The first time it happened, I took time to notice the experience. A food truck vendor handed me his phone, which had a little white square sticking out of the headphone jack. "What is this?" I asked, wondering which one of us was the crazy one. "Square," he replied. "You can make payments on your phone." I swiped my card on the strange device and then I signed my name with my finger. The receipt went straight to my inbox, and the deed was done: A delicious meal was mine to enjoy, all with a few taps and a swipe.
What was once a revolutionary gesture—a vendor hands me his or her smartphone, and I swipe and pay—has now become second nature. Countless friends and I have used Square to pay for coffee in chic cafes, fruits and vegetables in a hectic farmer's market food stall, and small works from independent artists, yet we rarely think about it. And that, I've learned, is by design. Whereas most design objects draw attention to themselves, the Square Reader and the accompanying software help you get the job done quickly and then quietly fade into the background.
Jesse Dorogusker demos the packaging for the Square Stand.
Anyone who's spent time haggling in a street market knows that payment is not just about money changing hands but about a conversation. Hardware Lead Jesse Dorogusker took the time to demo Stand, Square's newest product, a point-of-sale system designed to sit on vendors' countertops and operate with an iPad. In the spirit of conversation, the stand rotates, allowing the vendor to type in the total and then have the iPad face the customer as he or she signs it.
"The merchant will very quickly understand that there are things that I do, and there are things that I want my customer to do. And we're going to have a conversation, and this is going to facilitate that conversation," noted Dorogusker, who has previously worked at Apple, in an interview with Core77. After the sale is complete, the Stand can be rotated back in place with a satisfying click.
Today's installment investigates how Ziba tested AIGA's crowdsourced ideas for moving their organization forward. These ideas had some good momentum already, because all the learnings from Project Medusa were applied to elicit them, but which were the best and the most actionable? Considering a range of hypotheticals systematically—to say nothing of dispassionately—isn't easy for a group, but it's necessary, to solidify goals. We pulled another tool from our kit to make the job easier.
The Consumer Journey
Look sharp, here comes a metaphor: Imagine AIGA's entire membership experience is a net. The horizontal strands are specific touchpoints—website, events, mailings, meetups, anything and everything you can interact with. The vertical strands are specific moments in an individual's journey with the organization, from first hearing about it, to joining, on through renewing membership, participating or donating time and services. Still with us? The net is a version of the consumer journey, a powerful visualization tool. We can experiment with passing individuals and chapters—even AIGA as a whole—through it. As test subjects hit our customized consumer journey matrix, where do they stick? Which strands crossing frame what makes membership special or rewarding? Where are the big holes, which can indicate where something's missing?
The net calls attention to where and when the most valuable moments happen, which allows AIGA to prioritize changes to the membership experience with the greatest impact. By focusing in on the most meaningful strands, AIGA can create new initiatives, events, or even policies, giving members what they want, just when they want it. Ideas from the leadership workshop can be passed through the consumer journey net as well, to see which strands they get caught up in. This makes it easier to choose when to invest more and when something can safely be pruned away or abandoned altogether.
What Ziba had learned thus far let us explore possibilities for AIGA's future by projecting qualified concepts out into the real world. Early-stage design is necessarily focused on what can be, and design research is the fuel that powers educated guesses. Applying well-informed extrapolation to design early on increases the plausibility of whatever you set out to create, be it a product or an experience. Design research leads to outcomes that are not only new, but better.
Doing Crowdsourcing Right
Ziba socialized Project Medusa's findings with AIGA's leadership through another highly participatory workshop, including chapter presidents and assorted board members from 67 nationwide chapters. (We do so love workshops.) Once everyone had a good look at the curated information reflecting the current state of affairs, we took advantage of all those designers and asked them to propose new ways forward for the organization. It was a big group, so we call this research tool "crowdsourced ideation." Here's the question that needed answering, ultimately: What should AIGA look like in 100 years?
We knew what we hoped to get out of the meeting: an explosion of good, relevant hypotheses. It's important to understand that crowdsourcing works in some situations, but it's not a panacea. Counting on crowdsourcing to yield a silver bullet of an idea is setting yourself up for disappointment. The composition of your crowd and the questions you ask are both vital considerations before proceeding. Because we had a number of hypotheses about what might be right for AIGA already, our crowd of AIGA leaders served as a testing ground. Their replies to our questions let us see where our ideas were echoed or contradicted.
The key here, remember, would be to crystalize AIGA leaders' reactions to the aggregated community perspective. Some leaders had participated in their local chapter's Medusa events, allowing them to bring even deeper perspective to the table. There were two critical issues: the cost of membership, both upfront and ongoing, and what makes up the AIGA experience, from the moment of sign-up onward. What do they get for their investment of money, energy and time?
Making Collaboration Work
Three different activities each carried the tagline "The future of AIGA is in your hands." The first elicited thoughts on the organization's existing membership structure, and the second was a group discussion, with each table prompted by a different 'hot topic'—horizontal communication between chapters, vertical relationships within the national organization, the relationship of design to business, and design for education and government. The third was a fun one, meant to expose people's personal agendas, with the prompt, "If you were king/queen of AIGA for a day, of all the thing's you'd do, which one would you be best remembered for, in the distant future?"
In July, we offered three installments on how to conduct design research, using Ziba's recent work with AIGA as an example. The objective was to develop a new vision of the future for the 100-year old AIGA, a membership-based professional association for designers of all stripes. Before that was possible, a thorough survey of the organization's current state was needed. What did existing members love best, and what could they do without? What was making new members join, and what kept long-standing members coming back?
Ziba's first step was a branded, participatory informational outreach called Project Medusa, which took the form of a video-driven workshop for all AIGA members across the country. In Part 1 back in Julyl, we explained four rules anyone can use to get ready to do great design research:
- Do Your Homework; Know Your Limits
- Once You Know Your Audience, Use the Right Tools for the Job
- Take (Good) Risks
- Learn to Love the Bias: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em
Project Medusa itself was designed, branded and delivered as a "how-to," guiding each AIGA chapter to host a home-brewed information gathering. In the second installment, Part 2, we drilled down into the details of what made Medusa tick. The rules explained there can be applied to any participatory, group-think-enabling sort of meeting:
Make sure everyone involved knows why they're participating. This can be handled neatly with your invitation, which also gives people time to have a bit of a think beforehand.
Choose the right space. Then have that environment properly set up, with everything you'll need to succeed. Paper, pens, whiteboards, markers, sure... what about music? Snacks?
State the rules of your engagement up front. Why can a group of strangers come together and enjoy a game of Monopoly? Because it has clear rules, parameters, and goals. Proper briefing is also essential in case everyone just accepted the invitation and didn't read it, or read it and forgot.
Pace your activities, and balance writing, drawing, speaking, conversation and breaks.
Take chances, as appropriate for your group. We've had good success with encouraging people to contribute as early as possible, as visually as possible—everyone can draw, even if it's only a stickman.
Don't be afraid to "waste" some time on throw-away activities or even jokes... warming your group up will have an effect on the quality of the atmosphere as well as the results.
Use strong reference points to help everyone get up to speed fast. (This goes back to your choice of theme.) Consider how relatable and believable each and every touchpoint along the way is.
Take advantage of every channel that's appropriate: movies, music, physical activities, books, or thank you cards.
Record everything: photos, audio, notes. Remember, there are no wrong answers, with this kind of research, so be sure to capture as much as you can.
Finally, keep it simple, stupid is time-honored advice for good reason. By the time you've finished preparing, things should be so clear and concise that you could sit down and write up a quick-start guide to your research project.
