Monday, 21 December 2009

Icsid World Design Congress, Singapore 25-27 November 2009

Following the Icsid Design Education Conference was 3-days of the Icsid World Design Congress. Congress was the 26th conference organised by Icsid and attended by 700 delegates at Singapore's massive and shiny Suntec City.

Here's what the conference website has to say about the 3-day Congress:

The Icsid World Congress will bring together the thinking of 9 Design2050 Studios, 4 Keynote Speakers and the Congress Facilitators in an interactive forum where delegates will engage with them and each other to propose solutions to many of the critical challenges we face today [...] Our aim is to develop ‘real world’ solutions that are viable within current and future scenarios, for a more sustainable economy and society in 2050. [...] We believe that the challenges we face over the next 40 years represent unprecedented opportunities to develop new products, processes and solutions that will be the foundation of a new sustainable economy.

The theme was very similar to the Changing the Change conference I attended last year. Here's a short excerpt from Changing the Change:

The conference Changing the Change seeks to make a significant contribution to a necessary transformation that involves changing the direction of current changes toward a sustainable future. It specifically intends to outline the state-of-the-art of design research in terms of visions, proposals and tools with which design can actively and positively take part in the wider social learning process that will have to take place.

The key differences between the conferences was their location (European vs. Asian) and also where the propositions/solutions were being driven from ie. In Changing the Change content mostly came from design researchers while Congress brought together design studios and practitioners.

Below is a neat image from the Icsid website which illustrates an overview of the specific streams under the conference theme and also identifies the studios, keynotes and facilitators.

The first day of Congress began with design commentator, Bruce Nussbaum interviewing Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's Minister for Finance. Shanmugaratnam was very eloquently spoken, painting us a picture of where Singapore has been and where it seeks to go in the future. But Shanmugaratnam needed a big steer by Nussbaum at the end of the interview in addressing design thinking for Singapore's economic policies. As Nussbaum blogged upon reflection:

The sophisticated insight and knowledge shown on stage by Minister Tharman lead me to expect that the government will probably get it right as it promotes the evolution of Singapore from an efficiency-centric society to a mixed efficiency/creativity model. But it might accelerate that progress by bringing more of Singapore’s smart young Gen Y generation of creatives into policy-making positions right now. A global mega-city of Singapore’s excellence can’t afford to let any of its young go.

Presentations by the studios followed, beginning with former Director of Design at BMW, Chris Bangle. Bangle's take on a design proposition for 2050 was not a hard and concrete solution, but a philosophy for design.

WOHA Architects were quite the opposite end of the spectrum, proposing a masterplan for Singapore 2050.

Protofarm brought together a consortium of designers to present future scenarios for farming. During the keynote, shorter presentations from Revital Cohen, Frank Tjepkema, Futurefarmers, Dunne and Raby and 5.5 designers covered a broad scope of propositions ranging from Dunne and Raby's Edible Wilderness to Cohen's use of human organs for energy where the "body becomes a farm" and we are more reliant on ourselves. Check out Protofarm's 10 minute film here.

The following panel session, facilitated by a brilliant, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator at MOMA (New York) discussed: the need to do "less talking and more doing" as "leading by example is always best"; that the relationship between design and science is growing; that design education needed to bring in other disciplines for designers to work with; questions around whether design should be measured; that design looks to be moving from human-centred to nature-centred; and that designers have a responsibility for designing stuff, but also designing the intangible.

Lunch was served in the foyer and the rest of the day, delegates could visit the Studio spaces. I wanted to sit in on Toshiko Mori Architect's Studio session on Design Blind Spots 2050 which looked at the evolution of design practice, particularly in the area of the designer as part of large-scale co-operations to address issues beyond the built environment. Or as they write on the Congress website:

As the spectrum of global governance shifts away from post-war models, design practice has the opportunity to assume an increasing role in developing systemic frameworks to confront new scales of risk endemic to the 21st century. At the interface between specialized disciplines that regulate economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical and technological pressures, expertise often exists in isolated silos. As a result, these ‘Blindspots’ catalyze even greater and more prolonged risk [...] Our proposal is to interpret blindspots within causal chains as discrete opportunities to resituate the role of design as an integral function; locating it further up on the “food chain” of global risk decision making systems. By evolving design agency beyond reactionary problem solving, it will be allowed to assume a more proactive function within global risk identification and prevention mechanisms so crucial now and into 2050.

I was intrigued by the studio's research and proposition because it places designers as one agent of change in a co-ordinated effort and also looks toward finding opportunities for designers to take on greater role in society and government in the future. Unfortunately the studio session didn't run, but I did get to speak to Landon Brown who heads up the research initiative within Toshiko Mori Architects which is named Visionarc.

The studio presented a provocative keynote the following day which called for designers to change current modes of practice and step outside our known discipline of design and engage with others. The studio also asked designers to: seek to define problems from the top (rather than just "inherit" them); work toward directing policy; visualise strategy; facilitate know-how; direct planning; and identify blindspots in opportunity and risk.

Emily Pilloton's keynote on her initiative, Project H Design also called for a change in current modes of practice. Project H, as she described, was driven by what she sees as a need for an "industrial design revolution." Pilloton's initiative engages product designers to do work for the developing world and in her keynote, she presented reflections on Project H in the form of 6 design roles. These were:
  1. There is no design without (critical) action;
  2. Work with, not for;
  3. Start local and scale globally;
  4. Create systems, not stuff;
  5. Document, share and measure;
  6. Build (the latter what Pilloton described as a "lost art for designers" these days).
Some of the principles are the same as those discussed and outlined by John Thackara, for example in his book, In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World (2005). Speaking of books, Pilloton also just published a book this year on Project H and "product design that empowers" called, Design Revolution. One of Pilloton's final slides was, Project H in numbers, and here they are for your interest:

Other keynotes on Day 2 included ones from Arup, who presented their work on the Design 2050 Challenge which imagined the world in 2050, and Philips, who presented the scenarios for the future of healthcare 2050.

