Monday, 8 December 2008

Public Services by Design, Design Council (UK)

The Design Council has been actively working on developing a new programme, Public Services by Design, looking at how Designers and design can help improve the public sector in the UK. The first workshop, hosted by the Design Council on 12 November 2008, has been disseminated online here, with full descriptions (words and videos) of what was presented, discovered and discussed.

The Design Council's Research Team also published a short Briefing titled, 'The role of design in public services' which can be downloaded here.

Furthermore, John Thackara writes, for the Design Council, about Transforming Public Services of which he discusses what happened in Dott 07 (and how), and some case studies from the programme.

Stay tuned here and/or at Design Council online for further developments on Public Service by Design.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A sudden surge in Service Design this month

Hrm. Is it only because I am diving back into the literature this month or all of a sudden is everyone writing about Service Design? Here's some things I have picked up in the past few days:

Design Management Review on Service Design
Roberto Saco and Alexis Goncalves write Service Design: An Appraisal offering us "an overview of the field and practice of service design, including a definition (not as odd as it sounds, considering the wealth and breadth of issues that contribute to the design of services) and a look at how such companies as Ritz-Carlton, Herman Miller, and Egg Banking incorporate service into their design strategies. They also discuss trends in service design, including IBM's SSME (service science, management, and engineering) initiative, which seeks to encourage service-related research, and the UK Design Council's RED project, which explores the impact of design on social issues." You can download more Service Design articles from the issue here.

Fast Company Magazine: Using Design to Crack Society's Problems
Interesting how the DMI leaves us at the end on the topic of social issues.. This month, Fast Company Magazine profiles Hiliary Cottam and her company, Participle. Here' a bit of what they have to say: "Cottam is one of a new wave of design evangelists who are trying to change the world for the better. They believe that many of the institutions and systems set up in the 20th century are failing and that design can help us to build new ones better suited to the demands of this century. Some of these innovators are helping poor people to help themselves by fostering design in developing economies. Others see design as a tool to stave off ecological catastrophe. Then there are the box-breaking thinkers like Cottam, who disregard design's traditional bounds and apply it to social and political problems. Her mission, she says, is "to crack the intractable social issues of our time." View the entire article here.

Fast Company Magazine: Three More Who Design for Sociey
A little on what 3 others namely, Ezio Manzini, Marcia Lausen, and George Kembel are all doing in the same social design space.

Design Council Magazine: Service Design issue
The Design Council have archived all issues of their Design Council Magazine (DCM). Check out DCM Issue 3 which is mostly about Service Design.

Service Design Conference Amsterdam
And don't forget this one happening in a month's time. More info here.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Universities exploring Service Design

Following on from the previous post, here are some Universities I know of exploring, researching and/or teaching (usually as a subject) Service Design. To date, there is no running course in Service Design (but I am aware there are definitely some on the cards shortly).

Northumbria University (UK)
In 2006, Northumbria University held the first Service Design conference called ISDN (International Service Design Northumbria). Since 2006 the University has held 2 other conferences around Service Design, one later in 2006 and the most recent, this year in April (download presentations and listen to podcasts here). I am currently doing my PhD research out of Northumbria and 2 other peers of mine are also exploring PhDs with strong Service Design themes.

Birmingham City University (UK)
Birmingham City University’s Service by Design programme is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and seeks to raise awareness of Service Design in SMEs both in the private and public sectors. The SbD programme does this by developing their academics as “Innovation Managers” to work with SMEs. In September, SbD held a Dissemination Event explaining the progamme, experiences, learnings and results. You can download a presentation file of the event here.

Imagination Lancaster (UK)
Imagination Lancaster is a research lab situatated at Lancsaster University. One of the lab’s focal areas is Service Design undertaking research and projects into service design models, processes, evaluation and tools. See details here.

