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Posts in category 'Mark Vanderbeeken'

20 May 2008

Upcoming book on the “high end”

Future High Tide of High End
A few weeks ago we were contacted by Marco Bevolo of Philips Design who was looking for some advance feedback on the book he is writing together with co-authors Stefano Marzano (also Philips Design), Dr. Howard R. Moskowitz and Alex Gofman (president and vice-president of Moscowitz Jacobs Inc.). We were sent a galley copy for a first reaction.

The book, which has the tentative title “Future High Tide of High End” and will be published by Wharton School Publishing, provides a socio-cultural and people-centred understanding of the concept of luxury — more specifically prestige products for the masses (which they call “High End”) — with the aim of delivering insights and guidance for future business development in this sector.

Made possible by about seventy conversations, contributions and interviews with industry experts, thought leaders and opinion makers, the book is quite unique in its approach, and bound to become a must-read for anyone conceiving, developing and marketing higher-end consumer products and services.

A focus on the intersection of social trends, designer visions, and deep people understanding, allows the authors to propose a series of original insights, including a new, experience-based concept for the future of the industry, as well as a toolbox from which to create and understand new “High End” product and service offerings.

To understand what the soul of the High End is going to be in the near future, the authors also introduce an experimental method, the Rule Developing Experimentation (RDE) — with people having to evaluate pairs of future scenarios, with those data then statistically analysed to find out which underlying ideas are the real drivers. They then present the results of an original experimental study based on this method, that was conducted in four countries (US, UK, China and Italy) with more than 500 end-users, all from somewhat higher income brackets.

The book, which is currently in advanced editing (partly on the basis of our feedback), is bound to be published before the end of the year. The authors told us they will soon publish some more material on their website (such as an abstract, a table of contents, a sample chapter, etc.), so that also our readers can contribute their own insights and suggestions.

A small endnote is one of pride: this is the first public piece on the upcoming book. Marco said he would be happy if it came from his hometown (Torino, Italy) and so are we.

13 May 2008

Changing the Change conference looks very promising

Changing the Change
The three-day Changing the Change conference, which is about the role of design research in sustainable change and scheduled for 10-12 July in Turin, Italy, looks to become very interesting indeed.

The list of invited speakers and discussants features Bill Moggridge (IDEO); Geetha Narayanan (Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, India); Lou Yongqi (Tongji University, China); Mugendi M. Rithaa (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa); Aguinaldo dos Santos (Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil); Fumi Masuda (designer, Japan), Chris Ryan (University of Melbourne, Australia); Luisa Collina (Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy); Josephine Green (Philips Design); Roberto Bartholo (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Anna Meroni (Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy), Luigi Bistagnino (Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy); Nigel Cross (The Open University, UK); Victor Margolin (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA); and Ken Friedman (Danmarks Designskole, Denmark)

No less than 163 abstracts have been accepted, including our own. Take a look at the titles and the presenters to get an idea of the variety on offer, all within the wider theme of design for sustainability, or read a reflection on the selection by conference chair Ezio Manzini.

The topics sound great and I will enjoy attending, but I have to point out that the large majority of the papers come from academic institutions. In fact, there are only a handful of major companies (Intel and Philips) and design consultancies (such as Experientia) involved.

This is something bound to be different at another major international conference scheduled in Turin, Italy, the UPA Europe 2008 conference, taking place in December. Conference co-chair (and my business partner) Michele Visciola told me that many major international companies have submitted papers for this conference with the theme “usability and design: cultivating diversity”. More is to follow soon.

3 May 2008

Reviewing the CHI 2008 conference

CHI 2008
A few weeks ago I attended the CHI conference in Florence, Italy.

I was only there for a day and a half, and this being my first CHI conference, I am not in a position to give it a solid review.

One thing that stands out of course is that it has a strong academic angle, which can make some of the presentations and discussions quite irrelevant for practitioners such as me. On the other, there was a lot of emphasis on the term “user experience”, which came back in titles, abstracts, presentations and papers.

Combing through the (Mac unfriendly) conference DVD, I found quite a few treasures, and I selected 40 papers out of a total of 556, that I will be presenting in ten separate posts, under the headings: emerging markets, mobile banking, mobility, product design, security, social applications, social context, strategic issues, sustainability, and usability.

The conference is not set up in order to help you meet new people, and this is a real pity. You just tend to meet those you know already, or those whose presentations you attended. (Unless you are lucky enough to be a speaker of a well attended session, so everyone else knows you.)

During CHI, I conducted interviews with Bill Buxton (Microsoft), Elizabeth Churchill (Yahoo!) and Mike Kuniavsky (ThingM), on which I will report in the coming weeks. Also in the coming weeks I will publish reviews of the books: Sketching the User Experience by Bill Buxton and Keeping Found Things Found by William Jones.