Professor Kevin Shankwiler of GeorgiaTech has been teaching a third-year bicycle design studio for the past four years. The 8-week course is primarily focused on understanding product systems design and exploring opportunities for innovation in commuter bike design. David Hotard was among the 12 students in the SRAM-sponsored fall studio, which culminated with four teams (of three students each) developing very different bikes. He worked with Matthew Campbell and Edwin Collier on reimagining the hubless wheel as a cargo space; here Hotard shares how they arrived at the final product.
"Transport" is a commuter bike design project sponsored by SRAM. Although panniers and saddle bags are on the market to make commuting easier, we found that many cyclists prefer to ride with a traditional backpack. This doesn't mean that a backpack is comfortable; it's just more practical than the panniers that clip to a rack. We discovered that many commuters didn't want a bag that felt like a dedicated commuting bag but rather a bag that would work in any scenario. We started to look at what we do with bags when we're traveling by car, plane, train, and other means and realized that there is almost always a compartment for them. We realized that what commuters wanted was that compartment... on their bike. Research on futuristic bike concepts inspired us to use the negative space of the much-debated hubless wheel for our trunk. The result shows that a trunk in the wheel could easily accommodate various backpacks and might well be very feasible solution. We were also happy to see that Yale mechanical engineering students built a bike with a hubless wheel while we were in the midst of our project.
We researched the hubless wheel to the extent that we could validate that it is technologically feasible; besides the Yale project, the Lunartic was an inspiration to us. Although it may be more expensive to produce and currently less structurally sound than a traditional wheel, we know that in many cases people are willing to pay more for a design that satisfies their needs. We did a lot of research looking at concept bikes, current products and observing users. The hubless wheel storage system brought those three areas of research together by giving commuters the ability to travel with any bag, not just a rack-able bag, and also showed a practical purpose for a hubless wheel concept.
While the Internet has given us a great deal of control over our media environments, that control exists largely in digital space. We can place stickers on our computers, change our desktop backgrounds and manipulate our Facebook profiles and web sites, but it's still challenging for the average citizen to change physical space. Permits are required for legal street art in many cities, and signage and billboards remain a costly endeavor.
When I first read about hateful anti-Muslim ads being put up in New York City, I was surprised and saddened. Seriously, who does that? Then when a crop of similar ads went up on San Francisco city buses, I was outraged. As a San Francisco resident, I felt like I had to do something about it, something more than sharing my rage and complaining on Facebook or Twitter.
To channel her frustration, George tapped into Louder, a platform she co-founded with Colin Mutchler. I wrote about civic crowdfunding recently with Citizinvestor, which is limited to city officials' projects; think of Louder as a citizen's version of crowdfunding, but made specifically for reclaiming advertising space. George reached out to her wide network with a Louder page and brought in a number of supporters (full disclosure: I contributed a small amount to the campaign).
Christie George with supporters at the site of the billboard in San Francisco's SoMA district.
There a few greater joys in life than the creative process. From an unexpected spark of inspiration to refining an idea, starting the process to applying the final touches—creating is the peak of human excellence. After searching for a notebook that would be the ultimate tool for the ultimate activity, and falling up short, we decided to make it ourselves.
In a city like Oslo, which is officially the most expensive in the world, it can be difficult to strike out as an entrepreneur. Independent start-up founders, like artists, tend to thrive in less expensive cities, where the consequences of failure are fewer and costs of setup are less. But tucked away in the downtown area is a new coworking space, MESH Norway, where you'll find freelancers and entrepreneurs working together on technology and design problems. Five stories high, with around 75 companies, MESH is Oslo's first coworking space, and it's grown quickly since it first started in February 2012.
"Oumain focus is on early stage startups," noted co-founder Kriszti Toth, who started the space with Anders Mjaset and Audun Ueland, "but we try to keep a balance around 70% on startups and 30% creative individuals like filmmakers, animation makers, graphic designers, etc." This keeps the people and services diverse and the activities busy, with companies like Holder de ord (Norwegian for "keeping their word"), which tracks politicians' promises; Justcoin, a currency exchange for Bitcoin; and the social entrepreneurial group World Wide Narrative. When I visited to give a talk for Creative Mornings Oslo, I caught a brainstorming session afterward for Memorylanes, an award-winning storytelling app for communities.
Photo by Alex Asensi
Designed by the founders, the space contains a mixture of smaller spaces, from a hip night club to individual offices and more collaborative spaces to a busy ground-floor coffee shop for the general public. "The office space had these brick walls when we got here," she explained, "and all the interior was me and Anders and people who shaped it just by being here and using it. The tables are from IKEA, we painted all of them ourselves. Old couches are second hand catches."
Welcome back, once again, to Project Medusa. This final installment in our three-part How-To series aims to illuminate the last phase of any design research project: what are you to do with all the information that result from your brilliant effort? How do you decide what's relevant, and what's not? Needless to say, it can be a bit complicated. Many of the considerations introduced earlier are also helpful at this stage: remember your goals, and understand your audience (which shifts now to whoever you're preparing the research results for.) Confused? Visit Part 1 for a more thorough introduction. If you recall Part 1 but missed Part 2, now's your chance to catch up.
While there are no right or wrong answers in design research, not all data is equal. Assuming you've carefully prioritized your goals and outreach, it's now time to prioritize results. At Ziba, we use a four-part process to synthesize the data research yields.
1. Aggregate the data.
This could mean digitizing handwritten responses, stacks of sticky notes stuck to a wall, dozens of photos printed, or whatever works for you and your material. You'll need to be able to see the data—and ideally search through it efficiently—before you can plunge ahead.
2. Sort for theme(s).
Like goes with like, and making logical groupings of related information will help you identify the trends and anomalies within your data set. Embrace the granular: this is most likely the only time you'll look at each and every survey question, listen to every minute of recorded discussion, and squint at all those doodles. Stop worrying about your goals, momentarily, and evaluate your results as honestly and objectively as possible. Everything is allowed to be interesting, at this stage. If, on the other hand, you feel overwhelmed with the amount of data you're confronted with, the sorting process will allow you to reduce complexity.
Themes emerge as you connect the strongest trends in the data to your hypothesis or hypotheses. Think of it as a naming exercise, if you're stumped: with the data sorted into buckets, each bucket needs a concise handle. There may be some hard choices—fascinating but quirky individual responses sometimes need to be cast aside if they fail to play well with other, larger groups of more typical answers. Force yourself to make decisions about what's meaningful and what can actually have an impact on the work to come.
For everyone returning, welcome back to Project Medusa. You're (still) invited to this party! Every AIGA member who wanted to participate was invited to this party, in fact, which ensured a great cross-section of designers. Intrigued? (If none of this makes any sense to you, click here.) Ziba produced this research effort to look into AIGA's future, and learn directly from its members—working in Reno, Providence and everywhere in between—what the future of the organization should look like. This meant, implicitly, that younger members' voices were key, and that drove decisions about many of the elements we're going to look at in Part 2. The key to designing your own research project is know your audience... you can't expect much success hunting for a totally unfamiliar animal.
We'll start with some overarching considerations, and then get into the nitty-gritty, with a checklist for conducting rich, relevant research.
1.) Preparation is key.
If you take only one thing away from this series, it should be the importance of being prepared. Without proper planning, you can only try and catch up after the fact: too little, too late. This flows directly out of advice from Part 1 of the Project Medusa How-To series. We can't emphasize enough that you need to do your research before you start the research. What do you want to know? It's difficult find anything of meaning unless you know (at the very least) where to start looking, even with highly sophisticated design research methods. With your goals identified, think back to your audience: if you don't ask the right people, it won't matter how good the question is. Rubbish in means rubbish out, no matter how you slice it. (More on this in Part 3, still to come.)
2.) Everything is intentional... and should be directed.
Project Medusa took the form of an interactive film with coordinating activities, to guide individual AIGA chapters to host their own informational workshops and sketch a new vision for the entire organization. This allowed Ziba to control the overall look and feel, in keeping with a designed research outreach, while still allowing us to leverage the personal knowledge and connections that each local moderator brought to the table.