Carnegie Mellon University (USA)
Since 2004, CMU has taught and been involved in Service Design. CMU have also hosted conferences called Emergence in 2006 and 2007 exploring the boundaries of Service Design. Their next conference will be in 2009.Having worked with CMU design graduates before, I am quite familiar with their robust user-centered design methodology applicable to both products and services.

Kingston University (UK)
This year, just began a Master programme called Design for Development, which "focuses on the value of design as a vehicle for addressing social and ecological concerns in both the developed and developing worlds." Core modules include strands dealing with service design and sustainability, and optional modules include subjects that deal with human rights and politics.

Koln International School of Design, Koln University (Germany)

Since 1995, Koln University has been involved in Service Design research, teaching and publishing, spearheaded by Professor Birgit Mager. In 2005, Klon joined forces with other international Universities and design practices to set up The Service Design Network. In 2006 Mager founded sedes research (the Centre for Service Design Research) at Koln University.

Polytechnico di Milano (Italy)
Having produced some of the first Service Design PhDs, Polytechnico di Milano also runs a Master of Science course in Product-Service-Systems Design.

Domus Academy (Italy)
Offers 8 Masters degrees with Service Design strands throughout.

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
In 2009, Laurea University will offer a Master of Business Management degree progamme in Service Innovation and Design. Click here to see more detail.

Kuopio Academy of Design, Savonia University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
A source tells me they are about to launch a BA in Service Design in Autumn 2008. I’d be keeping up to date with their News page to see when it finally launches.

Linköping University (Sweeden)
The University is currently undertaking projects around developing design techniques for service development, projects in healthcare, IT and learning labs for innovation. More details here.

Said Business School, Oxford University (UK)
This project, named Designing for Services in Science and Technology-based Enterprises (click on the name to go to the blog), ran from 2006-7 and looked at what would happen if you put Service Designers with science-and-technology SMEs. Academics also participated in the project, attending several workshops throughout the project process to make observations on what was happening. A key deliverable was a report published earlier this year, edited by Lucy Kimbell and Victor Seidel who lead the project.

University of Technology, Sydney (Australia)
As mentioned in an earlier post a few months ago, I completed my undergraduate design degree at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Service Design is a major one can do in their Master of Design Degree.

Here are some further additions to the piece I have been informed about.

(From Jeff Howard's Design for Service blog)

Rhode Island School of Design (USA)
Rhode Island's Service Design Studio is currently running a course which "explore[s] opportunities, tools and methods in the emerging field of Service Design."

Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design & The Danish Design School (Denmark)
The schools, in collaboration, will be piloting a Master of Interaction Design programme with a large Service Design component. See curriculum outline here.

(From Nico Morelli)

Aalborg University, School of Architecture and Design (Denmark)
Nico says, "We have been teaching design of Product Service Systems for about 7 years now, as a part of the Master in Industrial Design. Some of the outcome of this activity and some research, methodological and strategic results of our research is available at the wiki"

(From John)

Illinois Institute of Design (USA)
Are currently teaching a class called 'Services in an Evolving Society.' The description reads, "This class will discuss the trends driving this dichotomy of constraint and abundance and explore how services can uncover new possibilities for people to live well in a resource constrained world."

(From Qin)

University of Dundee (Scotland)
The University's Master of Design degree covers Service Design in its focus on multi-disciplinary design research and practices.

Thanks Jeff, Nico, John and Qin!

Just in...

Glasgow School of Art (Scotland)
Their Product Design degree teaches Service Design, recognising that the term 'product' needs to also encompass the design of systems, services, interactions & organisational behaviours.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Design-led consultancies involved in service design (public and/or private sector)

I get asked this question a lot, so I thought I'd provide a list and links below, of design-led consultancies (in alphabetical order) I know of currently involved in service design (please note that most of these consultancies offer many other services so their websites are definitely worth exploring!).

Most of the following consultancies will be UK-based as I currently undertake my research and reside in the UK. Please feel free to contact me if you know of any others, or if you are one!

