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Posts in category 'Creativity'

18 February 2008

Beyond the creative industries

Innovation
Three publications by NESTA (the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) examine the role of the creative industries.

Beyond the creative industries maps the state of the creative economy in the United Kingdom, and measures their contribution to economic activity.

Creating innovation presents the results of major new research into the role of the creative industries in stimulating and supporting innovation in the UK. The research investigates and quantifies how artistic and creative activities link into the wider economy.

Making policy for the creative economy finally explains what it means for the UK to start thinking of itself as a ‘creative economy’ rather than a set of ‘creative industries’.

15 February 2008

Why immigration is vital to innovation

The Difference Dividend
Just like any other innovative company in Europe, Experientia is sometimes faced with very tough immigration laws. Hiring someone from outside the EU is quite a challenge and sometimes results in us loosing out on the opportunity to attract really good people.

So I am pleased to see some debate on the issue. NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, has just published a “provocation” written by Charles Leadbeater (author of We-Think) on why immigration is vital to innovation.

Entitled “The Difference Dividend“, the essay starts of with an outline of the three critical connections between immigration, innovation and creativity, argues (rightfully) that the debate about immigration is conducted in a thick fog of prejudice, anecdote and rumour, and describes in detail the critical contributions immigration makes to our capacity to innovate.

Leadbeater warns that diversity is not enough for innovation to take place (“The costs of diversity need to be well managed to make sure the benefits come through.”), highlights how people need to trust one another to share ideas and build upon one another’s contributions for innovation to emerge, and ends with four main implications for policymakers keen to maximise the impact of immigration on innovation.

Timely indeed, as multiculturalism came again under attack today in the UK (see The Guardian and The Times).

15 December 2007

Handmade 2.0

Handmade 2.0
Rob Walker of the New York Times Magazine asks what so many crochet-hook-wielding, papermaking, silversmithing handicrafters are doing online and tries to prove that the future of shopping — and of work — is all about the past.

The article is mostly a profile of Etsy, a company that hosts an online shopping bazaar for all things handmade.

“Only about two years old, the company is not currently profitable but is somewhat unusual among Internet-based start-ups of the so-called Web 2.0 era in having a model that does not depend on advertising revenue. It depends on people buying things, in a manner that the founders position as a throwback to the way consumption ought to be: individuals buying from other individuals. “Our ties to the local and human sources of our goods have been lost,” the Handmade Pledge site asserts. “Buying handmade helps us reconnect.” The idea is a digital-age version of artisanal culture — that the future of shopping is all about the past.”

The author is particularly interested in the new technologically enabled “new craft movement” as a social commentary on consumer culture, but has not explored what the possibilities might be if these objects themselves would become carriers of information.

If you want to know more about this, I suggest you to explore the work of Ulla-Maaria Mutanen, whose Thinglink (blog) organisation is all about the Internet of Things, applied to the world of crafts, and whose approach is closely connected to the Spime concept envisioned by Bruce Sterling.

Read full story

9 October 2007

Interview with Jonathan Kestenbaum of NESTA on innovation and design

Jonathan Kestenbaum
A few weeks ago Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken interviewed Jonathan Kestenbaum, the CEO of NESTA, the UK Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

The interview, which is now published on the website of Torino 2008 World Design Capital in both English and Italian, deals with innovation and design. Kestenbaum explains in great clarity how NESTA works to stimulate innovation, and how design, and in particular human-centred design, is a central part of that approach.

Some quotes:

“Much of our practical experimentation and much of our reflective research is suggesting that the next bounce of the ball, as far as innovation is concerned, will not necessarily take place within disciplines but between disciplines.”

“Design to NESTA is a tool for innovation. Basically it is a problem solving process, which is highly visual and very human-centred because it starts with the needs of people. Design is key to good innovation. For NESTA, design and its visual processes allow the early testing of ideas, leaving space for early and relatively cheap failure and reducing the risks and costs for innovation. This design approach also makes sure that the testing and the prototyping are very human-centred. If people do not want the product or do not know how to use the product, if they cannot understand the product, you will never get it to market. Design is the process through which all of this happens.”

“We sat down with the heads of the Royal College, Imperial College and Tanaka Business School who were planning to support interdisciplinary projects on a major scale and discussed the formation of an incubator for some of these projects – projects that would be the result of the integration of design, engineering, science and business. Across the organisations involved in what has been named ‘Design-London’, several million euros have now been invested and we have managed to get that matched by Government. This month the incubator and rest of Design-London will open and be the first of its type, bringing together artists, engineers and business graduates- to all work on new product development.”

Read full interview

4 October 2007

Frog Design Mind newsletter on identity and meaning in the world of design

Frog Design Mind
The latest issue of Frog Design Mind (permalink), the bi-monthly newsletter of Frog Design Inc., is devoted to identity and contain a rich group of articles on “the struggle to find new meaning in the growing landscape of design”. Here is a selection (and the first one in particular, by Mark Rolston, is highly recommended – it’s an excellent piece of writing):

 

Defining The New Singularity

Defining The New Singularity
Exploring the next level of convergence: between hardware and software, information and object, human and technology.

“As the writer Bruce Sterling puts it, borrowing a bit from Baudrillard and applying it to design, we are now approaching an age of technological advancement when ‘there is more stored in the map than there is in the territory’. Put more simply, the story surrounding a given ‘thing’, a product or service we buy and use, is rapidly exceeding the value of the thing itself. The identity of a product can no longer be easily defined through its form factor, but rather by the information that encases it, passes through it, and is accumulated by it over the course of its lifetime.”

