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Posts in category 'Design'

18 September 2010

Values in technology design and use: ethnography’s contribution

Tricia Wang
A couple of months ago former Nokia ethnographer Tricia Wang gave a talk at the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, CA, and she just posted the slideshow and the abstract on her blog.

“My talk today is about how I came into my research at Nokia wanting to answer the question: how can ethnographers contribute to the product design process of a mobile device? Ethnographically grounded research for technology use is a method that aims to reveal users’ values, beliefs, and ideas. Nokia was one of the first mobile companies to concertedly hire ethnographers as part of its design process, In the mid to late nineties, Nokia changed the mobile industry forever by creating affordable, user friendly phones. More than a decade later, the hardware mobile phone market is nearing saturation. With Nokia transitioning from a company that produces hardware to software, how can ethnographically driven research provide strategic insights for this shift?”

Poking around on Tricia’s site, I discovered some more inspiring and excellently written treasures to savour:

The Great Internet Freedom Bluff of Digital Imperialism: thoughts on cyber diplomacy, cargo cult digital activism… and Haystack
The Haystack Affair, like the recent Google-China Saga is just another technology that has been caught in the digital geo-politics of neo-informationalism. Neo-informationalism is the belief that information should function like currency in free-market capitalism—borderless, free from regulation, and mobile. The logic of this rests on an ethical framework that is tied to what Morgan Ames calls “information determinism,” the belief that free and open access to information can create real social change. [...] Neo-informationalist policies, such as the new “internet freedom” foreign policy to ensure free and flowing information, compliment neoliberal practices in corporate welfare to keep markets free and open to the US and all of our allies who benefit from our work. But it’s not free for all when it’s just free for some.

Check also these related posts:

  • Evgeny Morozov: Were Haystack’s Iranian testers at risk?
    Haystack is the Internet’s equivalent of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Washington’s push to promote Internet Freedom without thinking through the consequences and risks involved; thus, the more we learn about the Haystack Affair while it’s still fresh in everyone’s memory, the better.
     
  • Sami Ben Gharbia: The Internet Freedom fallacy and Arab digital activism
    This article focuses on grassroots digital activism in the Arab world and the risks of what seems to be an inevitable collusion with U.S foreign policy and interests. It sums up the most important elements of the conversation I have been having for the last 2 years with many actors involved in defending online free speech and the use of technology for social and political change. While the main focus is Arab digital activism, I have made sure to include similar concerns raised by activists and online free speech advocates from other parts of the world, such as China, Thailand, and Iran.

Three useful perspectives on technology, design, and social change (and countering the ICT4D hype)
As someone who researches the social side of technology, I am constantly trying to find new ways to talk to technologists that technology itself does not create social change, rather it’s how technology is socially embedded in a variety of institutions and cultural contexts. [...] Three resources have been very useful to me lately.

15 September 2010

The impact of design ethnography and WordPress

Kristina Krause
Kristina Krause has recently finished a master’s degree in social anthropology at the University of Kent, with a thesis titled: The impact of design ethnography and WordPress | Client – web designer relationships in the nonprofit sector.

“The increasing rate of technological innovation and integration into the daily lives of many online users has spurred both the reconceptualization of the digital divide, and the promotion of user-centered research methods; that emphasize the significance of variability in technology acquisition. No longer is technology to be considered an external tool, where success depends on basic functionality, but an integrated player affected by the social relations and environment in which it resides. Through Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory in combination with actor-network theory, this study aims to look first at the systems in which nonprofits and web designers separately operate; how their processes are altered with the introduction of design ethnography and WordPress; and finally which human and nonhuman actors may be utilized in the creation of websites for nonprofits who desire technological self-sufficiency.”

Read thesis

21 August 2010

Finland’s user-driven innovation policy

Finland innovation
The 2010 Finnish National Innovation Strategy contains an important section on demand and user-driven innovation, with user-driven innovation being described as:

“User-driven innovation makes use of information on customers, user communities and customer companies. It engages users as active participants in innovation activity. The key aspect of user-driven innovation is information on user needs, whether these needs are already identified, still hidden or potentially emerging. Information and communication technology in particular, offers various new opportunities and means of acquiring information on users and engaging them in innovation. The aim of user-driven innovation policy is to raise market actors’ awareness of new innovation tools. It also seeks to create a social infrastructure supporting user-driven innovation while removing obstacles to and boosting incentives for innovation activity.”

As part of the implementation of Finland’s national innovation strategy, the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy has outlined a policy framework laying down the key elements of a demand and user-driven innovation policy.

More info:
- User-driven innovation policy
- ICT and user-led innovations
- Design as a user-driven innovation policy instrument
- Demand and User-driven Innovation Policy – Framework (Part I) and Action Plan (Part II)

Downloads:
- Framework and Action Plan (pdf)
- Policy Framework presentation (pdf)
- Action programme presentation (pdf)
- New Nature of Innovation (pdf) – backgrounder

21 August 2010

Designing for the loss of control

Simpsons angry mob
The people at frogdesign have posted two long articles (the first one is really an essay) that we consider a recommended read:

Openness or how do you design for the loss of control?
Openness is the mega-trend for innovation in the 21st century, and it remains the topic du jour for businesses of all kinds. However, as several new books elaborate upon the concept from different perspectives, and a growing number of organizations have recently launched ambitious initiatives to expand the paradigm to other areas of business, Tim Leberecht thought it might be a good time to reframe “Open” from a design point of view.

