When we last heard from Bruce Nussbaum, on the occasion of the HarvardxDesign Conference, he mentioned his forthcoming book, Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect and Inspire (HarperBusiness 2013). Available now, it makes for a surprisingly good beach or travel read (Kindle version recommended, as the print version comes in hardcover), at least for those of you who prefer nonfiction for leisure reading.
But the insights and learnings from Nussbaum—a former editor at BusinessWeek and current professor at Parsons The New School for Design—are applicable for a broad audience, from recent grads to practicing designers to C-suite execs. We had a chance to speak to Nussbaum about those very insights.
Core77: What is Creative Intelligence?
Bruce Nussbaum: Creative Intelligence is a way of amplifying our creative capacities. It's a series of five competencies that we can all learn to bolster our skill at generating originality that has value, often economic value. Individuals and business organizations can increase their Creative Intelligence by getting better at Knowledge Mining, Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting or Scaling. The concept embraces the notion that creativity is crucial to capitalism and the source of most economic value.
You write about "creativity anxiety, noting that "creativity scares us." Why do you think that is?
We have false notions of creativity. We are taught that creativity is rare, random, and reduced to special brains. We feel we should be creative but can't perform creatively. Rubbish. We are all born creative and can easily learn to be more creative and innovative. Creativity is a social activity, an ensemble or team play, not an individual gift of genius.
Many of us picture so-called creative types sitting alone in a studio or office, either filled with inspiration or waiting for it to strike, yet you write of interactive creativity and collaboration. Is there a difference between the two?
The "Aha" moment of insight, when we connect the dots of different things to come up with something new, are often done alone, walking or running, taking a long shower or slowly drinking your morning coffee. These insights come after intense social interaction and observation. They come after the research, the learning, the gathering of information and the engagement with the world. You need both.
We recently had the chance to chat with designer Naoto Fukasawa and IDEO's Jane Fulton Suri, who served on the jury for last year's Braunprize selections. As keen observers of the world at large and the man-made objects and obstacles we encounter on a regular basis, both Fukasawa and Suri had plenty of interesting things to say about the current state of design and just what it means to be 'normal.'.
Core77: It seems that you are both highly attuned to the world around you—or rather, us. Both the Super Normal and Thoughtless Acts document what might be considered as everyday or mundane, but actually have been accepted or adopted by users as conventions. Have either of you noticed memorable examples of these things that we take for granted lately?
Naoto Fukasawa: I have been conducting the 'Without Thought' workshop to young designers for over 15 years. In these workshops, what I have been hoping for the participants to understand is that our behaviors and movements are not produced by ourselves thinking of how to move our bodies every second but instead, such acts are produced by our body naturally responding to given situations and environments.
For example, walking is defined by a sequence of movements of our legs and feet: placing one foot forward on the ground and then moving the other to follow. When we recognize a surface that is not the greatest to step on, we naturally avoid it and if we lose balance by doing so, perhaps we try to put our hands on walls and so on. Mountaineering and rock climbing face limited surfaces to place our hands and feet and sometimes the areas everyone subconsciously grabs get polished. Making a decision for a behavior is a response of body beyond one's consciousness, and in this context, we are all sharing something greater than being individuals: human as bodies.
Our environments, situations and information ignite our behaviors. Specifically, our environments, situations and our body are synchronized to each other and create our environments.
Jane Fulton Suri: Boarding planes these days there's always a scramble to find space to stash luggage in an overhead bin—people close the bin when it's full and thereby simplify the search for everyone. And I see lots of new habits have emerged with our attachment to flat-screen mobile phones: The phone is always with you so it's a handy bookmark for your magazine when you have to put it down for a minute; it's a weight to hold the page open when cooking from a recipe book; an immediate surface to attach a sticky-note as a reminder, the lit screen is a flashlight to find the bathroom at night or, in unity with a crowd of fans, to light up a stadium, and if you reverse your phone camera, the screen is better than a mirror for checking if there's something in your teeth or putting on makeup! Social cues come into play at meetings too: if your phone is placed on the table face down, you're there to pay attention, if it's face up, you signal that something else is important!
I recently met Colin Fitzpatrick at the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies, where he spoke about the IAMECO (pictured above), a product service system that he and his research group worked on with an Irish SME, MicroPro Computers. Colin is at MIT this summer, researching "Conflict Minerals," which are the raw materials used in electronics that come from the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. Needless to say, he's doing great work in the area of sustainable electronics. And lucky for us, he had some time to chat about his work and where he thinks all of this is going in the near future.
Xanthe Matychak: So, tell us about yourself. Who are you and what you do?
Colin Fitzpatrick: I'm a lecturer in electronic computer engineering at the University of Limerick in Ireland and I've been working in the "Electronics and the Environment" area since about 2004. I teach a course at Limerick called "Electronics and the Environment," and I lead a medium-sized research group there on the topic. We look at anything to do with technology and sustainability. Product design, energy, smart grids, you name it. We go where the opportunities take us in that whole space.
When I heard you speak at ISSST, you shared a project that you and your students worked on with MicroPro Computers, the IAMECO.
Right. To be clear, MicroPro is their brand and we worked as consultants. They had an ambition that they really wanted to have a credible environmentally friendly product, not a greenwash sort of fashion. So we helped them make sure they didn't leave anything out, any bits and pieces along the way. We helped them consider the whole life-cycle of the product, as much as a SME (Small-Mid Sized Enterprise) can do so. We sat down and said that it isn't just the product but the product-service system that is important.
UPDATE: Illumifeet will be on view at Treasure&Bond at 350 West Broadway, New York, NY, 10013, until June 22.
About two months ago, designer Craig Winslow II unveiled "illuminimal," a design concept that uses video projection mapping on a real footwear product to completely change the look of the shoes. Now, he's collaborated with BucketFeet to bring the concept to life as 'illumifeet,' an interactive evolution that's currently on display as part of a storefront pop-up shop in Treasure&Bond in Soho, NYC.
Winslow offered to elaborate on the process in his words:
I've been infatuated with video projection mapping for the past few years now. Seeing the way that light can completely change a building or environment is incredibly inspiring. However, many projection executions felt like tech demos to me. I wanted to create work with story, purpose and function. Although this new digital+physical medium is many years old, it continues to evolve and find its place in the world, and I wanted to contribute to its growth.
This time around, the theme is "design that's more than the sum of its parts," and we're excited to see that many of our favorite designers and studios are teaming up to bring new work to the table (so to speak). Our friends at Token and UHURU are among the 50+ participants in Reclaim x2, and as longtime occupants of Red Hook—a neighborhood that was submerged under 3–4 feet of water during the storm—they had firsthand experience of the wrath that Sandy wrought. "We were very excited for the opportunity to get together and put collective energy behind this collaborative project," says Emrys Berkower of Token. "And being that it is in support of such a great cause makes it even more meaningful." UHURU's Horvath shares the sentiment:
It's too bad that it took a hurricane that trashed both our spaces, but I'm glad we are finally able to make it happen and that we can represent Red Hook at the show. It has been great working together so far, both in the initial brainstorming sessions and during our afternoon in the hot shop blowing glass into crazy forms and setting them on fire.
Ladies and Gentlemen × Nicholas Nyland
Once again, we had a chance to catch up with Jen and Jean on the occasion of Reclaim x2, which will take place in the middle of the first annual NYCxDesign festival (see the first Q&A here). Some two dozen pieces by twice as many designers—per the collaborative theme of the show—will be on view from Wednesday, May 15, through Friday, May 17, at 446 Broadway, 3rd Floor, with a reception on the night of Thursday, May 16.
Core77: How did the inaugural Reclaim event go? Lessons learned? Any good stories to tell?
Jean Lin: We had so much fun organizing and executing the first exhibit. I think a lot of its success can be credited to pure adrenaline after Hurricane Sandy. We all wanted to help so desperately that all of us—both Jen and I, and the initial group of designers—sort of fed off of each other's energy and enthusiasm for the cause. I still marvel at the fact that we were able to pull it all together in little more than a month.