Change Agency

Change Agency and Transformologies
Understanding the power of design to facilitate positive change in the end-user.

“Can personal development be better shaped by the technologies we, as designers, create? What if products and environments were designed to acknowledge individual aspirations and facilitate the realization of users’ potential? Could our products not only change users’ behavior, but actually foster within them the qualities that they seek?”

Parenting 2.0

Parenting 2.0
Key principles for the creation and curation of your child’s online identity.

“The purpose of this article is to provide you, the parent, with some basic principles for navigating the wonderful world of social networking and Web 2.0 with your children – all while keeping them safe, socialized, and engaged. They are not rules, or guidelines, or a philosophy of parenting. They are just basic principles that remind you, and your kids, to think before you press that Enter key.”

Is this how your kids see you?

Is Your Hard Drive Worth More Than Your Life?
The influence of technology on the collective experience of today’s families.

“Before the presence of cameras and the like, humans passed on knowledge through storytelling, intertwining personal experience with a sense of place and time. They created visual landscapes through words, art, and the objects around them. This storytelling codified a shared sense of experience, bringing the audience into a collective understanding of their culture and environment. As the stories were passed on, every teller became a part of the tale – rendering history subjective, reality shared. In our frenzy to safeguard our memories in the online world, we have removed the intimacy of storytelling. We have made the web, not each other, the major source of shared experiences, knowledge, and opinions (often not even our own).”

Ravi Chhatpar

HBR: Melding Design and Strategy
In the September 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review, frog Strategy Director Ravi Chhatpar published the following article, outlining the benefits of an iterative design process, in which design and business strategy impact one another directly.

“From concept through development, designers should function in parallel with corporate decision makers, creating prototypes for a number of variations on a product and then testing them with users and, if appropriate, partners. Tracking how customers’ ways of using a product evolve over time also makes it possible for designers to identify desirable new features and, in some cases, create new functionality in conjunction with users.”

3 October 2007

Creative Europe

Max-Planck Institute of Economics
Via Richard Florida’s blog, I found out about a new paper on “The Creative Class and Regional Growth in Europe” by Ron Boschma and Michael Fritsch from the Max-Planck Institute of Economics in Germany. Florida summarises it as follows:

“They’ve assembled cool data on the creative class in 450 city-regions in Europe. And then they used that to identify major creative class centers, the factors which attract the creative class, and effects of the creative class on regional economic development Their findings show that the creative class measures (that is occupations) significantly outperform human capital in economic growth. They also find that the creative class is highly concentrated in Europe. Interestingly they find that urbanization per se is not an important determinant of creative class locations, but rather that active arts and culture scenes (measure by the bohemian index) and a climate of openness and tolerance play key roles. This is careful work by an independent and objective team of scholars which provides powerful confirmation of the power of the creative class theory in explaining regional outcomes.”

The more conventional abstract goes as follows:

“We analyze the regional distribution and the effect of people in creative occupations based on data for more than 450 regions in eight European countries [Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom]. The geographic distribution of the creative class is highly uneven. The creative class is not attracted to highly urbanized regions per se, but rather a climate of tolerance and openness seem to be rather important factors. We find that the creative class has a positive and significant effect on employment growth and new business formation at the regional level. Human capital as measured by creative occupation outperforms indicators that are based on formal education.”

Download paper (pdf, 876 kb, 35 pages)

16 September 2007

Singapore Polytechnic’s diploma in experience design

Singapore Polytechnic's diploma in experience design
The Singapore Polytechnic now offers a new three-year degree in Experience Design (Interaction & Product).

Description:

Students are equipped with creative design skills backed by a strong foundation in technology and craftsmanship.

This course is a specialised design programme which focuses on engaging contemporary cultures, business and technology by exploring new strategies for generating design ideas using both digital and physical media. These ideas are then turn into reality with innovative craft, technical innovation, invention and professionalism.

The course is designed to support the Government’s initiative to produce multi-disciplinary specialists who are well equipped with skills to understand design, technological processes, and enterprise to propel the growth of the creative industries.

The aim of the programme is to train students to be an Experience, Product and Interaction Designer, who is able to conceive creative products and services, and the experiences associated with these, for contemporary cultures.

This is achieved by understanding the users’ experience, imagining new opportunities, testing and prototyping ideas, determining and applying appropriate materials, processes & technologies, and designing and crafting new interactive experiences and enterprises.

A full listing of the courses and their descriptions can be seen here.

Interestingly, the Singapore Polytechnic has also launched a new Experience Design Centre [no website]. Singapore Radio International has published a short interview with Liang Lit How, the centre’s director.

I am curious to hear if Niti Bhan, who just moved to Singapore, has some more insight on these initiatives.

29 August 2007

Copenhagen conference about creativity, innovation and co-creation

Ecci X
Co-creation is on the agenda when Copenhagen will be the centre of the world’s prominent specialists within creativity and innovation, reports Copenhagen Capacity.

The 10th European Conference on Creativity and Innovation, ECCI X is to convene on 14-17 October 2007. Its ambitious goal is to innovate innovation and the opening question is: “Is it possible to create a new type of convention on creativity and innovation?

Not by defining the terms again or addressing how it could be done better and faster, but how creativity and innovation could make a positive difference to the world.”

The conference will among other things focus on rethinking the dynamics between user, creativity and innovation.