100,000 Twitter followers and why it matters
@frogdesign passed the 100K Twitter mark recently. [...] Sometimes, [Sam Martin and his] marketing team are asked both inside and outside the company, “How are you doing this?” [They] even still get the question, “Why are you doing this?” They are necessary questions, and, of course, it’s not possible to point to one thing or effort or measurement when talking about either. Based on [their] experience over the past year, here are a few thoughts on the matter.

The following quote could also be the motto of this Putting People First blog: “Twitter is a reminder of the responsibility we have to be thoughtful curators of relevant news, trends, and debates, even when those debates involve our competitors.”

Great work, froggers!

21 August 2010

Gender differences in web usability

Gender and technology
Frank Spillers thinks the User Experience community has not fully tapped the potential of gender-specific design aka Woman-centered Design.

According to Spillers, gender as an audience sensitive criteria (differentiation) is barely present in North American technology product design (where it is much easier to do) let alone Web experiences. In Asia there is more design innovation in this area, he says, and Spillers cites the example of Toshiba’s Femininity series.

Comscore just released a new study last month (June 30 2010) entitled Women on the Web: How Women are Shaping the Internet.

The worldwide study adds some key insights into the growing research on gender differences on the Web and in particular around social networking usage. Spillers reports on the key insights and their implications.

Read article

(via Usability News)

5 August 2010

Design for social change and the museum

Bellagio symposium
From April 12 through April 14, 2010, 22 designers, historians, curators, educators and journalists met at Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center on Lake Como, in Italy, to discuss the museum’s role in the 21st century in relation to design for social change.

Participants (including Paolo Antonelli, Andrew Blauvelt, Allan Chochinov and John Thackara) from a spectrum of institutions in 11 countries engaged in a far-ranging and illuminating conversation.

Design Observer’s William Drenttel and Change Observer’s Julie Lasky have written an extensive report on this symposium sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and organized by Winterhouse Institute.

Here are the key conclusions (copied from the abstract):

  1. The museum can be a collective commons for learning, reflection and critical action, as well as a platform for delivering information and provocation and a stage for learning, social connectedness and critical action. The museum as commons is not only an exhibition space but also a civic arena where people can reflect on the importance and efficacy of social change.
  2. Museums need to move beyond the object so that social design exhibitions are more than concrete displays. In that sense, design should be regarded as a tool for improving life and fostering participatory engagement and social activism.
  3. Museums should be a place where “wicked,” or seemingly intractable social problems of global scope, are addressed — a shared space in which diverse stakeholders can participate in solutions.
  4. The curator’s role may have to evolve and broaden to include skills germane to the complexity of issues around social change and innovation.
  5. Traditional museums can learn from other institutions and organizations that champion design as an agent of social change by stimulating, honoring and publicizing specific achievements on an international platform.

Read report

19 July 2010

On the design process, consistency and product development

UX Matters
Three new articles have been published on the UX Matters site:

Design Is a Process, Not a Methodology
By Pabini Gabriel-Petit
In this installment of On Good Behavior, I’ll provide an overview of a product design process, then discuss some indispensable activities that are part of an effective design process, with a particular focus on those activities that are essential for good interaction design. Although this column focuses primarily on activities that are typically the responsibility of interaction designers, this discussion of the product design process applies to all aspects of UX design.

Achieving and Balancing Consistency in User Interface Design
By Michael Zuschlag
It is not necessary for a product to be perfectly consistent. Indeed, considering all of the possible references users bring to a product, perfect external consistency is probably impossible. However, we owe it to our users to both eliminate any unwarranted inconsistency and ensure any deliberate inconsistency offers some net benefit to users. That’s the least users should expect from us.

Supporting User Experience Throughout the Product Development Process
By Peter Hornsby
This month, let’s look at how we might design a tool that could help us in overcoming obstacles by supporting user-centered design (UCD)—a tool that’s not just for UX professionals, but supports multiple project stakeholders in various roles throughout the entire product lifecycle. This UCD tool would support stakeholders by making requirements more clearly visible and enabling team members to work effectively across far-flung geographical boundaries.

14 July 2010

People-focused innovation in healthcare

People-focused innovation in healthcare
Philips Design has published a downloadable paper on how it uses qualitative research and design thinking to support development of solutions for the ever-changing healthcare landscape.

“Our lifestyles are increasingly out of balance and we are placing our health at risk through unhealthy habits. We are ageing as a population and more likely to suffer from chronic diseases as we get older. As a result, our healthcare systems are under increasing demand for costly and complicated care. Yet, with their limited resources and traditional models, they are already struggling to meet existing demand. In short, the healthcare industry is in crisis and facing paradigm change. However, there are plenty of opportunities for innovation within this crisis.

Philips Design supports Philips in delivering healthcare end-user value through innovation. Over the past two decades, Philips Design has developed a people-focused innovation approach that has generated tangible proof-points of the Philips Healthcare promise of ‘People- focused, Healthcare simplified’ across the home and hospital healthcare domain. It is an approach that is driven by qualitative research, applies design thinking to identify innovation opportunities, and leverages design skills to propose solutions with measurable end-user value. It has proved relevant in business processes ranging from strategy to product development, and has successfully supported both short and longer-term innovation.

This paper describes the mindset, methods and tools used in this approach, citing examples from Philips Design to illustrate the strategic contribution and value that design can offer in healthcare innovation.”

Download paper

8 July 2010

Sensemaking

Sensemaking
Jon Kolko was one of the speakers yesterday at the Design Research Society conference in Montreal, Canada.

His presentation addressed Sensemaking – the manner in which we make meaning during the design process, and arrive at insights and new design ideas.