Jen Krichels: Because the first event came together so quickly, we didn't have much time to think about whether Reclaim NYC would have a future after the first show. But the night of the event and in the days after we were asked so many times when the next show would be (both by designers who wanted to participate and by people who wanted to attend or support the cause) that we started planning a Design Week show right away.
With the luxury of more time, we are launching an online presale before Design Week, which will be followed by the exhibit and sale on May 15–17. We also have a range of price points to allow people to make a range of donations to Brooklyn Recovery Fund. The presale, which will be hosted on at60inches.com and shop.lin-morris.com, will give collectors more time to consider some of the heirloom-quality pieces that are part of the show.
JL: Honestly, my biggest regret was not buying anything at the first show. I was so busy during the auction that the items I had my eye on were snatched up from under me. Jen bid on and won a gorgeous UM Project lamp for an amazingly reasonable price. I kick myself every time I see it in her apartment. Hopefully the presale will prevent this from happening again.
Egg Collective × Hangar
Even the fabrication of the objects has been a collaboration—Hangar brazed the initial bronze masters, from which we created molds and plaster castings. Both the collection of masters and the cast objects will be displayed together as a landscape at Reclaim x2.
I'm pleased to share this excerpt from Chapter 2 of Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights. This part off the book sets up the overarching framework for successful interviewing: most experts have a set of best practices—tactics, really—that they follow. But what really makes them expert is that they have a set of operating principles. This ends up being more like a framework for how to be, rather than a list of what to do.
I've talked to a lot of practitioners about their own experiences in doing fieldwork and often they try to address challenges when they experience the symptoms, but that's usually not the right time. Consider this analogy: if you have insomnia, the best solutions are not those that you roll out at 3am when you can't sleep. To effectively counteract insomnia you have to make specific choices during the day, before you go to bed. Doing research with people is the same thing and ideally you approach this sort of work with a well-defined perspective that will inform all of the inevitable detailed, specific, tactical problem solving.
I think getting to this point as an interviewer (or for anything that we do at a certain level of both passion and expertise) is a journey. I'd love to hear about your journey or any other feedback or questions that you have!
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When Wayne Gretzky apocryphally explained his hockey success as "I don't skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck is going to be," he identified a key characteristic of many experts: the underlying framework that drives everything. This platonically idealized Gretzky could have revealed any number of tactics such as his grip, or the way he shifts his weight when he skates. Keith Richards explains his guitar sound, which involves removing the 6th string, tuning to open G, and using a particular fretting pattern, as "five strings, three notes, two fingers, and one asshole." Even though Keith is explaining the tactics, he's also revealing something ineffable about where he's coming from. The higher-level operating principles that drive these experts are compelling and illustrative. Expert researchers also have their own operating principles. In this chapter, I'll outline mine, and I hope to inspire you to develop your own interviewing framework. As you develop, the process evolves from a toolkit for asking questions into a way of being, and you'll find that many of the tactical problems to solve in interviewing are simply no-brainers. As George Clinton sang, "Free your mind...and your ass will follow."
Check Your Worldview at the Door
I've been asked, "What was the most surprising thing you ever learned while doing fieldwork?" I scratch my head over that one because I don't go out into the field with a very strong point of view. Of course, I'm informed by my own experiences, my suspicions, and what my clients have told me, but I approach the interviews with a sense of what I can only call a bland curiosity.
As the researcher, it's my responsibility to find out what's going on; I'm not invested in a particular outcome. Even more (and this is where the blandness comes from), I'm not fully invested in a specific set of answers. Sure, we've got specific things we want to learn—questions we have to answer in order to fulfill our brief. But my hunger to learn from my participant is broad, not specific. I'm curious, but I don't know yet what I'm curious about. My own expectations are muted, blunted, and distributed. Although I will absolutely find the information I'm tasked with uncovering, I also bring a general curiosity.
Now, the people I work with don't have the luxury of bland curiosity. Whether they are marketers, product managers, engineers, or designers (or even other researchers), they often have their own beliefs about what is going on with people. This makes sense: if there's enough organizational momentum to convene a research project, someone has been thinking hard about the issues and the opportunities, and has come to a point of view.
Figure 1 - Capture everything that everyone thinks they know so that it's not stuck in their heads. Photo by Lena Blackstock (2012)
The Brain Dump
At the beginning of the project, convene a brain dump (see Figure 1). Get what's in everyone's heads out on the table. Whether it's real-time, face-to-face, in front of a whiteboard, or asynchronously across offices on a wiki, talk through assumptions, expectations, closely-held beliefs, perspectives, and hypotheses. Contradictions are inevitable and should even be encouraged.
The point is not establishing consensus; it's to surface what's implicit. By saying it aloud and writing it down, the issues leave the group specifically and enter an external, neutral space.
It's also not about being right or wrong; I encourage you to anonymize all the input so that people don't feel sheepish about expressing themselves. I wouldn't even go back and validate the brain dump against the resulting data. The objective is to shake up what is in your mind and free you to see new things. Think about it as a transitional ritual of unburdening, like men emptying their pockets of keys, change, and wallet as soon as they return home (Figure 2).
Figure 2 - Transitional rituals are actions we take to remind ourselves that we are shifting from one mode of being to another.
We were duly impressed with David Soukup's painstakingly detailed stencils when we first saw them back in 2011—I could hardly believe that some of those ultrafine lines were stenciled and not applied by an implement (or at least masked off). He's pleased to announce a solo show at Maxwell Colette gallery in his current hometown of Chicago: "This show is one of my most personal to date, and marks a return to some of the imagery and technical precision that I became known for."
I hadn't realized that he lost his way (the mural project, pictured above, dates to October of last year), but earlier this year, Soukup wrote that "I had been cutting stencils for so long that I really lost what made them most important to me, and why I started doing them in the first place."
In any case, we're glad he's back on track with his first exhibition in 16 months, featuring "over 20 pieces of new work (both stencils and screenprints)." The title, Perennial Escapism, is an obvious play on the subject matter, but the rather literal take on an exit strategy belies the integrity of the subject matter: the imagery is "derived from the artist's own photographs of early 20th century wrought iron fire escapes in Chicago." To hear Soukup tell it:
This work represents a personal 'escape' so to speak. I went back to what first made me passionate. I drew inspiration not just from the city imagery itself, but from the textures, the grit, and the distress that makes up a city. Perennial Escapism marks the beginning of a new direction, one I've never been more excited to pursue.
Where his previous work was more collage-y and surreal, the stark new compositions evoke film stills, superimposed on a baselayer of impasto on the wood panels to achieve the effect of a vaguely patina'd or otherwise weathered surface. Per the press release:
Soukup's paintings combine visual elements of graphic design and collage with the tactile elements of paint and reclaimed materials to create decidedly urban motifs. He hand-cuts the elaborate stencils, some up to four feet in length, that are utilized to create his paintings. The resulting latticework of iron bars and shadows echoes the visual experience of his everyday life, and reflects his obsession with meticulous detail.
We're pleased to present an exclusive preview of Perennial Escapism:
A research report on the dynamics of crowd-sourcing music at the frog SXSW Interactive Opening Party, by Bonnie Reese, Mike Herdzina and Shaina Donovan—see Parts 1 & 2 for more information.
Crowdsourcing Gives Everyone a Voice
The overall response to the Crowd Sourced DJ was overwhelmingly positive. It was described as "novel" and people loved that it allowed them to participate in the music selection. When we probed further about what made it attractive, party-goers were enthusiastic about the philosophy of crowdsourcing, noting that it is a vehicle that gives everyone a voice. We were struck by the passionate tone and language of the participants. Some of the comments included:
- "It's for the community by the community,"
- "It's democratic,"
- "You have a chance to have a say"
However, while people embraced the spirit of crowdsourcing, many openly acknowledged that it compromised the quality of the output. We heard comments like:
- "The masses have bad taste"
- "I don't trust the public"
And yet those interviewed did not perceive the conflict between crowd selections and individual taste as an inherent negative. One music-savvy partygoer intimated that while the music being played did not align with his preferences, it still "fell within his range of acceptability." In the context of a large social experience, like a party, the spirit of empowering the crowd reigns supreme. Many people acknowledged the party context and noted that there's a time and place for everything. So while crowdsourcing is okay in one moment and social environment, it may not be appropriate for every situation.