Because of this blog, and in particular a post of praise, I was part of a panel (others were Elizabeth Churchill, Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko) on the relaunched Interactions Magazine, now under the inspiring and volunteer (!) leadership of the latter two. Check out the magazine!

24 April 2008

U² Understanding Users – a workshop in Brussels

U²
Design Flanders and Flanders In Shape organise a one-day conference and intensive training on user-centred design in the Flemish Parliament in Brussels on 22 May.

Experientia’s Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken (the author of this blog) are in charge of the afternoon workshop on ethnography.

The event web page explains the importance of empathy in the creation of a successful user experience and stresses the relevance of a user-centred design for small and medium size companies.

The day will start off with a series of presentations:

The afternoon will feature four parallel workshops:

  • Workshop 1: Justin Knecht of the Centre for Design Innovation (Ireland) will provide a practical “DIY” manual to understand users (mainly aimed at SME’s).
     
  • Workshop 2: Jan-Christoph Zoels and Mark Vanderbeeken of Experientia (Italy) will demonstrate the ‘ethnographic research’ as a new innovation method.
     
  • Workshop 3: Jurgen Oskamp and Tim Ruytjens of Achilles Associates (Belgium) will demonstrate the use of ‘personas’.
     
  • Workshop 4: Valerie L’heureux of the Human Interface Group (Belgium) will discuss ‘Design Patterns, a perfect technique for user-centred design’.
     

Patricia Ceysens, Flemish Minister of Economy, Enterprise, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade, will provide the closing speech.

Programme and registration: www.ucd.be

18 March 2008

A short interview on identity

Trendbuero
The people from the German consultancy Trendbüro published a short interview with Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken on the topic of identity.

It is part of their strategy to publicise their forthcoming Trend Day, which has the theme: “Identity Management – Recognition replaces attention”.

Mark is in very good company: they have also published interviews with Richard Florida, Willem Velthoven of Mediamatic, Hartmut Esslinger of frog design, and Dick Hardt of identity 2.0.

Read interview

12 March 2008

Art Center College opening up a global debate

Global Dialogues
The world of design and innovation has greatly changed in the last decade. The challenges are more complex, more intricate, and more systemic, and therefore require an increasingly holistic and multidisciplinary approach, especially in education.

Or in the words of Richard Koshalek, president of the Art Center College of Design:

“The educational requirements of complex fields such as design, coupled with advances in technology and communications, demand that colleges and universities deliver knowledge and experience at a global level.”

Design schools are engaged in various explorations on how to best address this new context. Some bring in new people on their faculty, others start off industry or public sector collaborations; some collaborate with other institutions, others even merge with them (as Helsinki’s art and design school is planning to do).

The renowned Art Center College of Design has done many of the above things as well, but is now going for something much more ambitious – it is breaking out of its own physical spaces (be them the Art Center itself, California or the USA in general), and are creating a series of what I would call “open innovation forums” on a global scale, all with the aim of “developing people”.

Last week Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken was invited (thank you, Rudy) to attend one of them: the Disruptive Thinking event in Barcelona.

Disclosure: Art Center paid for the trip and stay, on the condition that we would write an article. They didn’t say anything more, so we feel free to write what we think.

The Barcelona event, organised in collaboration with the prestigious ESADE business school, is the first in a series of global dialogues that Art Center is scheduling in a number of continents, as well as online. It is also the beginning of a wider initiative towards this European design city: the Art Center Barcelona Project.

The Art Center Barcelona Project is a joint platform between Art Center and ESADE for postgraduate education, research and business networking in the field of innovation and design. This time the emphasis is on content-based international collaborations, rather than conventional bricks-and mortar “branches” overseas (as Art Center tried unsuccessfully for ten years starting in 1986 in Vevey, Switzerland).

The benefits are of course obvious: a local partner has local knowledge, local networks, local staff and local facilities. The foreign partner brings in expertise and insights that will proof to be valuable to the local partner. And the investment for the Art Center is no where in the range of building a new school. Aside from that, there are also the brand implications and opportunities for recruitment and student admissions. In short, a win-win for both.

But there is more… 
 

A social engagement

Art Center has an initiative I really like: designmatters. Launched in December 2001, Designmatters at Art Center explores the social and humanitarian benefits of design and responsible business.

“We believe that design, responsibly conceived and applied, can contribute to solving such contemporary challenges as sustainable development and providing for basic needs and services, including adequate public health, safety, education, housing and transportation.”

Designmatters, which engages Art Center students, faculty and staff, focuses on four major themes: public policy, global healthcare, human sustainable development, and social entrepreneurship. In the last years Art Center has become quite active in developing countries, and thanks to its designmatters initiative, has become the first school to be designated a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It also is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS) as a civil society organisation.

