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

Empathy in Tech

One of the so-called hot topics in design world is how to connect empathy and technology. Technology is often understood as something that is clinical and remote from the human emotions. The theme was discussed in Design Forum talk: Empathy and Technology that was organised by Design Forum Finland in the end of November.

The most interesting keynote in my opinion was the academia perspective on how an organization can understand human. Anna Seppänen who is a Doctoral Researcher from Faculty of Theology in University of Helsinki shared her research findings on the topic. From the researcher-perspective, empathy is a buzzword and that is both wonderful and awful thing; a buzzword often is everything but at the same time it is nothing. She defined empathy being ability to share other’s positive and negative emotions but also separate them from one’s own feelings. This was a great reminder for myself; I often forget that empathy does not mean identifying, it means understanding. From service designer perspective empathy does not mean that you share the same feelings as the customer, one just have to be capable to understand what the customer is feeling. She also pointed out something that striked my mind; Anna argued that if organization explains that customer-centricity is important, it cannot be it if it treats own employees as resources or “things”. An organisation cannot be empathic towards customers if it’s not empathic towards its’ own people. One thing is also important to remember; rush is the most efficient way to loose empathy. To conclude her findings she presented the key components organization that understand human have:

Formula of organization that understands human (Seppänen)

Nelli Lähteenmäki from Fifth Corner Inc. shared her thoughts about what kind of role empathy plays in a start-up. She concluded her thoughts in three points: start-ups should be empathic in product development, technology features should support empathy and start-ups should be empathic when considering the impact of their product or service.


1. First point is familiar from service design, although service designers of course talk about services (and so did Nelli :)). The development (or design) process should be about the customer, only by knowing the customer, an empathy can be present: Ask questions, use data, stay close to the users etc.
2. Empathy can be a design principle so that features of the service can be built to support the empathy.
3. The third point is actually a hot topic of the time, according to Nelli this is the biggest challenge in the technology world at the moment. Technology companies should considered the impact they have in the users and in the society in general. An interesting column about the topic here, with the title: “Like heroin for your childer” (sorry only in Finnish). You should also read this; it is a crazy article how the ones designing these addictive services are not actually using themselves anymore. Nelli also tips about Tristan Harris who is an expert on design ethics. His TEDtalk: “How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds everyday” is worth watching!

Nelli’s example of negative impacts of technology

Besides Anna Seppänen and Nelli Lähteenmäki there were two more keynotes in the event: Sampsa Fabritius from Kieku Labs Oy and Timo Kauppila Catchbox. All the keynotes can be found from Youtube here.

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student

From prison design to asbestos abatement – Service Design is everywhere

How can service design be used in prisons? What about asbestos abatement? How about the gargantuan website of the Finnish Social Service Institution Kela? This is what we learned two weeks ago in a morning seminar. Watch the event in Finnish here.

Tarinoita digikiristä showcased several digitalization and service design related projects from the Finnish public sector. The event was organized by D9, a digitalization team working inside the Finnish State Treasury.

When signing up for the event myself and some fellow students joked about using service design in prisons. How could that work? As we found out, very well. Anne Sundqvist and Kauko Niemelä explained that the need for service design in Finnish prisons stems from the fact that there are a lot of prisons and a lot of space, but the prisons are old and the space is not used properly.

The new Hämeenlinna women’s prison is being planned with service design. The main aim is to reduce recidivism so that fewer inmates return to the prison after they have been released. Therefore the prison has to be designed in a manner that it helps the inmate to learn behaviours and skills that help them to keep on the straight and narrow.

This is also a huge saving for the society – within five years around 25 000 inmates get out from the prison and every year the taxpayer pays around 1,8 billion euros for their rehabilitation. If this number can be brought down with work done inside the prison, the society wins.

Many stakeholders have participated in the project. Inmates themselves have been interviewed and they have participated in workshops. The people working in prisons have also been able to give their input.

Kela wanted the customers to get a feeling of control

Every Finnish person uses the services of the Finnish Social Service Institution Kela at some point in their lives. Students get their study grants from Kela, new parents their baby boxes.

