Design and innovation week – Day 5

We had an insights summary from the morning that synthesised our learnings as a group. I’ll do as a separate post as a wrap up, but this afternoons speakers were also very interesting.

Venturing into the future – Kevin Monserrat – marketing manager at Microsoft Accelerator

After another brisk walk, we were at Microsoft Accelerator and had a stand up boardroom table to congregate around. All industries not immune to technology. Industry agnostic..

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Kevin, our group and the standing boardroom table 


Assumption: new disruptions can happen anytime. For companies seeking new ideas and innovation there some key conditions:

  • Move from a legacy to agile technology strategy
  • Key elements: People, strategy and process (PSP)
  • Have or hire talent to make the company innovate..
  • Find good start ups – via VC and private equity investors who surfaces them

Companies want to understand how they can better leverage technology and an accelerator can bring in new talent, technology and agile methodology. Kevin mentioned these factors for successful integration:

  • When the CEO or CIO is technical they take more risk working with different technologies.. and can see value in the innovation solution
  • Some understanding ‘the cloud’. It can be costly; paying people to understand it, bring them in.
  • Accelerators can maintain a start up mentality when everyone still has decision making power
  • Co-creation is fostered (no walled gardens/turf claiming)
  • Attractive start ups should have a turn over 1 million and raised 2 million in capital

Seeing REA’s own Nigel Dalton‘s post on  it looks like a similar model to bring innovation in to a traditional company.

IMG_6229 (1)Example of one of the start ups at the London Microsoft Accelerator 

R/GA – ‘Future of work’

Our final stop was at R/GA a design and innovation agency.

R/GA Helps brands capitalise on emerging tech technology and human behaviours

Each evolution of the R/GA has had to recognise new technology and redefine its practice in order to grow and stay current.

We saw an amazing show reel that demonstrated the high quality of design and production they are capable of.

Business , data, m-commerce, communication, disruption

R/GA look at a diverse range of services and have gone full service agency incorporating their own digital content production facilities. Like REA they have an innovation space in their New York office and other select ones for testing new technologies to get a feel for them ahead of their clients.

R/GA tenets

Productivity – a workspace, above all else, should be an establishment that makes doing good work easy and enjoyable

Flexibility – We’re a company that’s always innovating. In an industry that never stops changing. We need a space that evolves with us.

Collaboration – Our best work happens when employees with diverse skills work together on a common vision. The Connected Space is built for teamwork.

Storytelling – As a company committed to connecting the physical world to the digital landscape, our space helps tell our story.

Inspiration – A workplace isn’t just a place to work. It should constantly spark creativity.

See the story here 

Workplace The Connected Space Documentary About RGA RGA connected by design – YouTube

Not just a digital studio, R/GA also have an accelerator program with 10 startups in IOT space for example. As a consulting practice R/GA looks deep into businesses, seeing how they work and are organised

mdel+for+growthR/GAs evolving model for growth from silo’ed to eco system of functionally integrated services and offerings

Turning thinking into making

R/GA value a mix of thinking and making, a convergence of design, technology and communications is one of R/GAs many strengths.

As a growing studio, content is created in-house (a practice REA’s growing here) .. as well as this, connected buildings; part of their architecture practice. Their first one in NYC as both a flagship and a living showcase of their capability.

Creating experiences that make individual lives better

R/GA identify technology and work that moves culture and look at data and media connections.

Working at interaction .. collaboration for different disciplines

Human,  simple , powerful – products should be:

  • Intimate – easy and quick access to tailored functionality
  • Consistent – natural, easy, and quick navigation
  • Persistent – always available, in any place at anytime
  • Flexible – text, voice, images and video
  • Scaleable – from view to many

Using data and observation to anticipate new behaviour, they design with the goal to have people interact, generate data we can analyse and give it back ; keeping the experience evolving and human.

Beats music

R/GA worked with Beats music; understanding  and analysing , the music people want to listen to.

They paired suggestion engines with human curators that know music.

Beats music after launch design MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and other features was so successful, that after 3 months apple acquired it. Case study video here

Reductive design that makes every experience effortless. R/GA people to adopt and engage in new behaviours. .

Example – NiKe ID – case study

This changed how people interact with Nike.

The shoe is the interface sending data that was used for changing the product, customising through the app through design.

Nike aimed to improve peoples lives and make people better athletes. Using data from training trainer, it can teach people and marry their knowledge and data and give it to the community

Result: habit forming solutions that use data to enable business growth

R/GA believe that multi disciplinary teams can think through different lenses; ‘thinkers’ and ‘makers’, when approaching a design problem.

Know better, connect fast – use design and technology to achieve unfair competitive advantage

  • Take a human centric approach to create connected experiences.
  • Work with people who are not afraid of taking risk’s and want to make genuine differences
  • Redefine as we go along constantly
  • Engage in idea generation

Redefining strategy – we saw examples of how R/GA had rethought

Getting children to brush their teeth  – Little brush , big brush.. 