Crowdsourcing Makes Everyone Think Like a DJ
So what were the biggest influencers when individuals had to make a music selection? First of all, people took into account the audience for the music as well as the party context. "Party music" was referenced almost as its own genre (although based on the range of musical styles we heard, we doubt that everyone would agree what the key characteristics of "party music" are). While many used the word "upbeat" to define "party music", we didn't see further alignment in the music played. One partygoer commented "What am I in the mood for? Something that will create the right environment. What will make the right environment? Upbeat music."
Overall, the music that was selected could be described as more "upbeat" on the music scale. (Click to view full-size infographic)
People also mentioned that they overrode their own preferences to choose music for the crowd, noting music as a "shared experience." One party-goer said, "I avoided a few songs that I wanted to play because I wanted to choose for the crowd," while another person noted "I think it is more important that the crowd has fun." People mentioned avoiding songs they liked that might bring "down" the mood. They continually referenced music's role in creating the right social environment: "The music affects the vibe—it drives conversations and relationships." These comments acknowledge the importance of music's role in shaping the experience for individuals and the crowd as whole. They also point to a party environment as a scenario within which the greater good should come before personal preference.
It was also interesting that when asked to state their opinion about the quality of the music (on our scale from "it sucks" to "awesome"), a number of people said that "it's like voting for myself," showing an identification with the crowd. This leap from crowdsourcing to an identity alignment with the crowd was very interesting. Crowdsourcing went beyond simply being a method to create a shared playlist to creating a dynamic of communal identification. One person even said, "It's democratic, so people will like the music," voicing an assumption that music chosen by the crowd will automatically be embraced by the people within that crowd. It's worth noting that there were no overall trends in perceptions about quality of the music from the data we gathered at our Music Perceptions Wall; where people placed their dots on the scale truly ran the gamut (and some partygoers just wanted to be clever about where they put their dot regardless of what they thought of the music).
Back in October of last year, we stopped by BUNDSHOP's Shanghai HQ, a month prior to the launch of their e-commerce platform. In my conversation with Diana, Stephany, Michael and Donnie, they mentioned that they were considering a 24-hour flash sale model, but ultimately went with a traditional online storefront for their holiday season debut.
Now, just five months later, BUNDSHOP is pleased to announce that they're relaunching with the more exclusive approach, featuring a new design from China every day. Billed as "the first and only E2 (Experience + E-Commerce) platform to bring the emerging independent designers of Asia to the world," the international upstarts are poised to become the definitive online portal for "not only products, but also news, interviews and industry opinions to keep our global community informed about a rapidly accelerating design revolution." Hence the tagline, "Made in China is dead—Designed in China killed it."
Wine Bottle Lamp by John Meng
Although the site is currently invite-only, Diana and Stephany are pleased to offer our readers a VIP hookup: Head over to BUNDSHOP.com, click "Get Immediate Access" at the bottom of the center column, and enter "Core" as the first name and "77" as the last name (and your personal e-mail as well, of course).
Music shapes our experience of the world—it sets a mood, represents who we are (or who we want to be), captures memories, and defines a moment. The decision to embrace crowdsourcing as the DJ concept for the frog party was a risk in many ways. Who knew what the crowd might choose? What vibe would be created? Would it bring people together or further highlight our separate identities and divergent tastes? It was a meaningful social experiment—not only in music curation but also in social dynamics.
In order to fully embrace the experiment, frog dispatched 11 researchers to collect data at the party about music, crowdsourcing, and social dynamics. This article will both share the findings and reflect on the process that we used to take advantage of this research opportunity most efficiently and meaningfully.
Defining the Research Plan
Looking at the experiences that had been designed for the party, we realized that there was one piece of data being captured without any work required on our part—the music selections on the TouchTunes smart jukeboxes and mobile app. The crowdsourcing process would simultaneously build a data set about music preferences across the course of the evening. But like any quantitative data, this could be made more meaningful by supplementing that data with qualitative interviews and contextual observations.
As part of this experiment, we wanted to explore how to most effectively use a larger research team in a short amount of time (no one wanted to entirely miss the party to conduct research). We allocated three hours of time from each of our research team members—one hour to ramp up, one hour of research and documentation, and one hour to participate in a storytelling session. We created data capture sheets that made it easy to see the script and write down notes and quotes quickly. In addition, we created "end of shift" synthesis sheets that allowed us to quickly capture emerging patterns about social dynamics and environment from the research teams conducting research during the party. Two researchers then took the data forward to craft into the key themes.
We cast a relatively wide scope for the research, using a few focused questions that allowed the team to adapt their focus as themes emerged and the party progressed. Some of the questions we decided to explore included: What do people think of the music that's being played? What motivates engagement in the music selection process? What do people think about the value of crowdsourcing over curation? What's motivating their music choices (or their decision not to participate)? Does participation impact perceptions of the music and party environment? How do social dynamics play out when a group is asked to make a decision that is driven by personal taste? How do people go about making their decision as to what to play?
In order to answer these questions, we engaged in a range of research activities—spanning from video capture to one-on-one interviews.
The following is an exclusive excerpt from Service Design: From Insight to Implementation, a new book by Andy Polaine, Lavrans Løvlie and Ben Reason. Rosenfeld Media has kindly granted us permission to share Chapter 2 - The Nature of Service Design, in two parts. See the first half, as well as an introductory note, here.
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The Service Economy
In developed nations, around 75% of the economy is in the service sector, and this is where most new jobs are created. In Germany, known for its export prowess, the industrial industries dropped 140,000 jobs in 2010, while the service sector added 330,000 jobs, and private nursing services generate more revenue than the entire German automobile industry.1 To an increasing degree, we also see that the design of services is becoming a key competitive advantage. Physical elements and technology can easily be copied, but service experiences are rooted in company culture and are much harder to replicate. People choose to use the services that they feel give them the best experience for their money, whether they fly low-cost airlines or spend their money on a first-class experience
Just as industrial design fueled the introduction of new products to the masses in the industrial economy, good service design is key to the successful introduction of new technologies. Design of new models each year became the recipe for maintaining the success of established products. In the service economy, services can be redesigned on a continuing basis to keep a competitive edge in the market.
Some of the greatest opportunities are found where a business model can be changed from a product model to a service model. A case in point is car sharing, where the business model has changed from selling the car as a product to offering access to the service of mobility.
Core Service Values
One way to understand services better—and what makes them different from products—is to examine what it is that people get from services. There are many breakdowns of the characteristics of services, some of which we will look at later in the measurement chapter. We have been developing a simple way to understand the generic types of value that services deliver to customers by cataloguing every service we have become aware of and then grouping them in relation to three core values: care, access, and response (Figure 7). Most services provide customers with at least one of these or, often, a mix of all three.
Figure 7 - Core service offerings can be grouped into three primary spheres: care, response and access.
1.) Services That Care for People or Things
Healthcare is the most obvious case of a service focused on care, but many maintenance services also have care as the core value. A famous example of a care service is the Rolls Royce aviation engine service that monitors aircraft engines in flight and has spare parts ready to be fitted as needed when a plane lands, anywhere in the world.2
Care for an object—a car, an air-conditioning system, a wool coat—is provided by auto mechanics, HVAC technicians, or dry cleaners. Care for a person is provided by a wide range of services, from nurseries to nursing homes. Accountants, lawyers, and therapists provide care for money, freedom and happiness.
2.) Services That Provide Access to People or Things
Many services enable people to use something, or a part of something, temporarily. A railway service provides a seat on a train for a specific journey. A school might offer a child a place in a classroom from the age of 5 to 11. A cinema provides access to a giant screen, a comfy seat, and 90-plus minutes of entertainment. Generally, the services for which access is the primary value are services that give people access to large, complex, or expensive things that they could not obtain on their own.