- Sensemaking and framing: a theoretical reflection on perspective in design synthesis (paper)
- Presentation (on Mac, use Acrobat, not Preview)

2 July 2010

Glen Cove conference on strategic design and public policy

UN
Ever keen to expand the boundaries of their practices, design professionals have been moving in the direction of public policy for some years, writes Lucy Kimbell (blog).

But what designers, or multi-disciplinary teams using “design” approaches, can also bring to such projects is a set of assumptions about knowledge, that can have important consequences for how they, and the communities they claim to serve, understand the work they are doing and what happens within it. Social scientists (who have a lot to say about these assumptions and the nature of research) have come together with designers to discuss such matters for several years at conferences such as the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conferences (EPIC), the Participatory Design Conferences, and the anthrodesign discussion list as well as many other fora. But it is rare to bring these two professions/disciplines together with policymakers, who have different kinds of investments in the design of social action.

The Glen Cove Conference on Strategic Design and Public Policy held in Glen Cove, NY, on 9-11 June, was an event which did so. Initiated by Derek Miller and Lisa Rudnick of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), and co-organized by Lucy Kimbell (based at Said Business School) and Gerry Philipsen (Center for Local Strategies Research, University of Washington), this event was conceived of as a small workshop which would bring together – for the first time – three groups:

  • policymakers concerned with security in intrastate contexts and post-conflict situations, whose work is typically structured by intergovernmental and national policy goals;
  • social science researchers, in particular ethnographers of communication who pay special attention to the construction of local knowledge, for example, how “security” is understood in communities in which the UN has a mandate to do increase it and having decided to help disarm ex-combatants; and
  • designers and managers involved in designing services shaped by policy concerns about politics, exclusion and access.

Read conference report

(Read also this report by Aditya Dev Sood of CKS)

1 July 2010

The product of a healthy relationship

Design blueprint
The relationship between researchers and product designers can be a rocky one. Paul Golden looks at how market research can make sure it promotes creative thinking rather than obstructs it.

“When handled properly, [the initial exploratory phase of the research process] allows planners and developers to identify potential design territories on which to focus development of more finished (and expensive) prototypes, while providing clues as to the type of stimulus that needs to be developed for these subsequent stages – for example, the context in which consumers need to be exposed to the concepts, the level of finish required and the need for working or non-working models.”

Read article

23 June 2010

The huge challenge of Nokia’s head of design and UX

Marko Ahtisaari
The acclaimed Italian journalist Luca De Biase recently interviewed Marko Ahtisaari (blogwikipedia), Senior Vice President, Design and User Experience of Nokia, for the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Here is what happened these last few weeks: A warning by Nokia on second-quarter sales and profits, a recent fall in the Nokia share price, yesterday’s news that Nokia runs a risk of being downgraded by S&P, and now the latest news that the iPhone is biting in Nokia’s European markets. But not all is bad: Nokia is making some gains in less expensive smartphones. Yet in all, this surely creates huge pressure on Marko, who was recently brought back to Nokia after careers at Blyk and Dopplr, to radically improve Nokia’s position in the high-end device market.

In view of this context, here is my translation of the story on Ahtisaari that was published in Italian:

Ahtisaari (Nokia): “My micro-sized social network”

Smart phones: After the blockbuster success of the iPhone, Nokia intends to write the sequel. Marko Ahtisaari, 41, was mandated to draft the screenplay. He first needs to to ask himself some basic questions: Who is the leader? The biggest or the most influential? Nokia or Apple?

Nokia’s new head of design knows that this is the key question making the rounds since about three years ago the charismatic Steve Jobs crossed the road which was once so securely in the hands of the Finnish phone giant. The question remains open, as Nokia continues to sell a dozen times more phones than Apple. But it only gains a fraction of the media attention. And of the market attention, as evidenced by the succession of iPhone imitations of the iPhone, launched by competitors. Peter Drucker once said: “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right thing.” Now Marko Ahtisaari plans to come up with a surprising answer: a giant can do the right thing. Ma deve ribaltare parecchie abitudini. But he has to overturn many old habits, because the issue is no longer to sell good products, but to regain the cultural leadership.

How? By changing the game. “I will have to tear down some dogmas,” says Ahtisaari, referring to the mobile phone world that now seems to only speak the language of Cupertino and Silicon Valley. “The leadership of Apple, Google, Facebook is American. We are a European company. And we have something to say.”

Yeah. But what? The challenge is immense: Apple has managed to redefine the mobile phone business, making it into a complex whole that builds on design quality, simplicity and number of functions, emotional contents, and usefulness of online services. Apple has brought its experience with internet-connected computers to the world of mobile devices, and started a whole new market of applications, often produced by small software houses all over the world, that provide the iPhone with a breadth of functions that no one company could ever design. Apple captured a central strategic position that has displaced the other handset manufacturers, has generated an earthquake in electronic commerce, and has even created problems for the operators.

Nokia has the opportunity to play on a much wider field than that of Apple: it can serve the end of the market that wants a good phone that is not too smart; can offer smartphones with all crucial functions at the lowest price on the market; but also has to play at the high-end of expensive and attractive smartphones like the iPhone. It is the high-end market where cultural leadership is defined.

So Ahtisaari spends half his time thinking about how to redefine the relationship between mobile phones and their users. “As I look at people in the restaurant, I see them bending over on their phones, no longer paying attention to the other diners. I think there is something to improve here. The experience offered by the current smartphone is “immersive”. It is persuasive technology, as BJ Fogg would have said. A phone that is controlled by touching the screen invites users to give all their attention to the device. “But for me it is more important that people can look each other into their eyes, and that the phone stays in its place.” It is a generous starting point for a designer: moving the products out of the way to leave the centre stage to people. “This is consistent with our identity: Nokia is not lifestyle. Nokia serves and facilitates communication between people. Now we have to bring this concept to a new level.”

