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Putting People First

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March 2007
20 March 2007

UK Government pledge for ‘personalised’ public services

Building on Progress
“The UK government has announced that personalised care will remain at the heart of the future of public services in the next decade,” writes Debbie Andalo in The Guardian.

“Priorities will shift from “monolithic public services” driven by producers to a new era in which “consumers” are calling the shots, the prime minister’s office said this morning.

The commitment to develop services that reflect care centred on the individual, giving the consumer greater influence, was spelt out in the government’s review of public services ‘Building on Progress: Public Services‘ published today.

The 85-page document, which Downing Street said was not a manifesto, white paper or green paper, will underpin all future changes in legislation and determine funding decisions – including the comprehejnsive spending review – over the next 10 years.

The report admits that the reforms introduced in the last decade since Labour came to power, aimed at personalising services “around the user so that they are tailored to citizens’ differing needs and preferences”, are not yet complete.”

Read full story

19 March 2007

MBA in Design and Innovation Management

Ferris College of Business
Europe was first in starting graduate programmes on design and management, first with the Zollverein School of Management and Design in Germany and later on with the 180º Academy in Denmark. Now also the USA is getting in on the act.

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University and Ferris’ College of Business have partnered to establish the first Master of Business Administration degree in the USA with a concentration in Design and Innovation Management.

The new MBA responds to the increased awareness of the importance of design and innovation in business. The program uniquely combines the resources of a college of business with a college of art and design.

By embracing design thinking and collaboration the Design and Innovation Management concentration focuses on training future business leaders with the mindset and skills to build and sustain innovative and creative organizations.

Read press release

(via Design Directory Monday Morning Must Read of Core77/Business Week)

19 March 2007

Csikszentmihalyi starts doctoral programme on happiness

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
According to the Los Angeles Times, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the 1990 bestseller “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” and a pioneer in positive psychology, is leading a new doctoral programme on happiness at Claremont Graduate University (in California).

“The PhD program in the emerging field of positive psychology marks an advance for serious research into human happiness and related quality-of-life concerns. It’s an arena drawing the attention of psychologists, as well as neuroscientists, economists and even political scientists.”

Csikszentmihalyi adds that “we don’t know enough about what makes life worth living, what gives people hope and energy and enjoyment. [...]

One emphasis in the program will be the “experience sampling method” techniques developed by Csikszentmihalyi.”

Read full story

18 March 2007

The Jan Chipchase controversy: corporate ethnography is “primitive”

Nokia Village Phone research in Uganda
Last week Business Week published an interview with Jan Chipchase, user anthropologist at Nokia Design (and frequently featured on this blog). It didn’t go down very well with Bob Jacobson:

Nokia’s ethnographic research sounds basic, even primitive. It’s akin to Dr. Livingston in “Darkest Africa,” sussing out the “natives”: how many yams they eat in a week, who tells the iconic stories, what clans do to maintain hegemony, etc. Very ho-hum, except that the technology is “cool.” Cellphone ethnographic research, so far as I can tell, studies behaviors related to product use but as the snippet in BW reveals, not the inner workings of cellphone users — how they relate to cellphones in phenomenological ways, for example.

This quote comes from a post on the anthrodesign Yahoo! group which immediately provoked reactions. It is still going on.

Tyler of Sprint Nextel supports Chipchase but arguest that “we need a comprehensive theory of design that works for anthropology (or human research for commerce)”, whereas Sridhar Dhulipala points to a report in the Times of India, Bangalore, on the usage of mobile phones. Whereas the Nokia report strikes as typical corporate leadership behaviour, Dhulipala thinks that this other story provides a contrasting insight.

Christina Bolas, an anthropologist at Sprint Nextel, was recently involved in “true ethnography of cell phone use” beyond the basic “needs assessment” or “behaviors related to product use”, but her main difficulty was “getting the results heard and supported by the pile of people needed to make real change in the industry”. She concludes: “Not only do we need a comprehensive theory of design that works for anthropology, but we also need a theory that takes into account the inevitable world of corporate politics within which that theory must live.”

