Just found this really interesting article on ‘public wayfinding’ guerilla signages in N. Carolina.
Filed under: Thoughts on readings, User/Human Centred Design, on empathy and values
I came across Brené Brown’s talk in a magazine called Dumbo feathers at a doctor’s surgery. It was serendipitous - there I was, wrapped in a thin cotton gown that has that opening at the back that shows your bum - feeling a bit embarrassed, cold and vulnerable, reading all about these feeling in her interview. I read the whole article TWICE – mainly because the doctor was late, but I was hungrily consuming every single word she was saying. She is so good at talking about uncomfortable emotions like shame, fear and vulnerability (and the accompanying efforts to try and remove them). She speaks so candidly (and so humorously) in acknowledging her own vulnerability, without becoming those ‘touchy-feely-hippy-loving’ self-professed spiritual gurus. Even more amazingly, she comes at this as a grounded researcher, and challenges the enshrined epistemology of research that privileges repeatable, generalisable and controllable outcomes.
The effect of reading her article, and subsequently watching her talk on TEDx also made me realise how I try very hard to push aside my own vulnerability, rather than accept it. She says that in our attempts to ‘numb’ emotions we don’t like, like guilt, fear, shame, envy, we also numb other emotions like joy, acceptance, compassion, love. Emotion can’t be selectively controlled, even though we try. Not accepting these emotions is not accepting ourselves, and prevents out ability to feel the other emotions.
From the day I read this article, I think something catalysed within me. I’d like to be a person who is comfortable in saying ‘I don’t know’, ‘I’m confused’, ‘I’m weak and need help’, ‘I’m shit at this’, rather than pretending that I’m not. This realisation was important to let me further see what it means to being human-centred. In research terms, being at that doctor’s surgery was a ‘critical incident’!
Filed under: Methods+Tools, Service Design, User/Human Centred Design
The irony of service design is that its so good at selling itself that it doesn’t see that its not very good at being critical of itself (I’ve blogged this elsewhere – SD conference in Oslo, and the SD talk by Shelley Evenson at AIGA, Raleigh, US for example). I think this is symptomatic of a predominantly business-oriented-and-led field, and perhaps a more naive attitude towards research. Since service design (esp. its methods) is centred on design research, I think the lack of understanding and training in research impacts on the designer’s ability to uncover and illuminate insights, and also worryingly threatens to embed their (or their stakeholders) assumptions and biases into the design process and outcome. This can be problematic. It was interesting that a point was made at the conference about not ’showing post-it note pictures’, and its true, that simply showing these doesn’t reveal much. But I think the point is that we do need to be critical and inquisitive in trying to understand what is going on in those ‘post-it’ moments in design. This kinda tells me that we (as designers) are still very poor in doing design research, research of and with others, as well as research on our own practices.
Service design is a pretty demanding field in terms of the skills, experience and training for designers. They’re required to undertake facilitation with people; demonstrate exquisite visualisation and problem-exploration skills; be an persuasive communicator; possess knowledge in marketing, business and organisational (change) management; undertake intuitive thinking married with real-world applied understanding; unravel complexity through systems thinking; and if that’s not enough, be an advocate of ‘customers’, ‘users’, ’stakeholders’, ‘participants’, ‘community members’ – whatever the label applies – in being human-centred. Is to be a service designer akin to being an expert-jack-of-all-trades designer too, and is this really possible? It seems like the ‘T-shape’ person analogy may not be enough.
The ‘feral-ness’ that I referred to in the SD12 talk wasn’t meant to be taken as a negative – and I hope it wasn’t. In fact, I thought that was what made Australia’s SD community interesting and vibrant. It is a wild, rough, ‘frontier’ that is still being carved out by practitioners who have learnt their skills through the ’school of hard knocks’, rather than being taught ‘formally’ through an education system. It is as diverse as the number of designers practicing in them, and they bring their own unique ‘take’ on it. The sense I get from Europe (esp. Scandinavians, who love purity of methodology) likes to define ‘what is’ and ‘what isn’t’ service design, and though that’s a start to an interesting polemic discussion, it actually ends up with a form of ‘elitism’ that excludes things that don’t ‘fit’ neatly into pre-defined fields. If service design is truly human-centred, it will naturally reflect the ‘messiness’ of it too. Because design can dangerously over-emphasise uniformity, efficiency and productivity, I think ‘feral-ness’ is a great balance in promoting diversity. I’m a big fan of diversity!
I’ve been ‘banging’ on about the uniqueness of this corner of the world, which I think is really obvious to outsiders (though I’d like to think I’m an ‘adopted Australian’). SMEs being a bigger segment of the economy make it an ideal condition for ’start-ups’ to get going, including designers forming their own businesses (and perhaps this is indicative of the rapid growth in SD). There is a strong willingness to embrace multi-culturalism, which brings a different kind of issues related to human-centredness, say, in comparison to places like Scandinavia where its relatively homogeneous. There is stronger awareness on environmental issues, concern for energy use and connection to the land and country than any other developed nations, and we see this surfacing commonly in every-day conversations. Worryingly, there is more ‘anti-intellectualism’ that’s prevalent here than any other places I experienced, which can often paint academics in a negative light (which is a stark contrast to a place like Japan where they’re often ‘worshipped’) – and could this be impacting on a) designers valuing a postgraduate qualification b) critical thinking is not strongly reflected in practice and c) going back to my original concern about the lack of design research skills in service design? It seems to perpetuate a negative cycle if we are unaware of the important things that’s going on in practice if practice is the only (best) way we can learn about service design.
Dialogue and reflective practice is good way to short-circuit this cycle and begin a process of self/collective awareness-rasiing. I found these blogs to be quite refreshing in their candidness in capturing the service design conference.
Filed under: Some ranting
I was watching the ‘history of Eurovision’, a brilliant SBS program that tells the story of Europe (its political struggles, civil wars, and human rights oppression) through the Eurovision song contest and they showed the country, Estonia, who literally sang the country to independence from the Soviet Union. Former Estonian Priminister, Mart Laar, says in this program, ‘They decided no to send the tanks. It’s hard to send the tanks against a singing people who are just singing together doing no harm.’
Oh, how wonderful!