Presentations from more than 30 difference nationalities will be held and ECCI X is expected to attract up to 400 participants from the entire world. Among the organizers is the network association IKI, Initiative for creativity and innovation and member of the board Lars Tolboe says to Børsen Business Daily:

“Creativity and innovation do not come automatically. We need to be committed! Therefore, it is also important that Copenhagen is hosting conventions such as ECCI where co-creation is not only a theme but is setting the framework with the result that focus has moved from speaking about co-creation to creating through co-creation. In my experience we will always have the best results when everybody is committed and contributes actively. This can also be seen in the events of our own association.”

The conference is a joined organisation of the Danish Initiative for Creativity and Innovation (IKI), the Copenhagen Business School (CBS), the European Association for Creativity & Innovation (EACI), and Zentropa WorkZ.

- Conference website
Conference vision document (pdf, 12.6 mb, 9 pages – Don’t ask me why this file is so big)

25 August 2007

Share Award: digital art prize 2008 competition announcement

Share Festival
Piemonte Share Festival announces the second edition of the Share Prize 2008 for digital art.

The competition jury, chaired by Bruce Sterling, will award a prize of 2,500 Euro to the work (published or unpublished) which best represents experimentation between arts and new technologies.

The contest is open to any Italian and foreign artist using digital technology as a language of creative expression, in all its shapes and formats and in combination with analogical technologies and/or any other material (i.e. computer animation / visual effects, digital music, interactive art, net art, software art, live cinema/vj, audiovisual performance, etc.).

(via Bruce Sterling’s Viridian Design, embellished with Bruce’s personal commentary)

6 August 2007

‘Game School’ aims to engage and educate

The Game School
Soon New York City will be home to a new 6-12th grade public school that will use game design and game-inspired methods to teach critical 21st century skills and literacies.

Opening in fall 2009, the school is being created by the Gamelab Institute of Play (blog), a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that leverages games and play as transformative contexts for learning and creativity, in collaboration with New Visions for Public Schools, a not-for-profit organization that works in partnership with the New York City Department of Education to improve academic achievement in the City’s public schools.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recently awarded a grant of $1.1 million to help with planning and development.

According to a Wired news story, the planners “are looking at how games naturally engage players and teach them new skills, and hope to apply those principles to create kids who not only ace their SATs, but are also well suited for the 21st century.”

“Games offer a context for problem-solving with immediate feedback, and often involve social interaction that can reinforce lessons learned. Combine that process with the skills that modern games encourage — like computer literacy and navigating through complex information networks — and you have the basis for a brand new pedagogy. […]

The meaning of ‘knowing’ today has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it.”

2 August 2007

Promoting user-centred design innovation in Ireland

Centre for Design Innovation
The Centre for Design Innovation, which is funded by Enterprise Ireland, an agency of Ireland’s Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, aims to research and promote design thinking as a means of driving successful innovation; its goal is to make businesses more competitive and public services more effective.

The Centre, which is run by Toby Scott, previously a director of the UK Design Council and before that an advisor to the UK Government on creativity, design and innovation, takes a strong user-centred approach to innovation: “Design innovation only occurs by understanding and anticipating the needs of your users and creating successful products or services that fulfil their desires. This in turn creates competitive advantage for your organisation.”

In May 2007, Justin Knecht, programme manager at the Centre launched the Innovation by Design programme, a 15-month programme where selected companies use design research tools to better understand their end-user needs and develop these insights into new products and services.

“In June 2007, all the companies in the programme participated in a user-centred design workshop at the Centre for Design Innovation. Three to six representatives from each organisation, including most Managing Directors, learned the tools and techniques firsthand that they would apply to their own businesses. The day was facilitated by Colin Burns, a user centred design expert and former Director of IDEO London. Over a three month period, the organisations will apply these design research tools to their users before convening in September 2007 to discuss what they have learned and the opportunities they have identified to implement through September 2008. The Centre will be taking a qualitative and quantitative measurement of the programmes effect on each organisation.

To most companies this approach is completely new, so each company is partnered with a Design Associate, who provides hand-on mentoring and facilitation with the tools. As opposed to traditional consultancy, the goal of this programme is to leave a legacy of skills within the organisations beyond the end of their involvement with the programme. The mentors will spend at least 40 hours with each company over the course of the programme, which equates to a series of full-day and half-day visits.”

The team is now also working on two long-term projects that will raise the profile of design and its role in innovation.

  • Innovation Northwest” will be a yearlong festival celebrating the role of design within business, the public sector and communities across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In recent memory, few other areas have suffered so much due to social migration and the decline of traditional industries caused in part by the “troubles”. This will be an opportunity to re-brand the region as a natural home for innovation and enterprise and to demonstrate the powerful impact of design across all sectors.
     
  • The Centre for Creativity will provide a permanent “home” or focal point for design, innovation and creativity in Ireland. It starts from the premise that we are all innately creative but that our external environment, be that education, work or community, conspires to suppress that creativity. The Centre will provide a physical (and metaphorical) space to support businesses, communities and organisations to seek creative solutions to their problems.
29 July 2007

Web special on factors that make a city great

Urban Manifesto
A large chunk of the latest issue of Monocle magazine on the 20 most liveable cities in the world is freely available via the International Herald Tribune.

All the content is linked from the introductory article “Urban Manifesto: Factors that make a city great” by Tyler Brûlé, Monocle’s editor-in-chief.

“Our mission for this issue is a simple one – we want to improve the urban experience. It’s a tricky enough task for forward-thinking local governments to tackle, let alone a media brand, but we’ve been thinking about this theme since our launch and decided the best time to engage politicians, developers, architects, financiers and anyone else who has influence or an opinion about city-life was while they were stretched out, relaxed, taking the sun and fully focused on their own quality of life.

