a heaven of design concepts - beautiful and insightful

Maybe I am not the first one to discover it or to be impressed by it, anyway, I am so happy that I saw it today!!! and can't wait to share with you~

I rememeber years ago I came across a report produced by Debberly Design Office (ddo) on design process and was impressed by the nice way they articulated the evolving complexity embedded in different proposals of design process.

Guess now I am off to have a close look at all these diagrams - have to say as an information architect I love diagrams ;-)

By the way, this one is my favourite - was looking for something that present a rather distributed pattern for design process, and it's there~ right there~

image from Dubberly Design Office website, access via


Thesis 3.0 ?!

I was writing the Research Design chapter last night and had a sudden panic - realized that I will need a third round of sampling ( well... theoretical sampling this time) to further some inquires around the recognition of KM in SD practice... Still working on the best way to ask these questions... trying to find a way to grab some data quickly by the end of this year :-S

Any suggestions on how to do it? I am thinking of skyp interviews or email interviews... maybe kidnap some people on SDThink night on 19th Nov will be another solution ;-) By the way, anyone who is going that night (and perhaps want to be kidnapped as well...)?

Good news is that the categorise are coming together - slowly... my god... time, time, time...

Last week, I made a revisit to the thesis structure and here we go, a thesis 3.0:


Interdisciplinary Discovery Through Design

This workshop was hold on 28 September by the Design for 21st Century in the Imperial War Museum. The workshop aimed to collect the diverse knowledge in the room to contribute ideas for developing new design policies by (1) presenting five design research project in the Design for 21st Century initiative to share their empirical learning (2) stimulate discussions about topics of the contribution of design researchers on reflections of these five projects and in general.

Amongst the five project presentations in the morning - all interesting projects - I was especially impressed by two.

The BikeOff project was based on the idea of design against crime. The project looked at design for bike riders' security issues, and developed ideas that can go on to further commissions in manufacturing. At first glance, it was a typical multi-disciplinary design project with inputs from crime scientist, designer, engineers, social scientist and many other extended stakeholders. What I find interesting is the way the project was managed with what they called 'An Open Innovation Research Approach'. The project demonstrated how using overlapping research processes carried out by different stakeholder groups achieved the transformation from multi-disciplinary to inter-disciplinary, where the hybrid ideas start to emerge in prototyping stages, and also the design outputs became more diverse. Especially the approach was good at efficiently develop product (perhaps services as well) to explore unrealized marketing needs, rather than develop predicted outputs as planned in the first place. Guess this is what was missing in many NPD and NSD literature. We were taught to be so busy controlling and defining the process of design that it becomes so easy to forget to enjoy the discovery, the iterative exploration that leads to new territories.

The other one was the Design for Services project presented by Lucy Kimbell – I believe most of you guysa are familiar with this project. In her presentation, Lucy talked about the designer’s unique approach to generate knowledge through practice, which was not really discussed much in other of her publications. Although I temporary moved my research focus a bit away from the whole knowledge creation literautre, it was still nice to hear other's reflections on a similar subject.

We were then asked to discuss in groups and to fill in paper that describes the contribution of ‘design researcher’ – and somehow this is a confusing term. As some people in the room came from an academic background, thus researcher means ‘people who studies design’, but others (like our group) saw the role expended into the researchers who actually worked in design processes and contribute to the design outcome. If we look at the five projects presented in the room, all reflected a part of knowledge on the ‘study of design’, but most of these learning come from actually conducting the design practice. So did it mean ‘design research = design’ then?!

Out of all the answers we put on the paper, I personally found ‘giving people a voice’ is the one that capture design reearcher's perspective the best. As it could suggest the use of visualisation but keep the empathy and the central focus on people (either as user, stakeholder, or research subjects…) When one of the participants in the final discussion part pointed out that ‘imagination or creativity’ is missing from the key skills of designers. Is that we are just too close and we don’t see it anymore? No, I don’t think design profession is all about creativity or imagination. Everyone is creative and imaginary if they have the confidence and the voice to communicate, to share, and to impress. The value many of the pioneering designers in the field – a lot of them in Service Design but also many from other design areas – is to give people the voice and the confidence to be creative and imaginary so that they can see, create and implement solution for their own problems.

One of the highlight of the event to me, personally, was actually meet many of old friends who share a similar interest in Design and Research. Lauren Tan, a PhD in Service Design as well as good friend also blogged her thoughts on her blog. A pleasant surprise was to meet Ahmad Beltagui from Nottingham University Business School at the event, who then introduced me to a really helpful paper on 'What is not a Grounded Theory', which motivated me to kick off the Research Design chapter this week. Sometime, I do wonder why we keep going all over place to attend these events and perhaps we thought we know the presentations so well already. But what I often found out is that when a group of people with a similar interest were put in a room under a certain task, good stuff do come out from somewhere we didn’t expect.