These were the last presentations I was able to attend as I had a flight to catch to Sydney that afternoon. I really enjoyed my time at the conference. It was fascinating to see how designers were seeing our world in 2050 and the provocations and propositions they presented to inspire and enthuse the design community to not just follow the future, but take a bigger role in creating it.

Other related links
Icisd World Design Congress event archive on the Icsid website

Friday, 18 December 2009

Icsid Education Conference, 22 November 2009

The day after Service Design Thinks, I flew to Singapore to present my paper, Perspectives on the changing role of the designer: Now and to the future, at the Icsid (International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) Education Conference.

The theme of the conference was design education 2050. The intent of my paper and presentation was not to say how design education in 2050 should be, but inform design educators on what designers were doing today in the context of the public and social sectors. I hoped this might help inform pathways for educating tomorrow's designers.

I spoke about the design projects in Dott 07 as exemplars of where some designers were doing work today and profiled the different roles of the designer I interpreted from my research on Dott 07 (see image below for the seven dominant roles I drew from the Dott projects).

Seven roles of the designer in Dott 07

I also talked about the broader context of which this was all happening and how there were several enabling factors right here in the UK which help create an industry of design consultancies working with the public and social sector. These factors included the policy context, access to funding and enterprise tools, the open-mindedness of clients etc.

Finally I talked about what I have come to find in my research around this movement of 'designing for social good' (which has several names such as design for social impact, social design etc). I mapped the numerous initiatives (programmes of design projects) which were happening around the globe to demonstrate design's and the designer's contribution to society (see below). Included on the map was Dott 07 but also Project H, of which the organisation's founder, Emily Pilloton would be a keynote at the following Icsid World Design Congress.

Map of research-led and practice-led initiatives in designing for social good from my conference paper, 'Perspectives on the changing role of the designer: Now and to the future'

The feedback I received on my paper presentation was really positive, and the conference delegates had excellent things to say about Dott 07 and its project and how inspired they were to hear of them. Many delegates approached me to say that they had definitely thought about designers contributing in this way, but had not known that initiatives like Dott 07 existed with projects that had already happened.

Presenters at the Icsid Design Education Conference

In summation for the rest of the conference, I have to be honest and say that I found it difficult to take all that much away from the presentations I saw. The theme was very broad and I didn't feel as if the presentations I saw addressed the theme in a direct way. I felt some presentations didn't address the 'so what' for design education 2050. This was a bit disappointing, but maybe the theme was too broad for a one-day conference with presentations a maximum of 20 minute each in length- a very small amount of time to sink one's teeth into the subject matter and have a good discussion about it.

But having said all that, I did meet some really great people at this conference who were enthused, inspired and passionate about design education for tomorrow's designers. It was also great to visit the Temasek Polytechnic who hosted the conference and provided exceptional hospitality including a lovely lunch under the sun on the college grounds.

During lunch we got to tour the Polytechnic and I noticed the Greater than 60 Design Centre (though we didn't get to tour inside). The Centre addresses the demographic of the aging population and how design can provide "ideas and solutions that will make the ageing lifestyle a creative and an exciting one."

The following Icsid World Design Congress was a bigger conference focusing on design in 2050. It got several design studios from around the world to propose their ideas for what design in 2050 could look like. I'll report on this shortly so stay tuned!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Published paper in the Australiasian Medical Journal, Nov 2009

Last month, the Australiasian Medical Journal (AMJ) published a 4-part series special issue on design and health.

Image from the AMJ website

Editors of the journal, Moyez Jiwa and Christopher Kueh, write in their Editorial titled, 'Designing the Future in Health':

The design of the structures in which we work, rest and play serve the health agenda by ensuring that all who use those facilities, irrespective of their physical or cognitive capacity are able to contribute to society. Designers also claim that human emotion is a very significant confounding variable in design for health. Therefore authors in this special edition of the AMJ suggest that the aesthetic qualities of the objects and symbols around us, indeed the very clothes our healers choose to wear, have a significant impact on our experiences and ultimately on the speed of recovery when we are ill [...] We seek to foster the debate which will ultimately change the way we craft solutions to global health care problems from dementia to deafness, from the packaging of medicines to how we find our way around hospitals, from tools to measure the severity of pain to the design of websites to promote self help.

I am pleased to announce that Deborah Szebeko (Founder and Director of thinkpublic) and I had our paper on the Dott 07 project, Alzheimer 100, published in the 3rd of the 4-part series.

We worked on this paper for many months earlier this year. Our intent was to give insight into the Alzheimer 100 project and the co-design practices of thinkpublic. The paper is titled, 'Co-designing for dementia: The Alzheimer 100 project' and if you click on the title, it will automatically download a pdf of our paper. Otherwise, visit the AMJ website where our paper sits alongside other design and health papers in Volume 1, No. 12, Design and Health III.

If you get a chance to read our paper, please let us know if you have any thoughts or feedback (positive and/or critical) as we'd love to hear from you!

I feel really honoured that we had the opportunity be part of the journal's initial design and health conversation. I'm excited to see where the AMJ goes from here in discussing and debating design and health, contributing valuable stories, insights and lessons for the future of healthcare and livelihoods of everyone in society.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Service Design Thinks 2, 19 November 2009

Last month, the second Service Design Thinks night happened in London at the Sense Loft in Soho.

The theme of the night was to discuss service design at scale.

We had three brilliant speakers:
  • Steven Baker: Who talked about designing a mobile banking service for 21st century Africa called M-PESA which went from 0 - 2 million customers in just one year;
  • Julia Schaeper: Who has been working within the 4th largest organisation in the world, the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Julia spoke about building design capability within the NHS to upskill people to support cultural change; and
  • James Gardner: Who spoke about service innovation within one of the UK’s largest banking groups.
We have more photos on Flickr here. On the night, we also launched the global website which hosts several other city chapters. Alongside London (UK) the cities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Sydney (Australia) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) are now connected and bringing service designing people together.

