On Wednesday evening Digital Eskimo, those fine purveyors of all things sustainable in design, hosted Design Thinking Drinks. Present were members of the service and interaction design community, as well as customer-centred designers from financial institutions and a few interested members of the public. It was an extremely engaging and uplifting night that has given me a very positive sense of the Service Design community of practice in Sydney.
The evening began with a short introduction from the founder of Digital Eskimo, Dave Gravina, on the company’s history and philosophy, more of which you can read here. After a short break Deborah Kneeshaw introduced Penny Hagen, a DE alumni and phD candidate. Penny spoke about her research and considered approach to participatory design in the realm of social technologies. Afterwards, discussion was invited. Here are some brief points on the discussion:
One of the first topics discussed was the importance of expressing design methodology in concrete terms to clients who do not understand design (but are paying the bills). It was generally agreed that expressing a defined process is an essential part of convincing clients to approve budget for a project.
Many spoke of their problems with being able to convince clients that their ‘messy’ design process was worth funding. This is especially the case for many solutions-driven managers who find it hard to understand the ‘magic’ of participatory design and would prefer to know exactly what it is that they will get when the project is finished. When ‘we don’t know yet‘ is often the answer to the question ’What do we get for our money?‘, you can understand their fear.
As well as making sure we are explicit about our process and offer up examples of past success, another solution offered by DE’s Matt McCauley is to place gateways in the overall funding that are aligned to phases of the process (understanding, iteration, realisation, etc).
Banking and social technologies
One of the CCD bank people asked how they could harness the power of social technologies in their industry when most of their customers find banking one of the least fun things in their lives. One of the other problems they’ve encountered is notions of privacy in regards to personal financial information. How do you get people to be more open about their finances and to share their learnings? Penny Hagen compared this situation to that of a community of people with STDs (an amusing comparison). She proposed that lessons could be learned from online anonymity that has allowed people who are publicly embarrassed about their diseases to speak freely and share tips on treatment. Someone also mentioned the Patients Like Me site in this regard.
A supportive community of practice
Designers at this event seemed very keen to divulge the secrets of their success (and their problems) to others in their community and to share solutions to the problems faced by their colleagues. This is in direct contrast to previous events I have attended in my former life as a graphic designer where there was always a guarded aspect to people’s conversations. I am very happy to be amongst so many collaboratively-minded people.
It was interesting that there were so many clients at the event (many from the banking industry). Although many were from the customer experience design teams within the bank, they are still clients, yet they were happy to share the problems that they have in their business and the solutions they have found. I can’t think of many other industries where this level of open dialogue between client and provider occurs. Collaborative practice really is a healthy way of working.
After the discussion we were invited to to ‘play’ with various tools and games in the DE space. In one room people were playing Waterworx, iPad game that DE designed and developed for the Powerhouse Museum as a way to teach children of difficulty of managing a public water system. I spoke with DE’s Anthony Ditton about the valuable lessons learned through the participatory design process they employed during the project. You can read more about that here.
Another play thing was the very excellent ‘SketchedIn’ board, a digital sketching tool set up on a recycled architect’s drawing board. Various bits of digital and projection magic allowed guests to draw via an infrared pen onto the surface and receive immediate feedback from the pen. Guests were able to draw onto pictures of people they had spoken to during the evening and to therefore add to their SketchedIn profile. All kudos to Anika Ebner from DE who managed the creation of SketchedIn.
Thanks to Digital Eskimo for the pictures (that’s a sketch of me. I ‘like music, typography and the world’… thanks to whomever drew that!). You can see more on the Digital Eskimo Flickr page here.