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Posts in category 'Innovation'

19 February 2011

Book: Make It So

Rosenfeld Media
Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction
A book in progress by Nathan Shedroff & Chris Noessel
Publisher: Rosenfeld Media
Anticipated publication date: 2012

Science fiction has remained a pastime for designers, instead of a valuable source of insight and learning until now. Make It So, a book in progress by Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel, will be the first book to connect the inspiring “blue sky” designs of scifi with your own work in interaction design.

Interaction and interface designers can learn practical lessons from the interfaces in Science Fiction films and television. Though lacking rigorous engagement with users, production designers are nonetheless allowed to develop influential “blue-sky” examples that are inspiring, humorous, prophetic, useful, and can be incorporated into “real” work to make online, mobile, and ubiquitous interfaces more interesting and more successful. This book will share lessons and examples culled from imaginative interfaces free from traditional constraints. In addition, the authors will outline their process of investigation and describe a toolkit for others to make similar explorations into other domains.

Make It So will show how:
* SciFi interfaces allow us to see current issues from fresh perspectives, testing design techniques we don’t always expect but are, nonetheless, applicable to current work
* SciFi is a design tool like any other
* All design is already fiction (until it gets built)
* If it works for an audience, there’s something there that works for users
* Interaction designers can be inspired by a source they already love.

10 February 2011

Research on the importance of collaborative user innovation

Book scanner
New research suggests the traditional division of labor between innovators and customers is breaking down as more individual consumers invent and improve products on their own. Patricia Cohen reports in The New York Times:

“Tinkering is challenging a deeply entrenched tenet of economic theory: that producers, not consumers, are the ones who innovate. [...]

Financed by the British government, Eric A. von Hippel [a professor of technological innovation at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management] and his colleagues last year completed the first representative large-scale survey of consumer innovation ever conducted.

What the team discovered, described in a paper that is under review for publication, was that the amount of money individual consumers spent making and improving products was more than twice as large as the amount spent by all British firms combined on product research and development over a three-year period.”

Read story

11 January 2011

Design research and innovation: an interview with Don Norman

Donald Norman
Jeroen Van Geel of Johnny Holland interviewed Donald Norman about innovation, design research, and emotional design.

Earlier this year you wrote that design research doesn’t innovate, technology does. This caused quite a discussion. What were the main counterexamples you got back?

No, that’s not what I said. And indeed, that is the main problem with the reaction I got: many people never read my post or listened to my talk: they simply reacted. (The people who did consider it thoughtfully were very favorable; in fact, I was invited to give it at several places, like Delft and the Copenhagen Business School).

Innovation is a very complex topic, very thoroughly discussed in academia, which is not something most designers follow. The important points are these: There are many forms of innovation–process, product, radical, incremental, and so on. I considered two forms of product innovation: radical (e.g., the invention of the telephone) and incremental (e.g., releasing a new version of a mobile phone, automobile, or kitchen appliance). Radical innovation in the products, I argued, always comes from the works of inventors, excited by some new technology and anxious to explore its potential. I do not know of a single radical innovation that has come from the people who do design research. Not the telephone or automobile, not Facebook or Twitter. Not 3D television nor, for that matter, high-definition television. Not hybrid autos. Not the Internet itself. Market studies, market research, design research, field observations (ethnographic studies), etc., do not yield radical innovations. They are very important in finding new uses of and improvements to existing products, but these are incremental innovations, not radical ones.

Incremental innovation is very important. Over 90% of the radical innovations fail (some of my friends say 99%). Yes, when they happen they change lives, but think about it: how many radical new product innovations have you experienced in your lifetime? One? Ten? Even if it was 100 that is still relatively infrequent compared to the thousands of incremental product innovations every day.

Moreover, radical innovation almost always starts off being inferior to what already exists: it takes good design research to transform that radical idea into something that is appealing to the world.

Alas, we train our design students to do radical innovation, even though in the real world, these radical ideas will almost certainly fail, even though they will be asked to do incremental innovation in their practice, and even though the evidence says that the radical innovations come from anywhere, and often take years or even decades before their worth is understood and appreciated.

In other words: we are not facing facts. We shy away from truth. We are delusional.

Read interview

20 December 2010

Vodafone foresight on the world in 2020

Future Agenda
Vodafone has launched its new futureagenda website that presents the results of a 12 month insight and foresight programme on the world in 2020.

The project, which was presented last week in Istanbul, Turkey (and only got covered, it seems, by the Turkish press), also includes a book and downloadable pdf (315 pages).