Other kinds of access services are those that give access to infrastructure over many years. Utilities, such as water, gas, and electricity, are ubiquitous examples in the developed world. The Internet is, of course, a relatively new infrastructure that enables a whole new generation of services that provides access to information, digital media, and technology on a shared basis. Spotify provides access to a huge music library. Google provides access to an enormous database of searches. Facebook provides access to billions of personal pages. In this sense, we can view the Internet as a kind of metaservice, because it enables the provision of many other subservices, which is why so many people insist that no single entity "owns" it. These services provide individuals with access to large infrastructures that are used in conjunction with many other people. They don't end up owning anything that they can take away and store or give to someone else, apart from the experience they had.
These services are often a fundamental part of people's lives that are typically noticed only when they are disrupted, such as when the daily commuter train is canceled, or when schools are closed due to heavy snow. People expect the infrastructure to always be there for them. As individuals, we understand that we all have our own experiences of the specific access we have to this infrastructure—this is the service layer that enables us to access our bit of the larger whole.
3.) Services That Provide a Response from People or Things
The third category is services that respond to people's (often unforeseen) needs. These services are usually a mix of people and things that are able to assist us: an ambulance rushing to an accident, a teacher helping a child with a math problem, or a store assistant finding a customer a pair of jeans with the right fit. Sometimes these "response" services are anticipated and people buy the right to them in advance through insurance policies, social welfare, or simply by their choice of brand experience. In many respects, response is the default understanding of what service is— think of a waiter responding to a request for a glass of water, for example.
Service is someone doing what he or she has been asked to do. In this sense, response services are fundamentally different from products in that they are not predesigned but created in the moment in reaction to a request. The three core service values overlap in many instances. An insurance service offers both access to a financial-risk-offsetting infrastructure and a response to a specific issue when a client calls with a claim. A healthcare service provides care on a personal level, but also access to a hospital facility if necessary. It will also transport a patient there in an ambulance if necessary. It is not so much that any one service fits only in one category, but more that the service has different core values at different times.
The Museum of Modern Art and open hardware startup littleBits are pleased to unveil a new collaboration, on display in the windows of MoMA Design Store locations in Midtown and Soho as of today, April 9, 2013. Developed in conjunction with brooklyn design studio Labour, the "4’-tall kinetic sculptures [are] made of wood, cardboard and acrylic, [brought to life] with 'Bits' measuring less than 1 inch square."
Although littleBits have been billed as "LEGO for the iPad generation," founder Ayah Bdeir notes in her TED Talk (embedded below) that the transistor has been around since 1947—predating the the iPad by over six decades. Rather, the modular bits comprise a full ecosystem of input/output functionality, such that littleBits cannot be classified strictly as a construction toy or an electronic one. Bdeir elaborates:
The idea behind littleBits is that electronics should be like any other material, paper, cardboard, screws and wood. You should be able to pick up 'light,' 'sound,' 'sensing,' etc., and embed it into your creative process just like you do foam and glue. We sit at the border between electronics, design, craft, art and mechanical engineering, and we are constantly negotiating those boundaries. I believe the most interesting things happen at the intersection of disciplines and the borders need to become more porous for us to see the most incredible uses of electronics in the world. littleBits is a library. We now have three kits and over 35 Bits and are working on the next 30, so this is literally just the beginning.
We had the chance to catch up with Bdeir, an interactive artist and engineer by training, about the past, present and future of littleBits.
Core77: I understand it's been roughly a year and a half since you originally launched littleBits. Have you been surprised by the response? What achievement or milestone are you most proud of thus far?
Ayah Bdeir: The response has been incredible. When I first started the company in September 2011, I knew that we already had fans who were waiting for the product, but I had no idea the response would be what it was. We sold the first products on our site on December 20th of that year and we sold out within 3 weeks of starting. [In 2012, we grew over] a series of events: we won best of toyfair, I gave a talk on TED that got a great response, we had a documentary on CNN and at every juncture, demand shot up. It was really incredible to see people from all over the world, parents, teachers, kids, designers, artists, hackers getting excited about littleBits for different reasons.
I think my most proud milestone is that despite all I heard about the toy industry being competitive, jaded and without mercy, we won 14 toy awards in less than eight months (including Dr Toy 10 Best Educational Products, Academic's Choice Brain Toy, etc)—in some cases, we bested some of the most popular toy companies in the world.
This excerpt from Chapter 2 of Service Design: From Insight to Implementation explains many of the differences between designing for services versus designing products and the nature of services themselves. We wrote this book because we wanted to capture both the philosophy and thinking of service design and connect them with its practical aspects, based on our experience with developing, doing, selling and teaching service design over several years.
When we formerly worked as interaction and product designers, we realized that what we were often being asked to design was just one part of a larger, more complex service. No matter how well we did our job, if another link in the chain was broken, the entire experience was broken from the customer's perspective. We believe service design offers a way of thinking about these problems as well as clear tools and methods that can help designers, innovators, entrepreneurs, managers, and administrators do something about it.
We explain service design in the second chapter, rather than the first, because we needed to have an end-to-end case study to refer back to throughout the book. Service design really involves constantly zooming in and out from detail to big picture and back again. An example used in the book is of an electricity company experiencing a high volume of call-centre calls because people didn't understand their electricity bills. The solution is not more call centre staff, but to redesign the bill. Small problems can have a big effect on the overall service. Design carried out in silos missed opportunities.
Conversely, the service and business proposition needs to ripple through every single touchpoint in the service ecosystem. Without the context of an entire service to refer to, we ran the risk of falling into the same trap that clients and service users often face, which focusing on the parts at the expense of the whole.
With all that in mind, we hope you enjoy this chapter excerpt. Feedback and commentary are always very welcome.
* * *
Like most modern design disciplines, service design can be traced back to the tradition of industrial design, a field defined during the 1920s by a close-knit community of American designers that included Raymond Loewy, Walter Dorwin Teague, Norman Bel Geddes and Henry Dreyfuss. In Europe, the Bauhaus was central to the birth of industrial design.
What all of these designers had in common was a drive to use new industrial technology to improve people's standard of living. During and after World War I, people were horrified to see the devastation caused by the industrialization of warfare. There was also a great need to restore and improve the material standard of living in Europe and the United States.
On an ideological level, the first generation of industrial designers strove to turn industrialization into a force for good. They focused their talents on figuring out how to use industrial technology to satisfy the fundamental human needs of the day. They explored how industry could create products in more efficient ways, what would make them more useful for people, and how products could contribute to optimism about the future. They created well-designed furniture that was inexpensive enough for the middle class to buy to modernize their homes, and white goods that enabled women to escape some of the drudgery of housework, freeing them to take jobs outside of the home. Cars and trains enabled people to expand their range of travel for work and pleasure.
In the 20th century, the design profession made a huge contribution to the improvement of the standard of living in the developed world. Today, however, this standard of living has reached its natural plateau. We are saturated with material wealth, and our consumption of products is threatening our very existence rather than being a resource for good living.
On the ideological level, our fundamental human needs have also changed. The great challenges facing developed societies today are about sustaining good health, reducing energy and resource consumption, and developing leaner transportation solutions and more resilient financial systems. The 1920s generation of industrial designers strove to humanize the technology of their day and meet the fundamental material needs of their generation. Service design grows out of a digitally native generation professionally bred on network thinking. Our focus has moved from efficient production to lean consumption, and the value set has moved from standard of living to quality of life.
Why Do Services Need Designing?
As designers, when we build services based on genuine insight into the people who will use them, we can be confident that we will deliver real value. When we make smart use of networks of technology and people, we can simplify complex services and make them more powerful for the customer.
When we build resilience into the design, services will adapt better to change and perform longer for the user. When we apply design consistency to all elements of a service, the human experience will be fulfilling and satisfying. When we measure service performance in the right way, we can prove that service design results in more effective employment of resources—human, capital and natural.
It would appear easy to study how people experience a service, determine which parts of the delivery are not joined up, and make them all perform well together. In reality, some of the best organizations in the world struggle mightily to design good service experiences.
To explain why companies find it so difficult to design services well, we need to study the nature of services and the way they are delivered.
How Services Differ from Products
The challenge we found when we moved our attention from designing products to designing services was that services are entirely different animals than products. Applying the same mindset to designing a service as to the design of a product can lead to customer-hostile rather than user-friendly results. Products are discrete objects and, because of this, the companies that make, market and sell products tend to be separated into departments that specialize in one function and have a vertical chain of command—they operate in silos.
