Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design, by and +Acumen

Late last year I felt I could use a little recap on some of the things learned on the very first courses of the Service Design Masters degree. At the same time I was longing for some fresh thoughts and a push to jump start my thesis – a way to get creative and actually do some design stuff instead of just planning it. The free Human-Centered Design course by and +Acumen, mixing online and in-person teamwork, seemed like a good way to do that.

Described as an “intensive, hands-on learning experience“, the course description promised the participants would “leave this experience equipped and energized to apply the human-centered design process to challenges across industries, sectors, and geographies to generate breakthrough ideas.” Well, that sounds great, but would someone with quite some earlier knowledge and experience in Service Design and in general human-centered design projects get something out of it too, besides a repetition of things already known? I was also wondering how the theme and topics would feel, as the focus seemed largely to be in humanitarian and social welfare – a hugely important topic, however sadly not my forte previously.

Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation

IDEO mini challenge 1The course started in January and, thanks to all sorts of online groups and forums, it was fairly easy to find a team to do the meet-ups with. We ended up being 5 in our group, all previously unknown to each other. The course platform provided us with instructions on the different phases, “classes”, we were to go through to complete the course. The first meet-up went in a bit of a haze, getting to know each other while trying to follow the guidelines from the somewhat confusing set of material piles (for each “class” there being 2 separate packs of materials). Lucky we had a group leader of sorts in our group, making sure we had agreed on specific days for our future meetings so we could keep up with the course deadlines.

The course followed a set structure and timeline, with the design process following the steps Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. The second group meeting was missed by a couple of us, but the ones attending divided the research between us all and we all managed to do our parts before the following meeting. And on the third meeting we finally got to a classic – you guessed it – post-it party!


Latest at this stage it was fairly clear the methods and principles of the course were very familiar to a Service Design student, but doing research and ideating was in any case tons of fun and not at all that easy. It was great to work together with a group of people not previously familiar with each other, building on each other’s ideas and hearing about new ways to look at the same things.





In the following meeting we moved on to How Might We questions – this brought us another interesting conversation, as some in the group had somewhat unknowingly used a similar approach to problem-solving. After that it was time for creating a story board and moving on to prototyping.

The course finished with an energising afternoon over brunch, making a pitch for our solution, followed by reflection and discussion on our learning.


To summarise the experience, here’s a little list based purely on my personal thoughts:

+ Nice and easy way to recap a human-centric design process

+ Practical and structured guidelines and tasks

+ Basic background info and examples on methods and process

+ Great to work in a new team and learn from others!

– 2 separate material packs for each class didn’t feel like the best way to go

– No new methods or insights for someone already familiar with Service Design

– End result and experience would depend a lot on the team: in my case it was wonderful but it could have been totally different if e.g. there was someone really bossy or other characters that can make ideation etc. difficult.

All in all, I was very happy with my experience. And the team proved to be so good that some of us have already met at a couple of other Service Design events, and we plan to meet with the whole group again soon!


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

School of startups: Behavior Design

Juha-Pekka Ahvenainen

I have been participating to school of startups organized by the Shortcut. The Shortcut is a non-profit organisation owned by Startup Foundation, and a sister organisation to Slush and Startup Sauna.  According to their website  Shortcut is a community driven organisation that promotes diversity as an engine for growth. They want to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to consider creating or working for a startup to best utilise their skills and aspirations. They want to inspire and empower our community through gatherings, workshops, trainings and programmes that help them explore ideas, share knowledge and develop skills to enable new talents required in the startup life.


On a first day of school of startups the topic was behavior design introduced by Ashwin Rajan, the founder of the Fabric Consulting. His firm helps companies to focus on behavior change through technology. I wanted to share this topic with you guys because for my opinion this is very interesting topic and it comes somehow very close to service design.

According to Ashwin Rajan behavior design provides tools to extend or change human behavior through technology. The most successful digital products can really transform human behavior. For example there has been a huge change in photography from the age before digital products to age of smart phones. Another good examples are dating and cab haling.

Rajan emphasizes that you should start the designing process from the behavior, not the technology. On the other hand behavior can be seen as actions on digital technology: snapping, swiping, scrolling, pausing, liking, tagging, sharing and buying. Behavior designer´s goal is to create following situations: ” A specific, ´intent rich´ digital action done with enough frequency to create recurring revenue!”. For Rajan´s opinion experience can not be measured but behavior can and target behaviors can be tied to metrics and growth. One of the big things of the lecture was the concept of cognitive dissonance which according to Rajan is the heart of the behavior change.


There can be found three things which affect on how behavior works. Those are ability, motivation and triggers. Six factors can affect on ability: time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine. Triggers can be internal or external. Rajan told us that the motivation part is the most difficult one to understand and design at his job as a behavior designer.

For example social media notifications are external triggers. At fabric consulting they use specific user archetype canvas to gather all the important information of the archetype at a behavior design project.


Ashwin Rajan is going to publish a book about this topic. I am looking forward to his new book. He also showed us a glimpse of some other useful canvases to do the challenging art of the behavior design. This blog post was just a scratch of the surface of this important topic of our digital era.

Behavior eats strategy for breakfast.  -Anonymous-

“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.

Service is the new value. Most interesting case studies from SDN conference (2017)

Service design is creating a new mindset. After SDN Global Conference in Madrid and case studies of new services we can acknowledge that this specific approach to build organisations and their DNA and offer for customers is spreading the word. In this post I want to show most interesting cases from SDN conference to memorise this time and SDN awards winners and those honourable mentioned.

Continue reading

Designer is an agent of change

Disruptive Innovation Festival is an online festival of ideas that asks: what if we could redesign everything? The 2017 festival was organised in November but all the content is available online until 4th of January. So go and have a look during the Christmas holidays, there’s lots of interesting stuff!