A concept film to tell a story of making household automation seem like magic – AI Beko – connected home 

Connected spaces

R/GA also Consult, design, and have partnerships for designing ‘Connected spaces’.

“Integrating architecture, design and technology R/GA are pioneering the connection between physical space and the digital landscape.”

Physical and digital spaces, information, architecture, technology and Internet of things converging.

R/GA applied the practice to their own offices, showing us their connect3 app, they shared the possibilities of an office connected including, booking meeting rooms, finding them, locating colleagues.

Connect3 together can imagine what the possibilities are.

R/GA always on screens showcases R/GA Connect 3 office app
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Home/Hotels/Spaces are getting smarter .

For example,

  • The Aloft hotels allow you to check in before arriving at the hotel
  • Gyms are more data driven .need to up the game. Equinox . second screen see how you are doing against others.
  • Offices, remote working and cloud services connect offices to people working remotely.
  • Theme parks – Disney leads the charge, providing access to hotel and park tickets before arrival through apps and beacons tuned to your device or wristband.

Connected spaces give us personalised stores, museums and libraries.

As the value of connected space becomes apparent, people can see the value.

Working in the office becomes the showcase opportunities, R/GA’s office is always in beta and evolving. They address data we capture and are always observing people using the space. (I’d love to set up a practice like that here –  Pete G)

Principles of R/GA’s space

Productivity .. a workplace should be an environment that makes doing good work easy and enjoyable

Rubber floor for acoustic and bouncing iPhones

Wayfinding – find places, meeting rooms, areas etc


Always innovating.. needing space that evolves with us, R/GA lets people hack it. Some of the hardware they use

Collaboration – diverse skills collaborating for a common vision . connected space build for team work

Networked offices – bumping into people; sparks something,

Employee location by beacon

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Storytelling – as a company committed to connecting the physical world to the digital landscape, our space tells our story 

Unified design and experiences.

Connected LED panels show ribbon projections, journey screens

Everything tells the story of the brand and the people

Staff project – looking to bring more emotion to screens

R/GA combined the music DNA of people who work at RGA. They got the top 50 songs of people and  .. hooked slack into Spotify.

Inspiration – “a workplace should be a place to spark creativity”

  • Prototype studio
  • Game room
  • Startup accelerator space
  • Outside art collection
  • Slack office bot. to learn about people

Workshop build a Facebook bot

We used the Reply .ai platform that allows rapid prototyping of conversational bots and robust solution for conversational services. The flows are actions or rules. Actions ask questions or provide info to the users.

Rule, if-then. separate conversation out onto different branches. We made one that mimics a booking system for meeting rooms. Hmm hack day project anyone?

Next post: will be the mornings synthesis of the week we had, summarising the teams conclusions of the state of Design Thinking and Innovation .. its been an amazing week.

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Back to Day 4

Design and innovation week – day 4

Day 4 – Knowledge Quarter, Facebook and BBoxx

‘Collaboration for innovation’ – talk from Knowledge Quarter

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Jodie Eastwood – CEO Knowledge Quarter, information broker and super connector

Back at our HQ residence, Jodie talked about the goals of Knowledge Quarter London. Linking tech companies, educational institutions, libraries ( in the area around Shorditch, Kings Cross London and areas for the advancement, creation, assimilation and dissemination of knowledge.

London Library, Allan Crick medical library, Google, Allen Turing Institute, Bloomberg Creative Quarter 1759 for example. It consists of 35-80 partners, cross sector, and thier strategic priorities vary from group to group. (60000 staff in a network)

Goals/Mission is large: Foster local innovation, recognise diversity, distribute knowledge to the world, advocacy and communications..Knowledge exchange sharing , community engagement, environment and sustainability.

Developing proprietary knowledge base members can access on subscription, (Member fees are based on organization type and number of employees).

People are encouraged to meet each other not email and discuss their field on a non-jargonistic way either over dinners or even just ‘over a coffee’. This often causes synergies and connections in what might be otherwise unrelated fields. E.g. maths could help a chemistry or statistical model problem.

Not wanting to disrupt communities like Silicon Valley has disrupted suburbs in San Francisco, Knowledge Quarter initiatives include:

  • Fostering community walks e.g. VR kit walking tour of buildings so people, communities can see what the institutions are like.
  • Apprenticeship programs for local people, they can work with an expert and bridge gaps into work or study.
  • Provide positive involvement at primary school level. Knowledge Quarter had found that getting primary school children interested in careers before secondary school (and the distractions of teen life), they carried a sense of what they wanted to do and how to get there.