Figure 1 - Where is the customer in this picture? Staff working in silos tend to focus on the efficiency of their step in the value chain rather than the quality of the complete customer experience.
Core77 is very pleased to present an exclusive look at an IDEO creative ideation exercise, "Brand New IDEO," centered on a 24-hour global Make-a-Thon that will take place next Monday in their 11 offices around the world, starting in Tokyo and ending at their San Francisco headquarters. In anticipation of this unique event, IDEO offers a bit of background on the history of their brand identity and how the project came about. Be sure to tune in on Monday, March 25, when Core77 will host an (almost) live blog of the process as it unfolds.
When Paul Rand designed the IDEO logo in 1991, he didn't anticipate the complex challenges IDEO designers would take on 20 years later. Who could have? It's crazy how many changes the world has undergone during the past two decades—34 new countries, tablet computing, Netflix, the Euro, and the Prius, just to name a few.
Like the world around us, IDEO has evolved too. Where we were once a handful of specialties, today we are dozens. Doctors, biologists, filmmakers, and storytellers rub elbows with industrial designers and engineers—all in the service of creating positive impact through design. And why not? If you listen to futurists, the next 20 years will be a combination of Mad Max and Xanadu. Ferns will become hard drives. Space tourism will be a thing. Thousands of new cities will emerge. We need all the bright, creative minds we can get!
Given these heady challenges, how might we evolve our identity to become even more dynamic in a complex and diverse world? To answer this question for ourselves, we've designed a maker experiment that explores extremes and helps us create a brief for the future. We call it "Brand New IDEO."
Years ago, we needed Paul Rand to design our own brand identity. Today, with communications designers and brand experts in every IDEO studio, we're looking inward to evolve our identity—and we're doing it in public.
Brand New IDEO is a "maker experiment" for everyone inside IDEO's four walls. For many of our designers it means rolling up their sleeves and making something new. For other IDEOers, it means sharing inspiration that explores one of six themes.
Talisman - A memento of the future; a totem capturing our spirit; a talisman bringing fortune to those who encounter it... Let's create objects that represent who we are and who we will become.
Biological - Living, growing, reproducing, aging and dying; perpetuating through offspring; symbiotic with neighbors... Let's create a living identity system that matures and mutates through time.
Powers of 10 - Cellular to spectacular; micro to macro; neutrons, neurons and nebulas... Let's create an identity system that is too large to comprehend, too small to see and every step in between.
Code Junkies - Born in the digital world, forever a resident; viral, logical, & combinatorial; obedient to math- made laws... Let's create an identity that originates from binaries and algorithms.
Writer's Block - High brow and low brow; short stories, poems, lyrics; bumper stickers and billboards... Let's create an identity that lives in the written word- no graphics allowed.
Alternate History - China 1991,* the birthplace of IDEO... Let's create an identity that is unique to its origin, celebrating culture, materiality, craftsmanship and industry. *and/or Munich, Tokyo
L: Michael Hendrix; R: Paul Bennett
Recently, IDEO's Chief Creative Officer, Paul Bennett, sat down with IDEO Boston Creative Director Michael Hendrix for a chat about the experiment. Below is an excerpt of their conversation.
After she graduated from Syracuse University in 2005, Christine Price Hamilton spent several years working as a project manager/designer at a residential architecture firm before setting out on her own—or rather, as one of the independent studios at Fringe Union in Somerville, Massachusetts. Since 2011, she's been developing the Tesselight, as well as her freelance architectural practice, with the support of her fellow Fringe members.
Launched last week, the collection of pendant lighting fixtures are made from delicately assembled translucent paper that has been "sealed with a proprietary flame-retardant and stain-resistant coating, silkscreened by hand to achieve a perfectly smooth, satin finish."
The paper is fed through a traditional windmill press equipped with our custom wood block dies. As the paper is fed through the press, the dies stamp out a series of flat shapes that together create the pattern for each Tesselight. The flat pieces then go to the worktable, where they are folded, curled and sewn by hand into a series of triangular tiles. The tiles are joined to create a spherical shape so strong that it supports itself, no inner frame necessary.
The "Atom," pictured above and at top
We had the chance to talk to Hamilton about bringing her project to life.
Core77: What inspired you to create Tesselights?
Christine Price Hamilton: Through an admittedly nerdy obsession with Buckminster Fuller, I became fascinated with fractal geometry and the Platonic solids. I was curious to see what kinds of patterns would emerge if the faces of those solids weren't strictly flat and linear, and it seemed like the pliable and translucent properties of paper made it the ideal material to render those patterns most dramatically. I was really just experimenting. I made the first set of tiles without having any idea what the end result would look like, or even that it would be a light fixture. That first experiment became what is now called the Stella pendant.
I imagine it took some time to refine the product and process behind Tesselights. What were some of the challenges you faced, and what solutions did you arrive at?
The biggest challenge so far has been figuring out how to pack and ship the fixtures. Each curve of paper is held in delicate tension by a single thread. Prolonged pressure on the fixture—even from packing peanuts—will squish and warp those curves, ruining the overall symmetry.
Ultimately, the best solution was to use the laws of geometry to our advantage. Tesselights are now packaged using a single chipboard insert which, through a series of voids and folds, mimics the edges of the fixture's form and squeezes gently between each tile, effectively suspending the fixture inside its box.
Bruce Nussbaum is a luminary in the business and design fields, as well as a professor at Parsons the New School for Design and an occasional contributor here at Core77. A year-and-a-half ago, Bruce famously declared that design thinking was dead. We had the chance to sit down with Bruce and see how his thoughts on design have evolved since then.
Core77: How has your thinking about design thinking changed in the last year-and-a-half? Now you're hearing business professors talk about design thinking as the new thing and a year and half ago you said it was dead!
Bruce Nussbaum: Well, that's what happens when you're there at the beginning of a concept and you live through it, you see it mature, and you believe that it is now a wonderful foundation for something else. Then you come to a place like Harvard where they're sort of discovering design and embracing design thinking. My reaction to that is that it's wonderful because for this situation, for this time, for them it's great that they're understanding the power of design and what design can do, not just in terms of objects, but in terms of relationships, experiences and education. For here, it's great. For those of us who've been inside, we're trying to push the envelope and move forward and Harvard will embrace that too as time goes on.
Does this mean that design thinking is enduring? Or that there's kind of a lag time between these concepts emerging and their adoption down the road?
Yes, well, government is just beginning to adopt design, much less design thinking. But there are institutional lags, cultural lags, there are all kinds of forces at work. There's the force of fad. I remember when design was hot and then not and then innovation was hot and it's kind of peaking now. You can see more and more creativity is moving up that S curve. And creativity is getting hotter and hotter. My book is coming out on "creative intelligence," which will have its moment. To me, they all become scaffolding for other ideas. You're moving down and evolving one's thinking about all of this, whether you call it design, innovation, or creativity. We're all in that same space and trying to do a better job of understanding the phenomenon and the process and most importantly the practice.
When I moved from Business Week to the New School at Parsons, that really changed things for me in terms of my frame and I wanted to be more inclusive. Design is very powerful, it's very particular, and it involves a small number of people. Everyone feels that they're creative and everyone probably can be creative. I just found over the years that when you talk about design, people lean back a little bit and will be a little wary and they'll hear you out. But talk about creativity and they'll start telling you about their kids and they'll talk about how when they were in school they did that. Or they'll talk about their job and you'll tell them, oh, that was very creative. They'll say, Really? And the fact is what they were doing is really creative. So it just brings everybody into the conversation, that's why I went there.
They're still talking about design, design thinking, focusing on user needs or the experience. That's just the tiniest, tiniest bit of what we know in anthropology and sociology about what I consider the most important thing, which is engagement. That's what it's about. How we engage with products, how we engage with services, how we engage in a social way and it's the design of that engagement which is so powerful. And that's what Apple used to do so well. It was that engagement that we had, the meaning we found in that engagement, which they seem to be losing.
Why do you say that Apple is losing that engagement? What was that shift?
