Putting People First

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March 2009
31 March 2009

Design is the Problem: An Interview with Nathan Shedroff

Nathan Shedroff
Nathan Shedroff‘s latest book, Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable, has just been published by Rosenfeld Media, and is likely to become one of the most important books for designers on the subject of design, design practice, and sustainability.

Filled with insanely pragmatic advice, persuasive argument, and impassioned calls for action, Nathan’s book is essential reading for all designers, design students, business people, business students, innovation specialists, and advocates of all stripes.

In celebration of its launch (and in conjunction with our exclusive excerpt, Core77’s Editor-in-chief Allan Chochinov sat down with Nathan (well, email was more sustainable, being on opposite coasts) to chat about the book, the challenges ahead, the culture of business, and the amazing opportunities for designers right now.

Read interview

31 March 2009

Co-creation in service design

Ben Fullerton has an article out in the March/April issue of Interactions magazine on Co-creation in Service Design. It focuses on the “Make It Work” project for the Sunderland City Council and live|work’s efforts to collaborate on the design of a program for the long-term unemployed.

Genius design may well work for something that will be built—whether software, hardware, furniture, an environment, or any other tangible form our design might take. But how well does it work when we design for less tangible experiences? If there is nothing that can be seen, touched, or used that clearly embodies the whim of the designer, how does the role of the designer change?

The (relatively) recently developed practice of service design seeks to address exactly these types of problems, concerning itself with applying the thinking learned from crafting well-considered, tangible experiences to those that do not terminate in a single product at a single moment in time, such as our experience of interacting with our cell phone provider, using our bank account, or when we visit a hospital.

Formerly a designer at live|work, Ben has been active in evangelizing service design in the United States, speaking at the Berkeley iSchool and Adaptive Path, facilitating workshops and recording a podcast with Jennifer Bove.

Download article

(via Design for Service)

31 March 2009

Experience based design at the UK’s National Health Service

Experience based design at the NHS
Yesterday I was in Lille, France, to speak at a small conference on service design organised by Philippe Picaud, the highly dynamic design director of Oxylane-Decathlon.

Decathlon is an international private sports retailer that many may know, since it is active in fifteen countries. Oxylane is the new group name that captures also all the brands sold in the Decathlon stores, and thereby gathers the entire production chain: from R&D, to design, to production and logistics, to sales.

During her presentation, Jennie Winhall of the UK consultancy Participle casually mentioned that the UK’s National Health Service has now decided to base its entire innovation process on a service design approach.

So I delved into the matter, and found a wealth of information:

Experienced based design (ebd) is an exciting new way of bringing patients and staff together to share the role of improving care and re-designing services. It is being developed by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement as a way of helping frontline NHS teams make the improvements their patients really want.

While leading global companies have used similar approaches for years, the ebd approach is very new for the NHS. Where it has been used in the health service, it is having amazing results – delivering the sort of care pathways that leave patients feeling safer, happier and more valued, and making staff feel more positive, rewarded and empowered.

The October 2008 issue of the NHS “In View” magazine has more background:

Engage Patients in service design – don’t be afraid to ask
In his report, High Quality Care for All, Lord Darzi defines quality in service as: “clinically effective, personal and safe.” Personal is the word that stands out. Darzi is saying that services must be orientated around individuals; services must be fit for everyone’s needs. […]
What is needed is a new way of thinking about services that starts with the individual not the organisation. We call this Service Thinking.

Innovation through co-creation
C K Prahalad, the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at the Ross School of business at the University of Michigan, is “the most influential living business thinker in the world” according to global guru ranking, the Thinkers 50, published by The Times.
Des Dearlove talked to Prahalad about his latest thinking and how it applies to the NHS and public health.

Innovation Labs – The writing’s on the wall
Using the experiences of the Royal Mail and other organisations, Steve Coomber looks at how the unconventional environment of an innovation lab can generate an atmosphere conducive to creating ideas.