The Future Agenda programme brought together informed people from around the world to analyse the crucial themes of the next ten years. Fifty workshops in twenty-five locations took place and resulted in a unique view of the next ten years. The website reports on the key conclusions.

In the opening section, Vodafone details what it sees as the four macro-scale certainties for the next decade – the things that, unless there is an unexpected, massive and fundamental global shift, will most definitely occur and so are the certitudes upon which everything else is built. These certainties are 1) a continued imbalance in population growth, 2) more key resource constraints, 3) an accelerating eastward shift of economic power to Asia, and 4) pervasive global connectivity.

The second section explores some of the key insights gained into how the world and our lives will probably change over the next decade. These are the key changes that will occur in many different areas, some influenced by just one of the four certainties, others by two or more. These changes are detailed by providing both the signals from today that give evidence to support the direction of change and the future implications over the next ten years. They are grouped into six clusters – health, wealth, happiness, mobility, security and locality – which seem to encompass all the issues highlighted. Each change that is depicted in this section is variously linked to a number of others.

The Future Agenda team invited students of the the Innovation Design Engineering Department (IDE) of the Royal College of Arts to create some solutions to the challenges we face. IDE focuses on using cutting edge product design experimentation and systems thinking to tackle important real world issues with advanced technical design (and) within social parameters. Short videos show the results of this RCA project.

13 December 2010

The internet and the ‘end of privacy’

Public living
As part of a new CNN series on internet and the end of privacy, John D. Sutter reflects on the world of public living — where most everything about a person’s habits, location and preferences is just a few clicks away.

“As people share more information about themselves online, the internet, in effect, has created a public transcript of consciousness — storing our thoughts, locations, social lives and memories in data warehouses all over the world.

This has enabled technological advances and shaped our social interactions.

It’s also really freaked some people out.

With a dearth of established, effective methods to manage online privacy, and with digital marketers looking to profit from users’ online lives, some privacy advocates and everyday Web users worry people have lost control of their identities on the internet.”

Read article

1 December 2010

Book: Designing Media by Bill Moggridge

Designing Media
Designing Media, the new book by Bill Moggridge, director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and founder of IDEO, is now available in hard copy, as a DVD and as a downloadable pdf.

Abstract

Mainstream media, often known simply as MSM, have not yet disappeared in a digital takeover of the media landscape. But the long-dominant MSM—television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books—have had to respond to emergent digital media. Newspapers have interactive Web sites; television broadcasts over the Internet; books are published in both electronic and print editions. In Designing Media, design guru Bill Moggridge examines connections and conflicts between old and new media, describing how the MSM have changed and how new patterns of media consumption are emerging. The book features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter.

We learn about innovations in media that rely on contributions from a crowd (or a community), as told by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Craigslist’s Craig Newmark; how the band OK Go built a following using YouTube; how real-time connections between dispatchers and couriers inspired Twitter; how a BusinessWeek blog became a quarterly printed supplement to the magazine; and how e-readers have evolved from Rocket eBook to QUE. Ira Glass compares the intimacy of radio to that of the Internet; the producer of PBS’s Frontline supports the program’s investigative journalism by putting documentation of its findings online; and the developers of Google’s Trendalyzer software describe its beginnings as animations that accompanied lectures about social and economic development in rural Africa. At the end of each chapter, Moggridge comments on the implications for designing media. Designing Media is illustrated with hundreds of images, with color throughout. A DVD accompanying the book includes excerpts from all of the interviews, and the material can be browsed at www.designing-media.com.

The book also features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter – also these can be viewed on the website.

Interviews with: Chris Anderson, Rich Archuleta, Blixa Bargeld, Colin Callender, Fred Deakin, Martin Eberhard, David Fanning, Jane Friedman, Mark Gerzon, Ira Glass, Nat Hunter, Chad Hurley, Joel Hyatt, Alex Juhasz, Jorge Just, Alex MacLean, Bob Mason, Roger McNamee, Jeremy Merle, Craig Newmark, Bruce Nussbaum, Alice Rawsthorn, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Paul Saffo, Jesse Scanlon, DJ Spooky, Neil Stevenson, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Shinichi Takemura, James Truman, Jimmy Wales, Tim Westergren, Ev Williams, Erin Zhu, Mark Zuckerberg

Bill Moggridge, Director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, is a founder of IDEO, the famous innovation and design firm. He has a global reputation as an award-winning designer, having pioneered interaction design and integrated human factors disciplines into design practice.

