Category Archives: Design

TEDx Reset – Why Robots Need To Dream

Peter Fossick, of Factotum was recently invited to talk at TEDx Reset about ‘Why Robots Need to Dream’.

We’ve posted a link to the video here, in which Peter talks about the selling of technology of Utopian futures that often have social, economic and cultural impacts that favour the few while penalising not only the majority of people but the environment as well. Peter argues that this is the result of new technology but rather the principles, ethics and practices of modern neo-liberal capitalism.

If you enjoy the video you can catch Peter at UX Istanbul in February where as a guest speaker he’ll be talking about DesignOps.

DevOps meet DesignOps

Factotum’s Pete Fossick recently spoke at the Service Design Global Conference in Madrid where he discussed service design, agility and the emergent field of design operations (DesignOps or DesOps) and how they are part Design 4.0 – an emerging approach to designing for Industry 4.0.

A brief history of design… Design 1.0 was paper and pen, using physical tools like a ruler featuring a human agent. Design 2.0 was computer assisted design (CAD) featuring applications driven by a human agent. Design 3.0 was assisted design using CAD apps where knowledge based systems learn from the human actor. Design 4.0 is fully autonomous or semi autonomous design that may or may not involve a human actor (a designer, developer or product owner).

Design 4.0 is an approach to design that marries design for transformation and advanced technologies to deliver innovative and breakthrough products and services for the outcome economy. My talk seemed to resonate with a large number of attendees and there is a sense that there is a shift underway in the practices and approaches we need to use in an agile world informed by huge quantities of data that involves people-to-people, people-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions.

Design 4.0 marries BizOps, DevOps and the emerging field of Design Operations (or Design Ops) to support design that features semi-autonomous and fully autonomous computer systems (machine learning). While Design 4.0 as a term has been used in different ways to describe design that is focused on social innovation (GK Van Patter, 2009), my definition extends the application of design as a transformation practice to include business thinking and Dev Ops thinking where machine learning and assistive technologies support and inform the design and transformation process.

The conclusion of a new Government-commissioned report by a group representing some of the UK’s top companies, led by Siemens UK and Professor Juergen Maier indicates that robotics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge technologies in IoT can deliver huge benefits where Government and industry co-operate and may be able to create 175,000 new manufacturing jobs and generate an extra £455bn in GDP in the UK.

Service, experience, interaction and visual design as a set of practices offer strategic and tactical approaches to designing products and services that are proving highly effective in a world that is undergoing a digital transformation. Coupled with Design Thinking and Human Centred Design they have utilised contextual research and participatory work with users, employees and customers as part of a collaborative design process to gather both qualitative and quantitative data undertaken in an iterative and phased process. However, design thinking (Rolf Faste et al) as an approach has its origins in the 1980s as set practices that are essentially analogue in nature and are both people and time intensive.

However, increasingly design is informed with data-derived insights using advancing data collection techniques and processed using increasingly ubiquitous machine learning and cognitive computing applications. A traditional phased design model or lean approach is not always fast enough or efficient in an agile world where bespoke services and user experiences can be configured in an instant to match a users preferences, behaviours and location and their unique circumstances.

For companies to compete in the Outcome Economy as a part of industry 4.0 requires a new model; Design 4.0, that will increasingly feature machine intelligence and a data informed driven strategy that features data garnered using people-to-people, people-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions. More on this in the coming weeks and months!

Waterfall, Agile and Wagile

In the past two years here at Factotum we have started to use a leaner design and implementation process as part of an integrated strategic design and innovation methodology that is referred to as WAgile.

In the past there was a focus on phased approaches to design and implementation called Waterfall, where the phases of research, framing, insights, design and implementation were completed in sequence – this was typified in engineering, product design and software development.

Then Agile came along and the emphasis shifted to implementation through sprints and a series of ‘drops’ as the software or app  scaled from a minimal viable product (MVP). This works well for software products or new app development but it sometimes fails to include a research and insights process that identifies and engages with target users to understand core needs and how the app is a touchpoint in a larger and distributed service ecology.

