My colleague Jason Toal’s recent blog post on visual thinking exercises inspired me to take the Four Icon Challenge and capture the core ideas from How Things Shape the Mind, Lambros Malafouris’s facinating interdisciplinary exploration of cognitive archeology and material engagement theory.
I discovered Malafouris’ work through Jonathan Bean, Bernardo Figueredo and Hanne Larsen’s fascinating paper at EPIC 2017 on Material Engagement Theory and branding gestalt research.
What is ironic about me completing this exercise using icons from the Noun Project is that one of Malafouris’s core arguments is that conventional semiotics reifies representation and privileges human intention over systematic, dynamic explanations of meaning.
The book is build around concise descriptions of projects that the Designing Out Crime Research Centre at University Technology Sydney has undertaken over the last decade and brief reflections on design principles and practices that underlie the projects.
If Frame Innovation presents Dorst’s current thinking on public sector and public space design practice for an academic audience, Designing for the Common Good, which is co-written by Dorst and many professional and student collaborators, addresses for a much broader interdisciplinary audience of designers, practitioners, and change makers.
If This is Service Design Thinking is the book that launched the practical service design movement (as evidenced in a metanalysis as the most cited text at the ServDes conference , then I see Designing for the Common Good as a positive sign that the field of design for service and social innovation is evolving. It compliments Lucy Kimbell’s Service Innovation Handbook, which offers a bricolage of theory, methods and cases. It bests Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvlie and Melvin Brand Flu’s Service Design for Business because it does more than share abstract advice and approaches for business professionals with scant examples. Dorst and his co-writers foreground authentic, varied case studies and back them up with evidence-based reflections and methods. Like Kimbell, Dorst and his collaborators offer newcomers to design for public innovation rich, authentic cases and methods to consider, and unlike any design for the public good text I have read yet, Dorst et. al are able to address the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary nature of public design projects whereas most of the books on design for public project still are constrained by a narrow focus on corporate and business design.
What I appreciate most about the work this work is how it offer practical pragmatic design methods that are informed by solid and intentional design research while also being written to inform practitioners. The authenticity and richness of the cases, reflections and methods distinguish this book from those that are overly theoretical and academic (for example, Making Futures), narrowly focussed on business and management lens (e.g. Service Design for Business). It complements the emerging bodies of work that address design for public sector innovation (e.g Leading Public Service Innovation) and work on design for services at the local or regional level (e.g. Design for Services or Design, where Everybody Designs). An interesting question for the future might be how might frame innovation inform or complement transition design towards particular environmental or social futures?
What I find most compelling about Design for the Common Good is that the authors explicitly address the limitations of their approach and call for the need to augment design with substantive organizational development. Successful projects are bounded by time, space and geography. What might work at Kings Cross in Sydney will likely not work on the Granville Entertainment strip in Vancouver. Having read Frame Innovation and Design for the Common Good, I am itching to design and facilitate a frame innovation project.
For fun, I am participating in Design1o1 Redux, a MOOC that introduces basics of contemporary design. I’ve never been that successful as a student in MOOCs before because of the implicit time commitment they demand and, to be blunt, the poor quality of instructional design.
What I like about Design 1o1 is that the MOOC is playful, creative, and almost entirely based on the open Internet and through social media, mostly on Instagram but also on Twitter. One of the challenges we have in British Columbia is that the Freedom of Information and Privacy laws are particularly strict about sharing personal information across borders, so I it would be challenging for a BC university to pursue such an open approach without wrestling with informed consent and forms.
What I am learning in Design1o1 Redux so far is how to use my iPhone as an instrument for creative expression and design research. I can see how this will be useful not only as I continue to take countless pictures of Megan and Claire but also as I dive more deeply into design research. One of the assignments I had last week prompted me to start thinking how I might use my phone and a few APPS to document service walkthrough and user journeys easily.
I will have more to say about my learning experience as time goes by. You can follow my progress on Instagram.
What is your take on MOOCs? What have you learned by participating in them? How have you learned to persist?
Have you ever considered how and why a kimchi refrigerator offers users more autonomy than conventional refrigerators might, what constitutes an ideal trip to and through an airport, or why a sophisticated golf simulator might offer a peak form of entertainment? Jin Woo Kim’s Design for Experience: Where technology meets design and strategy, which I discovered in Fjord’s slide deck on design trends for 2016, seeks to dymytisfy the thinking and requirements behind designing powerful product and service experiences.