Even if your research effort will be a simple web survey, consider how your presentation might affect your results. Be intentional with whatever tools you've got: slips of paper, a series of roundtable discussions, or formal focus groups. Consider your biases—what you think you know starting out, and any other assumptions surrounding the inquiry—and do what you can to make these supposed liabilities into assets, too.
Introduction: The Beginning is a Good Place to Start
AIGA had a 100th birthday coming up in 2014, and wanted to celebrate their brand by looking to the future. Their numbers were strong, with 23,000 members countrywide in 67 chapters, but they knew the landscape for all professional organizations was changing. AIGA was concerned its existing platforms weren't relevant enough to drive the kind of participation and engagement needed, especially from younger designers. Born in the late 1970's and 80's, and now in the prime of their careers, these designers understand their work differently; it's interdisciplinary to the bone. AIGA's reputation of strength in graphic design, while not the whole picture, was overshadowing their efforts to expand and represent today's entire design profession. (There are a few new ways to connect with colleagues and professional acquaintances digitally today, too—hat tip to LinkedIn, Coroflot and Dribbble.)
AIGA needed to find out what its members really valued, and what the organization should offer going forward. This is the first of three How-To installments on designing research projects; we'll look along the way at how AIGA got the information they needed, and what they did with the things they learned.
How (and Why) To Brand a Research Project, in Four Easy Steps:
1. Do Your Homework; Know Your Limits
Delivering any branded experience takes time, effort and money. Do it well, though, and the expenses are justified. Pull in the right people, engage them, then keep them coming back, and your venture, project, or what have you succeeds. Attract the wrong people, or fumble the engagement, and you'll fail. Before setting out to brand a research project, you'll have to do some research. What's the backstory behind the questions you're seeking to answer? What tools will best access the audience you're trying to reach? Wait, back up: do you really know who you're trying to reach? That's really, really important. Depending on how easily you can answer these preliminary questions, it might be the case that a strategic partnership is in order.
AIGA felt Ziba could help with their investigation, because our design work is interdisciplinary day in and day out, and we're well experienced working with brands trying to reach Millennials. This reflects where we think design is headed, too—our competitors are interdisciplinary designers, and so are a good proportion of AIGA members. So we knew AIGA needed just the right outreach in order to find out what their next 100 years should look like. Knowing our audience—it was us, in part—meant we could be sure to activate the right touchpoints without dismissing AIGA's history. Think of the how Ace Hotels reuse old buildings, leveraging their best characteristics and improving what's outdated. Using heritage proactively, as an asset, is very different from simply starting over.
2. Once You Know Your Audience, Use the Right Tools for the Job
The information that primary research provides is valuable, but the process can be a bit dry. We knew our audience was allergic to old-fashioned, but the same might not be true for yours. Even if a research effort's top-level question seems obvious—i.e. "What do you want from AIGA?"—who you're asking and how you ask needs to be taken into account. Considered as one big participatory touchpoint, AIGA's entire outreach had to be gripping to every chapter member, and inspire younger members in particular to really dive in. Tuned engagement tools get rich responses, surfacing higher-order emotional wants and needs.
Cale Thompson, Senior Service Designer at Ziba, said "Imagine a research project could be a party... some hot event everyone wants to be invited to." That's not a bad target for any membership-based organization to aim for. We decided the best way to make this outreach feel like a party was to give it an identity—a brand—which was quickly designed to be hyper-savvy DIY wrapped in awesome (for several non-trivial reasons we'll get into in just a moment.) Project Medusa! We were willing to gamble our audience wanted less Trivial Pursuit and more Atmosfear, which was the inspiration for the interactivity of Project Medusa's workshop.
One concept we'd like to highlight is called "Courses," and it eliminates the lunch line completely. Kids go straight to their tables, where the food is served to them by LRAs, one course at a time. Rather than getting one quick moment to choose a whole tray, the Courses system gives kids four moments to choose their dishes: carrots or broccoli, salad with dressing or without, chicken or tofu, apple or orange. And each moment of choice lasts as long as they need—there's no one waiting in line behind them. They can see what their friends are eating and feel supported when trying something new. Plus, each new dish brings a small rush of anticipation, greatly increasing the focus on food. The process allows adults to decide the order of the courses, so if they want kids to eat more salad, they can just put the salad first. (I've never seen kids get so excited about salad as they did with our prototypes!)
What's great about the Courses system is that it bears striking resemblance to something we're all familiar with: a restaurant. We simply had to apply that service to a new context. However, all services require people, and the people who needed to change their behavior the most were the LRAs. So we listened closely to make sure we were supporting their desired behaviors too. We heard that the LRAs' favorite part of their job was interacting with kids. They'd rather be chatting with a child than dishing food onto a tray. While the current system gives them one interaction point at the big serving station, the Courses system gives them four. They can be closer to the kids, and therefore more helpful, when they are out among the tables.
When we prototyped the concept with real kids and real food at AGC, we heard lots of positive feedback from students. They liked that the bowls were lighter and smaller than trays, giving them confidence when carrying them to the trash. They liked that the bowls gave them more elbow room at the tables. And they even liked that when they inevitably spilled their milk, it didn't spill into the tray and make their meal soggy.
But the most encouraging result of our behavioral prototyping came from something the kids couldn't tell us—something we observed in their eating behavior. It was an increase in eating balanced meals. Kids with trays often ate one, maybe two of the four food items. Kids with Courses sampled all four. Not only did they eat more and waste less, they ate more balanced meals—a metric that the public school system would actually care about, because it sounds suspiciously like health.
So the lesson for designers is to ask not only what you can make, but what you can measure. The only way this concept will be replicated at other schools is if we can prove quantitatively that kids eat more balanced meals, and that balance affects health. Measuring this is tricky, but we've just completed our study of balance pre-Courses. We intend to study balance with a trial of Courses very soon, and we're optimistic about the results.
Lesson 6: Design for every last barrier.
The physical elements of Courses are a collection of plates and bowls, long trays to hold them and a cart to bring them around the room. Sounds fine when you're talking about one table, but when you realize that you need 600 bowls, you start to discover the unintended consequences of this change. One thing that came up right away: how are
we going to do all these dishes?
The current trays are washed in 15 dishwasher cycles, which takes about an hour and a half. When we loaded our prototype bowls into the dishwasher trays and did the math, they would take 20 cycles, adding an extra half hour of dishwashing onto someone's job. We knew that this small issue might actually be the difference between the whole system working or coming crashing down. The final bowls and trays are designed to be shorter and flatter, making them more compatible with the current dishwashing system.
The lesson here is to go willingly toward every last barrier, and not stop until they've all been uncovered. After all, the reason that most social problems aren't solved is because there are barriers in place. Often really little, really stupid barriers. Decision-makers go for the big picture but forget the nuanced details. It's our responsibility to challenge those barriers head-on with our designs. Find them, understand what's really going on, and see if compromises can be made. Because we can't afford to sacrifice time and money and food and health because our bowls don't fit in the dishwasher.
What food did you hate as a kid, that you now love as a grown-up?
Mine was guacamole. I used to hate guacamole! My mom would make it fresh and serve it at parties, and I just thought it looked so gross.
Now, of course, guac is one of my favorite foods. I regret the years I spent missing out on all that awesome homemade goodness. Why didn't I just try it? It's so delicious! My point is that it's hard to remember what it's like to be a kid. Sure, we remember some of the major moments, but it's particularly hard to recall how we behaved in daily life. In the case study below, our main users were kids, and since we couldn't literally become kids again, we had to find other ways to understand them. As you read about the project, try to remember what it was like to not like [insert food you used to hate here].
