Exciting Glasgow

Spend whole day walking around Glasgow yesterday... the weather was pretty good!

Went to a workshop in Hub in the morning, the Technologie Strategy Board (TSB) is giving out a good amount of money to fund projects that 'accessing and commercialising content in a digitally networked world', the deadline is 23 April. Great chance if you have digital/communication related ideas to commercialise. To apply:

Met up with Florence for a wee chat and accidentally found out that Distence Lab is having a event in Lighthouse in the evening. It was a showcase of couple of very interesting projects going on in Distence Lab, all somehow related to the idea of 'distence communication'. Couple of ideas are very experiental while the others are really practical. My personal faviourt is the 'boxing over a distance', we shall get one for the studio!!!!


the new world of working

Had a interesting converstion with Arne at DesignThinkers today... and one thing leads to another, Arne send over a link of Work 2.0 then I find another little piece of video from Lisa Bodell from FutureThink, talking about emerging concepts in Human Capital Management from an innovation perspective. Well... to be honest, I am not really such a big fan of getting Gen Y standing stand out from all other generations, as I kinda consider it more of a marketing invention to make more money out of us... but I do believe that our working is changing, no matter it is for good or for bad. Let's see what Lisa says...



NESTA launched THE LAB to encourage projects around public service innovation.

"The Lab provides the freedom, flexible capital and expertise to undertake radical experiments. It tests out new ways of finding and spreading the best ideas - this might be by running a challenge prize, building a social ventures incubator, or creating powerful new teams of users, front-line staff and decision-makers."

THE LAB has three main part:
  • challenge lab: explores how innovation can help services respond to critical social and economic issues, starting with ageing, climate change and health;
  • methods lab:puts radical thinking into action and is where we test and assess the best ways of fostering public service innovation;
  • and learning lab: helps you to apply and spread what we learn.
Seems to a place for funding and possibly will prodcut interesting projects in the future... worth keeping an eye on it :)


visiting around

Have a lot of visiting around this month, wonder if anyone would like to meet up for a cup of coffee in my destination city?

Newcastle - going this Friday to carry out my pilot study and also to fix my little watch... will have the whole afternoon for myself... don't know the place very well... any gallery suggested?

Glasgow - for the 'Partnering for Innovation' in Glasgow on 19th March, Thursday. Anybody goes as well?

London - always exciting and welcoming- planning to visit and stay in London on both 25th and 26th, meeting lots of old, new and virtual friends. Let me know if you are around and wanna meet up for a chat or something… I have both mornings booked now but still have some time slot to wonder around! Who wants to join me watching Dirty Dancing??

wee update here: places to visit while in London...
Design Museum, BRIT INSURANCE : DESIGNS OF THE YEAR 2009, 28 Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YD
the School of Life , 70 Marchmont, London, WC1N 1AB

mmnn... where else shall I visit?


Introduction to Service Design

Find this interesting site for Service Design beginners...


public service - universal design

If we investigate our campus like this as a student group project, the result should be interesting... new workshop coming up ;o)

[thanks to DesignThinkers for the resource]


a holistic view for (service) design team

image from Boxes and Arrows

After reading Joseph Selbie's post 'Bring Holistic Awareness to Your Design' on Boxes and Arrows, I quickly made this graph here and start to wonder what is a holistic view for Serivce Design team? What's interesting is that in Joseph devide the role in the design team as Stakeholder Champion, Project Manager, Busines Analyst, User Representatives, UI Developer, Programming Lead. Although Joseph is talking about using user-central approach in web designing, I can instently see characters being reflected in many other design practice that uses a user-central approach...

What in fact bugs me a bit is the right corner circle, and I wonder if that is more of the role that service designer will play as facilitator/navigator rather than as a technology expert. But then I add on 'tool' here... in many cases service designers act as the observer or the researcher using enthnographic tools, but they also act as visual tool creator as well, eh, well that kind of fit back into the facilitator's role, isn't it? I am a bit confused here, and wonder if any of you guys has an oppinon on it?