Designmatters is crucially part and parcel of the Barcelona Project: collaborations with educational, civic and cultural institutions particularly on social and humanitarian issues are a key focus, which is part of the reason why there was such a strong emphasis on broader social and humanitarian issues during the Disruptive Thinking event that I attended.

One of the themes the Barcelona project particularly wants to address is the role of design in cities, which “must be redefined according to wider principles of sustainability — not only in relation to the environment, but also in terms of energy production and consumption, economic prosperity, social justice and cultural development.” And that’s how it should be.
 

Trying to think disruptively

Thinking in a disruptive way is not an easy thing to do, it requires good ideas and the power to make them stick so that they can actually become disruptive, otherwise they don’t make much impact. The overall themes of the Disruptive Thinking event — climate change, geopolitics, business, science, belief, and design, have of course a history of lots of disruptive thinking.

The organisers were courageous: they sought out “‘disruptive’ thinkers and practitioners who — despite the many risks involved — bring vital energy to bear on these issues and push them in new and productive directions for society.”

The one-day event was chaired by British journalist Richard Addis, who selected primarily British or UK-based presenters (with the exception of the ESADE dean) to be in charge of each of the six sessions. These six presenters in turn selected one to three guests each, which were of course also primarily from the US (insofar they were not at SXSW) or the UK. There wasn’t much of a presence from the rest of Europe or the world (besides the one courageous Ugandan journalist), and that was frankly a serious gap. Although the guests were very insightful and by times really funny (as only Brits can be), I really wanted more diverse viewpoints than the conference in the end was able to offer.

Josh Nakaya, an Art Center product design student did a truly excellent job at blogging the conference, and later upgraded them with responses. Also the video streams are now available. So I will refer to these summaries and videos in my comments below. There is also a webpage with the full line-up of speakers.

So let me start with tackling the sessions one-by-one.
 

Climate Change [summary - response - video]

In this first session, Harry Eyers of the Financial Times conversed with Peter Head of ARUP and Sara Wheeler, an environmental writer.

Harry Eyres started by asking the panellists if rediscovering our creativity could be a key to addressing climate change, or more specifically: “Can the threat and reality of climate change be an inspiration to redesign the way we live?” And that’s what they talked about, sort of. The panellists described the current status of climate change and tried their very best on imagining strategies — such as China’s eco-cities, the importance of systemic thinking, a different culture about how we relate to nature, a better land use policy, better leadership, or a renewed attention to the spiritual dimension — that could drastically reduce the total ecological impact we have on the planet.

In the end though I didn’t hear much new nor disruptive, whereas climate change itself is such a hugely disruptive development. I was expecting more insight (why not get WWF’s climate change specialist for instance?) and more innovative ways of thinking through the problem. Sara Wheeler made one strong statement that I really liked though: “Climate change is now part of the human experience, what it is to be human. That really needs to be thought about.” It also definitely set the right tone to start off the conference with this major environmental issue.
 

Geopolitics [summary - response - video]

Richard Addis chaired the session on geopolitics. His selection of guests was unusual but highly defendable: Ron Haviv who is a war photo journalist (with a website worth checking out), and Bernard Tabaire, who is the courageous, thoughtful and highly articulate editor of the Ugandan newspaper The Monitor, and keeps on getting in trouble with the Ugandan authorities. I liked the idea of talking about geopolitics with people who are living the effects of these choices in their daily lives.

Both Ron and Bernard are in the business of creating awareness and holding people responsible for their actions. Yet we need leaders, and although Richard started off with the right statement (“politics is about leadership”), the discussion quickly degraded into rather (perhaps disruptive but definitely) unrealistic ideas for change, such as abolishing armies or abolishing politicians, underlined by sharp criticisms of government behaviour.

Reflecting back on it, I agree entirely with what Josh Nakaya wrote in his response, of which I quote the conclusion:

“Again, the core questions were not really addressed: Are there any political ideas so radically disruptive that they could redesign for the better the way the great powers run the world? Can political ideas solve anything? Or are we doomed to a permanent state of violent flux? I believe the answers to these are yes, yes, and no. Mr. Tabaire presented the seed of a radical idea that was left untouched: developed countries, on the whole, face less life-threatening situations than undeveloped ones. Development starts with education. What then, of any army whose primary strategy is preemptive action and whose primary tactic is education?”

To me, it was a dialogue full of promise that somehow never made the cut of impactful debate. 
 

Business [summary - response - video]

This dialogue was the smallest of all: Lynda Sale, a partner of Sale Owen, a marketing consultant and artist discussed disruptive thinking in business with Alfons Sauquet, dean of the ESADE business school.

Sauquet was very much the wise academic who brought structure to it all, e.g. by his distinction between incremental and transformational innovation. He was also strong at pointing out how conservative businesses really are, and why they are often antithetical to innovation and that this also can also hamper recruitment. ESADE is doing some work for a French cosmetics company that came to realise that they couldn’t attract the best and the brightest anymore because what they were offering didn’t seem to be relevant anymore to these young people. So how would business need to change to address such a challenge? And how should businesses change to address the challenges of climate change or geopolitics?

