Archive by Author | jiituomas

The CLUMSY Manifesto

This text is about not only looking at design from the perspective of care, but also about reclaiming agility for what it actually is. Too often, “failing fast”, “failing early” and “failing often” are nowadays applied as excuses for not thinking things through, rather than as actual design agility where iterations improve the service being developed, and where people really learn from their mistakes.

The CLUMSY Manifesto highly respects agility. It is not an objection, but a productive counterpoint. I believe that the problems underlying the current misuses of agility are the same that systems scientists like Oliver and Langford described over three decades ago: the user experience and the design experience may not be the same. Service Design addresses this gap well, but as soon as it collides with existing practices in organizations, its impact may start to wither. Like cultures eat strategy, systems architecture sure as hell eats user experiences. To put it stereotypically, left brain has a tendency to veto the right in any large scale design, unless there are people present who are adept in both modes of thinking. To foster such processes, the CLUMSY Manifesto was born.

CLUMSY design should be:

Careful. No amount of failing fast will do good if the key failure was done before the ideation phase. That failure may be for example not taking into account existing legislation, APIs, user patterns, value ecosystems, or upcoming trends, or taking those into account but not trying to alter them sufficiently. Being careful does not mean checking absolutely everything in advance, nor a lack of taking risks. It means not using “we’ll sort it out later” as an excuse for being intellectually lazy.

Liberating. With the background research properly done and applied, design is free to concentrate on that which is possible, and on changing the realms of possibility by e.g., lobbying and network forming. Restrictions foster creativity and in time even impossibilities can be achieved. Those who speak of limitations should be treated as a loyal opposition, not obstructions to be overcome. Keep the “Yes, and…” in active use.

User-centered. Users should be present at all times in the design process, either for real or as extrapolations from sufficient field research, represented through things such as stories and personas. Even a single omission can turn user experiences into process flowchart arrows, and getting the real user back into the implied user can be very difficult.

Marketable. There is no point in creating a great product or service if it does not reach a sufficient number of users. Marginal popularity and cult status may feel great, but rarely carries a societal impact. Especially not in the short term – and companies tend to kill off projects that only result in something ten years later. Same way as basic research is not appreciated without obvious USPs, despite its crucial importance in the long run, result visibility is mandatory for most designs. If it is the customer who defines the value of a service, design is effectively worthless if it never reaches the market proper where its value is ultimately determined.

SYmbiotic. No successful design exists in a vacuum. The ecosystem has to be advantageous to the design, and the design in turn for the ecosystems and at least some of their value networks. If it is not, either the design or the ecosystem has to change. Likewise, care and agility have to exist in symbiosis, if we are to create something that is successful, optimal and as user-friendly as possible.

Herbert Simon wrote in the 60’s that design is really about adjusting an internal process of some tool or concept to fit the outside reality. As service and user experience designers we are particularly well equipped in both tools and perspectives to be able to facilitate such alignment. Let us thus be agile and clumsy at the same time. Humans usually are, and that’s for whom we are designing.

J. Tuomas Harviainen
(The author teaches business science and information systems, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tampere, and is a recent graduate of the Laurea SID MBA program.)


Pivo is not a mobile Czech application for finding good beer, it’s an internationally acclaimed Finnish mobile system for tracking and predicting one’s personal finances. It is also a contender for the #sda15. Built around a graph, the systems shows the user’s expenditures and works as a reminder of what exactly is spent and where. Two things set it apart from your typical mobile bank app: its focus, and the elegant design.


Sami Niemelä (Nordkapp) and Jussi Juntunen (OP) presenting the innovation.

Basically, the user interface is the product itself. As simple as possible, the design plan has from the start sought to create something that only does one thing, and does it well. In one graph, it shows what the designers – OP, Nordkapp and their associates – though most important when a customer looks at his or her (now virtual) wallet’s contents: “Am I f*ed?” Also, it gives insight into more long-term customer needs such as “Can I afford this?”. Continue reading

Ethnography and User Ethnography

As someone who has done various types of ethnographic and interview research before, I was asked to provide some reading tips on that topic, for user research. If one looks at modern guidebooks, they tend to be quite good on the practical “how”, but neglect to say where many of the ideas come from. That makes it sometimes very hard to expand on their ideas, should one want to. Ethnography has a long history, first as the study of especially indigenous cultures, but later also things such as formal organizations.

Ethnography FTW

A small sample of guidebooks and published results.

Likewise, interviewing techniques and formats – in both ethnographic and other contexts – are much more diverse than a simple book can show. Therefore, especially as one seeks to write about the results (in, e.g., a master’s thesis), it’s always nice to have some extra sources with which to start. In the video here is my crash course on the topic’s diversity, and below is a basic bibliography, in condensed format. University libraries tend to have copies of them, at least, and those can be located through databases such as Linda.

Continue reading

Efficient Experiences

With current trends for downsizing and automation, it is easy to see why customers would find services to be impersonal, maybe even unpleasant. Vantaa City Library decided to turn the trend to a different direction. By systematically using codesign, and by at the same time opening up its service processes, the library managed to significantly increase both its ROI and its customer satisfaction. Details can be found in the OECD Observatory of Public Service Innovation (which is, by the way, a treasure trove of social innovation case examples), but I will discuss some of the key ideas here, too.

Aesthetic service visibility design in action

Aesthetic service visibility design in action.

The real innovation was in this case the systematic nature of making services visible to the customers, as it was carried throughout the process in all of its aspects. Continue reading

An Interface Against Boredom

I find an ongoing set of inspirations in the way in which innovation appears in restricted circumstances. In the case of Reaktor’s in-flight entertainment system for Finnair (one of the candidates for the next Service Design Achievement of the Year, to be announced on March 18), that limitation was old, if not yet outdated, technology. In installing new software, they had to navigate both the corporate structure through which their client, via Panasonic, tends to handle its design in matters relating to the in-flight screens, and the technical limitations of the screens, the replacing of which would have been really expensive.

It very much seems to me that in the 14 months between kick-off and implementation, they pulled of a significant, if not radical change. What’s interesting is the how, as it sort of contradicts many recommendations for design thinking. Some of the facets were of course quite traditional: a benchmarking of the old system against its competitors; the building of a test lab once non-installed screens were procured; plane visits; user tryouts. Most importantly of all, a client-demanded content first approach. On the other hand, implementation was done with a single run and no chance to test before flight, and many of the facets one would expect to have included in the design process were not – probably due to the client’s standard practices for outsourced design. This is a risky, but understandable, decision in a situation where the express purpose of the system is to prevent boredom during long flights.Marjo Mansen and Karri-Pekka Laakso presenting the design process.

Interestingly, however, I would define what was done as an interface design, not a content-driven process. Continue reading

Design Thinking: A Left-Brain Viewpoint

Constraints foster creativity. In this case, my own limitations. At the core, I am an analyst, a conceptual thinker used to dealing with words rather than images. Most of my best service design work so far has furthermore been done using traditional survey methods rather than the kind of innovative methods promoted by designers like Tim Brown or Katja Tschimmel. And, to be honest, that approach has worked for me really well – so far. The fact is, however, that I am nevertheless utterly fascinated by this new toolkit, as its visual approaches to innovation at first seem so alien to me, yet they work. They work for me, as they do for others.


So what is in design thinking for the kind of an academic Brown frequently mentions as his opposite in thinking throughout Change by Design? The easy answer is ”a lot”. The real answer is: even more than that. Continue reading