Are you really data-driven?

Data-driven design day 2018 was held as part of Helsinki Design Week this year. I first heard about it when I attended the DASH Design + AI event back in June. Lassi A. Liikkanen was there talking about how AI impacts interaction design and giving a short introduction to AI and ML. At the Data-Driven Design Day the focus was not on Lassi though who was hosting the event, but in an array of interesting speakers.

Design is Emotional, Functional, Feasible and Sustainable

Tom Nickels from Avaus started the day by talking about how design should be first and foremost emotional, but also functional, feasible and sustainable.


Tom talked a lot about futureproofing and about what’s on the horizon for design. His speech really resonated with me in terms of content. Futureproofing is in the intersection of emotions and AI, where these to intertwine.


Social context and empathy, ethics and social responsibility are important subjects that rise in importance when we develop technology, design and business further.

Tom talked about three horizons. The first horizon is insight-driven design that’s already within our grasp: The digital twin created for physical products and for consumers/groups of people. It’s about designing for humans while integrating a feedback loop that keeps the iteration going (Attributes – Customer/Digital Twin – Behaviors and outcome).

Horizon 2 is generative design. This is the upcoming big change for actual automated design & content. Algorithms are producing parts of the design. Personalizing the service experience with customer information tucked in the background paradigms (the ChAIr project). Designing for digital assistants which will be a major interface change in production of services. Designing digital personalities and marketing in the age of Alexa which acts as a filter. This horizon is still covered partly in clouds, but it’s in our foreseeable future.


Horizon 3 is emotionally adaptive design. Adapting design using AI to the emotional stage  of customers. It’s the shift from AI to (A)EI which stands for (artificial) emotional intelligence – the capacity to recognize the emotions of oneself and others. Read emotion – Emotional target – Adapt service output. There’s still a lot of work to be done for this horizon to became everyday design, but it’s out there.

Back to top with a top class customer experience

After Tom Ilari Pohjola and Elina Martikainen talked about their experience in app design to gain top class digital customer experience. 85% of bookings and thus sales are done online nowadays and Aurinkomatkat wanted to ensure seamless customer experience in digital touchpoints as customer moves through the stages of dreaming, planning and booking a holiday.


Their app concentrated on a few key features during the stages of preparing for the holiday and the customer experience during the holiday. Testing was done in the actual locations and they used both guides, staff and customers as part of the development and iteration process. Customer needs and challenges were the number one guideline for their work. They reminded that data should drive decisions, not the highest paid persons opinion.

Designing the future of Urban Mobility

Apaar Tuli & Brylie Oxley from MaaS Global were next with their speech about the future of Urban Mobility and Whim.


Their idea is to move from ownership of transportation towards access to mobility. Instead of focusing on how to design a better car (which will still balloon the amount of vehicles on our roads to 2.1 billion by 2050) we should be focusing on how to design a better city and encourage public transport, active modes in the city where trips are shorter (ie. public bicycles) and sharing of vehicles – MaaS is like having a skeleton key to the city.

I think MaaS Global is one of the companies we need today. They are really making us think beyond the foreseeable future about the actions we are taking and the path we are choosing for our planet and our humanity.

Pull down that dashboard: Are you really data-driven?

After MaaS Jan Hiekkaranta from Fourkind gave the audience a wake up call by challenging what data-driven really means.


Everyone is data-driven nowadays: we have some data to support our views. The problem is that it’s difficult. Easily accessible doesn’t automatically equal good if data means visualizations and presets of dashboards to get data that supports your opinion.


Jan urged everyone to embrace failures and learn from them as well as demanding more and making data as accessible as possible.

What data is meaningful then?

  • Creating the metric first before you name it (made for masses metrics are not relevant most of the time).
  • Stick to your data and know its limits. What’s your default option? What decision would you make if you had no data and why?
  • Data inspired vs Data-driven : prove your ideas wrong and learn from it.


Bringing data to life: Principles for leveraging machine power for human good

Vilma Sirainen & Jay Kaufmann from Zalando turned the focus back to utilizing the collected data in a company’s business strategy. Zalando is a big company in consumer clothing business and the want to be the pioneers on utilizing data and AI in their services.

Jay pointed out that data is the stuff below the surface that we found on. In the user experience pyramid joy is on top, usability in the middle and usefulness at the bottom. To make sure we are building useful designs we need to make sure that they are based on actual data and customer needs.


Jay suggested a bunch of pairings to awake thought like organic compounds vs digital compounds – nature doesn’t have abrupt endings, it weaves seamless connections: what connections are meaningful here? How does this design adapt to any environment or device.

Dynamic vs static – does user input show immediate effect, are rewards clearly visible etc. and Human vs Machine – can the system interpret emotional states, what tone is appropriate etc.

After Jay Vilma gave a glimpse to their case study which is an algorithmic fashion companion. The development started by understanding their customers needs through customer portraits like the need for validation vs the need for inspiration. They did AB-testing by bidding the algorithm against an actual fashion advisor on suggesting outfits around anchor-items.


Zalando’s goal is to create auto-related content for each customer. Content that is automated but personalized to the highest degree.

Tallink Silja digital journey: smarter design decisions through data

Next up Matias Pietilä from Qvik, who had been a big part of the previously heard Aurinkomatkat app development process gave a little insight on how to make smarter design decisions through data.


Matias assured the audience that even if you don’t have the best data tools and practises at place you can still get some nice results by utilizing the data you have and remembering that qualitative data is data too.

His  lessons learned were:

  1. It’s about attitude, not about tools or process
  2. Don’t be afraid of sunken costs
  3. Smart default values don’t require AI
  4. Sometimes you learn by accident

It all starts with solving the correct and actual problems.

AI for news media

Last speech I had the pleasure to hear came from Jarno Koponen at Yle about AI for news media.


Jarno is the product lead for Yle NewsWatch. The value proposition is : interesting news come to you, get the news alerts that matter to you – on topics that you find interesting, experience and interact, wherever you are (by allowing location tracking), the way that works to you (mobile, apple watch etc.).

Jarno was especially focused on the battle for the lock screen on mobile devices which he believes to be the new news feed as well as a new algorithmic layer for personalization.


NewsWatch is developing a digital assistant called Voitto.

Voitto is a digital assistant that learns from you and with you all the time, not just in the app but on your lock screen too. Notification on the lock screen -> user can tell directly to Voitto if the content is interesting.

Figuring out the KPIs for a smart assistant is the next challenge: Content + AI + UX = Impact. What is the KPI for truth?


This day gave me a bunch of new information and a lot of repetition on previous learnings as well – which is always good. I’m no data scientist so I was glad none of the presentations were too complicated or filled with industry terms for me to follow.

I especially enjoyed Tom’s talk as well as Jarno’s because I’m big into emotions and the humane/ethical side of designing for the future. Cheers DDDD2018 and kudos to Lassi for this informative event.

Next year maybe have polls for participants during the event online or think up some other cool ways to encourage questions and conversation, this year it was very “finnish” 😉 (myself included).


Laura Manninen



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s