“Memorable experiences, meaningful life”. But what is an experience, exactly?

Aalto Experience platform fosters and promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and designing for experiences by combining scientific, artistic, business, and technological angles to human experiences.”


13th February marked the day of the Aalto Experience Platform Kick-off. With the mission of making Aalto University a world leader in multidisciplinary experience research, Experience Platform is an open community for experience research. Besides a brief introduction on the platform itself and networking, the kick-off offered insights on some of the multifaceted approaches to experience research by presentations on User Experience, Citizen Experience, and Consumer Experience.

What is an experience?

In their opening intro session Markus Ahola (Project Manager, Aalto University) and Virpi Roto (Professor in Experience Design, Aalto University) started head-on by addressing the not-so-simple question of What is an experience. Not surprisingly there was no conclusive answer but a mixture of responses and definitions by the multidisciplinary Experience Platform academic board members – each of them giving a different perspective to demonstrate the complexity of the question on a video that was shown.

A general trend behind the research and the Experience Platform seemed to be the growing investments (not only monetary) in experiences while material possessions are being less and less valued. Through my human-centered and soft-value-focused glasses the slogan of the platform “Memorable experiences, meaningful life” seemed like a breath of fresh air in the often cold and money-focused world of ours. On a practical side, it was also interesting and inspiring to hear that the platform will have a physical, multidisciplinary working space after the summer.

Hannu Seristö, Vice President External relations at Aalto University also gave a short speech about human-centricity being needed not only in business but also in the public sector while pointing out that humans have not exactly been in center of business traditionally. However, times are changing, and with that feelings and experience, and particularly ease of buying, continue to be increasingly important.

Who do we design for?


With that it was time for Kristina Höök, Professor in interaction design at KTH Sweden to step on stage for her presentation on User Experience – designing with aesthetics through bodily and emotional engagements. Her presentation content and style was exactly what the Experience Platform introduction highlighted in their operation in general: human, brave, and crazy. At times provocative (and in my opinion, in a good way: keeping the audience interested, trying to shake us a little and question our own beliefs), her presentation gave plenty of examples on the importance of movement and of understanding oneself first in order to design for a (separate) end-user. Movement was not a focus in design I had previously, in all honesty, thought about too much – except for e.g. potential limitations in one’s moving that might affect a service perhaps. But following the presentation it made sense and I found myself reflecting on many thought-provoking parts of the presentation.

From the service designer point of view one of the most memorable parts of Kristina’s presentation was the statement “you can’t design for someone else if you don’t know how it is or how it feels yourself”. This statement at first sounded to me almost as the total opposite of empathy and putting oneself in the other one’s (=end-user’s) shoes – traditionally one of service design’s main guidelines! And that made me think: fine, if one is naturally emphatic and would consider the other and their needs, wishes etc. naturally anyway, but what if the designer is a selfish one with no regard of other points of views than their own? However, throughout the rest of the presentation the point became clearer and actually was very close to, not the opposite of, empathy: using oneself as the end-user, researcher, designer at the same time, but through empathy and compassion. Perhaps for a more traditionally scientific research field this could be provocative in a totally different way, as one of Kristina’s main points was “research through design” – not having research done separately and in isolation, then followed by design based on the results. Another interesting point was the interest in designing things that are not only reading your emotions but create technology to make people experience new things about themselves and their body – not just things like like facial recognition or counting your steps. In hindsight this had a nice connection also to the following presentation from Anne Stenroos, Chief Design Officer at City of Helsinki, who also spoke about the shift from high-tech to human-tech. Add a Feldenkreis video with a baby and a sitting bone exercise and you’ve got the most interactive and perhaps memorable presentation of the kick-off.

