d.SCI: Intersecting Information Design, Dataviz and Cognitive Art

I am joining a discussion on Information Visualization and Interaction Design… and the integral role of Cognitive Art to deliver innovative HCI (Human-Computer-Interfaces.)

Heare are sample projects that I have been involved in. This set showcases: multi-modal user interfaces, metaphorical abstractions, and cognitive models, as well as ergonomic form factors that optimize for extreme ease of use.

d.SCI refers to a methodology that I am working on which purposely intersects design and science. In this particular discussion, human congition and affect are the topics of interest.

Project Portfolio - 1

Project Portfolio - 2

Project Portfolio - 4

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Project Portfolio - 7

Project Portfolio - 6b

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Project Portfolio - 10


Debunking Design Thinking Myths

“Reflecting the diversity of the agenda, we are thankful for the support of our advisory board. The board is integral to the development and execution of Design Thinking, supporting the strategic positioning of the brand and advising to the content and participants that matter most. Hear from some of the greatest minds in Design Thinking as they shed a light on its mysteries and separate fact from fiction.”

Debunking Design Myths CoverDesign Thinking Advisory Board.jpgDesign Thinking - Jose de Francisco 1

Design Thinking - Jose de Francisco 2

Design Thinking Agenda



Agile Software in a Hardware World


“The world of IoT and connected devices is expanding rapidly. We all carry super computers in our pockets and interact with everything from home automation, cars, consumer electronics, and healthcare devices.”

“In this complex hardware + software environment the product development cycle can be tricky. For example, you can’t just follow agile software practices by the book when you’re building a connected pace maker. So how do we approach product development when the stakes are high and the moving parts are many? During this discussion we’ll be tackling topics such as:”

“How do you roadmap a product which includes both hardware and software components? How does agile development fit in? How does the regulatory landscape affect how we approach development and iteration? How do you build teams around these integrated products? And how do you keep them in sync and working together?”


I’d first like to thank the team at DevMynd for their kind invitation. I am looking forward to joining the panel discussion in Chicago this coming Thursday, February 22. In the meantime, I will welcome any comments and insights as I gear up for this discussion.

I’m working on outlining some of the myths, dilemmas and trade-offs that I have encounter as an Industrial Designer and in Product Management.

From a design perspective, there are two topics worth looking at: Design Thinking as a Human-Centered methodology and its outcomes in terms of: (a) utility, (b) usability, (c) consumability, (d) affectivity and (e) the composite and differential value of the resulting digital experiences that involve software and hardware.

This “new brave world” equips us with the freedom to explore new form factors, cognitive models and, most impoartantly, the development human x technology networks. Some of the specifics come down to design semantics re-defining HMS, Human-Machine-Systems, in the context of multi-modal user interfaces and innovative interactions where Machine Learning and new visualization paradigms happen to surface.

From a Product Management viewpoint, there is a need for also pondering about how to best leverage Design Thinking beyond Industrial Design and Software Development to talkle product and service strategy. Here my focus gravitates toward addressing: (a) success factors and (b) limiting factors under control, as well as (d) other determining factors beyond our area of influence that can impact the difussion of innovations either possitively or negatively. Moreover, I like to couple business model innovation with behavioral economics and information network effects.

This construct really boils down to capturing the essence behind (e) stakeholders’ acceptance criteria and (f) the users’ engagement, adoption and growth rates. This means defining capability and maturity levels and how to best factor for the fact that they adapt and evolve over time. Obviously, this leads to taking a close look at how to best intersect Lean and Agile practies, but not only, so that we can lead and navigate constantly changing environments in “digital time.”

Let’s get down to a more tactical level: end-to-end system design entails a mix of loosely and tightly coupled elements, and a platform approach to operate at speed, scale and wider scope that what black boxes can match. A reality check unveils a hybrid world where decisions on capacity and performance levels, as well as serviceability and dependency levels drive decisions toward optimizing for distributed systems and, therefore, the rising value of end-to-end solutions vs. point solutions only.

In that context, inter-disciplinary teams involving creative technologists and domain experts make our organizations effectively diverse, smarter and innovative. Otherwise, self-defeating arrogance, conflicting silos and technical myopia can make pre-production and production be costlier by promoting unncessary friction and getting everyone to work harder and harder rather than smarter. Typically, that negates productivity, forces a number corrective actions, and significantly shifts and/or downsizex sought after results.

The beauty of the Studio’s human-experience-centered practice is a healthy obssession for delivering “meaning.” The definition of “meaningful outcomes” (rather than churning outputs) makes these organizations behave based on value and impact. We strive to foster not just customer satisfaction and net promoter scores, but measurable customer delight and network effects (superior and service-level performance indicators) which, in turn, set and streamline technical requirements.

Long story short, the Studio’s mindset (critical thinking / wonder & discovery / problem solving) and workstyle (collaborative / experiential / iterative / adaptive) help explain why creative technologysts are instrumental and serial innovation engines for the digital age.