Kim’s book is useful on multiple levels. I have been so immersed in the North American and European literature on design for service and experience design that it was refreshing to read a leading Korean HCI scholar on experience design. I appreciate how Kim integrated ideas from Confucius, John Dewey and Vitruvius to underlie his exploration of experience design. Lucy Kimbell extolls Vitruvius in her handbook on service innovation, and Dewey is oft-cited in Benz’s edited collection on Experience Design, but I was delighted to read more about how Confucius’s ideas on harmony inform experience design. I also enjoyed how Kim blends detailed technical explanations of design features with supporting narration of his experiences in Seoul, and detailed analyzed a range of Korean and Western products and services as UX examples.
At its core, the book presents a detailed framework of threads, levers, UX factors, and design features involved in designing product and service experiences. Kim breaks down meaningful, valuable and harmonious experience into three interrelated dimensions with associated key conceptual controls:
Kim’s framework is similar to the product experience framework introduced by Desmet and Hekkert and adapted by Silvia Grimaldi, which I discussed in my review of Experience Design: Concepts and Case Studies. What distinguishes Kim’s monograph from either this previous work or a text like Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy is Kim’s detailed analysis and explanation of underlying UX factors and design features. The detailed, careful analysis of case studies and exposition associated UX factors and design features will prove useful to design students and practitioners. If you haven’t thought what vividness or presence or autonomy and automation might mean in relation to an experience or if you having considered which type of information architecture is best suited to the product or service experience you hope to offer, this text explicates these ideas in detail and offers concrete useful examples from both products and services.
What I found most challenging about the book was its focus only on designing corporate or commercial products and services although the principles and concepts will be equally useful for those designing for social innovations or community experiences. I was hoping that Kim might address to the scope of design challenges that Kees Dorst addresses in Frame Innovation (e.g. the experience in a Sydney entertainment district) or the contributors to Benz’s collection do (festivals, public spaces), but Kim situates his framework squarely in traditional commercial product and service design. Nor does Kim address aspects of power, social justice, or sustainability..
Kim ends Design for Experience with a process description to apply the three dimension framework to the example of designing a companion product or service. What surprised me most about this section of the book was that Kim also emphasizes the organizational requirements needed to offer a harmonious, successful project. What I most appreciated about Kim’s text was his case in favour of interdisciplinary design practices informed by research and theory from the humanities and social sciences. Kim advocates for partnership between industry and academia. He calls for not only social science informed design research but also careful analysis of humanities research on relevant concepts like play or companionship depending on the particular design challenge.
Design for Experience makes a valuable contribution to the experience design literature. It offers a solid conceptual framework for user experience designers, information architects, and practitioners to work with as they collaborate.
When I was floundering about in graduate school, I read “Aramis or the love of technology” cover to cover. At the time, I was obsessed by the then state-of-the-art ASRS automated materials storage system that had just been installed at the heart of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC. Now, of course you can find automated, miniature sorting and retrieval systems at public libraries, and Amazon’s warehousing and delivery systems are Things of public legend:
My first steps into ANT were to ponder mediation, affordances, and the classic Engstrom activity theory model with Mary Bryson.
That led me to think about the assemblage of scholars, librarians, research knowledge artefacts, research libraries, giant climate-controlled storage environments, retrieval robots, computer networks, and the software that connects them. I even delved into the military-industrial history of the development of automated storage by the RAND corporation in the glorious, Modern 50s.
Which brings me to “Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory“. The book presents Latour’s explanation of the basic premises and implications of Actor-Network Theory. Its object is social science in general, and sociology in particular. Latour presents a methodology of activity-network theory. It is a history of ANT and a history of the Science Wars from the 1990s. Strangely, reading Latour brought be back to sitting at my parents’ kitchen table in 1996 as an English undergraduate, listening to an “As it Happens” interview about the Sokal Affair and those long-ago attacks on postmodernism.
I am struck by the sorts questions that Latour offers as a heuristic for courageous analysts to follow:
What controversies? What actants? Where do they lead?
“Where are the structural effects actually being produced” (p.174)
“in which movie theatre, in which exhibit gallery is […The Big Picture…] shown? Through which optics is it projected? To which audience is it addressed? (p.187)
“In which room? In which panorama? Through which medium? With which stage manager? How much?” (p.189)
“How is the local itself being generated?” (p.192)
“Where are the other vehicles that transport individuality, subjectivity, personhood, and interiority?” (p.206)
What form “allows something else to be transported from on site to another?” (p.222)
What happens upstream and downstream of the situation where subject and object arise? (p.237)
I doubt many people outside of academia will want to read this book but it offers a masterclass in how to question the most basic assumptions that most people take for granted, particularly society, culture, nature, science and politics.