At a visit from the ‘Craft council’ Julie remembered talking to a student and asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied “a footballer, basket baller or a structural engineer” heartening her greatly.

  • Walked six hundred streets to identify opportunities to improve things around Camden and Islington.
  • Another event run by Knowledge Quarter was an architectural hackathon. Town planners and design students built models and scored them and presented to the local authorities
  • Advocacy and policy dinners e.g. for advancement of AI and machine learning , lots of experts (Watson, Deep Mind CTO, multidisciplinary sharing ideas and educating policy makers.

Positioning the area and London as an Innovation District; they are areas driven by people (mainly millennials and many gen-x’s) want to live, work and have recreation (fun/play).

Purposefully connected districts
Brooking centre in Seattle for example, people value proximity to work, a sense of place (galleries, cultural activities, coffee) , want to cycle and walk to work . This cannot be forced and has to be authentic. Physical connections between people, relationships and firms , produces something greater than the sum of their parts. Once this reaches critical mass says, Jodie, innovation happens. see One year after: Observations on the rise of innovation districts | Brookings Institution for more

Jodies’ conclusion;  innovation and dialogues  

In conversations, don’t use acronyms, be challenged, don’t use expert terms, ask questions and don’t be judging. Have a positive outlook, don’t fear failure. In this collaboration and innovation are inevitable (and we must accept it).

Get to that point and the barriers become simple….

VIRAL Model for innovation

Vision – Share vision, work together, tackle the big problems, the large questions.

Shared ownership, context where collaboration is possible. How it works in practice is negotiable and contextual

Impact – Focus on collaboration, what will it achieve

Relationship – collaboration , trust, people

Action – reflection, plan , monetisation

Learn – equally learn from failure and insights

This is not prescriptive, the method looks at trust face to face . Interview, then and now.

Review yearly. This was really inspiring and it would be great to see something like Knowledge Quarter fostered in Melbourne. 
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Sights seen walking station to station – onwards to our next stop.. Facebook!

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Facebook designers poster

That will be added as soon as I get feedback on what I can share. It was informative!

Chris Baker Brian – Bboxx

This was our final talk of the day after lunch and a few interchanges on the London Tube back to We Work. Chris Brian Baker is Co founder and CTO of Bbbox.

BBoxx sell solar battery, light, usb charger (most useful charger from their research) and low energy television primarily in East Africa.

Starting as a charity program after university, it pivoted in a for profit model.


Sold through a local retail network, training and up-skilling locals and making power affordable to many users off the grid or who can’t afford the grid costs.

IMG_6155 (1)Bboxx Industry Verticals

From SAS to PAS

Bboxx is Power as a service. With their own engineers they produced a solar battery and monitoring system that can send feedback and GPS location through the 2-3g network. Every 4 minutes, data comes in about usage times and types of devices (boxee devices only) use. It can’t power a fridge yet.

If the bills stop being paid by the householder, the power can be cut remotely until payment is made.

Design and development frameworks not unlike REA, from the 12 month strategic plan, 3 month programme of roadmap 1-2week development cycle.

Quarterly meeting for roadmaps  – Moscow rules, must should could and state gates.

During agile projects , they have showcases more frequently and also stage gate (decision points)  and get feedback early and often from stakeholders.

In the future with their R&D on remote IOTT, monitor and control technology, there is a market for selling those products and cloud monitoring system.

They also are looking to monetize water, and would be able to control local water supplies.

Innovation for Chris? Luck and data.

Focus on the road map, agile team, frequent showcases and early and frequent decision points. 

This was quite a day and we went back to our accommodation to share some learnings and cheese we’d brought at borough markets.
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Design and innovation week – day 3

Day 3 

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We Work entrance

Ben Saurer,  Clearleft – Beyond boxes and arrows. Designing with voice

It was back to the WeWork co working space for a talk from Ben Sauer from Clearleft.. They are a leading design, strategy and education agency. They make ‘Silverback’ the mac based OSX user testing software.

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 Voice User Interfaces (VUI)

Ben made some key points regarding VUI’s

  • They have no affordance (how they work signaled by what they look like e.g. door handle = pull , push plate on door = push)
  • The burden of input falls on us as the signal generator not an interface. However he says that VUI is an efficient short cut and there is an opportunity for VUI beyond the use case.
  • Still in its infancy, VUI is good at goldfish moments e.g.Do this, set that, add to calendar.

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What would be really useful is when we can do ‘if this , then that ‘commands. E.g. if I am in the garden and the doorbell rings, notify me that someone is at the door.’

It’s an interface that demands attention. Ben talked about the movie ‘Her’ by Spike Jonez being a great example of what VUI could be like in the future, talking naturally and adding tone and nuance to what could be usually the mechanistic reading of e-mail by a screen reader.