Kela has a huge website with enormous amounts of information on it. According to Päivi Bergman, the website had to be made better in order to give the customer a sense of control. Oftentimes customers used the website, but weren’t sure that they were doing things right so they called in anyway.

Because of the immense size of the website, it could not be handled all at once. Bergman told that they decided to roll out new material little bit at a time so that savings could be had while the website renewing process was still ongoing.

According to Bergman it is not important to have perfect material finished when publishing it online. It is enough to be going in the right direction. One must dare to try.

Bergman reminded us that Kela is not a service for early adopters but for everyone in the society. At the same time Kela must realize that it is not competing against government websites but against all other websites. That’s why it has to be as easy to use as any other website.

The purpose of the project was to give the customer a feeling that the website is easy to use, useful and it gives the user the sense of control. In Bergman’s view this has been achieved as after the new website has rolled out people have been contacting Kela with other means a lot less than before.

The event was clearly intended for people making decisions in the Finnish public sector and tried to encourage them to start working with their customers and use service design especially with digital services. Many of the examples we heard were the first of their kind done in that agency.

The people presenting their projects seemed genuinely excited about their projects so it seems that customer centricity and service design will be integrated more and more in Finnish public services.

The author Noora Penttinen is a journalist and a recent Service Design student who believes in creative chaos and thinks that best ideas appear at four in the morning.

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

“Start with identity”, and other punchlines from Digitalist Design Forum 2017

Designing holistic brand experiences was the leading theme in Digitalist Design Forum 2017 event that was organized in Helsinki 16th of November. I got a chance to listen three of the speakers; Andreas Rosenlew, Päivi Svens and Bart Ahsmann. But before going into the topic, let’s praise the event itself a little bit; I think Digitalist Design Forum was a great example of a holistic brand experience; the event was organized very well and attention was paid in every detail – it is great to see that the organizer does what it preaches.


The CEO of Design Forum Finland, Petteri Kolinen, opened the event by sharing his story how Martela’s brand experience was redesigned. Kolinen explained that old manufacturing company’s brand experience was designed with “identity-first” approach; Martela’s WHY was found from “inspiring spaces”, HOW was built around inspiring concepts such as “inspiring schools” & “inspiring offices” and WHAT was actual products and services. He argued that the key in finding the brand core (WHY) was to involve people in the designing process. He stated that when the core represents the values it is real, and it can only be real if the people can participate into the process of finding the core. Kolinen explained that the core is the heart of the brand.

Kolinen’s thoughts are familiar from Simon Sinek’s concept: Start with why. Sinek has inspired many by his theory where he advises that companies should start by having a clear vision of WHY they exist; only by doing so leaders can truly inspire others to follow – in Kolinen’s words WHY means creating the identity or core of the brand.

Andreas Rosenlew, Executive Brand Advisor & Managing partner in Grow Partners, had somewhat provoking presentation under the title “Brand-Driven Customer Value Design – E2EO2O – is the engine of demand growth”. He started by arguing that there is “silent bubble” happening at the moment with the hype that is created around buzzwords like service-ux-mvp-design, and compared it to the .com-bubble. Rosenlew explained that there are service designers and similar starting single projects around customer-centricity but all in all not that many companies can actually pull thing together and bring actual value out of it. He pointed out that the aim of design should always be to design holistic and sustainable value in relationships between people and brands; “with generic insights, there are generic services”. He explained that in order to achieve a holistic view, a designer must consider all aspects of the value: functional, experiential, social and financial. Rosenlew crystallized that by bringing design in the heart of the company, holistic brand experiences can be built. He also stated that every company nowadays is B2BC2C company.

Päivi Svens, Head of Marketing in Fazer Lifestyle Foods, shared her story about how Fazer Candy brand experience was re-designed, under the title “Strategic capability with a Design know-how”. She explained how the design team was put together with an aim to make the company’s processes more efficient. By doing so, understanding how the processes were build and what to do in order to design more efficient processes, the team was actually able to take the Fazer’s design to a whole new level overall. By reasoning the design capabilities with a business case, a new design strategy was build. Examples of Fazer’s new branding that has won design awards here.

