Tag Archive | design

Were we at our happiest 15 million years ago, and what’s happened to the lingo of design?

IMG_0864

On the morning of 20 March, Reaktor Design Breakfast event took place in Helsinki. Evolved from a small, mostly local and IT focused company to an international one of strategy, design and engineering, Reaktor is perhaps one of the hottest companies in Finland. Known for its flat hierarchy and multiple prizes won for best place to work, Reaktor also hosts an array of tech and design events for the public.

The main speaker of the event was Katri Saarikivi, a cognitive neuroscientist from Helsinki University and one of the leading researchers and speakers on empathy particularly in digital environments. As always, her presentation was delightful: nicely flowing from empathy as a survival skill for humans 15 million years ago to empathy online and in modern day work organisations. Starting from such ancient setting was not only interesting in order to learn about empathy and its implications for humans throughout our history but, as it was noted, some researchers think 15 million years ago was when us humans were at our most happiest: living in forests and focusing on survival, way before invention of the first tools. Makes one think how much we really have evolved and to what direction…

From there we moved on to the concept of work that Saarikivi describes as “solving the problems of other human beings“, responding to others’ needs besides one’s own. Hence, according to Saarikivi, the need for work done by humans continues to be constant, despite any and all changes that might be coming due to advances in technology such as AI and machine learning.

“Empathy might be at the very core of our best problem-solving ability”

A part of the presentation was around human-centric work and human-centric design: highlighting the role of empathy in understanding the differences between people and thus working better together as well as better responding to others’ needs. The importance of collective intelligence was highlighted: “Best thinking, best work is more often than not a shared activity.” And one of the factors greatly affecting it was non-surprisingly empathy.

IMG_0871

Based on studies, Saarikivi also argued that humans are naturally selfless, empathic, and look after one another. However according to research, being in a position of power can reduce your empathy; and the higher your economic status, the lower your empathy skills. The research showed that brains of people in a position of power did not respond as much to other people’s pain as others’ did. Hence one could claim that having artificial positions of power – such as hierarchy in a work place – is not the way to increase empathy in an organisation.

 

IMG_0884As an example of an organisation not at all encouraging empathy or collective intelligence Saarikivi humorously (or, sadly?) showed us a photo of the main hall of the Finnish Parliament: a setting that encourages competition, highlights monologue, and gives no equal opportunity to all to speak nor respond. Saarikivi continued that disregard of emotions can lead to detrimental effects on work, collaboration, and information quality. This is something to consider especially in digital (work) environments, as the digital tools we still have largely transmit emotions rather poorly.

Empathy: Understand, Act, and Experience

During her presentation Saarikivi also discussed what can be seen as the three sides to empathy: understanding, acting, and experiencing. All three parts are needed for empathy; any one of them missing would not result in the real thing. Empathy skills, however, can be improved by practice. Your imagination is an important empathy skill, Saarikivi reminded, and reading fiction has indeed been scientifically proven to enhance our imagination and empathy skills.

IMG_0875  IMG_0877

She walked us through each of the three aspects of empathy, and also continued on the interesting themes while responding to some participant questions. She pointed out that empathy is not an inherently a positive personality trait but a cognitive skill or mechanism. When asked about any negative aspects of said mechanism, Saarikivi mentioned narcissists. This turn tied it nicely back to the earlier discussion on benefits of flat organisations, narcissist not being interested in applying for positions in flat organisations as they don’t want to be equal wanting to rather rise higher than others. The whole presentation and discussion it encouraged was an interesting dive into empathy – a skill often mentioned as one of the most important tools of a Service Designer.

“Design’s focus has shifted from user needs to business needs”

After Katri Saarikivi’s presentation it was time for Reaktor’s own speakers: Hannu Oksa, Vesa Metsätähti, and Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen. Out of those presentations, Reaktor’s Creative Director Hannu Oksa’s resonated with me the most. He discussed the evolving role and ways of design, recently seemingly moving away from designing with and for the user towards focusing on the business needs. He also gave some chilling examples on the rise of fake news and purposely addictive design, stating this has made him deeply consider whether he is part of the problem and making it worse for others. Responsible design in the field of tech is not a topic I’ve often heard about – especially introduced by someone whose career is in the field. IMG_0889

Oksa also discussed the trend of worshipping data without criticism, despite all data being based on history: after all, historical data is exclusive, divisive, and by definition looks back rather than in the future. This hit very close to home, as in many situations and settings even fairly clever people have loudly expressed wanting to e.g. base their entire product or service development on data gathered digitally about their users (or potential users). That can perhaps be all good and well when trying to understand the past situations and coldly follow one’s users’ steps on some platform etc. with for example the help of A/B testing, however how would that give you actual information on WHY they have been doing what they have been doing on a deeper level? Would that tell you what they are like or what they will do in the future? And will that tell you if that is what they actually need or want, or is it simply a representation of the current (well, past) offering – not necessarily having anything to do with the user’s ideal scenario or solution? This kind of worshipping of (past!) data always gives me the chills and certainly wakes up the human-centric designer in me. Often, unfortunately, it’s not a battle worth fighting.

