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Putting People First

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February 2006
28 February 2006

Interview with Adaptive Path founder Peter Merholz

Peter_merholz
NextD, the journal for “ReRethinking Design”, just published a very long interview with Peter Merholz, founding partner of Adaptive Path and the mind behind Peterme.com.

The interview by GK VanPatter, founding partner of NextD, Humantific and UnderstandingLab, covers such issues as user experience design, anthropology, ethnography, condescension towards users, design as a community of knowledge, the “Dark Side of Design”, complexities, contradictions, paradoxes, the “Everyone is a Designer” movement, opportunity space and the challenges of voice advocacy.

Read interview

(via Langemarks Cafe and VC gang)

28 February 2006

In California, new kind of commune for elderly [The New York Times]

Commune_elderly
They are unlikely revolutionaries. Bearing walkers and canes, a veritable Merck Manual of ailments among them, the 12 old friends — average age 80 — looked as though they should have been sitting down to a game of Scrabble, not pioneering a new kind of commune.

Opting for old age on their own terms, they were starting a new chapter in their lives as residents of Glacier Circle, the country’s first self-planned housing development for the elderly — a community they had conceived and designed themselves, right down to its purple gutters.

Over the past five years, the residents of Glacier Circle have found and bought land together, hired an architect together, ironed out insurance together, lobbied for a zoning change together and existentially probed togetherness together.

Read full story

28 February 2006

User experience: the next step for IA’s?

Ui_logo
At his keynote speech at the Italian IA Summit, Peter Boersma, senior experience designer for info.nl, argued that information architects are all user experience practitioners who practice IA from time to time.

“Unless you have never done anything else than analyse, structure and group large volumes of content only to hand-off that work to others, you have probably been acting as an interaction designer, information designer, computer scientist, business analyst, or usability engineer before, […] you are in fact a user experience professional; gaining insight into what skills you have, what skills others with related backgrounds have, and how to best combine them to create user experiences.”

Download illustrated version of paper (pdf, 250 kb)

28 February 2006

Classifying experiences

Classifying_experiences
Sorting, Classifying, and Labeling Experiences
… in order to understand all factors contributing to how a product (or service) is perceived

While plenty of practitioners invoke the word ‘experiences’, how often are we talking about the same thing?

From ‘user experiences’ to the ‘experience economy’, from ‘designing for experiences’ to ‘brand experiences’, from ‘customer experience management’ to ‘experience marketing’, experiences are definitely the topic du jour.

But is an experience defined solely by how easily one accomplishes a task (as with Google or Craig’s List) or is an experience something less definably (as with Starbucks or Harley Davidson)?

This framework poster by Stephen P. Anderson (to be presented at the 2006 IA Summit in Vancouver, Canada) structures all the elements that make for a great experience, and gives a context to the various activities (both internal and external to an organisation) that play a role in defining a person’s perception of a product or service.

Download poster (pdf, 2.8 mb)

26 February 2006

Publicis Groupe launches Denuo, a new futures practice

Denuo
Publicis Groupe has set up a new digital venture – a standalone consultancy to help clients, and their budgets, leave behind traditional advertising and move toward digital, interactive and mobile media.

Publicis Groupe, the international advertising and media conglomerate, has announced the launch of Denuo, a major new strategic initiative designed to anticipate and exploit the rapidly changing digital, interactive and mobile communication environment. Denuo is a stand-alone business, not based on any pre-existing industry model. Denuo’s model rests on three pillars, functioning simultaneously as a strategic consultant, an inventor of solutions, and as an investor in partnerships.

The unprecedented new venture [“denuo” = ‘afresh’, ‘anew’ in Latin] will be led by Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Innovation Officer of Publicis Groupe Media (PGM).

In a commentary, marketing strategist Steve Rubel writes “By talking more about “exploiting” new communications channels rather than using them to co-create marketing with consumers, the ad agencies demonstrate that, at least for now, that they still don’t get what this revolution is all about. Publicis appears to be operating in a mode where they still are marketing to consumers, rather than with them.”.