Finally, Molly Wright Steenson (a former Interaction-Ivrea colleague) underlines the intrinsic value of the ethnographic approach as it greatly change what you expected to find.

18 March 2007

The experience store, a store where you don’t buy [International Herald Tribune]

Samsung Experience Store
The International Herald Tribune reflects on ‘experience stores’, the latest trend in retailing and claims it is a return to the old department store shopping experience, where shopping was treated as theatre as well.

The article claims that Samsung was the pioneer, but I think that NikeTown was at least a decade ahead. When I visited the 57th Street NikeTown in New York in ’95 or ’96, it was all very much about creating the Nike experience, and not much about selling.

“For its first store in the United States, Samsung, the South Korean electronics company, took an unconventional route: It refused to sell anything.

Having leased 10,000 square feet, or 929 square meters, of astoundingly expensive real estate in midtown Manhattan, it instead encouraged customers to commune with its products — to check e-mail on Samsung computers, watch reality shows on Samsung flat-screen televisions and make long-distance calls on Samsung cellphones.

No shopping, only loitering.

Samsung called the new concept an “experience store,” and despite fears from the shopping center’s owners that it would become a costly nap room for New York City’s huddled masses, the idea has caught fire.

Last week, AT&T said it would open 11 experience stores across the United States (though theirs would sell products), joining Motorola, Apple, Sony, Maytag and Verizon in opening such outlets over the past several years.”

Read full story

18 March 2007

Bruce Nussbaum asks if designers are the enemy of design?

Bruce Nussbaum
Bruce Nussbaum, Business Week’s assistant managing editor, has posted the text of a long and well-articulated speech that he gave at Parson’s on Thursday that advocates that design should not just be done by professionals, but by everyone – I couldn’t agree more – and how to go about that.

It also contains a critique on the lack of sustainability commitment by today’s designers.

The speech has a typical blunt Nussbaum style and is designed, he says, “to provoke design management students and show how I’ve redesigned my job at Business Week from the Voice Of Authority to the Curator of the Conversation on Innovation.”

Some excerpts:

“The blogs and websites are full of designers shouting how awful it is that now, thanks to Macs, Web 2.0, even YouTube, EVERYONE is a designer. Core 77 recently ran an article on this backlash and so did we on our Innovation & Design site. Designers are saying that Design is everywhere, done by everyone. So Design is debased, eroded, insulted. The subtext, of course, is that Real design can only be done by great star designers.

This is simply not true. Design Democracy is the wave of the future. Exceptional design may only be done by great star designers. But the design of our music experiences, the design of our MySpace pages, the design of our blogs, the design of our clothes, the design of our online community chats, the design of our Class of ’95 brochures, the design of our screens, the design of the designs on our bodies—We are all designing more of our lives. And with more and more tools, we, the masses, want to design anything that touches us on the journey, the big journey through life. People want to participate in the design of their lives. They insist on being part of the conversation about their lives.”

Read speech

18 March 2007

New York Times on interactive mirror in department store

Interactive mirror
Very insightful article by Natasha Singer in today’s New York Times on the human implications of a state-of-the-art interactive mirror prototype:

“Tracy Noah is a self-described shopaholic who stops by Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan every day during lunch hour. But last Thursday she came upon something new: a prototype for an interactive mirror stationed among the embroidered cotton dresses and duster pants in the Nanette Lepore department. Displayed in a vintage-looking white wooden frame, the full-length mirror doubled as a three-part high-resolution digital screen.

As Ms. Noah stood in front of the mirror, a camera relayed live video images of her to an Internet site where online participants could view her outfit. When Web viewers responded by sending her comments, their instant messages popped up on the left side of the mirror for Ms. Noah to read. They also selected items for her to try on, causing virtual images of the clothing to appear before her in the middle of the mirror, like life-size holograms. [...]

For many women, shopping is a task best achieved in the company of other women. And when friends or mothers are not around, shoppers have become accustomed to snapping and sending photos of Coach handbags and Juicy Couture hoodies with their camera phones and soliciting opinions before they buy.