Our focus is firmly fixed on identifying the components and forces that make a city not simply attractive or wealthy but truly liveable. Researched over a three-month period, our quality of life survey is 50 per cent scientific (we’ll come to our metrics shortly) and 50 per cent subjective (sometimes a place just rubs you the wrong way and you’re not quite sure why).”

Web specials include:

And if that’s enough, there is also a comments section.

17 July 2007

Publicly funded culture and the creative industries

Publicly funded culture and the creative industries
Today the UK think tank Demos posted a short publication (32 pages + footnotes), entitled “Publicly funded culture and the creative industries“.

Abstract
The relationships between publicly funded culture and the creative industries are often assumed to be clear and straightforward. In some cases this is true, but there are more complex factors at work. The creative industries are poorly understood in policy, partly because they often do not conform to traditional expectations about how businesses work, and partly because their scale makes them hard to measure and hard to engage with. This paper calls for new understandings of how culture can benefit the creative industries.

Download publication (pdf, 617 kb, 48 pages)

15 July 2007

Bruno Giussani on how free talk services lead to surprising user creativity

Skype
Bruno Giussani reports in his Business Week column on how some users of Skype and other free Internet services are exploiting the technology in creative and unconventional ways.

Give people unlimited cheap or free phone or voice-over-Internet service and what happens? Not much, according to research by sociologists and anthropologists. People don’t tend to increase the number or length of their calls significantly. There is only so much time you can spend talking, after all, and a phone call requires more commitment in terms of attention than, say, an instant messaging session—just try handling multiple phone conversations in parallel.

Yet there are exceptions. The rise of Skype, MSN, GoogleTalk, iChat and the other free Internet telephony and videotelephony services out there has led people to use voice and video communication in surprising, unconventional, and creative ways.

He goes on to list a whole range of “unpredictable” examples that are “all uses of Skype, MSN, and similar services that the engineers who developed them never intended, and the marketers never foresaw”.

Giussani concludes that “successful communication technologies are designed with this openness at their core, so that their real applications can be figured out not by the developers or the sellers, but by the actual users”.

Read full story (mirror)

12 July 2007

Event highlights of Torino 2008 World Design Capital

Torino 2008 World Design Capital
Torino 2008 World Design Capital just published short summaries of its event highlights (unfortunately below the fold – so they are easy to miss).

They include the Geodesign and Flexibility exhibitions, respectively curated by Stefano Boeri (Italy) and Guta Moura Guedes (Portugal) in the Spring; an international Summer School and a conceptual Olivetti exhibition in the summer; and an week full of events organised by International Houses of Design as well as an exhibition on creativity in car design in the autumn.

The Icograda Design Week will also take place in Turin – after Havana, Seattle and Istanbul – with several exhibitions, conferences and workshops. The year will start off with a spectacular New Year’s Eve event.

3 July 2007

New Core77 article series more sophisticated than ever

Core77
The Core77 “Reactor” article series is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more and more relevant to the experience design discourse that this blog addresses as well. Check out the latest articles (with my personal preference ever so slightly on the last one):

Riding the Flux by Kevin McCullagh
Kevin McCullagh helps designers navigate the tectonic shifts affecting the design industry.

“The era of product design as practiced by a small band of gurus in Milan, London, Munich and New York is long gone. There are now thousands of competent product designers around the world able to ‘give good form.’ Design as ‘styling’ or ‘form-giving’ has become commoditized, and competing at this level is already a tough low-margin slog. While those hide-bound by the past batten down the hatches, the wise remember that change throws up opportunities as well as challenges.
If we shed the blinkers and see the world differently there are many positive shifts, like the mainstreaming of design in business and the public sector, which offer glimpses of a chance to drastically expand the frontiers of design. A good place to start is by taking a wider view of our know-how.”

Device Art by Carla Diana
Carla Diana brings us up to speed on Device Art, highlights some leading practitioners, and delves into the cross-cultural considerations.

“At the moment, we are seeing an explosion of Device Art activity emerging in Japan, with new artwork appearing in such mainstream channels as electronics catalogs and department stores. In the U.S., however, the Device Art landscape is somewhat bare. One would think that the public’s voracious appetite for gadgets, combined with the creative community’s growing discontent with formulaic, brand-obsessed corporate design would solidly set the stage for this discipline to become a strong cultural force in the U.S., yet it seems relegated to museum boutiques and the back rooms of hipster Japanese toy stores. What gives?”

ID Strategy Conference Review by Nico Macdonald
Nico Macdonald provides a super-detailed review of this year’s Institute of Design Strategy Conference from Chicago, divided up his review into “Reduction,” “Reactions” and “Reflection.”

“Apple and Steve jobs are a great example of not so much user-centered design but CEO-centered design,” quipped Patrick Whitney, Director of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. Soft-spoken Whitney was setting up the program for the Institute’s annual Strategy Conference he chairs, which took place this past May, and which has become the key English-speaking forum for discussing and investigating the new relationships emerging between design and business. Formally the Strategy Conference is an ‘international executive forum addressing how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems, and achieve lasting strategic advantage.’ In person, Whitney captures its goal more succinctly and engagingly. It is about ‘Where to play and How to win.’

Design and Poetry by Xanthe Matychak
Xanthe Matychak investigates what designers can learn from poetry, providing some inspiring tricks toward innovation and some real-world examples.