If you would like to be a city host, please get in touch with us on and add to the network of events for people who are service designing around the world.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

LTA Newsletter | October 09

Click on the image and you'll be able to read the text. The blue links won't work with the jpeg, they only work with a pdf version. If you would like to be emailed pdfs of my monthly research updates, please email me at fiorucci [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Monday, 2 November 2009

BusinessWeek's 21 people who will change business

I'm probably a bit late on this news, but I just wanted to point out this interesting article by BusinessWeek who profiled some known and familiar faces to me. The list of 21 designers compiled by BusinessWeek identifies intelligent and innovative thinkers looking to shake things up in the business world. A special mention and congrats to Ré Dubhthaigh, co-founder of Radarstation (UK) and Quinn Chow, who currently works at my former workplace, 2nd Road (Australia). Great work guys!

While you're on the site, check out the top 39 design master's and MBA programmes from North America, Europe, Asia, South America and Australia that integrate design thinking and business.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Design for development: Seeing beyond the world of wealth, 10 October 2009

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, a group of us gathered inside Oxo Tower's riverside warehouse, the Bargehouse, to discuss and debate issues in Design for development: Seeing beyond the world of wealth.

The discussion was hosted by the MA Design for Development class at Kingston University along with Anne Chick who leads this very first year of the course. Anne summaried the course as a, "pathway for design activists" exploring, "who they are, what they do, what their subject is..." The first ever DfD class just graduated, so coinciding with the discussion was a small exhibition of the seven graduating students this year.

The discussion was driven by the question: "How can the benefits of design be extended beyond the world's wealthy?" and after a small analysis of the question itself, discussions began among the 3-person panel which included John Thackara (author, founder of international network and conference Doors of Perception and former Programme Director of Dott 07), Ann Thorpe (author and PhD researcher) and Guy Robinson (Director of Sprout Design). The event was chaired by, Alistair Fuad-Luke (author and design facilitator).

The event was quite long (3.00-5.30pm) so I shall do a short summary of what each speaker said and also bullet points some of the following discussion. I had a few notes and questions of my own which I'll share with you at the end of the post.

Speaker summary
John raised four practical points in response to the question. He said that:
  1. We need to start (in the location of) where we are and think about how to translate questions into design questions;
  2. Designing for development is by and with people;
  3. We need to empower people to do what we do (for sustainability in the project itself); and
  4. We need to think about whole systems and the designer's role as facilitator in bringing people together to be the host or placeholder of conversations among groups of people.
Ann discussed some great issues, which I felt weren't adequately explored in the following discussion. She questioned the current professional design business model of client services. She says this model makes it challenging to set up a design studio to do work for the developing world. She asked a further question: who else is the client in the developing world? There are many stakeholders here. Ann identified a few existing professional design business models:
Of the institutional and pro bono models, we might group the work we do done under the umbrella of a social enterprise. After outlining this topology, Ann asked: So what economic models exist for designers in this area? Doing design work for development is well and good, but designers need to make a living too.

She also went on to ask: Is what designers do in the space of development, a political act? Ann thinks so. This led her to discuss design in the political sphere and the lack of experience designers have with engaging with politics directly. And designers can engage with politics on both on a national level (eg. the recent US national design policy initiative) and local level (and I am quite sure all the spaces inbetween).

Guy spoke about the role of the designer, reflecting that in his practice his role has ranged from that of a professional consultant, to facilitators, to researchers, to innovators and entrepreneurs (which provides nice support for my own research). Guy extended a bit on Ann's point on design business models saying that they needed to be more innovative if we are to spread and empower design ingenuity in others.

In the Q&A, a few questions/comments I noted down were:
  • In the context of development, designers are seen as craft makers, and not enough on the more political or strategic end
  • What are the skills and knowledge of designers in this context?
  • What is special about designers?
  • What is our IP?
My notes and reflections (or maybe I should call them my key questions)
In research, it's great to have loads of time to read and think about addressing questions which are raised in practice. I know as a designer, I just had to find a way to stop and reflect, because being in delivery-mode all the time just kept on raising new questions adding to the already long list I already had. The discussion on Saturday however raised more questions for me (but that's ok because they are actually questions I have been mulling over too):
  • Is it a role for the designer to also be engaged with politics? I tend to think we do it already by default, communicating our message via design propositions and solutions because we are unhappy with the status quo. But if we did think of design as a political act, would that change the way we looked at and approached our work?
  • Are there economic models out there to support designing for development? Or do we have to really work with the current context and think of creative new ways to make a living as well as work in areas we feel passionate about? I always think we just need to talk to an economist about this. Or maybe it's an entrepreneur, or venture capitalist, or someone doing research/working in economics and/or business.
  • How do we make design relevant to the various contexts we are wanting to work within? For example, how do we go about making design relevant to development agencies if they currently understand designers as crafts people? The same kind of question parallels for design and business space as well, because most business people (like my friends in banking, finance, law, accounting etc) still mostly understand designers as only stylists, decorators etc.
  • What is our role (skills, knowledge, IP, position in politics etc.) in these new contexts? I can kind of help answer that one in my PhD research, but Dott 07 was about development in the developed world. Nothing wrong with that, but I am interested in our role in other contexts too, such as those countries we might call transition economies or the developing world/global south.
So, those are some of my notes from the Design for Development panel discussion last Saturday. I really enjoyed the energy, the issues, the questions... I do have more extensive responses to the questions raised by the panel, audience and my own as listed, but a blog post is not quite the appropriate space to discuss this. So I tried to respond to some of these questions in a paper I just submitted last night for a conference happening next month. I'll let you how I progress with it. But the paper was more beginning the conversation (thanks to the word limit). When it's been reviewed/published etc. maybe I'll blog some of the uncut, unedited version here.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Service Design Drinks, 23 October 2009

We're doing it again! Come join Service Design Drinks in London.