But the new mirror, introduced to Nanette Lepore by IconNicholson, an interactive design firm in Manhattan, takes the concept of shopping in tandem one step further by streaming real-time video to the Internet and inviting shoppers to actively involve off-site friends to join the process. It brings fashion into the realm of social networking where people already freely share their opinions and lives via MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and Web cams.

But it raises the question of whether the immediacy and tactile experience of shopping together in person can translate to a virtual audience.

Read full story
IconNicholson press release
IconNicholson concept overview

18 March 2007

Business Week on the innovation workshops at the Royal College of Arts, London

Helen Hamlyn Centre
“It’s become quite common for companies to sponsor some kind of design-school course, setting the theme or challenge for a semester-long student project and then learning from the final presentations. Companies gain some novel ideas and a chance to spot upcoming talents they might want to hire, while schools are able to put “real world” problems in front of their students.”

“But the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, the alma mater of such famous designers as Jonathan Ives of Apple and Thomas Heatherwick, offers a different approach, and puts [companies] in touch with Jeremy Myerson.”

“A former design journalist, Myerson now heads up the college’s innovation initiatives, working as the director of both InnovationRCA and the Helen Hamlyn Centre, an independently funded entity located in a mews building within the College’s hallowed South Kensington walls. With an emphasis on inclusive design, the centre’s research associate program pairs new graduates with a corporation, allowing the student to spend a full year focusing solely on a single project set by his matched corporation.”

Read full story

15 March 2007

Usability consulting in Central and Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe
We at Experientia noticed that there are increasing requests for usability studies in Central and Eastern Europe.

However, it is not always that easy to find professionally trained consultants, familiar with the local language and culture, and with a wide enough local network to handle the recruiting.

Here is a first list of usability and experience design consultants in Central and Eastern Europe, based mainly on a web search, so I don’t vouch for quality. Any feedback or input is appreciated.

14 March 2007

American Embassy in Rome reaches out via web to discuss innovation and creativity with young Italian entrepreneurs

Face2Face
Interesting article in Tuesday’s La Repubblica newspaper (below my English translation) about how the American Embassy in Rome is reaching out via the web and via events to discuss innovation and creativity with young Italian entrepreneurs.

“The first appointment is for Wednesday 14 March at 5pm (CET). At that time, the TV cameras will be switched on for an hour at the American Embassy in Rome. The first session of the video webchat Face2Face will then be broadcast. You can see the event online, and contribute questions via chat to a young entrepreneur. Questions are gathered and edited by a moderator who will be joining the interviewee, and will try to have as many questions answered as possible. The moderator in this first session will be another entrepreneur who will be able to add his own experience to the questions asked. It will all take place in real time, so it is up to the moderator to check the timing, the types of questions, and to make sure it all runs correctly, concisely and precisely.

The website to go to is http://italy.usembassy.gov/face2face. The email address to submit questions to is Face2Face@mail.usembassy.gov. The Embassy publicised the initiative on the internet, and by communicating it to universities, public services, big companies, and any other place they could think of where young and curious people come together. But who is behind the initiative? The answer is unusual for such a project: the American Embassy in Rome itself. Face2Face is the first of a series of major communication initiatives that this diplomatic representation in Italy is undertaking to improve the relationships between the two countries. Even though there are sometimes difficulties in understanding one another and also political controversies (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Vicenza), there is one area where the relationships between the USA and Italy cannot be damanged, and that is the economy. The shared interests are vital, American investments and Italian ones in the USA are too substantial for them to be compromised. And that matters to both parties.

The discussion on Face2Face will therefore focus on economic issues and will examine all the best examples that both models can offer. With the initiative being organised by the Americans, the focus will be strongly influenced by the character and the opportunities of the American model: how one studies, how the university and research environment is organised, how venture capital functions, how the USA was able to create a favourable climate to investments and employments, the flexibility of the labour market, etcetera. Later on in the series of broadcasts, they will also feature one of those Italians (and there are many) who found fertile ground and financing in the USA for their research activities, their business interests, and their entrepreneurial mindset.