“What I fear about empirical research—research based purely on observation—is that it doesn’t recognize a deep context. So when designers ask questions like, how do we “design a device where incoming communications are noticed 100% of the time?” we are assuming that people need to notice them 100% of the time. We don’t take into account how rapidly changing technologies have constructed consumer preferences for the faster, the smaller, and the newer. And when we make conclusions based simply on observation, we are jumping too quickly to tech-driven answers. If we designers can, instead, open ourselves up beyond research findings to the practice of reflection, then we can ask deeper questions and discover more meaningful, long-term solutions.”

19 April 2007

Torino 2008 World Design Capital launches Torino GEODESIGN

Torino 2008 World Design Capital
Yesterday I went to a press conference by Torino 2008 World Design Capital at the Milan Design Fair which presented TORINO GEODESIGN.

TORINO GEODESIGN (described in more detail in this Core77 article) is an international competition which will bring designers from all over the world to collaborate with communities and businesses in Piedmont. It will be one of the major events of the Torino 2008 programme.

It is based on the concept of “self-organised” design, that is energetic and highly experimental. The project is generated by a community of consumers, living in large metropolises undergoing change and in cosmopolitan European cities, who transform themselves into suppliers of services.

Speakers were Sergio Chiamparino (Mayor of Torino), Stefano Boeri (project leader of Geodesign competition), Fernando and Humberto Campana (designers), Guta Moura Guedes (President ExperimentaDesign Biennial, Lisbon), and John Thackara (director of Doors of Perception and Dott07). Zaha Hadid was caught ill in New York but contributed via a written statement.

After Stefano Boeri’s presentation of the project, Guta Moura Guedes underlined how design is more and more an issue of people, and therefore increasingly democratic. Cities, she said, are becoming places for bottom-up experimentation in the design field aimed at improving the quality of life for and by those who live within those cities. Design is becoming flexible, hence the overall theme of Torino 2008 (“flexibility”), adapting to different circumstances and issues such as social change, political change and climate change.

Torino’s Mayor Sergio Chiamparino said that three elements in the project were important to him: the in-depth creation of knowledge about the city, the concrete collaboration with citizens and with the topics that matter to them, and the development of a future vision for the city.

Working with local communities is something that the Campana brothers have been doing for quite some time now and they presented several examples of how they work with the rich tradition of handicraft in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

John Thackara finally endorsed the GEODESIGN idea but connected it with the topic of sustainability. We would need, he said, 100 design cities to make a fundamental impact and the radical transformation that is needed. 80% of the environmental impact of the products in our world are the result of design decisions. A large part of the answers can come from other cultures or from other times, where people learned to live sustainability. How can we learn from them?

As described on the new website (and previously illustrated in my interview with Torino 2008 director Paola Zini), the year has been divided into four phases — Public Design, Economy and Design, Education and Design, and Design Policies — each aimed at four specific target groups: the citizens, businesses, the world of education and the institutions.

“Each of these groups represents a cardinal point in the life cycle of contemporary design. Each phase studies, develops and promotes the relationship between design and the urban fabric. This cross section involves the various actors who interrelate within the city and help delineate its aspect.”

Experientia contributes to Torino 2008 website

The editorial section of the new Torino 2008 website, i.e. the part that changes all the time, is curated by me (Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken).

Every month the site will feature an interview, an essay, a profile of a foreign design centre, and a short reflection on the international press. The first interview is with Ranjit Makkuni of the Sacred World Foundation and the first essay is by myself on people-centred design as a means to affect cultural and social change.

4 April 2007

Social-networking sites have business uses too [The Economist]

Social networking for business
The most avid users of social-networking websites may be exhibitionist teenagers, but when it comes to more grown-up use by business people, such sites have a surprisingly long pedigree, writes The Economist.

“LinkedIn, an online network for professionals that signed up its ten-millionth user this week, was launched in 2003, a few months before MySpace, the biggest of the social sites. Consumer adoption of social networking has grabbed most attention since then. But interest in the business uses of the technology is rising. […]

To work well in the business world, social networking has to clear some big hurdles. Incentives to participate in a network have to be symmetrical, for one thing. The interests of MySpace members—and of jobseekers and employers—may be aligned, but it is not clear why commission-hungry salespeople would want to share their best leads with colleagues. Limiting the size of the network can reduce its value for companies, yet confidentiality is another obvious concern for companies that invite outsiders into their online communities. “Social networking sounds great in theory, but the business benefits are still unproven,” says Paul Jackson of Forrester, a consultancy. But if who you know really does matter more than what you know, it has obvious potential.”

Read full story

4 April 2007

Experientia interviews Paola Zini, director of Torino 2008 World Design Capital

Paola Zini
Core77, the online design magazine, published today an interview with Paola Zini, the director of Torino 2008 World Design Capital, conducted by Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken.

The interview is the first of many as Mark is pleased to announce that he will be editing the monthly online magazine of Torino 2008.

In the interview, the young Torino 2008 director talks about why Turin was chosen for this initiative and how she wants to use the opportunity to broaden the concept of design: “We want to focus on design as a process that can be applied to products, communication, public policy, education and services. Torino World Design Capital wants to broaden the concept of design as much as possible, emphasising innovation that starts from our society’s needs.”

She presents the overall theme of flexibility and the year’s four thematic phases.

Zini is convinced that the initiative can strengthen the position of Turin and Piedmont on the international map of design, and spread a design culture with our citizens and within companies, within schools and institutions.

Yet the organisers also think further and want to start creating a debate on what a national strategic design policy in Italy could be like.

The interview features some highlights of the programme, which will be announced in more detail on 18 April.

Questions were also contributed by Régine Debatty of we-make-money-not-art and Chiara Somajni of Il Sole 24 Ore/Ventiquattro – (Many thanks to both of course!).