In essence, Sauquet argues, companies need to rethink themselves so that they will provide an environment that attracts the best people so that innovation can take place. 
 

Science [summary - response - video]

This was definitely the best session, and if there is one video you should watch it is this one. I very much enjoyed when theoretical physicist Fotini Markopoulou told a baffled audience, after a brief but sharp introduction, that she had come to the conclusion that “space is not really a valid concept, it doesn’t exist”. She paused to give the audience the time to digest this highly disruptive idea, and then continued with an explanation of her thinking, concluding “If you believe space exists, it leads to all kinds of problems.”

Other “experts in what we don’t understand” on this panel, chaired by science writer Robert Matthews, were astronomer David Hughes and mathematician David Orell.

Aside from some more disruptive thoughts (why shouldn’t there be a conference on disruptive thinking on a planet 400 light years away from us?), the three scientists each underlined how much less they know now than they thought they knew at the beginning of their careers. This of course implies, as astronomer David Hughes said, a deep sense of humility, which is a lesson not just for scientists.
 

Belief [summary - response - video]

Bigna Pfenninger, founding editor of The Drawbridge, invited academic scientist Charles Pasternak and the endearing egyptologist Joann Fletcher.

Three main lines of thought came through from this discursive session: spirituality cannot just be pushed aside as a delusion; it’s impossible to understand large parts of our world and our history without understanding or appreciating belief systems; and belief – whether you think it is a placebo or not – is so powerful that it can affect circumstances.

The dialogue didn’t develop much, sometimes there wasn’t even much of a dialogue. My take back of it all was Joann Fletcher’s statement at the end: “I think globally there should be more respect for the individual. People should be respected for their own individual opinions within any of these ‘fundamentalist’ groups. I have every right to say what I think regardless of the religious set-up in my country. Individual voices need to be heard”.

Looking back, while I agree with Josh Nakaya’s comments on this session, I would also like to add that belief here was quite narrowly interpreted as religious belief or spirituality. Yet, we all have beliefs, convictions, assumptions, which are not justified by facts. We construct beliefs in order to manage our world. But our world often changes more rapidly than these belief systems do, which leads to all kinds of frictions, with people fighting the battles of the past, or politicians making decisions about the future with belief systems that in essence were defined by facts and experiences that go several decennia back in time. 
 

Design [summary - response - video]

Finally, Stephen Bayley, who is a design commentator and founder of the Design Museum, had three guests: Blaise Agüera y Arcas, an architect at Microsoft Live Labs, architect of Seadragon, and the co-creator of Photosynth, Chris Lefteri, a materials expert and product designer, and Thom Mayne, architect and founder of Morphosis.

A lot of time was spent on the discussion of abstract concepts like beauty or permanence, whereas other ideas — the relevance of ecosystem thinking for design, concepts such as engagement or mystery, and how we are nowadays increasingly driven by the experience of the interaction — were touched upon but not further developed. In the words of Josh Nakaya:

“I felt like design—as the final dialogue and the core focus of the organization sponsoring the dialogues—should have been the capstone of the whole event. However, the dialogue was scattered, focusing primarily on whether or not beauty exists, and whether permanence or impermanence should be a focus of designers’ work. The coming disruptions in industrial design, architecture, and planning and how they would affect our lives were to be discussed, but this question was never even recognized, much less addressed.”

Stephen Bayley was apparently strongly guided by an aesthetic, product-oriented concept of design: beauty and permanence are concepts that are to some extent relevant within this context. But design has moved on, so — quit naturally — the participants built on these concepts to make their own points, which often diverged strongly from the question at the outset.

In short

The event as it happened was not ideal: some of the presenters were not leading their sessions very well, not everyone had valuable ideas to contribute, the match between the theme of disruptive thinking and what was actually being discussed was absent by times, and there was not always a clear sense of direction.

It was clear that the sessions were underrehearsed, if rehearsed at all. Too often people went off on their own tangent, with a presenter unable or unwilling to pull them back on a clear path.

I also wondered afterwards to what extent I actually had heard new things, or whether the things I had heard I couldn’t just as easily have picked up in a book or a good magazine.

The answer is probably yes. But books and magazines are monologues by their nature. This was in concept and execution a series of dialogues. In the beginning of this article I described how this Barcelona event fits into a wider strategy of open collaboration, open communications and social engagement. This is not just a valuable and laudable approach, but also one which is highly relevant and timely in contemporary society. We need more of these initiatives, not less. They have to be fine-tuned and improved, no doubt, but in essence we need dialogues and collaboration between disciplines, between different parts of society, between different regions in the world. The world has become too complex for each of us to figure things out by themselves.

And that is what to me these Global Dialogues are really about.