Other resources:
Master class presentation
Introductory booklet and DVD
Guidance and tools book
Experience questionnaire
Information leaflet

31 March 2009

Nokia’s IdeasProject on ubiquitous technology and metadata

Two new interviews on Nokia’s IdeasProject:

Cheap sensors are transformative
Monitor Networks CEO Chris Meyer sees tremendous possibilities in the observation and data gathering capabilities of cheap sensors. The universal and consistent nature of the feedback that is possible on everything from micro behaviors to physical well being will allow companies and institutions to deepen their responsiveness to individual needs and allow for unprecedented levels of adaptation.

Metadata makes the Internet usable
Web strategist and visionary David Weinberger points to metadata as the truly extraordinary thing about the Internet. Metadata, the links and other data that are embedded within and around Internet content, is the phenomenon of that makes the Web possible. One of the profoundly disruptive aspects of the Internet is that links are non-hierarchical in nature, enabling individuals to share information in ways that upend the traditional dominance of corporations.

27 March 2009

Dimensions of compelling mobile experiences

Dave Zuvernik, senior user research specialist on Adobe XD’s Mobile and Devices team proposes a model with five dimensions – core, social, contextual, cloud and multi-screen – to create compelling mobile experiences:

“Have you ever used a mobile application that just made you say “Wow?” Or used your phone to find the right information at just the right time? It can be difficult to put your finger on just what it is that makes an application shine, but in looking at lots of phones and applications out there, I’ve distilled things down to a few major aspects of experience. This model has helped me understand what it is about some applications that help them stand out. I’ve also used these dimensions as a brainstorming tool to help expand a nugget of an idea into a more comprehensive concept. My hope is that these will be helpful to you in evaluating applications or thinking up that next killer app you’d like to create.”

Read full story

Check also this post on sustainable experience design by Andrea Mangini, Adobe’s Lead Experience Designer.

25 March 2009

Pay by cellphone? Sounds great. So why don’t we do it?

Fast Company’s Chris Dannen reflects on why Americans don’t use mobile banking.

Obopay is an payment system that works on your cell phone–kind of like a mobile PayPal. The service is cheap, easy to use, and fantastically convenient. Not only that, it’s well-backed; today Nokia [NOK] announced it would funnel an additional $70 million into the startup in exchange for a minority stake in the company. So why isn’t everyone using this thing? […]

It’s no fault of the concept; mobile payments have exploded in popularity in Africa and other developing regions. Obopay itself operates in both Indian and American markets; in India, they’ve garnered a strong customer base. In the U.S., not so much. Why won’t Americans get with it?”

Read full story

25 March 2009

How networks of trust can unlock innovation

Karen Stephenson
Informal networks are the links and exchanges that bind people together, explains Dr Karen Stephenson, a corporate anthropologist and an expert on social networks in business.

She describes the challenge of creating a new transparent networked economy as, “a gargantuan problem” – and says that the answer won’t be found by looking to the past. “Organisations are connected and interconnected in ways for which there is no precedent in human history. The solution has to come from people on the ground. It certainly won’t come from academics – the disciplines haven’t even been created for the problems we’re now facing.”

Read full story

25 March 2009

How innovations from developing nations trickle-up to the west

Group Danone salespeople in Bangladesh
More than a month before Business Week published an article about ‘trickle-up innovation’ (that I reported on earlier this week), Fast Company had already delved into the issue of how innovation now trickles up from emerging to advanced economies.

“So why is Nokia looking to use Kenya to debut a free classifieds service (think a mobile-phone version of Craigslist), complete with a first-ever feature that lets people shop using voice commands to browse for goods? And why are Western banks seeking ideas from India’s ICICI when its average deposits are one-tenth of those in the West?

The answer is that the traditional model of developing new products is quietly reversing course. Call it “trickle-up innovation,” where ideas take shape in developing markets first, then work their way back to the West.”

The article contains a number of examples, including Nokia’s Mosoko (mo for “mobile,” soko from the Swahili for “market”), sometimes described as ‘Craigslist for the Next Billion’, Infosys’ retail data tracking system ShoppingTrip360, Danone’s Eco Pack, a low-cost yoghurt line, developed in Bangladesh in partnership with the Grameen Bank, and India’s ICICI Bank which can make a profit with low-income customers where transactions are on average one tenth the amount of those in the United States, Brazil’s Natura, a cosmetics firm that bested Western companies on its home turf and has expanded throughout Latin America and now Europe, and China’s Goodbaby, which has 28% of the U.S. stroller market.

