Thursday, 4 March 2010

design better than sex?

yesterday and today c4d - centre for competitive creative design, hosted a design thinking event at cranfield university.

it was opened last night with a prestige lecture by professor roy sandbach, researcher from procter & gamble, followed by black-tie dinner. according to dr sandbach, it was his first lecture to and audience (almost) all dressed-up in dinner jackets! his lecture started talking about the longevity of procter & gamble, a company founded in 1837, probably the oldest company in the field of consumer goods operating in the world, a business of 83 billion dollars operating brands estimated in 24 billion dollars. and how p&g delivers superior value and reliability to its costumers - a continuous concern of the manufacturer in a market where the re-purchase cycle of goods is less than a month. according to him, this aim is reached with "open innovation through a design lens" (part of the title of his lecture). an approach of connect & develop instead of research & develop, valuing networking, managing know-who as much as know-how, and doing one-to-one research directly with the consumer all over the world.

this morning session was opened by simon bolton, head of c4d, who talked about the growing importance of design in a very eloquent and self-explanatory demonstration: if you search google for the word god, you will get about 366 million results; sex will return 533 million; but design is hitting 1 billion! so, according to him, design could be regarded as an issue hottest than sex and god altogether...

following simon, leslie morris, from the uk design council, talked about how important it is to communicate properly the value of good design, quoting research findings that more than 90% of the population of the uk think design has to do with fashion, furniture and cars only. she had also shown some of the programs developed by the design council for the private and public sectors, as designing demand, design bugs out, design for patient dignity and design out crime, as well as programs with universities trying to define the skills needed by the young designers reaching the market today. (all these programs could be found at the design council website)

roy sandbach once more talked about procter & gamble holistic product design approach, were function and emotion both play a significant and equivalent role. and that design should bring the right brain creativity together with the left brain strategy.

simon king, operations & it director from imagination, showed how his company is constantly innovating and renewing itself in the market, in the relations and services offered to their clients, as well as inside itself, in its environment, and the internal relations between their employees. closing the morning, richard barrett, from c4d, chaired a debate with the guests.

the afternoon was a showcase of the c4d and its partner school, lcc, the london college of communication, with presentations by michael goatman, alison prendiville and martin grant (who organized the event).

in the hall, outside the vincent building auditorium, a small exhibition about design thinking showed in six products how design can make a difference.

almost in front of the vincent building, across de parking lot, the new c4d building is getting shape, all-timber and glass, a promise of a bright future for creative competitive design at cranfield university:

Friday, 15 January 2010

design: by all? - day 2, closing

(this is the fourth and last part of my notes on the event about design promotion and design policies in the european union, organized by apci under the competent coordination of jean schneider on 11 and 12 january 2010. see the first three parts on my previous posts.)

design and innovation at the european comission:

the last presentation of the conference was given by charlotte arwidi, from the european commission, giving further information on the development of the theme design and innovation from the perspective of the commission. as an introduction it were shown the video testimonials of françoise le bail, deputy director-general of enterprise and industry and jean-noël durvy, director of innovation policy at the european commission. she pointed that the european commission had stated that design should be an integral part of innovation policies, showing a slide with the following conclusions taken from the document “towards a competitive, innovative and eco-efficient europe – a contribution by the competitiveness council to the post-2010 lisbon agenda(item 33, p 8 - download it here):

(the council) “considers that the european innovation plan should include all forms of innovation in both the public and the private sector, including non-technological innovation, research-based innovation, innovation in services, design and eco-innovation”

charlotte arwidi also quoted the manifesto for for creativity and innovation in europe, released by several lead-thinkers last year in the context of the european innovation year of 2009, as well as the document already referred above, design as a driver of user-centered innovation, which, in short:

- analyses the contribution of design to innovation;

- broadens the concept of design from a policy perspective;

- concludes that design has untapped potential as driver of competitiveness and innovation as not all companies, sectors and member states make full use of design;

- suggests that design could be an integral part of european innovation policy.

(note: this is indeed one of the core importance documents released about design policies, which I suggest you to download from the link above)

notwithstanding all the development already reached, charlotte pointed as the main barriers identified to the better use of design:

- lack of awareness and understanding of the potential of design among policy makers

- lack of knowledge and tools to evaluate the rate of return on design investment

- lack of awareness and understanding among potential design customers, i.e. private and public organizations

at the closing of the presentation, were indicated some possible next steps:

- the launch of an initiative as part of the new european innovation policy?