Ahtisaari has all the fundamentals to move Nokia forward in the new millennium. His culture has been formed by a number of start-ups in the fast world of social networks. During the years when his father Martti worked with diplomatic patience in Kosovo, before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Marko was CEO of Dopplr, a platform to share travel information. Now at Nokia he began by unifying the groups that deal with hardware and software design. And he works closely with the developers of online services, from Ovi – Nokia’s application platform – to the group that develops mapping services, which is in a bit of a refresh these days after having been taken from Yahoo!. He knows where to play his next game.

“Advertising-based social networks have to concentrate all attention on themselves and tend to confuse the boundaries between the private network of friends and public communication. They must grow, always gaining new users who themselves also have an increasing number of connections – as one can see with Facebook. “We [at Nokia] will always be on the side of small groups that communicate. We focus on the relationships that develop within the circle of trusted friends and neighbours. And we have to serve this small circle with a mosaic of services that do not intrude with people, by making their lives public. We will always be on the side of privacy even if this would slow down the growth of the service.”

In short, Ahtisaari’s project seems clear. A new approach for a number of emerging needs in a world that is increasingly hyperconnected and distracted by today’s smartphones. The implementation is still to be conceived. But already it is clear how right the questions are that Ahtisaari has raised and how potentially revolutionary the responses can be. Strong leadership has the effect that many will follow the guide. But it can have many causes: vision, credibility, power, authority, muscle, size, charisma. If in a few years time we will see less people bent over the displays, also Ahtisaari will walk tall.

Three stages

1. When everybody online knew everything about everybody
The premise. Privacy online? But it doesn’t exist, of course. The phrase is by Scott McNealy, then Sun’s head, and goes back some 10 years. It was a company vision and an ideological mantra. In the effort to reduce the world to a global village, the web knows down all obstacles in a euphoric pursuit of exchange. It is the zero level of the Internet, with sharing the banner word: everyone wants to know everything about everyone. Having to sacrifice a bit of privacy seems to be the least of problems. This approach finds its triumph in Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Born to trace the “classmates” who are out of sight, the social network soon became a must. You have to be there to be someone.

2. Facebook and Google run for cover
The rethinking. Google’s dizzying race turns into an obstacle course. Just a few days ago there were the Street View maps that show the faces of unsuspecting passengers. And they protest. The Mountain View giant decides to suspend the release of his new facial recognition software. It puts limits to Google Buzz, the new social network introduced to connect users directly to their most frequent Gmail contacts. Facebook decides to do the same. It is an attempt to staunch the decline of contacts and members. Social networks discover that privacy has value – not only philosophically, but also economically.

3. No secrets? Only for those who I say
The possible scenario. Social networks are shown for what they are: not a medium in which to cultivate “friendships”, but a house without doors and walls of glass. According to calculations made by SearchEngineLand, the number of active users is growing less and less quickly. Possibly because people have sensed this possible two path development: social networks that are restricted to few with a threshold of privacy tends to a minimum, and a broader use of the Web with fewer personal data ‘moving around’. This is the direction of the scenario drawn by Marko Ahtisaari: minimal social networks for “real” friends.

Disclosure: Experientia has worked with Marko in the past (while he was at Blyk), and we admire his competence, strategic insights and entrepreneurial approach. So good luck, Marko.

Also, you may want to check this article on the vision presented by Tero Ojanpera, Nokia’s Executive Vice President of Services, in London this morning.

23 June 2010

Why we desire, display and design

Nancy Etcoff
Humans around the world wear clothing and accessories to hide their bodies, to emphasise them, even to evoke magic. Indeed, personal ornaments appear to be among the first forms of symbolic communication. US psychologist Nancy Etcoff linked fashion to psychology in the sixth Premsela Lecture: ‘Born to Adorn: Why We Desire, Display and Design’, delivered on 26 May in Amsterdam.

At the yearly Premsela Lecture, a speaker from outside the world of design addresses current developments in the field. The yearly lectures are organised by Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion.

“”Dress, clothes and fashion are rare topics in the social sciences,” Etcoff said, “particularly the branch I inhabit, at the intersection of neuroscience and psychology. Perhaps that is because historically, there has been far more interest in reason and the mind than in emotion and the body, in depth rather than surface, [although] dress has as much to do with reason as emotion, as much to do with the mind as the body, and as much to do with our inner depths as our surface.”

She outlined the variety and importance of our reasons for adornment, ending with a call to designers to use science to push fashion further in its enhancement of human well-being.”

Etcoff, author of The Survival of the Prettiest, The Science of Beauty, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Download text of lecture

(via InfoDesign)

21 June 2010

On ethnography and balance scorecards

UX Matters
Three new articles have been published on the UX Matters site:

Ethnography in UX
by Nathanael Boehm, user experience and social interaction designer for the Australian Government, Canberra, Australia
“In this article, I want to look at ways in which UX professionals can conduct research, usability testing, and evaluation for the upper rungs of the Human-Tech Ladder—the social elements of technology design and how people interact with a particular technology while working together within an organization.”

User Experience Balance Scorecard
by Sean Van Tyne, user experience director at FICO
“As user experience becomes more established as part of an organization’s overall strategy, a comprehensive Balance Scorecard must include user experience. It would be beneficial for UX leaders within organizations to understand the Balance Scorecard system and how to map their UX groups’ objectives to their organizations’ business strategies.”

