoo’s social research lab at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley and Yahoo! recently established a joint research laboratory, headed by Prof. Marc Davis, to explore and invent social media and mobile media technology and applications that will enable people to create, describe, find, share, and remix media on the web.

Yahoo! Research Berkeley brings together experts in the fields of media technology, social software, context-aware computing, mobile computing, and user and design research.

Read analysis: San Jose Mercury News | Internet News
Read press releases: Yahoo! | UC Berkeley
Visit Yahoo! research website

20 November 2005

Nokia’s Usability eUpdate

Since recently Nokia publishes Usability eUpdate, a monthly newsletter completely focused on mobile usability and user experience.
June issue
August issue
September issue
October issue
– Click here to subscribe.

It is developed by the people who are responsible for the usability section on Forum Nokia, the Nokia site for mobile application developers.

17 November 2005

UN predicts ‘internet of things’ [BBC]

Changes brought about by the internet will be dwarfed by those prompted by the networking of everyday objects, says a UN report.

The study looks at how the use of electronic tags and sensors could create an “internet of things”.

The report by the International Telecommunication Union was released at the UN net summit in Tunis.

Read full story
ITU project siteflyer (pdf) – order report
Read analysis (International Herald Tribune)

17 November 2005

UN debut for $100 laptop for poor [BBC]

A prototype of a cheap and robust laptop for pupils has been welcomed as an “expression of global solidarity” by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The green machine was showcased for the first time by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte at the UN net summit in Tunis.

He plans to have millions of machines in production within a year.

The laptops are powered with a wind-up crank, have very low power consumption and will let children interact with each other while learning.

- Read full story
Interview with Nicholas Negroponte (Wired News)

16 November 2005

High tech child’s play [Christian Science Monitor]

This Christmas, tech-peddlers are turning their gaze toward kids, with new lines of grown-up gadgets built for tiny hands.

“There’s a shift in need in terms of what a child finds fun and entertaining,” says Jim Silver, editor of the toy trade publication Toy Wishes. “A lot of that has to do with the computer age. If a 3-year-old is entertained by software, the toys that might normally entertain him might not have the same value.”

Read full story
(same story in USA Today)

16 November 2005

Technology lets high-end hotels anticipate guests’ whims [The New York Times]

At the Mandarin and other high-end hotels, new computer systems that connect individual rooms to network servers can now keep track of guests’ preferences and change the room conditions automatically.

These “smart” systems can learn whether a frequent guest likes the lights dimmed, the curtains closed or the room toasty warm. They can also personalize the electronics in the room so that John Coltrane, for instance, greets jazz buffs when they enter their rooms. And sensors in refrigerators alert maids when the minibar is running low on soda.

While much of the underlying technology is not new, it is still rare in private homes because the equipment is expensive, especially the controllers that connect all the devices. But by incorporating such technology into their guest rooms, luxury hotels are starting to provide a glimpse of what networked homes may look like over the next decade.

Read full story

15 November 2005

Embedding design into business

“Embedding design into business” is the title of a long article by Roger Martin, dean of the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management in Toronto, Canada, that just appeared in the School’s magazine.

“Firms everywhere are realising they can jump-start growth by becoming more design-oriented. But to generate meaningful benefits from design, they will first have to change the way they operate along five key dimensions.”

Meanwhile Bruce Nussbaum gives a very concise summary of an apparently insightful innovation conference that Martin organised last week at the University of Toronto. Larry Keeley of the Doblin Group in Chicago definitely added to the hype about design ethnography by saying that “if you just use anthropologists, you can triple your innovation effectiveness by three times.” Although there is some truth to it, if you see what they do without proper user understanding.

Download article (pdf, 152 kb, 4 pages)

15 November 2005

Putting people at the heart of public services

The British Government is working on a series of strategies to put an entirely different dynamic in place to drive the UK public services: one where the service will be driven not by the managers but by the user – the patient, the parent, the pupil, and law abiding citizen.

It has already implemented this approach in the five year strategies on health, education, crime prevention, justice and environment.

Read more (Cabinet Office web site)
Download brochure (pdf, 876 kb, 28 pages)

14 November 2005

Who knows more about Aria Magazine?

At the Venice Biennale I was handed a copy of the very trendy Aria Magazine, a bilingual (English / Italian) quarterly magazine for travellers, or as their press release says, “the first magazine about Emotional Geography”.

Same thing just now at a Nokia stand during Artissima, Turin’s contemporary art fair.

The luxurious and artsy magazine looks like the result of a high-level intellectual brand concept addressing (or defining) a new type of consumer and is filled with columns about travelling and mobility, including a major story on the Milan-based qualitative research consultancy Future Concept Lab, which works for … Nokia.

It has only one ad. It is on the backcover and it is by …Nokia.

This magazine must somehow be part of Nokia’s brand strategy, but I can’t find out anything about it.

Not from the magazine’s website, not from any other website or blog. I searched the names of the people involved (they turn out to be involved with Repubblica newspaper), and even ran a search on their domain name registration.


It is a brand mystery to me. So I am turning to you, my readers. Who is behind Aria Magazine? What is the strategy here? What does Nokia have to do with this?

14 November 2005

Ferrari exploits the laws of attraction [Financial Times]

The Penske-Wynn car dealership in Las Vegas’s newest casino resort had a problem when it opened in April. About 1,500 people a day were trooping in to ogle the Ferrari and Maserati sports cars parked on the showroom floor, forcing staff to spend as much time on crowd control as selling cars.