Another thought-provoking, perhaps accidental point was made by Vesa Metsätähti right at the start of his presentation, when he introduced his presentation topic radiot.fi by describing it being “an old service, at least 3-4 years old now.” Indeed, what is the life expectation of a service nowadays, and how long do we consider a service new?

The last presentation by Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen was “From Design Vision to Reality”. They introduced a project done for Finnair with a mix of physical and digital services. This gave some practical examples on how to work on a multi-platform project with focus on the customer experience in both the physical and digital parts of the same service.

The breakfast event was definitely worth attending, and hopefully there will be equally interesting ones organised in the near future!

 

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

“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.”

a

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?

c

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 Stenros, 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

b

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.

Lessons from the Master: Forget the Titles, Facilitation is Key

After a decent amount of lobbying we had the pleasure to have the Service Design guru Marc Stickdorn as our guest speaker at the Finnish language Service Design program.

Stickdorn has just published the new book This is Service Design Doing. He talked about what he thought Service Design was and what the crucial skills for doing it were.

IMG_1216

Marc Stickdorn

According to Stickdorn the reasoning for Service Design is simple. Experiences stick to customers, not products.

“Organisations lose money because of bad customer experience. Customers trust the stories of other customers and less what companies tell them”, he stated.

Therefore customers will pay more for better customer experience. And that’s what Service Design is for.

All this has to be explained to the managers. There is a business reason for better customer service and it has to be shown with money. One way of explaining new services are storyboards.

“Products can be made into mockups, but services are not tangible. We need to make it tangible to talk about exactly the same thing”, Stickdorn said.

Service Design, UX Design, Business Design…

In the cover of Stickdorn’s new book there is a quip to all the disciplines that have popped up but are doing essentially the same thing.

tisdd

Stickdorn thinks that Service Design is going to become a common language.

“Many disciplines are not trained to take little steps. Managers are often afraid to take decisions to start. Service Designers should create a safe space to come up with ideas”, Stickdorn said.

Therefore they key skill for Service Designers is facilitation. How can I create a safe space so that people are not ashamed to come up with really shitty first drafts?

Stickdorn gave us tips about how to be a good facilitator. First we need to have a huge toolbox of small warmups. If there is a hurdle, we should be able to take a method and apply it and see how the group changes.

“What makes a difference is experience. Don’t try to copy somebody else. There are a thousand different styles to facilitate”, Stickdorn said.

According to Stickdorn Service Design is not a silver bullet that can fix everything.

“Be open to other stuff. There is no clear boundary where Service Design ends and other stuff starts. It allows us to use methods from other disciplines. There is not one tool or method coming from Service Design. Personas are from UX, journey maps are from branding, etc.”

For me Stickdorn’s talk gave a bit more clarity about what we are aiming to as Service Designers. It is important to talk a common language and teach the language to the managers and others in the company. In order to facilitate the change into Service Design way of thinking, we need good facilitation skills.

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

Showcasing Nordic Service Design – Collaboration and Empathy as Strengths

How is Nordic Service Design different from other Service Design? This was a question that was answered at the premiere of the Nordic Service Design documentary hosted by OP, a Finnish banking and insurance company.

In addition to the documentary there were several presentations from leading Finnish Service Design firms. Tim Hall from Fjord brought in an outsider’s perspective and explained how he thought Nordic Service Design differed from that done in other countries.

Native of the UK, Hall had experienced the UK as the center of the world. After arriving in Finland he realized that the difference was that the Nordics were smaller countries with smaller populations that were eager to co-operate with each other and others. The command of English also comes to play.

Hall told that Fjord often gets asked for a Nordic Service Designer for projects. He said it’s not really about nationality but about perspective. There is more empathy in the Nordics.

According to Hall, at the moment people are starting to get the need for Service Design, because companies are struggling to connect with customers. Service Design has risen from the micro level to macro level – designing business.

Threats are the push for speed and the proliferation of Service Design.

“The less educated have a design thinking workshop and they think that’s the design done. That’s wrong”, Hall said.

Proliferation of Service Design is a threat because it might become a management fad.  Therefore we need to fight for craft.

“Underlying need and curiosity will prevail. We are bridging the gap of the digital and the physical world.”

For more about Nordic Service Design, watch the documentary below. The documentary was made by the Nordic chapter of the Service Design Network.

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.

Going Holistic

Digitalist Design Forum 2017
Tennispalatsi, Helsinki 16.11.2017

An event for designers, producers and buyers to increase insights of design thinking and brand experiences

20171116_084352

I attended the event with high hopes to get insights of design and holistic customer experiences. I have to admit I was a little bit disappointed when most of the talks focused on branding. I decided to make the most of the day and learn everything I could on branding, a somewhat unfamiliar topic to me.