I also hope that Art Center will deliver on its commitment to continue the conversation online, to have a continuous dialogue. The event blog is now basically dead, and there have been no comments whatsoever on any of the posts that I could find. So probably this is not the right tool – a new one needs to be developed. 
 

What about the US?

The Art Center is an American school, its students are based in California. How can they participate in the global dialogues? In fact, many of the Art Center events are also taking place in California: the recent two-day summit on Systems, Cities & Sustainable Mobility (proceedings are already available – the next summit is in February 2009), and the upcoming Serious Play conference.

7 March 2008

A conversation about Torino with Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling
Today Torino World Design Capital published an interview Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken recently conducted with Bruce Sterling. This time not about spimes, ubiquitous computing or digital fabrication, but about his experience with the city where he lived for the last six months.

Bruce likes Torino and in this interview he gives quite a few reasons why. He goes into much detail about why “Turin is really a 21st Century” and how “it has somehow managed to deal with problems that many, many other cities, regions, cultures and nations have not yet faced up to.”

“Turin,” he says, “is one of those places that appeal to my temperament. If I were an Italian person, I would likely have been a Turinese.”

He also shares with us a content of a new story he has been writing:

“Yes, it’s a fantasy story set in Turin. The protagonist is a FIAT executive, but he’s also a necromancer. The story is set in an esoteric Turin where all the magical things that are said about Turin by New Agers are factually true.

There’s a chunk of the New Cross here and the Holy Grail is here. The Shroud of Turin really is drenched in the blood of Jesus Christ himself; there are all these ley-lines and axes of mystical power. Our hero who is an R&D investment guy at FIAT, is called into hell by Gianni Agnelli, who is dead, yet still upset about urban development issues in Torino. So he calls this former chairman down to hell to have a board meeting.

My hero, the necromancer, is accompanied by his spiritual advisor, an Egyptian mummy from the Museo Egizio whom he raised from the dead. This mummy accompanies him now and gives him good advice. It’s like the “Lone Ranger and Tonto” thing – him and his mummy. It’s a comical story, exaggerated and satirical, a fable about Turin and its issues. I could never have written it without being here.”

Bruce is now in the last days of preparation of the Share Festival that he has been curating. Come and see it if you can.

The interview is suffering a bit from poor layout and it is not so easy to see what my questions are, for instance. All the links have also magically disappeared.

Read interview

4 February 2008

Is our blog “Putting People First” still of value to you?

Putting People First
Experientia’s blog “Putting People First” has been going for three years now and contains several thousand posts.

Lots of things have changed in those three years. The term “experience design” has become mainstream and is sometimes even over-used; industry has become more open to our ideas; people are increasingly asking for simplicity and usability; and our company has grown quickly and is now very much on solid footing. Meanwhile, some themes have become much more dominant, such as sustainability (first and foremost), ubiquitous technology, mobility, presence, virtual worlds — to name just a few.

So what is the value of this blog for you now? Does it have more or less relevance than a year ago? Which stories do you like and which not? What should change and what not? Should we continue with this at all? Please comment widely and identify broadly who you are or what type of organisation you work for, so that we can understand the context of your comments. You can also write me directly at info – at – experientia – dot – com.

13 January 2008

Our contribution to Core77

Core77
As most of you know, Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken also writes for Core77.

Here is the list of recently posted contributions, meanwhile 70 items long.

11 December 2007

Interview with Hilary Cottam

Hilary Cottam
It took Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken quite some effort to schedule an interview with Hilary Cottam, UK Designer of the Year 2005 and former director of RED [archive site], the meanwhile closed innovation unit of the UK Design Council, and now one of the founding partners of Participle. But it was worth it.

Participle (which now finally has a webpage) is a new social enterprise designing the next generation of public services, with a focus on the big and seemingly intractable social issues of the 21st century. The two other Participle co-founders are Charles Leadbeater, the internationally renowned thinker and innovator, and author of the book We-Think, and Colin Burns, designer and formerly the CEO of IDEO London. The initiative is supported by NESTA, where Participle has its offices.

In the 30 minute interview which covered as much ground as a normal person can do in 60 minutes – Hilary is a fast talker – we discussed many of the areas that are dear to this blog, including co-creation with end-users, the power of design to transform public services and provide new approach to address seemingly difficult problems such as diabetes, and how to constructively deal with an ageing population. She also talks about her new Participle venture of course.

The interview was published on the website of Torino World Design Capital, where the author of this blog provides monthly contributions.

Read full story

2 December 2007

UXnet launches new site

UXnet
UXnet, the user experience network, launched its new website this week, with some major improvements.

UXnet is a platform organisation that provides tools and resources for the user experience community. It works with a worldwide network of local ambassadors.

The new site, which has been more than a year in the making and now runs on WordPress, makes it far easier for the local ambassadors to profile the UX activities and landscape in their local areas.