Designing Everything but the Food
At Greater Good Studio, we use design methods to solve social problems. We work with foundations, nonprofits, government agencies and social businesses, often saying that our mission is to work with people on a mission. We take an asset-based approach to research and design, because in the social sector, unmet needs are almost too easy to find. Rather, we look for assets—the people, resources, behaviors, relationships and systems—that are already working well. Our designs leverage those assets to create more and better life.
We were recently awarded a grant to teach a class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (where my co-founder George is a professor). The project was to design an elementary school cafeteria, with a team of grad and undergrad students. I know what you're thinking: it's an architecture project, right? Well, we approached the challenge as designing the interactions between kids and food. While a cafeteria is literally a room with four walls, it's also a dance between lots of people and lots of things, most importantly, kids and food. To create a great cafeteria experience, kids and food have to interact in a way that is positive, healthy and fun.
Another way to frame it is that rather than designing the space, we are designing the behaviors within that space. If we can find ways to support new behaviors, and facilitate great interactions, we can create a user-centered experience without moving any walls...which we weren't allowed to do anyway.
Lesson 1: Don't know the answer until you know the question.
We started by framing our project around health. How can we design a cafeteria that encourages healthy eating? We were inspired by Dr. Brian Wansink, a behavioral economist from Cornell, who showed that simple cafeteria changes like placing the milk before the soda could have enormous impact on diners' choices. However, the healthfulness of school lunch is a subjective, politicized issue. And healthy food is no silver bullet: When Chicago Public Schools changed its menu to add healthy options, kids opted out! (And lunch ladies protested).
Most importantly, we are designers. We're not nutritionists, chefs, food scientists, farmers or supply chain managers. What can we bring to the table? We thought about our responsibilities as designers: to be action-oriented, to understand people on an individual level, and to think first about desirability, rather than feasibility or viability or "how this will do in opinion polls." Our expertise is in human experience, and so that's where our research began.
Observing lunchtime that first afternoon at Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC), the charter school where our project was based, we noticed one really glaring pattern: every adult in the room was trying to get kids to eat. They were playing eating games, "selling" the merits of various dishes, and straight-up pleading with kids to take one more bite. Our first reaction was, "They are working really hard at this!" And our second reaction was, "It's not even working." Kids were throwing out lots and lots of perfectly delicious food at every meal. We realized that rather than encouraging kids to eat healthier, the ideal cafeteria is one that simply encourages kids to eat—though, as any parent knows, that is no small feat.
The lesson here is to not assume the answer until you know the right question. There's a common criticism of design in the social sector—it's called "missionary design." Missionaries go to foreign cultures already knowing the "answers" to people's troubles. Rather than being missionaries, let's remember that the answers are in that place. So don't assume you know what to fix, until you know what is broken.
With additional editorial support from Nathan Jones, Keith Lampi, Gaylon White, Jos de Wit
Natural disasters can happen anywhere with little or no warning. When they do, they threaten community water sources and jeopardize public health by destroying vital pipelines or existing sanitation systems allowing the introduction of contaminants into the drinking water supply. One of the most immediate concerns post-disaster is providing a supply of clean, safe hydration to survivors to help prevent the occurrence and spread of waterborne diseases.
"Water is one of the first things that a victim of a natural disaster has to have to survive," says Nathan Jones, vice president of government and institutional sales at HTI. "Many of the deaths that occur from natural disasters don't happen because of the disaster itself, but what happens later—the waterborne disease that sweeps through the population."
Every few years, villages in Mudimbia, Kenya are destroyed from floodwaters.
Today, more than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and the United Nations predicts that by 2025, 2/3 of the world's population will face periodic and severe water shortage.
Starting in a Corvallis, Oregon, garage in 1987, Keith Lampi, now executive vice president and chief operating officer for Hydration Technology Innovations (HTI), Robert Salter and some college friends began focusing on how forward osmosis could be used in various humanitarian and industrial applications. In 1988, Lampi and Salter founded HTI in Albany, Oregon, with the purpose of utilizing their engineering and chemistry expertise to pioneer innovative membrane technology research using forward osmosis as a foundation.
When a fire destroyed HTI's Albany facility in 2007, the disruption ironically allowed Lampi and his team a bit of space to work on some of the world's wicked water problems. From those efforts, the HydroPack was born—an emergency hydration solution created specifically for use during the critical first days after a natural disaster.
Victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti received HydroPacks
"Our earliest forward osmosis pouch was a two-liter bag that we had developed for the military. But it required radio frequency welding and was fairly expensive to make," says Dr. Jack Herron, director of product development at HTI. "Our desire was to create a relatively inexpensive pouch for disaster relief. The picture I had in mind was a 10-year-old child in a flood in India. What would he be attracted to and want to drink? What could he use properly without training? I knew from my days as a soccer dad that kids love juice pouches, so that was sort of the model. We also wanted to utilize a heat-seal process to keep the cost down. The HyrdroPack was the result."
GlassLab provides designers with rare access to explore concepts in glass. In public "design performances" or private workshops, designers and glassmakers collaborate, rapidly prototyping design concepts and using the immediacy of hot glass as a catalyst for innovation. Using a mobile hot glass studio, GlassLab sessions have taken place in public design venues like Design Miami/Art Basel Miami and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, offering audiences a live, authentic glimpse of the design and glassmaking processes, while allowing designers to explore the material of glass in a way that few have access to. - Corning Museum of Glass
I live in North Kohala on the Big Island of Hawai'i. I grow food, I chase sunsets and I brew. When it came time to source bottles for my first batch of ginger beer, I went to the transfer station to intercept a few before they were hauled off for recycling. While chatting with the manager, I learned that shipping costs prohibit the bottles from leaving the island, and instead they're pulverized and sold as raw material. (There's rumor of a man laying a shiny road on the island, will keep you posted...) Hearing this while living in a community practicing permaculture and preservation, I was inspired to dust off an old idea.
In 2008 I had a moment of gin-spiration. I was at a gathering watching a group of architect friends attempt to redeem the collegiate party pastime of beer can stacking and I began thinking how much more interesting the game would be if the cans interlocked, if they were more like Legos. Shortly after, I came across the (loose) statistic that "every month [in America], we throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper." So when I was invited to participate in GlassLab at the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) I accepted without hesitation, eager to bring my bottle brick to life and build that skyscraper rather than fill it. The following is my process from concept to prototype.
Like many before, this process began on a napkin. The first study was a simple cartoon of a bottle and a Lego on a date. I thought if all goes well, this design will work itself out.
Imagined first date between a bottle and a toy.
It turned out that more action was required on my part, so in preparation for my GlassLab sessions I spoke with gaffer Eric Meek at CMOG. To best execute this design, we would need a mold. Our best material options for glassmaking molds included wood, plaster and graphite. I decided on a wood mold as this current design is conceptual and would deserve a more adept design before committing to the more expensive—but lasting—graphite mold. The ultimate goal for the bottle is to become ubiquitous and a readily upcyclable, viable building material, but at this stage I was interested in starting a conversation to garner the resources in order to move to the next step.
We decided on a three-part hardwood mold. Eric estimated the wood could withstand the 2,100 degree glass for roughly 6-8 castings. To produce the mold I turned to Tietz-Baccon, a design and digital fabrication studio in Long Island City, NY. After the initial conversation with T-B, I elaborated on the first-date sketch, snapped it with my phone and emailed it across the Pacific. Between a phone call, a quick sketch and a snapshot, this idea was coming to life.
Follow-up sketch sent to Tietz-Baccon
Mold sketch, CMOG
A mockup made from water bottles. Could plastic be an option for implementation?
A few days later I received the CAD renderings and technical drawings from Tietz-Baccon. We increased the scale of the bottle so that it would be easier to work with by hand out of a mold.
