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StudioNext Why does UArts need a new approach to design? More and more, designers from various disciplines are being challenged to engage in projects that not only transcend traditional disciplinary barriers within design, but also involve the activities and inputs of stakeholders outside of the design field. This shift should come as little surprise; as markets and societies grow more complex, the challenges that beset them require solutions that address this complexity in innovative and transformative ways. By its very nature, the process of developing and designing these complex solutions draws upon numerous fields of expertise and points of view. These solutions require design teams to gather and synthesize information from a wide array sources and to explore multiple strategies and outcomes.

What will be our biggest hurdle? Perhaps the most crucial challenge of this process is developing the design team’s ability function internally. How does the team communicate? How does it formulate and develop ideas? How does it make decisions, allocate resources, and move forward? How and when does it reach beyond itself to find what it needs? Successful collaborations address all of these questions through the application of appropriate collaborative skills and techniques. Despite what we like to think, these skills and techniques do not always come naturally. However, they are skills and techniques that can be learned and developed in a dynamic educational design setting like Studio Next.

What is it that we will be doing? Studio Next is a laboratory shared by several design disciplines at UArts who have committed to actively explore collaboration over a period of four weeks during the Fall 2009 semester. The Studio is conceived of as a working prototype for new models, initiatives, and pedagogical strategies for design education at UArts. Important to the success and effectiveness of the project is the building of robust, sustainable partnerships with outside organizations. The project aims to instill in students a commitment to interacting and engaging with diverse communities in Philadelphia by applying their knowledge to complex challenges and opportunities.

Why will you be glad you did? Studio Next will prepare you to thrive and create in this collaborative post-disciplinary environment. Studio Next does not aim to provide you with a road map to success that can be rigorously followed time and time again. Any such effort would be doomed from the outset, as no two challenges, projects, or design teams are identical. Instead, what is being offered in this design laboratory is the opportunity to develop a set of collaborative tools that can be drawn upon, altered, re-implemented and expanded over the course of a designer’s entire career to meet ever-changing challenges.


While this approach to design may seem new and experimental in the context of UArts, it has been applied in a multitude of professional settings to address complex challenges. IDEO IDEO formed a partnership with, International Development Enterprises (IDEO), Heifer International, ICRW, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a toolkit for applying Human-Centered Design to inspire new solutions to difficult challenges within communities of need.

RED RED the research and development team of The Design Council, the national strategic body for design in the UK, uses a human centered processes and an interdisciplinary approach to challenge accepted thinking in business and the public sector and to explore economic and social issues where design can make a significant difference.

CAP Initiated by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1999 in response to requests from city schools, The Collaborative Arts Partnership (CAP) provides after-school arts programming to students ages 5 through 17 by connecting the skills, staff and resources of Indianapolis-area arts and social service organizations.


An emphasis on collaboration can be found in academic setting as well, and many schools are adopting interdisciplinary collaboration as a key component of design and business education. Institute of Design at Stanford “We want it to be a place where people from big companies, start-ups, schools, nonprofits, government, and anyone else who realizes the power of design thinking, can join our multidisciplinary teaching, prototyping, and research.”

University of Art and Design Helsinki “The University of Art and Design participates in active cooperation with industry and commerce, culture and the surrounding society. To achieve its aims it also networks with the best international universities and centers of learning.”

Harvard Business School “The cornerstone of the School’s renowned general management approach, the case method provides students with the transcendent skills, insights, and self-confidence required to meet the interdisciplinary demands of real business situations.”


Each team has a set of 12 Design Process Cards.

Each card refers to a specific practice or strategy that will stimulate creative ideas, foster solutions and move your project forward.

We have selected three exemplary case studies

and applied the cards to a number of critical points

during the design process to demonstrate how these cards might be applied to various types of design challenges.