Students of higher education will enjoy how Latour uses the example of a university professor lecturing in a lecture hall to explore how cognitive abilities assemble and are shaped by the scripts, forms, capabilities, and materials.
Despondent graduate students wrestling with theses can take solace from Latour’s perspective on academic writing. In a nutshell, write the 40,000 words and move on to the next challenge. One text does not a career make. Academics can also learn a lot from Latour about writing. Even though his text is complex, Latour is also entertaining, self-aware and humorous.
Thoughtful designers may want to consider Latour’s analysis of the relation between local, global and context in connection with the recent practical scholarship on context for post-thing design. For example, part of me wants to reconsider Andrew Hinton’s “Understanding Context“, Resmini and Rosati’s “Pervasive Information Architecture” and Thomas Wendt’s “Design for Dasein” with Latour in mind. If the aim of service and strategic design is to co-create pervasive information architectures and meaningful assemblages of digital and embodied experiences, then should one deploy, stabilize, and compose the social in the context of design before designing solutions or platforms. Furthermore, reading Latour made me wonder what ANT might offer design for social innovation. social innovation should embrace concepts like cosmopolitan-localism and rely on “sociologists of the social”, as Ezio Manzini suggests.
If the aim of service and strategic design is to co-create pervasive information architectures and meaningful assemblages of digital and embodied experiences, then should one deploy, stabilize, and compose the social present the context of design before designing solutions or platforms?
Manzini is a leading design researcher and theorist, particularly in the field of design for social innovation. Manzini applies many of the sociological theories about risk and the life course that I had read with Lesley Andres at UBC in 2003. Manzini’s answer to the risk, uncertainty individuals and communities face is designed collaborative organizations and encounters.
This most useful section of the book, I think is the chapter dedicated to “Collaborative Encounters”, which draws on Martin Buber and theories of participation and social ties to demonstrate how to map services. The last section of this book work through the practical steps of representing collaborative designs and creating the conditions for social innovations to flourish.
Another theme of the book is the relationship between professional design and co-design with publics. Unlike Dan Hill and Thomas Wendt and other design theorists, Manzini seems less critical of design thinking and more conciliatory in his view on the relationship between expert design and diffuse design.
My favourite concept in Mazini’s book is “cosmopolitan localism“, which he borrows sustainable development. Since I read “Design, When Everybody Designs”, I’ve been working through Bruno Latour’s “Introduction to Actor-Network Theory”, which will merit a future post of its own. But for now I note that Mazini is relying on many studies that would fall into the category of “the sociology of the social”, and I wonder what the notion of design for social innovation might look like through the lens of Actor-Network Theory, which resists the global-local binary and questions the existence of macro social theories and models.
Watch Manzini introduce “Design, When Everybody Designs earlier this year at the University of Malmo:
Read Cameron Tonkinwise’s review of “Design, When Everybody Designs”
“Making Futures” is a wide-ranging poly vocal collection of case studies of participatory design work undertaken by design researchers and a multiplicity of partner community groups, governments, and private sector players in Malmö, Sweden.
Two concepts that sticks with me from “Making Futures”. infrastructuring suggests designers (or other change agents) need to foster long-term working relationships with partner community organizations rather than adopting a project orientation. The other concept is friendly hacking, which seems to also be circulating in the design for policy literature.
A key consideration in both books is the issue of scale and the question of how to create the conditions for collaborative innovations to flourish in neighbourhoods, cities, regions and across countries.. “Making Futures” tackles the political and power dimensions of collaboration between academics, government, community organizations and private sector organizations head on. Both books also consider how assemblages of people working together can collaborate to design and create scapes, places and interventions in the places which people inhabit.
Both books offer designers interested in collaborating with clients,and partners to bring social and community-based social innovations to life plenty of ideas for addressing complex challenges and enabling communities to flourish. For those who are tired of reading service design method cookbooks, either book will infuse your practice with a hearty dose of theory and critical perspective.
If you have been reading either book, let me know what you find most useful or interesting in them.
For fun on holiday, I started reading recently-published service design dissertations that are openly available on the internet. I owe Johan Blomkvist a debt of gratitude for the picture he published on Twitter that got me started:
So far I have read Blomkvist, whose kappa on methodology was extremely helpful, and Segelström, whose studies on design ethnography and participant observation of service design practice helped me better distinguish anthropological and design ethnography and offer a very useful process description for how service design consultancies work in practice. I will share more thoughts in the coming weeks..
Thanks to Jeff Sussna for pushing me to compile this list. If you know of any other cutting edge researchers in the field, please let me know.
I decided to read Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy (1999/2011) because it was frequently cited in Peter Benz’s recent collection on Experience Design.