United Kingdom
Design Options
Direction Consultants
Fresh voice
More Associates
Spirit of Creation
Teko London
We are curious

31 Volts (Netherlands)
Copenhagen Living Lab (Denmark) (Netherlands)
Ego (Finland)
Experienta (Italy)
fuelfor (Spain)
IDEO (Europe)
live|work (Oslo)

USA & Canada
Adaptive Path
Design Continuum
Peer Insight
Work Worth Doing

2nd Road
Future Canvas
Proto Partners

In the coming weeks I’ll do more posting lists on intuitions I know of, such as Universities and think tanks, also exploring Service Design, and a few blogs that I visit frequently. Keep tuned!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Service Design Conference 2008 Amsterdam

Image from Conference website

Great speaker line up (often called the "usual suspects"), great workshop leaders and great city to bring together Service Design practitioners, students and academics.

Check it out and register here.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Co-designing and co-creating at Procter and Gamble

Innovation is part of everything at P&G: In Harvard Business Review’s 100th episode of IdeaCast, A.G. Lafley, Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble talks about innovation and design...

There has been quite a lot of talk on the web lately about P&G and their innovative practices. Both my online business and design feeds have been dropping P&G’s name everywhere so I wanted to find out what the fuss was all about, and I thought I would go straight from the horse’s mouth.

A recent Harvard Business Review’s IdeaCast, interviewed Chairman and CEO of P&G, A. G. Lafley on what innovation is in P&G and how it is done.

I was not surprised to find Lafley mentioned that they place the customer, or end-consumer, at the centre of everything they do (“the customer is the boss”), but I was surprised to find he mentioned the desire to co-create and co-design with customers at P&G. It was not so much the idea that P&G might be doing this that surprised me (well, actually yes it is), but the rapid familiarity a big business has with phrases that are common (or aren’t they?) in the design world.

Just how quickly are businesses able to grasp design approaches? And how much of an issue is this for the design industry and designers? Or is it already an issue and are we missing the boat?

A few other things worth mentioning is that Lafley was surprisingly open about the ‘how’ of P&G innovation and in a very detailed way. He outlined key aspects of the P&G Innovation Review Process which require:
  • Having the right people in the same place and at the same time
  • Having a conversation around critical issues and
  • Having these conversation around posters of which Lafley calls “low tech in a high tech innovation world.”
The role of leadership is critical in P&G’s innovative practices. Lafley calls himself a CIO- Chief Innovation Officer, and his role is to ask the critical questions in the sessions and also ensure that everything the business does is closely aligned to the business strategy.

At the end of the podcast, Lafley was asked how he keeps people motivated at P&G. Lafley responded by saying that it wasn’t him that was responsible for motivation, but instead it was customer’s enthusiasm for the new ideas and the potential impact new P&G products could have on the lives of people.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Changing the Change in Turin Italy

Geoff (boyfriend) and Ben (fellow Northumbria PhD peer) called me a “tough crowd” when I gave them my feedback on the Changing the Change conference which was recently held in Turin, Italy between 10-12 July 2008.

But having seen some of the blogging on the conference, such as here on Design Altruism Project, I don’t feel like such a tough crowd. My biggest gripe of the conference was the fact that is was a design conference with an abundance of poorly designed and illegible presentation slides. This was an issue raised at the DMI conference I attended earlier this year and I think we, as audiences and designers, should demand and do better.

Having said that, the keynotes and invited speakers are to be applauded for their passion, charisma and quality of presentation. Ezio Manzini hardly put a foot wrong with his opening presentation and he nailed it when he said the conference really was “field research” for all.

This is the thing that I have realised having attended a number of conferences now. Sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are bad, but no matter what, each time it is field research for benchmarking your own research and gathering new and fresh ideas, which may not come directly from the conference content, but hearing others just makes you think. And think about your own work.

I also enjoyed Nigel Cross’s presentation on the opening day. He did a good job to lift academic design research out of the drudgery saying that academic design research was beyond practice and was about clarifying what we do, and it should also inform design skills for constructive change. He further noted that academic design research should be developing knowledge that is easily articulated, communicated and replicable. All very important in our journey to bridging that divide between research and practice.

