Tag Archive | design

“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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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.

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Licence to Fail

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

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.


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.

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Ritual Design – A New Perspective or Sacrilege?

“We needed a fresh approach, all our clients already know service design and how to use the tools”, starts anthropologist and service designer Veera Suomalainen her talk at October’s IxDA Helsinki meetup.

My first thought was what?! Every time I tell people that I study service design, I have to explain them what it means. I guess the clients of Suomalainen’s Exove are more enlightened.

As Suomalainen’s background is in anthropology, she got the idea to look at rituals and how they could be used in service design. Rituals are repetitive actions with a greater goal and bigger meaning than just the function. Examples of rituals are rites of passage such as the Finnish military service or penkkarit.


Veera Suomalainen explaining rites of passage.

When a person is performing a rite of passage they are in a liminal space, not here but not yet there. This liminality garners great fellowship with others in the same position. Liminality can be found in non-places such as airports or shopping malls as they do not have rich meanings.

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