Well, the map thing was a disaster. The latest iteration of iTunes is pretty problematic. Perhaps the most important thing is the promise of things to come. In the book, I talk about aura. I want to bring back aura. And the reason I want to bring back the concept of aura is that it is quintessentially about engagement. Aura is this thing that beckons you, that pulls you in, that you have an engagement with, and that very often is an emotional engagement. I would argue that there is such a thing as simulated aura, that you can in fact create aura, that you can create an engagement with people. I have a friend who just bought an Apple Mini. She loves it! And she looks at the Mini the way prisoners will eat their food, she circles it. If I were to get between her and her Mini, she'd kill me! That's aura, that's passion, that's emotion. That's the power of engagement.
It was an unlikely turn of events: A tiny, unconventional automobile, designed as a thrify response to the Suez Oil Crisis affecting Britain in the 1950s, would become a ferocious racecar competitor in the following decade. In the '60s a small group of sure-handed drivers drove the MINI to beat out larger, faster cars on some of the most challenging rally tracks on Earth, like the world-famous four-stage Monte Carlo Rally, and this cemented the brand's image in the minds of European auto enthusiasts. (Fans could spot the car from afar, by design; the roof was painted in contrasting white.)
One of those drivers was Rally Hall of Famer Rauno Aaltonen, a bloke from southern Finland who had speed in his bones. Aaltonen started off racing speedboats as a boy, then motorcycles, and eventually cars. We caught up with MINI Ambassador Aaltonen for a too-brief interview in Finland—while relatively unknown in America, he was in high demand by European journalists at the press event—and before we get to an awesome time-warp rally vid further down in this entry, we'll show you the two questions we got to squeeze in:
In addition to sharing an etymological root with the word "salvation," the notion of "salvage" also connotes wreckage; specifically, an effort to recover that which might be lost in the face of disaster. Brooklyn's Uhuru, for one, has long sought to revive serviceable materials in furniture form, and we weren't surprised to see them among the designers who participated in Sawkill Lumber's 12×12 exhibition during New York Design Week this year.
Photo of Fire Island by Daniel Moyer
Uhuru is just one of the two dozen designers revisiting that theme for an forthcoming fundraiser in response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Organized by writer Jennifer Gorsche, DesignerPages Editor-in-Chief Jean Lin and designer Brad Ascalon, Reclaim NYC is true to the spirit of salvage in every sense of the word.
New York City's design community is teaming up to raise money for those affected by Superstorm Sandy with an auction of furniture created from materials reclaimed or salvaged after the storm and of pieces inspired by the flooding...
Furniture collectors will have a unique opportunity to take home a piece of the storm while benefitting those most affected by it. More than 20 designers have pledged pieces to the silent auction, the proceeds of which will go to the American Red Cross in Greater New York. Each designer is bringing a unique take on Sandy and its aftermath with pieces ranging from tables and chairs to lighting fixtures to art objects. Some designers have plans to explore themes of the storm in future work as well.
We had a chance to catch up with Gorsche and Ascalon, who gladly provided a sneak preview of some of the work that will be at the auction (full list of participants below):
Core77: Let's start from the beginning—how did Reclaim NYC come about?
Jennifer Gorsche: I was running in the park and saw how many trees had been damaged. The wood was being hauled away and I wondered if it would be possible for some designers to use it. I called Jean Lin, my good friend and Designer Pages editor and chief, to talk about the idea. We talked with Brad Ascalon about it too, and started reaching out to NY-based designers. The response was really positive and though the timing of the event ultimately didn't allow for large pieces of downed trees to be used (because of curing time involved) the designers have been very creative in addressing the theme of reclamation.
Brad Ascalon: As Jen mentioned, she and Jean reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in participating. Because I was so into the idea, the discussion ended with me wanting to be involved in the organization of the project alongside Jen and Jean.
It's taken a summer's worth of exploring the Chinese design scene, but BUNDSHOP, a new online platform that will bring Chinese design to the rest of the world, is nearly set to launch next month. We recently had a chance to stop by their Shanghai office to meet their core team: Founder Diana Tsai, Marketing/PR Lead Stephanie Zoo, Operations Manager Donnie Yu and Designer Michael Cignarale. The binational team hails from both sides of the Pacific, as the Chinese-Americans boast Shanghainese heritage—an advantage for navigating the rapidly-changing city—while longtime friend Yu is a savvy local.
Earlier this year, Tsai was inspired to see China's burgeoning design culture yet frustrated to learn that most Chinese designers have few opportunities to exhibit or sell their work at home or abroad. But beyond the simple retail proposition, BUNDSHOP is also delivers exclusive editorial content as well, sharing the stories behind the products and the individuals who create them. Their mission statement is a good place to start:
There is serious interest around the world in creativity and design from China. We're at a cross-section of history. We are marking the transition of one of the world's fastest growing countries from industrial to creative, from producing to innovating... from Made in China to Designed in China.
We've watched this trend for the last decade as we visited family, studied, and worked in China. With our eclectic backgrounds in social enterprise, logistics, exports, marketing, philosophy, diplomacy, we have all united around a single vision, we stormed straight into the frontlines to create a platform to showcase something the world had never seen before: emerging design and independent brands, Designed in China.
The Cambridge, MA-based crew behind the latter may have the engineering degrees and the pedigree, but a lone gunman from the you-couldn't-have-made-it-up locale of Deadwood, South Dakota, quietly raised half a mil with his own homebrewed SLA machine earlier this year. Although we missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, we had the chance to catch up with self-taught maker Michael Joyce, the brains behind the B9Creator at Maker Faire this past weekend.
Core77: Let's start with a bit of background...
Mike Joyce: Sure. So I've always been a little bit of a tinkerer as I grew up—I ended up with a math degree out of college, [then I] joined the Air Force, flew as an air force pilot for about 12 years, got out and did a few little things in software. I started making these $25,000 Lost in Space robot replicas and selling those all over the place...
Last fall, I got interested in 3D Printing, mainly in applications for space exploration and things like that. But then I started looking at what was out there and I didn't think that the resolution was real great, I wanted to start doing something with higher resolution.
[Digital Light Processing] caught my attention and that's how I got interested in doing this DLP-based printer.
Do you think your background in math gives you a different take on it than some of the designers who are doing 3D printing?
There's a lot of math in working with 3D objects—rotating them, slicing them, that sort of thing—so that definitely helped. I don't have an engineering degree but I've always built things—I've used CAD software extensively over the past twenty years on my own personal projects. I overengineer things because I'm not an engineer, but I feel like I'm really comfortable with CAD and designing something that I think will work without actually having to have a prototype in my hands.
All of those factors probably helped me quickly come up with this design, and the fact that I've been building those Lost in Space robots gave me a lot of good contacts, as far as my manufacturers, to get things built quickly. So I already had a good relationship with a metal company and an acrylic company—all those U.S. companies that are pretty much mom and pop shops, but they can produce stuff pretty quick if you need them to.
[Unfortunately,] there's really not a lot of manufacturers like that in South Dakota; we've got some folks in the West Coast, down in the Boulder area that supply our components.
You said you got interested in this starting last fall, and you were able to realize your vision by this spring, when you launched the project on Kickstarter?
Yeah. So by last Christmas, I'd looked at ABS, or extrusion, and DLP and decided I wanted to work on something based on DLP and photosensitive resins. Of course, there was some stuff already going on online, so I looked at that; I built several different prototype versions in January, but then I learned that some things I was trying to do had already been patented, so I didn't want to infringe on anyone's patents.
The actual SLA patent is expired so we're basically doing a form of SLA—we're irradiating a chemical that's sensitive to the radiation to form solid layer, that's SLA. But the details of how you release that part from the cured surface, there are different ways to do that and most of them are patented. So we've come up with a new way to release the part, which we feel is effective and in some ways has advantages over some of the existing mechanisms.
Travis Feldman's Molecule Synth was one of those Kickstarter projects that I discovered just a little too late in the game: the Portland, OR-based tinkerer reached his funding goal within two weeks and I bookmarked the 'buzzy' project for future coverage. Still, the charmingly lo-fi video made me feel guilty that I'd neglected my trusty Microkorg for years, piqued by the modular synthesizer kit that offers a hands-on experience for electronic musicians of all skill levels.