The invited speakers were also very interesting. I thought Geetha Narayanan’s presentation on Design in India really held the audience’s attention. She presented both philosophies of creative thinkers in India and gave some real world examples of sophisticated systems designs in India such in the case of milk production company, Amul, a network of people co-operating for milk production, marketing and distribution. It was clearly a sustainable system right down to the involvement of women in rural areas who were given financial independence for bringing the fresh milk to the factory. Close to the end of her presentation, Narayanan said, “design is not an abstract concept” in India, and I felt that both summed up her presentation really well and what design and sustainability should be all about.

Some of the notable presentors and presentations I attended are summarised below (with links to their papers):

Francois Jegou et al

Discussed the results of the Creative Communities for Sustainable Lifestyles project, which gathered stories of creative ideas by communities for sustainable living. For me the most interesting part of Jegou's presentation was about how these ideas could be scaled ie. Implemented into other cultural and social contexts. This was done by 'simulation cards' or enabling cards which identified enabling conditions for ideas to flourish in other communities.

Alex Quinto

Quinto’s company, Work Worth Doing, is making a living out of combining design and sustainability and this is not without challenges such as how you measure success of design for sustainability and how you get the money to do it in the first place. The latter is something that rested heavily in my mind throughout the conference. It was great that we could talk about future 'could be' scenarios, but practically how would they work without adequate resources such as time, people and funding to do it? Alex’s presentation also discussed some of work such as Now House, a demonstrator home for domestic environmental sustainability- funded by a mortgage company.

John Wood

Wood’s fellow colleague presented the 10 principles of Metadesign, Metadesign is what Wood calls a ‘more comprehensive, self-creating system of design’ in his paper. Something that could sit above all disciplines of design. I thought it was interesting that these principles could be used as indicators and measures of design. Especially seeing as all the Dott 07 projects I am looking at are so vastly different and I have never been sure about benchmarking them. A further look into Wood’s paper and other work (which I am vaguely familiar with having met John before and seen him present a few times) would probably help a lot.

Stuart Walker and Scott Badke

Their experience of working together between Canada and the UK illustrated to them that there was a difference between having an experience and really being in a place. They showed images from Banff (in Canada) and Keswick (in the UK), two very special places and even more special seeing as I have been to both and been impressed by their natural beauty in the way Walker and Badke were. Walker and Badke described having an experience as buying into the same brands that proliferate both locations (eg. North Face, Columbia etc.) which they see as impeding meaningful connections with the distinctiveness of places. I found their personal experiences and reflections quite fascinating and also very much reminiscent of Nicolas Bourriaud’s work on Relational Aesthetics and Guy Debord's work (book), Society of the Spectacle, both which I probably need to pick up again very soon.

Robert Young

So Bob is both Ben and my principle supervisor, but Bob’s presentation really hit chords with the audience. Bob proposed a framework for the changing nature of design practice moving from traditional design to emergent design. He discussed levels that designers design on with the D1, 2 and 3 model, which describes designers designing in the context, to designing of the context. I think the audience really appreciated someone framing for them the complexities of designing and design practice. I saw no other person do anything like this in the entire conference, and conversations were sparked in the Q&A session and also in the closing Discussion Sessions that sought to pin down the emergent themes of the conference.

I came away from the conference with many, many ideas for my own research. Much of this was fuelled by conversation with Bob and Ben, especially over enormous Italian dinners. I will somehow report on these either here, or in the monthly comms (newsletter) I send out.

On the second night of the conference, a conference dinner was held at the opulent Valentino Castle.

It could not have been a more perfect, summery night for an alfresco dinner in the courtyard of the Castle, with a live jazz band, arrow-shaped tables (part of the conference branding), and an all-round casual but classy affair. Definitely a mememorable moment for the Changing the Change conference.