Date: 23 October 2009
Location: The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell. 34-35 Great Sutton St, London, EC1V 0DX
Time: 6pm onwards

I'll be handing out small red stickers so we know who we can talk to about service design :) You don't need to have one, but the pub is open to the public so it makes it that tiny bit easier to identify others.

You can find more info on this forthcoming Service Design Drinks on Eventbrite.

Or visit where we'll be posting films from Service Design Thinks shortly!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Interdisciplinary discovery through design workshop, Monday 28 September 2009

Yesterday I was at the Interdisciplinary discovery through design workshop, hosted by Tom Inns of the University of Dundee and who leads the research initiative, Designing for the 21st Century.

Here's what the workshop invitation said:

The Designing for the 21st Century research initiative was originally conceived as a platform for building new interdisciplinary research partnerships between the engineering and technology communities and researchers in the arts & humanities... A broad portfolio of projects have delivered on this agenda, interestingly however, many have gone far wider bringing in researchers and stakeholders from across the UK research council communities. In all of these projects a design research perspective has allowed interdisciplinary research teams to explore a range of business and social issues in new ways.

This one-day workshop will profile the work of six research teams that have worked in this way. Participants at the workshop will then have the opportunity to reflect on the emergent roles for design research within the interdisciplinary research landscape and strategies that might be adopted to capitalise on this approach.

Throughout the workshop, it wasn't defined if we were talking about design research in practice or in academia. But the good thing for my own research is that it is currently working in both contexts ie. My research topic looks at the changing and expanding role of the designer, and my research process is a discussion about a researcher looking into design (the latter is key to a PhD because one's research process needs to be articulated in order to asses the reliability and validity of research findings or theory).

The workshop was held a the Imperial War Museum in London and was well-attended by mostly academia, quite a number of people from the Design Council and a few PhDers such as myself as good friend, Qin Han, aka Design Generalist.

I did tweet some notes during the event, but operating my new phone isn't quite at the level of efficient translation of my thoughts, but I do want to thank Lauren (redjotter), Fergus, Tamsin, James and Nick who responded to a few tweets (and I did try and include some of your comments in the conversations) and thanks to those who watched updates.

The workshop began with a presentation from Tom. He spoke about the current archipelago of design practice which sees many different islands represent current and emerging practices of design such as product design and service design.

Tom and Tom's archipelago of design

I love this analogy because it not only maps a terrain but also reflects the state of the different design practices, which are always similar in nature but aren't often connected in any other way. It also illustrates many new islands of design practice, which have popped up alongside the traditional modes of product, fashion and communication. These new island include service design, social design, design for development, design for sustainability etc.

Furthermore, Tom's archipelago is influenced by deltas (design history), currents (such as design thinking), lighthouses (such as the Design Council), cold fronts (lack of research funding for design), oceans of uncertainty, banks (of management), inlets, streams and the analogy goes on.

The research projects for the Designing for the 21st Century initiative were to act as ships either navigating the islands, or landing on them to explore ethnographically what was happening on the islands. Either way they were, as Tom mentioned, to be the Scott of Antarctica- finding new knowledge about design, especially since traditional notions of design have changed (or expanded) over time. One of Tom's slides showed this and below I have adapted a short cut version of his slide:

Traditional notions of design -------> Extended roles of design

generating ideas ---------------> facilitating ideas
managing trade offs ---------------> negotiating value
visualising the tangible ---------------> visualising the invisible
accommodating uncertainty ---------------> navigating complexity
profiling users ---------------> mediating stakeholders
synthesising futures ---------------> synthesising strategy

Adapted from Tom inns presentation for IDD, 28 Sept 2009

We then had five presentations from the Designing for the 21st Century initiative to give us insight into the initiative's projects. The projects profiled were:
  1. Improving healthcare through design research by Prof Alastair Macdonald, Glasgow School of Art: Looked at how visualisation and participation could help in healthcare in the Ideal States project

  2. Mobilising older workers through design research by Prof Jeremy Myerson & Jo-Anne Bichard, Royal College of Art, London: Looked at reinventing the workplace for the aging population in a project called Welcoming Workplace

  3. Engaging audiences through design research by Prof Chris Rust, Sheffield Hallam University: Looked at the My Exhibition project which sought to explore how “affective” communication could help personalise experiences.

  4. Designing interdisciplinary research by Dr Lucy Kimbell, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford: Looked at the Designing for Services project which explored how service designers worked with SME's involved in science and technology

  5. Reducing crime through design research by Adam Thorpe & Prof Lorraine Gammon, University of the Arts, London: Looked at the Bikeoff Project where design was used to help reduce bike crime.
To give an overall feel for the projects, some commonalities I noted seen across the projects included:
  • The wide variety of stakeholders used on each project
  • This made the methodology complex, such as in Lorraine Gammon and Adam Thorpe's project where they attempted to visualise the process (check out their methodology map here)
  • A bit of theory was often overlaid on the project to help explain it, and most of the time the theory was literature from another discipline
  • Most projects were done "through" design ie. the academic researcher was doing the project as well as reflecting upon it. Lucy Kimbell's project however took a more ethnographic approach to exploring designing services in SME's. But this last point raised the question I had at the beginning of the day which was, were we talking about design research in academia or in practice?
After the five presentations, it was a break for lunch and back for a workshop.

The workshop asked us to reflect on the presentations and contribute our notes on what was the role of design research? More specifically, what perspectives, skills and methods do design researchers bring to the table?

