Archive by Author | Erika Pursiainen

Behind the scenes – Tools in innovation designers’ sandbox Part 5/5

Anyone can be a designer with the right mindset. Source: http://vhirsch.com/blog/2010/06/14/people-centric-design-rules/

Anyone can be a designer with the right mindset. Source: http://vhirsch.com/blog/2010/06/14/people-centric-design-rules/

Multidisciplinary teamworksimple but effective toolsvirtual workvisualization, prototyping, design thinking… There are tons of different tools designers can use in their work.

This is my final blog post about the designer tools our innovation team uses in our everyday work here at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York. This time I’ll introduce two projects relating to Design Thinking and discuss how this discipline has helped us to approach things from new angles and to perceive projects from the user’s perspective. Designing with the user is possibly the most crucial part of design and prerequisite for successful solutions.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our way of working and that my posts have provided you with inspiration for your own work.

Global Design for UNICEF Challenge encourages students to design solutions that fit the problem context. 5 Why’s is one of the Design Thinking tools included in the competition curriculum. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

Global Design for UNICEF Challenge encourages students to design solutions that fit the problem context. 5 Why’s is one of the Design Thinking tools included in the competition curriculum. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

Design Thinking helps students approaching difficult challenges

Norah Maki, our Project Assistant, is also an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) candidate in the Design for Social Innovation Program at School of Visual Arts. Because of her background she pursues design thinking in her work.

Her main project is the Global Design for UNICEF Challenge, an academic partnership and design competition that engages students in coming up with creative solutions for pressing development problems. This year the Challenge is being scaled to include new universities outside The US, beyond The City University of New York (CUNY) that has served as the flagship partner for the competition.

In the process of moving towards the global Challenge, Norah has developed the competition curriculum and provided the students with more design thinking tools. This enables them to approach the challenges from the user’s perspective and to design feasible solutions that fit the problem context. The competition process now includes the following tools to encourage creative thinking from students and help them accomplish all competition checkpoints: User Journey, 5 Why’s, Stakeholder Mapping, co-creation, and consultation with experts. The winners will have the chance to go to the field to test their prototypes and do some actual co-creation with the users: the children!

Tile game pushes people to think beyond current frameworks

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Behind the scenes – Tools in innovation designers’ sandbox Part 4/5

2013, New York, The US. 3D printing at New York University. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

2013, New York, The US. 3D printing at New York University. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

The New York University (NYU) students I referred to in my last blog post about virtual work were asked to prepare a 1-minute video to communicate their ideas for the next class. There are so many ways to visualize projects and their components that I can only just begin to grasp the subject in this post. I will now introduce 3D printing and share four data visualization tips from our Design Lead. Nevertheless, I hope this article gives you some interesting ideas to visualize different types of data and processes.

3D printing for prototyping

I guess I had heard about 3D printing before but I didn’t really recognize what it was until here in New York. While preparing a post for our blog I was browsing through our photo database and came across a photo of Chris (Fabian, UNICEF Innovation Unit Co-Lead) throwing in a 3D-printed item he had received from Singularity University up in the air. From that point on I wanted to see a 3D printer because it seemed more like a tool from science fiction movies than a machine invented in the 1980’s. Later on I learned that 3D printers come in many different shapes and sizes.

2013, New York, The US. Chris’ 3D-printed item he got from Singularity University. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

2013, New York, The US. Chris’ 3D-printed item he got from Singularity University. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, Innovation Unit, UNICEF NYHQ

From what I know, 3D printing is used at least in our Innovation Lab in Uganda. Also, the Design for UNICEF student team developing modular drones have used 3D printing within their design process. Recently, we got a 3D printer to the New York office: the 3Doodler. Some team members tested it and made cool Christmas trees. All I was able to make was a weird white ball of string (it was supposed to be a snowman). I guess it’s a good tool after some practice.

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Behind the scenes – Tools in innovation designers’ sandbox Part 3/5

2013, Pennsylvania, The US. Working virtually in front of a fireplace at a hotel lobby in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ

2013, Pennsylvania, The US. Working virtually in front of a fireplace at a hotel lobby in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ

My last blog post discussed simple tools our team uses in our everyday work at the UNICEF Innovation Unit in New York. This time my topic – virtual work – is especially current for our team. At the moment, we are having “virtual January” which means we can choose where we want to work, be it at home, at a library or on the other side of the country. Virtual work is a must to survive and keep up with the momentum in this ever-changing world, not only for us but also for all international teams.

Virtual work is a must for today’s organizations

Working with our country offices and helping them find new, innovative solutions to better the lives of children in their own countries requires effective virtual work. Virtual tools can be very effective in international work, but they must be learned and practiced. Even though virtual tools save resources in terms of time, travel, and money, and offer important real-time connections they are still often neglected by organizations that are not that agile and rely on the traditional ways of working (although one might say that virtual work is traditional work nowadays).