Lo and behold, Feldman's taking the show on the road to upcoming Maker Faire New York and I'm eager to see the it in person at the New York Hall of Science this weekend. Feldman will be in Zone B, and he's given us some exclusive insight into his design process and the future of the Molecule Synth in anticipation of the Faire.
Core77: I understand you are a scholar of Comparative Literature and Classics; how did the Molecule Synth come about? Conversely, does your background in humanities inform your approach to design?
Travis Feldman: My approach to design comes less from my background in humanities and more from being a geeky kid, making 'zines and comics, playing Dungeons & Dragons, skateboarding, hacker culture and Arduino tinkering. I've kept various art, programming and electronics going on almost nonstop since I can remember. My interest in music always seemed especially impractical, even when compared to something like translating ancient Greek texts, but they initially inspired me to pick up the soldering iron and begin making my own modified microphones, altered effects pedals, and, finally, my own homemade modular synth gear.
The Internet is teaching us all how to research and learn in new ways, and my understanding of electronics and my abilities to find out about everything that has gone into the Molecule Synth has depended a lot more upon the Internet than upon any traditional resources or formalized ways of learning. I might add that my attention to detail, patience to figure out unfamiliar things, interest in seeing the big picture in relation to "minute particulars," and intuition about what looks, feels and sounds "right" have been important for bringing the Molecule into existence, and those traits served me well in academic research projects. It's fair to say that the last few months have been busier than any other time of my life and challenged me to work harder than ever, but rather than think about how this could connect to academia, I keep coming back to the thrill of realizing that I am doing exactly what I want to do right now.
You note the "Lego-like interchangeability" of the Molecule Synth, but I also see some affinity to Sifteo cubes, with each element representing part of an analog synth patch bay. In other words, it appeals to novices and experts alike. What was the development process like?
Those Sifteo cubes are super cool! I can't afford them though and I've never actually played with them... I like the gaming component to them, too—I want the Molecule Synth to feel like a game of sorts. One important distinction between the concept behind the Molecule Synth and those cubes is my interest in hardware. Sifteos are software-based. I am reminded too of the design sensibility of the Reactable Synthesizer, have you seen that? It's also a software-based synth, with a brilliantly conceived set of cubes used to trigger and control it. I got to meet some of the designers and play with one recently while in Barcelona. But Legos are worth bringing back into comparison here, since the Molecule Synth is entirely hardware-based, snap-together circuitry, except for the Arduino-powered MIDI input.
My idea for the Molecule Synth came from experiences prototyping and experimenting. I spend a lot of time breadboarding synth circuits and then just listening to the results of swapping out one capacitor for another, or one type of controller for another. I thought I might be able to capture that in some device, and that idea led me to the Molecule Synth. I also like circuit bending, when you bring home a toy instrument from the thrift store, open up the back, and begin prodding and poking around the circuit board, seeking out that 555 timer circuit by rubbing a little slobber onto the resistors—that's tons of fun!—and I wanted to have some of that experimental chaos and closeness to the actual, physical circuits built into the Molecule Synth's design.
The twofold characterization of Sebastian Errazuriz as a designer and an artist has bedeviled his endeavors for over a decade now. This much is apparent in the dialectical introductory texts to his first monograph, The Journey of Sebastian Errazuriz (Gestalten 2012), to say nothing of the work itself, which resists characterization as a tightrope walker hovers between life and death. So too does the prolific 'creator-of-things' (for lack of a better term) walk a taut line of irony—navigating a narrow space between understatement and overstatement—and make it look easy.
Yet Errazuriz is also glad to show us that unerring lines of reasoning often lead to the absurd results. To mix the metaphor, he picks at the seams of a reality that is ready to burst, only to discover that nothingness trickles out. This sheer viscosity of meaning—i.e., its essential fiction—is precisely what drives the Chilean-born, UK- and US-educated, NYC-based polymath to simultaneously subvert and elevate objects, ideas and symbols into, well, art.
Autopsy Desk (2009)
Thus, the "Autopsy Desk" marks a felicitous opening to the survey of his oeuvre, organized loosely by medium to suggest a retrospective taxonomy to his broad practice. I would have preferred to see the work in chronological order... albeit partly because I was (pleasantly) surprised, every few pages or so, to discover works that I had never seen before. Nevertheless, the desk—commissioned by none other than meme-friendly persona Keanu Reeves—is an easy metaphor for Errazuriz's morbidly incisive body of work.
The Journey of Sebastian Errazuriz is available now in Europe and will be available in the U.S. shortly. Those of you in London for the festivals can see some of the work in person at the exhibition of the same name at Kenny Schachter / Rove Gallery, which runs through September 23; the book launch and reception will be this coming Wednesday, September 19, from 7–11PM.
Whether or not you make it to Hoxton for the opening, Sebastian has also obliged us with an exclusive Q&A on the occasion of the book and exhibition.
Nada de Nada (Nothing at All) (2002)
Core77: First of all, congratulations on the new book. How does it feel to realize the first of what will surely be many monographs?
Sebastian Errazuriz: It feels great, but It's funny you mention it, since the book is out I can't help thinking of the next one. Don't get me wrong: this is a really a fun book jammed with 10 years of projects and ideas; but as you pointed out every monograph is timely and therefore incomplete. It's impossible not to wish you had been able to include the latest project you finished yesterday or the one you are planning next week. Maybe digital books in the future will automatically upgrade to the new, latest version like our current computer software do.
Mo Duffy is a senior interaction designer at Red Hat, a billion dollar company that is the world's leading open source and Linux provider. I met Mo this past spring when we spoke on a panel at SxSW. I was struck by her insights into her profession and how those insights relate to all design professions. Not only does she get into the nitty gritty of the politics of the workplace and the realities of usability testing, but she is a passionate advocate for open source and the democratization of design.
* * *
Xanthe Matychak: How do you define Interaction Design?
Mo Duffy: I define interaction design to mean the design of systems and interfaces where humans and computers interact with each other, and, more importantly, where human beings interact with each other mediated by computer systems.
And the goal of interaction design, in my opinion, is to be as invisible as possible. Whenever a person is jerked into thinking about their computer system or their software rather than the task they are trying to do, such as getting a video chat with a loved one to work or checking their work email, that's when poor interaction design is noticed. Good interaction design is transparent because it allows for an experience so seamless, you don't notice it. It's invisible!
What challenges did you have when you first started and how did you overcome them?
I had a few challenges when I first started. I came from a graduate program that, at least in the track I ended up following, had a very strong quantitative bent to it: useful for generating HCI research and running a usability lab, yes, but I wasn't interested in either, as it turns out. In my program I started worrying that pumping out awkwardly-written research papers in pricey academic journals developers wouldn't or couldn't afford was not going to make a huge difference in open source software, and I started worrying that I was wasting my time.
It also felt like the maxim that you must run hours of rigorous usability tests on every piece of software before it's ever put in front of an end user had somehow been drilled into my head, and when I finally found myself in industry, I discovered the dirty secret that what I was taught regarding usability testing and how it happens normally is hardly ever the case in reality, at least in industry. Most testing that I've encountered or been involved with has aligned far most closely with Steve Krug's methods in Don't Make Me Think than any of the rigorous multivariate statistical analysis and eye-tracking studies I was involved with in my academic program. I feel kind of dirty and bad to admit this, but cheap and quick testing works, and sometimes you need to get a product out the door and you aren't in a position to stop the train no matter how much you think it needs more time and polish. You feel lucky you got any sort of testing in at all. There are so many forces that affect software, well beyond usability, and they deserve respect as well: for example, if you delay and delay until you have the most wonderful, engaging user experience in a piece of software that connects with a completely irrelevant technology—say, the world's best VHS player—did you make the right call? Coming to terms with non-textbook reality here took me a long while and was a big challenge.
Another challenge that was at least in part unique to those of us who work on open source projects as designers—I found out that as an interaction designer, you really have to learn to market and sell your ideas to the developers and other open source community contributors involved in a project. There is no management chain and expectations that a developer must write the software the way your design spec states simply because you're The Designer. The challenge was learning (the hard way) that a great interaction design is not enough: if you want it to happen, you need to develop some salesmanship, build up trust, use your research to back your designs up, and have a real enthusiasm and excitement for what you do in order to inspire the developers and other folks involved to pick that design up and make it into working software.