Citizen Experience – From Audience to Actor


Next up was then Anne Stenros from City of Helsinki. Her presentation was around citizen experience and in particular the shift from audience to actor: city-users becoming city-makers. Her quirky and well-spoken style was a hit in my opinion, with her topic being both fascinating and well-presented. She went through some current trends and emerging signals of the city universe and the citizen experience, with a note of human-centricity visible in each scenario. This presentation too arose many thoughts and reflection as well as shared practical examples of some of the trends already visible in the city design today. Personally I was a little relieved to hear that the era of “Smart city” was about to transform to “Responsive city” – reinforcing the previous presenter’s point in the shift from high-tech to human-tech. According to Anne, the shift was about responding to needs of citizens rather than optimizing technology for users.

A brief look into the trends in consumer experience

Lastly, Eric Arnould, Professor in Marketing in Aalto University gave a presentation about consumer experience based on the perspective of theory. Some of this was familiar from the service design studies but it was a good recap nevertheless. A groundbreaking thought in 1982, consumption not being about making rational choices but about “fantasies, feelings & fun”, was a good reminder on how things have indeed changed from consumption being seen as a purely economic exchange like it had been by marketing thus far. The presentation discussed some perspectives on defining ‘experience’, for example highlighting the narrative, material, social and political aspects and on the other hand the cultural, situated and relational nature of experiences. In the end though for me the thing that made me think the most was actually in the Q&A session after the presentation, when an attendee asked Eric about his thoughts on the “new work” and new work spaces. “Consumerification of work”, aka new work spaces that look like leisure-time or consumer space, was a concept that I would like to continue to ponder on also after the event.

Topped with circus performances, demos and some snacks, the event was a wonderful experience. Now we just have to figure out how to define ‘experience’…

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

Storytelling – The next generation of narrative

In my Service Innovation and Design studies, I have heard and talked a lot about Storytelling as a tool for innovation. That is why I was excited to attend an event in London organized by General Assembly where Magnus Moar from Middlesex University was talking about Storytelling as the next generation of narrative.

At a General Assembly event we discussed different digital and design trends for 2018, which mostly centered around the major new player on the digital scene: Augmented and Virtual Reality. In the event Magnus Moar, the Head Creative of Technology at Middlesex University, gave a talk about Storytelling and how it will be used in the future, especially in Virtual Reality.

According to Moar, storytelling as a technique is a fundamental part of being human. Stories are designed to reach out and offer an emotional experience and they are the best tool for escapism. Nowadays there is also a close connections between storytelling and technology – in the form of visual immersion.  We don’t have to only use words any longer. Now, Moar says, with Virtual Reality it is now possible to enter these stories. Combining Storytelling with Virtual Reality lets you live the story, as opposed to usually only you’ve been able to hear and observe.

Storytelling has been used in gaming for years, but now it is being brought into marketing and service development in new ways by offering a completely new customer experience through Virtual Reality. In the travel business for example, imagine a 360 panorama of a holiday destination you could immerse yourself in.

However, Moar points out that in order to be effective, in a virtual world it is also important to construct a story not only offer visual experiences. This is why Storytelling is the key and it is what will drive the the medium of Virtual Reality. The challenge of creating a truly immersive customer experience is getting the user to truly engage in the story.

Read more: 5 of the most intriguing Virtual reality stories

Here is Anthony Geffen talking about Storytelling in virtual reality:


Written by: Leena Salo / SID student

The most topical conversation in design is about ethics

After going on different types of design events, it seems quite obvious that there is one topic that seems relevant in all aspects of design: ethics.

In technology+empathy Design Talk, Nelli Lähteenmäki spoke how designers should consider the impact their service has, already before designing it. She mentioned Tristan Harris who has founded a non-profit initiative Timewellspent with a mission to reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests. Rolling Stone –magazine named Tristan as one of “25 People Shaping the World” in 2017. Btw, have a look how you can take control of your own (possible) addiction here. I changed my screen into a greyscale straight away! 😀

Capture from Timewellspent

Carla Camilla Hjort from Space10 raised conversation about designers responsibility to design empowerment rather than addiction. She stated that “the secret of change is to focus your energy not to fighting the old, but on building the new.” It seems that future living lab Space10 is in someway Ikea’s way of changing their own brand image into being more sustainable, innovative and ecological but I do not see it as a bad thing, when an initiative like Space10 raises important conversation and shows an example to every other giant company like Ikea.