1 December 2010

U DriveIT – User-Driven Innovation – Transfer from the IT sector to traditional businesses

U DriveIT
Norden, the Nordic Innovation Center, has published the results of a research project between Denmark, Norway and Iceland, that explored the increasingly strong connection between ICT and user-driven innovation in those countries, and how this approach could be transferred from the IT sector to traditional businesses.

Abstract

The project has worked with the relation between ICT and user-driven innovation. Traditionally, the Nordic region has had a position of strength regarding the part of the ICT area that deals with ICT and users. This is very much reflected in the Participatory Design Tradition and the Nordic position of strength within HCI. Furthermore, ICT has today moved from playing a role within work and business life to being the driving factor within all sorts of activities. This is reflected in phenomena such as Web 2.0, open source and social media etc. The project is therefore based on the assumption that the ICT field has been one of the leading fields within development via user-driven innovation during the last decades. The project has focused on methods, tools and experiences from these various areas which can be used in general regarding initiating user-driven innovation within a long line of different business areas.

The report describes and accounts in short for the Nordic tradition of user involvement in the ICT development and through a number of research interviews it extracts pivotal ideas and experiences from this tradition. At the same time experiences with user involvement in connection with new media is presented – both in a sales perspective and in a production perspective. Besides, a long row of cases and examples from other projects are presented, and courses and results from a number of workshops and knowledge activities initiated via the project will be mentioned. Finally, a range of recommendations for political focus areas are stated which based on the project experiences may be part of strengthening the basis for user-driven innovation in the Nordic region.

Download report

25 November 2010

Experientia’s framework for behavioural change towards sustainable lifestyles

Canvas8
Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken recently became one of Canvas8’s newest Thought Leaders, lending his insights and knowledge to the site’s growing archives of articles and interviews on cultural global trends.

Canvas8 draws on the knowledge of recognised industry thought leaders to offer expert insight into attitudes and behaviour. They encourage a deeper understanding of people so brands and agency planners can more effectively engage with their audience. This people-centred focus is a strong fit with Experientia’s own motto of Putting People First.

Mark’s first contribution, co-written with Experientia team member Erin O’Loughlin, was a reflection on designing for sustainability-focused behavioural change. This is a vital issue, which needs to be addressed at a multitude of levels, from a national outlook of global cooperation, to action by communities and individuals.

The article (which was originally published on the Canvas8 site and is now reproduced below) outlines Experientia’s behavioural change framework, which has been developed over the course of our work in Helsinki’s Jätkäsaari area, as part of a team constructing a low-to-no carbon emissions building block called Low2No. It identifies some of the barriers to changing to more sustainable behaviours, and some of the ways that change can be promoted and supported, in particular, by the construction of new social values and norms that value sustainability over a consumption-driven economy.

*****

Sustainable change: discovering motivations and building a community of values
Mark Vanderbeeken and Erin O’Loughlin
Conceptual input by Jan-Christoph Zoels and Irene Cassarino

 

Business has been told for years that the perfect product or service should fit people’s contexts, behaviours and attitudes. The designer’s own feelings about what might make a product or service attractive should always be informed by a solid understanding of the target market, and their contextual wants and needs.

Although too many businesses still aren’t catching on to this idea, current design thinking is moving people-centred design even further: the concept of design for behavioural change, particularly with regards to health and sustainability, sees the understanding of people as a first step in changing them. Can we use design to change people rather than adapt to existing desires and behaviours? Is it ethical? Is it desirable? Is it possible?

In the midst of a worsening climate crisis, design for behavioural change is a vital issue. We know that individually and collectively, we urgently need to start consuming less. In fact, we know that individual behavioural change could reduce personal carbon impact by as much as 15% by 2020 (see Smart2020 report). Yet not only is it difficult to know which actions are the most effective, it’s also often difficult to carry them out – whether due to lack of time, lack of commitment, lack of tools, infrastructure and services, or even the feeling of being one person toiling against the mainstream, which neutralises our good behaviour. This is where design can play a huge role in helping people and communities to comply with the existing desire to be more sustainable.
 

Not forcing change – tapping into motivations

If changing people’s behaviour through design sounds somewhat sinister, don’t worry. We’re not talking about 1984-style attempts to make people act against their natural instinct. The aim is not to constrain people’s autonomy and freedom of choice, but rather to tap into those motivations that might make changing behaviour worth it to them as individuals. Of course, we are all motivated by different things. Just look at the 2007 study on ‘nudging’ people to change their behaviour through comparative electricity bills.