Technical drawing, Tietz-Baccon
Rendering 1, Tietz-Baccon
Rendering 2, Tietz-Baccon. Just like my napkin sketch. I don't see any difference...
We decided on a dense cherrywood for the mold because of its ability to withstand the heat of the molten glass without burning away too quickly. The job was cued up, and by the time I would arrive in New York City a few days later, it was complete. The CNC milling required 8 hours, with an additional 4 hours of finishing and construction. When I arrived to the T-B studio, I was greeted with a thing of true beauty:
With the promise of a single tool that can replace the pen, paper and repetitive inventories of books at schools, a multimedia eReader tablet provides a multipurpose educational tool that not only lets the student read and write, but can also go one step further and engage the student directly, replacing sometimes dull and lifeless teaching methods that can marginalize students with different learning styles and habits.
While the western world has been talking about introducing better educational tools for years, schools elsewhere across the globe have taken a major step toward incorporating tablets into their curriculum. A recent report from Pyramid Research shows tablet sales are set to skyrocket as South Korea vows to move to an all-tablet education curriculum by 2015. India and Thailand are close behind. Educators are looking for improved methods to prepare students for admission into professional college programs like engineering, medicine and business management.
In 2010 Luminum InfoTek approached Lumium (although our names are similar there is no connection). Their vision was to create and introduce a handheld wireless electronic device for students with age- and skill-appropriate learning content. Out of this came the Tuto eReader. "Tuto" is a shortened version of the word "Tutor", because with Tuto, the hope is that students would be able to teach themselves.
As a vertically integrated design and engineering firm, our job was to design not only the hardware components of the learning device and how it would look and feel, but also the embedded software design and learning materials for the device, which would meet the needs of students and educators.
Bringing the Tuto to schools: Steps and Challenges
While many customers can be stringent with their product requirements, Luminum InfoTek empowered the Lumium team to stay flexible with the eReader components, allowing us to experiment with different strategies and designs that would best fit the target demographic while including basic tablet functionality (Wi-Fi, audio speakers, and Bluetooth connectivity). Our overarching principles were reliability, durability, patentability, time-to-market and cost.
We needed a platform we could modify over time as student, teacher and syllabus requirements changed, but we also needed to build a closed control program to run on top of the device OS. This was important not just to protect the integrity of the content and capabilities but also so Luminium InfoTek could offer customized branding and custom-control for individual user password access, for each school offering the Tuto to students.
In total we spoke with 500 students in grades 9-11 in Ahmedabad, India. The students and teachers researched came from diverse economic and social backgrounds. Given the diversity of India, in terms of religion, culture, language and economic means, we were able to gather a good range of emotions from all users. The influencing factors for each group impacted what they saw as the primary need for this device. Their exposure to and actual use of small, smart digital devices varied, as did familiarity of such devices by the teachers who also needed to understand and interface with the Tuto device.
Students interact with a Foam Prototype
Lumium's engineers and designers traveled with and observed students throughout the entire school day—from their homes, to school, to their after-school coaching classes and back home in the evening. We were looking for patterns in the way students approached their daily learning; everything from studying for exams to assignment execution, personal organization and methods for planning ahead. What times do students typically sit down to study (if at all)? How long do students stay working on a particular assignment until they move to the next one? What is the preferred method of learning for each student?
Once we had the human and technological demands in mind, we began sketching, building off a basic underlay of hardware framework provided by our engineers. Because the client was flexible when it came to certain aspects of their hardware; for example, there were no strict requirements for LCD screen size, we had the ability to pivot to alternate designs based on peoples' reaction to several rounds of sketches and detailed renderings.
To determine which model was most aesthetically pleasing and functional we took handcrafted foam prototypes of our top 5 device designs out to a number of middle schools. Not surprisingly perhaps, students wanted the largest screen size possible. Thus, our engineers went with a slide-screen design with a tucked away keyboard concealed underneath.
Six foam prototypes
With our hardware designers working on the look and feel of the eReader, our software engineers worked on the graphical user interface (GUI) that is customized around modern e Learning practices. The student can browse any chapter and page like any other e-book and for that the UI follows a typical structure. But, studying against plain reading is a non-linear activity; and our UI centric research showed that students often go to the portions they have highlighted in the text, they often go to the last-read page, they often go directly to the Q&A section or to the problems and solutions, and they have timetables of school and their own schedule for studying. The features that facilitate the above are all placed for immediate access at any time while browsing.
Reflecting this work and studying behavior, the device has touch pads on right and left side of the screen, which when tapped, will allow immediate access to Q&A, highlighted portions, animations, schedules. This eliminates the need for the student to go to the main menu repeatedly in order to access the data in various scenarios.
Click for full-sized image.
Not only can students create their own task lists; the Tuto is also designed to assist in creating to-do lists based on the student's progress with the embedded coursework. Once they finish their required reading on the device for the day, Tuto will sound an alarm prompting them to take action on corresponding assignments and homework. In effect, each student would get a personalized plan for studying and completing assignments in a timely fashion The schedule function built in the UI also allows parents to set study reminders for their children, taking the screen to the chapter and page that is scheduled to be studied at that time.
The mission of The Noun Project is to collect, organize and add to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world's visual language so they can be shared in a fun and meaningful way. The symbols are free, simple, and high quality—not to mention truly delightful.
In this conversation with the Designers Accord, we learn from The Noun Project founders, Edward Boatman and Sofya Polyakov, how a shared visual language can be the connective tissue across disciplines and geographies, and why you don't need to be a designer to be an effective communicator and change-maker.
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Designers Accord: The Noun Project strikes a perfect balance between function and folly—providing amazing quality scalable icons for everything from the universal human icon to a sasquatch. Share the background of how your initiative came about—what was the initial inspiration and who's involved?
Edward Boatman: The Noun Project is one of those ideas that slowly grew and evolved over time. I think the starting point was my sketchbook. One summer I started to draw the things that used to fascinate me when I was a child: Sequoias, Trains, Cranes, Combines and a lot of other "nouns." After doing this for some time and creating a nice stack of sketches, I thought to myself it would be great if I had a drawing that depicted every single concept or object in existence.
Then a couple years down the road I was working at an architecture firm putting together a lot of presentation boards and I was frustrated that I couldn't quickly find icons for very common things such as airplanes, bicycles and people. I thought about taking my old noun concept and tweaking it a bit to solve this real world problem I was experiencing.
I started talking to my really good friend Scott Thomas and my wife Sofya Polyakov about building on the original idea. We decided the biggest impact could be made by building a platform for visual communication. Symbols serve as some of the best tools to overcome many language, cultural, and even medical communication barriers. Having designers from around the world engage in creating a visual language doesn't just create symbols for what already exists, it also creates symbols for what we want to see in the world—things like Community Gardens, Sustainable Energy and Human Rights.
Sofya Polyakov: We launched the site on Kickstarter in December 2010 using mostly symbols that already existed in the public domain, like the AIGA transportation suite and the National Park Service symbols. The response was incredible—we received tremendous support not only from the design community, but also from the autism & special education communities, teachers who wanted symbols to help kids read, librarians, app developers, etc. We were written up in TechCrunch, The Atlantic, Fast Company, PSFK, Engadget, as well as a lot of international blogs. Half of our traffic still comes from outside of the United States, which is something we really value because it's fascinating to see how people from around the world "see" the same concept. For example, what does a symbol for "Protest" look like around the world? You can now go to The Noun Project and find the answer.
DA: You've already built amazing momentum—from sketchbook to meme. What does your team look like and how do you carry this forward?
EB: As the CEO, Sofya is the brains behind the operations side of running the business and also handles all of our marketing and community outreach. Scott and his team at Simple.Honest.Work have done an amazing job managing the design, development and UX of the site. I look after the growing collection of symbols to make sure we adhere to high design and user comprehension standards, and I also work with the international community of designers who are creating them.