The initiative is part of “Partnership for Growth”, a wider programme of communications and dialogue activities conceived by Ambassador Ronald Spogli in person. It features a series of events, conferences and meetings to improve mutual understanding and stimulate business opportunities, and also includes visits and personal meetings. However multimedia channels play a key role. For instance, a new website was set up where those who went to the US and had problems with customers can interact with American functionaries and explain their situation. Spogli, who has a background in the venture capital industry, also added a Face2Face broadcast on private equity and on the opportunities that this underestimated tool coud provide to more ‘dormant’ businesses.”

According to the Face2Face website, the first session will feature Marco Palombi, founder of Splinder, a blogging platform. He will interview Michele Appendino, one of Italy’s Venture Capital pioneers, who will answer the questions submitted by the public.

14 March 2007

Business Week interviews Nokia’s Jan Chipchase

Jan Chipchase
British industrial designer and user anthropologist Jan Chipchase spent several months last year thinking about how the human race shares things. He’s an exploratory human behavioral field researcher at the Nokia Research Center based in Tokyo. Chipchase tries to help multidisciplinary researchers understand how the world will be in the future.

On Mar. 9, he spoke at the TED conference in Monterey. His talk, which he called “Always On: An Introduction to Design Research for Everyone,” quickly became a hot topic of discussion among conference goers.

BusinessWeek.com Innovation Editor Jessi Hempel sat down with him there to discuss what an anthropologist is doing working for a cell-phone company and how behavioral research feeds into the phone maker’s design strategies.

Read interview

13 March 2007

NESTA launches £20m initiative to stimulate social innovation

NESTA for social innovation
The UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) is more and more taking on the dynamic innovation role that the Design Council had until rather recently, again exemplified by this announcement:

NESTA just launched a new £20 million initiative designed to encourage innovative solutions to some of the UK’s most pressing social issues including chronic disease, mental health and climate change.

NESTA’s ‘Innovation Challenges‘ will focus on several key themes, starting with Health Innovation and followed by the Environment. Each theme will last for three years during which NESTA will conduct a series of high-impact projects with key partners, designed both to unearth existing ideas, and stimulate new approaches in response to recognised problems.

Focusing on health, the first Challenge aims to identify and develop solutions to issues around chronic disease management, mental health, and ageing. The Challenge programme’s initial partnership projects will see NESTA calling for both social entrepreneurs and front-line workers to come forward with ideas.

NESTA Chief Executive Jonathan Kestenbaum explains:

“The UK faces significant social challenges that are resistant to conventional solutions. Mostly the impetus for addressing these issues is placed on the shoulders of government alone but this isn’t enough – there’s an increasing gap between the scale of the problems and the solutions available. It’s time we empowered people at the grass roots to develop ideas which, with the right support, could have a lasting impact on key social issues“.

Read press release

The Design Council meanwhile is silent. The latest publication is from September last year. The latest press release (about a speech by a Government Minister) is from the beginning of December. And the dynamic RED unit is no longer.

13 March 2007

New Songdo City, a living lab on ubiquitous computing in Korea

New Songdo City
It’s situated about 40 miles from Seoul, on 1,500 acres of man-made island off the Inchon coast. When completed in 2014, it is intended to become a living laboratory, a shining microcosm of technologically enhanced life in the new millennium. Think of it as Korea’s version of Disney’s Tomorrow Land; a place where imagination and IT intersect, backed by a huge investment of cash. It will be clean, modern, and efficient. A place where everything is tracked, every action recorded, every service personalized, and every transaction automated. But unlike Tomorrow Land, people won’t just visit, they will actually live and work there. Welcome to the model surveillance society, welcome to Songdo, welcome to the future.

New Songdo City is the daughter of two cultures, with American and Korean companies collaborating to build the infrastructure and provide the technological muscle. The Koreans will invest $25 billion to raise the city, which will become a testing ground for new technologies.