Both Waterfall and Agile have strengths, weaknesses and their own merits, but used separately they are limited and flawed.

Wagile

HCD & Contextual Research

Understanding users needs and importantly their desires is key.  Increasingly  ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’ motivate customers.  For example, customers ‘need’ to text messages but they ‘want’ an iPhone. Customers want a great experience and the social cache of owning a premium brand and awesome products. In short cusotmers are seeking self-actualisation and they are willing pay a premium for it.

To understand ‘wants’ and ‘desires’ we need to intimately know and understand our customers; their attitudes and values. To do this we need to undertake sustained research at the beginning and throughout the early phases of a project through ‘conversations’. However, we need to work quickly and with agility, without over committing resource to design directions that might fail in the market place. 

This is where WAgile becomes attractive.  It takes the best features and benefits of Waterfall and Agile to combine them with HCD and Design Thinking. WAgile is an iterative design and innovation model that employs contextual research driven insights, design thinking, business science and uses sprints to work with agility in cross-functional teams to implement quickly.

At the beginning of the WAgile process I use both contextual inquiry techniques and data analytics to discover who is the ‘customer’ and what are their desires, needs and goals. I balance this with the business needs as we seek new opportunities to disrupt.

This means working closely and dialoging continually with current and potential customers. The process starts with Contextual Inquiry (CI) using ethnographic research augmented with data driven strategies where we use data garnered from customer interactions through owned, paid and social media. Each point of contact with the customer is an opportunity to harvest information and data to gain insights.

User Stories – a common currency

An important tool in the WAgile process are User Stories; the common currency of design. We describe customers tasks and goals through user stories that in turn become features and functions to design and build.

Framing the problem, defining the opportunity areas and designing solutions are based on User Stories. Then workstreams and sprints are forumlated based on MoSCoW principles working with users and the core team. This is part of the continual dialogue and conversation model with customers.

Working sometimes only a day or two ahead of the software developers, the designers use ‘Evidencing’ to bring concepts to life. Evidencing involves creating objects or ‘props’ to act out scenarios and create Rapid Experience Prototypes.  The prototypes explore the way a proposed MVP and design concept will feel and perform. 

By ‘Evidencing’ concepts we can animate and interact with concepts to assess their usefulness in an iterative process with users. This results in tangible evidence (as wells as stills and videos) that enables the core team make early informed judgments about the implications of the design concept.

Based on the outcomes and insights of Evidencing, the user stories are refined and translated into detailed features and specs. The information architectures are refined, wireframes are created, GUI assets are created and coding begins.

WAgile is fast, efficient and enables the user to be involved while the team implements what the user wants.

 

Service Design and Venture-as-a-Service

Service Design (SERVD) is the application of range of established and new design tools that are used to identify, define and optimise systems, touchpoints, people’s roles and the ecologies that deliver innovative services.

The Services Sector

In the UK, there has been a massive shift in economic power from manufacturing to services in the past five decades. In 1948, British industry (including manufacturing, oil & gas extraction, and utilities) accounted for 41% of the British economy but by 2013, it was just 14%. At the same time the service sector’s share of the economy has risen from 46% to 79%. (Source: The Guardian ).

Compare the UK’s GDP from services to Europe’s where it is 72%, China has 45%, the USA 71% and worldwide it is 65%. (Source: The Economist)

 Service Design in a Venture-as-a-Model

Increasingly Service Design is being offered by business and transformation consultancies. In the past year 18 months, a number of the world’s leading consultancies have bought creative agencies and now offer Service and UX design as part of a transformation offering. For example, Accenture bought Fjord, Ernst & Young bought Seren, Kinsey bought Lunar and Boston Consulting Group bought S&C to establish BCG Digtial Ventures.

Service Thinking (Ben Reason et al) places people, networks and experiences at the core of how service designers innovate with business stakeholders and technology groups to create new and engaging services. Design Thinking works well when it is used in conjunction with Blue Ocean Strategies in the creation of new ventures. It is noteworthy that Service Design (along with experience design and strategic design) are core offerings in the major transformation groups as they shift from a service-as-a-fee model to venture-as-a-service.