- a platform / community / initiative to develop priorities and joint actions?

- improve evidence base on design, e.g. with oecd (organization for economic co-operation and development)?

- addressing innovation skills, including design?

- mainstreaming design into other policy areas?

- label for "responsible design"?

- innovation labs?

a new plan should be released in the next months (spring 2010), and its release should be looked after at the innovation unlimited blog or at the enterprise and industry website.

commenting on her presentation (which was, by the way, applauded by the audience in recognition of the work being done in favour of design at the european commission), ian starvik, president of beda (the bureau of european design associations) pointed that the difficult question of assessment for design policies has already been addressed in two design effectiveness awards issued by denmark and the united kingdom (the later promoted by dba, design business association), and soon there will be indicators that could help validate these initiatives.

this was indeed a great closing speech, one bringing hope with the ways design is beginning to be considered by governments or by ultra-governmental organisms. after that, jean schneider and anne marie boutin addressed to the audience just to close the works of the conference, and hoping to meet everyone again next year in paris.

design: by all? - day 2, first part

this is the third of four parts with my notes on the event about design promotion and design policies in the european union, organized by apci under the competent coordination of jean schneider on 11 and 12 january 2010. see the first two parts on my previous posts.

the second day - morning:

yves robin, from the french ministry of the economy, industry and employment, at the opening address of the the second day stressed the highest importance of design as an innovation tool quoting the recent document issued by the european union – design as a driver of user-centered innovation – as well as the actions taken by the french government to promote design awareness, specially aiming at smes, as well as the fostering of quality training and research on the field in universities at all levels, from basic to postgraduate and continuing education.

the initial statement was followed by an industry cases panel, chaired by darragh murphy, from pdr, the national centre for product design & development research at the university of wales, cardiff.

the three speakers – from large companies based respectively in france, united states and germany - talked about innovation in industry in times of crisis. the first was thomas bertin-mourot, managing director of quantum glass, a division of saint-gobin, one of the most traditional (and old) glass industries in the world. his division is developing products that challenge the glass industry and find new or renewed uses for glass allied or incorporating lighting and other technologies – with surprising results (check their website).

his presentation was followed by patrick mcgowan, art director from ibm lotus software user experience design, who talked about his process of work and his beliefs – as that “designers can establish intrinsic business values by de-mystifying and actively sharing process with non-designers.” and also that “it is through the lens of design thinking that value and quality are added to projects.” as everyone did during the conference, he advocated the importance of the co-design process within the industry as well, to create stronger design awareness.

robert sachon, head of brand design at bosch-siemens group, was the last of the representatives from industry to talk, emphasizing that good brands perform even on bad times. he quoted a phrase from robert bosch, founder of the company – “i would rather loose money than the trust of my customers” – to highlight the compromise of the company with its principles of integrity in all company actions, product quality and socially responsible behaviour. robert also presented some aspects of the global design philosophy of the company, and numbers to support the performance of the company that kept on the top of the market even during the world crisis.

darragh murphy, the chair of the panel, followed talking also about industry performance in times of crisis. he took examples from the design management europe award, comparing the performance of companies that won the award in 2008 poiting that despite the crisis most of the companies showed positive results in 2009, and that the decisions on design strategy were not necessarily tied to their turnover, showing companies that, nonetheless their descent turnovers, kept investing the same in design and others that, even doesn’t showing any growth in 2009, raised the investments in design. his conclusions: “where design is a supportive activity, companies invest in design according to their performance”, and “where design is a core activity, companies invest heavily in design to overcome poor performance”.

the second day - afternoon:

the session in the afternoon of the second day was chaired by jean schneider, and had begun with the presentation from the representative of the 27th region, stéphane vincent, about territories in residences: design and the co-conception of public policies. the name 27th region is a word game with the french geo-political division in 26 regions, and is a project to “hack” design inside policy planning, according to stéphane. the ngo will launch next april a book entitled design des politiques publiques, about the design of public policies (and not of public design policies), and how to cope with new social demands and empowerment of citizens and communities to make their voice heard. their project territories en residences brings a team of specialists to live in a region / community during 3 months, working with locals to find new ways to deal with their demands.