International UPA 2010 Conference: Research Themes and Trends
by Michael Hawley, VP Experience Design at Mad*Pow Media Solutions LLC
“For the first time in its history, the International Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) conference took place outside of North America. [...] Unfortunately, it was impossible to attend all of the sessions, but in this conference recap, I will outline several trends I recognized.”

17 June 2010

Jon Kolko on design that changes human behavior

Jon Kolko
As part of its “Future By Design” series, Forbes Magazine interviewed Jon Kolko, associate creative director at Frog Design and founder of the Austin Center for Design, on how a “well-crafted product can make the world a better place.”

Forbes: What do you think constitutes good design?
Good design is design that changes behavior for the better. I think it needs to take into account the context of the environment, of the human condition, the culture and then attempt to make the things you do–make us do them better, make us do better things. It encourages us to change the way that we live.

Read interview

8 June 2010

From industrial design to user experience

Baskinger
Mark Baskinger, associate professor at the School of Design of Carnegie Mellon University, reflects in UX Magazine on the heritage and evolving role of experience-driven design. Experience-driven design, he says, has made “experience” the new hot buzzword. But is it really new?

“In this article, I want to share some thoughts about user experience design, UX practice today, and its parallels to industrial design practice. In efforts to continue the conversation about the true fit of UX as a growing specialization, I will attempt to position it within the landscape of established design disciplines. I will also to raise questions and considerations to entertain as UX emerges from its software-related origins and grows into strategic leadership across design disciplines. This is neither a manifesto nor a hard-lined stance on UX; rather just some ideas to help carry the collective discussion forward.”

Read article

2 June 2010

Videos of IIT Design Research Conference

DRC
Videos of the recent IIT Design Research Conference are currently being uploaded. Here is the list of the presentations (alphabetical by speaker’s last name), with video links (where available):

Tim Brown | IDEO (conference bio)
We’re all design researchers now (34:15)

Solving some of society’s biggest challenges today will require large scale behavior change. Tim will talk about putting design thinking into the hands of everyone to inspire change and tackle the world’s biggest problems.

Allan Chochinov | Core77 (conference bio)
First Person Plural: The value of getting it from the horse’s mouth (24:15)

In a maturing world of design research methodologies, the value of primary research cannot be overstated. This talk will move through a series of student-initiated projects, each triggered by a singular, profound insight or leveraged to an engagement with a community far beyond the designer’s anticipated reach. We will discuss specific techniques for soliciting input from target audiences, and ways to recognize the good stuff when you see it. It all starts with the first person.

Joyce Chou | Core77
The steampunk solution to disruptive technology (14:04)

Martha Cotton | gravitytank (conference bio)
Accidents and Plans: A few good tools for collaboration (25:47)

Once upon a time, marketers saw truth mostly in numbers. But there have been some key shifts in the last 10 or so years: Design Research has broken out of its niche status and quantitative research has been stripped of its compulsory status. Design research has moved to the mainstream; quantitative research has become but one of many tools for decision making.
“Truth” about consumers is now found in many ways: stories, photos, video, quotes, anecdotes, sketches, conceptual frameworks, and more. Accompanying this shift our community has developed, and will continue to develop, more useful and interesting ways to gather qualitative data.
This talk explores a variety of compelling ways we are now able to gather qualitative data. She also expands the context to explore ways other phases in the qualitative research lifecycle can be done in more rich and effective ways including participant recruiting, analysis, and accessing project data over time.

Erica Eden | Smart Design, Femme Den (conference bio)
Sex Ed: Clients, Designers, and Everyone Else (27:40)

Why is gender important? Smart Design’s Femme Den explores the gap between assumptions and realities about women. As practicing designers and design researchers, we apply new ways to design for the elusive women’s market. To create products and experiences that women love, we must better understand their lives, as well as our clients’ objectives and designers’ perspectives. In this talk, we will be sharing our methodologies to meet the needs of and effectively communicate with these three interconnected groups.

Kim Erwin | IIT Institute of Design (conference bio)
Diane Fraley | D.S. Fraley Associates (conference bio)
Our world is flat, too: the paradigm shift of online research (30:08)

When Thomas Friedman declared the world flat, in his seminal book by the same name, he summarized the dramatic shift in commerce and competition across the globe brought about by the Internet. This technology, he notes, puts nearly everything within reach of nearly everyone, and our global economy is now essentially free of geographic restraints—it’s a level playing field. What’s to become of us of all, he asks?
We should be asking this, too. As with most professions, the Internet is reshaping the landscape of user research. This is happening on two levels: the business model of user research, and the practice model of user research.
On the business side, large online research houses are capturing a growing portion of research work, leveraging economies of scale and exclusive contracts designed to appeal to the finance people inside organizations.
On the practice side, research design has become a vastly more complex and interesting proposition. The Internet and digital media combine to form a powerful set of new data collection tools, while also giving us access to participants across geographies and time zones.
The new playing field dramatically expands what’s possible: Micro-blogging, asynchronous video, synchronous video, video diaries, remote activity monitoring—we can now do it all, all at once. As researchers, we can be everywhere at the same time. We can instantly review data collected remotely. We can have intimate contact with participants while miles apart.
All of this challenges our research processes and logic—“web work” now joins “field work” to reshape the paradigm for bringing producers closer to their consumers. How do we leverage this new paradigm to enrich research design and the resulting data? How might we use “web work” to deliver against objectives in an increasingly time-constrained development environment? How does our new reach inform user research for strategy development—one of the bigger frontiers of practice.
In this talk, Diane Fraley and Kim Erwin share a new approach that hybridizes “field work” and “web work.” Working with graduate students at the Institute of Design, Kim and Diane designed and executed the first phase of a multi-phase, exploratory project—integrating multiple online technologies to deliver a picture of how shopping behavior is rapidly shifting as early majorities adopt the Internet and smart phones to manage their homes.