SP: We also recently got accepted into the Designer Fund, so we've been very fortunate to have incredible mentors and advisors from Twitter, Groupon, Pinterest, Stanford's d.School, Google, 37Signals, and others. Besides being some of the most talented designers today, our mentors are also incredible people. I honestly can't think of too many industries where someone so successful, whose time is so valuable, just volunteers their time to help out a start-up. It's amazing to have so many talented people around you who want you to succeed.
We've been fans of Outlier since they first launched, and as designers, cyclists and 21st-Century urbanites, we're duly impressed with Abe and Tyler's continued commitment to innovation in apparel and accessories. (I have no shame admitting that I've been living in my Three-Way Shorts this summer.) The Brooklyn-based brand has built an ever-growing cult following over the years—for the uninitiated, co-founder Abe Burmeister's PSFK talk is a good place to start—and we're pleased to present an inside look at their rigorous design process.
What does a 21st century pair of jeans look like?
That was the key question we asked ourselves as we started designing the Outlier Dungarees. Jeans are an amazing style of pant, and there's a reason they are wildly popular over a century after their invention. But we were pretty certain that they could be made better, considering that they'd barely evolved since 1873 when the first pair was patented. Jeans are durable, comfortable and good-looking, but they also tend to be heavy and restrictive, with a tendency to feel hot in the summer yet cold in the winter. Since they're made of cotton, they handle moisture rather poorly: when they get wet they stay wet. The more we thought about jeans, the more we knew we had a design challenge on our hands.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
As is often the case, the greatest strength of an item is also its key weakness. With jeans, there is an interesting contradiction between the fact that they are both comfortable and durable. The problem is that they are not exactly comfortable and durable at the same time. A new unwashed pair of jeans is damn durable, but it's not comfortable at all. Only through significant wear, or through special garment treatments, does it reach the point where it gets comfortable. Ironically, it's at that point that it has lost a significant amount of durability. While there is something admirable in the idea of needing to live with and break in your clothing, we wanted to make a pant that was both comfortable and durable from the very get-go.
Another key factor for us was the way jeans wear when cycling. Outlier is not a bike company in any way shape or form, but our first product, the OG Pants, were designed as 'ride to work' pants. Jeans are particularly ill-suited to cycling: they're prone to what's known as 'crotch blowout,' a combination of symptoms that all stem from the fact that jeans simply are not designed to handle the repetitive motions of bike riding. We already had a bit of expertise with these issues, and more importantly we firmly believe that cycling is a key means of transportation in the 21st-Century city, so we wanted to ensure the pants we created could handle that pressure.
Launched in 1994, Icebreaker was the first company in the world to develop a merino wool layering system for the outdoors. It was also the first outdoor apparel company in the world to source merino directly from growers, a system it began in 1997. Icebreaker merino clothing for the outdoors, technical sports and lifestyle includes underwear, mid layer garments, outerwear, socks and accessories for men, women and children. Icebreaker is based in Wellington, New Zealand, and is sold in more than 3000 stores in 43 countries.
You have to be tough to survive in New Zealand's Southern Alps. With scorching summers and freezing winters, the glacier-carved mountain range is a harsh, inaccessible environment—and possibly the last place you'd expect to find a sheep.
But the sheep that survive on the Southern Alps aren't run-of-the mill lowland sheep. They're merino sheep: hardy alpine animals with a coat that insulated in summer, breathes in summer, and is exceptionally soft and lightweight.
In 1994, Icebreaker's founder, Jeremy Moon was given a prototype t-shirt made from merino wool. It was soft, sensual and lustrous—nothing like the itchy, scratchy wool he'd grown up with. It was also machine washable, easy care and naturally resistant to odor.
The discovery inspired Jeremy to create an entirely new category around this new product: merino outdoor apparel. Icebreaker merino garments and accessories for the outdoors, technical sports and lifestyle are now sold in more than 3000 stores in 43 countries.
From Microns to Marathons
My introduction to the brand came in 1994, when Jeremy sponsored my adventure racing team. To be honest, I was skeptical—the stuff he gave us looked far too nice to race in.
After a couple of days of non-stop running, cycling and hiking, the river started rising. People were being rescued by helicopter. My team was the first out, and when we crossed the river there were TV crews waiting to interview us.
By the time I got to the transition point, I was so cold in my polypropylene layers that I was on the verge of hypothermia. I had my doubts about Icebreaker merino, but they were my only dry clothes so I decided to give them a try.
What immediately struck me was the warmth. Icebreaker merino is warm when wet, so I stayed warm even though the rain was still falling.
Adventure races are all about survival—you have to stay warm, keep your nutrition up, and protect your feet from blisters. After that, it's a mental game. I told everyone in my team how warm I was, so by the time the race ended two days later all of us were wearing our Icebreaker layers. We'd been converted.
Creating a New Icebreaker
Before we can even start designing a new garment, we think about the person who is going to use it. We think about think about whether the garment will be a base layer, a mid layer or an outer layer, and what activity it's going to be used for. This exploration helps us formulate the necessary properties for the yarn, the fabric and, finally, the garment itself.
We write a brief with specifications for the type of yarn we'll need, and that influences our sourcing. Merino fibers are ultra fine—much finer than the fibers of traditional wool—which is why our merino is so soft and non-itch. It's very lightweight and feels more like silk against the skin than wool.
Merino fibers usually range from 13–25 microns, which is about one-third the thickness of a human hair. The smaller the micron, the finer the wool (in comparison, wool fibers from traditional lowland sheep are usually 35–45 microns).
Once we've decided on the type of yarn, we brief on what sort of fabric we need to construct. For example, it could be a lightweight garment made of eyelet fabric for running, or one of our Realfleece brushed fleece mid layers for wearing outdoors in cold weather.
Finally, we do a briefing on the garment itself. This is when we talk about potential enhancements to the garment, such as increased freedom of motion or laminations to make a garment windproof and rainproof. We'll think about what season it's likely to be worn in.
Icebreaker is a layering system, so we'll ask ourselves how every new garment will work when it's worn with other Icebreaker layers.
In October, 2008, Medicare—the United States' government program that pays 40% of the nation's hospital bills—decided to stop covering hospital failures. This meant that a litany of preventable mistakes, including treatments resulting from surgical errors, patient accidents and infections, were now the financial responsibility of the hospital. As a result, medical accidents went from being a source of hospital revenue to a massive financial drain. The good news is that medical institutions were finally forced into the business of disease prevention, at least once people were in their care.
What can be done to prevent costly medical mistakes? The hospital reform with the greatest potential is also the easiest to implement, at least in theory. According to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths statistics, hospital acquired infections kill more people in America than AIDS, breast cancer and auto accidents combined. Furthermore, the vast majority of the patients that acquire such infections in hospitals—and more than 5 percent of patients do—get them from the hands of health care providers. Thankfully, hospitals have become increasingly concerned with hand hygiene. The dirty hands of doctors and nurses aren't just gross—they are an extremely expensive and potentially fatal act of carelessness. Hospital staffers, in order to follow protocol, need to wash their hands hundreds of times a day. Their failure to follow protocol perfectly is their personal responsibility but non-compliance on such a broad scale is also a failure of the medical system that creates the rules and environment that lead non-compliance.
The medical industry's acknowledgment of hand hygiene as a systemic problem has led to the establishment and growing influence of Infection Control and Prevention Units. For Infection Control and Prevention, solving handwashing takes the form of cheeky posters of doctors reminding everyone to wash their hands, developing inane training videos demonstrating how to properly wash your hands and implementing incentive programs where health care workers reward each other with certificates when they observe a co-workers consistent compliance. In the hospital where I have focused my research, these certificates were returned unused.