Talking about Apples ear pods, Ben thought the point beyond wireless headphones was having the Siri assistant available all the time just like in ‘Her’.

“We will keep trading privacy for convenience”

There are two modes of VUI, command active (hey Siri), the hound(go find x) and always on (Ben likening this to the Stasi secret police).

Alexa (not in Australia officially yet, like high speed fiber to the door internet friends have here sigh,) is Amazons ‘play for ubiquitous computing.

Ben talked about WeChats apps bots, whilst having a conversational interaction, still had many menus placed consistently for support. Conversational VUI is still evolving and overhyped. You still chat and use the menus but its still another channel to talk to an organization. Choosing tone and voice of your conversation is important as how people gauge the bot is how they gauge your brand.

Ted Livingston; at an event Ben attended, talked about having to take care of the overall experience when you are in chat, AI is over hyped, and so far without domain knowledge. VIU apps failing and are mainly terrible. Ben then played back and example of a search app that read back your search in a terribly mechanistic voice.

Some examples of VIU that were not terrible included multi modal offerings such as Google Home, and a combination of Siri and Remote on newer Apple TVs.

What would make VIU revolutionary?Don’t put a tiller from a boat on a car.

Shift our design mindset Ben advises. The problem, Ben thinks, is that we bring our design mindset, preconceptions and baggage from other platforms, mobile, touch, desktop etc to new ones projecting biases that hamper, hobble or are not applicable to VUI.

Changing of mindset of design and engineering is needed.

Changing society to get used to ubiquitous VUI is staring with Google home advertising showing families in the room together with individuals talking to the VUI. Google realized ‘bringing people together’ was better than being creepy; if it was a loner person talking to google home like their cat.


Google Home Advertisement

Its like the introduction of mobile phones for the first time in the 80’s; people were initally creeped out by yuppie people on phones, everywhere, no longer tied to a ‘land line’.

Going beyond the use case

VUI will thrive when it can connect things together. “I’m driving to Richmond, and I need to buy a bottle of wine”

Connective tissues

Platforms need to be less ‘walled gardens’ and more interconnected. Siri doesn’t talk to Alexa and vice versa. Currently, we can’t connect ‘job doers’ so eco systems don’t play well together. We can’t tell Echo to ‘call mum, on skype, in the lounge’

We need API’s to interact and link these systems together. Connectivity is coming says Ben, for example Siri kit, signaling that it is starting to happen.

We’ll know its there; when Siri can call us an Uber.

Shazam; shouty app – brands and interaction are largely gone with VUI and a bad voice UI experience becomes how you perceive brands and services.

Ben went on to say that ‘brands will not matter in the future’ once they are integrated into VUI experiences, which, before he qualified that statement led to some interesting discussion in the group. Our group thinks that the voice interface is the brand unless things are so well connected we don’t think about or worry who played what part (all the connected services and brands via that connective tissue) of the experience to “call mum, in the lounge, on Skype”.

What we may want to know is who has our data and how secure it is. But it left us thinking when Ben said that; the brands and technological strata we now don’t care about from 20 years ago, will be the ones people 20 years from now (the ones we care about, interact and work with now) won’t care about.

What we lose


We are continually trading off privacy for convenience. Surveillance and co-veillance (active in our self declaration of our personal data. E.g. find friends)

(he referred us to Matt Novak, Kevin Kelly for more on this area)

VUI considerations – screens give us immediate way finding, its built into the mode. Voice is like being in a dark room. You need to ask is if VUI appropriate for the context you are designing in. E.g. an app to help find the right undergarment , or help you in the kitchen with your hands full.

Roles of VUI

  • Secretary  – dates, notes , emails
  • Bouncer – security for our banking for example . HSBC feeling confident they have got VUI security for banking almost nailed.
  • Gopher – go find me (assistants are still gophers)

VUI is still transactional, not conversational

Building VUIs

Define a VUI persona for your brand. It needs to have a tone of voice with you being the script writer.

Generate the dialogue, type it out and write it like a scene. Question it, rehearse it like improve.

Create a flow like your are designing an IVR. Do ‘Wizard of OZ testing’ read the script with a user and a a person being the VUI.

VUI limitations

It is not good at

  • Large amounts of input
  • Presenting choice (screens are better)
  • Natural breaks in language
  • Fuzzy tasks
  • Recording issued commands
  • Security
  • Privacy
  • Noisy environments
  • Follow up qustions

VUI opportunities

  • Apps
  • Platform integration
  • iOS and Android
  • Accepting criteria
  • Delivering search results

ASOS clothing for example, there are so many interactions on screen, an easy verbal choice would help with that interaction. Pennies; the app , telling it what your expenses were rather than typing them in might be easier.

VUI may render some screen based content redundant. (ref Ursula Franklin)

Technology is not about things, but what it does for people and their habits, rituals , practices and outcomes.