Case Study 01

Improving life with diabetes Probortunity

Angela has Type II diabetes. That means she has to remember to take her medication every day, watch what she eats and take regular exercise. It’s difficult – she usually remembers the tablets but struggles with the other two. Every three months Angela has an appointment with the nurse at her local GP surgery in Bolton, who reviews her



blood sugar levels and asks her a standard set of questions: whether she still smokes, for example, or if she is taking regular exercise. Despite these frequent interactions, and it being three years since she was diagnosed, Angela still hasn’t managed to make the changes to her lifestyle that will prevent her condition from progressing, her health deteriorating, and the cost of her care to the NHS escalating. Every week, 29 people in Bolton are diagnosed with Type ll diabetes from a population of just 220,000. The social and economic costs of chronic disease in the UK are escalating, with diabetes alone costing the NHS £10million a year. The Bolton diabetes network is one of the best in the country – but it acknowledges that it is having limited effect in helping people like Angela make changes to their lifestyles. The answer lies with motivation, not medicine, and the problem isn’t one that can be solved by more resources in the current medical system. A radically different kind of solution is needed. The beginnings of that solution came from looking at the problem from the perspective

Character Profiles

of Angela and people like her. The RED team first met Angela in her home in 2004. It was the beginning of a project in partnership with the Bolton Diabetes Network looking at supporting people to ‘live well’ with diabetes. For this project, the RED team included designers, health policy experts, social scientists, psychologists, economists and doctors.


After carrying out some rapid design research with Angela and others like her, the RED team concluded that education wasn’t the problem – people mostly knew what they should be doing to manage their diabetes. What Angela struggled with was putting that knowledge into practice in her every day life: overcoming her sweet tooth, keeping

Common Threads

the cupboards free of tempting biscuits, knowing what food to buy at the supermarket, walking to work instead of taking the bus or saying no to a drink at a party. No amount of consultation at the surgery could change this for her. Angela needed support and




motivation in her daily life to overcome the practical barriers particular to her situation.


Having understood and redefined the problem from the perspective of Angela and other people with diabetes, RED got to work facilitating workshops in Bolton with a wider group of people with diabetes and their families, nurses, podiatrists, dieticians, doctors

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and healthcare managers, in order to develop the beginnings of a solution to Angela’s predicament. The expertise they would bring to the design process proved invaluable, as did that of Angela and her fellow sufferers. Angela wasn’t simply the subject of research but an active part of the RED design team. She helped develop ideas, commenting on and participating in a number of prototypes, and making real time suggestions for their improvement: what we call a ‘co-design’ approach. Together they developed a simple tool – a set of ‘Agenda cards’ – to change the nature


of the interaction in the consulting room. Each card features a phrase the team had heard people with diabetes say, such as ‘It’s too difficult to prepare separate meals’ or ‘Diabetes makes my love-life difficult’. Before going into a consultation, patients choose the cards that matter to them most, and use them during the consultation to articulate the areas in which they need support, literally laying out their agenda on the table. Before, patients often found themselves not telling the truth when asked the standard questions by the nurse. The cards provide patients with a means of putting their own ‘agenda’ first, rather than that of the health service. Some of the doctors and nurses who helped develop the cards were initially sceptical,


but quickly became champions of the idea when they tested the cards out with their own patients. They found that the cards cut down the amount of time spent in a consultation getting to the heart of a problem (from ten minutes to two minutes) freeing-up more time to spend on supporting the patient’s needs. The team also found that many patients picked out the card that said, ‘I need someone to coach me through this’. By putting an executive life coach together with participating patients, the team was able prototype the role of a ‘diabetes coach’, a non-medical professional who could provide motivational support to individuals and groups of people with diabetes. The Agenda cards are now being trialled in Bolton.

Scenario Building

Quick prototypes like these not only helped the team and the Bolton Diabetes Network see ways of reconfiguring an existing service around the user, but also gave them insight into how a very different health service might work: one where people and professionals collaborate to co-create new types of healthcare. RED focuses on using design as a process to bring about practical solutions to familiar and intractable social and economic problems, and Angela’s story is part of a larger project developing new kinds of co-created health services to ease the burden of chronic disease on the UK’s National Health Service. 1

Case Study 02

Transforming rural transport Probortunity

Frances Rowe is Rural Manager with the Rural and Environment Team for regional development agency One North East. Northumbria’s rolling green scenery and sparse population means key services are widely dispersed and can be difficult for people to get to. Isolation can be a big problem, particularly for 60 per cent of the population who are over 60. Northumberland offers a comprehensive provision of public transport



– school buses, patient transport and community transport – but it’s expensive to run and there had been difficulty getting isolated people to the core services they needed. One North East needed a way to improve the user-experience of the service while reducing the cost. Frances turned to Robin Mackie, project director of DIEC – a Service