An Italian article based on the interview was recently published in the cultural supplement of Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

A copy of the (English) interview can also be found below, without however all the photos that liven up the Core77 version.

***

Paola Zini is the face of a new and dynamic Italy. Driven, warm, reflective, convincing and humble enough to admit every so often that she has no answer to a particular question. It took the popular Mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino, quite some convincing to get her to take on the job of leading Torino 2008 World Design Capital, but in the end he prevailed and I am more than happy he did. With Paola new ideas will be nourished and old ideas will be renewed.

The interview took place in February 2007, and was conducted by Mark Vanderbeeken, senior partner of the Turin-based international user experience design consultancy Experientia, and author of the people-focused innovation blog Putting People First, with valuable support from both Régine Debatty (famous arts and technology blogger at we-make-money-not-art.com, and former Turin resident) and Chiara Somajni (a journalist of the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and its associated magazine Ventiquattro

Core77, the online design magazine, published this interview as an article on its website. This is a copy of the interview as it was published by Core77.

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You are a new face for many people, so let’s start with you introducing yourself and telling us how you became the director of this initiative.

I am Paola Zini, 32 years old and for the past five months have been the director of Torino 2008 World Design Capital. I actually have an economics background, and worked before mainly on the topic of urban economic development–particularly Turin’s development. Up till recently, I was involved with the implementation of the first strategic plan of the city, which by the way was the first strategic plan of any Italian city, and this has definitely been a crucial factor in me now being able to coordinate this design year.

You worked for an organisation called Torino Internazionale.

Yes, it is a mixed public-private agency that is in charge of the city’s strategic plan. Working on economic development also meant promoting design in Turin and in Piedmont, and that was the origin of what I am doing now. So the relationship with ICSID–the international design organisation–grew out of our activities within Torino Internazionale. It was a gradual process that eventually lead to the nomination of Turin as the first World Design Capital, with its own organisational committee.

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THE TURIN NOMINATION WITH ZINI AS DIRECTOR

Why did ICSID choose Turin?

ICSID was looking for a city to host its headquarters, and Turin was one of the candidate cities. (The organisation ultimately took up residence in Montreal.) We participated because we thought it would be good for Turin to host another international organisation [in addition to several United Nations offices], and in particular one that dealt with the topic of design. Our proposal was more than a mere political one: we had the support of important foundations and of ADI, the Italian Association of Industrial Design. With our proposal we created strong international relationships, got to know players in the field of design worldwide, and were able to share the history of our city that is now reinventing itself. We just had the Winter Olympics, one of the events in this carefully prepared transformation trajectory. All this provoked a process whereby ICSID started focusing not just on the move of its headquarters, but also on its communication strategy. So our proposal and our changing city became a very interesting European reference point for ICSID. That’s why our city has been chosen as World Design Capital.

You then became the director of this initiative, which is not an obvious choice in this country where power positions are often in the hands of older, well-connected men. You are instead a young woman who is not originally from this city. Why did they choose you?

I think the organisers wanted to give a strong signal by making an unconventional choice. I have to thank the Mayor, Sergio Chiamparino, and the people of our Board for insisting on me accepting this offer.

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A CITY IN TRANSFORMATION

The project has very high-level support and comes after a series of major events, including the Winter Olympics, through which Turin is trying to reposition itself on the global map. What is the impact you are trying to achieve?

There are many events now–not just in Turin, but also in the wider region–that aim to reposition this territory. The Winter Olympics were of course crucial in making people understand how committed the city administration was to the development of its future. The Games were not a goal in itself, but a first step in a process. The design year will be very different from the Winter Olympics; we want to stimulate a large number of activities all over the region. It will not be a curated festival, but a collective one, made by all those who live here, by our citizens and by students, but also by those who come to visit us professionally or as tourists.

What image do you want to leave behind? How would you like Turin to be perceived in 2009?

We would like to position Turin throughout Europe and throughout the world as a city that is renewing itself, as a city in transformation. Turin has always been seen as the city of FIAT, maybe also as the city of Juventus, but there are other and newer facets of the city that we cherish and are now being embraced by the citizens. We would like to share these concepts with all those who don’t know Turin yet.

How does Turin want to use design in its transformation and what is the role of Torino 2008 in that?

The title of World Design Capital is not awarded to cities that are already design capitals and that are already known as such, but to those places where design is used for the social, cultural and economic transformation of the city. Turin has already made big steps forward in its transformation process. Ten years ago, Turin was a very different city from what it is now. Its economic make-up has changed fundamentally. The cultural industries have diversified our region and there is now a strong service sector. So a lot of transformation has actually taken place already. I think that the title of World Design Capital can help people realise that design, as a process of qualitative change, can further improve many things.

So are these the main goals: change the image of the city and change the mindset of the people?

Those are indeed two important goals: strengthen the position of Turin and Piedmont on the international map of design, and spread a design culture with our citizens and within companies, within schools and institutions. We also want to leave some legacy behind. This year should be more than a thought-through, qualitative event, but the start of a wider change process. Everything we do should have an effect after 2008, and all activities should leave something behind, physically or culturally.

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FLEXIBILITY

What issues are you trying to address?

Cities today are in constant change, and these changes affect all aspects of the social, cultural and economic life of a city. Think about the radically changing composition of the population, and what that means for social integration and our public services. Think about our changing living habits and what that means for mobility and our transport infrastructure. Think about how the concept of work is changing and what that means for companies. These are just a few examples. We citizens are changing our own behaviour constantly to adapt to these changes. Our design and research activities have to take on a flexible approach as well to adapt to the changing nature of things. Design can be a very valid tool in continually confronting these changes.