Bart Ahsmann, the Director in CLICKNL and the President in BEDA, introduced “Key elements for future fit design expertise”. He presented a roadmap that somewhat showcased designers’ future ecosystem. “The top sector Creative Industry drafted this Knowledge & Innovation Agenda with the unique skill set of the creative professional and the challenges in society in mind.” The agenda is divided into three roadmaps, first roadmap intorducing the knowledge base themes: Design for change, Value creation and The Human touch. The roadmaps can be connected to societal challenges and domains in the agenda arising specific research questions. This way the framework links multidisciplinary foundation-laying research together with pratical applied research. More information about the agenda here. Download the framework here.

The key findings from the Digitalist Design Forum part 1 are:

  • Start with identity – the WHY of the brand
  • New kind of culture of collaboration is needed in order to create holistic brand experiences
  • The aim of design should always be to design holistic and sustainable value in relationships between people and brands; “with generic insights, there are generic services”
  • Every company today is a B2B2C2C company
  • A hard side of design is needed in order to build a business case
  • Without holistic view on design, brand may go into silos
  • Future topics for research: Design for Change, Value Creation and the Human Touch

Information about Digitalist and upcoming events here, and the video recordings here. Btw, the quality of the streaming in this event is top-notch!

This blog post was written by,
Emmi Kinnunen
SID student

Learning programming through the power of design and data



“Programming is boring”

With these words began a Design Lab lecture at Campus London. The two speakers Jenny and Regina were presenting a case study of developing NoobLab tool, an intelligent learning environment for teaching programming. The speakers had just concluded an eight month project at Kingston University, where the goal was to develop an existing service to improve student engagement and provide a better tool for students, through which they could follow their own learning path.

The speakers had researched how university students were learning programming and found that there were many challenges in the teaching.  Through research they found out that many students struggle with following and internalizing the teachings and only experience superficial learning. Many also suffered from the idea that “programming is boring”.

It was interesting to hear about this the development project where active learning was used as the framework. This is a form of learning in which teaching strives to involve students in the learning process more directly than in other methods and which mimics real life structures and situations.

Active learning is a process that has student learning at its centre. Active learning focuses on how students learn, not just on what they learn. Students are encouraged to ‘think hard’, rather than passively receive information from the teacher.” Source: Cambridge

Learning Experience Design (LX design), which was a new concept to me personally, was the design and research approach of the study. This holistic and human-centered design process focuses on the learner in order to find goal oriented ways of learning.


As research was done in three stages: Learn, Build and Deploy. In the image above all the different research aspects can be seen, but the speakers delved into just a few of the methods. The Learn stage included User interviews, Personas, User journeys, Learner Journeys, Learning analytics, Heuristic evaluation and Competitor analysis. Build stage included Content audit, Framework, User testing, Ideation as well as Wireframing and Prototyping. The research ended with the Deploy stage, where the service was piloted and tested. This data will be used for further iterations.

Learning experience design is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human centered and goal oriented way.” Source: Learning Experience Design

Using Service design tools

During the lecture, the speakers introduced two of the service design tools, which they used in their research: Personas and Prototyping.


Personas were created based on the interviews with 23 students, aged 18 to 35. Within the programming student group the researchers developed six different personas: 1) The Follower, 2) Medal Hunter, 3) Coding Enthusiast, 4) Expert Coder, 5) The Helper and 6) Anti Persona. These personas were then put in a matrix based on their motivation and personal plan for learning and four user groups could be identified.


Prototyping was done in three different staged. First a low fidelity paper prototype was created of the improved tool, where for example changes in navigation were included. After that a wireframe was created which was tested with real programming students. Based on the feedback and comments received, as the last step, a high fidelity prototype of the learning environment, which was close to the final product in elements and visuals, was presented and tested with students.


According to the speakers, the feedback from the testers was extremely positive, and a future project for implementation and piloting was given a green light. The new and improved learning environment will be launched and tested with students in the future in hopes that the testing results will prove an increase in student engagement and enhancement in their learning curve.

Below are images of the NoobLab tool before and after the research. The new version is more visual with better navigation and different ways for students to engage and follow the path of their learning.

Read more: NooLab: An intelligent learning environment for teaching programming


Written by: Leena Salo, SID student