Heather Fraser | Rotman DesignWorks (conference bio)
Design (Research) as a Shared Platform (video not yet available)

We live in a world where VUCA is the new acronym for ‘Holy cow, this is a tough nut to crack.” Faced with complex challenges, design, and most critically design research, is not only an important field for new methodologies and tools; it is also a shared platform for building a common campfire and a shared understanding of the purpose and actions for all organizations. Through our work at Rotman DesignWorks with students of all disciplines and executives across all functions, we have witnessed the power of shared discoveries and appreciation for design research as the foundation and fuel for creating new value and mobilizing organizations to rise to today’s challenges.

Usman Haque | Pachube (conference bio)
Notes on the design of participatory systems – for the city or for the planet (25:42)

Cooperation is difficult. Even when everybody agrees on an end goal, and even when everybody agrees on what is needed to achieve that end goal, it does not mean that everyone (or even anyone) will be able to take the first step, which is the most important step. The talk discusses the paradoxical structures of collaboration and ways that the paradoxes can be harnessed, illustrated occasionally with concrete examples from past work.

Cathy Huang | China Bridge International (conference bio)
Looking Inward: Design Research in China (25:17)

Conducting design research in an emerging market like China takes cultural understanding, patience, along with a level of empathy that is not normally gained overnight. In this presentation, Cathy Huang will take an inward look at China to bring forward key challenges that China Bridge International (CBi) is encountering while trying to gain insight through design research in China.
How does Social Conformity, Confucius, Utilitarianism and the belief that concealing ones economic status create obstacles for gaining insight in China? How does a research project navigate the many cultural, social, psychographic, and geographical differences when doing research in China?
These represent a few of the questions Cathy will discuss in her presentation. The background and foundation for her thoughts and perspectives are presented from the findings of many cases studies and experiences gained from her work at CBi — an insight-based innovation and design strategy firm.

Stokes Jones | Lodestar (conference bio)
Stokes Jones: Getting Embedded: In Search of Alt-innovation (video not yet available)

Whatever innovation process you favor, chances are it’s a relatively ‘top-down’ one. In this presentation, I will explore the roots of, and a working model for, an alternative type of innovation that is ‘bottom-up’ and anthropologically grounded. What we call “embedded innovation” is not something companies do to the world – after a staged series of research and workshop events – but a cultural process that people are continually unfolding in the world over time. In this approach, the key focus for design research and strategy becomes ‘attunement’ not invention – identifying the embedded innovation already taking place in a context or marketspace, then aligning to and enhancing it.
We look at cases of how this method has been applied cross-culturally by Lodestar; for researching with P&G the design of new over-the-counter medicines in South Africa; for social networking in Brazil, as well as by comparison to a familiar household product in the US. We will then consider the implications of complementing the usual ‘heroic’, company-led innovation with this more humble form. We believe research into embedded innovation leads to solutions that are truly human centered and empathic because it connects people to the value inherent in proposed products and services by designing offers from the inside out of their own ‘folk models’ and situated practices.

Anjali Kelkar | Studio for Design Research (conference bio)
Getting the most out of design research in Asia (24:46)

How can the Design Research practice uncover and understand cultural nuances of consumers in new markets better? Also, does this practice the way we conduct it in the West, really work in China and India? Do we need new tools or do we need to approach this practice differently? The talk will address the above questions with case studies from various projects.

Gerald Lombardi | Hall & Partners (conference bio)
The deskilling of ethnographic labor: an emerging predicament and a possible solution (11:10)

An oft-stated rule in the world of design has been, “Good, fast, cheap: pick two”. The success of ethnography as a support to design, branding and marketing has forced this rule into action with a vengeance. Companies now demand that more and more ethnographic knowledge be produced in ever-shorter timeframes and on ever-lower budgets. Our work output has become a mass production item, and the pressure is on. Ethnographers like me find that our Ph.D.s and cosmopolitan outlooks are scant protection as we undergo the same process experienced by many other highly trained workers over the past two centuries: job deskilling.
Job deskilling is a two-edged sword that brings opportunity and misery at the same time, though not always to the same people. Without taking a position on merits or demerits, in my talk I will first review the mechanisms of professional deskilling as the manufacture of ethnographic output has expanded. I will also give examples from my experience as someone who is on both sides of the issue, often finding my own work situation deskilled, and sometimes required by business objectives to submit others to that kind of regime.
The resulting picture is a bit grim. Are those of us who practice ethnography for industry condemned to the same fate as the skilled automobile craftsmen of Detroit circa 1908? (They were replaced by machines, and now there are 680 million motor vehicles on Earth.) And are the outputs of our creative research destined to be commoditized, to the sad detriment of the products we help bring into the world? Perhaps not. So much is made these days of the need for disruptive innovation — what if we apply that outlook to the conditions of our own labor? I have in mind a collusion between ethnographic laborers and their more enlightened employers, in the service of a better paradigm, a realignment of “Good, fast, cheap” so there’s a chance for more “Good” to peek through.
But that’s impossible, right? Business would never stand for it…. To the contrary, I assert that the material conditions of global production are soon going to require a disruptive change regardless of what the business world thinks. I explain what and why that is, and urge that we make our new professional motto this one: “Why pay less?”