Flexibility is the “fil rouge” of the year.

The theme builds upon the very idea of what a World Design Capital means for ICSID. What can design do to help a city in transformation? We think that flexibility is the answer. To be “adaptive” or “responsive” means finding answers to the many changes. Because these changes often happen very fast, it is crucial to be able to adapt to this evolving context with appropriate tools, and design is one of them.

The year is divided in four thematic phases.

Yes there are four phases, each of roughly three months, and each phase has a focus. The first one is called public design, so it is about making people aware of the power of design, of the value it can have in improving our daily lives. The second phase is more connected to the business world and the focus is here on understanding how design can transform the economy of our region and of our planet. Then there is the phase dedicated to education and design. This third phase will also overlap with the time when Turin will host the World Congress of Architecture, so there will be many young people in town. The last phase is a crucial one because it closes and summarises the year, and is about design policy. We want to invite national design institutes from all over the world: centres that are responsible for policy development, for making their countries more competitive, and for raising the level of quality.

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BROADENING DESIGN

Let’s discuss some of these four focus areas a bit more in depth. First, what do you mean by “design”? What are its boundaries? What do you want to focus on? Do you consider the redesign of work flows and social relationships within the public administration or the industry to be part of your focus?

Many still think of design as styling. We want to focus instead on design as a process that can be applied to products, communication, public policy, education and services. Torino World Design Capital wants to broaden the concept of design as much as possible, emphasising innovation that starts from our society’s needs. Conveying this contemporary interpretation of the word “design” implies a cultural challenge that will require extensive communication and education.

Indeed, many still see a designer as somebody who creates shapes and forms. How will you change that way of thinking?

This is one of the missions of Torino World Design Capital. Nowadays, it is impossible to speak about form as a goal in itself, disconnected from its function and its economic repercussions. That’s why the first part of the year is aimed at the general public, not at a professional audience, because we want to reach out broadly about what design can be and how it can affect our daily lives. Norman Potter wrote in his seminal 1968 book “What is a designer” that all people are in fact designers, because we all create something. I think it is very important to focus on our basic education: we are setting up an initiative aimed at primary schools, to share with children what a design project is and what the word designer means.

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DESIGN FOR INNOVATION

You spoke about innovation earlier on. “Design” and “innovation” are on everybody’s lips. Design is seen as a tool for business innovation and this thinking is getting a hold in Italy too. Do you think Italy is indeed going through a cultural shift? If so, how is this happening? How will Turin 2008 contribute to it? What, for instance, can companies expect from you in this sense? What is your vision on design and innovation?

Innovation is still often seen as something that happens in research centres. Obviously this is part of the story, but there is more. Design can act as an innovation tool as well, and we need to support that. To stimulate this type of innovation, the Regional Government of Piedmont will soon launch an initiative to create better synergies between designers and companies–not just companies that are already using designers, but also those that are not yet convinced of the benefits of a design approach, or those that need to become more acquainted with the design process.

How else do you plan to structure the collaboration with companies?

Most of that planning is now in the making. There is great interest from companies, and also from abroad. I think it is because we are the first World Design Capital, because Italy is seen as an interesting design context, and because we recently hosted the Winter Olympics. Not just local, but also foreign companies are now planning to be present here in 2008.

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THE ROLE OF ITALY IN THE GLOBAL DESIGN CONTEXT

Italy has played a leading role in design in the past. Today all eyes are turned towards the more edgy and innovative British and Dutch designers. Who do you think is showing the most stunning creativity in Italian design? Or do you think that these geographical boundaries are no longer relevant today?

Geographic boundaries are not so relevant anymore; innovation can be Italian, British, German or Dutch. I don’t believe that Italy or any other country possesses a magical creative or design formula. What matters is dialogue and where that dialogue takes place. Next year one of the meeting points will be here in Turin, so it will be about Italian culture dialoguing with other design cultures. The last part of the year, which is devoted to design policy, is all about that dialogue. We will invite Design Centres from all over the world and give them their own spaces, much like the national pavilions during the Olympic Games. The goal is to have each of them share their design culture with us and with each other. At the end of the year, Turin will then inaugurate its own Design Centre.

Are you thinking about a national design policy for Italy?

There is no national public entity in Italy that implements and promotes a strategic design policy. There is however ADI, the Italian Association of Industrial Design, that has been promoting the Italian design culture for over fifty years, with internationally known initiatives such as the “Compasso d’Oro” award.

Which countries are you planning to involve?

During the last part of the year, we want to focus with these international design centres on exchanging international experiences, creating a network of relationships, and starting a debate on best practices in national design policies worldwide. We have already initiated relations with Hong Kong, Montreal, Nagoya, Taipei, Budapest, Copenhagen and Singapore.

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MILAN

It is however the city of Milan which is seen as Italy’s design capital. How do you plan to articulate the relationship with Milan during (and possibly after) 2008?

When you read about cities and regions nowadays, you hear a lot about competition, but also about exchange. Turin has looked at Barcelona a lot to compare its own development over the last ten years. It is of fundamental importance for us to collaborate with Milan. We cannot be in competition. Turin is working hard to become a design capital but it is not yet one. It still has a lot to learn from Milan. Having more than one design-oriented city can only be an advantage for our country. If ten Italian cities would be known internationally as design cities, it would only increase the international credibility of Italian design and of the role of design in our culture. I view our relationship with Milan as one of mutual exchange, rather than one of competition.