... more picutres on Flickr ...


Take a bow

I still remember the night, it was a Friday just like today.

I was standing in the crowds in the Lower Gallery when Lily went up to me and said: 'would you like to work for MDes as a teaching fellow?' I said 'yes' - which is one of the best decisions I have ever made. That was my own year of graduating Master of Design, and the night was the Master exhibition openning. I was simply enjoying the celebration and looking forward to the back-pack trip around Europe the next week. At that time, I perhaps didn't yet realize that what happened after I got back to Dundee was better than the most amazing journey I have ever dreamed of.

It was exactly three years ago.

Tonight I am witnessing a new group of 13 students enjoying their celebration and planning for their next step. So am I. This is my final week of being the ‘teaching fellow’ of MDes at the University of Dundee. Again I am at the point of facing a new journey in front of me. I am so happy that I still have courage to step into all the unknowns of my life, to make changes and to look forward to adventures.

Master of Design has been and will always be part of me. I had truly enjoyed every minutes spent with my brilliant colleagues and my inspiring students. I hope that they had enjoyed my company as well.

It is the time, the time to take my bow and start a new journey, maybe a completely different one but I know I will enjoy it just as I have enjoyed this one.


the end of design? the re-brith of design!

Yesterday we had a truly inspiring lecture from my brilliant colleagues Tom Inns and Mike Press in University of Dundee, as part of the Master of Design student project exhibition opening.

Tom took us back to his river of Design History. He also predicted that the sunny but highly pressured area of emerging design archipelago (service design included of course) which looks at real issues in our complex life is suggesting a re-birth of Design as a discipline. The world is witnessing an revolution brought about by new ways of communication, of living with the natural and artificial environment around us and of operating corporate, thus new generation of designers are exploring their ways into the challenging but exciting future – the best examples of which is right here on the Master’s exhibition.

Mike suggested that we were here not looking at the end of a master programme, or the end of design, but were celebrating the new beginning of a different journey ahead of our Master graduates, as well as us as designers and design researchers. Design is about the vision, the imagination of what the world was like, should be like and could be like. Mike introduced some of his design heroes (well, in fact most of them were not really recognized as ‘designers’… ) who believed that design is valuable to improve life by different means of, for example public services, engagement and empathy. ‘Nothing was too good for the public’ as Mike stated in his speech, there was a time when designers and artists were actively engaged in communities in public services to deliver effective, efficient and empathic solutions and motivations. It is time we look back upon these heroes, and set out a new phase of design which described as ‘Social Design’ by Mike. How do we create alternatives to social issues? There were principles suggested in last night’s presentation as:

  • Empathy and user-centred,
  • Co-creation and co-design,
  • Service focused,
  • Cultural inclusion,
  • Socially engaged,
  • Empathasis on well-being, and
  • Connected.

These principles as well set out the guidance of the 13 projects undertook by the Master of Design students for the past year. If you are interested in having a look at these projects in more details, please visit

As well for more information about the Master of Design course at the University of Dundee, please visit

The one-hour lecture was videoed and it is expected to be made available online soon. I am providing a lecture note just to easy your waiting ;-]


The End of Design

I had a really busy but exciting start of the week today, we are puting together the Master of Design Exhibition!

Here is an invitation for all:

you are invited to an exclusive preview evening showcasing the work of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Master of Design students alongside an exciting lecture by Professors Tom Inns and Mike Press.

Drinks Reception & Exhibition Preview 10th September, 2009, 5.15pm – Lecture 6-7pm – Dalhousie Building

Modern design has run its course. The challenges of our age demands a new design; in place of designing for desire we should design for inclusion, understanding and real world problem solving. The power of design thinking presents us with new opportunities for the future.

As Scotland's top rated institution for research design, the University of Dundee is uniquely placed to set out a new vision for the future of design. In this special lecture, Professors Tom Inns and Mike Press - both internationally acknowledged writers, researchers and broadcasters on design - provide a provocative and visionary of design in the 21st Century.

Evidence of this new design is seen in the work of this year's graduating Masters of Design students. The lecture accompanies their masters exhibition, providing vital contexts and insights into their work. Together, the lecture and exhibition emphasise Dundee's unique approach to the research and practice of design.