One increasingly popular but misguided program has to been to implement paternalistic monitoring of nurses and other providers, who are forced to undergo increasing levels of surveillance. Whether it is video monitoring systems borrowed from meat manufacturing plants or sensor systems that read the alcohol content on hands, staff are cajoled into changing their behavior by receiving real time feedback combined with their fear that their personal compliance level is now public knowledge. There is no carrot—there is only a stick.
Despite growing desperation, few designers have bothered to do much of anything that might make washing or sanitizing hands more appealing. A recent scientific study pointed to "perceived busyness" as one of the primary deterrents to compliance. But this only demonstrates the silliness of current reforms. After all, if followed literally, the prescribed protocol for hand cleaning would require so much of the health care workers time that they wouldn't actually be able to perform the rest of their job. During a recent observation, nurses were consistently walking from supply closets to narcotic storage bins to patients rooms with their hands full. How, then, can they follow protocol and wash their hands correctly when they enter the room? Are monitoring systems supposed to solve these problems? Or are we merely putting increased strain on an already stressed population without offering any design solutions?
Ento is a roadmap for introducing edible insects to the Western diet. It is the outcome of a project undertaken by a team of four postgraduate students from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London who wanted to tackle the growing issue of food supply in an increasingly hungry world. Motivated by the failings of the livestock industry, as well as the environmental and nutritional benefits of insects, the team wanted to see how this provocative new food source could be introduced to Western diets. The project is about driving cultural change through understanding human perceptions, using strategic design thinking, as well as through creating innovative and compelling experiences.
Why eat insects?
As postgraduate design students, our team wanted to tackle the issue of sustainability with an innovative design-driven approach. We first came across the idea of eating insects when researching solutions to global food security. Food demand is accelerating, and agricultural productivity cannot keep up. By 2050 global demand is set to double to 40 giga-calories per day, and much of this increase will be due to demand for meat.
The livestock industry is notoriously resource-hungry, consuming a third of all crops and requiring 70% of agricultural land. It also accounts for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, through production, transport and animal digestive gas.
It is against this backdrop that edible insects offer an exciting alternative. They are extremely efficient at turning feed into meat and can be farmed at a very high density. This means that their embodied energy is low—a tenth of that of beef cattle—and that at high volumes they are very cost efficient. Taking their nutritional benefits into consideration as well, it is easy to understand why the UN, the EU, and the Dutch government are some of the major players investigating the potential of edible insects.
But despite the fact that a lot of people taking this idea very seriously, most of the research to date has focused on the supply side. We realized that there was an opportunity to address one of biggest obstacles on the demand side: acceptance.
Currently there is a major cultural taboo against eating insects. The idea of eating insects is generally imagined to be dirty, gooey and unsafe. None of these preconceptions are true, but it doesn't change the fact that edible insects are certainly not seen as an exciting future food! We realized that changing these beliefs would be a major challenge.
In anticipation of the upcoming IxDA Interaction12 Conference taking place in Dublin, Ireland February 1–4, Core77 will be bringing you a preview of this year's event. Follow us as we chat with keynote speakers, presenters and workshop leaders to give you a sneak peek at some of the ideas and issues to be addressed at this year's conference. Come by and say hello to us at the Coroflot Connects recruiting event and don't miss out on our live coverage as we report from the ground in Dublin!
In our third installment of this year's Interaction12 IxDA Conference preview, Kate Ertmann, Partner at ADi, gives a preview of her upcoming presentation on Ethnographic Animation by sharing some of the foundational ideas and processes behind using animation as a tool for business and design.
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Ethnographic Animation is fact-based animation. It's social science storytelling.
In the world of ethnography, ethnographers are aiming to describe the nature of their subjects. And in the world of ethnography, as it is related to product development, the study is usually around people who are encountering a challenge of some sort in their everyday life that may be resolved by a new product. So ethnographers go out in the field, research humans in their natural environment—which may very well be their living room, kitchen or observing them while they shop in a store—and gather the data of people's behavior, challenges or processes in particular situations. How do you clean under that couch? How do you hold that spoon that you usually use for eating your cereal if you want to, on other occasions, mix some cake batter with it? When that bucket becomes heavy, how do you pick it up to get it from point A to point B?
In the past, capturing live video has been a way to capture this data. Yet when you show that video to other people, be it an engineer, a developer, a peer at a partner agency or even a focus group, you run into the challenge that the viewer naturally starts observing the extraneous items in the 'scene.' The viewer may think, "That doesn't look like my family's living room," "But my grandmother is younger than that grandmother," or the viewer may tune out immediately because the video you show is from a study in a typical household in Taipei, and you live in South Dakota. It's interesting what observations we unconsciously make when we deem something unrelated to our world.
So, once that information is gathered, what do you do with that data? You might create a spreadsheet and try to find common points across the data. Or, maybe you took pictures documenting the study's actions and you make a visual to share with your colleagues in the ideation stage of the process.
That's great—and all of those things can take you into the visualization stage where your development team may brainstorm and make sense of the information that you have gathered...and then what? Do you start sketching? Sketching what? The tools that the subjects were touching, using, playing with?
Or do you go to the virtual prototype stage, where your focus is—now—on the product itself, and you've now, essentially, put your human behavior studies into purgatory till you think to unearth them later in some group discussion months down the road.
After over 40 years of pioneering work in the Life Science industry, a multidisciplinary design team at Ergonomidesign put together their take on the future for the Health Care industry. Their challenge was to envision the future and develop possible solutions for the world to test, use and reflect on. The outcome has generated many discussions, both in the Design and Life Science industries as well as with politicians and policymakers in the European Union.
This article describes how Ergonomidesign developed a vision of the future for Life Sciences and how this served as a guide as their designers prototyped how we might manage our own health and interact with doctors, family and other medical professionals and services in the year 2015.
An Integrated Future of Health Care in the Year 2015
In 2009 Ergonomidesign's strategists and futuring experts set out to analyze macro, life science, social and technology trends set ten to twenty years out. We knew that health care was changing and that we could be a part of shaping the future. We also knew that people were seamlessly integrating technologies into their day-to-day activities, social lives and health care management. What we needed was a clear vision about how different the future should or could be.
Trends suggested that by the year 2015, desktop computers as we know them today, will be relics of the past. Rapid advances in screen technology and the diminishing size of microprocessors will make it possible to invent new archetypes for the computer, coupled with new gestural and semantic languages. In an age of ubiquitous computing, our walls, tables and other elements in our environment will become platforms for us to interact on. It will involve access to information, and exchange and generation of data. Most importantly, these interactions will involve people connecting with people in the most serendipitous ways, through a system that is constantly aware and always connected, if desired.
Our research suggested that as we move towards the future of health care, people will increasingly need to feel involved and in control of their own health. People will also need tools to help them collaborate closely with health care providers, doctors and other people they trust to help them manage their health.
Our strategic work resulted in an eco-system that described the Integrated Future of Health Care in the year 2015 with the patient at the center of all activities, services, devices and products.
Our strategic work resulted in an eco-system that described the Integrated Future of Health Care in the year 2015 with the patient at the center of all activities, services, devices and products.
Bringing the Vision to Life
The vision needed to be grounded in the experiences of real patients. We introduced two characters that were assigned lifestyles and diseases as we tried to highlight potential real life scenarios. Throughout the entire design process, we leveraged the real world needs as we developed a service solution that would be as seamless, natural and effective as possible.
The two characters Hanna and Bernhard.
To tangibly visualize our characters and a glimpse of the future, the team developed the eco-system described in the Integrated Future of Health Care into an application for the Microsoft Surface platform (Surface application). This technology was chosen for its unique ability to invite people into interactions and conversations around the display. Representing a future smart surface, it also provided our team with the opportunity to explore natural user interfaces (NUI) and at the same time challenged the team to design for a full 360-degree interaction and multi-input, multi-user collaboration.
