Tag Archive | inspiration

“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.

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


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

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

How are Virtual and Augmented Reality being used?

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

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

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

Taking VR and AR to the next level?

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

  1. The Cost

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

  1. The User experience

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

  1. Content

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

  1. Education

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

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

Written by;
Leena Salo
SID student

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.

Continue reading

How to think like designers do?

Empathy, experimentalism, optimism, collaboration. These are the characteristics designers have – just to name a few. During the introduction lesson lectured by Katja Tschimmel on 8 – 9 September we took an intensive dip into the world of Design thinking. And instead of just listening and learning we also got our hands on to the desing process and acted on a basis of design thinking – learning by doing. We evoked our inner designers in teams amongst the theme ”Studying a Laurea” and our guide during the project was Tschimmel’s and Mindshake’s EVOLUTION 6² model.

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What comes to the characteristics of a designer, here’s my thoughts about them and how we took an advantage of them during the study project.

Empathy – Being a very human-centered and interested in peoples lifestories, to me this is the most inspiring characteristic of a designer. What would be more invigorating than to understand the inner mind of your customer and to create a service that responses to his/her inner needs and desires? In our project we for example interviewed the potential persons from our target group and made customer journey mapping in order to understand better the fictive customer.

Experimentalism – Design thinking releases the acceptance of failures and actually is even provoking to test new ideas and creations in an early stage by prototyping. We didn’t have too much time to prepare our ideas so inevitably we were forced to accept the possibility of a total failure of our ideas. And in addition, we were encouraged to accept the fact that our idea does not work in a real life. And thus we were coached for experimentalism.

Continue reading

Design Thinking –and quite a lot of doing

Throw-back Saturday. Sitting by my lap-top trying to find ways and words to describe my thoughts on last weekends’ Design Thinking -course. What are main learnings I took home from the weekend and what are the ideas I still carry with me after getting familiar with the recommended literature* on the topic? I grouped the outcome into three main themes; Group dynamics, Design processes and various models, Characteristics of a designer.

Outcome grouped

The two-day intensive course started off as it was to continue,
fast and intensive. 20170916_135752Right after the opening words, we were to get to know one another through inspiring bingo-game to find a person with the right feature. I got pretty close…
Another fun exercise was to play with the Mindshake Design Thinking cards to identify, pair and cluster the design techniques with the corresponding design actions. It was interesting to notice how quickly the groups started to work on the task productively without really knowing one another. Here’s a mini video-clip I took from my team in action. 😊

At least to me, these exercises managed to proof the importance of team-work (you could’ve not managed to fill in the paper without getting and giving help), point out the heterogeneous nature of our group (diversity is a strong asset in a design team), and strengthen our group dynamics from the very beginning.

All these warming up tasks prepared us for the bigger teamwork that was to follow. We were given a design case to work on by following the Evolution62 -model, which at times turned out to be not so clear. However, after refining our concept for several times we finally managed to come up with a brilliant idea and an applicable concept I still am proud of today. To get an idea on our design process journey, check the evidence. 😉 Continue reading

Future of Service Design – does it exist?

Ever thought about this? Is service design just one ism, which comes like a wave: First small, getting strong and then fading away. When reaching the end of its existing curve, the ism is so worn out that no-one even wants to hear the words “service design”.

PaneeliAalto University Executive Education arranged on the 1st of June 2017, on International Service Design Day, networking event around this very interesting theme. Speakers and panelists who game from different backgrounds looked at the topic in a versatile and detailed way. They represented front line service design expertise: Peter Barkman, Managing Director from Palmu Helsinki, Laura Franck, Client Service Director from Hellon, Ulla Jones, Business Designer from OP Financial Group and Pekka Toivonen, CEO of Muotohiomo. Next I will raise some points from the discussion to give some thoughts to this important heading.

Transformation is the point

Service design have to grow from project oriented way of doing to be way of thinking that leads to cultural change and transformation in organization. “Human” and “experience” should be taken as a part of business plan in the organization. The experts see that service design as a concepts and the term might disappear. The content itself becomes an everyday part of organizational approaches and practices. Whatever the term that is used, important is to make measurable changes with goal of creating better experiences and focus on customer. Continue reading

Service design meets RAI –evaluation system

Be open-minded

Yes, I have heard it, and I think I have even preached about it. Be open-minded. First and for most. That is how service designer should think, no doubt about it. Still, I have found myself being by and by too blindsighted. Last time this happened to me was few weeks ago. I waited my turn to give a presentation about service design in health care in a seminar which was concerning work with geriatric people (Kehittyvä vanhustyö 13-14.2.2017). Funny thing when going back in my mind to that situation, is that in my own presentation, I had quotation from Dalai Lama: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. When you listen, you may learn something new.”