Innovation & Design enterprise created by One North East to exploit the capability of design to transform services in the region. They worked alongside service innovation company live|work to help develop a design approach to rural transport issues. The Rural Transport project they undertook was sponsored by Northumbria County Council, and is one of a portfolio of seven pilot projects instigated by DIEC which have proven the value of taking a service innovation approach to rural transport (as well as other issues as diverse as airports, hospital care, business incubation and re-development & employment). ‘The projects have demonstrated how service innovation can bring a disparate team of stakeholders together and focus them

Scenario Building

on the one thing they have in common – the service provided to the customer’, says Robin Mackie. ‘As service designers we’re interested in how service thinking can unlock complex problems, like those surrounding transportation, by re-framing the issue from a service point of view – that is, focussing on access or mobility rather than transportation’, explains liveIwork director, Ben Reason. ‘One North East could see the parallels between the problems they were facing and mobility work we had done in the past where we’ve instigated projects with Fiat and ‘Streetcar’, a car sharing service.’

Character Profiles

Live|work began by focussing on the specific problems of the particularly isolated area of Berwick upon Tweed, close to the Scottish borders. Insights were gained when live|work spent time on Northumberland’s transport system – travelling, observing and talking with users, including parents, adults with learning difficulties and the elderly, as well as front line workers including drivers and carers. ‘We’ve come to realise that in our public sector work, talking with front line workers is particularly important,’ says Reason, ‘They understand the users incredibly well.’


Another exercise to gain insight saw liveIwork posing as a local voluntary organisation,


and advertising a workshop to get potential transport providers and users together. The fact that they had to lay on transport to get everyone to the event in the first place meant that they could experience many of the problems involved in providing transport first hand. LiveIwork say they ‘didn’t bring anything new’ to the project team. Their expertise was in helping the project team to ‘better connect the things they were already doing’. They worked as facilitators of the design process, constructing a framework for

Common Threads

discussions between number of agencies, including amongst others, the Transport Department of Northumberland County Council, Northumbria Care Trust, the North East Ambulance Service and community transport organisations.




‘We helped put what they were talking about into action,’ says live|work director, Chris Downs. ‘We prototyped it by getting the different agencies to call each other up and share their transport provision’. Despite three months’ work using a design process, ‘we realised that we’d hardly drawn anything,’ says Reason. ‘It didn’t look like a traditional design approach’. Instead, the


first stage of the project ended with the creation of ‘evidence’ which helped illustrate the opportunities the team had identified. This took a range of forms, from simple visuals of a potential web interface for booking transport that would illustrate the various users and providers, through to a blueprint for a partnership organisation that could provide the potential for an improved transport platform in the North East. ‘We are now taking a design-led approach to developing the organisation,’ says Mackie. ‘We will be working with partner agencies across the North East, and specialists within One North East to co-design the future shape of the organisation. It’s here, in the idea that even organisations could be designed objects, that transformation design’s real potential for effecting fundamental change is revealed. A user-centred perspective.


Each of the groups highlighted here use the core skills of a user-centred design approach, so it is worth briefly exploring these in more detail. Many of today’s more complex problems arise because the latent needs and aspirations of ‘end users’ – those individuals who will receive the benefit of a given service or system – are not being met by the current offer. This is particularly true when innovation has been driven by system or technological goals. End users are, of course, complex individuals. Their underlying needs are rarely evident or articulated at the outset, and are unlikely to be identified through traditional market research.2

Case Study 03 Glenbow Museum Probortunity

Design Challenge Aboriginal communities around the world have a long history of being interpreted as subjects in museums exhibitions. In the vast majority of cases, the stories of these communities, their history, culture and religion has been told by outsiders, such as



museum curators, ethnographers and historians rather than by members of the communities themselves. However, in the last few decades, efforts have been made to include aboriginal communities in the exhibition design process, initially as advisors, but in a few extraordinary instances as authors and designers themselves. The challenge for the Glenbow Museum in Calgary Canada was to design and exhibition that embraced the subject of the exhibition, The Niitsitap, (also commonly known as the Blackfoot) as the owners and authors of the exhibition’s content in order to better


represent their rich culture to museum visitors. Hear Both project participants had differing, but similar objectives. The Glenbow Museum wanted to attract visitors to the museum and to have a place where it could display its rich collection of native artifacts and conduct educational programs. The Blackfoot participants wanted to share an authentic representation of their cultural history with young people and to correct misconceptions about their history for both Native and non-Native peoples. The two groups combined their needs into a unified goal of telling