Don't worry if you can't make it, there is the project profile that will give an overview of what we are doing up here~ Enjoy!


PhD summer school

I was in the PhD Summer School last week for four days, had a nice eye-opening on the PhD projects going on in Dundee and also couple of from elsewhere in Britain. The first day we were asked to bring in a poster, thus, there is my homework:

On the second day we watched a video explainning the process of viva, and it was really great to see how the process is likely to be and what are the tips we can take. I am only writing up, but it's always good to know the next step.

I also did a 10 min presentation on the project, and got a lot of feedbacks - especially useful comments from Seaton. He also commented on the idea of 'unity of the diversity' - exactlly what I was look for in the case studies, that holding idea that makes Service Design Service Design, it can be a ideology or just a believe... mmnnn... Eva who did her PhD on craft and visualisation was saying 'to craftman the craft practice is a lifestyle', so what is Service Design to service designers?

We had two finishing PhD coming in talking about thesis writing and viva experience as well. Some good tips here:
* add a biographical note - it's nice to let the readers 'know' you as a human and understand how many decisions in the research process are influenced by where you come from;
* have a thesis outline as part of the introduction - I have done that, and my supervisors and I are using it as a graph tool to communicate the achieves of my writing, it works really well!
* bring evidence to viva - one of the outstanding characteristics of Art and Design research lies in the visual thinking process, therefore, it is reasonable to show that process as supporting material in the viva. I guess all my big big A1 sheets and wallpapers are getting into the room with me!
* prepare some tea or coffee, make sure the viva environment is as comfortable for conversation as possible. Sometimes viva can go over 2 hours, so having some water by hand is always handy (for you and the for your examiners...) also it is ture that the purpose of viva is to give the candidate the chance to indicate their ability of taking part in academic debate and defencing their arguement, so it is more like a discussion you can pick up in the conference rather than a question-answer type of interview.

Well... the future seems bright so far... Aiming at first draft before November, so... go go go~ this week I hope to hit at 20,000 words!


a bit of travelling this winter in Scandinavian area

Got a bit planning going on - just to relax my fingures from writing...

Am off to Oslo for the conference 24-26, and will be spending 23th -28th there... gotta enjoy the city, don't I?

And I also got a really lovely invitation from Katarina Wetter Edman to visit the Service Research Center - CTF at Karlstad University... excited! So spending two days there will be my plan.

After Karlstad, I quite fancy heading to Stockholm and maybe spend 4-5 days there, just wondering around the Christmas markets!

So basically I have about 3 days free in Oslo and 4-5 days free in Stockholm…

To be honest, I don’t know these areas quite well, so any of you have suggestions of must-visit-places? Or even another invitation to show me around your place?

Definitely would love to make some new friends as well ;-]

Got another invitation to visit Fabian Segelström in Linköping - this journey is becoming more and more exciting now!


people centered design - a bit discovery

just found this very informative blog:

First time I came across the term 'people centered design' was in the conference in Beijing, I think one of the presenter was talking about the different among co-design, participantry design, user centered design, people centered design and a lot of other weird-named design approaches... well, this reminds me that I haven't got the time to read through that really thick conference procedings yet... eh... more readings, more readings...


Thesis Outline ver2

Here is an update of the thesis outline, after a really helpful chat with my dear supervisors.

We had a in-depth discussion on Research Questions: what are they for in a thesis - I mean after I have done all that research, it is not simply where I started, it is somehow where I will end up going back to discuss in the final chapter as well. I, guess as well as many PhD researchers, started with a huge research question collection in the first year into the research, then we somehow end up focusing down a bit in order to concentrate our energy in actually carrying out some sort of actions to find out answers to some of the questions – well, whether we find the answer is another story yet. But when it comes to write up, it is about telling the story of this journey of finding, which means the research question here serves a different purpose. Somehow we are post-rationalize our research and try to make sense of it with very limited time and materials as we could manage to achieve in three years of learning-by-doing. It doesn’t mean that the answers we could find shapes the questions, but they do influence how we select the research questions to present in a 80,000 words thesis.

As I sign posted in this image, the literature give birth to research questions, so when we write up, each piece of literature we quoted has an aim and the findings point at the questions, which then will be structured and lead to Research Design – sometimes called the methodological approach in some thesis. The findings answer a selected group of these question collection, the discussion structure the answers again. So in terms of writing, it is very likely that we actually start from the answers and return to the questions – not that we invent research questions along the way, we select and refine them. The criteria is that they are important, they are relvant and they are interesting to read!

Any writing is about telling a story, sometimes we can start from the end of the story rather than from the start.