Below are some tweets I got back when I asked the question on Twitter:

Jamesamperi: "Role of design research- to inform, inspire & set parameters around the activity of design giving it a better chance of success"

fergusbisset: "Role of Des. Res. is to make explicit what has hitherto been implicit within process of design and amongst the design community"

TAMSINA: "Role of design research... [doing all we can] for the sake of designing awesome experiences"

In our group we talked about the spectrum of doing design research in academia and in practice. Some differences were noted, such as more time and more theory being overlaid in academia. Some key words we identified among our individual scribbles in response to the question were:
  • Giving people a voice
  • Navigating uncertainty
  • Openness
  • Communication
  • Flexibility

Under the the question, what skills and methods do design researchers contribute we said:
  • Flexibility
  • Rapid learning
  • Iteration
  • Awareness (of people and markets)
  • Visualisation (making the implicit explicit, thanks Fergus)
  • People-centred
  • Bringing insight
The same kinds of words did keep on popping up and TAMSINA tweeted in response to the 2nd group of words: "Basically all the skills of a designer then!?! Design research is an oxymoron." The first part of Tamsin's comment was later repeated by a delegate in the final group discussion.

Tom did a quick overview of all the posters, drawing our attention to the fact that openness came up in many of the posters in response to the first question. Delegates raised issues with this saying that with openness, who owns the project? And also, how do Uni's teach this?

Under skills and methods, Tom drew out the fact that participation was the dominant theme, and mentioned that workshops were a great platform to allow this. A delegate commented in response to this theme that design and its visual nature allows a more democratic process as its not tied to a particular vocabulary.

The final exercise we did was listing challenges and opportunities for design research and what some action steps could be. My small group chose to focus on Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and we noted that the key challenge was having all disciplines in silos and a key opportunity would be to have them all work together by identifying, supporting and rewarding a catalyst. We also spoke about shifting paradigms of HEI's from places of teaching to places of learning. It reminded me of Sir Ken Robinson's awesome TED talk where he discusses creativity and how schools kill creativity.

In the final discussion for the day, more observations and issues were raised. Here are some I noted (but I think Qin might have more soon):
  • Design academia and practice need a better relationship
  • We have been talking about "different manners" of design research today
  • Design as a word has many uses which can be confusing
The workshop ended at 4pm and I went home a bit exhausted and soaked like a sponge! But it was great to hear more about the Designing for the 21st Century projects, Tom's design archipelago, reflect on design research (in academia and in practice), meet new people, old friends and also consider where my own research sits in the wider context of academia and practice.

- Update -

For further reflections on the workshop, see Qin Han's Design Generalist blog post. She goes indepth on the Bikeoff project and also Lucy Kimbell's presentation on Designing for Services.

Lauren Currie's blog has a public lecture of Tom's at Dundee University's MA Exhibition. Titled, The End of Design, both Lauren and Qin tell me Tom adapted this lecture for the workshop presentation written about in this blog post. Lauren's also posted a video of the lecture, so check it all out here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Greengaged: Systems for common good

Today I was at the Greengaged event, Co-opportunity: A Day for World Builders. I only stayed for half a day as there's a PhD deadline looming at the moment... The event was hosted by the Design Council and asked:

How could we create (banking and financial) systems for the common good?

I was attracted to the event for a few reasons:
  • The event was curated and facilitated by author of The New Marketing Manifesto and The Green Marketing Manifesto, John Grant, who's work I have been familiar with when I was a MA Business student. Grant wrote the best marketing "textbook" I came across. It was the closest I saw marketing "theory" come to placing people at the centre of product and service development and marketing;
  • Co-production/co-design/co-creation looked to be keys theme to the day;
  • The opportunity to think about how one might re-invent the banking and financial system. When I worked in business and management consulting, most of my clients were banks or financial institutions. They were all after disruptive innovation, paying more attention to the customer experience and using design to do this but also for innovation and transformation. But today's work shop threw up a whole bundle of issues, I have to say my previous work, largely overlooked. These issues had to do with sustainability, common good (though some of our projects were leaning toward ideas for community) and global issues (while some of the projects recognised the global context our projects weren't so focused on these issues).
The event attracted an interesting mix of people. From designers, to entrepreneurs, to educators, to people in advertising and a former banker. The agenda was sketched out by John, and peppered with presentations for example we heard about the Brixton Pound project from Josh Ryan Collins who's been working on the project at the New Economics Foundation. Josh (about to undertake a PhD himself next year on the subject) spoke about the concept of money and what its functions were in the real world. I had never really thought about it much before so they were interesting questions to reflect upon. Josh also stated how, "everyone has a skill that is valued by other people" but went on to say that our currency system is unable to effectively value those skills. After Josh's presentation, the (potential) combination between local skills and local currencies was swirling around in my head.

John's mapping of the day's agenda

But the day moved on at pace and continued with was lots of brainstorming of ideas and issues and John shared many stories of systems for common good that he's been identifying and researching for his forthcoming book, Co-opportunity (by the way, the book is being co-authored in a similar way to Charles Leadbeater's book We Think, which was done where people could access the progress of chapters and feedback to the author. Click on the following links to check out Co-opportunity and feedback to John).

The workshop

We also shared many examples, of systems for common good, among ourselves. One of our tasks of the day was to come up with new ideas for banking and finance using existing systems/models and connecting them to a banking and finance context. Some ideas from the groups included:
  • Mortgage pooling: An idea inspired by babysitting credits among a community of families where time credits are exchanged for babysitting each others children;
  • Banks as museums: Thinking about the experience of banks like one might think of designing a museum to appeal to the five senses;
  • Making banks more transparent: In the way Facebook is transparent with providing insight into the lives of our friends;
  • Peer-to-peer recommendations for banks: Which reminded me a bit of Tripadvisor, Ebay or the way one can leave comments on
The morning provided lots of food for thought, much like the RSA event last night, so it was a pity to have to go home to continue tackling the research methodology chapter of the PhD. But am learning how important it is to punctuate a long process like a PhD with bits of inspiration, diversity and loads of new stories.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The RSA debates: Design, cities and citzenship in the 21st century

Tonight I attended a live debate at the RSA titled, Cities and Citizenship: Surviving the 21st Century. Here's what came into my mailbox many weeks ago, and what the website said:

What does it mean to be a citizen in the 21st century? What is the relationship between the way we design our city and our perception and experience of citizenship? Is it time to redefine Londoners’ obligations, responsibilities and rights to improve the liveability of our city? Are we equipped to tackle the environmental and economic challenges we face?