An early sketch of the application for Microsoft Surface.
Our aim was to illustrate the body as a container of biometric data. The simple act of placing your hand on 'a table' or any other type of smart surface, triggered an enlightened experience, e.g. you will be able to share and compare your biometric data with people you trust, subscribe to personalized treatment software and also have easy and constant access to your health care professionals.
It is often the case in interaction design that the best solutions simply get out of the way, allowing the user to achieve their goal and get on with their life. With Google Maps, this is certainly the desired outcome. Geographic navigation and search should be smooth, efficient, and ultimately straightforward. When this is successful and the product works as it should, the nuances and details behind these experiences can often go unnoticed, written off as algorithmically derived and invisible.
Since its launch in 2004, Google Maps has come a long way from its relatively simple beginnings as a simple pannable and zoomable road map of the United States and United Kingdom. Today we display business and transit networks, three dimensional cities, natural terrain, and much more. It is a map that serves pedestrians, motorists, tourists and locals alike. Soon it was not only used it as a "clean" map for wayfinding and browsing but also as a base for overlays, search results, directions, and personal customization—with sources from all over the web. In the same vein as Google's mission, we are organizing the world's information in a geographic context.
The work and evolution behind this ambitious undertaking is a combination of design vision, product strategy, engineering prowess, and ethnographic and usability research. Our User Experience team comprises a small group of designers, researchers and prototypers in offices around the globe. The research and experience gained in these diverse locations give us insights into real-world usage and help us better serve the needs of our users.
The breadth of our collective work, whether it's anything from helping a local business connect more meaningfully with their customers to helping you find your gate at the airport on time, is harmonized by our common goal to deliver a more complete picture of the Earth. From its roadways and cities to weather patterns and natural wonders, our team is attempting to capture the complexity and variance of these multiple systems in a product that just about anyone can use.
A snapshot of Google Maps' design evolution 2009 (top) - 2011 (bottom). click for more information.
Synthesizing all of this information in an approachable and aesthetically pleasing way carried obvious challenges. As the product grew and evolved, the map varied widely from one country to another, and the universal familiarity and usability that made Google Maps a success was being undermined by complexity and "feature creep." To better understand which of these variances were useful, we audited the map styles, colors, and iconography of maps all over the world with the help of local users. We examined the leading online and offline mapping providers in each country, in addition to researching local physical signage and wayfinding. This undertaking provided us with a look at mapping as a local exercise—with cultural, ethnic, and region-specific quirks and nuances.
Our global cartography audit in progress.
With this research in mind, we came to the realization that there was little consistency between this collection of maps and no real indication of a common "correct" palette for color and style rendering. By unifying and simplifying our own Google color palette down from hundreds to a small handful of colors, we were able to produce an experience that provided familiarity and uniformity as you browse the world.
A sampling of our color palette studies and refinement.
Corporate sustainability has become such a catchphrase in recent times that you'd think the business world had single-handedly reversed climate change, fostered world-leading social cohesion, obliterated third world poverty and the impending food crisis! The scary thing is the plethora of product, services or businesses marketed without any context or objective science to be 'natural,' 'efficient' or you guessed it...'sustainable.' In reality, we find that the majority of corporate clients engaging the Centre for Design (CfD) are somewhat baffled about the how, what, where, when and who of sustainability. That's why we have started using a combination of streamlined Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) techniques and collaborative design thinking to develop context-specific sustainability strategies. This process is now referred to by CfD as the Double Diamond method of LCA and Design Thinking (Figure 1), and appropriates the design process of convergent and divergent thinking presented by the UK Design Council (2005).
Figure 1 - The Double diamond method of LCA and Design Thinking (click for larger image)
In a previous article for Core77, we looked at the power of streamlined LCA in identifying the ecological impacts prospectively; retrospective LCA has been utilised as an objective scientific method to identify environmental impacts widely within the corporate sector. The Double Diamond method utilises streamlined LCA as a tool to address impact areas, prior to focusing on more articulate sustainable design solutions. The key challenge that this new process attempts to address is the large gap between the seemingly unsurmountable scale of unsustainability and initiatives employed by your average John Smith to reduce their own ecological impact. For example, "if every Australian household switched to renewable energy and stopped driving their cars tomorrow, total household emissions would decline by only about 18%" (Dey, Berger et al. 2007, p. 291), what of the remaining 82% of emissions?
A major aged care provider in Australia, Uniting Church Aged Care (UAC), approached CfD in 2010 to help design sustainability across the business, a perfect base to launch the Double Diamond method to explore the relationship between ecological impacts and daily operations prior to proposing a 'Sustainability Opportunities' design.
What are the Impacts in an Aged Care Context?
First, we attempted to identify all potential global warming impacts that could occur in the delivery of aged care with LCA. The impacts were estimated using 'Input/Output' LCA . The organisation's accounts from the previous year for one aged care site were categorised into economic sectors that can then be attributed to an environmental impact. The functional unit to measure the environmental impact was 'One bed-day to a certified standard of care' with a system boundary excluding capital infrastructure. The results of the LCA estimated that each bed day of care emits 42.8kg CO2-eq global warming impacts, the carbon dioxide equivalent impacts from various greenhouse gases. This estimate is equivalent to 26 trees required to absorb the greenhouse gas emissions per resident per year. The distribution of impacts is shown in Figure 2, electricity and gas contributed almost half (49%) with food as the second highest driver (40%).
Figure 2 - Drivers of climate change impacts per bed day to a certified standard of care
What Practices Matter Most?
The convergent interpretation of the LCA identified environmental impact hotspots, highlighting a Pareto like principle in that 25.2% of the UAC expenditure (electricity and meat consumption) account for 62% of the global warming impact. In the interpretation a move was made from scientific data to day-to-day practices. This transitioned to three themes:
1. Capital purchasing decisions - procurement of appliances and capital
2. Thermal comfort - providing comfort through heating and cooling
3. Food and diet - nutrition to menu planning and meal preparation
UAC's initial key concerns were highly visual such as paper use, disposable rubber gloves or the high number of incontinent pads (3% of the global warming impact). LCA identified areas previously not considered such as food (40% of the global warming impact) that had a far greater impact.
We are now face to face with wicked problems. Childhood obesity, climate change, aging population, literacy—the scope, implications and rate of change of today's critical problems make them unlike anything we have faced before. Solutions to these wicked problems have the potential to change the way we live in the world.
To even begin to address such issues, we need people and organizations with the ability to innovate. Expertise in health care, education, and energy are not enough. Neither are superb analytical and creative thinking skills. Motivation, informed by beliefs in ability, is the critical ingredient we often ignore. Without believing in our ability to develop and implement innovative solutions that can address the world's challenges, we will not even act.
The ability to act is tied to a belief that it is possible to do so. Without a firm belief in our potential to develop and implement innovative solutions that can address these wicked challenges, what we call innovation self-efficacy, good or even great ideas are of no use at all.
What is innovation self-efficacy? And how do we develop these beliefs?
Innovation is the intentional implementation of novel and useful processes, products, or procedures designed to benefit society. Despite anticipated benefits, innovation work can be unpredictable, controversial, and in competition with current courses of action. Innovators must develop, modify, and implement ideas while navigating ambiguous problem contexts, overcoming setbacks, and persisting through uncertainty. Innovation self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to take part in these types of actions. Innovation self-efficacy and innovative action are mutually reinforcing. Positive feedback from innovative action builds confidence, which leads to more innovation behavior.
Innovation Self-efficacy ↔ Innovation Action
Building on Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura's framework, innovation self-efficacy develops in three primary ways: Social persuasion (being told you can do it), Vicarious learning (watching others do it), and Mastery experience (doing it).