The Mosoko background page is particularly interesting as it provides background, and introduces some other similar applications currently in development.

Read article

24 March 2009

Microsoft Research publishes interviews with Bill Buxton and danah boyd

Microsoft Research
The website of Microsoft Research seemed to have been redesigned recently and contains some nice interviews:

Buxton putting design into MIX
Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research, who delivered a keynote address in Las Vegas on March 18 during MIX09, the Web Design and Development Conference, discusses his talk and his work.

>> See also: related story on eWeek’s Microsoft Watch

boyd: Taking the pulse of social networks
danah boyd of Microsoft Research New England discusses her research into the dynamics of social network sites.

danah boyd was also interviewed by Microspotting, a Microsoft blog profiling some of the company’s most notable employees:

An IMterview with NERD researcher danah boyd
The Microspotting blog got a chance to have an IM session with Microsoft Research New England’s danah boyd.

We like her new “I am the empire” look.

24 March 2009

Mobile phones and the BOP in Washington, DC

The Washington Post reports on how homeless people in Washington DC use mobile phone, blogs and e-mail to stay on top of things.

“Today, it’s not unusual for the homeless to whip out Nokia 6085 GoPhones (with optional Bluetooth and USB connectivity), stop at a public computer to check e-mail or urge friends to read their blogs.

It’s another sign of a society in transition by way of technology, as businesses shed physical addresses for cyberspace and homeless people can establish an online presence and chase opportunities digitally.”

Read full story

24 March 2009

Award for user-friendly design of wireless multi-room music system

A few weeks ago the Sonos Multi-Room Music System, a wireless music system, which allows music-lovers to play all the music they want, was honoured with the international iF product design gold award 2009 because of its people-centred innovation, and the Sonos people contacted me to write about in on Putting People First.

Since we generally prefer to write about an approach to create products, I asked them to provide me some more background on the people-centred innovation, methodology, design process and the user interface.

And they did. At length! See the attached pdf, written by Mieko Kusano, senior director of product management (and in-house designer):

“Our design process is very inclusive of user feedback”. We’ve held many a user session, in-home visits and alpha programs – all designed to get real-world feedback that we can use to polish our design before we go to market. This care shows in the products.”

On the Sonos site itself, you can read short interviews with Kusano on the philosophy that drives product design, and with Rob Lambourne, director of user experience, who explains how his team designed the user interface. Or watch some of the stories of Sonos’ customers.

Thank you, Kaity.

22 March 2009

Experientia office on Google Street View

We are blessed with having our offices on a very nice square in a very nice city.

Many have come by already, but many more not yet. Now we can give you a flavour thanks to Google Street View. Our offices are on the second floor of the light orange building with the wooden door. The historic palace was actually the first Parliament of Italy.

View Larger Map

22 March 2009

Dotmocracy: crowdsourcing, mashups, and social change [eBook]

Dotmocracy: Crowdsourcing, Mashups, and Social Change
by Lisa Campbell
Free download

As San Francisco braces itself to be the first major American city to not have a daily newspaper, the canary has sung as the death of print looks eminent. But what new frontiers do new media really offer? Can media democracy be maintained through new forms of citizen media that are more interactive featuring user-generated content?

Now almost anyone can be a media maker, and the whole world is literally watching, recording and listening. The divide between the producer and consumer has begun to dissolve. Crowdsourcing means that news can be created from the people experiencing the situations directly. Instead of producing content in house, aggregated content is the new king, with a whole flood of users openly sharing their photography, writing, and art.

Due to this influx of citizen media content, consumers are increasingly reluctant to pay for corporate media content, including the news. Citizens are turning towards each other for their news, as they send everything from reports on violence in Gaza, to updates on local public transit through text messaging (sms), and blog about both local and global events. This eBook will explore everything from the commonalities between popular theatre in the slums of Rio and Open Source software; how raves and hip hop effect how we collect and visualize data; and how the participatory, open nature of new media technology have infected our world’s politics.