These questions and more will be tackled in a debate on Cities and Citizenship which kicks off the London Development Agency’s New Urban Agenda Debates in association with RSA Design and Society.

There were four speakers and one Chair and the subject in debate was urban planning and architecture and their contribution to citizenship through the design of cities and spaces. It was a bit off-the-beaten-track from what my research is directly about, but I always think it's good to gain other perspectives from the expansive field of design. Below are some notes I jotted down, and some questions the debate raised for my research.

The first speaker was social entrepreneur and founder of the community support organisation Bromley on Bow Centre, Lord Andrew Mawson. In his opening he said:

"Governments understand the shape of the forest, but don't know what's going on underneath the trees."

He emphasised that we shouldn't be designing our cities top-down nor bottom-up, but inside-out ie. working with people from within communities and organisations. This point supports some of the good practice models and lessons from Dott 07. Projects like Alzheimer 100, DaSH and OurNewSchool all took the approach of working inside-out, but they also worked outside-in to bring in the end-user perspective to help better decision-making.

Lord Mawson also emphasised people and connections, something Maggie Breslin, a designer from the Mayo Clinic recently discussed in her presentation at the recent Transformation Symposium hosted by the Mayo Clinic (13-15 September 2009).

At the end of his presentation Lord Mawson stated that we needed:

vision + leadership + design to connect the people from within

That's spot on, but I wondered who exactly can take on such a role? It's most likely not done by one person, but a few. In vision + leadership + design, designers can do the design very well, but is it also their role to do the vision + leadership too? If so, what if designers don't get to have that level of influence immediately? What is our point of entry into organisations? That entry point rarely allows us to create the vision (yes, designers are good at communicating and devising a vision, but we often need someone to invite us to help create the vision first) or be the leadership (again, designers can be leaders, but entering into an organisation or community as strangers doesn't usually mean we have credibility or influence straight away).

The other speakers were architect, Wolf Prix, whom I lost track of, but I did pick up where he mentioned that city planning should take a leaf from Muhammad Ali's book. Ali was a great boxer because he could change his strategy during a fight ie. spot the problem before it became a problem. I agree that there is a good lesson in there for city planners, especially since a lot of city planning is about systems and in previous experience, problems in systems usually only become visible when the system is already very broke.

Author and journalist, Anna Minton, spoke about the argument in her new book, Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First-Century City, where she critiques urban design as not being democratic enough today, and how it is linked to social behaviour. Anna discussed "defensible space architecture" ie. the implementation of things such as CCTV and the placement of security guards which creates the perception that the corresponding space is one of restricted behaviour and is unsafe, doing away with the idea of natural surveillance. The clear link between the design object/space and social behaviour was really interesting because I know a lot of designing for social issues/impact/innovation is focused on behaviour change. It made me think, should we be reviewing architecture, looking at discussions which have already taken place around the connection between the design and behaviour?

The final speaker was Chief Executive of the RSA, Matthew Taylor. He asked a series of questions, but the first was the most interesting: How can buildings services, spaces etc. give us stories (or clues) as to what kinds of citizens we should be today?

It's a fascinating question to ponder and I am going to leave my notes and reflections there. Will have more to blog from tomorrow at the Design Council's Greengaged event, Co-opportunity: A day for world builders.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Design Collaboration: Northumbria Uni's brand new resource

My friends and Northumbria colleagues, Emma, Joyce and Kath have been busy working on the brand new website:

"A space for design tutors to reflect, review and explore collaborative learning in design teams."

A screen grab of the website

While the site currently says its for design teachers, I believe it is relevant to any design project that demands collaboration. The site contains three key sections:
My research is most relevant to the Teaching Resources part of the site where one can find tools to help identify roles of designers in projects. Other content at this part of the site include tools to:
  • Form and mange a design team
  • Understand the design team
  • Communicate within the design team
  • Reflect among the design team
  • Assess the collaboration
There are also some neat filmed interviews with designers on the site. It's always great to hear different design perspectives straight from designers themselves.

The site was only launched last night, so more additions are to be made. hits on a key issue for designers as collaboration is no more something a designer 'might do' rather its an essential skill for today's designers working in our highly connected, complex and technological society.

Photos from the launch at Northumbria Uni last night

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Redesigning Business Summit: The Big Rethink

An exciting partnership between the Design Council and The Economist will host the Rethinking Business Summit to be held in London from 11-12 March 2010. The summit will explore high level design thinking in business. Here's an overview from the website:

Powerful forces are revolutionising business. It's happened before and it's happening again. Today's challenges mean customer needs are changing and fast. We need to start thinking of new ways to compete. The Economist's Redesigning Business Summit will show you how.

Procter and Gamble, Samsung, Google, Amazon and Apple know what's needed - they use design thinking.

The Economist, in association with the Design Council, is inviting business leaders to sample the fresh thinking that business needs to seize opportunities in a volatile world.

Friday, 11 September 2009

LTA Newsletter | August 09

Click on the image and you'll be able to read the text. The blue links won't work with the jpeg, they only work with a pdf version. If you would like to be emailed pdfs of my monthly research updates, please email me at fiorucci [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Reflections on Service Design Thinks 1

Last Thursday, 3 September 2009, around 50 people gathered at the Sense Loft in London to attend the very first Service Design Thinks (SDT) event. Thinks grew out of the design network that were attending Service Design Drinks, an informal gathering of people interested in service design to meet and share a few drinks every two months or so.

A fuzzy photo from my mobile of Service Design Drinks 3 in April 2009 at the Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell

Service Design Thinks 1 was, "The first in a series of practically focussed talks and debates featuring an inspiring range of practitioners from across the service design and innovation spectrum."