next speaker was pelle ehn, professor from the university of malmö, sweden, with “design things – social innovation, design thinking and living labs”. he explained the audience the meaning of the word "thing” in germanic societies as a governing assembly. in his view, designers should deal less with objects, shifting from the first class of “things: objects” to that second class of “things: governance”. professor ehn made the audience go through the design thinking from the 70’s of design-by-doing or design-by-planning towards what it should be, according to him, the design after design – the infrastructuring of things, where we should design for future and unforeseen users and uses.

sara de boer, from t+huis, an organization that uses design thinking to solve community problems in eidhoven, holland, had shown a project together with caren weisleder, from the köln international school of design, kisd. this project deals with street prostitution trying to get some innovative insights to help the local authorities solve a problem of relocation, among others. the curious fact about this project is that many ngos have tried to work this out without being really successful, and then the local government decided to give it a last try with design thinking, inviting kisd and design academy eindhoven, with the mediation of t+huis.

(since the website of t+huis was not working properly, here are the links for the project at the design for service blog as well as a video of from a presentation of the on the road kisd project to the eindhoven council)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

design: by all? - day 1, afternoon

this is the second part of my notes about the event about design promotion and design policies in the european union, organized by apci under the competent coordination of jean schneider on 11 and 12 january 2010. see the first part on my previous post.

territorial living lab, sicily:

tll sicily, a regional partnership for territorial innovation, was the theme of the first presentation of the afternoon, presented by jesse marsh, from the atelier studio associatio, italy. his talk begun showing the contrast of the last decades fiascos of the big telecom industries (like video on demand in the 80’s; wap in the 90’s; umts in the 00’s) with the later socially driven achievements in blogs, social networks, wikipedia, facebook.

using this new kind of technological platform, with fast prototyping methods, pervasive infrastructure and social networks, you can more easily get people involved in planning. but just getting people together is not enough – you got to have structured models assigning each one’s role on the process: who are the actors, what are the roles (and rules) to be played, where to get the funding (which might not necessarily be financial). in this sense a living lab is a multi-stakeholder partnership, involving available ict r&d (from universities, multinationals, smes) together with society (represented by associations, ngos, citizen groups) and local or regional authorities.

according to the speaker, tll sicily uses a virtuous partnership model, where actors are entitled to propose projects which will involve the others, generating a snowball effect (or a virtuous cycle). in this sense it is bringing territorial capital together, as much as in the dott cornwall programme presented earlier, where a blank page is being filed by each citizen.

then, if you are not going to tell people what they need, you have to provide them with proper tools to express and be heard.

today's innovation thinking is moving from building infrastructures to building networks. and also from sectorial policies to territorial policies, requiring new instruments to accomplish these tasks. regions have the responsibility to be creative and provide a demand-driven innovation policy. the european union has the role of providing legitimacy to design profession, and the new emerging role for designers is that of working at the level of policy planning.

(i have posted below an interesting set of four slides taken from the presentation with thoughts about a new role for regions, regional innovation policies, trends in innovation thinking and finally, a new role for design in this context. - click on the image to view it enlarged in another tab or window.)

the cudillero living lab – a fisherman’s experience

next speaker of the afternoon was salvador marques, head of the fishermen union from cudillero, spain. it was one inspiring example from someone that embraces the practical aspects of it as a doer, not a designer or a thinker. salvador is one of those community leaders that everyone described as fundamental partners to make it happen. he and his fellow fishermen from cudillero living lab share a spirit of environmental conservationism, knowing the importance of keeping their business in a scale of traditional fishing. his village has 100 square kilometres and less than 6 thousand inhabitants, and fishing represents 26% of local economy. it is a beautiful region, and the village is always facing the sea, as salvador commented showing the picture of the port square in the format of a horseshoe.

with their 60 boats and 950 fishermen they sold one million euros at fish auctions in 2008. but threatened with the changes in the world economy, they decided to invest in the quality and optimization of their production. their fish goes from the fish lines to the market in less than 24 hours. to distinguish themselves from others who freeze the fish on their boats, they have hired a consultancy to develop a system which combines gps monitoring system and a rigorous automatic control of the boats getting out and back in the port. the buyer receives by mobile messaging system information about the catches before the boat arrives at the port.

to communicate it, they developed a brand strategy focused on the quality and a geographical label, assuring the origin of the merlus they fish. this quality and territory label granted them a better price in the market.

gisele raulik, chairing the table, emphasized that in the way this project was planned and managed it has assured added value without interfering with the traditional craft of fishing, and it should be a lesson to designers dealing with other raditional sectors.