Doug Look | Autodesk (conference bio)
Up in the Air (15:54)

What’s next? Perhaps we need to go beyond the discovery aspects of design research and now focus on ways to go beyond, to figure out ways of executing and delivering real business success. Instead of declaring that Design Research has won or that there’s widespread acceptance, we might want to pause a bit for some reflection on how to take the critical next steps toward implementation and execution. And here’s a hint–it isn’t easy.
What have been effective methods and tools from within a corporate environment? What are some of the challenges you might face within an engineering-centered organization? Where is the scarcity and what skill sets provide utility? Doug Look will reflect on insights gathered over the past five years in his journey from an academic setting at the Institute of Design to an engineered-centered corporate culture.

Bill Lucas | LUMA Institute, MAYA Design (conference bio)
Encouraging everyone (from K through CEO) to look with care (video not yet available)

As the field of design research matures, an exciting new activity is emerging. Seasoned practitioners are extending their knowledge and passion to non-specialists of various ages and backgrounds. In this talk, I will present stories from LUMA Institute, an educational venture dedicated to helping everyone from K through CEO learn and apply the practices of Human-Centered Design (including the critical activity of looking and listening with care). I’ll talk about the wonderful things that happen when experienced professionals facilitate workshops aimed at raising the awareness and competence of people from all walks of life.

Dominick J. Misino | NYPD (conference bio)
Building Rapport: Lessons from a Hostage Negotiator (30:42)

Don Norman | Nielsen Norman Group (conference bio)
The Research-Practice Gulf (40:22)

There is a great gulf between the research community and practice. Moreover, there is often a great gull between what designers do and what industry needs. We believe we know how to do design, but this belief is based more on faith than on data, and this belief reinforces the gulf between the research community and practice.
I find that the things we take most for granted are seldom examined or questioned. As a result, it is often our most fundamental beliefs that are apt to be wrong.
In this talk, deliberately intended to be controversial. I examine some of our most cherished beliefs. Examples: design research helps create breakthrough products; complexity is bad and simplicity good; there is a natural chain from research to product.

Sona Patadia-Rao | PDT (conference bio)
Lisa Yanz | PDT (conference bio)
A Case Study: The Collaborative Redesign of the Perkins Brailler (28:28)

“Good Design” means something different to everyone, especially to an audience that experiences the world through their fingertips. As designers we are accustomed to immersing ourselves into the lives of our targeted users and pulling out meaning, values and aspirations. However, when the targeted audience interprets the world in an unique way, the design team’s methodology need to be flexible, conclusions are never final and bringing the users into the fold of the process is essential.
Through this discussion attendees hear the development story of redesigning the fully mechanical Next Generation Perkins Braille Writer for the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown MA. This device is the “pen and paper” for the visually impaired community, making it an essential teaching tool worldwide. The original Perkins Brailler was designed in the 1940′s, has over 600 moving parts, and has remained the unchanged, extremely reliable workhorse for decades.
We look to tell the story honestly, addressing successes, stumbles, surprises and how we were changed both professional and personally by the experience. This is a case study in blurring the formalized lines between research, design and engineering to create a product that meets the needs of a very adaptable and impressive user group.

Ron Pierce | Stuart Karten Design (conference bio)
360-Degree Research (video not yet available)

The power of design research lies in its connection to the end user. But too often, the focus on the end user is watered down as a product passes through many hands on its way to production. Ron Pierce proposes an alternate model of 360-degree research— an ongoing process in which researchers engage with the client and the end user throughout product development, putting solutions through rigorous testing at multiple phases.
Sharing the story of Stuart Karten Design’s engagement with hearing aid manufacturer Starkey Laboratories, Inc., Ron will show how a 360-degree research process can provide better results for the end user and significant financial returns for the corporation.
During a three-year strategic partnership with Starkey, Ron and his team at SKD have collaborated to develop products that greatly improve a frustrating end user experience. By continually engaging with stakeholders, distribution channels and a wide range of hearing aid wearers during various stages of the product development process, from foundational research through evaluative testing of functional prototypes, Ron and his team have reinvented Starkey’s product line with a focus on the user.
He shared SKD’s 360-degree research process, which recently culminated with the introduction of Starkey’s S Series hearing aid, featuring a touch-activated control proven to solve one of users’ most poignant frustrations. The first-of-its-kind innovation has increased Starkey’s market share and cemented the company’s position as a global leader.

Heather Reavey | Continuum (conference bio)
Envisioning Breakthrough Ideas (video not yet available)

A deep understanding of people is one lens that inspires designers to envision new experiences. Moving from inspiration to impact is another matter. What is a breakthrough idea, and how can you deliver it in a way that makes your audience believe? This session is all about big ideas: where they come from, how you know when you might have a game-changer. And how you can use design and storytelling to communicate a new opportunity in an experiential, emotional, human way that motivates clients and organizations to become advocates of change.

