Learning from early masters of public life studies

I was recently involved in service design research to support an initiative that involved potential changes to the client’s staff’s way of working, but also to the design of its program of activities and to part of its interior. 

As we explored the problem, I found myself re-reading the work of seminal thinkers including Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl, William Whyte, Christopher Alexander, and Kevin Lynch. Their ideas about the relationship between spatial design and human interactivity proved particularly useful, though they date from decades before we and our environment become digitally enhanced and networked in a ‘world-wide-web’.

Their work provided our team with the key to understanding the complex ways in which spatial design, organisational culture and activity impact each other, enabling us to make next steps.

Gehl’s (Life

What Design Can Do For The Climate

How can designers tackle a problem as complex as climate change? That was the question we were faced with when we partnered with What Design Can Do to do the research for their Climate Action Challenge, which launches today, 23 May 2017.

In collaboration with WDCD and their partners the IKEA Foundation and the Autodesk Foundation, STBY did the research, wrote the briefs and put together background information for the Challenge, which is open to students, start-ups and professionals. The winning candidates will receive funding and the chance to go through an acceleration programme to realise their idea.

Climate change is global, it’s local, and it affects every aspect of our lives. It’s the most pressing problem of our time, but it’s so mind-boggling deep and broad that it’s hard to grasp. You can slice it a million ways — looking at how it will cause water shortages, or how refugees…

Participatory Painting: A Design Research Method?

The MEDIATIONS Conference took place at the RCA in London, marking the close of the TRADERS project (short for ‘Training Art and Design Researchers for Participation in Public Space’). TRADERS focused on “enabling an exchange of experiences and knowledge in the field of participation in art and design – particularly within the context of public space.” The conference focused on the role artists and designers can play in empowering the public in the decision making for and co-creation of public spaces.

At STBY, our design research projects don’t always focus on the design of or in public spaces, but our concern is often with empowering the public in co-creation – whether it’s for a future bicycle parking service or wearable device. During the paper presentations on ‘Multivocality, Design & Public Space’ one presentation in particular got me thinking …

How can design help to address violence against women? – Join STBY at What Design Can Do Sao Paulo

The What Design Can Do 2016 conference in São Paulo is coming up on 13-14 December. As the research partner of WDCD, STBY was asked to lead a breakout session exploring violence against women.

We have teamed up with social designers Paula Dib and Renata Costa in São Paulo to design the breakout session because STBY strongly believe in collaborating with local design researchers when working in a context that is not our own. It’s a nice opportunity to work with Paula and Renata again after collaborating with them in London back in 2007.

Designers are mostly known as problem solvers and idea generators. But some problems are so complex and ‘wicked’ that even the best solution-driven designers cannot quickly fire off a viable solution. Design research can help designers dig deeper. Such a complex problem as violence against women needs to be looked at it in a new way. With the help of experts,…

Using Open Data for Design Research

I attended a workshop at the Open Data Institute in Shoreditch, an organisation with the important mission “to connect, equip and inspire people around the world to innovate with data.” My day-long workshop focused on finding and preparing data and got me thinking about how we as design researchers can take advantage of all the data sets publicly available to us across sectors, from healthcare to product design. 

Before diving in to how to make sense of a data set and communicate this to others, we began by looking at the important differences between big data, open data and personal data – and where they overlap. Important to note here is that not all “big data” is ‘open’. Here, open means “anyone can freely access, modify, share and use for any purpose…” (opendefinition.org).   

Two methods: story-first and data-first

When you use data as a source, there are two main …

Design for Europe: Powering Social Innovation

The Design for Europe conference is the main way the European Commission implements its Action Plan for Design-driven Innovation. STBY participated in a session on social innovation, with a presentation about the Refugee Challenge at the What Design Can Do Conference.

The focus of the Refugee Challenge was to see if the period between arriving in a host country and waiting for approval to stay can be improved. STBY’s role was to make sure the design brief would trigger and empower applicants to come up with relevant, realistic and creative ideas for solutions.

A recent survey among all 600 applicants revealed that half of them are still working on further developing their ideas. They are highly committed. The challenge clearly tapped into  a strong urge for designers to be engaged in solving wicked social issues.