With citizens picking up cameras and mobile phones, and the old media slowly going bankrupt, there will be a critical disruption in our traditional media landscape. By capturing the essence of a new generation of new media technology, this eBook aims to sketch out these new technologies, and how they are transforming the media landscape as we know it.

Lisa Campbell serves as the Director of Communications for Youth Action Network and is finishing her Master of Environmental Studies at York University with a special focus on Youth, New Media and Social Change.

20 March 2009

Scratching the Surface

Microsoft Surface
Jack Schofield of The Guardian has published a nice short story about the user experience of interacting with the Microsoft surface:

“Microsoft was using a shallow pool as the “attract mode”, and the screen image looks and behaves like water, in a graphical way. Touch the surface with your finger, and it sends out realistic-looking ripples. But you can also put your whole arm across the surface, like a barrier, so there are ripples on one side and not on the other. Or you can use a book, or other object. It doesn’t require skin.

In fact, although the Surface is touch-driven, it doesn’t actually use touch at all. It uses infra-red photography. It can “see” things that are still above the surface of the 30-inch screen, so if you touch it, it knows which side you’re sitting. And although it does a brilliant impression of being pressure sensitive, it isn’t: it just works on the fact that your finger contact area increases as you press harder.”

Read full story

20 March 2009

Seeing Tomorrow’s Services

Service design
Adaptive Path organised a panel on service design yesterday. Panellists were Shelley Evenson (CMU), Robert Glushko (UC Berkeley), and Christi Zuber (Kaiser Permanente).

No matter where the economy heads, one thing is certain: we’re living in a service economy. Approximately 70% of the U.S. GDP is services, yet far more attention is placed on the design of products than of services. That premise is changing. Beginning in the UK, Scandinavia, and now emerging in the U.S. are new practices for designing the services we use every day.

Whether it’s healthcare, energy, tech, or even governmental, services are the way people experience, consume, and pay the output of most organizations. This diverse panel of experts will divulge the basics of new approaches to managing and improving services, plus share ideas that you can make immediately applicable:
– What’s better about “designing” a service?
– What are the tools and techniques can help us design better services?
– How can we improve services today?


Shelley Evenson is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Carnegie Mellon University where she writes, speaks, and teaches the practice of service design focusing on tapping into the needs of users of the service.

Robert Glushko is an Adjunct Full Professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Information where he teaches and writes on service design focusing on the contribution of the service’s “back stage” where materials or information needed by the front stage are processed.

Christi Zuber leads an internal Innovation Consultancy at Kaiser Permanente where her and her team have co-designed numerous new services with patients and clinicians that have not only lead to measurable impacts on patient safety and satisfaction, they have been spread across Kaiser’s 32 hospitals and beyond.

Jeff Howard was there and on his blog you can find a summary of the debate and all audio files.

20 March 2009

Sensing context in mobile design

Gabriel White
Gabriel White, interaction design director at Punchcut in San Francisco, affirmed context as king in the design of mobile and location-aware computing at Australia’s 4 day Web Directions South conference in September last year.

I came across the presentation only now, so here it is belatedly:

Mainstream mobile devices are being loaded with sensors. These devices can be used to create experiences that are tailored, adaptive and responsive to the way people live and work. Location-awareness allows devices to respond to place, networked address books enable socially rich communication experiences, and motion and gestural sensors empower designers to respond to context of use. All these elements are creating a ’sensitive ecosystem’; mobile devices that adapt gracefully to context and use.

This presentation will explore some of the design and technology trends that are shaping design for mobile devices, show examples of devices and services that are starting to take advantage of these trends, then explain how designers need to rethink design problems to take advantage of this technological ground-shift.

See the slides and hear the podcast

20 March 2009

Tish Shute interviews Mike Kuniavsky on things as services

Bicycle rider data shadows
Tish Shute’s UgoTrade website is quickly becoming one of the prime sites in the field.

In the last months she interviewed Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM Master Inventor), Robert Rice (CEO of Neogence), Usman Haque (architect and director of Haque Design + Research and founder of Pachube), Adam Greenfield (Nokia’s head of design direction for service and user-interface design), and Chris Brogan (president of New Marketing Labs).