 Service Design is a process of design that is customer-centric and systems orientated that is distinct from user experience design and interaction design but part of a triptych for designing in the experience economy.

Service_design4.fw

As Service Design is a relatively new discipline in design, it is misunderstood and underused by many of companies while services are often poorly planned, badly designed and inefficiently implemented. There is a huge gap between the customer’s and user’s experience of engaging with a service and the organisations.

80% of companies think they offer a superior service, yet only 8% of their customers agree. (Design Council)

Although service design is growing rapidly and is increasingly recognised as an enabler of system and transformational change it lacks visibility.

I was an early adopter of service design, having recognised in the 1990s that an advanced product’s functionality and support systems were both embedded and increasingly distributed and connected through the Internet.

Organisations needed innovation that meant taking a more holistic approach that was concerned with touchpoints (products and apps), environments (retail or civic), systems (networks, eCommerce, etc.) and the organisation (people and culture).

Service Thinking emerged from Design Thinking (Kelly et al) as a way to identify and solve problems systemically in organisations. Livework’s founders Ben Reason, Chris Downs and Lars Löveren worked with IDEO before launching the first Service Design agency in London 2001.

Where to use Service Design

According to the Design Council (UK), Service Design adds significant value when applied in the one or more of the following circumstances:

1. Service design as a methodology with tools to deliver optimised offerings and experiences.

2. Service design as a people-centred process to address specific operational and organisational needs.

3. Service design as a collaborative process that requires a co-design and people focused approach.

4. Service design as a methodology optimise complex systems and interconnected ecologies to create disruptive innovation.


Service Design Tools

As a service designer there are a range of tools that I can utilise, here are a few and for a more detailed list visit the ‘Tools’ section under ‘Services’ in peterfossic.co

ACTOR MAP

An actors map is a diagram representing the relationship of  people and stakeholder called ‘actors’ in a service ecology. It provides a systemic view of a service.  The diagram is built by identifying the actors, touchpoints and high level view of the service. The diagram is built from a specific actor and will feature other actors and touchpoints that are connected to and can influence or interact wth the actor via the service.

BLUEPRINT (SERVICE)

The service blueprint is a tool that describes the operational nature and the characteristics of the system, the actors, context, touchpoints and the interaction model that support and form the service. It is based on flows through the system and uses a standardised graphical technique that displays the process functions above and below the line of visibility from the customers viewpoint, where all the touchpoints and the back-stage processes are documented and aligned to the user experience.

EXPERIENCE PROTOTYPING

This tool involves creating objects or ‘props’ and acting out the interaction model (see above) to explore the way a proposed service concept will work. This approach is also referred to as ‘evidencing’ or ‘body storming’, where the use of models and objects representing touchpoints are to enable designers to take ideas and interact together to assess their usefulness. This process is highly iterative and use ‘rough & ready prototyping’ techniques.

For a more detailed list visit the ‘Tools’ section under ‘Services’ in factotum-design.co.uk

This post first appeared in Peterfossick.co

LESS is Lean CSS

Here at Factotum we’ve been using LESS for a couple of years to create websites on the for fly for eziCONEX.com. LESS stands for Leaner CSS. It is a dynamic stylesheet language designed by Alexis Sellier that is influenced by Sass and has influenced the newer “SCSS” syntax of Sass, which adapted its CSS-like block formatting syntax.

LESS is open-source and its first version was written in Ruby, however in the later versions, use of Ruby has been deprecated and replaced by JavaScript. The indented syntax of LESS is a nested meta-language as valid CSS is valid LESS code with the same semantics.

LESS provides the following mechanisms: variables, nesting, mixins, operators and functions; the main difference between LESS and other CSS pre-compilers being that LESS allows real-time compilation via LESS.js by the browser. LESS can run on the client-side and server-side or can be compiled into plain CSS.

I think we’ll be seeing more of LESS in the future.