What is RAI-evaluation system…actually?

Just before my presentation there was Development Manager Rauha Heikkilä from Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare given her presentation about RAI-evaluation system and its benefits while evaluating service needs of geriatric people. Abbreviation RAI has come to my knowledge when I have been doing service design with geriatric patients, nurses and doctors. But I haven’t really understood what it is. My preconception about RAI –evaluation system was that it is something that consumes a lot of face to face time from patients, nobody actually uses the results and something that is already out of date. So I was little bit suspicious about the subject, I have to admit.

Rauha Heikkilä started her presentation by talking about customer focus in different levels of producing services: strategic, tactic and operative. She pointed out that Primeminister Sipilä’s government programme for advancing Health and Welfare is executed by top projects. One main objective is to take customer oriented approach to development of health and welfare services. Then she started to talk about RAI (Resident Assessment Instrument) and how it can help to achieve this objective. RAI is a tool for decision-making and to support management. It helps to

  • predict the population service needs
  • develop services that are based on actual needs of customers
  • target customer services according to their needs
  • monitor the quality and the performance of services

 When Rauha Heikkilä moved on with her presentation my ears grew bigger. These were the words that talked my language. I started to pay more attention. I started to actually listen. I could have said same sentences in my presentation about service design and how it can support management. What I learned was that RAI- evaluation system is a comprehensive system for evaluating, monitoring and improving the quality of care and service. It is standardized system to information gathering and an instrument for observation of service needs of a customer. RAI –evaluation is examining customer’s ability to cope in everyday life, mental and cognitive condition, social performance and wellbeing, health condition, nutrition and feeling of pain. RAI –evaluation is examining patient as a holistic person. It is carried out with a customer. Yes, in co-creation with customer. Evaluation process starts with interview and observation of a person himself and his peers. Again sounds something that could have come out of my mouth while giving my service design presentation.

What I also learned was that RAI -evaluation system is a support system for different service providers to give more personalized service and service that answers better to customer’s actual needs. Geriatric patients with chronic illness and disability use variety of clinical and support services. With RAI-system there is always background knowledge about customers overall situation and thus it is possible to do better decisions for taking care of the geriatric patient. RAI-evaluation system enables planning standardized services for typical customer needs. Also service profiles can be planned with RAI-evaluation system.

Same goals. What can we do together?

While listening the presentation I didn’t find any conflicts between service design and RAI –evaluation goals. The goals are actually the same. I started to think what could be accomplish by combining these two methods. I brought up this idea to Professor of Geriatrics Jaakko Valvanne in a lunch discussion. He is acquainted with both methods and specialist with RAI- system. He clarified me that RAI – system is well deployed in Finland. However, he has seen that even in the best organizations, it really takes years to be able to use the results so that they actually help in developing services.

From the user’s (nurses and doctors) point of view, RAI system is difficult, complicated and troublesome in many ways. Professor Valvanne pointed out also that the results of the RAI –system should be first the results for the patient and his peers. Secondly results of organization. But are they easy to understand for ordinary people? Are they presented in a way that awakes interest? Could assets of service design help to make RAI –system more approachable, make the system more usable by understanding user needs better, simplify the process and the results by visualization and maybe make less serious by adding some fun and humor to it?

When thinking other way around, people who work in the field of geriatric patients, are acquainted with RAI –system. Could it be easier to accept service design as a serious development method, if these two are methods are offered hand in hand? There are similarities but also differences between these two methods. RAI –system is a data bank for designing services. Service design is more of qualitative and emphatic method.  If using these methods simultaneously, could it raise the benefits of the results in a different level?

Blending methods and thoughts

While finishing our lunch discussion with professor Valvanne we were both excited about this idea of service design meeting RAI –evaluation system. This seminar and enriching discussion after that cleared out to me that something unexpected may happen when you let yourself to be open. There is no only one right way of doing things. There are many. And if you are clever, you make these many ways overlap each other and you might find results that lead you to something totally new.

We might have another lunch and discussion around this subject with professor Valvanne and start something new by blending our thoughts more.