community engagement at newcastle:

philip joyce was the next speaker, talking briefly about the experience of the city of newcastle, that with the leadership of the city council, brought together several local actors – public and civilian – to build strong, active and inclusive communities.

bringing in a different vision of communities, he defined it either by geography, identity or interests. he also talked about the differences between engaging the community and empowering it. according to him, engaging doesn’t mean to have them heard.

city move - how to design the moving of a city?

gellivare, sweden: the local iron mining industry is expanding and the city ground is crumbling under the present buildings… the challenge: is it possible to move an entire society? well, this should be the chance to get a new start!

claess frössén, head of creative industry relations svid, the swedish industrial design foundation, spoke about this moving (in many senses) project, with many different implications. when svid was approached with this challenge, they thought it might be a good subject for an icsid interdesign workshop. these workshops are aimed to solve local problems aiding to develop solutions or methodologies that might be later applied somewhere else in the world.

the city move multidisciplinary workshop was then held in gellivare, from 22 march to 3 april of 2009, bringing designers and other specialists from the whole world to discuss the issue with the local community. there were 200 applications to participate in the workshop, and 38 were choosen, coming from 17 countries, and counting with two full-time process leaders and a small local support team. they got a budget around 700 thousand euros for the project, and established a knowledge centre on how to move a community. they questioned traditional methods of moving that were already being applied, like moving whole houses – there is no sense in moving an old wooden house to a new location!

as a result from the workshop, there were four cornerstone with strategies for the organization, communication, attraction and planned environment.

this is a great case study where design and design methods were applied to change the concept of relocating a community, and shows that design thinking can be used in any scale. other conclusions were that the user need to be involved in the process, not only focused in it, and that complex problems needs a complex mix of competences – cities need designers and brand managers, not only architects.

undoubtedly there are many places around the world that could learn a lot from this experience, and I think specially in my own city, rio de janeiro, with the frequent problems it faces, either with the tragedies of land sliding or the challenges of moving the communities living in the favelas to better and safer places.

closing the first day:

gisele raulik, from design wales, hosted the closing debate of the first day, with an insightful view of how the traditional, government-led approach of policy making is giving way to grassroots initiatives, user-centered and community level programmes.

nabeel hamdi remembered that we left behind not the great projects we’ve done, but the path to other great projects to come.

andrea siodmok endorsed this idea, saying that at dott they always talk about next practice rather than best practice – the later being a vision of the past, while the next practice, well, it’s the next thing to do!

she also pointed that the unique thing that design brings is to connect things from concept to results, and with design the ink is never dry – you’re always up to do new things, to view it in a different way. and that design is a great methodology when times are changing.

michael thomson, former president of beda (the bureau of european design associations), commented that design thinking should be brought into education in the same way that mathematic is taught, enabling young people to develop creative thinking for life.

design: by all? - day 1, morning

i will post here my notes on the 7th european conference on design promotion, that was held at the cité des sciences et de l'industrie, paris, on 10 and 12 january 2010.


anne marie boutin, president of apci, the french agency for design promotion, opened the conference accounting some of the achievements and challenges for design promotion that should be addressed during the two days of the event. the opening was followed by jean schneider, organizer of the conference, who told the audience that after the frustrating results of the copenhagen summit cop15, last december, designers should encompass the challenge to recover the issue of sustainability with all the strength it deserves.

small change:

and it was with this spirit that professor nabeel hamdi presented his inspiring opening lecture on "design and the art of enablement". he is an architect, professor emeritus of oxford brooks university, and the author of the book "small change". and professor hamdi, who defines himself as a "development practitioner", said that we have to broaden the concept of design to address the social needs and moral accountability - and addressing poverty we are not dealing with minorities, but with the large majority of the world’s population. only 5% of habitations in the world are designed – where are the architects working instead of the other 95%?, he asked.

in his activity helping to solve problems for this majority, he had also been called an "urban acupuncturist", for promoting small changes that will lead to greater achievements in the course of time for these populations. human processes need design structures, but the challenge is to reach a balance of how much structure do we need and how much freedom is left for us inside this structured world. as an example, he quoted a story about london bus drivers that, questioned about the frequent complaints from customers for not stopping at bus stops, asked: how could we stay in our timetables if we stop to every waving passenger at the bus stops?

concluding, he pointed that we need designers to act as catalysts, understanding the real needs of users and working together with them, and to reverse the question to what is the least we can do to get the things done.