According to its website, “New Songdo City is a city designed around one thing: the people who will live and work here. People who will experience an unparalleled quality of life as technology, resources and innovation all come together to create the ideal environment.”

The author of the article concludes: “The residents of Songdo may find that the price of leading a digital lifestyle is privacy. There is a very thin line between pervasive computing and invasive computing, and an unexpected consequence of the Songdo experiment may be to help clarify that boundary.”

- Read full story
Check also this related article

(via Institute for the Future)

13 March 2007

UNESCO publishes survey on ethical implications of emerging technologies

Ethical implications of emerging technologies
What are the ethical implications of the semantic web, biometrics, radio-frequency identification, location-based services, mesh and ubiquitous networking, grid computing and other new computing technologies? A study just released by UNESCO analyses likely consequences of different technological choices.

The survey entitled “Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies” has been prepared by Mary Rundle and Chris Conley of the NGO Geneva Net Dialogue at UNESCO’s request.

In presenting results of this examination, the report first tells an introductory story of how the technologies covered relate to one another. Next, infoethics goals are presented. Then, for each technological trend surveyed, the report contains a short chapter drafted in lay terms to provide an overview of the relevant technology and to highlight ramifications and concerns. The report then summarizes this infoethics analysis and revisits the story of the emerging technologies. Finally, the report offers recommendations on ways to advance infoethics goals in anticipation of these oncoming technologies.

Moreover, UNESCO encourages the definition and adoption of best practices and guidelines addressing ethical issues for decision makers, media and information professionals, and all major stakeholders concerned by the issue of Info-Ethics.

It aims at providing an outlook to the ethical implications of future technologies in the area of information and communication as well as at alerting to the increasing power of these emerging technologies and draws attention to their potential to affect the exercise of some basic human rights.

- Read press release
Download survey (pdf, 436 kb, 89 pages)

(via eGov monitor)

13 March 2007

UK hosting provider imagines web in 2020

The Web in 2020
Tomorrow’s Generation C will be nicer then today’s Generation X, according to a report by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), conducted on behalf of Rackspace Managed Hosting, a UK hosting provider.

The study, entitled “Life online: The Web in 2020″ predicts that Generation C (C standing for content/ connectivity/ creativity/ collaboration/ communication) will be ‘nicer’, more able to communicate with a wider cross section of people and find common ground across previously divisive differences as a result of proliferation of the Internet, versus the previous generations.

The term Generation X comes from a fictional book written in 1991 by Douglas Coupland in which three strangers distance themselves from society. He describes the characters as “underemployed, overeducated, intensely private and unpredictable.”

In contrast, Dr. Peter Marsh of SIRC says: “…’Generation C’ …will be middle aged by 2020. This generation has grown up under the Web ideologies of open access, co-operation, exchange and sharing of information, as will all further generations. This will have profound implications for our society.”

- Read press release
Request report (78 pages)

(via Usability News)

13 March 2007

Qualitative research leads to new bicycle “for fun”

Coasting
When Japanese bike part manufacturer Shimano set out to make a bicycle aimed at America’s dwindling group of casual bikers, they enlisted the help of design consultancy IDEO, and embarked on a qualitative research and design process that eventually lead to the “Coasting” bicycle (see also this Core77 post).

The background to their research was the realisation, revealed by a Bicycling Magazine survey, that the number of casual bikers had dropped nearly 50% in the last decade, whereas the number of cycling “enthusiasts” has nearly tripled in the same time. That means that there were more than 160 million Americans currently not riding bikes—an enormous potential market.

As reported by United’s Hemispheres magazine, IDEO sent a team of “industrial anthropologists” to 50 homes to get an in-depth look at how people spend their leisure time.

Shimano execs and even some bicycling nerds within IDEO assumed the primary reason people didn’t want to ride would be “heaviness” and “laziness.” Turns out they were dead wrong.

What they learned was that everyone loved their memories of bicycling as a kid. It was for them a “memory of a simple pleasure, an elemental enjoyment”.

In other words, says the Hempisheres article, “people just wanted to putter around rather than become fitness freaks.”