The study was carried out in 80,000 Californian households, half of which received feedback on whether they were using more or less electricity than their neighbours. The results showed that people who got the feedback cut electricity usage by a modest average of two per cent. But looking closer, the researchers found something interesting – homeowners who identified themselves as politically republican only cut usage by an average of around 0.4 per cent. Those republican households who showed no practical interest in the environment actually increased their consumption by 0.75 per cent.

This doesn’t mean that those people can’t be convinced to cut back on their energy use – but it won’t be comparative billing that convinces them. Feedback has to be tailored, and changing our behaviours has to bring us a result that we want – and while people may not always want to ‘be green’, non-green motivations, such as saving money, could also lead to more sustainable behaviours. It also highlights another important aspect of behavioural change: the groups and communities that we identify with can have a big impact on our likelihood of responding to certain triggers and stimulus. So, designing tools and services for behavioural change needs to start from a triple bottom line approach, which considers the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable decisions.
 

Conflicting desires

What people really want can be complicated and is of course defined by much more than our personal values. As we will discuss, physical, cultural and social factors also come into play. Often, what we want as a long-term goal, and what we want to do right now can be in conflict. Take the desire to stay trim and fit – a longer term personal value – which wavers as we walk past our favourite restaurant; or the desire to live a more sustainable life, compared to the inconvenience of walking three blocks to recycle rubbish into the right bins. Solutions need to understand the entire context of our behaviour, use the right tools to gently remind us of the benefits whilst overcoming the barriers, and then trigger the right behaviour. An elegant example of a behavioural change solution comes from Paris, where a new fountain offers locals sparkling water on tap – after discovering that aversion to still tap water was one of the main reasons many French people were buying bottled water despite concerns about the waste. A municipality in Italy is doing the same thing along its coastal walkways, in an attempt to cut down on discarded bottles. This, in turn, steps into the realm of creating products, services and public infrastructure that support sustainability – the more we build a world that supports sustainable behaviours, the easier it will be for people to change, irrespective of their values.
 

“I want to behave sustainably, but not right now”

Of course, offering us free, fizzy tap water might be a quick fix for plastic bottle consumption, but getting people to change their behaviours, and making that change last over time, is not always so simple – even when they know they should. First there is the issue of self-perception. Dirk Dobbs, in his article ‘The climate is changing, why aren’t we?’ says people often overestimate their own abilities and therefore don’t think they need to change, and have a general tendency to discount the seriousness of risks, especially if they occur far in the future.

At Experientia we’ve encountered both mentalities as barriers to more sustainable behaviour in different research projects. In one, we asked people to comment on their energy consumption use. The majority of our participants stated that they believed they used less energy than average. Obviously, statistically speaking, this can’t be true. In another project, we identified a kind of ‘on hold’ mentality, in which people are aware of the issues, want to change, and even know some basic information on what actions they could take – but put off making the changes to a “more convenient time”, perhaps waiting until they own a house to install new insulation, or get married to buy more sustainable appliances, or a new job to think about alternative ways to travel to work.
 

There is a whole world beyond the personal

As mentioned above, however, individual motivations don’t spring from nothing – they are formed by our physical environment, our culture, our social groups, our political leanings, our government’s stance and policies, and the practical tools we have at our disposal, among other things. Any attempt at behavioural change has to take action across these different areas. In Experientia’s work in Helsinki’s Jätkäsaari area, as part of a team constructing a low-to-no carbon emissions building block called Low2No, we have been working on a behavioural change framework that identifies the interplay of forces that impact our likelihood of complying with behavioural change efforts.

  • Physical considerations and constraints
    Such as the spaces in which we live, heating needs, transport infrastructure, light conditions, water and food supplies, and available technology, including the tools and interfaces which give us the information we need to make informed decisions.
     
  • Personal factors
    These include our individual green values, current consumption behaviours, transport behaviours and our levels of self-awareness regarding our own impact on climate and the available options to modify it.
     
  • Social environment
    Such as community identity, values, beliefs, memories, needs, and habits. How widely are green values shared in the community? Are people aware of pollution conditions and the associated risks? Is there a collective knowledge base about the behavioural impact on climate and the options to modify it?
     
  • Cultural context
    Finally, consider issues such as the level of commitment of public administrations and businesses to green values, the number and quality of public/private incentives for sustainable behaviours and continuous improvement and maintenance programmes, affects the likelihood of us taking personal action.

 

A framework for bottom-up change

Of course, the government has a major role to play in creating the conditions for these frameworks to thrive. Legislation will need to play a strong role in behavioural change towards sustainability. We have already seen the limits of self-governing regulatory bodies and voluntary standards in the past – Norwegian businesses only started allowing women into their boardrooms once this became mandatory, despite ten years of promises from the companies involved.