Innovation game, something broken, some popular platform. Ben took us through an example of an innovation game he and his colleagues use for problem solving or idea generation.

  • Post its
  • Problem  on one column, popular thing (service, product, tech company, app etc)  on an other column. See and swap , looking and talking about how that thing can help. Its like improve and spark thinking on how that or something related could help with that problem .

They don’t have to make sense. If they make sense or half sense take a pair and pitch, critique it.


  • Steal
  • Turn
  • Iterate
  • Reorder

This game creates an ‘eco system of evolution’, each pitch and feedback loop iterates on the core ideas taking more time to solve the pain points.

Innovation Game Instructions – Credit: Future London Academy – Carmen S


Gaming hackathons used this with game mechanic and platform/game as columns . e.g. poker | Zelda

Innovation is slow

  • Slow user research is needed to discover deep unmet needs and insights
  • Validate problems as you go
  • Product pace is faster, different speed to find good answers.

(Hence UX Research in Digital services = running discovery studies outside the product road map)

‘How AI can help you be more creative’ – talk from Luba Elliott

Luba Elliot @elluba is a creative AI artist. She shared with us several projects she had  been involved with showcasing the participation of AI on several projects.

Beyond the fence – whilst not strictly 100% AI written, the script and music had been co written, an AI generating and people curating dialogue and music. The AI had been fed 200 musicals from 80’s-90’s and had been performed to mixed and lukewarm reviews.  Whilst not terrible, it did not really stand out from other average shows and broke no new ground, but was remarkable in the way it had been constructed.

Another short film ‘Sun spring’ on YouTube written entirely by an AI was intriguing in the sense the dialog almost made sense and had a strange internal logic of its own .it felt like it was going to make sense at any minute but never did. It was produced for the Sci Fi London 48 hour film challenge.


The third project she shared was ‘auto-encoding Bladerunner’, taking the original film and having it reconstructed frame by frame as the AI ‘understood’ it. It was so like the original it had to be taken off the internet for copyright reasons.

Lawrence Lek ‘ Geomancer’ was also another film that was recommended.

Turning Test performance art – people reading to each other . One or both reading AI generated scripts. People pretending to be ‘uncanny valley’ or ‘siri’

Interestingly where it was the Church commissioning art in the past, organisations like Mircosoft and Google in a sense, are.

AI in creative industry example; the Prisma’ app was mentioned.

‘The AI and art aims to achieve an outcome that neither party could have come up with individually’, so we’re in no immediate danger of being replaced for now.


Walking to the next venue we had lunch at the ‘Borough markets’ before proceeding to No 1. Tower Bridge on the banks of the Thames river. I possibly had the best fresh pasta dish I’d had in years. And walking 5 Km per on average this week I could burn it off lol.

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‘Future of AR’ – talk from Blippar

We walked and went to the No 1. Tower Bridge building and visited the agency ‘Blippar’,  with the augmented reality (AR) platform of the same name’ Blippar. (Sadly this was during the events at Westminster Bridge not too far away eerily reminiscent of the Melbourne Bourke Street Mall event of late.)

AR should be worth 90 Billion (GBP) by 2020 according to Blippar

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  • Machine learning
  • Hololens
  • Vive

Mentioned as technology Blippar are working with.  Blippar are helping clients with AR content around brands and has an education arm that manages AR content for education and training.

Blippar are looking at phones as the delivery mode until other platforms such as glasses technology catches up. (Hurdle to overcome will be the negative publicity google glasses had (no one wants to be a “Glasshole’)

aCommerce – Blippar see a an opportunity to place advertising opportunities over real places and locations. Walking around you’d see messages from your favorite brands if you pass by and have the camera viewer seeing them.

In a concept video, the phones camera sees for the person walking along offers and content informed by surrounds, brands and context.  Offers, info etc. AI helping platform how to interpret what we see , Blippar ‘Visual browsers’ go walk, see offers will have to be curated by peoples preferences or they could be overwhelmed and distracted by the additional information overlaying reality

At the office I hovered my Blippar app over the Guardians of the Galaxy demonstration page and got some great AR content. It ‘sticks’ to the phone when you move it to a comfortable viewing position so you don’t have to stay in the same fixed hand position. This may be for some people ‘not’ a pure AR experience, but a great one ergonomics and a longer engagement as it  ‘grabbed’ the AR content and allowed it to be used it comfortably.

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Facial recognition will also play a part, choose your preferences and organize or the danger of cognitive overload and navigating a real space could be a visually crowded proposition.

Blippar are keen to putit out there, seeing how people use it, this addition of a digital layer to our world. We will have to mediate it and curate it ..and there may be modalities;you as a tourist vs shopping vs commuting ..