In the last IxDa-meeting, a community invited everyone to join a bee with an aim on building a guide that integrates children’s rights into the design process. The registration for the event is now open on: The topic is hot, especially after Facebook launched its’ messenger app for kids.

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Digital trends: Will 2018 be the year of Virtual reality?


Is 2018 going to be the year of Virtual Reality? Jeremy Dalton, the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lead for PWC, wants to believe, but doesn’t think the public is ready yet.

Last week I attended a series of lectures in London about Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (VR) and how companies are using them at the moment and in the future to develop their services. The key speakers were Jeremy Dalton (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Lead for PQC) and Sylvain Reiter (Cyber-Duck).

How are Virtual and Augmented Reality being used?

According to Dalton and Reiter, Virtual and Augmented Reality are quickly becoming effectives way of offering unbelievable customer experiences, but also for companies to develop their services. The speakers talked about many how VR and AR are being used by companies from the auto industry to journalism and movies. Brands like IKEA, Barclays, Star Wars and Volvo are already using them in creative and experimental ways.

Virtual and Augmented Reality elements are being used in production line testing and to drive consumer sales, for example with mobile apps that let users put furniture in the own homes in the right scare or in real estate projects for visualization of not yet built houses. However in the USA Walmart is also using Virtual Reality for training purposes by giving their employees the possibility to learn in real life situations, and a UK based company used it in high court to illustrate how a traffic accident had occurred.

Virtual and Augmented reality can also be a force for social change. In the UK it is used to fight racial biases by making the user by giving them a change to experience bodyswapping or dealing with people from different countries. Virtual reality has also been called “The Great Empathy Machine“. United Nations has used it to put people in the shoes of immigrants for them to understand their experiences in a completely new way.

Taking VR and AR to the next level?

Even with all the new VR and AR experiences the public is receiving from different players in the field, the speakers reminded us that there are still many barriers for people adapting this new technology. At the moment they list four main areas for further development.

  1. The Cost

According to the speakers at the moment there are three different ways of users getting the VR and AR experience: home based technology, VR headset units such as Oculus Go and portable smartphone based technology. Dalton and Reiter however believe that the cost of using and developing VR and AR needs to be brought down. The technology is complex and in order to receive a high quality VR experience one must have a high quality headset, which is still expensive.

  1. The User experience

At the moment the speakers feel that the user experience hasn’t been optimized in terms of the technical delivery.  Especially with Virtual Reality, the technology is still complicated to use, when is should be easy and intuitive. Moving in the virtual world doesn’t always work in the best possible way, and in order to get a high quality optical experience, one might need a large and heavy headset.

  1. Content

Since VR and AR are still new technologies, there is a limited amount of good content out there. Companies are developing more and creating new experiences, but lack of user base means lack of content which doesn’t drive commercial sales. This leads to companies not adapting this technology in the services.

  1. Education

Adapting to new technologies takes time. According to the speakers, even though Virtual and Augmented Reality have been around as concepts for years (you might have seen it in Star Trek when you were younger), it was 2012 when they really began to catch on. However, there are still many misconception and misunderstandings about the technologies. People might think VR is only for gamers, or that in order to enjoy AR you need expensive smartphones and other technology. This is why most of the public hasn’t really had a high quality experience with these technologies yet, and educating people about the wonders of VR and AR is the next step that needs to be taken.