Governments will mandate change because they need to meet targets set by various international bodies and agreements. However, for change to be sustained in the long-term, it also needs to be bottom-up, and not just top-down, rising from a grassroots commitment to change, which in turn brings pressure to bear on political bodies to change at national level.

Design can support and nurture the development of this grassroots movement, through concepts that work in the four contexts described above. Our Low2No framework also defines four different kinds of actions that need to take place: Engagement and Awareness, Community Actions, Self Assessment and Leading by Example.

  • Engagement and Awareness
    As people’s awareness of climate issues are raised, they need meaningful and contextual information to help them respond. What is the difference in real terms between an A and an A++ appliance? How could this information be presented to people so that the benefits are clear? This also involves providing people with tools for evaluation, so that they are empowered to make better choices. Engagement with a new behaviour is more likely to be sustained long-term if it is easier and more convenient than previous patterns – for example, making it easier to recycle technological waste products or systems that automatically reuse grey water in gardens without any extra effort.
     
  • Community Actions
    We are social animals and our neighbours’ or peers’ behaviour will impact us strongly. We are already starting to see social reputation being used to enforce or “proof” behaviour. Comparative billing is just one example of this. How else might people’s behaviours start to change if they knew exactly what keeping up with the Joneses meant in terms of consumption?

    However, we need to go beyond the passive concept of social proofing, to help communities to build a sense of shared values, of people who have the same goals and work together. One person working alone may find it hard to sustain their commitment to a new activity – but once it becomes a social activity, family, neighbours and peers become a force of encouragement and support, with common interests. This means creating a pool of shared knowledge, accessible to all members of the community, and putting support mechanisms and networks in place to encourage compliance. This opportunity to focus sustainability efforts through the lens of community involvement also has lifestyle implications – it reframes the paradigm of urban living from one in which we live in our own households and don’t know the neighbours, to a social network in which we know exactly what our joint energy consumption is, and metaphorically (or even actually) stop on the stairs to exchange tips.
     

  • Self Assessment
    In order to translate understanding into action, people need to be able to see the real impact of their individual or group actions. Targets can help make information measurable and actionable, and simulating the impact of different alternatives can help people decide on the best course to take. Monitoring and immediate feedback can help people to see patterns in their own behaviour, showing when they are more or less compliant with their goals, and perhaps helping them to identify why. Success should be tied to rewards, from emotional satisfaction, such as having achieved the goal of using less than the average, to more tangible benefits such as financial savings or a bonus. At a community level, the ability to evaluate joint consumption and carbon emissions is an important tool for highlighting the need for further action, and the opportunity to reward sustained change.
     
  • Leading by Example
    Encouraging individuals to change is vital, but the impact has to occur at community, regional and national level. Governments and local authorities need to show their commitment to sustainable causes by facilitating open dialogue between public and private sectors, and offering public incentives to sustain change, for individuals, communities and small and big businesses alike. Positive feedback loops are needed to constantly refine processes and policies. More importantly, governments need to model the behaviours they are hoping to encourage in their populations. Change at this level can only occur once governments start to feel the pressure from their voters, and to believe that sustainability is a challenge we can no longer afford to procrastinate around.

 

A virtuous circle

The ultimate aim of behavioural change for sustainability has to be to make our lives better. If designers and policy makers can find a way to link more sustainable behaviours with a higher quality of life, then we have the problem cracked. If we can provide a context in which we can link personal satisfaction and self-actualisation with a lower rate of consumption, and a more sustainable lifestyle, then we can create a society in which wealth means not having more, but living better. To do this, people must be offered the right tools and information to effect change, as well as the conditions to create new tools and new values, and to communicate these to others. In the end, change becomes a self-reinforcing loop, in which design influences people to behave more sustainably, and people’s desire to act ‘green’ drives design and public policy.

2 November 2010

Exposing the magic of design

Jon Kolko
Jon Kolko has published on UXMatters a sample chapter of his forthcoming book, Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis.

Read chapter

2 November 2010

India: Land of many cell phones, fewer toilets

 
Ravi Nessman reports from Mumbai, India.

“The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar has no clean water for its shacks made of ripped tarp and bamboo. No garbage pickup along the rocky, pocked earth that serves as a road. No power except from haphazard cables strung overhead illegally.

And not a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 people.

Yet nearly every destitute family in the slum has a cell phone. Some have three.”