Major attention has been put into the events calendar, which is now key the feature of the site: it has become a fledgling application that brings in events from all user experience disciplines and locales around the world.

Selected posts from the Putting People First blog are also — automatically — included in the UXnet news. News items from other sources will be included later on as well.

Even though as a board member of UXnet, I have been somewhat involved in this redesign, the site is really based on the hard work of Keith Instone, who squeezed much of the relaunch into his tight schedule. As Lou Rosenfeld wrote (and I totally agree with): “Keith is an incredible team player and hard worker who, in his positive and low-key way, successfully collaborates with a diverse collection of backgrounds and egos. Keith really is the model of what a user experience professional should be. So it’s not surprising that UXnet has named its volunteer award after him. Thank you, Keith!”

UXnet is currently in the process of expanding its vision and charter, and the website is designed to scale and enhance the organisation’s future activities.

So — and I am once again quoting Lou Rosenfeld here — if you’ve had a “wait-and-see” attitude about UXnet, this is a good time to take another look. And if you’re interested in participating as an “ambassador” for your area, we want you.

3 November 2007

Simplicity tomorrow

The Simplicity Event
Last week Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken attended the Philips Simplicity Event in London. It was a mixture of a vision presentation, a prototype exhibition, a networking event, and a marketing opportunity. The prototypes on show were conceptual designs for social care environments five years into the future. Developed by Philips Design, they represent the direction of the company’s thinking for future product development.

Everything was driven by a vision worded by Stefano Marzano, CEO of Philips Design, as follows: “There is no good design that is not based on the understanding of people”.

From the Philips press release:

“At the three-day event, Philips [showcased] to a select group of customers, business partners, healthcare professionals and public sector representatives its vision of how in five years the clever use of technology married with intuitive, personalized design can lead to unexpected approaches to caring for people’s well-being at home, in the hospital and on the move.

Philips approaches caring for people’s wellness from three perspectives – caring for guests, caring for families and caring for patients – a focus that reflects Philips drive and commitment to creating concepts and products that are designed around people. [...]

The theme at the 2007 Simplicity Event of “caring for people’s well-being” builds on ongoing societal trends that Philips has been tracking closely: populations are getting older, healthcare is increasingly consumer-driven and business travel is now more extensive and hectic. In light of these trends, Philips employed the creativity and expertise of anthropologists, sociologists, designers, engineers and business leaders to come up with design concepts that address these converging trends. The result: concepts that take a holistic approach to healthcare, in which health and wellbeing touch on all aspects of a person’s daily life. Focusing on relaxing, healing and providing enjoyment, design concepts at the show explore the role of simplicity in Philips three core businesses – healthcare, lighting and consumer lifestyle.”

Design concepts were demonstrated in “real-life” scenarios. One trend Philips is exploring is the growing prevalence for couples to start families later in life. In the “Celebrating Pregnancy” design concept, Philips showcased how through advanced technology and a creative approach to design, prospective parents can experience “the wonder of a view inside the womb”.

Ambient Healing Space“, offering patients the ability to make their hospital stay more comfortable while allowing hospital staff a method of involving patients in their own care and “Daylight“, a hotel scenario suggesting that travel to different time
zones can be refreshing rather than exhausting.

- Press release | Background information
- More information about the concept collection
- Press release: Philips introduces simplicity to the hotel experience
- Videos: Simplicity Event | The Making Of | Megawhat.TV coverage

Several other sites have written about the London event, including AV Review, Design Taxi, Engadget, Geeks Are Sexy, I4U News, Pocket Lint (Wellness concepts, Hospital concepts, Daylight window, and Megawhat live), Tech.co.uk, and Trusted Reviews (Part One, Part Two, Showcase)

Some older concepts can be seen on the Simplicity Event website.

9 October 2007

Interview with Jonathan Kestenbaum of NESTA on innovation and design

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

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

Some quotes:

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

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

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

Read full interview

13 September 2007

A virtual think tank on regional innovation in Belgium

C-Mine
Since July we at Experientia have been working with the Belgian City of Genk and the Belgian Province of Limburg on helping them to define what a future design centre to be located within the spectacular C-Mine former mining area could become, and how it could be integrated with other facilities on the site (such as the Media & Design Academy and the JAGA Experience Factory).

[See also these previous posts on C-Mine and Genk]

We are treating the project as a typical user-centred design project, starting off with an extensive assessment of needs and requirements of users and stakeholders. These insights will then be brought together in a series of prototypical ideas that we are going to test again, before a final constellation will be agreed upon, and formalised into a legal entity.

At this stage it is too premature to say what the new design centre might focus on, but in the current research phase we are exploring many options: in terms of design – from product to service to strategic design; in terms of stakeholders; in terms of sectors we might be working with – e.g. business and industry, social services, public structures; and in terms of territory – considering only the Province or also its immediate surroundings (Maastricht, Leuven, Aachen, Eindhoven). At this exploratory stage we want to keep an open mind before we start making choices and assigning priorities.