So do the speakers think that the year 2018 will be the year Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality really become a huge trend? The less expensive and more easily adaptable AR is already being utilized by more and more companies, but Dalton still believes that the public might not be ready for Virtual Reality yet. Give it a few more years, he says…

Written by;
Leena Salo
SID student

Next era of well-being

Since it was founded 50 years ago, Sitra has been a futures house and they have just updated their megatrends report from a Nordic viewpoint. As Finland’s celebrating its 100 year anniversary Sitra wanted to highlight the megatrends affecting work, democracy and inclusion, and growth and progress that are relevant to the Nordic model as all of these  themes are specifically at the core of the Nordic model’s future. Elina Kiiski-Kataja from Sitra presented these for the Futures Specialist Helsinki group on 4th of December. Here’s my recap of the event – thank you Minna Koskelo & Futures Specialist Helsinki for making this possible and Elina for having us and offering an insightful morning.

What’s the new normal for work?

The first inspected megatrend was about the future of work – what’s the new normal? What’s the role of technology and humans versus robots? Most people are still working in steady paid jobs at this moment but what about in 2040? Sitra states in their updated megatrend report that there are 2 possible scenarios:

  1. Work changes but there is plenty for all
  2. Only a few people have work and even fewer benefit from the results

Tiedosto_001 (4)

The change forces behind this scenario are described in the above slide on the left hand side – automation, robotisation, artificial intelligence and digital platforms are changing all areas of work.

So what can we do? We need new models for life long learning to keep people from dropping off from the work force. Our old model getting educated while you’re in your twenties will not work anymore. And on income distribution – do we aim for more or less equality in our society? The basic income model is just being tested in Finland. The Institute of the Future in California is researching  a universal livelihood model and sees this from the viewpoint of capital and assets, not just work income. Should there be passports to school, healthcare etc. ? If we do not find models to help in this change the price to pay is increasing unrest and upheaveals in our society.

How is democracy doing?

We are no longer members of political parties, just 3% of us belong to a party. There has been a significant change is the culture of communication and discussion – the development of tech and globalization can have a major disruptive influence on the democratic system says Sitra. Everything is connected – well-being, education, trust, economy.

Increase in participation to general discussion can provide a counter power to globalization. Power is in the hands of few people but we can all have an effect on the quality of democracy. In the light of research the people who are participating (voting and getting their voice heard) are more well off than the ones not participating. But even in the US half of the people didn’t vote in the presidential elections – is democracy getting broken? Sanna Aaltonen from the Youth Research Foundation says that social infrastructure has not been built as the focus has been on technology. She also asks where will the trust in future encounters be built. Everything is connected – well-being, education, trust, economy.

The two scenarios for democracy (see slide below) are:

  1. Transparency, innovativeness and inclusion will flourish in democracies
  2. Power concentrates in the hands of the few and exclusion and disruption will increase

A strong local democracy and global decision-making are needed for scenario 1 to happen – to build a common, not divided, future. We need people who want to save the world and combine scientists and decision-makers to find solutions to the wicked problems. As well as lovable technology that understands humans and our behavior and leaves space for humans.  We need to go where people are, not just build new channels. And note the importance of communication and data as in spring 2018 the new data law will widen the gap between US and EU. In SDN conference in Madrid in 2017 it was discussed that service design is one of the enablers for building a bridge between senior citizens, refugees and tech.

Tiedosto_002 (1)

What are we aiming for – economic growth or well-being?

Economic growth based on overconsumption of natural resources is not sustainable. The economy is at crossroads and the two scenarios offered on this are:

  1. Will we seek growth by using all the means available and risk ruining our planet  and wither away OR
  2. Aim for well-being and manage to decouple economic growth and overuse of natural resources resulting in growing well-being even faster than economy

What makes you feel better, what increases your well-being? And can you and I change our values and get from talk to walk as the world changes?


“Renewal starts with us, people. Even though the megatrends shaping the world extend all the way to Finland, the future is still largely in our own hands – if that is what we decide,” says Mikko Kosonen, head of Sitra. Trends offer a road to development and renewal as Minna Koskelo commented.

The future of the Nordic model is dependent on our reaction to the above presented 3 megatrends.