The night had a great turn out, and lots of fun (see some photos I uploaded on Flickr this week). Nick Marsh opened SDT 1 profiling four broad areas for presentation and discussion. These were:
  • Evaluation
  • Research
  • Design and
  • Management

Nick opens the first Service Design Thinks event

SDT1 audience with Noar and Jaimes filming and recording the event

The following notes are my reflections on the four presentations, mostly drawn in relation to my current research.

The first presentation was on evaluation by Alice Casey, who recently began working at NESTA as a project manager. Alice was scheduled later in the evening, but had to catch a train to Scotland that night so we made a last minute change in the programme and began with evaluation. The move seemed in line with one of Alice's key messages that was- when it comes to design projects we need to be thinking about evaluation earlier in the piece.

Alice spoke about how service design project could better address evaluation. She shared four key learnings with us from her side. These learnings were:
  • It's never too soon to think about evaluation;
  • Involve people in the evalution process;
  • Appreicate the policy context; and
  • Tell a compelling story, as "not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted" (as she quoted from Einstein).
Next up was Jo Harrington of Engine who talked about research in service design projects. Engine have always been very open with their design research tools (see their some of their key methods here) and Jo shared with us some tools he used on a recent Engine project. I thought the most interesting part of Jo's presentation was how he went beyond the research tools and spoke about the importance of personal devices when one is doing research. For example Jo talked about the "ethnographer's jumper" and "the cup of tea" as devices which further help break down barriers between researcher and participant. Jo and Re (in the audience during Q&A) both spoke about how tools mediate the relationship and interactions between researcher and participant, and it's really up to the researcher to make everything else happen.

Joel Bailey, from The Team, who kindly sponsored drinks for the night, gave us insight into work he had done in the Government and how he used design on various levels- from cosmetically changing the look of websites to creating better usability, which was linked to hard evidence that design does make a difference in the public sector. One interesting thing I noted from Joel's presentation, and also Karl's (who was to follow) was their comments on not necessarily calling what they do service design and that labels usually happened in accordance to what the client calls it. In the case of Joel, Government-speak was more "service transformation" than service design, a reference to the 2006 Varney report on Service transformation: A better service for citizens abd businesses, a better deal for the taxpayer.

Karl Humphreys from MoMat was the final presenter and spoke about how we could better bring stakeholders together in a project through propositions and prototyping. He profiled propositions as being clear on the 'why' and 'what' of the project. In his experience, Karl found that propositions were a great point of reference for the team at any time throughout the project. In prototyping, Karl spoke about how one must build to show an idea and also build to discuss the idea. He mentioned that where things weren't prototyped, the project idea often suffered in the long run. He added that prototyping, was live and also interesting for the client and organisation, Karl called it, "great PR!"

SDT finished at 9pm and some of us grabbed another drinks at the local pub. For those who weren't able to attend SDT, all the presentations were filmed and will be uploaded on the website servicedesigning.

SDT 1 was a great success and only the beginning of what we hope will continue and move forward to contribute to the work, practice and projects of designing for services in the private, public and social sectors.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Dott 07 case studies published by the Design Council

The Design Council have recently published a set of case studies from Dott 07. Follow the links below to find out about how designers in Dott 07 addressed challenges in education, energy, food, health and mobility.

The Designs of the Time (Dott 07) Festival, took place on the banks of the Tyne River between 16-28 October 2007.
The festival showcased the projects of the Dott 07.
Photo by me.

Alzheimer 100

Led by thinkpublic asked, What practical steps can be taken to improve daily life for people with dementia – and that of their carers?

Design and Sexual Health (DaSH)
Led as a partnership between Options UK and Northumbria University's Centre for Design Research asked, How can sexual health services be made easier to access and use – and less stigmatised?

Low Carb Lane
Lead by live|work, found out, Leading a lifestyle with low environmental impact is a great intention, but can low income households afford it?

Move Me
Also led by live|work questioned, How can people from a small rural community – where public transport is infrequent and expensive and not everybody owns a car – get where they need to go without the need for new cars and roads?

Led by Engine saw that, Schools are often isolated from their community and don’t always provide a space that’s conducive to different sorts of learning and includes facilities for different community groups.

New Work
Led by Enabling Concepts with live|work saw that, Working in a very small business can be difficult. So can working people help each other solve the practical everyday problems?

Urban Farming
Led by David Barrie, Debra Solomon and Zest Innovations identified that, Global food systems are not sustainable. How can design help to create food within city limits?

EcoDesign Challenge
Led by Nick Devitt asked, How can young people concerned about the environment take practical action to improve their immediate surroundings?

Friday, 7 August 2009

From talking to Twitter: 10 Levels of Intimacy in Communication by Ji Lee

This week I have been thinking a lot about how much Twitter has lodged its place in daily life. Ji's impeccable timing with this visualisation sums up more than I can say in words. Here's his neat graphic on 10 Levels of Intimacy in Communication.

Click on the image below to see more detail or visit Ji Lee's website, Please Enjoy, for this and more witty truths.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Universities exploring Service Design- An update

In October last year, with the help of many others, I compiled a long list of Universities exploring Service Design. In February this year, Jeff Howard's Design for Service weblog tracks developments from US Service Design education. Leave a message for Jeff if you know of any other service design courses or universities not present on either lists.

Monday, 3 August 2009

LTA Newsletter | July 09

I don't think I posted one from last month, but here's an update of what I have been up to in the month of July, and some progress on my research and thinking regarding the PhD.

Click on the image below and you'll be able to read the text. The blue links won't work with the jpeg, they only work with a pdf version. If you would like to be emailed pdfs of my monthly research updates, please email me at fiorucci [at] hotmail [dot] com.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Design and social change- entrepreneurship, economic paradigms and movements waiting to happen

Today I read an article a good friend, and old colleague of mine, Natalie emailed me from Communications Arts magazine, titled Design ignites change: Design as social educator.