The Province of Limburg is the region where Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken was born. He hasn’t lived there in several decades, in fact he haven’t lived in Belgium since 1994. Not surprisingly, much has changed. There is a new dynamism in the region, a belief that things are changing in a good direction, that Limburg could have a promising future. There is also a high quality of institutional leadership. Mark’s impressions are still fairly limited but energising nevertheless.

Hence our idea to bring together some Limburgers or Belgians, who may or may not be living abroad, are active in the design and design innovation area, care for the place they come from, and want to participate in an online think tank on regional innovation in that area. In fact, also non-Belgians are welcome to join, provided they know the area somewhat, for instance people from the neighbouring countries.

We are not yet entirely sure how we will structure this process, but to start off with we have created a Facebook group called C-Mine and a Yahoo Group that you can join. Once we have a small group of people on board, they will get to know more about the project and how they can contribute.

8 August 2007

Turin 2008 on Italian slow design, Irish design innovation and doing good

Slow Food
Three new articles on the website of Turin 2008, World Design Capital (all written or edited by Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken):

slow+design – interview with Giacomo Mojoli, Slow Food spokesman
Slow Food, the international ethical movement about good, clean and fair food, has been working a lot lately on developing a slow approach to design (see my earlier report on a small international conference on this topic last year in Milan). Last week I interviewed Giacomo Mojoli to get a better understanding of this initiative. Interestingly he speaks a lot about the meaning of strategic design, service design, experience design and sustainable sensoriality, and raises some controversial ideas about the importance of imperfection, limitation and technological restraint in our design thinking.

Doing Good and Doing Better
Nik Baerten of Belgian foresight consultancy Pantopicon writes about how the design-world appears to be especially active in upping the stakes on doing good.

Center for Design Innovation, Ireland
Then there is also an article by myself setting out the vision behind the Centre for Design Innovation, which is at the heart of a ten-year strategy to push design up the business agenda in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Their approach is all based on user-centred innovation.

8 August 2007

Second thoughts on Second Life

Second Life
Lately a lot of people seem to have had second thoughts on Second Life.

A wave of articles was published recently on how marketers are not getting the returns they were expecting, how deserted it is, how it is all about sex and pranks, how it has become a virtual nanny state, and even how terrorists are using it to plan attacks.

Leaving aside for now the discussion to what extent this is just negative hype, it does make sense to see Second Life as an experimental environment where we can prototype new interaction and communication paradigms. Experimenting in these virtual worlds can also help us understand and imagine a future where a mix of real and virtual worlds will become increasingly prevalent.

I can see four good reasons for businesses, institutions and experience designers to be present in Second Life.

1. Prototyping of new participatory communication paradigms often involving very targeted and selected communities
A lot of lectures take place in Second Life. In fact, more than 300 universities, including Harvard and Duke, use Second Life as an educational tool. Some educators conduct entire distance-learning courses there; others supplement classes. Also big companies such as IBM and Intel use these graphics-rich sites to conduct meetings among far-flung employees and to show customers graphical representations of ideas and products. IBM went even as far to take the unusual step of establishing official guidelines for its more than 5,000 employees who inhabit “Second Life” and other online universes. Philips Design uses Second Life “to gain feedback on innovation concepts, engage residents in co-creation and obtain a deeper understanding of potential opportunities in this virtual environment”. And the Italian bank BNL and others are using virtual worlds to create communities to recruit some of their future employees, especially for more creative or technical job openings. Even something simple as chat is an entirely different experience on Second Life, with the other person’s presence is no longer communicated through an MSN-style presence icon with a small photograph or drawing but instead through a full three-dimensional moving avatar.

2. Prototyping of new interaction paradigms
Researchers at MIT are building realistic training simulators in Second Life, often controlled through a Wiimote. Some are even creating simulations for companies, such as a medical-devices firm, a global-energy company focused on power-plant training, and a pest-control firm — all looking to reduce training costs. In the words of one researcher, “the ability to easily integrate a wide range of psychomotor activities with simulations running on standard computer platforms will change the ways people interact with computers.”

3. Experimentation in an unconventional digital environment
These virtual worlds may be primitive still, but if we think of it, we are already living in an enriched world where our interactions with companies and banks, institutions and universities, cities and public services, are no longer just based on a physical communication paradigm. Instead they have become highly mediated by technologies. This will continue to grow. Our interactions will not only become more mobile but also more involving, more three-dimensional, and more experiential. Virtual worlds will be important, no matter what. There will be new types of interfaces – as already alluded to here and here and here – and new types of feedback, and it makes sense for forward looking companies to explore these new ways of reaching out to and involving their customers.