(note: keep an eye on his new book, to be published next april - "the placemaker's guide to building community")

dott cornwall:

next speaker was the director of dott cornwall and former chief design officer of the uk design council, andrea siodmok. cornwall won a competition promoted by the uk design council among several cities to run and host the second project “designs of the time” – or simply dott. The project involves the uk design council, cornwall council and the university college falmouth.

(by the way – don't you agree with me this is a very interesting concept? to run a competition among cities to choose which one will receive a programme - this way, the applicant cities get compromised with the scope of the project and are co-responsible with it from the very beginning.)

the programme has a very daring “envelope-type”, that uses design methods and approaches to co-design with the community. according to andrea, it acts as a catalyst, or a hot house, in the belief that if you intend to promote changes, you have to be engaged in the dynamic process of change in the society, as a blank page that has to be written in a co-designing process with the society itself. the idea of a blank page begins from their website, where the people from cornwall was invited to collaborate sending pictures of “designs of the time” from the region. and every picture is being uploaded to compose a photo-wall at the website's main page.

one of the tools used to reach the local population is the blog designing communities, which uses tools as mobile instant messaging to involve people in designing local services.

design council has a long term framework of ten years for dott projects, and took 18 months to plan and release dott cornwall, which is run by a small team composed by andrea siodmok, john thackara and robert o'dowd, with a small window of time to deal with – a one-year contract.

according to andrea, the most rewarding thing about dott are the community-led projects and to assemble the specialists to work together with the community. it doesn't really matters were the projects come from: transport, health, skills, redefining services and other community projects are the main goals. at a first moment the local people expected designers to come and design things for them, not to develop ethnographic studies or co-design with them. in doing so, it was given to the population the real opportunity to influence on the country's policy (because whatever happens there will echo to the rest of the country)

the current european projects tends to be much prescriptive, and it is difficult to bridge the gap between massive governmental or international projects and small design firms – and that gap has to be crossed. design council and programes like dott are trying to fill this role, sometimes translating huge documents to real-world language.

dott will promote a think tank meeting in march, and a conference in the middle of the year to showcase the projects so far being developed.

city eco-lab:

nathalie arnauld, design and environment project leader from the cité du design saint-étienne, was the next speaker, talking about another project, the city eco-lab, that deals with the same perspective of bringing the citizen as an actor of change himself.

in the methodology adopted, the first step was to spot people who could make things change, and to promote meetings and workshops. and also to find examples of other places around the world where people have similar problems and how these were solved, or what solutions are being considered, sharing these ideas with the local community.

one of the projects being developed is a food project to offer fresh products (not freezed) from local producers within an 80 kilometres range. the project also teaches people to optimize their own gardens to grow some vegetables. there is also a project on transportation, showing the many possibilities and advantages of using bikes, besides developing new uses for it.

the city eco-lab is embracing the challenge on how to show (visually) to the population how every little action have an impact, specially addressing the challenge of the european union to have reduced the co2 emissions, the energy consumption and the use of renewable energy sources each one by 20% at the year 2020. and in this context, one of the roles design should play, according to nathalie, was to pull ahead and to value the innovative behaviours.

habitat and participation:

the last speaker in the first morning was daniel mignolet, head of the belgian project habitat and participation. he begun talking about how shocking was the finding that 15% of belgium population is beyond the level of poverty. the contact with the government made them feel that the proposed changes might take 50 years to be implemented. so, the project turned to the citizens to enable them to participate and to believe they could promote change.

it was presented a scale of the level of participation of citizens (proposed by sherry arnstein, 1969), going from the absence of participation where manipulation is the general role, to the partnerships, and empowerment of an effective participation:

daniel presented other models – as in the triangle of mobilization, where the needs, desires and opportunities interact to generate motivation – and pointed that citizens should not be invited only to fulfil an empty role in the process. according to him, designers should consider how to address and involve the population, since the politicians and governments had failed to do so. there is no meaning in inviting people to come to a community centre at night, tired after their daily journeys, to show them how wonderful will be the project of the new bridge and ask them only to choose what colour it should be painted!

the ways we manage things has to go through a change, and it is mean to come from local, regional communities and governments, not from central or national governmental bodies.

– that concluded an inspiring first morning of activities!