For more reporting on the Changing the Change conference see:

Core 77
Design 21: Social Design Network

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Graphic Design Festival, Breda

Last month, I presented international design research by the Design Council at the Graphic Design Festival, Breda.

The seminar was titled 'Design and Personality' and instead of repeating myself, find out more info on the Design Council's brand new blog. Or read my text copied from the blog, below:

"A brand new celebration of graphic design took over Breda for 6 weeks in May and June under the banner of The Graphic Design Festival Breda (GDFB).

Graphic design proliferated the city with exhibitions, public installations, seminars, workshops, events and 100’s of visiting and invited designers and researchers from all over the world.

The focal point of the Festival was the opening of the first-in-the-world, Graphic Design Museum, a sharp new space in the city tracing the history of Dutch graphic design and inviting international designers to exhibit their work.

This month's featured designer is Ji Lee who has displayed some of his personal work, such as The Bubble Project, a way for the public to engage with our every-growing advertising and media culture, and make their own voice heard.

The Design Council was also invited to present an international perspective of design at a seminar during the festival. I talked about ‘Design and Personality’ and how personalities in graphic design influence the work of designers and carve out new areas for them to work within."

Ji in action in Breda.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Design Thinking: New Challenges for Designers, Managers and Organisations

The academic Design Management Institute (DMI) Conference was held 3-4 April, 2008 in Cergy France, a quiet university town 1 hour outside of Paris at ESSEC Business School.

For an academic conference, the delegate list was a nice mix inclusive of many practitioners. But they could have quite possibly been there as Design and the Linking Force, the bigger DMI conference for industry, was to happen the following 3 days in the centre of Paris.

The scope of papers, related to Design Thinking, was far and wide. Some of the more interesting themes I noted were:

- The employee experience and how design could contribution to the organisational experience;

- Design Thinking as knowledge work;

- Design methods engage the wider audience of non-designers such as children;

- Opportunities for design in the developing world.

I found all presentation topics interesting, but the above ones in particular because these issues and topics I have previously thought about.

My big take-away from the conference, was from the second day's discussion forum. We discussed what we thought Design Thinking was and my synthesis from the session was that Design Thinking is both attitude as well as an activity.

This has really helped validate my own research. The initial remit of my PhD was to look at the design methodologies utilised in the Dott 07 public commissions projects. As time has passed, I have begun to broaden this remit because there is so much more than just methods and a process that a designer brings to design projects. There are many other aspect to consider when involved in design projects, such as client interactions, inspiration etc. The Managing As Designing phrase ‘design attitude’ encapsulates a lot of what designers bring to projects, beyond the methods and the process.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

A Look into International Design Centres

Over the Easter weekend I visited Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmo, Sweden. I have had a keen interest in international design centres for many years now, especially those funded by Government.

Two destinations I put on my list to visit was the Danish Design Centre (the UK Design Council equivalent in Denmark) and the Form/Design Centre in Sweden.

The Danish Design Centre is all about design exposure.

Located on a central city road and open to the public, it contains a cafe, shop, numerous exhibition spaces and a conference centre.

Visitors have free access to the shop and cafe, but a small fee is required to see the exhibitions which celebrate Danish design, design in business, designers in society and design icons.

The Form/Design Centre is much smaller and tucked away in the Small Square of Malmo.

It is also open to the public and is entirely free to enter. Spread across 3 floors are exhibition spaces, a shop and a cafe which invites visitors to sit down, have a coffee and browse international design magazines.

Shortly after returning home from Denmark and in the Design Council's library, I met a group of people from a Design Centre in Malaysia. I am yet to find their website, but when I do I shall post it up here.

Other international design centres or bodies I know of are:

Design Institute of Australia (Australia)

The National Design Centre

German Design Council (Germany)

Centre for Design and Innovation (Ireland)

Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organisation (Japan)

Better By Design (New Zealand)

Norwegian Design Council (Norway)

Design Singapore (Singapore)

Hong Kong Design Centre (HK)

Design Council (UK)

Corporate Design Foundation (USA)

Design Management Institute (USA)

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Service Design in M. Design at UTS, Australia

Sometimes it's funny to be led right back to where one started.