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COME VISIT US

I heard that you are eager to have many young creative people from all over Italy and all over the world come visit Turin during 2008. What can they expect? Why should they come?

We would really like to involve creative and young designers, as visitors, as a critical audience, as contributors in the events, or as active participants that help to shape this event. Hence the relevance of the initiative of the Piedmont regional administration that I told you earlier about: foreign design students working with local companies will provide the former with new professional experiences and the latter with fresh and creative design ideas, developed by people who come from very different contexts. The World Congress of Architecture provides us with another opportunity to bring together the worlds of education and design straining with the international stars of design and architecture.

So the summer is the liveliest period of the year?

For sure it will be the time when we organise many activities for students, and will involve design schools from all over the world.

How can people participate?

The wider public will be immersed in a city that will host a large number of initiatives: exhibitions, conferences and events that are conceived with the aim of connecting ordinary citizens with design. There will also be a number of installations that will be set up in very popular squares and locations. People who are professionally involved with design will be treated to many debates, meetings and discussions. But they will also be involved in actual creation: at New Year’s Eve for example, when Torino 2008 will be inaugurated, we will invite some designers to dress up the city with ad hoc projects to provide visibility to the event and to strengthen its identity. In the summer we will focus on students who can join training projects specifically created for 2008: summer schools, workshops, and the World Congress of Architects are some of the key events for them.

What are some of the highlights of the year?

We cannot disclose everything yet, but definitely New Year’s Eve which will be the event that will launch the entire year: we are working on a big celebration that will involve the entire city, with specific events in the various historical squares of Turin. In May we will host some major activities devoted to graphic design, publishing and advertising. The Design Houses, which will host the world’s main Design Centres, will provide an opportunity for learning and sharing, but also for involving all the citizens.

Thank you.

30 March 2007

Living Labs conference in Belgium

i-City PDA
This week Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken was in Belgium to attend a conference where a Living Lab project in the cities of Hasselt and Leuven was presented.

“Living Labs” is a new concept for R&D and innovation to boost the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth in Europe. There are big differences between running Living Labs but they share a vision of human-centric involvement and its potential for development of new ICT-based services and products. It is all done by bringing different stakeholders together in a co-creative way, and by involving people in the streets and the users and user communities as contributors and co-creators of new innovations. In short, they are people-centred technology testing grounds in real-life situations.

The initiative is sponsored by the EU (wiki), but funding comes mostly from national and regional governments and private companies.

The Belgian Living Lab in the small city of Hasselt focuses on wireless technology and location-based services that run on WiFi-enabled PDA’s. About 750 people currently take part in this pilot study. According to Belgian Living Lab coordinator Guido van der Mullen, the process runs like this: (1) thematic working groups (e.g. on healthcare, mobility or culture and tourism) come together to develop ideas for possible applications or industry partners deliver these ideas directly; (2) a team of software developers then develop an alpha version of the application software; (3) this gets tested with all or a section of the users in the Living Lab; (4) input from the user testing is fed into the development of the beta version of the software; (5) this gets tested again; (6) after which the final version of the software gets developed.

Most of the current Living Labs, including the Belgian project, only involve the participating inhabitants in assessing how they react to applications, i.e. as testers, but not in the application ideation stage, which follows a more traditional top-down model still: experts who have ideas about possible applications.

As stated by Olavi Luotonen, the EU’s Living Lab portfolio coordinator, the European Commission hopes that the second wave participants will expand the human-centred approach also to application ideation and not just to application testing. In fact, some of the first wave project are already experimenting with this approach, including the Testbed Botnia project in Northern Sweden. The Botnia project is managed by Mikael Börjeson, who also runs the curiously named “Centre for Distance-spanning Technology” located above the arctic circle, he told me, and CoreLabs, which acts as an operational arm of the European Commission to insure coordination between all the Living Labs.

Fientje Moerman, the Vice-Minister President of the Flemish Goverment and Flemish Minister for Economy, Enterprise, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade (a mouthful), was particularly pleased with the work done in Hasselt so far. She provided an additional 4 million euro contribution for the project’s 2007 budget and is now exploring how to expand the concept to all bigger cities in Flanders, and turn the Hasselt project into an i-Flanders project.

This is all part of a larger strategy of the energetic Belgian minister to make design and creativity core pillars of her innovation strategy, as demonstrated by the recent founding of such initiatives as Design Flanders and Flanders District of Creativity.

The Hasselt team meanwile has spun off a for-profit company called “City Live” which aims to commercialise its “Community Services Platform”, i.e. the central software that runs all the i-City applications.

The applications we got to see during an interactive tour of the city were as such not that revolutionary and reminded me of many mobile 2.0 applications that have been launched recently, but the nice thing is of course that they are highly location specific and entirely free for the end-user (as the signal comes from a series of wifi hotspots): an application to locate your friends in real time on a map, a tool to upload news items on a local citizen-generated news service, an application to alert the city government via a photo tool about possible problems with roads, rubbish or public furniture, etcetera.

The interface itself was interesting, and – this is nice – the result of a people-centred design approach. The standard issue (HP) PDA (see photo) is divided in four rows: the top one features common applications such as calling, texting, emailing, etc. The second row features people’s favourite applications. The third row is for location-specific applications, e.g. if you were standing next to the station the mobile website of the bus company and the railway company showed up, and maybe also some descriptions of nearby bars. The bottom row finally is for navigation. Each row could be scrolled by a stylus or by touch-sensitive browsing very similar to what you can find on the Apple iPhone.

(Anyone interested in starting a Living Lab should submit an Expression of Interest before 30 April.)