Common Threads




the Blackfoot story from their own point of view to both Native and non-Native visitors who had little understanding of this story. Create The exhibition design team at the Glenbow Museum, established a team partnership with representatives of the Blackfoot community, in which both groups took responsibility for the exhibition’s content including design, artifact selection, label writing and installation. Community representatives were identified as content providers, while museum staff members facilitated the translation of content into an exhibition. In forming a single design team, both groups took the time to reach an understanding of

Project Space

each other views and needs. Members of the museum staff spent a great deal of time learning about the ways in which the Blackfoot view the construction, ownership and transmission of cultural knowledge. The Blackfoot view places considerable emphasis on the interconnectivity between concepts, something that defies the traditional linear storytelling that is often created by Western scholars.






Delivery In the final exhibition, the emphasis on interconnectivity was carried through the circular floor plan. Natural textures combined with warm colors and video displays were used to convey the feel of the Blackfoot’s environment. Rather than placing artifacts on traditional museum pedestals, the artifacts were nestled into this environment. Audio stations located around the room enabled visitors to hear Blackfoot stories as told by members of the Blackfoot communities themselves. The only areas that were separate from this circular environment focused on historic events, beginning with the creation of reservations. The exhibition ends with a reconnection to the beginning of the exhibition and look at the future of the Blackfoot. This future emphasizes the ways in which the

Scenario Building

Blackfoot are taking control of their own destinies by combining traditional values and beliefs with contemporary life skills. Source: Our Story in Our Words: Diversity and Equality in the Glenbow Museum by Gerald T. Conaty and Beth Carter from: Looking Reality in the Eye: Museums and Social Responsibility, edited by Robert R. Janes and Gerald T. Conaty. University of Calgary Press. Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 2005.

A user-centred approach is very different from a ‘customer-centred’ one, which focuses on meeting customer expectations. In fact a user-centred approach could demand significant rethinking of an offer or service in order to place the user at heart. Here,

emotional considerations are equal to practical ones, and this

demands the ability to look at a problem from a perspective that may be fundamentally different from that of the business-owner or service-provider.

Over the years the user-centred design community has become

expert at designing from the point of view of the individual, rather than the architecture of the system. The groups highlighted here find themselves in the position of championing the interests of the end-users; often counter to the original assumptions of the institution or client organization.




Who is your client? What do they want? • Gain a deeper understanding of your client and their needs through in depth design research. • Uncover hidden needs, desires, and aspirations • Unveil people’s social, political, economic, and cultural opportunities and barriers in their own worlds • Aim for a deep understanding, rather than broad coverage

What is your design problem? • Specifically identify the challenge. • When phrasing your challenge, keep it positive and oriented around human needs • Interview a wide variety of people with different backgrounds • Apply as many different styles of research and try to obtain as many different modes of results as you can • It is important to understand that there can be differences between what people say they do, and what they actually do. One way to do this is to immerse yourself in their world and experience something for yourself. Then you can go back and interview people to see if the two are the same.

What is the best way to interview people? • Keep the conversation somewhat structured: engage your interviewee while staying on topic • Set up a hypothetical scenario: you can ask abstract questions without getting mired down by real world restrictions. This allows for a much deeper understanding. • Collect rich stories from your interviewee. When telling stories, people reveal more than they would ordinarily say in response to questions, etc. The following techniques help to enrich storytelling: ask to see physical objects, ask people to draw what they are explaining, repeatedly ask “why?” to get to deeper underlying reasoning, and ask people to speak aloud while they are performing a specific task. • What limits your research? Try to have a good mindset when talking to the client. It can be difficult, but try not to see the situation through your own lens, but remove your biases. Build empathy for the client and try to understand their thinking and behavior.