The dealership, a joint venture between Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Michigan-based United Auto Group, began charging a $10 entrance fee last month to anyone not intending to buy a car or not bringing one in for service [...] bringing in close to $100,000 a month in admission fees.

Read full story (subscription only)

12 November 2005

A social view on user experience

Katja Battarbee and Ilpo Koskinen of the University of Art and Design Helsinki provide a social view on user experience in their paper “Co-experience: user experience as interaction”, published in the first issue of CoDesign.

“User experience is becoming a key term in the world of interactive product design.

The term itself lacks proper theoretical definition and is used in many different, even contradictory, ways.

This paper reviews various existing approaches to understanding user experience and describes three main approaches and their differences.

A missing perspective is noted in all three: their focus is on only the individual having the experience and neglects the kinds of experiences that are created together with others.

To address this, a new elaboration called co-experience is presented. It builds on an existing approach but borrows from symbolic interactionism to create a more inclusive interactionist framework for thinking about user experiences.

Data from a study on mobile multimedia messaging are used to illustrate and discuss the framework.”

Download paper (free registration required)

12 November 2005

Neil Gershenfeld interviewed on NPR

In a half hour audio interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Neil Gershenfeld of MIT says a revolution is on the horizon for manufacturing — that existing technologies and tools can bring capabilities once only held by huge factories down to the personal level.

Neil Gershenfeld is the author of the book FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop — From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. He is also the director, Center for Bits and Atoms associate professor, media arts and sciences, MIT, and has been spearheading Fab Labs across the world.

(via WorldChanging)

12 November 2005

Experience marketing to woo business customers [CMO]

More and more B2B companies are turning to experience marketing to woo business customers.

“B2B companies, especially in the technology, pharmaceutical and banking industries, are looking for ways to immerse their business clients in experiences that tell a brand story. Companies such as IBM are realizing that business clients are not emotionally inured; rather, they bring to any decision the same mix of emotional and rational qualities attributed to consumers.”

Read full story

(via GoodExperience)

11 November 2005

The computer as a social tool [International Herald Tribune]

We clearly have a love-hate relationship with digital technology, a new study confirms. We love how easily it allows us – through e-mail, sending photos and exchanging news and information – to communicate with friends and family, but we hate the slowness, the frustration and generally not knowing how to get the best out of our machines and devices.

The study also shows that for many people, regardless of age group, nationality or gender, the technology that revolves around our personal computers is a social tool. We interact with it individually and as a group, and we devote our free time to it. We take pride in our digital accomplishments, and we think badly of those who use technology poorly or with bad manners.

The survey, conducted in September by Benchmark Research for the chip maker Advanced Micro Devices, asked the opinions of some 500 people already comfortable with digital technology in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

11 November 2005

Fortune’s Business Innovation blog

Business Innovation 2005 is the name of the weblog that accompanies this year’s Fortune Innovation Forum, which will be held November 30-December 1 in New York City.

Inspired by the event’s comprehensive lineup of discussion topics and speakers (including Chris Bangle and Eric Von Hippel, already featured in this blog), the weblog showcases interesting interviews, case studies and commentary on the theme of “business innovation”.

Each week it showcases various factors impacting innovation – competition, customer experience, intellectual property and design.

I am proud to say that Putting People First also made it a few times already (here and here) to the Business Innovation 2005 blog. Thanks, Dominic.

11 November 2005

Mobility special in today’s Financial Times

Plugged into it all
From Japanese girls texting their friends to the BlackBerry-armed
executive, it’s now who you are connected to, not who you know. But
does this mean greater freedom or loss of control?

Failed to fly
Why do some inventions just not take off?

All ringing, all dancing
The latest phone handsets offer music, film and even shopping services

Africa calling
Kenyans are embracing the mobile phone

Life in the slow lane
There are a few people still holding out against e-mails and mobile phones

11 November 2005

Six decades – and six different roles for the designer

Anna Valtonen of the University of Art and Design Helsinki reflects on the different roles of the industrial designer over the last six decades, as applied to Finland.

When the professional practice of industrial design first started to form, the designer was a creator whose work was likened to that of the artist.

In the sixties designers started to work in closer co-operation with the industry, and the designer became a member of a team together with the engineer and the marketing representatives.

In the seventies ergonomics and end-user expertise were largely discussed and in the eighties the issue of design management became popular and the designer became a co-ordinator.

In the nineties brand building and strategic design became the focus areas with the focus on creating experiences, and in the new millennium design was seen as a means of innovation.

Download paper (pdf, 256 kb, 10 pages)

(via Design Council RED)

11 November 2005

The everyday life of global brands

In this long feature, Rick Robinson, global director of GFK NOP‘s Observational & Ethnographic Practice, discusses ethnography and branding, and argues in much detail how ethnography can help companies gain a true understanding of their customers — including their interactions, thoughts and behaviors, as well as the context in which they take place.

Rick E. Robinson is a leader in developing and applying observational research as a basis for new product, service and strategy solutions. He was a co-founder of E-Lab, a research and design consultancy, which pioneered ethnographic and observational research approaches for understanding the interactions between people and products, and was chief experience officer at Sapient where he worked with my partner Jan-Christoph Zoels.

He will be the keynote speaker at next week’s EPIC 2005 in Redmond, WA.

Read full story