AR for learning demonstrated adding context and content to posters and learning cards in class rooms . Visualize chemistry, geometry  etc. They see applications in Education and corporate training, a scaleable assistant.

The platform is heavily monetized; people pay per region and platform in a subscription model.

Use this a link to the app, hover the phone camera over some Blippar content behind a picture and interact. It pulls put their demo content online or you can try theirs here at their showcase page. It will be interesting to see if to ‘blip’ something in AR will be as ubiquitous as googling something.

Their next concept is face profiles in AR (see data about a person on your phone by pointing it at them.. Scarily this looks like a precursor the the concept in Black Mirror Season 3 episode one. (See a preview here) compare this the to the Blippar face recognition imagery in this article and you can see the similarities. In Black Mirror, the AR is built into your eyes so no need to hold your phone up to someone. Convenient eh?

Blippar – facial recognition…


…reminded me of – Black Mirror – near future fiction facial recognition

Take away

AR has potential to inform your daily life, I’d hazard you’d need it contextually aware and comfortable to use ergonomically and socially..

Back to Day 2     or    on to Day 4

Design and innovation week – day 2

Good evening  (Retrospectively posting)

Today was another great day in and around London. We started at our residence shared space and enjoyed our first guest speaker of the day.

‘Innovation for fun and profit’ – by David Bott (Innovate UK)

Our morning started in the communal space with a guest speaker David Bott examining design thinking and innovation through a ‘for profit, and for fun’ lens.

He examined ideas from a perspective of how to move people away from a self centred (solecistic) mindset to team for their collective benefit. Company goals in his mind are to get ahead of the customers ‘head’ anticipate needs before customers (users etc) need them and anticipate where customers are going.

Innovation for David, has a number of facets; products, methods, exploitation of new markets and new ways to organise business.  For example, a scanner designed to detect falls in the elderly were not cost effective, but its inventor tirelessly shopped the idea around at different industry presentations. A large supermarket chain ‘Tescos’ approached the inventor and ended up ordering 60,000 units to monitor supermarket queues for over crowding. Once detected additional staff would be assigned to check outs to alleviate congestion, allowing Tesco to promise enough staff in times of high demand. It also meant manual observation of queues could be shut down but rather than eliminating staff, they would be re trained and re assigned.

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Obstacles to innovation can include: cost to commercialisation too high, regulatory environment, technological (we can’t do it), context, trends and the complexity of the situation.

His message: Ideas are not the sole prerogative of a lone person/s, it’s the responsibility of the organisation. 

He shows us several models of thinking from the not so past that are valuable today.

The Stage-Gate® Product Innovation Process | Stage-Gate International  – useful for checking viability of ideas in a staged approach. Idea generation also has an element of fun for the collaboration in organisations it can foster and banding together in response to a challenge that ideas are put forward to address.
Use ‘Yes and..’ not ‘Yes but’ when discussing ideas and try not to project our biases on to them.

‘Elephants, empathy and ego; service design beyond blueprints’ – workshop from Lloyds Bank

After a short walk we went to a communal space and heard from Ross Breadmore service design lead from Lloyds Bank.

His story about implementing service design mapping in a large institution led to cut through of understanding needs and potential opportunities to fulfil gaps in points in aspects of Lloyds services and products.

Telling stories for peoples experiences in the form of short video movies and service maps made for a more compelling artefact to communicate their bank customers needs. It was hard he said, for staff to dismiss commentary from actual customers around a particular internally held belief or bias.

Again empathy for people was a strong theme of Ross’ talk, with the powerful quote he shared from a lead agency creative from a London Google talk he attended recently. ‘If you are not into people, you have no future’. 

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Like Nick Le Fevre from IBM in day one, taking insights from interviews, observations and other discovery activities, Ross’ would have people map insights and data on to a blue print framework that captured, peoples actions, interactions and touch points then back end activities thought a persons journey.

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We did a similar exercise at Ross’ direction in groups; mapping the experiences of one our our team members airline booking. She revealed that whilst the flight booking and payment went well on her app, the gap occurred when the booking number of the airline mis matched the booking number from the app third party. She had lost the confirmation and unsure of departure times causing her stress,  and had to call a customer service line to talk to a person who was able retrieve and resend the booking detail.

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The blue print map captured the actions and emotions of the experience and showed a gap that the back end process. The service did not account for the mis match and revealed an opportunity for the process to be fulfilled (score one for an addition to the fictional product roadmap.

“Be humble, bite your tongue and champion others” Ross Breadmore

As a sole service design lead in the bank, other people started taking an interest and trying it themselves. Rather than shutting this down Ross took the approach to upskill and help people with their work, often updating his colleagues first attempts and giving them credit for the work. Similar to here with people at REA interested in discovery and user research, this the same approach my UX researcher and I take; skilling, pairing with or mentoring people who are interested in running their own studies.