What do you do with all the research that you have gathered? Now is the time to sift through all the personal stories you have discovered and translate them into high-level insights about the larger population. Three steps to accomplish this are: • Synthesis: Make sense of the information you have gathered by collecting, editing, and condensing it. • Brainstorming: Generate as many ideas as you can without shooting any down while thinking broadly. • Prototyping: Test your ideas quickly and in a low-investment way. Be sure to get feedback, as it allows for many iterations and helps to refine ideas. • When synthesizing, take a step back and look for patterns, themes, and larger relationships in your research. Look for commonalities and sort information into categories. A helpful way to do so is to set up a framework. A framework is a way to view your data visually, whether through bubble diagrams, venn diagrams, matrices, relational maps, etc. Try using different frameworks until you find the one that works best for the information you are organizing.

What is the next step? • After examining your condensed information, re-articulate the problem so that it suggests a variety of future possibilities. Now is the time to brainstorm. Generate as many possible solutions as you can, no matter how ridiculous they sound. Sometimes the one great idea is inspired by nonsense. • Take your best ideas and develop prototypes- rapidly and roughly. Perhaps use physical models using rough materials, storyboards, role play with a teammate as customer, or diagrams and mapping. Be sure to get feedback: • To get honest responses, present several options to people • Seek out a mix of people, from a different place than where you did your research • Carefully formulate the best questions to ask, preferably ones that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” • Keep a careful record of feedback, both positive and negative


What do you do with your final iteration? • Prove concepts in low-cost, low-risk ways. Return to your research methods and mine them for ways to prove concepts. • Identify what would be necessary to execute your solution. • Present finalized concepts. Determine the best tools to communicate your concept to the client. Keep it simple, avoid unnecessary “flash” if it does little to convey or obfuscates the essence of your design.


Action Call

So What Now? We have deliberately left it up to each participating group to determine how they will utilize these tools and implement this process. Just as no two projects are identical, no two project teams will be identical either. With this in mind, it is important for your group to establish some of the ways in which it will function before you dive into your project.

As a group take the time to discuss: Ownership and buy-in Numerous participants will shape the final outcome of the group’s project, and team members should dedicate themselves to creating the best outcome possible. While it is important to be passionate about this outcome it is equally important that each member of the group be prepared to sacrifice his or her own personal ideas to see it realized.

Information Flow Where and how will the group meet? How will it organize and record ideas and exchange information? The Process Organization Guide offers several suggestions on how to manage these tasks.

Decision Making As the group is striving to create the best possible outcome, it may find itself at an impasse between differing ideas and proposed solutions to challenges. This is a vital part of the collaborative process as the best solutions often come from this kind of creative contention. However, it can be easy for groups to become mired in discussion, unable to reach a conclusion. How will the group make decisions that will move the project forward?

A user-centred design approach, at its most basic, involves three core skills: Intention {looking} Designers use a range of qualitative design research tools to understand a particular experience from the user’s perspective. Observation helps uncover some of their more latent needs and desires. Immersing themselves in context helps designers to gain empathy and allows them to observe, analyse and synthesize simultaneously. These research methods do not aim to yield any quantitative or objective research ‘truth’, but rather to provide inspiration and actionable insights.

Creating {making things visible} Designers make problems and ideas visible, creating frameworks to make visual sense of complex information, and quickly sketching ideas to share work-in-progress with others. Making even intangible concepts visual creates a common platform for discussion, avoids misinterpretation and helps build a shared vision. Artefacts created can include concept sketches, representational diagrams, scenario storyboards, plans, visual frameworks and models or physical mock-ups.

Offering {prototyping} Designers like to ’suck it and see’ by building little mock-ups or prototypes before they commit resources to building the real thing. In business terms, this is a good risk management technique: commit a little and learn a lot; fail early to succeed sooner. This culture of trying things out quickly, getting feedback in-situ and then iterating the idea is a fast and low-cost way of moving a project forward. Websites can be represented with a paper prototype, products by making quick card mock-ups, and services by staging interactions with props and role-play. These skills, while not universal, will be familiar to many design practitioners.4

Excerpt from Design Council Red Paper 02, 2006 1 Excerpt from Design Council Red Paper 02, 2006 2 Excerpt from Design Council Red Paper 02, 2006 3 Excerpt from Design Council Red Paper 02, 2006 4


Post-disciplinary design@UArts

Master of Design Department 211 S Broad St Philadelphia, PA 19146 MID: 215.717.6256 2009


Post-disciplinary design Studio @ UARTS


Post-disciplinary design Studio @ UARTS