Read press release
Read background articles: International Herald Tribune | The New York Times

26 February 2006

Interview with Larry Tesler, Yahoo!’s VP of user experience and design

Tesler
The resume of Larry Tesler (Wikipedia articlepersonal site) reads like the history of interaction design.

He worked at Xerox PARC and Apple, created and managed the usability group at Amazon, and is now vice president of user experience and design at Yahoo!, managing the company’s interaction designers, visual designers and design researchers, and sharing responsibility for the company’s user experience, brand experience and product strategy.

While at Xerox PARC, he helped develop some of the language of interaction design including pop-up menus and cut-and-paste.

This interview by Dan Saffer starts with the question if there are any unbreakable laws for interaction designers, to which Tesler answers: “Just one. Design for the users.”

Read interview

24 February 2006

Berlin comes in from the cold [Financial Times]

Berlin_buildingsite
Sixteen years after the Wall came down, the German capital looks like a mess: it’s virtually bankrupt, unemployment is rampant and the property market is dismal. To all intents the city is a failure – but its reborn creativity makes it a fabulous failure.

[In the early 1990’s it was thought] that the [city’s] population would double as corporate giants flocked to the city to serve the virgin markets of eastern Europe. In June 1991, parliament decided with a six-vote majority to move the federal government from its leafy exile in Bonn back to the capital, taking the first step towards restoring the old Prussian garrison city to its role as the political, cultural and economic lighthouse of the German-speaking world.

Fifteen years on, the civil servants and politicians are over their Rhineland homesickness, but with 3.39 million people, Berlin is not any bigger. Its unemployment rate, at 18 per cent, is the highest of large German cities. Since 1995, employment has contracted by 5 per cent and its economy has shrunk by a tenth. Berlin was the birthplace of German industry and in 1925 had 1.7m manufacturing jobs. This number was down to 350,000 in 1991 and is fewer than 100,000 today. With less than half of its e20bn budget covered by tax, and debts of e60bn rising by more than e3bn a year, it is practically bankrupt.

Scanning the pockmarked face of Alexanderplatz, you might find it hard not to conclude that the Berlin experiment – the most daring political and economic engineering venture “since the opening up of Japan in the 19th century”, in the words of a local politician – has failed. But has it?

Since 1998, according to the DIW economic institute, Berlin’s software industry has doubled in size; the advertising sector has grown 66 per cent; and high-tech, media and tourism are booming. In 2004, the capital’s creative industry overtook Hamburg and Munich in size.

Such dynamism has not nearly made up for the violent shrinkage of industrial capacity that continues today. What these figures suggest, though, is that Berlin is in the midst of accelerated change. While not without pain, the city is building a post-industrial economy that could become a plausible prototype for the Germany of tomorrow. If the Berlin experiment has failed, it has failed in a very interesting way.

Read full story

24 February 2006

Gain, the relaunched AIGA journal of business and design

Aiga_gain
AIGA, the professional association for design, has just relaunched its Gain journal, dedicated to stimulating thinking at the intersection of design and business.

The launch issue contains a huge amount of material (no less than 30 articles) organised in such categories as customer-centered design, the DUX 2005 conference, design as strategy, design process, and communicating design thinking.

Those that caught my eye include:

(Form + Content + Context) / Time = Experience Design
Experience
design” is a discipline created by the reality of communication today,
when no point of contact has a simple beginning and end and all points
of contact must have meaning embedded in them.

Diamond search: improving the user experience of buying loose diamonds online
This
case study, presented at DUX 2005, examines the development and
deployment of a dynamic, visual, usable, confidence-building, diamond
search tool, and a user-centric, end-to-end online shopping experience
for loose diamonds.

Go to the customers of your customer
When trying to break into an industry, do you start at the heart or at the fringes? Caleb Luwick rolls out how Tricycle used design savvy to transform an industry’s established sales cycle.

Metamorphosis: metmuseum.org
Culture and commerce meet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital museum without walls, writes Stephen Nowlin.

On brandology and futures research: an interview with Andrew Zolli
Branding strategist Andrew Zolli discusses the future of brands and futures research in an interview with Gong Szeto.

Project Platypus: reinventing product development at Mattel, An interview with Ivy Ross
Ivy Ross, Senior Vice President at Mattel, discusses her innovative approach to building new brands with David Womack.