Here, Joseph Pine introducing the concept of economic progression, which is at the heart of the The Experience Economy:
This theory makes for an entertaining business anecdote — the other famous one in the book is the fact that people are very happy to pay €17 for an expresso to sit amidst St. Mark’s Square in Venice — but I question the underlying model of economic development. (Thank you, Mary Bryson and Erica McWilliam for helping me to learning to question taken for granted concepts like development.) Only towards the end of the text do Pine and Gilmore point to business models that are social- or value-driven rather than simply capitalist in focus.
Pine and Gilmore’s text has lots to offer service and experience designers who are developing service- and experience-based business models. In fact, in the later parts of the book, the authors present the idea of transformation-focused business. Orginally written at the turn of the 21st century, this book resonates with transformative learning theory, which was at the peak of its popularity around the same time.
Pine and Gilmore have a penchant for models built around 2×2 matrices, and they devote an early chapter to aspects of effective experience. Personally, I prefer Grimaldi’s adaptation of Desmet and Hekkert’s experience design framework because it is more flexible . Overall this book now seems a bit dated, having been surpassed by social innovation and the Internet of Things. What is lacking for me is serious critique. I found myself pining for Ian Bogost’s amazing essay “Welcome to Dataland” as I read Pine and Gilmore’s retelling of the history of Disney experience design.
The chapter I like the most is entitled “Performing to Form”, which makes the argument that workers can draw on four classic forms of theatre to craft and hone authentic workplace performances:
Pine and Gilmore spend a lot of time looking at improv and street theatre. There is no question that improv remains a popular method for business to respond to dynamic and emergent conditions. I’ve toyed with reading some of the more recent popular titles like Yes, And.. or Do Improvise, but would rather play with it as an experimental method to prototype service experiences. The most fascinating sections of the chapter were Pine and Gilmore’s analysis of street theatre, drawing extensively on Sallly Harrison-Pepper’s study of street performers in Washington Square, Drawing a Circle in the Square. The point they make is that regardless of where you work and what you do, we can all strive to cultivate performances adaptable yet thoroughly rehearsed.
What do street theatre or improv look like in you workplace?
Taken as a whole, this special issue contributes valuable and critical perspectives to the service design community.
Through conceptual and empirical studies of particular service design initiatives, the authors explore a range of important questions that service designers worldwide are facing:
How can an anthropological view of service practices usefully inform conceptions of co-design and co-production? (Blomberg and Darrah, 2015)
How do “organizational design legacies” frame and impact the kinds of change outcomes that service design can and cannot produce? (Junginger, 2015)
How might service design unpack place-making to understand community? (Predville, 2015)
What conditions and relations impact the success of experience-based co-design in the public sector? (Donetto et. al, 2015)
How do “fragile relations” amongst partners in cross-organization and cross-sectoral service network impact service design initiatives? (Hyvärinen, Lee, and Mattelmäki, 2015)
How can local service design initiatives scale across large geographical areas (Morelli 2015)
What stood out for me as I was reading these papers was the need for service designers to address power relation amongst partners and stakeholders at the outset of any service design initiatives. I was reminded of Wenger-Trayner et. al‘s call for system convenors to carefully design early interactions amongst networks of collaborators and to openly address power differentials. The papers that stood out most to me were Blomberg and Darrah’s exploration of what anthropology can offer service design, Junginger’s analysis of how existing organizational design practices (however tacit) shape and in some cases thwart service design initiatives, and Moretti’s case studies on how service design initiatives can scale.
Hyvärinen, Lee, and Mattelmäki’s exploration of “fragile relations” offers useful ideas for public sector partnerships with private sector organizations. What sticks with me is the idea that the bureaucracy of the public sector inhibits progress in complex service design initiatives and colours other participants perceptions of whether an initiative might succeed.
Morelli (2015) makes the point that the measure of a service design network at scale is not the number of users who engage with a platform but rather the number of “circles” or communities it spawns. This insight is relevant in social learning circles as a way to figure out how best to measure an initiative’s impact at scale.
What this special issue reveals for me is the complexity of service design. Lauren Currie, Wim Rampen, Fabien Segelstrom and others on Twitter are absolute correct when they playfully commented recently that there is more to Service Design than workshops, touchpoints, or digital or even design. Indeed, I am left pondering how service design is also a field at the front end of systems and organizational change that extends learning and development beyond the scope of the individual or an organization, to systems concepts like communities and regions.
If buildings can learn (cf. Stuart Brand) and organizations can learn, then how can service networks and other assemblages learn as well?
Enough philosophizing. Get you hands on the special issue and share your observations and insights.