Capture from thinkdif instagram

Design as a empowerment was a topic of Joana Casaca Lemos’ keynote. She shared her Phd research in which she created a design tool to empower small business to communicate qualities of sustainability in order to make impact. The design tool is called Communication Assembly.

Joanna sees designer’s role shifting from being the expert on design more into being facilitator or enabler. Nowadays everyone can be a designer, and the difference often is that a professional designer is the one creating the methods and tools so that anyone can be a problem-solver aka everyday designer.

Designer is an agent of change that wants to empower people to make the impact. Joanna claims that designers often share one quality that is ‘care’. Designers are interested in making other people flourish in order to design. With that care also comes an understanding that “everyone is an expert of their own experience”, hence everyone brings value to the process.

Capture from Joana’s tumblr.

Joanna presents concept of “Design as flourishing” meaning that in order to design social-change that is lasting and effective, it must not be about the designer, the change has to be rooted in empowerment of beneficiaries. In order to do so, Joanna created Communication Assembly that brings together small businesses to create their own story of impact. By giving away the power, the designer can enable the ones affecting by the design to make the change.

The role of designer is changing; everyone wants to be a designer, or at least think like one. Have a look at this article stating that “Our profession is in between ‘utopia and oblivion.’ It will be oblivion if we continue focusing on minor aesthetic problems.”

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student

Inspired by SPACE10

Who would have knew that Ikea is actually the coolest kid in town with their living lab Space10? I think Carla Cammilla Hjort’s keynote on Future Living Lab at Asuntomessut Digitalist –event was the most inspiring speech I’ve seen in a while. Ikea definitely is ahead of their game when is comes to design thinking, co-creation and storytelling!

Picture from Space10 Playbook

So, first shortly, what is Space10?
It is Ikea’s future-living lab on a mission to design a better and more sustainable way of living. Space10’s Playbook explains it well:

Ikea has a vision to create a better everyday life for the ,any people and acknowledges that to fulfil this vision, we need new ways of doing things. That is why they have set up SPACE10, a future-living lab for exploration and inspiration, rooted in the idea that together we can co-create a better and more sustainable life.

We all have a choice to make. We can close our eyes and hope for the best, or we can come together and shape the future we dream of.

What is does?
In Space10, Ikea is able to:
–> Experiment and co-create new ways of designing for a better future
–> Look into new directions and explore emerging potentials
–> Work with global collaborative network of experts and forward-thinking partners
–> Test and try new ideas and solutions in a non-commercial environment
–> Storytell and share everything we do to spark the discussion, make ideas stick and move people to action
–> Create a playground for IKEA to be inspired and connect with new opportunities

How is it done?
Space10 uses a collaborative network driven approach. Camilla explained that Space10 team is small, only about 30 employees, but they work with a large network of experts in different fields. In that way they are able to truly co-create and also have customized teams in each project.


Picture from SPACE10 Playbook

Space10 uses a set of tools, and they believe that a good tool is a job half done. The most inspiring tool they use is called Playful research. A great example of it is e.g. ONE SHARED HOUSE 2030 is a playful research project by anton & irene + SPACE10 that aims to get insights on the future of co-living through a collaborative survey. The project is a sequel to the interactive documentary ONE SHARED HOUSE.

Picture from

The process Space10 uses is innovation framework that has three stages: explorations, prototypes and pilots. The process emphasize testing as early as possible. “We know that the longer we work on our plans in a vacuum, the more likely we are to fail”.

WHY is it done?

In her presentation Carla showed this striking photo and asked “How can we design empowerment rather than addiction?”. “Technological breakthroughs” is one of five macrotrends Ikea have identified.

Picture from Carla’s presentation

Carla stated that if a company does not change the way people behave, they won’t change the society neither. She also highlighted the importance of designing social interactions, not only to design services or products. She claimed that a lot of things have been build, but if these things lack the culture, they lack life. I guess the same goes with any products, or services, or companies. If one does not engage with the users and the community, the end result is empty.

How cool is this? Every company should have its’ own lab to explore the world and its’ opportunities. Space10 also proves that Ikea is definitely not settling, it understands that the world, the business and the people are constantly changing. IKEA has to keep up. And maybe not just to keep up, but to lead the way. With Innovation lab, they invite the best designers, influencers and the critical crowd to be part of their story.

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student

Design is an opportunity to differentiate from the competitors

IxDa-meeting gathered interaction design community together to mingle and discuss under the theme: Being Different.

In his keynote, Reaktor’s Design Director Timo Ilola gave three steps how to stand out as a brand:
1. Differentiate on all levels
Brands should identify where a difference can be made and then use that knowledge in all levels. As an example Ilola used Netflix, that uses cards as identifying element. And cards are used in all of their touchpoints and channels (except in the service itself!)


2. Design strategically
Ilola stated that only trendy brands should follow trends. If a brand tries to follow trends, it will end up only copying others. Brands should be internalised and a good tool to do that is to create design principles and drivers. Good way to define these is to collect all the information there is available about the brand in a one big board, and then as a team start putting pieces together as principles.


3. Be memorable
Memorable brand experiences are designed in the heart of user value, business value and brand value. Experiences should be memorable in order to stand out.

Great case example about designing brand experience that stands out, is Reaktor’s work for Finnair. By understanding the customer journey they defined Finnair’s customer experience as “Peace of Mind”. All services, like Finnair app and in-flight entertainment system, is designed the design principle in mind. Here a video about the services and here’s the whole case.

All in all, Design is an opportunity to differentiate from the competitors.

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student