The artless website: schwab.com
Glen Helfand claims that the design of schwab.com proves that smart, in the age of new media, is more substance than style.

Why is it so hard to make products that people love?
Why do so many good designs get trampled during the product development process? Adlin and Pruitt hash out why the development process so rife with disagreements and compromises even though everyone is interested the same good thing.

Readers are invited to join the discussion through a new mailing list.

24 February 2006

What Ikea could teach Alitalia [Business Week]

Alitalia
Design Continuum CEO Gianfranco Zaccai imagines an airline that strives to provide an overwhelmingly positive customer experience

I recently visited Boston’s new Ikea store with my two young children. A few days later, I flew to Italy on my usual carrier, Alitalia. The two experiences offered quite a lesson in the design of a customer
experience.

Ikea, the Swedish chain of retail stores for the home, is a worldwide success in customer loyalty and profits. Alitalia, the Italian national airline, seems perpetually on the verge of bankruptcy, with a shrinking base of often-dissatisfied customers.

All the while, Ikea provides a taste of Sweden to a receptive global audience, and here the contrast with Alitalia is dramatic. Far more tourists travel to Italy than to Sweden — 40 million last year alone. Yet Alitalia does little to leverage Italy’s positive “brand,” ignoring opportunities to offer a unique experience for its customers and to actually design itself out of its financial predicament.

Imagine if Alitalia thought about the customer’s total travel experience the way Ikea thinks about the customer’s total shopping experience? Here are some touch points that would be part of the total designed “Ikeatalia” experience.

Read full story

(via the European Centre for the Experience Economy)

24 February 2006

Philips researcher provides cognitive science angle on experience economy

 
Mark Van Doorn of Philips Research published a short paper on the website of the European Centre for the Experience Economy, that provides a cognitive science angle on the experience economy.

"Many views on the experience economy start with the behavior of actors in society at large and try to understand and explain their dynamics. In other words, the focus is on the external, objective, physical world of experience."

"But since experiences are inherently personal and only exist in our own internal, subjective, mental
universe it is interesting to start from the inside and see what cognitive science that studies human perception and cognition can tell us about the central role of experience and story."

"This article is therefore quite literally an inside story about the experience economy and the pervasiveness of story and text."

Download article (pdf, 200 kb, 11 pages)

24 February 2006

Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and education [Business Week]

Ken_robinson
Education guru Sir Ken Robinson talks about the importance of nurturing innovative solutions in the classroom — indeed, in every aspect of modern life.

Sir Ken Robinson, now a senior advisor to the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles, was knighted in 2003 for his commitment to creativity and education. for four years from 1985 the British citizen was director of The Arts in Schools Project, a major initiative to improve teaching of the arts in his native land, and in 1998 he was appointed by the government to chair the National Advisory Committee on Creative & Cultural Education, the largest-ever inquiry into the importance of creativity in education and the economy.

Since then, nearly $1 billion has been put into initiatives based on the so-called Robinson Report. In the meantime, Robinson has become a frequent speaker on creativity as a broader concept, arguing that the ability to think creatively is essential for students as they seek jobs, companies as they go up against competitors, and nations competing in the global economy.

Prior to his presentation at the TED conference in Monterey, Calif., this week, Robinson spoke with BusinessWeek Online editor Jessie Scanlon.

Read interview

24 February 2006

Open Health, a UK Design Council report on creating new healthcare systems

Designcouncil_openhealth
The UK Design Council published its first RED report: ‘Open Health’, following up on the paper “Health: Co-creating Services” (which was discussed here).

Chronic disease and conditions related to an unhealthy lifestyle have reached epidemic proportions and are rising still. This presents a momentous challenge for the current healthcare system.

Looking at the problem from a design perspective shows that there are many gaps in the way that current approaches relate to people’s daily lives and motivations. Designing from the individual’s point of view could provide the key to solutions that work.

Working with partners in Bolton and Kent over the six months from December 2004, the Design Council explored ways to create new healthcare systems. The design team prototyped innovative services for self-managing chronic conditions and maintaining healthier lifestyles.