I completed my undergraduate design degree at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in Australia and just discovered they have added new majors to their Master of Design Degree, inclusive of Service Design. Here's what it says:

Service Design

The future of business is the delivery of customised experiences. This future depends upon design, on the expert ability to visualise and plan interactions. This specialisation puts designers in the driving seat of a major economic shift now underway. It shows designers how to shift from product development to service innovation through techniques like experience notation, service blueprinting and touchpoint management. This is the first service design degree program in Australia.

Sunday, 6 April 2008


The third International Service Design Northumbria conference happened last week on Wednesday 2 April and Thursday 3 April, 2008.

The event was to illustrate the scope of PhD research in design around social issues and design which places people in the middle of both the design process and design outcomes.

The conference kicked off on Wednesday evening at Northumbria University's School of Design gallery space with an introduction from Robert Young, Associate Dean of the School and keynote presentation from Anna Meroni, Assistant Professor in Service and Strategic Design at the Politecnico di Milano.

Anna talked about her involvement and the project called Creative Communities, which aimed to increase our understanding of innovation through identifying and presenting case studies of social innovation throughout the world. Anna's keynote was right on the mark. Messages and themes from her presentation were carried throughout the conference, especially through the 7 PhD research presentations the following day.
For a run down on each presentation, Bas Rajimakers, blogged the event, in situ on his website here.

The conference was not without some good social mixing, even though some feedback requested for more next time. Our first night saw the majority of us hit The Cluny in Newcastle's up-and-coming creative hub the Ouseburn Valley.

A well-timed 10am start the following morning launched us into 7 PhD research students' presentations. These students, including myself, were PhD's of both past and present, and I know that most of us felt disappointed we did not have more time to discuss ideas, themes and issues.

A plenary session closed the conference. It took us all a bit of time to warm up, but then good conversations happened right up until the clock struck 4pm. We adjourned having made new contacts, new friends and taking away with us a whole load of new ideas.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Endnote for PhD thesis referencing

Am just finishing up Endnote training at the University this morning. What a great little tool to help with the massive amount of references for PhD students. Would highly recommend it as it saves loads of time with referencing in your documents and also your Bibliography. I think the niftiest thing is that the references can be linked to pdf documents saved on your computer.

However, some limitations of the programme include:
  • It doesn't have a spell check
  • It doesn't consistently format your references so you'll have to tweak things yourself
  • It won't put the page numbers in your document referencing so you'll need to do this manually

Monday, 31 March 2008

Get T5 some Service Designers please!

We all know the dramas of T5.

Here's an article in today's Guardian citing the Government on T5 as an "unacceptably poor travel experience" and the need for British Airways 'to place a "much greater emphasis" on the needs of passengers.'

But what is more desperately needed is a proper systems design. The backlog of 28,000 bags demonstrates there is definitely something broke in this sordid system.

The financial costs are also ridiculous.

Someone needs to hire some Service Designers.

Monday, 17 March 2008

CIID's Service Design Symposium

I am rather disappointed that I missed out on the Service Design Symposium at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID). The 2-day event brought together a great line-up on speakers and from the symposium recap here it sounded like a great exchange forum on the emerging area.

The CIID have already begun to post some of the symposium's happenings, beginning with an excerpt from Bill Hollin's presentation.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Dott 07 Explorers Club

The final Explorers Club for Dott 07 happened last Wednesday night, 12 March 2008.

The evening brought together a community of Dott 07 people- the Dott 07 Team, those who were deeply involved in the projects and those who have been enthusiastically watching and supporting the Dott 07 initiative over the past few years.

I was going to write up the night, but Claire has done a really wonderful job on the Dott 07 website. She reports all that happened on the night which you can find here.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Climate Change: Fact or Fiction

Last month, Ben and I, with some friends, went to a talk on climate change held at World Head Quarters as part of a series of free talks held under the banner of Café Scientifique.