Her interviews are as well-researched and in-depth as they come, and each one of them is a highly recommended read.

Her most recent talk with Mike Kuniavsky of ThingM came after his presentation “The dotted-line world, shadows, services, subscriptions” at ETech 2009.

The interview covered “dematerializing the world, shadows, subscriptions and things as services”.

“I presented on essentially the combination of being able to identify individual objects and the idea of providing services as a way of creating things… the servicization of things …turning things into services is greatly accelerated by network technologies and the ability to track things and what leads this to the potential of having fundamentally different relationships to the devices in our lives and to things like ownership.

Like we now have the technology to create objects that are essentially representatives of services – things like City Car Share. What you own is not a thing but a possibility space of a thing. This fundamentally changes the design challenges. I am pretty convinced that this is how we should be using a lot of these technologies is to be shifting objects from ownership models to service models. We can do that but there are significant challenges with it. What is happening is that we have had the technology to do this for a while, but we haven’t be thinking about how to design these services. We haven’t been thinking about how to design what I call the avatars of these services – the physical objects that are the manifestation of them, like an ATM is the avatar of a banking service. It is useless without the banking service it is a representative of, essentially.”

20 March 2009

The future of shopping

The future of shopping
The monthly business magazine Condé Nast Portfolio explores what the future holds for shopping now that retailers are hurting and consumers are expected to keep spending tight for 2009. takes a look at the phenomenon of “mass customization” — a way of making standard consumer products as customizable as a Facebook page. While dives into the DIY subculture, and meets a group of hobbyists who are starting to hack furniture and product design like it was all just so much Unix code.

Portfolio’s Perspective: Custom Everything
by Sara Clemence
What happens when you can design your physical world as easily as you can reformat your blog?

“Bespoke products have always been available to anyone willing and able to pay the price, whether for an individually tailored suit or a customized car. In recent years, one of the big shifts in retail has been giving customers the ability to design their own versions of premium products—like wedding rings, pricey handbags, and Nikes—at prices that are comparable to the regular versions.

Now, without most of us realizing it, we’re on the cusp of another big change. Thanks to market demands and developments in technology, we’re going to be living in a user-generated world, where everything we use can (and will) be customizable. It’s already happening, in ways both obvious and not.”

Wired’s Perspective: In-Home Manufacturing
by Jennifer Kahn
Some are already designing a future where physical objects can be downloaded — just as software is today.

“As computer-aided design has become more accessible, the tools for fabrication have also become cheaper. New “desktop” 3-D printers now cost $5,000, while the price of a water-jet cutter—capable of slicing any material, from glass to marble, to tolerances of a hundredth of an inch—has fallen by half. […]

If everyone has access to computer-controlled machine tools and advanced 3D printers, why ship an item from manufacturing plant to customer? Why not just fabricate the object near home, on demand?”

19 March 2009

The Economist on the end of the “Web 2.0 bubble”

The end of the free lunch
The Economist argues that the demise of a popular but unsustainable business model now seems inevitable:

The idea that you can give things away online, and hope that advertising revenue will somehow materialise later on, undoubtedly appeals to users, who enjoy free services as a result. […]

Ultimately, though, every business needs revenues—and advertising, it transpires, is not going to provide enough. Free content and services were a beguiling idea. But the lesson of two internet bubbles is that somebody somewhere is going to have to pick up the tab for lunch.

Read full story

19 March 2009

Phone designers to improve reality

Computational photography
Rik Myslewski of The Register reports on augmented reality on mobile devices:

Future phones will recognize buildings and people by sight and replace reality with something better. They’ll also have roll-out HD displays. Or projectors. Or they’ll dock with your PC’s display.

At least, that’s the vision of some visual-computing visionaries at this week’s Multicore Expo, inspired by the graphic and computing power of high-performance multicore embedded processors that will power tomorrow’s smartphones.

Kari Pulli, who heads the Visual Computing and User Interfaces research team at the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, California, described a prototype phone that his company has developed that visually recognizes buildings and people. The object, as he puts it, is to “make the device aware of its surroundings and react to it; to connect the digital and real world.”

Read full story