Where do people fit into the Internet of Things?

There are now more things connected to the internet than the number of people in the world. Many of these devices are inside our home, from Bluetooth speakers to smart coffee machines and fridges. In the future, even our plates and curtains might be hooked up to the internet. The house will then resemble a lab, in which we are the studied subjects. How much alcohol do we drink? How often do we wash our hair, or cut our nails? Are we snacking more than usual? Spending longer in front of the mirror? Maybe the homes of the future will know.

MozFest workshop: Connecting citizens, not only devices

What is a city without its people? Not much. But sometimes, in all the technology talk around cities, the focus on people gets lost. How can we foster a citizen-led approach to smart city development, and how might that change how smart cities are defined and realised?

That was the question we posed during another walking workshop we were recently invited to conduct, this time in the context of the open Internet movement. MozFest, Mozilla’s annual festival, returned to London to host an international community of educators, technologists, artists, journalists and activists, as well as anyone else engaged with the challenges arising within online privacy, web literacy, and the realisation of a healthy, open Internet.

In our ‘walkshop’, we wanted to explore the future of the connected, online city. Specifically, we wanted to explore and champion a bottom-up, emergent city model rather …

Designing for predictive public spaces

While working on a series of projects aimed at improving the experience of pedestrians and bicyclists, I was reading Andy Clark’s book Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action and the Embodied Mind. This proved an unusually fruitful combination, even though the book is about perception, not about design. But in the context of these design problems, Clark’s explanations became interesting points of departure which often reshaped my perspective.

His phrase: ‘a web of humans and machines, each of which are now busily anticipating the other’ seems to me a perfect description of what our busiest urban public spaces are becoming. As ‘smart’ systems become more prevalent, physical touchpoints are being minimised or disappearing altogether, from whole cashier-operated checkout counters to familiar everyday features like taps, handles and buttons. Displays…

How to orchestrate systemic change?

In September STBY was involved in three events that all seemed to trigger a similar discussion. In Amsterdam we co-organised an explorative workshop with our partner What Design Can Do, to discuss Gender Based Violence with experts in the field, mainly from NGOs. In London, as part of London Design Festival,  we co-organised a full day workshop with the department for Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art to ponder the question “Where next for humanitarian innovation?” with an international group of academics, designers and experts from NGOs. And we also participated in a London Design Festival panel of fellow designers and researchers working in public administration, organised by Policy Lab at the Cabinet Office.

Across these three events we engaged with a mixed bunch of people, backgrounds, expertises and topics. Yet a common pattern in the discussions emerged that, …

Design Driven Business Innovation course

Following up on the success of our annual master course together with the Business School of the University of Amsterdam, we have the opportunity to again offer an executive course for professionals on Design Driven Business Innovation. The course starts in September 2017, and registration (via UvA website) is open. You can also send us an email of course. Be quick though, as there will be only 20 places available!

Innovation with a design approach
Innovation is a big challenge for many organisations. It touches on different parts and dimensions of a business: services, products, customer experience, customer value, delivery processes, revenue models, etc. One of the recent developments in the field of innovation management is the rise of a design-driven approach to innovation. Designing new products, services, experiences and business models based on deep customer insights and from an outside-in…

Imagining More Walkable Cities

What does ‘walkability’ mean? Exploring more walkable cities could help us envision streets that can be used and enjoyed by everyone. Much has been written about the benefits of walking, but not all cities facilitate it equally well.

We recently got a chance to explore this by hosting a ‘walking workshop’ at the Unusual Suspects Festival, which aims to bring together an unusual mix of voices and audience together to share experiences and challenge each other to think differently.

The aim of the workshop was to help us imagine more walkable streets. This was an opportunity to collect stories and understand how we inhabit and move around public spaces. In pairs, participants were given a map with their appointed tour and an activity pack of prompts and tasks to complete along their journey.

Our workshop explorers triumphantly returned with observations, photos and sketches, ready to visualise…

Stones and software: a design dilemma of smart wearables

The development of wearables is continuing apace. Established luxury and tech brands, newcomers, startups, have all begun creating serious offerings. Consumers can already choose from a range of products, from wristbands to watches to rings and other kinds of devices.


Consumers’ expectations seem to fall into two categories: smart and pretty. 

‘Smarter’ means that just raw data is not enough any more. We seem to expect recommendations or a program tailored to the individual. Even simple data like numbers of steps needs to be interpreted and can mean very different things, depending on what a person’s goals are. So customisation as well as contextual data analysis are important areas of development.

‘Prettier’ wearables prioritise fashion,  and are being created by fashion brands mainly in the form of hybrid rings, watches and …

36-hour Design Jam for the WDCD Climate Action Challenge

On May 23, What Design Can Do launched their Climate Action Challenge along with their partners the IKEA Foundation and the Autodesk Foundation. As research partner for the challenge, we conducted four months of research before crafting the briefs and background information package. We also helped run a live 36-hour Design Jam during What Design Can Do 2017 last week for students and young professionals.

The Climate Action Design Jam was a jam-packed, 36-hour bonanza of brainstorming, ideation, prototyping and pitching. The goal of the jam was to come up with ideas for designs that could be submitted to this year’s Climate Action Challenge. Over four workshops spread across two days, a total of 16 experts coached students and young professionals on: how to approach the problem of climate change adaptation; how to brainstorm effectively; why you should prototype; and how to pitch and …

Streetlab – conflict of interest or celebration of diversity?

In the past year, we have immersed ourselves in the ways in which Amsterdam’s cyclists and pedestrians experience the streets. Our research was commissioned by various local councils to support innovation projects around the use of public space. In two of the projects (for Stadsdeel West and Stadsdeel Zuid) we focused on the opportunities for improving bike parking in specific areas. In others (for Stadsdeel Zuid and Stadsdeel Centrum) we focused on opportunities for creating more space for pedestrians.

Working on four projects with a similar research question allowed us to develop and improve a customised research method, we called Streetlabs. This method creates a setting for different users to share their ways of using the same environment. We sat around the table with inhabitants, shop owners, visitors, people who work in the streets, and people who work for the city district. Using…

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 …

Imagining More Walkable Cities

What does ‘walkability’ mean? Exploring more walkable cities could help us envision streets that can be used and enjoyed by everyone. Much…

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…

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…