Someone using a mobile phone to take a photo Image: janitors @ Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/janitors/14368191486
Design, Presentations

Mobile diaries

This is a cross-posting of a post originally published on the IDX Backstage Blog.

It was prepared as a “leave behind” resource for participants at the 2014 Design for Social Innovation conference who attended the speed teaching session I hosted on mobile diaries.

In the spirit of Legible Practice I wanted to document in a bit more detail some of the aspects of what was discussed in those sessions. I hope this is a useful resource for participants and those who weren’t able to attend but are interested in the method. I’d be delighted to hear any feedback you might have…

Header image: janitors @ Flickr

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Superhero activity example
Design, Tips

The value of workshop superheroes

This is a cross-post from the Indigenous Digital Excellence “backstage” blog.

Some time ago I came across an idea/method from Adaptive Path that the authors dubbed Design a superhero. In that blog post, Leah Buley outlines the method and how she’d had some success using the method in the context of user interviews as a fun and engaging way to gather user requirements.

I really liked the idea and felt that the method may also have utility in a workshop context as an introductory activity. I’ve since had the opportunity to test that theory in a number of workshops (with some minor variation from Leah’s original description) and have found it very effective in this context. Continue reading

Design

Insights into co-design

Zumio co-conspirators Penny Hagan and Natalie Rowland have just published an excellent introduction to co-design methods over at Johnny Holland: Enabling Codesign.

While I could quote some excellent points from across the whole piece, I’ll start with this introduction:

Involvement of ‘users’ early in the research and ideation phases of the design process is often equated to “asking users what they want”. (A certain quote oft attributed to Ford comes to mind). Codesign however, goes well beyond this. The premise is that ‘users’ become partners. Rather than being viewed as a source of information to be input into the design process, those impacted by the design are invited to work actively with designers to shape the definition and direction of the project. Participation can include sharing personal experiences and perspectives, contributing to the generation of new design concepts, the evolution of those concepts, analysis, interpretation, decision making, evaluation and more.

When taking a codesign approach it is our role as designers to facilitate that participation. At the beginning of the design process we work with users to understand the design project in relation to their everyday lives including their habits, rituals, dreams, attitudes and experiences. These then become resources for inspiring design concepts and direction. In order for people to actively and effectively participate in the design process they must be able to imagine, access, and express their experiences and expectations. Simply asking people questions is not enough to facilitate this process. This is because people are not explicit sources of information. As humans we are limited in what we can express by our existing frames of reference, we can only talk in the language that we know.

This (perhaps unsurprisingly) reflects Zumio’s approach, and our process is strongly geared towards enabling this type of participation. Penny’s and Natalie’s article does a great job at providing some insight into the thinking behind some of the methods we employ to achieve this goal. Congrats (and thanks) to Penny and Natalie for producing yet another great resource for the UX/service design community…

Business 2.0, Sustainability

The social side of sustainability

I’ve been thinking about how the techniques we use at Zumio suit organisations looking to become more sustainable. Sustainability, of course, is a social challenge as much as a technical one – while eco-efficiency (making products using more sustainable materials and processes) is a critical aspect, many of the barriers to more sustainable practice have social aspects.

Today I’ve been thinking about two areas in particular that can benefit from research and social design methods – they are Product Service Systems (PSS) and organisational capabilities building and communication.

PSS

While PSS in and of itself is not a panacea, the concept will no doubt play an important role in our shift towards a sustainable economy.

Qualitative research methods are very well suited to understanding the broader context of user needs and motivations, an essential component of defining and identifying opportunities for PSS.

Many of the benefits from service design principles (including prototyping and user testing) can then be applied to the development of the PSS to help increase uptake, among other things. An example of this can be seen in live|work’s work with Streetcar.

Organisational capacity building and communications

BSR and IDEO’s Aligned for Sustainability (PDF) report outlines a number of factors required for building sustainable thinking within an organisation. The report suggests that cross-functional communications, sharing learnings, and collaborative problem solving with people throughout an organisation are all important facets of building such capacity.

Social technologies, or “Enterprise 2.0” approaches, can clearly play an important role here. But design approaches such as stakeholder workshops, personas, customer journey mapping, prototyping – especially when collaboratively generated – can all help with both building capacity (through better sharing of learnings and incorporating more diverse input in the design process) and communicating concepts and learning.

So it seems to me that the same tools that we can apply to generate opportunities for innovation can also be applied to achieve sustainable outcomes. In this model, far from sustainability being an “added cost” over an above standard operations, we can instead frame sustainability thinking as a lever for innovation. To me, this is a very exciting prospect, and something I’m looking forward to exploring further…