As user research grows at REA my UX researcher and I are here to guide the discipline as a practice stream.

Ross’ comments confirmed for me the framing of UX Research in my team and across the larger organisational landscape as a strategic partner to design and product.

Lunch – Skygarden

After another tube ride (my health app says I’ve walked at least 10-20 flights of stairs), We had lunch at Sky Garden. A building that before shading was fitter on the windows, was melting cars.  Lunch there was spectacular with inspring views of major London landmarks and seeing how big the city sprawled.

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Ravensbourne Design School

After lunch and a walk across the Thames river (hello London Bridget) we caught another tube train to Ravensbourne, a design college next to the space age O2 arena.

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Our host was Paul Sternberg , Head of Design Innovation. The space of the building fosters cross collaboration between disciplines with no physical departments but open collaborative spaces and rooms for study or lectures. Designers sit next to media students, getting ideas and skills from interacting with other areas of practice. Offering several masters in design innovation, it was amazing to meet undergraduate students with strong awareness of design thinking, social design, organisational psychology and applying them at an early stage of their pre career life.

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The role of pastoral care, it was not limited to just one department of Student Services, but also by all staff to look after students who were living out of home, managing finances and starting new social connections, taking on debt (courses cost 22,000 GBP) for the first time, a lot to take on in addition to an academic workload.

We finished with a presentation and discussion by Deans; Lawrence Zeegan (Dean of School of Design) and Gary Pritchard (Dean of Media studies). They were tasked with collaboratively revising curriculum and programs, taking a user centered design approach to having it work around the student. I’ll put them here for brevity. Take away for us; boundaries in practices are blurring, the challenge is finding common language when we’re talking to each other across practice. Their curriculum was also pragmatic “People, Purpose, Profit’ creating graduates with business acumen as well as skills. Like Ravensbourne, we are all involved in creative processes and continuing to work together collaboratively, exploring ideas keeps us ahead in our market.

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This ethos reminded me of the spirit embodied in the REA graduate program. Looking at the confident undergraduates, I can see similar qualities in our graduates, past and new.

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Back to Day 1     or    on to Day 3


Design and innovation week day 1

FullSizeRender+3March 2017

Hello from London.. retrospectively. This is my write up of an amazing immersive I attended.

Today was the first day of a week long immersion course, understanding how organisations and agencies here apply new technologies, design thinking and research. At the end of the day, our group of 20 are taken to a different cultural tour of London.

Today our hosts Ekaterina and Mo, introduced the week plan, and we got to meet the other participants, there is only one Londoner, one Irish person also now living in London. Other participants range from Russia, Poland, Brasil, China, Germany and Australia (Yours truly). Each day consists of a morning lecture, practical workshop, an afternoon session visiting an agency and then a short cultural tour to balance the brain.

First stop IBM

IMG_5783 (1) We visited via the subway (the tube) IBM London located on the Thames riverside, we heard a presentation from Nick le Fevre (@nklefevre) | Twitter  , an AI and Cognitive Computing Consultant at IBM Watson.

Nick works with clients on AI related projects, but before any solutions are aired, deep observation target users and processes is conducted to determine where and how an AI solution will fit. Talking about AI and some good at general things or specific tasks. Being a framework of an AI Understand, Reason, Learn ; Nick talked about the ideal situation being AI helping us with outcomes that neither side could achieve alone.  Examples of AI Watson was very close to home with Deakin University and this appealing children’s toy.

Another fascinating concept is ; it compiles a video of TED talk segments (just the segments not whole videos) that are based on your post and other behaviour on Twitter. We discussed if an AI also needs to suggest things outside what it learns from us so as not to make a closed loop and no option to see new things.

In all of this the design thinking ethos Nick and his team use an Observe , Reflect, Make (and test) divergent then convergent approach (A double diamond variant). Going into an organisation to understand the work, people and tasks, he’ll shadow people to observe interactions with tasks, other people and over time, pain points, workarounds and uncovering un-anticipated behaviours. “If you want to find the real problem, you have to observe”. Their researchers after this will map the flows, pain points, processes and tasks they have observed as a group as this helps ‘fill in the gaps’.


Another design consideration for AI is its tone and voice especially with a conversational AI. Nick’s A/B tested different ‘personalities’ of bots with people, to see how they relate and associate a brand with the AI’s ‘personality’. Some good considerations when we have a chat bot or voice activated service e.g. ‘Hey REA, find me a property in 2 KMs of work’ – how it replies and the results will affect how people feel about our brand.

After Lunch and another Tube ride , we visited Liveworkstudio

Ben Reason – Liveworkstudio  , presented a look at how they applied service design thinking to various clients including KONE elevators, Gucci and British Rail.