These point towards a radical new model of healthcare organisation: Open Health.

Summary pageMovie (8.8 mb, 9 minutes) – Open Health report (pdf, 600 kb, 64 pages)

Kent: Activmobs (download design notes, pdf, 4.9 mb, 41 pages)
With Kent County Council the Design Council worked with some of the most inactive people, in one of the most deprived wards. They prototyped “activmobs” – a platform that supports people to get active and stay active in a way that fits with their lifestyle, interests and abilities.

Bolton: The Diabetes Agenda (download design notes, pdf, 3.6 mb, 41 pages)
In Bolton, the Design Council worked with the local NHS to improve their nationally acclaimed diabetes service. Here they developed “Agenda cards” – a simple set of cards that reframe the interaction between patients and professionals. They also prototyped a Me2 coach service – a new and powerful support role, like a life coach but for people with diabetes. These ideas represent a shift in thinking in the way designers approach the management of chronic conditions and demonstrate how design can be used to put patient centred thinking into practice.

Co-design
Co-design – the name of the design process used – works because people are the experts in their own lives. Co-design addresses health problems from the point of view of the individual, not the system. The Design Council works with people in real world contexts to develop practical solutions to their everyday health problems.

Co-creation
Co-created systems are intended to improve over time and with increased
participation from users and professionals. The Design Council believes they have the potential to provide higher quality and more durable health solutions and answer many of the problems faced by the NHS today.

23 February 2006

User-centred design becomes transformation design – updated

Transformation_design
A new design discipline is emerging from groups across the world. It applies traditional design skills in a new way to social and economic issues. It uses the design process as a means for a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders to collaborate. It develops solutions that are practical and desirable. It is an approach that places the individual at the heart of new solutions and builds the capacity to innovate within participating groups.

It could be key to solving many of society’s most complex problems. But the community of practice is small, and its emergence has already caused controversy among those who argue that it’s not design – because here’s the rub: it doesn’t look or feel much like design in the familiar sense of the word. The outputs aren’t always tangible and beautiful, and may be adapted and altered by people as they use them. It is far from the paradigm of the master-designer.

The UK Design Council has just published a paper on transformation design (pdf, 193 kb, 33 pages).

The paper begins to set out the characteristics of the emergent discipline of Transformation Design. It identifies a nascent but growing community of practice. It highlights an under-supply of designers equipped to work in this way. And it explores the market for, and the challenges facing, designers who are starting to work in this new discipline.

22 February 2006

Advertising 2.0

Advertising20
What everybody in advertising, marketing and media should know about the technologies that are reshaping their business.

What’s the effect of an advertising campaign, in a world where every consumer has instant access to all hard data about any given product? How can we even reach these consumers in a media landscape that consists of millions of personal blogs, podcasts and time shifted television? What is the role of marketing when consumers are directly connected to almost anybody within the companies they buy from?

In this paper advertising specialist Paul Beelen (Chile) attempts to provide some answers (or at least clues), but for now, he says, the best way to be prepared is to simply be aware of the fact that things are changing. Something has been set off, that is impossible to stopped. And it will force advertising to reinvent itself in quite a few ways.

Download white paper (pdf, 128 kb, 21 pages)

(via Future Now, the blog of the Institute for the Future)

22 February 2006

World’s first ‘ambient experience’ cardiology suite opens at Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven, the Netherlands

Philips_cathlab
The Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Philips today opened the world’s first Ambient Experience Catheterisation Lab (CathLab).

The ambient experience design concept aims to improve the workflow of physicians considerably and reduce anxiety of heart patients undergoing catheterisation. Initial tests show that the ambient experience design concept is leading to faster diagnoses, lower radiation doses and calmer patients.

In a hospital CathLab, doctors insert a thin, flexible tube or catheter in a heart patient’s blood vessel to allow access to the heart or blood vessels without major surgery. With the help of X-ray imaging, doctors can then examine and diagnose the patients’ blood vessels and/or heart.

The ambient experience CathLab has been designed around the catheterisation procedure to support medical staff and soothe patients during preparation, examination and post procedure.