Footnote: the term “team of creative technologysts” was first coined by Nokia Bell Labs back in the 1940s to single out the differentiated value of inter-disciplinary undertakings. In the late forties, Bell Labs’ Clauded Shannon pioneered Information Theory and John Karlin set up the first Human Factors Engineering in industry. That HFE team was formed by a pyschologist, a statistician (the father of quality control visualization,) an engineer, and a physicist.

Nokia @ Service Design Week 2017

Exploring Other Methods. November 7, 4:00 PM Understanding How Design Thinking, Lean and Agile Play within Service Design.

“Since service design serves as the umbrella discipline for delivering service experiences, there are many sub methods to address different types of problems. For example, Design Thinking is helpful on the front end to empathize and identify customer needs where Agile is helpful in software development and digital experience design. This group explores well-known methods and how they play a role in the service design universe.”



I’m back in Chicago and I would first like to thank everyone who joined my session about “Exploring Other Methods” for your participation (full house) and encouraging feedback. I hope to cross paths again in the near future. In the meantime, we can take advantage of LinkedIn to stay in touch. I would also like to express my gratitude to Michael DeJager and Tyler Peterson for all of their tireless help.

Here are the links for a couple of the items that I briefly discussed when providing context for Exploring Other Methods: a photo album of where I work, Nokia’s Chicago Technology Center, and the first version of the Human Factors Engineering Manifesto. Regarding requests about the slideware for my talk… I ran an interactive whiteboarding session with my iPad connected to the projector and I did not produce formal slides.

The discussion’s narrative was centered on how to best approach HSM, Human-Machine-Systems, to craft a compelling Service Experience. In that context, “Human” refers to relevant stakeholders and “Machine” to any technology involved. The “Systems” approach prompts a holistic undertaking which includes Front Stage, Back Stage factors and the continuum across the too.

Service Design is about innovation, whether capability-wise that qualifies as incremental, breakthrough and/or disruptive innovation. Today’s Service Design also entails a wide range of low and high-tech at any point in the process. While this is just anecdotal evidence, when I asked everyone about who can do away without any technology, there was an implicit understanding of the rhetorical nature of my question and, therefore, the obvious pervasiveness of digital experiences.

We are a technological society. Good design is concerned with human factors and crafts technological solutions to enable human experiences that contribute to our quality of life and the quality of the work we do. That is Human Factors Engineering (HFE) reason for being, a field pioneered by Nokia Bell Labs in 1947.

From that perspective, it pays to intertwine any relevant practices and tools for the healthy purpose of figuring out what combination works best for any given Service Design project. While process repeatability is a desired outcome, what makes an interdisciplinary team smart is the ability to mix, match and blend what’s needed for each undertaking.

We can think of it as an a-la-carte menu featuring elements from Design Thinking, Agile and Lean methodologies just to name a popular handful to start with. I did not discuss some other such as Concept of Operations, Goal Directed Design or Outcome Driven Innovation, but I do recommend expanding one’s horizons beyond the aforementioned few. Note that while featuring commonalities, each one works with different optics. A holistic approach to Service Design also requires a composite method, leveraging as much (or as little) as needed from any, and with any needed adaptations.

Rather than summarizing what I shared at Service Design Week, I’m taking this chance to further reflect on those insights. So, given that we operate in highly dynamic environments, why wouldn’t designers also apply dynamic methodologies?

I’d like to think twice about cookie-cutter and one-size-fits-all approaches because Service Design typically prompts problems and opportunities where fixed-gear-techniques that might have worked well in the past can end up betraying one’s confidence: they might no longer serve or be the best fit whichever purpose they were originally conceived for. Design typically takes us beyond our comfort level, and that makes it an exciting profession.

Statistically speaking, the more one does the very same thing, the closer one gets to mastering that craft (e.g. deliberate practice model). But, paradoxically, you also get closer and closer to confronting environmental deviations, anomalies and rare events in an ever-changing world with even-growing moving parts and targets (e.g. black swan model). Besides, Service Design practitioners shouldn’t deny themselves the benefits that come with continuous improvement. So, here is a quick recap: innovation in Service Design’s outcomes and method innovation go hand by hand. As Einstein put it:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”

Executive Forum on Digital Transformation (DX)- Chicago, September 12 2017

“Argyle Executive Forum is bringing together senior digital & IT executives from a variety of industry verticals for our biannual CIO Chicago Forum. Throughout a full day of content and networking, we will focus on the most pressing issues facing IT executives with regards to leading the business through digital transformation, with an agenda geared specifically towards Chief Information officers, Chief Data Officers, Chief Digital Officers, as well as Data/ Analytics/MIS VPs, Directors, and Architects in a leading role.

Leading the Business Through Digital Transformation – Argyle.

imageFirst, thanks to the team at Argyle for what turned out to be a timely and insightful conference on DX, Digital Transformation. Nokia was one of the Executive Forum’s sponsors as a Senior Supporter.

It is worth noticing that this event featured partners who we work with such as HP Enterprise, Thought Leader Sponsor, and IBM, Breakout Session Sponsor.