Read article

24 October 2010

Nokia Research touts 5 innovative mobile interfaces

Nokia gesture
Wired’s Gadget Lab posts five big ideas that are currently under development at Nokia Research Center that reveal some intriguing possibilities on how we will interact with our devices in the future.

Touchscreens everywhere
Nokia researchers are experimenting with turning any display — the flatscreen TV in your living room, or the big monitor in your study — into a touchscreen. All you need is a mobile phone with a camera, plus a special app.

Electronics that stretch like rubber
Electronically stretchable skins could change the shape of devices and make them fit like gloves on your hand

Devices than can smell
By placing a nanowire, ultrathin wires made of metallic or semiconducting material, on top of a chip, researchers can train the chip to recognize or “smell” substances that are placed close to the sensing surface.

Sign ‘S’ for Silence
Gestures could mean the end of pecking and hunting on mobile displays.

An electro-tactile experience
Electrovibration uses electrical charges to simulate vibration and friction — which can help bring the idea of textures to a touchscreen.

Read article

15 October 2010

Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa

Mobile Africa report
The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have jointly published the report entitled “Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa“.

The democratization of mobile telephony in Africa, its availability, ease of use and, above all, the extent to which it has been appropriated by the public, have made it a major success story. Very low-income populations are not only actively demanding access to mobile telephone services but also innovating, by creating the functions and applications they can use. Development is thus happening “from the bottom up” and an entire economy, both formal and informal in nature, has come into being to meet people’s needs. Many different actors – private, public, NGOs – are now mobilized.

Operators and manufacturers have successfully changed their economic model and adapted their products and applications to allow access to services at affordable prices. NGOs have in addition created a range of messaging- based services in different sectors. However, the future evolution of mobile telephony is not clear. A range of different approaches will co-exist, from SMS up to full Internet capacity, including experimental initiatives using smart phones and “netbooks”. Falling costs will lead to an increase in the number of phone devices with data receiving capacity. Individuals and companies involved in creating services or applications for development will need to take account of their users’ demographics and incomes, as well as the pricing systems of telecommunication companies in countries where they wish to operate. In this, States and regulating authorities have grasped the crucial role which they must play in promoting an investment-friendly environment with the goal of achieving universal access and stimulating innovation – key factors in achieving a “critical mass” of users.

The advent on the African continent of high-capacity links via submarine cables will change the ground rules and force operators to seek new sources of revenue. The inventiveness that has already been evident in mobile voice telephony will be needed once again if the “mobile divide” (in terms of costs, power supply, and so on) is not to widen.

This report takes stock of developments in this sector, which is crucial to Africa’s economic development, and suggests a number of possible directions it might take.

Download report

(via MobileActive)

15 October 2010

Device Design Day videos

Device Design Day
Kicker Studio organised on 20 August a Device Design Day in San Francisco, exploring the design of the next generation of products. Most videos are now online:

Stuart Karten: User-driven innovation [31:40]
Stuart Karten Design
The fast pace of technology development makes almost anything possible. The challenge that product developers face is implementing technologies in ways that meet customer needs and facilitate trust. In the hearing aid industry, technology allows hearing instruments to become smaller and smaller and opens up new possibilities for user interface. In taking Starkey’s hearing aids to the next level, Stuart Karten and his team at design and innovation consultancy SKD served as user advocates, making sure that Starkey’s advanced technology was developed into a family of products that meet the unique needs of 65- to 85-year-old end users. Karten will share the tools and strategies that SKD employed to maintain its focus on the end user throughout the product and interface development process.

Kim Goodwin: Convergent products, convergent process [37:57]
Author, Designing for the Digital Age
Interaction designers and industrial designers are kindred spirits in many ways, yet we tend to lean on somewhat different skills, biases, and design approaches. Many teams struggle with these differences, and the results of that struggle are visible in the telephones, remote controls, and even toaster ovens that drive us all a little bit crazy. So how do we get past atoms vs. pixels, while still benefiting from the different strengths of each discipline? No doubt there’s more than one answer, but the one that has worked for us is a convergent design process that incorporates both co-design and parallel design, but never sequential design in which one discipline drives the other. We’ll share that process—and the project management considerations that go with it—from both IxD and ID perspectives.

Dan Harden: Breaking through the noise [45:50]
Whipsaw
There are so many electronic devices, gadgets, and techy do-dads in this world, and quite frankly, most are junk. Every once in awhile one comes along and it’s different. It breaks through the noise. You dig it because it works flawlessly, it delivers real value, and it even has soul. Technology may enable it to BE, but design is what makes it sing. What are the factors that go into creating these kind of transcendent product experiences that resonate with soul? We will discuss this and share a few examples of how we interpret this illusive goal.