Rick E. Robinson | Sideriver Ventures (conference bio)
Crankiness is Overrated: Good Work is Harder Than Grumbling (28:15)

When we take hold of a powerful tool and use it to shape the daily lives of real people, we are laid under an obligation, a responsibility, to understand not only how that shaping could affect those daily lives, but how it should do so. The “good” in “good design” has, in the last twenty years or so, migrated from the relatively simple appreciation of an end-product’s formal properties to include the ways in which a product becomes what it is: the process of designing. In the course of that migration, “users” and “experience” have become central to the way design works, to how the things which it produces are evaluated. Under any number of labels (“user-centered design research”, “ethnographics,” “anthrojournalism” and so on) the (largely) social sciences-derived research which informs the work of design has grown into a small industry of its own. Taken as a whole, design research has resulted in a collective paying of more attention to people rather than less. That’s a ‘good’ in pretty much anyone’s book. But it is also, in practice, a bit like supposing that because an M.D. is doing rounds, looking into patients’ rooms and signing the charts, good medical care is being practiced. If designers have been less than explicit about the values that inform the choices they make, it seems that design research as a whole has been even less so. The most widely accepted ‘point’ of design research is to inform the work of design. To provide a basis from which the work of design, development, and strategy can proceed. It is a bit circular: we do research to inform the process of design, which requires that we understand the users. Circular or not, it would be just fine if what was required to “inform” design were no more than a scan of current conditions. A pH strip dipped in the pool. A thumb licked and held up in the breeze. But the best design work doesn’t need the thumb in the air; good designers or teams or practices are usually plugged in and working at the ragged front end anyway. What we need from research is more than description, and especially, more than a list of “needs,” explicit or implicit, met or unmet. We need a way to explicitly articulate the values that inform those decisions, and a basis on which to do so.

Kevin Starr | Rainer Arnhold Fellows (conference bio)
Design for (Real) Social Impact (24:56)

Designing a product that will make life better for the poor isn’t easy. You can’t just design a cool product that works; you have to make sure it will get into the hands of those who need it most and that it will be used to good effect. As investors in tools and products to benefit the poor – and get them out of poverty – we’ve developed an approach to vetting product ideas that is based on the successes and failures we’ve seen over the years. We’ve found that using it in the design phase can help avoid the pitfalls that waste effort and money, and ensure that good ideas turn into real impact.

Rob Tannen | Bresslergroup (conference bio)
Design Research Tools for the Physical World (25:28)

In 2008 Rob presented an overview of the latest in digital user research technology, including the FieldCREW tablet concept. This year he is back to discuss tools and techniques to capture physical behavior, which is essential for the design of gestural, interactive devices.
The presentation includes:
* An introduction to “observational ergonomics” so researchers can qualitatively identify design problems and opportunities
* Demonstrations and reviews of the latest tech tools for conducting user research, including tactile sensing and wireless information tagging

Helen Walters | Bloomberg Businessweek (conference bio)
Wrap-up of Day One of DRC 2010 (13:36)

Eric Wilmot | Wolff Olins (conference bio)
How Fast? 21st Century Approach To Speed & Innovation (24:58)

Over the past decade design-thinking and user-insight practices have grown to become integral process within the worlds top organizations. This has lead to product, digital, and brand innovation consultancies to differentiate their services by framing new ways of doing things.
During the last decade we have witnessed a layering of methodologies and activities in an attempt to differentiate how we discover, define, design, and deliver new solutions. Ironically, over much of this same time, the process itself has remained an assumption for practitioners across the business community.
Overall, what challenges exist for the next generation of research methods when applied to a process model that was born before the Internet? Nimble clients are making it difficult for consultancies to keep up. Demand for faster launches is challenging the effectiveness of traditional processes. Technology is shifting control where offerings can be “pulled” into the market, reducing risk from the traditional “push” model.
The business environment is demanding change. This talk will highlight new client demands and market forces that are reframing the question from “How might design-thinking be better used within the current development process?” to “How might the process itself be changed to enable new and better uses for design-thinking and research?”

22 May 2010

Meta Products

Skal
Meta Products is a fairly new blog (started in September 2009) related to developments on the Internet of Things. It is run by Wimer Hazenberg and Menno Huisman, both managing partners at Dutch design studio Booreiland.

“Meta Products are the next generation consumer products. These products consist of both a physical and a web part. By combining the offline and the online world, they make the web just a little bit more meaningful to all of us.”

Some of their best posts sofar:
- Meta architecture – on the information architecture of Meta Products
- Meta economics – on the business models of Meta Products
- Meta fields – a categorisation of Meta Products
- Platform thinking” – Guest post by Sara Córdoba on innovation with new platforms

21 May 2010

Design Of The Other Things

designoftheotherthings
Experientia participates in the exhibition “Design Of The Other Things” at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan.

Stefano Maffei is the curator of the exhibition, which explores the ways in which the world of design is changing, becoming transversal and interfacing increasingly with other fields, such as art, technology, management, fashion and scientific research. The collection demonstrates several interesting and problematic dimensions of undertaking alternative research (of 360° design) in Italy.

Experientia will showcase the Lifestream project that it developed for the user experience department of Vodafone, in collaboration with Aeolab.

Also participating are Massimo Banzi, Elio Caccavale, esterni, Id-Lab, Kublai, Lanificio Leo, Reggio Children and SENSEableCity Lab (MIT).

Design Of The Other Things runs from 26 May to 4 July 2010 (the exhibition has been extended with one week from the original closing date of 27 June).

11 May 2010

Philips Design’s latest projects

Rice cooker
The latest issue of new value by design, the Philips Design newsletter, contains three short articles that sit closely to what we cover in this blog:

Self Health – Philips Design’s exploration into reconnecting people with their bodies
The latest Philips Design Probe, Self Health, takes a “provocative and unconventional look at areas that could have a profound effect on the way we understand and monitor our own health and make lifestyle choices 15-20 years from now.”
Unfortunately, the descriptions on the website are so short that one can only superficially understand the concept ideas that have been developed, and not at all assess their value.

Beyond glocalization – The value of design in emerging markets
Design helps business understand and innovate in new, promising markets, bringing long-term business success.
> Emerging markets design backgrounder (pdf)

Market driven innovation – Making rice cooking easier and healthier in China
An easier and healthier cooking solution for China, driven by a deep understanding of the local people and context of use.