That talks to the criticality of collaborative undertakings as Digital Transformation becomes a pressing objective across industries, academia, public service and government sectors.

What follows is my notes and personal insights. While all the sessions and discussions were quite relevant, I would like to highlight the opening keynote, which set the tone and narrative of the event.

imageJames P. MacLennan, SVP & CIO at IDEX, discussed “The Five Components of a Great Digital Strategy,” which addressed the fact that “Design Thinking”, “Human Factors” and a collaborative culture involving interdisciplinary workstyles and “Great Teams” have become of the essence.

Moreover, he stated that “a Digital Business” will only succeed when it understands hot to connect with people.” The “human element” and, therefore, “people centered” strategies turn out to be critical success factors.

I would like to add that this entails engineering a continuum of (a) stakeholders, who are all human personas by definition, and to do so across (b) UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience) domains.

This job takes (c) a holistic understanding of customer facing (front end) and resource facing (back end) elements forming a coherent end-to-end system. Otherwise, operational fragmentation will take a toll and will deny the intended DX benefits.

imageJames’ presentation displayed the convoluted UI (user interface) shown in this picture to illustrate the paradox of well intended yet counterproductive implementations that negate transformation initiatives.

Here is another valuable insight coming out of Argyle’s Executive Forum: information technologies (IT) and tech and processes for operations cannot longer be worlds apart, which demands superb cross-functional teamwork.

Cognitive overload, deficient information architecture, and poor usability translates into: human error, risk aversion, costly budget overruns, missing or deviating from goals, so on and so forth.

Any and all of these issues combined can be silently impacting quality or, simply, just lowering the bar for a business to get through noisy and cluttered operational environments. That is hardly the stuff that operational excellence calls for.

Obviously, in the context of CX, customer satisfaction becomes harder and harder to attain and, more specifically, to get that effectively done in a consistent fashion.

Predictability and consistency are key objectives for any Quality Management program. If that scenario alone wasn’t troublesome enough, Customer Delight (rather than just satisfying agreed upon requirements) is Design Thinking’s ultimate performance indicator, which commands a premium clearly beyond reach under those circumstances.

Quality management wise, “satisfaction” is the fulfilment of expected specifications while “delight” is about great pleasure, or great satisfaction if you will. “Satisfaction” can be rationalized and is the acceptance ticket to be in business. “Delight” accounts for human affects (emotions) and is a powerful source of differentiation. Those who think that’s just about splitting hairs should take a pause and think twice because DX is set to enable game changing experiences on all counts and fronts.

Thoughtout the forum and session after session, Jim’s “Design for Humans”  principle gained more and more critical mass as presenters and panelists discussed the reasons why we should be mindful of the user journey and how to best improve all touch points along the way.

In one of the panel discussions this became even more evident when the question on aligning people, processes and technologies pointed to difficult prioritization exercises. Note that there was immediate consensus on the need for putting people first and humanizing technology and processes by applying Design Thinking, a human centered methodology that is corner stone to the job of creative technologists.

That means projects that are driven by clear missions and specific experiential outcomes and lifecycles (Goal Directed Design) rather than just an I/O approach. It also means rapid experience prototyping and A/B multivariate testing to explore possibilities since Design Thinking is a serial innovation engine.

imageLet’s connect some more dots.

Chicago’s NPR station aired a rerun of The Power of Design this past weekend. The discussion was centered on “How Can We Design For A Better Experience.”

By the way, TED’s acronym actually stands for the convergence of Technology, Entertainment and… Design.

Interview with Tony Fadell, one of the main designers of the iPod (Apple) and founder of Nest (Google).

 “Design begins by also noticing all those little problems that many ignore (…) we we though our lives accepting these design flaws that actually don’t improve our lives.”

“Steve Jobs challenged us to see our products through the eyes of the customer, the new customer, the one that has fears and possible frustrations, and hopes and exhilaration that the new technology can work straight away for them. He called it “staying beginners” and wanted to make sure that we focused on those tiny little details to make things work faster and seamless for the new customers.”

“There is this positive emotional momentum that builds on itself at each step of the process (…) when you hit a brick wall you loose all the momentum (…) and though away an entire great experience.”

“There are to halves to design, just as there are two halves to your brain, the emotional part and the rational part. If you want people to truly adopt your product it has to have an emotional component, something that grabs you (…) that unlocks your curiosity, it also needs to rationally work (…) because people see value beyond the sexiness.”

Interview with Joe Gebbia, Airbnb cofounder.

“Any time that you see duct tape in the world, that’s a design opportunity (…) it’s an indicator that something is broken, that something did not perform the way it was design to and that there is an opportunity to improve it.”

“Design is the key to (Airbnb) success (…) and as a competitive advantage, design is thing that can separate you (…) the next thing that can differentiate you. All things being equal, two comparable products side by side with the same technical features and components… you will be crazy to choose the one that is harder to use.”

“Airbnb’s design decisions not only made the service easy to use but it helped millions of complete estrangers trust each other (…) and open their homes (…) design is more than the look and feel of something, it is the whole experience.”

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