In my first job as an interaction designer, I was the first designer several of the developers had worked with. That was a bit of a challenge, because at times I had to take on an educational role, advocating for design itself, when I felt I didn't even really have enough experience to be in that position. I still sometimes get confusion over what an interaction designer is—thanks people who keep coining new terms for the discipline—to the point I get a continuous stream of logo and icon design requests. The software development process the team followed didn't really account for design or usability testing in the schedule, nor did the business processes involve it much at all. At times I felt I had to fight to interject myself into the process or risk being ignored by it, but I definitely had sincere enthusiasm both for the project and the team and I think that helped me bust through a lot of these kinds of barriers.
*The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of his firm or its clients.
Our articles so far have laid the foundation to repair the broken image of design patents. While this can help you argue for the resources to seek design patent protection, we also need to learn what to do to make sure that the design patents you seek end up meeting the expectations that you set for them.
A big part of the reason for requiring patent lawyers to have a science or technical background is to put a lawyer and inventor-client on the same page from the beginning of the patent drafting process. As illustrated in the graphic below, the knowledge involved in putting together a patent application has three components. First, someone needs to have deep knowledge of the product itself including how it works, how it was designed and what's unique about it. Clear on the other side of things, there needs to be deep knowledge of patent law, including all of the patent office rules, the legal limits of what you can claim and how and all of the various legal traps that one can fall into when writing a patent application.
Somewhere in the middle, though, there's a section of knowledge that requires viewing the product itself from a legal perspective. This involves all of the considerations discussed in the other parts of this article, including what to claim as individual inventions, what is the broadest coverage that you should seek and what backup positions should be included. On top of that, it also involves how to describe a product within the context of all the legal rules and requirements to achieve the type of coverage desired.
When a lawyer's technical background aligns with the area of the product being patented, the lawyer can handle the bulk of the middle section, as illustrated in the graphic below. The lawyer can generally describe the requirements for a patent including the theories of novelty and obviousness to help the client understand what the lawyer is doing. These bits of patent law knowledge can also help the client make decisions that balance potential coverage with real-world considerations such as cost and timing.
On the other hand, when dealing with design patents, there will likely be much less of a knowledge overlap between designer and lawyer. As illustrated below, there are many instances where there is no overlap at all or even a substantial gap in knowledge that really prevents the lawyer and designer from getting on the same page and developing a good working relationship. This, in turn, can prevent the lawyer from knowing what really needs protection within an overall scheme and can also prevent the designer from fully appreciating that something could be done.
All of this can really make it seem like an uphill battle for designers seeking a comfortable level of design protection. Do they first have to educate a lawyer on the finer points of design to close the knowledge gap? Do they, instead, have to first learn all there is to know about patents and patent strategy before discussing things with a lawyer? In a perfect world, yes, both sides could do a little extra work to close this gap, but as a more practical solution, I've developed a short list of questions that designers can ask themselves as a beginning to the design patent process. These questions are aimed to help designers start to bend their thinking toward the patent side of things. They can help designers put things in terms that a lawyer can use and understand.
*The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of his firm or its clients.
Now that we've seen how a valuable design patent strategy can begin to take shape, we'll step back a little and look at how even a known positive aspect of design patents ended up being misused to their detriment. This can also give us a clue as to where to start to turn things around and rehabilitate the reputation of design patents.
Misconception 3: Design patents are, at best, just an easy way to get a patent number on a product.
In all the ways that common misconceptions about design patents are wrong, the notion that they're easy to get is actually correct. That is, compared to utility patents, they're relatively easy to get. The patent process itself is confounding, difficult and full of seemingly inane rules no matter which side you're on. However, once a utility patent is filed, it often faces an uphill battle to actually be allowed by the United States Patent Office. For one, the waiting list for utility patents to be examined is between about two and three years. Once examination starts, the back-and-forth arguing with the patent office over whether or not a patent is actually deserved can take at least another year and can be endlessly frustrating.
Design patents, on the other hand, only sit for about six months to a year before being examined. Even better, many design patents are immediately allowed or only face formal objections, rather than more difficult substantive rejections, that are almost automatic for utility applications. Even taking a more strategic approach to design patent filing may not have a significant impact on examination times because the sheer volume of design patent applications filed is so much lower than with respect to utility patents.
Many people who are otherwise unconcerned with the visual aspects of a product seek to use the ease of getting a design patent to their advantage. Their goal is to quickly get a design patent, even a cheap one, to be able to honestly mark a product as "patented" or to have some minimal level of protection while they wait for their utility patents to issue. When people take this approach, they really don't care what they end up with; they just want it to be cheap and quick. This is a big part of the reason why so many bad design patents exist.
The problem that stems from all the bad design patents out there is that, eventually, people do decide to try and enforce some of them. The courts have always seemed to struggle not only in trying to make sense of visual design but also simply trying to find a way to keep design patents, including bad ones, afloat. More often than not though, actually winning a design patent lawsuit proves exceedingly difficult. This phenomenon fed back into the perception that design patents themselves are inherently weak, causing that myth to become widespread.
The perception of design patents was on a downward spiral for some time, during which repeated half-hearted attempts at design protection were followed by repeated unsuccessful but costly attempts at design patent enforcement. It got so bad that even in cases where those involved felt that the product's design really did matter, the motivation behind any accompanying design patents was simply the thought that "well, this does have a design so we might as well file a design patent."
In spite of all this, the Federal Circuit recently opened the door somewhat for design patents. In what would seem like a very innocuous case involving a design patent for fingernail buffers, the Court removed a critical aspect of the law of design patent enforcement that was partly what made winning a design patent lawsuit so difficult. In the absence of the requirement that design patent plaintiffs spell out the "points of novelty" of their design before it's compared against the alleged infringing product, design patent enforcement may now prove easier. In one example, the footwear maker Crocs was successful in a lawsuit against some knock-offs that actually had some noticeable differences from the patented design (this should also ease any concerns that a design has to be universally lauded to deserve design patent protection).
*The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of his firm or its clients.
In the first article of this series, we introduced the idea that valuable design patents are something that designers can, and should, work to obtain. We also explored the misconception that design patents are inherently narrow or easy to get around and discovered exactly where the holes in such a belief lie. In this article, we'll look at how the cost of design patents affects how people perceive their value and what the actual cost of a good design patent strategy should be.
Misconception 2: Design patents are cheap (and why it's a good thing that this is wrong)
Anyone who has participated on both the design and utility side of the patent application process can see a difference in how the applications get written and assembled. Both the amount of information exchanged and the time taken for preparing a utility patent are much greater than when dealing with a design patent application. Of course, this time is ultimately reflected in the cost of the application, which in the case of a utility, is typically expected to be in the range of $8,000 to $12,000. That, however, is for a single application that may only cover limited aspects of a product. Simply comparing this to the cost for a design application, which can be between $2,000-3,000, shows a notable difference in the expected amount of time usually spent on these two types of applications.
Adequately covering a new and innovative product on the utility side, however, can often involve multiple applications, adding up to sometimes more than $50,000 for a single product (and that's just to file the applications). Most of the time, when working on the design side, only a single application is filed. The Patent Office might require an applicant to split up the application into separate applications that cover what they determine to be different designs, even if only slightly different. Such a requirement only incrementally increases the cost, which ultimately pales in comparison to the total on the utility side.
This vast difference in cost certainly makes design patents look cheap. Simply because there isn't much actual legal writing involved, design patents shouldn't cost as much as utility patents. But, they shouldn't be viewed as cheap. There are probably a lot of designers who wouldn't view $3,000 as cheap, but the overall notion, especially from the perspective of someone paying $50,000 to begin the utility patent process, is that design patents comparatively lack value. It's also worth mentioning that there can also be a significant additional cost in actually getting a utility patent through the Patent Office. The cost of so-called patent prosecution can add another $10,000 to $20,000 to the cost of a utility application itself (it can be more in extreme cases) and is also less expensive when dealing with design patents.