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Behind the scenes – Tools in innovation designers’ sandbox Part 2/5

New York, 2013. Sketching on windows gives you new perspective. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ

New York, 2013. Sketching on windows gives you new perspective. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ

This post is a sequel for my last one that dealt with teamwork – one of the most important tools in design. I briefly introduced our team’s working habits here at the UNICEF Innovation Unit in New York. Now, I will discuss simple design tools that have a much bigger impact than we might first think.

Simple tools, major effect

In addition to two assigned rooms, we sit in an open space where we can choose our working spots daily. Everywhere you go there are sticky notes, sketches, white boards, plans, graphics, process charts, hand-drawn calendars, pictures, you name it.

Though it sounds like a no-brainer, I want to emphasize the importance and effectiveness of tools that we use every day. Designers love tools like those mentioned above because they are great at illustrating the relationships between information, communicating with colleagues, organizing info, clarifying ideas, etc.

New York, 2013. White board and sticky notes – two of designer’s best friends. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ

New York, 2013. White board and sticky notes – two of designer’s best friends. Photo credit: Erika Pursiainen, UNICEF Innovation Unit, NYHQ

Chris (Fabian, Innovation Unit Co-Lead) always emphasizes the importance of visualization in communicating ideas, so we draw and write on white boards, sketch books, even windows, etc. Even though I try to be greener by relying mainly on electronic, I have recognized the effectiveness of the traditional pen and paper method. Sometimes it is simply faster and easier to sketch something on paper to visualize and express your idea.

Sticky Jots for those who heart stickies

For a short time I had the honor of working with Rachelle (Rae) Milne, an interaction designer who was part of our team over the summer. One day I saw her using special sticky notes when planning a video with Mini (Interaction Design Fellow whose favorite tools I will introduce a bit later).

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Behind the scenes – Tools in innovation designers’ sandbox Part 1/5

Imagine what you can do with your ideas if you could do this out of sand. Source: http://www.wjunction.com/5-general-discussion/174436-amazing-sand-art.html

Imagine what you can do with your ideas if you could do this out of sand. Source: http://www.wjunction.com/5-general-discussion/174436-amazing-sand-art.html

In my last blog post I talked about key principles behind successful innovations. This time I want to share some of the tools our innovation team uses in our daily work here at UNICEF Headquarters in New York to help envision and test successful innovations. Because the list is long, I will keep posting during the upcoming weeks, so please stay tuned. This first post concentrates on effective teamwork, which is perhaps the most important tool of all.

I was inspired to write about this topic when I bought a book for my thesis work a month ago. The book is called “This Is Service Design Thinking. Basics – Tools – Cases” and it is like a bible for my MBA study program of Service Innovation and Design. Design Thinking is all about user-centered design, which is one of the key principles behind our work when innovating solutions that benefit children in real contexts. Since most of our work with country offices is done remotely, we also use more traditional tools such as sticky notes, white boarding, data visualization, and team meetings that at a first glance may seem self-explanatory but I feel deserve to be recognized as well. Let me introduce you to some of the tools that I have encountered during my time here.

Brown Bag Lunch – Rae (in the middle) teaches basics of coding to the team. Photo credit: Christopher Fabian, New York

Brown Bag Lunch – Rae (in the middle) teaches basics of coding to the team. Photo credit: Christopher Fabian, New York

Multidisciplinary teamwork is a tool in itself

Being part of the innovation unit for three months now, I have had the chance to get to know many projects and see different ways of working within those projects. Our multidisciplinary team uses various traditional and field-specific tools in their work. These tools offer the possibility of not only working more effectively but also approaching issues from new angles and enhancing the design process.

As a multidisciplinary team, we each bring different skills and experiences to the table. Effective collaboration comes from understanding the strengths of each team member, and engaging their guidance and assistance on relevant projects. Learning from, helping, and complementing each other is the beauty of multidisciplinary teamwork.

Effective communication makes a big difference for a team

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Innovation versus an intern’s comfort zone

I met Christopher Fabian, co-lead of UNICEF’s Innovation Unit at New York Headquarters, in spring 2012 in Finland. He was one of the panelists at the conference “Zombie Innovations or True Development” organized by Aalto University. During the conference I realized how close the subject was to my Master’s Study Programme in Service Innovation and Design and decided to talk to Chris about an internship at the unit. Now, I have been interning here at the NY Headquarters for eight weeks.

My academic and professional experience is in business management. Before joining the Innovation Unit at UNICEF HQ I filled different positions in the cards and gifts unit at UNICEF Finland for six years. Even though I was continually evolving in my work I felt confined to thinking inside of the box because I was limited to concentrating my focus in this one area. I realized that I desired to push the envelope and I enrolled in a pioneering Master’s study programme that marvels thinking outside of the box by emphasizing concepts like service-dominant logic, co-creation, learning by developing, design thinking, innovation, and multidisciplinary knowledge. I studied for two years while I continued to work at UNICEF Finland and tried to use my work as a study subject in school assignments whenever possible. This made understanding the study programme and its modules easier but still kept me within quite a narrow mindset.

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