Link to Sitra’s presentation can be found here Sitra megatrends 2017

Finland is a Forerunner in Service Design

Service Design network Finland organised a post-conference event to discuss what were the most interesting topics in the actual SDN –conference that was organised in 2.-3.11 in Madrid. The aftermath about the conference was actually only a minor part of the event organised in Hellon office in Helsinki, but what was interesting was that attendees got to hear two actual keynotes from the Madrid conference: Mikko Koivisto, Lead Service Designer & Customer Experience Director @Hellon, discussed “How Service Design became a big thing in Finland” and Mariann Parts, Client Service Director @Hellon, shared her keynote about “Selling Service Design – an adaptive sales approach”.

It was interesting to hear expert’s view on why service design is so big in Finland. Mikko Koivisto had discussed with several service design experts in order to collect his thoughts as a keynote.

There was, and is, a huge need for service design in Finland because companies are searching for opportunities to improve their competitive advantages. Also Finnish customers are raising their expectations, as they are quality-oriented and experience-driven when buying services. Digitalisation as a megatrend has obviously had an impact in making service design important, but also Finland’s need to safeguard the welfare society; public sector has been the biggest service design promoter and driver in Finland, unlike in many other countries.

The culture in Finland creates an environment that is suitable for service design approach. Finnish society and work culture is typically non-hierarchical, that of course is needed in order to leverage multi-disciplinary field of service design. Also so called “talkoo”-spirit enables Finns to participate in service design workshops and similar without incentives, which is not the case in other cultures. Also Finland’s service design network has created a good foundation to service design to nourish. There’s a top-notch service design research (Christian Grönroos!) and education in Finland as well as long design tradition where service design is a logical continuum.


  • Big companies like KONE and Nokia were the first ones to leverage service design and by doing so led the way for other companies incorporate service design.
  • Service design terminology was translated in Finnish.
  • There are excellent sales force that sells service design in Finland.
  • Public sector is funding service design experiments.
  • There’s lot of publications and books from the field of service design.

Koivisto mentioned that especially Helsinki’s World Design Capital year in 2012 had a positive impact on how design is seen in Finland.

Mikko Koivisto also shared key steps how other countries could learn from Finland in order to leverage service design:

    Be open and share, forget the jargon and get out of the design bubble. Speak in the way that everyone understands. Public sector should lead the way.
    Even though SD is big thing in Finland, there is not enough educated professionals here!
    There should be more co-operation with business!

In her keynote, Mariann Parts gave excellent tips how to sell service design:

In order to customize your pitch, check the person you are selling to from Linkedin. There’s two types of customers: Problem solver, whose focus is on output, and SD enthusiast, who is interested in tools and methods. By understanding their knowledge level, it is easier to speak the same language.

This one should be no-brainer, do your homework!

You should link your project to all of them.

To support your pitch showcase previous projects. Take max 3 case studies with you. Note that in order to collect case studies that will be useful later on, the team should always push with KPI’s in each project, otherwise cases do not work. You can measure e.g. loyalty, employee experience.

In order to identify the scope, ask your customer what are the three most important things to achieve with the project? Then ask what is the most important (from those three)? That is your scope.

Read the verbal and non-verbal, and ask relevant questions. In the end it comes to who do you want to do business with.

Buying service design is always a somewhat leap of faith, therefore using client quotes e.g. can be helpful when selling sd.

Who are you selling to? Read the whole article: here

Besides these two keynotes, it seemed that one thing had caught attention in Madrid event: Joe MacLeod’s keynote about Ends. Macleod argues that designers should consider the whole lifecycle of the service, also the end of it. His website can be found here, and slides here.

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student

10 years of service design (in the eyes of Service Design Network conference, 2017)

Creating a common language, implementation as the key action, service design as a internal capacity and scaling the service design – these are 4 most important directions for the service design for the future after summary of 10 years at Service Design Global Conference which happened this week at Madrid.


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