For starters we learned that Finland has a huge potential on being a design superpower but has failed terribly in using its potential. Petteri Kolinen (CEO, Design Forum Finland) and Ville Tolvanen (CEO, Digitalist Group) pointed out that there is a lack of a holistic view in finnish design and too much focus on the outcome or product. The lack of a holistic ensemble and an identity results in incoherent results.

 

The trick is to pull everything together
– Andreas Rosenlew

 

Andreas Rosenlew (Executive brand advisor & Managing Partner, Grow Partners) carried out with the same theme reminding us that there are a lot of brand evangelists and service designers running around. Rosenlew pointed out that the trick to survive in the competition is to be able to pull everything together to form a valuable and cumulative process. A successful designer truly understands the process of value creation and the different dimensions of value for the customer, such as financial, functional, social and experimental aspects of value creation.

20171116_085740

Päivi Svens (Head of Marketing, Fazer Lifestyle goods) also pointed out the importance of values. Svens argued that when concentrating on value creation for the customer the customer sees the brand as more valuable which in turn increases commitment to the brand. Svens described a situation where the designing and branding was very fragmented in the Fazer Makeiset unit, a situation that led to mistakes when bringing new products to the market. The company took a huge effort in dissolving and rebuilding all the processes, reconstructing the tasks of employees and creating a coherent branding around the products. Svens said she had to learn a lot of new things on simplifying and making things visible but that effort paid off in the form of prizes and gaining trust and valuation within the company.

 

Simplify to Amplify
– Päivi Svens

 

Heidi Rantala (Co-owner, Chief Marketing Officer, Yepzon) had an important angle on branding from a growing business point of view. Her point was that it is not always the almighty brand that enables growth but growth that enables a brand to develop. Rantala pointed out that you need patience to build a brand and meanwhile you owe to the customers who invested in you and your company. Sometimes you need to make profit and grow first to enable an experience of a successful brand to customers.

Alexander Matt (Chief Marketing Officer, Fiskars Group) entertained us with a fictional clip of a graphic designer obsessed with the papyrus font in the Avatar movie logo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVhlJNJopOQ and some heroic stories of well known brands such as Levi’s jeans and Adidas sneakers. The formula of a successful brand is that it is universal, holistic and aesthetic. It is consistent and it speaks the language of the customers.

Written by: Mira Grönlund

Are we in the beginning of a bubble? – Digitalist Design Forum brought out the hype

The hype was there. Mr Digitalist himself, Ville Tolvanen, said in the beginning of Digitalist Design Forum that he had waited for the event for three years.

But did the event deliver? Not so much. In my opinion design was not really in the forefront of the forum as there were plenty of presentations about branding and marketing.

The four-hour forum was started by Andreas Roselew, who is a managing partner at Grow Partners. He shook the audience by stating that there is a hype around all the service design concepts such as co-creation, growth hacking and customer centricity.

“I think we are experiencing a silent bubble”, he stated and referenced the dotcom bubble of the late 90s and early 2000s.

According to Rosenlew, very few service designers manage to pull things together so that it actually creates cumulative value.

“There are a lot of service designers running around being evangelists”, Rosenlew said. In his opinion most of the current Service Design is generic.

“It’s based on generic insights and it results in generic solutions”, he said.

In Rosenlew’s opinion there needs to be a direction in all design and it needs to be consistent and continuous. That is the only way to create value in the long term.

In order to achieve that designers should concentrate on holistic design and take into account the whole customer journey and life cycle and also different senses such as taste, feel and smell.

Fazer decided to simplify to amplify

The most interesting case that was presented in the forum was in my opinion Fazer’s Head of Marketing Päivi Svens’s presentation on how design has become a strategic capability for the company.

Continue reading

Licence to Fail

Design now – a day of discussion on the future of design
Harald Herlin learning centre, Otaniemi, Espoo
2.11.2017

The day packed with talks and discussions was all about defining what design is going to be in the future.

We heard an inspirational speech from Anna Valtonen (Vice President for Art and Creative Practices, Aalto Uni, FI). Valtonen raised questions about design shaping the future as well as renewing the society. In the future we need to have various viewpoints, not just follow our own individual paths as designers. We are also going to need new ways of viewing phenomena. Valtonen’s message is that designers are advocates for the unmeasurable: designers have the means to make the invisible visible and tangible. The world is changing and we (designers) need to keep up with the change.

opencomplexannavaltonen

Anna Valtonen: Why Design Now?

 

Kalevi “Eetu” Ekman (Design Factory Director & PDP Professor, FI) reminded us in his videotalk that design is always there: it is done either consciously or unconsciously. Ekman underlined that a trained designer can change things dramatically. As an example he named industrial companies that have a lot of engineers working for them. A skilled designer can make a huge impact on thinking in such companies.

Continue reading