To sum it up, it is really disappointing. The facts and fiction were far too simple for the audience that was in attendance. In the Q&A time Ben asked, we all know and believe that climate change is happening (no more convincing needed!), so what is the role of the scientist now?

This stumped the guest speaker. She agreed that scientists brought messages of what happened in the world (note past-tense). We can make projections from this about what will happen in the future, but what and who, is going to do anything about it?

Ben suggested that maybe that was a role for designers and engineers and the lack of understanding of what design could bring by the general public was well highlighted in the subsequent discussion where engineers and technology were seen as the answer to going forward with action to tackle the climate change issue.

My question (which I did not get chance to ask) was why do we need to invent new technologies, in the first place, to help climate change? Why can’t we just use what we already have, re-organise and re-connect things that already exist (such as John Thackara writes in this book, In The Bubble), change our behaviours and lifestyles to accommodate our move towards environmental sustainability? As you may have picked up already, this is very much the ethos of Dott 07. My other big insight into last night was the fact that no one in the audience knew what design meant and no one seemed to know about Dott 07, with it’s huge environmental sustainability theme.

Last night was another reminder of the difference between science and design and an even more significant reminder that we, as designers, have a long way to go to help the public understand design and it’s contributions.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A Research Update

I have almost completed my first phase of qualitative research which has involved interviewing the Project Clients of Dott 07. I had two main aims for this phase:
  1. Look at developing an evaluation model for the Dott 07 programme, using insights from both the design and client side to see what kinds of criteria are similar and different;

  2. Understand the experiences and learnings of participating in a design project from a client-point of view.
The first aim has changed a lot. I have never really liked the word evaluation. My instinct was that evaluation was not what I was doing with the Dott 07 programme, but I know I will need a set of criteria to discuss across all project that are at the least, “intelligent and consistent”, as Jim Collins says in his book, Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

I have just 2 more interviews to go and have thoroughly enjoyed doing all of them. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my previous work was meeting and talking with new people, getting insights into their daily experiences, and thinking about how design could have an impact through the products and services we were helping our clients develop.

During my first phase of research, I got to travel a little around the north east region of England. I had to go to Middlesbrough for some interviews and squeezed in a trip to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA), which was showing a major exhibition called Bauhaus 1919 - 1933. It was wonderful to see some key pieces from the Bauhaus Archive in Germany.

While my interviews for the PhD take on a very different aim, I really enjoyed listening to people’s experiences on a design project. It’s something that I was always curious about in my old job and the PhD gave me a platform to explore this a little.

The process did not come without some learnings. Here are some which I think are important to point out:
  • Planning, organising, interviewing and transcribing takes a long time! Plan accordingly;

  • I wrote up a planning document, inclusive of aims, before I begun interviewing. I found it was a great reference to go back to to ensure I was clear on my direction;

  • I drew upon my previous experience in practice as a design researcher which was really valuable. Everything from filing documentation into envelopes to writing up Confidentially Agreements, were things that none of the academic research methods books told me;

  • Confidentially Agreements help lots! I wanted and needed honesty, and part of being able to get that was making sure that the interviewees knew exactly what I was going to do with the data collection;

  • Some of the Project Clients I met at the Dott Debates, which proved to be a really helpful introduction. I was able to let them know who I was, gauge their interest in being interviewed and get a sense of their roles on the project. It made it much easier setting up the interviews;

  • The interviewees found the use of visual aids really helpful in remembering and discussing the design outcomes. It had been 4 months since the Dott 07 Festival and everyone could use a little reminder;

  • I think it’s important to mark out a core set of questions. In some later interviews, where time became an issue, I wasn’t clear on a core set of questions and had to go back to the interviewee to ask them these questions later on;

  • Above all, have fun! The task is a crucial part of the data collection, but if you can’t be yourself and connect with people, you’re just not going to get the feedback you want.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Desform (December 2007)

The smaller and more focused conference of DeSForM (Design and Semantics of Form and Movement) in December 2007, followed shortly after the bigger InterSections 07 conference.