Mike Kuniavsky: Information as a material [34:03]
Author, Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design
We have passed the era of Peak MHz. The race in CPU development is now for smaller, cheaper, and less power-hungry processors. As the price of powerful CPUs approaches that of basic components, how information processing is used—and how to design with/for it—fundamentally changes. When information processing is this cheap, it becomes a material with which to design the world, like plastic, iron, and wood. This vision argues that most information processing in the near future will not be in some distant data center, but immediately present in our environment, distributed throughout the world, and embedded in things we don’t think of as computers (or even as “phones”).
In his talk Kuniavsky discusses what it means to treat information as a material, the properties of information as a design material, the possibilities created by information as a design material, and approaches for designing with information. Information as a material enables The Internet of Things, object-oriented hardware, smart materials, ubiquitous computing, and intelligent environments.

Julian Bleecker: Design fiction goes from props to prototypes [33:23]
Nokia / Near Future Laboratory
Prototypes are ways to test ideas—but where do those ideas come from? It may be that the path to better device design is best followed by creating props that help tell stories before prototypes designed to test technical feasibility. What I want to suggest in this talk is the way that design can use fiction—and fiction can use design—to help imagine how things can be designed just a little bit better.

Gretchen Anderson: Motivating healthy behaviors [21:49]
Punchcut
We’ve moved into an era where the gadgets we use affect our very being. Purpose-built medical devices are moving into the hands of consumers, and apps deliver healthcare over-the-air. This session looks at key concerns and best practices when designing medical devices and motivating healthy behaviors.

Jared Benson: One size does not fit all [20:57]
Punchcut
Are you inadvertently porting old UI paradigms to new contexts of use? Tomorrow’s devices need new affordances. I’ll share insights and considerations for designing distributed experiences across a range of converged devices.

Wendy Ju: Designing implicit interactions [24:31]
California College of Arts
Implicit interactions can interactive devices to help communicate cues and to provide feedback to make interactive devices easier, more effective and less infuriating. We’ll look at examples and design guidelines to help design good implicit interactions and avoid making inadvertent bad ones.

Ian Myles: More thought than you’d think
meep
How to go a little deeper on strategic design decisions with surprising results.

15 October 2010

What the developing world can teach us about technology

mobile + africa
“Creativity, Cost-Cutting & Keeping it Simple: what the Developing World can teach us about Technology” is the long title of a short feature story by Anna Leach on Shiny Shiny, a gadget blog, where she reports on a fascinating talk at CityCamp London.

“We’re selling ourselves short if we think the flow of innovation only goes way. There is a lot we can learn back from the developing world about the inventive uses they find for the technology we take for granted.”

Read article

11 October 2010

Experientia supporting Flemish applied research on mobility and sustainability

Flanders InShape
Experientia is excited to be working on two applied research projects for Flanders InShape, a Flemish design promotion agency that supports and advises small and mid-size companies in Flanders, Belgium on matters related to product development and design.

The ASSIST project, in collaboration with Enthoven Associates, is focused on improving mobility and communications for people with motor disabilities, whereas the EVENT project (conducted with FutureProofed) supports Kortrijk Xpo in becoming the most sustainable trade fair and congress complex in Belgium and one of the top five most sustainable fair complexes in Europe by 2020.

With these applied research projects, Flanders InShape aims to augment the efficiency and effectiveness of product development in Flanders and to improve the competitive position of Flemish companies through the development of products with higher added value for the customer.

ASSIST – Improving mobility and communications for people with motor disabilities

The Assist project, which Experientia conducts in collaboration with acclaimed Belgian design consultancy Enthoven Associates and care organisations Centrum voor Zorgtechnologie and In-HAM, aims to develop new concept ideas for assistive technologies for people with motor disabilities, using a people-centred design process. Although aimed at a Flemish context, the project focuses on international technological and design projects.

In the first phase of the project, Experientia has conducted a comprehensive benchmarking of current assistive device solutions for people with walking difficulties. The benchmark explores both on-body assistive devices, which are always in contact with motor disabled people, such as wheelchairs, rollators and standers; and assistive environments, including public transportation, mobile applications and accessibility.

Experientia will also contribute to the creation of scenarios for use during contextual observation to validate the design opportunities found in the benchmark. Enthoven Associates is currently conducting the user research and jointly the partners will then take the insights further, supported by a creative workshop to generate ideas, into design concepts.