The Design for Europe’s website contains a video with an impression…

Service Design Global Conference 2016

On October 27th-28th, service designers from around the world gathered for the 9th Service Design Global Conference in Amsterdam, returning to the city where the very first conference was held back in 2008.

With 650 participants, it was the largest ever SDG conference, reflecting the way in which the industry has both grown and matured over the past few years. Many of the presenters discussed the rewards and difficulties of being embedded within large organisations, as service design shifts from being a ‘fringe’ topic to the core of strategy and operations.

Service design has also spread far beyond its European roots, and it was fascinating to hear how some of its central concepts are being challenged and adapted in other markets and contexts. The idea of a minimum viable product or service (MVP or MVS) did not go down well in the ambitious and competitive culture of the United Arab Emirates, as…

Celebration and contemplation at the Design & Emotion Conference

This year’s Design & Emotion conference at Amsterdam’s Pakhuis de Zwijger was a great opportunity to pause for “Celebration & Contemplation” – this year’s theme. Speakers included renowned Dutch designers Maarten Baas and Christien Meindertsma. The Design & Emotion Society asks how we as designers and design researchers can explore and integrate the emotional experiences of design through products, services or interactions with new technologies. The conference opened up on a playful and thought-provoking note. We all wrote a research question we’d like explore through the conference events on a balloon. The stage became a sea of purple balloons and design research questions (such as: Sustainability versus design versus emotion?)  

Technology-supported emotion measurement

We presented STBY’s Auto-Cam project at a breakout session on ‘User…

Creating the Future of Public Transportation

How can we learn from and be inspired by innovators in the field of mobility? This is what the core members of the program ‘The Future of Public Transport’ of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment asked themselves. Their team is working on a vision and a strategic agenda for public transport in the Netherlands in 2040. Recently, they finished an extensive scan of technological innovation and opportunities for policymaking. As a next step, they are involving both the established public transport organisations and innovators to jointly explore future directions. Challenges include: How to shorten the (perceived) ‘door-to-door’ travel time’? How to maintain mobility in cities?

In a recent creative session they asked participants to propose solutions and discuss the consequences if these became reality. STBY was invited to join these conversations, and to explore the solutions…

Designing for a world where age does not matter

How can we develop products and services for a world in which age does not matter? Intergenerational design was a buzz phrase at the recent Age Does Not Matter festival in London, and it is a promising approach to the challenges posed by an ageing society. But is it enough?

I had an interesting conversation with my mother recently. She is currently in her mid-sixties and thriving, juggling her role as a successful business manager, zumba classes, gin & tonics with friends and the numerous other activities that put my social calendar to shame. Put simply, she likes to think of herself as more youthful than most youths, and rightly so.

She has recently decided to work remotely for a few days of the week, to, you know, spice things up. I got really excited when she told me this, and immediately mapped all of the trendiest co-working spaces near her house. When I showed her the short-list, I was surprised by …

London Design Festival: Research on the move

STBY held a 2 hour workshop as part of the Service Design Fringe Festival on September 20th at our studio in Shoreditch. Here we explored visual methods for design research, building on STBY’s latest publication Viewfinders: Thoughts on Visual Design Research. Participants were invited to play with different technologies and techniques (e.g. GoPro, Narrative Clip) to capture and communicate user journeys.

We worked in small groups to document, edit, arrange, and present visual design research. We then critically reflected upon tactics and approaches for capturing everyday life in a visual and engaging way and the latest technologies used to do so.

During the workshop we proposed a client brief to the participants. We found this evoked participants to engage in the activity with the end goals in mind, considering possible client needs and desires along the way. We found that each group…

Lead… and let go

In our projects we often help clients to innovate by doing design research together. This usually includes qualitative research and co-creation…

Pushing the Boundaries

The following is an excerpt from our forthcoming publication Viewfinders: Thoughts on Visual Design Research (2016). Visual design research…

Ingredients for innovation

How can you translate the unpredictable, abstract and complex attributes of a innovation process into tools and guidelines, in such a way that…