If we step back and have a look at the 'holistic picture', we might be able to get a sense of the wholeness of all three parties. This model can be an interesting starting point to interpret the dynamic roles of people who are involved in a design project - that many of them play multiple roles at different stage or even simultaneousluy. Whomever is involved in a process at a certain stage is there for a reason, they either has certain knowledge, skill or technique to contribute, or can be benefited from the participation. Design process is often an intensive knowledge exchange, even knowledge integrating process where designer often achieve a certain level of 'inaugurative learning' (Jevnaker, 1993) with the client. So in Service Design, firstly, what is the definition of a design team? What do service designers benefit when people are involved in a project? How they make the decisions of when certain stakeholders should be getting on board, when to leave them aside? What communication techniques are used if team members come from a different background and has different purpose to join the project?


we are curious

This morning I had an interesting chat with Florence Andrews, co-founder of We Are Curious, at the Lighthouse Cafe in the gray rainy Glasgow. We Are Curious might be the only British Service Design cosultancy not located in London. (please let me know if you know of any other examples outside London!) Florence simply said, we don’t want to leave Glasgow to do service design, so we decide to start a business here. The company is established in 2005 with the support of NESTA and so far have developed a rich portfolio of design projects from education to healthcare areas.


Florence describes their work as not strictly service design, they take on many different types of work, but the key is to involve as many people as possible in the design process, especially users. In order to understand user’s needs and the social environment from which these needs emergies, often service designer need to develop a certain level of the regional knowledge that is close to the user’s day-to-day living condition. We Are Curious is very proud of the empathy towards the client organisation and the service user in their practice, especially towards the people in the Glasgow region. This makes me think of the locationlization of service systems. One of the charactieristics of service is the highly customization of cutomer offerings. That understanding of people, their love and sorrows, their dreams and fears, is perhaps the most important transferable knowledge of service designer in their various practicies.


The idea I got today is that maybe we shall encourage our young designers to try and start their service design practices wherever they are living and to seed the idea of ‘serivce thinking’ into whatever projects they are involved no matter where they will be working.

If Service Design, as Buchanan suggests, is about justice. Then justice is needed everywhere, isn’t it?. 


Silent Design

I spent las night reading this little photocopy of an article from Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas, after weeks of waiting for it to come via the Inter Library Loan from British Library... It is a report on the pilot study they did in London Business School in 1987 on how the enterprise organize itself to make best ue of design, and they proposed a very important concept in that article: Silent Design.

"[...] a great deal of design activity goes on in organizations which is not called design. It is carried out by individuals who are not called designers and who would not consider themselves to be designers. We have called this 'silent design'."

Silent Design is a key concept in my research of service design, as it describes exactly what happens during/after stakehoder's encounter with the design team.

The shame is that I only got this report on the Pilot study in the first year of their three-year project... wonder anyone knows what happened afterwards? It would be very interesting to have a look at the final results and conclusion they got for the whole project. Have anyone got any other publications from Gorb and Dumas on Silent Design around 1990s? Also I guess this report on Design Studies is out of print now as well... I have a scaned PDF copy and not sure if it is legal to spread it online... If you are looking for this report for research and learning purpose, please give me a shout here and I will email you :)


Richard Buchanan on the 'Four Boundaries of Service Design'

< image from Jeff Howard's Design for Service >

Richard Buchanan's closing keynote speech on the Emergence 2007, very insightful.

Just couple of notes and quotes I put down here while listening... would like to hear what you think :)

Buchanan point out Four Boundaries of Service Design as:
1. information visulisation - build conversations following the visual presentation among community that lead to actions;
2. artefact and service - shift the foucs towards the context and consequences of using artefacts;
3. the different between a system designer and a service designer - system design? organisation design? service design? environmental design?
4. service design and management - is good service design good management?

so this is the bit that makes me interested... Buchanan askes what's things that designers do that managers don't do? He talks about the the lost wholeness of organisation operation in management studies... so are we designers getting it back to the service development? Also designer use visualisation to stimulate meaningful communication. Embodyment of the intagibles, designers re-connect the managers to the day-to-day human interactions on the working grounds.

Buchanan then moved on to ask the big question: what is the definition of Service Design? and then he claims that he was not troubled by it, so the anxiety to define it lost its point. He suggests us to be careful about feeling the need to categorising design, but spend time to find out the core quality of design, not the metaphores. As designer, we talk about techniques, talk about methods, what we don't talk about is the strategies that sets above the techniques and the methods. Methods always contains a conceptual framework, often come from another context. Well, the strategy is the art of using methods - how we involve methods and people in our practice.

Value is central in service design, according to Buchanan. One of the central features is about making people more active in their communities, to become agents of change, to be given the power to act. Designer needs to be very self-critical on how much power we retain. It is about justice.

"We can only act well if we have the right information and know how to use it wisely."

"Service design is adding another bit of understanding to this evolving practice of design thinking."

A ture design thinker.

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