Unfortunately, that idea of puttering was being lost at the typical bicycle store, where potential customers looking for a pleasant way to spend a Saturday were encountering Spandex-clad bike geeks expounding about technology and performance.

IDEO and Shimano saw two challenges: First, create a new bicycle designed with the casual cyclist in mind—simple, comfortable, affordable and designed primarily for fun, not fitness. And second, they had to redesign the retail experience.

So first they designed a prototype with the casual cyclist in mind—simple, comfortable, affordable and designed primarily for fun, not fitness—and encouraged the big bike manufacturers like Raleigh, Giant and Trek to tailor it to their own company style.

Then they expanded the experience to the bike shop—by making dealers more sympathetic to, or at least aware of, the needs of noncyclists through online training and DVDs—and to people’s bicycling activities: the web site www.coasting.com serves as a bulletin board for the new hobbyists, with information about routes and rides in 15 cities around the U.S.

Read full story

(via Acres & Acres)

12 March 2007

Experientia started blogging on Core77

Core77
Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken started blogging for Core77, the USA-based online design magazine.

Eventually he wants to bring a bit of an Italian angle to things, as he is also going to do quite some writing for Torino 2008 World Design Capital. An interview with the 32-year old Torino 2008 director will also soon be published on “Core”.

12 March 2007

Next step for games: social networking [San Jose Mercury News]

Playstation@Network
“Running throughout last week’s Game Developers Conference was the theme that the industry wants to help create better social experiences for gamers,” writes Dean Takahashi in the Mercury News. “Developers are trying to mimic popular sites like MySpace, which enable members to express themselves in their own Web sites and create social networks with friends.”

“While I’m not sure any one company has this figured out, all the chatter clearly shows that everyone thinks there is a gold mine for those who can combine games and social networks. [...]

This is happening because people in modern society are suffering from the “lost village” syndrome, says Trip Hawkins, the CEO of cell phone game maker Digital Chocolate and founder of Electronic Arts.

Hawkins’ theory: We’re all basket cases because we no longer live in closely-knit villages. People reside among strangers in big cities far from families, work away from home, and don’t know their neighbors. To him, we’re all desperately using technology to restore or extend our social networks so we won’t be isolated anymore.”

In conclusion: “Game consoles have penetrated only about half the homes in the country. Maybe social networking will get everybody involved.” Remains to be seen, I might add.

Read full story

11 March 2007

Doors of Perception taking on the global food crisis [Business Week]

Doors of Perception
Diane Brady of Business Week reports on The Doors of Perception conference in Delhi which focuses on applying design thinking to modern challenges in food, water and waste.

“John Thackara is doggedly pragmatic. The British design guru likes nothing more than to get designers, agitators, and average folks in a room together to hash out innovations that will improve daily life. His biggest and most celebrated gathering of the minds takes place every two years at the Doors of Perception conference. The celebrated design and innovation network’s goal is to apply design thinking to modern challenges, with an emphasis on putting ideas into action.

The latest event was staged in New Delhi on Mar. 2 and 3. And while Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales talked about his new search project, and Nokia’s Hannu Nieminen mused on the future of technology, most people were focused on the issues of food, water and waste.

Dubbed “Juice,” the gathering produced moments of true inspiration, as well as a few missteps. Its overall mission is to find design solutions to the growing crisis in global food systems—trying to cut the excessive energy use and spotty distribution while helping people feel more connected to what is actually on their plates.”

Read full story

10 March 2007

Experiencing love in games [BBC]

Peter Molyneux
Veteran designer Peter Molyneux has said that he wants to put love into his next game, Fable 2, reports technology editor Darren Waters on the BBC News website.

“This is my bold claim – I need you to experience something in Fable that you as gamers have never experienced before,” he declared.

Gamers will be able to start a family and watch their child grow over time.

Emotional reactions to gaming, such as love, fear and even empathy, remain the holy grail for many developers.

“Everybody is talking about emotion, story, engagement and narrative,” Mr Molyneux said. “We have tried to approach it in a different way. We are going to explore love.”

Read full story