Read press release
Read speech by Gerard Kleisterlee, President and CEO of Royal Philips Electronics

22 February 2006

Creativity and design to transform a former coalmine area

Zollverein
The former coalmine area of Zollverein has become a symbol of structural change in the Ruhrgebiet of Germany. The large scale interventions taking place there are an example of how creative industries can become the engine of economic transformation.

After from having become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the former mining grounds of Zollverein are now making their mark as a leading international location for design. Current and future activities and projects include:

Zollverein currently attracts around 500,000 visitors each year within its numerous buildings, through an impressive programme of cultural events and projects.

22 February 2006

Using interactive design to make global statistics comprehensible [Business Week]

Gapminder
Gapminder is a nonprofit, supported by the UNDP, dedicated to better communicating and disseminating global-development statistics — as a means to “mind the gap” between the world’s rich and poor, sick and healthy.

Gapminder wants to be more than just graphics. Between the clean lines and clarity of its presentations lies an argument about the need for information — particularly about the state of human development — to be free and accessible. Gapminder marries an open-source philosophy with interactive graphic design, trumpeting the notion that making global statistical information more easily understood will make it accessible to a greater number of people, and thereby increase the demand for it.

Seeking to make its visual tools available to the broadest possible constituency, Gapminder has worked from the beginning to create software that allows others to create their own visual presentations of the data. Accordingly, Gapminder has been developing a program called Trendalyzer that works from the data itself, rather than a fixed graphical presentation. Developed in Macromedia’s Flash, the current beta version of Trendalyzer is preloaded with a built-in data set, but can also accept imported Microsoft Excel files, allowing users to create animations derived from hundreds of different variables.

Read full story

22 February 2006

Intel hiring more than 100 anthropologists and other social scientists [MIT Technology Review]

Intel_anthropology
Why is Intel, the giant chip maker, in the process of hiring more than 100 anthropologists and other social scientists to work side by side with its engineers? While the success of this strategy will become clearer over the next 12 to 18 months, it’s obvious Intel is betting that sales will rise and new markets will emerge because of this nonintuitive pairing.

Intel has already released several products shaped by anthropological research. According to Pat Gelsinger, a senior vice president at Intel, the company will have a number of other offerings during 2006 and 2007 that came out of work by anthropologists, and he thinks the company will see significant revenue streams from these new products by the end of 2007.

Furthermore, Gelsinger emphasizes that the impact of these new scientists has been more than just in tactical product development: they’ve also played a key role in long-term strategic planning.

Read full story

21 February 2006

EU to challenge MIT with new institute [AP | CNN]

Eu_1
The European Union is to unveil plans Wednesday for the creation of a rival to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reflecting fears that academic standards are slipping further behind the United States and risk being overtaken by China and India.

The proposal for a “European Institute of Technology” (website | press release | FAQ) will be announced by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and his Education Commissioner Jan Figel.

Barroso has said the EIT will “act as a pole of attraction for the very best minds, ideas and companies from around the world.”

Read full story
Related story in The Guardian

21 February 2006

Innovative technologies for disabled children

Demand
When six-year-old Tilly Griffiths from Staffordshire wanted to join her elder sister’s ballet class, her parents turned for help to a little known charity that designs and manufactures one-off pieces of equipment for disabled people.

Based in an old chapel just outside Watford in Hertfordshire, Demand (short for Design and Manufacture for Disability) was set up by Lady Renton in 1980 after she was unable to find a chair in which her disabled daughter could sit comfortably.

Read full story [BBC News]

Laptop computers that combine features from popular toys with innovative technology have rapidly accelerated the learning and communication ability of disabled children, Penn State researchers say. The technology could in the future be adapted to victims of major accidents and the elderly as well.

Read full story [Science Daily]

Kids’ favorite purple dinosaur, Barney, or that cute, fuzzy red ‘monster’ from Sesame Street, Elmo, want all kids to be able to play with them. Some kids, however, may not be able to play with them because of physical limitations or other disabilities. But now, because of RePlay for Kids, a nonprofit organization in which engineering students and staff from Case Western Reserve University donate their time and expertise to repair and modify toys for children with disabilities, every child can play with their favorite toy.

Read full story [Science Daily]