Initially, I wasn't sure how DeSForM would contribute to my research, but reflecting back, it was a great networking conference and it also provided some great insights and learnings in the area of academic research methods for design research.

On the first night, the delegates got plenty of opportunity to bond with a night out to see the Glow Festival, which was a short tour of light installations throughout Newcastle city. The tour ended up at Tokyo, a funky bar which served up an evening meal and drinks.

During the days, DeSForM’s calibre of design research work and presentations was wide and impressive (click on the picture below for the full programme).

It was so wide that some delegates were left wondering at the end, ‘What was DeSForM all about?’ This seemed clear to the organising panel, but was only clarified on the last day at the Plenary Session. While the seemingly lack of focus could shed negative light on the conference, I thought that its ambiguity was valuable in allowing delegates to bring their own meaning to the conference.

For me, generally, the conference was valuable because:
  • It spotlighted research methods, which conferences such as InterSections 07 are not so much concerned with;

  • It dealt with broad subject areas, reminding me of the endless potential for design research to explore;

  • It was nice to see and think about products for awhile as these days, I am mostly involved with services, design thinking and design methods.

On a more detailed note, some of my take-aways from the presentations include:
  • The reoccurring theme of narratives throughout the conference which is slowly but surely showing it’s importance in all the sub disciplines of design;

  • I really enjoyed Bernard Buerdek’s presentation of design methods history. He not only validated my identification of a 40-year time frame that the field of design tends to see from theory to practice, but also spoke along the trajectory of design's concern with methods to meaning.

  • Geoff Hollington asked some questions which were explored at InterSections 07. He asked, how far do we go as designers in the kind of work that we do? Hollington called for a balanced approach and needing the knowledge of what this is. My work in design methods might help us identity this 'mission creep' (James Woodhuyson, InterSections) more clearly;

  • Carnegie Mellon University presented 2 papers. Having worked extensively with CMU-grads before, I was very familiar with their design methodology and I loved seeing and feeling that familiarity again. Seeing and understanding the CMU methodology in another context really is a testament to the rigour of the CMU approach;

  • Peter Higgins was invited back from InterSections 07 as a keynote for DeSForM. I really enjoyed his presentation a second time around, seeing the ideas and inspiration of combining narrative, media and architecture. This time, Higgins made me see the importance of finding a connection to a place when designing for it;

  • Northumbria University’s School of Sports Science and Psychology presented 2 papers showing the openness of a discipline such as design. One of the presentations was around trust in a research project and they discussed the concept of the wisdom of crowds. This will become really important when communities become involved in the design process;

  • Two presentations (Kevin McCullgh and CMU’s) both brought up questions about the extent to which we can design behaviour. The simple answer is that we can’t, but as designers we can shape it and/or influence it
From my synthesis of the conference, I saw four themes emerge. For me these were: narrative, products, technology and people.

It was interesting to also hear the plenary panel’s feedback on the conference as a whole. Buerdek said that we talked a lot about theory and concepts and had little products to show for it. He asked if the next DeSForM conference could include more design outcomes we could reflect on, so that we might further develop our thinking, theories and concepts in the ever-evolving and expanding field of design.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Why I haven’t been here for 3 Months…

I guess coming back to this blog requires some kind of explanation after a 3-month departure.

After InterSections I stopped blogging because I very much see blogs as go-to places rather than come-to-you. So instead, I started writing one-page newsletters, of the same name, and distributing them to my supervisors, peers and the research and consultancy office I work within at the University called the Centre for Deign Research.

The reason why I have chosen to pick up the blog again is really for my own purpose; to document some key points along my PhD journey that I think is worth mentioning. This has meant I have had to back-track a bit and publish with correct dates, so please mind the lag as I catch up on 3 months of thinking, research and activity!