His main tenets in practice and teams consulting include

Empathy – seeing people in their natural environments, hearing their stories

Collaboration – teams discover and collaborate on solutions

Visual story telling – using story boards, service blueprint (processes, touchpoints and what people are thinking, feeling doing in and around the area of inquiry.

Prototyping – using lo fi to quickly iterate on solutions e.g. book of ideal flow on flexicar style car booking app in London and now across Europe

We did some exercises reflecting on how these factors are used in our business and getting us to think about touchpoints before and after engaging with us that we need to understand. A diary study we’re compiling may also give us insights about points in time consumers engage property without us and reveal gaps where we can help.

IMG_5803 (1) this was a rich workshop and quite dense so another post may be warranted when I’m back .

After that we had a walking tour of St Pancras station and the fascinating history of innovation in the 1800’s of adjacent competing railways offering things such as grand accommodation before a rail trip to attract customers. Rail journeys had ‘feature parity’ so it was the experience around the core experience that differentiated them from each other.

Northern line build this .. with an adjacent hotel

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Midlands line built this in reply – fancier and hotel over the station entrance.

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St Pancras interior


I’ll try to capture any highlights each day, but after full day then night.. see how I go..

Good night – on to day 2

Sketchnote – Speculative Everything – Chapters 3 and 4

Both chapters were enjoyable reads.
Chapter 3 – Covering the authors thinking about design critique as a catalyst for change and social usefulness to something more subversive, got me thinking about chemistry notation. Using a chemical notation style,  I wanted Chapter 3’s half of the sketchnote to show design critique’s catalytic power and manifestation in design materiality and consumer engagement.

The description of ‘Dark Design’ refracting Idealism & optimism into facets described in the chapter inspired the idea the prism metaphor. As it can manifest as speculative design with a darkly ironic twist designed to provoke thought and question, I was reminded of the UK Series ‘Black Mirror‘ a series of dark, exploratory and cautionary stories set in modern societies with different values/facets to ours and near futures. The stories explore themes similarly to the aspects Chapter 3 describe of ‘Dark design’. (Note: some stories may be disturbing and viewer discretion is advised)

Chapter 4 explores the intersection of design critique as a way to explore scientific research and design, drawing on recent and speculative examples of ‘Sci Art’. It also discusses how moving from the lab, to market then everyday life can result in changes in design, citing XEROC PARCs work on interface design manifesting in products we see daily e.g. Apple and Microsoft shaped by forces including critical consumption and advertising.


Through transgenic fusions of plant and flesh, exhibited artifacts described in this chapter, provoke discussion and discomfort as a way to question ‘should we?’ in ways lab experiments cannot. Hayes experiments and ones preceding it discuss the commoditsation of human genetic material that let people own ‘living’ remnants of others reminded me of several films and TV shows exploring this.

Bladerunner with commodtised, purpose built human ‘replicants’ with a four year lifespan, forcing consumers to replace them. The Island, shows another dystopian future where the rich pay for clones to be raised for spare parts but actually self aware, who are harvested and euthanised , (not the non conscious ‘agnates’ the Islands marketing team tell them).  Almost Human, a near future sci-fi with androids. Chapter 4 reminded me of Episode Two in particular, where androids are illegally covered in harvested human skin to increase their appeal.

In light of the next module, ‘Gibsonian practices’, Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson, has a plot thread including a scientist who made a deal with an artificial intelligence to modify (part of) his daughters brain into a hybridsed ‘bio-soft’ which raises many ethical and moral questions of what it means to be human, consent and societal change if we can interact with an online world through an in built biological interface.

The projects described in Chapter 4 and the film/tv shows I’ve outlined, can make people question if it can be done in the lab, should it be released into the market potentially changing how we see and value aspects of life and society.

Sketchnote – Lucy Kimbell ‘Rethinking Design Thinking Part 1’

This is my first posting in the Masters Of Design Futures blog, and first sketchnote I’ve attempted of a research paper. After a gap in studying academically, analysis and synthesis of this paper, not just a casual read was an ‘eye (read mind) opener’.

Kimbell’s framing of issues with design thinking and the language of design is accompanied by the discussion of what is a designer.  She also provides a ‘deep dive’ into the history of ‘design thinking’ pre the prominent  Tim Brown and Roger Martin. This paper discusses Brown and Martins shaping the conversation of design thinking in the public and corporate spheres. (This was my first exposure to the term truth be told) and some of the issues including how this has affected the discussion around what it is to be a designer and who is.

Sketchnote of Kimbells - Rethinking Design Thinking: Part 1
Sketchnote of Kimbell’s – Rethinking Design Thinking: Part 1

Kimbell proposes rethinking design thinking within a network of practitioners, stakeholders and users ‘known and unknown’. Drawing on disciplines can inform a designer of the world, especially valuable if they are designing in a context that is outside their domain and culture.