I have to admit, I have not read much from graphic or communications design of late. When it comes to discussing socially responsible graphic design, and as the article points out, I often find graphic design sees it a bit too narrowly in terms of working for not-for-profit clients and/or using environmentally friendly materials. Both of which are really important, but social responsibility goes deeper than that. The Design ignites change piece has actually made me reconsider my view on the discipline that I started out in as a designer. Mark, who authored the piece and also runs Worldstudio, a marketing and design agency, proposes some really interesting viewpoints which got me thinking about the viability of pursing socially responsible design.

The article brings up so many issues. I wish I could discuss them all here, but blog posting is not really for essays, and I am only blogging this because Communications Arts doesn't actually provide a platform for readers to discuss the article and provide their perspectives. In short, here are some interesting things I drew from the article.

The designer as social entrepreneur
Mark says:

"We designers have the ability to contribute so much more. As the definition of designer expands we should add social entrepreneur to the list."

Like this because it provides nice evidence for my own analysis on Dott 07, but I wanted to profile it here because it prefaced a simple, yet elegant explanation for what designers are doing as social entrepreneurs:

"Those designers in the forefront are using their design-thinking skills to develop and execute their own solutions to social problems-pushing the boundaries of what design can do."

The author gives the example of Rural Studio, which Mike told me about last week. Rural Studio gets architecture students out of the university studio and into the real world of designing and making/implementing community housing and social projects. These projects are undertaken in some of the most deprived areas of the USA, and designers also grapple with the reality of those less fortune than themselves.

Image from Rural Studio website

Economic paradigms for design
The article also brings up channels for showcasing design work as exemplars of design that ignites social change, and I have to say that as I was reading, I was expecting to be a bit disappointed as I thought the article would launch into something about how we should promote the social work and good, designers do. While it is great to provide evidence of what designers can do, it also begins to turn the attention of non-design audiences toward sentiments such as, "gee, look how pretty that piece of communication is" and reverts design back to its widely held perception of just making things look pretty.

But, Mark spends the rest of his article addressing critical issues that often don't have as much to do with designing per say, but other challenges designers must contend with in order to work in socially responsible design. Now this is the interesting bit.

Mark says:

"How do we create space for designers to do this type of work at the professional level where concern about the bottom line is often the driving force. All too often the professional design community generates a flurry of activity around social issues in the form of a manifesto, a symposium or conference without much follow-through. The road is paved with good intentions, but in comparison to all of the discussion, there rarely seem to be enough tangible results."

This is a question my supervisor, Bob and I have been discussing since we attended the Changing the Change Conference (CtC) in Turin over a year ago. The conference addressed broad issues in design and sustainability, and mostly from a design research point of view, so there were many, many academics, and a few designers, presenting on the potential good, design could do for society and the environment. Bob and I felt one key thing was not being addressed with enough weight at CtC, and that is what Bob calls the "economic paradigm" of designers working in these areas. ie. How do designers make a living while doing this kind of work?

I have to say though, I did see one presentation by Work Worth Doing (WWD) on this issue. WWD founder, Alex, talked about one of their projects, Now House, a demonstration of a low energy home.

Image from Now House Project website

It was in fact a R&D type project funded by one of their clients to explore the possibilities of low energy homes. At the end of his presentation, Alex, spoke of the difficulty in doing this kind of work where at the end of the day, he has to run a business and make a living.

So the question, as discussed with Bob and asked by designers Alex and Mark, burns in my mind. And it's also been interesting to see that this question seems to only be be asked by designers, and not addressed by those studying design in an academic sense. Having come from a business background as well, I have been quite interested in the business models of design, and the viability of projects such Now House and those run by Dott 07. Dott 07 was special, like Now House, because it guaranteed flexibility for designers to explore uncharted territories without the risk of losing funding to do so. But these opportunities are rare and don't come around often, so how does a designer make a living out of doing such projects? Mark says that attitudes need to change:

"... in order to create a sustainable model that not only promotes this type of work, but also encourages it in the marketplace."

Though I think Mark refers to attitudes of designers, but what about clients and commissioners of design? Is it a designer's responsibility to change that too? How far can designers go in doing this? Wouldn't it be great if someone could look at economic models for design to function in this space? The first step, might be to look at the design companies whom I listed in my post Design and social the social sector, who run businesses doing great design work on social issues.

Movements as motion or change in position
The final thing I want to say about Mark's article is that he critiques the fact that "movements" can be well-intentioned but not actually go further than that. He asks of movements such as the Designers Accord (DA) "a global coalition of designers, educators, and corporate leaders, working together to create positive environmental and social impact":

"Will the Designers Accord be yet another well-meaning but ineffective movement in design history?"

Logo from Designers Accord

Wikipedia says a movement is, "a motion, a change in position." I guess depending on your view of what a movement is, it can be a motion ie. a move forward in which DA is when one looks at its widespread support. And/or a movement can be a change in position, which the raises the fundamental ideological question of does it mean to be a designer today?

I think the discipline is really grappling with this now. When design students enter uni with an intention that they are about to spend 3 or 4 years making beautiful objects, this contrasts starkly against the journey of some, who get a little disenchanted with this because in the journey of discovering design, we see that the potential for design is that there is so much more to design (than just pretty objects. Though I agree with the fact we still need designers for this too).

And when this happens, we find ourselves in this fog... asking what exactly are we doing? Do we even call it design? And then when it comes to finding a job, do we take the traditional road which gives us job security and finance OR do we find/create our own thing/business to explore design + make a living + do what we want to do OR do we set up a community with intentions of adding to this movement OR do we take time out to try and figure out what this all means for design, designers and our own identity....

("..." is purposely added to indicate that there are probably many other avenues others might have taken)

On a final, final note Worldstudio is a partner in setting up a programme called Design Ignites Change which "promotes and encourages talented high school and college students across the country to use design thinking and innovation to create messages for, and solutions to, pressing social problems."