EVENT – Sustainable event management project

The Event project sees Experientia team up with Futureproofed, a sustainable design consultancy, and Kortrijk Xpo, a conference and trade fair venue in Kortrijk, Belgium, to explore ways to make events more sustainable. The ambitious goal of this project is to make Kortrijk Xpo the most sustainable trade fair and congress complex in Belgium and one of the top five most sustainable fair complexes in Europe by 2020.

Trade fairs, congresses and events are key areas of concern for sustainability, because they involve a large number of diverse players both directly and indirectly (e.g. stand builders, lighting installers, textile manufacturers, etc.) and because time criteria often become more important during assembly, disassembly and transport, than any concern for sustainability.

This project will explore how impact can be best achieved, though good planning, preparation and usage of the right materials and products.

Futureproofed will carry out a carbon footprint analysis of Kortrijk Xpo, whereas Experientia will benchmark international best practice on sustainability for trade shows, expositions, and major public events. Together with Futureproofed, we will build a behavioural change framework, and conduct participatory workshops and concept development for more sustainable practices.

This exciting project builds on the themes that Experientia is currently exploring in our Low2No project in Helsinki, and is in keeping with our overall company commitment to sustainability.

6 October 2010

Bruce Sterling interview by Rhys Hughes

Bruce Sterling
Last week, La Stampa newspaper of Turin, Italy published an interview with Bruce Sterling, conducted by Welsh writer and essayist Rhys Hughes.

The complete English version of the interview has now been posted on fortykey (which by the way has a very interesting collection of essays). An excerpt:

Rhys: The ‘Internet of Things’ is a truly startling concept. I seem to remember that you once described it as “inconceivable before the 21st Century”. I find the prospect of everything in the world being linked together as alarming rather than uplifting, a threat to liberty. Are my concerns naive?

Bruce: I would agree that the privacy risks are always the first issues to strike thoughtful people. As people become more engaged with the many startling possibilities of the Internet of Things, they understand that those first concerns are primitive. They are not wrong, just simplistic.
It’s like learning about the railroad, and immediately thinking that it means that foreign spies will come to your town on the railroad. That is true. Yes, foreign spies really are a threat to your liberty, and they will use railroads. But railroads are alarming for many good reasons other than mere foreign spies.
The worst concern about a railroad is this: if a rival town gets the railroad, and your town doesn’t get that railroad, then your town dies. You will live a dead town. Posed in the rhetorical terms of the Internet of Things, this would mean a frightening “Internet of Things Gap.” This would be something like yesterday’s famous “digital divide.” When no one has it, then it might be bad to have it. When others really have it and you don’t, that deprivation is terrifying, unjust, evil. This would crush all your intelligent and skeptical reservations because it would reframe the debate in a way you could not counter.
The Internet of Things is indeed startling. It is also dangerous. But that’s just theory. To to have no real Internet is worse. To have no Internet while others do have it can be lethal. The Regione of Piemonte understood that problem, and that’s why I am able to type this to you on some very nice state-supported broadband.

Read interview

1 October 2010

Data visualisation as an actionable tool in our lives

Inflation
This week I watched the excellent online documentary “Journalism in the Age of Data“, which is a video report on data visualisation as a storytelling medium that Geoff McGhee created during a 2009-2010 Knight Journalism fellowship. I first didn’t write on it in Putting People First, as I considered it a media story. But I changed my mind.

Apart from the fact that this video provides great inspiration for interaction designers and interface designers of all sorts, and not just those working in journalism, it also inspires a wider reflection.

With people rapidly moving to a world inundated with data capturing devices and the resulting data streams, our challenge as UX designers is to create tools that make sense of these data, and transform this data flood into useful and actionable informational experiences that help us better conduct our lives.

Smart phone applicatins seem to me an intermediate step. Yes, indeed, one can find apps for almost any need and they are sometimes quite useful. But we cannot conduct our lives with hundreds of apps: one for parking, one for driving, one for shopping, one for dining, etcetera.

What could be the future of actionable data visualisations in a multi-sensorial world?

1 September 2010

Technology aside, most people still decline to be located

ShopKick
Mostly the young are interested in letting others know their physical location. Others are reticent for safety reasons, or against providing too much information. The New York Times reports:

“Internet companies have appropriated the real estate business’s mantra — it’s all about location, location, location.

But while a home on the beach will always be an easy sell, it may be more difficult to persuade people to start using location-based Web services.” [...]

“For now, many people say sharing their physical location crosses a line, even if they freely share other information on the Web.”

Read article

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!