4. Virtual laboratories to understand human behaviour
Also researchers are exploring Second Life and other virtual worlds. A recent article in the journal Science addresses how researchers are getting insights into real life by studying what people do in virtual worlds, suggesting that virtual worlds could help scientists studying ideas of government and even concepts of self, while other researchers are looking at how behaviour peculiar to online worlds differs from that in real life. Also our colleagues from Adaptive Path are involved in this type of research.

2 July 2007

Recent stories on the Turin 2008 World Design Capital website

Torino 2008 World Design Capital
A few months ago Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken started doing some writing for the Turin 2008 World Design Capital website, and will continue to do so until the end of 2008.

The site has just been refreshed with an interview with Marie-Josée Lacroix, design commissioner of the City of Montreal; an essay on design and sustainability by Niti Bhan; a short overview of the history of the UK Design Council; and some stories from the international press.

For the first edition of the online magazine, Mark interviewed Ranjit Makkuni, wrote an essay on people-centred design, profiled the Nagoya Design Center, and zoomed in on the thinking of Mike Kuniavsky.

Feel free to contact us (mark followed by experientia dot com) with comments, suggestions, criticisms and proposals.

10 June 2007

Spanish translation of engageID interview with Mark Vanderbeeken

Experientia
Somebody seems to have a lot of time on his hands but we don’t complain.

Luis López Toledo, a Chilean industrial designer, just posted a Spanish translation of a rather lengthy interview with Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken, originally published in September last year by engageID, the student newsletter of the highly acclaimed Chicago-based Institute of Design (part of the Illinois Institute of Technology).

López Toledo also recently posted a Spanish translation of the interview Mark did last year with Anne Kirah, former senior design anthropologist at Microsoft’s MSN Customer Design Centre, and currently dean of the new 180º Academy in Denmark.

- Read interview in Spanish
- Read interview in English (see also below) (alternate site)

6 June 2007

Experientia takes on leading role in UXnet, the global user experience network

Experientia_logo
Mark Vanderbeeken, senior partner of Experientia and the driving force behind the experience design blog Putting People First, has taken on the role of communications director of UXnet, the global user experience network.

In his new function, which is on a volunteer basis and additional to his other commitments, Mark will be a key participant in architecting UXnet’s digital communication channels, while setting strategic communications objectives and overseeing the execution of tactical communications across media, and to both internal and external stakeholders.

“We are really excited to have Mark joining UXnet in this critical role,” said Dirk Knemeyer, president of the UXnet Board of Directors, in a statement on the UXnet website. “His experience and success in the user experience community will be a key contributor to moving UXnet forward, particularly in helping to accelerate our international agenda.”

UXnet, the global user experience network, exists to make connections among people, resources, and organizations involved in User eXperience (UX) anywhere in the world. A network of 95 local ambassadors represent 72 locales in 28 countries on six continents. The organisation also facilitates and promotes collaboration with all key UX-related professional organisations.

Multiple online tools (e.g., an evolving conference calendar) are currently being designed and implemented.

The UXnet Board of Directors consists of Dirk Knemeyer (Involution Studios), Louis Rosenfeld (Rosenfeld Media), Whitney Quesenbery (Whitney Interactive Design) and Keith Instone (IBM). Mark Vanderbeeken will join biweekly board meetings and eventually become a full voting member of the board.

23 April 2007

Experientia launches Italian version of Putting People First

Putting People First in italiano
We are very pleased to announce that we have created an Italian version of Putting People First.
Siamo molto lieti di annunciare la realizzazione di una versione italiana di Putting People First.

It contains summaries of all the articles of the English version of the professional blog and goes back nearly 8 months – to September 2006. The blog, which contains about 450 posts in all, is in essence identical to the English one (just a bit shorter) and features all the functionalities that the English version has.
Questa contiene i riassunti di tutti gli articoli contenuti nella versione inglese del blog professionale relativamente agli ultimi 8 mesi, da settembre 2006. Il blog, contenente circa 450 post, è sostanzialmente identico a quello inglese (solo un po’ più sintetico) e le stesse funzionalità disponibili nella versione .

The English site does now no longer include weekly Italian summaries and older summaries have been removed from the site so that they will – surely to the delight of many – no longer show up in search results.
Il sito inglese, quindi, non conterrà più le sintesi settimanali in italiano, e le sintesi datate sono state rimosse dal sito, per cui non saranno più ricercabili – sicuramente per la felicità di molti – tramite la funzione di ricerca.

People who have subscribed to the Italian summaries via rss or email, do not have to change anything. They will now get individual Italian article feeds or article emails instead of the weekly summaries.
Le persone che avessero sottoscritto le sintesi italiane via rss o email, non devono apportare alcuna modifica. Adesso loro riceveranno i feed dei singoli articoli in italiano o email degli articoli, anzichè la sintesi settimanale.