Much of our work on international design research projects is in locations other than the UK and the Netherlands, where our offices are located. Supporting global innovation through design research means being able to respond to calls for input on strategic dilemmas that can come from any team or department in a client organisation, with the various stakeholders involved often working in different locations. And it is not only the scope of global design research that is dispersed; the practice and delivery also are. Understanding this as a given has shaped our ways of collaborating and organising.
In every setting, a deep understanding of people’s practices, motivations and experiences is essential for innovation. This can only be acquired by doing immersive fieldwork, spending time with people and engaging them in empathic conversations and other activities. Design abilities such as idea generation, prototyping and visualisation play a crucial role in these interactions. They enable the creation and expression of insights and innovative ideas that are strongly grounded in the markets and groups your company or organisation innovates for. STBY has extensive experience in coordinating global design research projects in locations such as China, India, South Korea, Russia, Spain, France, Australia and US.
Human-centered and design-driven social innovation is best learned while integrated in real projects. To support organisations involved in international development, we offer a hands-on, mentored approach that goes beyond individual educational interventions or projects dependent on external outsourcing. We teach and coach teams working on their own projects. This can run over a considerable length of time, from several weeks to months. This enables participants to apply what they have learned in the context of specific stages of their real-life project, and get immediate answers to questions that arise from the work. They experience the power and versatility of tools by using them flexibly, in different ways in various situations. This creates deeper and more lasting knowledge among all participants, including managers and advocates for innovation and change.
REACH is a global network of partner companies, co-founded by STBY in 2008. Working with our REACH partners enables us to undertake international projects at scale while maintaining and retaining the agility and flexibility of small, independent design companies that are firmly grounded in their local culture. This facilitates faster, cheaper, and more effective international collaborations than those possible via traditional models, which often rely on local translators, freelancers and local assistants supporting lead researchers who visit multiple global locations in order to ensure consistency. The Reach Network has 16 partners at the moment, located in 19 countries around the world. See the website for the most up-to-date information: www.globaldesignresearch.com
How do mothers monitor the development of their child during its first one thousand days (from pregnancy to two years old)? To answer this broad research question for a multinational FMCG company, STBY and Reach partners carried out research that included design documentaries made with mothers in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
STBY have worked with one of world’s largest telecom firms on a series of design research projects, enabling them to gradually align their research and development processes around principles of design research. The latest of these projects saw STBY prepare and facilitate a collaborative alignment workshop focused on the repository of international videos produced by STBY and Reach partners from UK, Netherlands, Spain, China, India and Russia for the firm. The purpose was to help new staff members learn how the videos can be used to build empathy with consumers, and ‘road-test’ concepts and services currently in development.
Even for brief local journeys, for shopping or work purposes, people often combine walking, cycling or driving, and public transportation like urban rail, or the underground or bus. Such multi-modal travel is now part of everyday life. At STBY, we have worked with several organisations, including Google, Here, Nokia, Dutch Rail and Prorail to find out how they can offer more improved and integrated services to meet the needs of multi-modal travellers.
What can design do to improve the lives of urban refugees? This is the starting point of the “What Design Can Do Challenge”, a challenge aimed at creatives all over the world and of which STBY is the research partner. STBY started a collaboration with the organisation ‘What Design Can Do’ to create design briefs that would inspire and empower designers to come up with daring and innovative ideas that would help refugees and cities adapt to each other.
STBY was invited to contribute a chapter to the book ‘Routledge Companion to Design Research‘, edited by Professor Paul Rodgers and Dr. Joyce Yee for Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group Publishers. This high profile book is published to support undergraduate and postgraduate education in design research. STBY’s contribution to this book offers a detailed case study of a state of the art international design research project.
Based on a workshop at the service design conference in Paris in 2012, Bas Raijmakers, Geke van Dijk from STBY and Katherine Gough from Nokia Design co-wrote a paper for the latest edition of Touchpoint 4-3 ‘Cultural Change by Service Design’, the magazine of the international Service Design Network. The paper discusses key design research practices such as interpretation skills, storytelling, and supporting design and business decisions with evidence and inspiration from everyday life.
Pioneers: Global Design Research