“Hyper-focused on both the evolving digital landscape and the ‘design doing’ of creating excellent products & experiences, Digital Product by Design acknowledges that the creation of digital products extends far beyond UX & Engineering”
“In all cases, next generation product development requires a multifaceted approach to consistently deliver Excellent Digital Products”
Digital Product be Design 2019 #DigiProd2019
I would first like to thank CMP and Marisa White, Principal Analyst, for the opportunity to participate in this year’s Digital Product by Design conference, which was held in Los Angeles just a couple of weeks ago.
My involvement started earlier in the year as an Advisory Board member for the Design & Innovation‘s think tank, which also covers Design Thinking, Experience Design and Service Design conference series. Additionally a lengthy personal interview was featured as a three-part blog in the months gearing up to the event:
- Part 1 – What is Human Centered Design
- Part 2 – Maturity to Digital & Design
- Part 3 – Human Centered Design as a Priority
I am also glad to share that my talk, “How To Apply Human Factors to Emerging Technologies” (below) was scheduled as the event’s first session. My presentation introduced a primer on QXbD, Quality Experiences by Design, which also positions the Studio’s model relevance in this line of work.
On subsequent days I joined the conference’s Design Leadership Panel (above photo) and hosted a roundtable discussion on “How to Scale Up and Down in Conjunction with Business Requirements“.
Digital Product by Design 2019 was attended by senior leaders across a wide variety of corporate functions and industries. That is a reflection of the fact that:
- digitalization’s pervasiveness is leaving no sector untouched because digital experiences have already become the new normal rather than an experimental fringe
- digital transformation initiatives remain at top the C-suite’s agenda, though challenges abound and success remains elusive for many… culture being the issue
- compelling service experiences involve a mix of low and high tech, and even our most common daily products can now be connected and highly interactive
- mobile connectivity, networks, cloud computing and software defined systems are coming together at ubiquitous speed and scale… 5G’s thrust enabling what’s next.
Digital Product by Design 2019 – Speaker line-up (sample)
Google’s Vivian Sarratt reminded us about the need for taking interdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork to new levels by aligning common goals, communicating and sharing what’s needed and co-designing to better innovate, which also has to do with relinquishing control in the outcome’s best interest. Vivian also covered Andy Grove’s OKR, Objectives and Key Results framework.
In the context of my roundtable addressing “How to Scale Up/Down in Conjunction with Business Requirements”, OKRs became instrumental for first defining the mission in terms of sought-after outcomes. Innovating also has to do with fluid game changing initiatives and acknowledging that a plan might not survive first contact was also relevant because ripple effects and moving targets are likely to arise… therefore: (a) foresight and early situational awareness, (b) agile fine-tuning and calibration, (c) the courage to say “no” to defuse mission creep or distractions, and (d) timely pivoting, all being key abilities to navigate unchartered territories.
Second: aligning stakeholders across functions under an interdisciplinary organizational culture rallying adequate resource levels. Diversity of optics and thought leadership should generate the sort of creative tensions leading to innovative problem solving. Each individual should be empowered to make a difference, though it does take an interdisciplinary team to deliver… while staying away from groupthink’s counter productive bias.
Third: equipping worthwhile creative efforts to succeed, which does entail managing elastic resource levels (scaling up/down) and “controlled failure techniques” allowing for rapid experimentation early in the project’s journey… as well as “starting lean” and “remaining nimble” through the endeavor’s multiple twists and turns. The roller-coaster nature of creative work is not everyone’s cup of tea: it takes core values, earning organizational and user trust, work ethics and mental toughness.
I would also like to take this chance to thank Y Media Labs‘ Ashish Toshniwal, Joe Johnston and Stephanie Wiseman, Discovery – Motortrend Studio‘s Argam Dehhartunian and American Specialty Health‘s Ali Hussain for the engaging discussions and insightful remarks.
“Focus on the humans (customers and employees) at the epicenter of transformational change” – Joe Johnston, Y Media Labs.
Discovery’s Motortrend Studio in Los Angeles.
Thanks again and looking forward to crossing paths in the near feature. Please feel free to reconnect on LinkedIn to stay in touch and continue any of our discussions… or get new interesting ones started : )
Let’s start with a retrospective. While studying industrial design in Barcelona, all the way back in the late 80s, some of our class’ courses followed Bruno Munari‘s teachings, whose methodology was captured in “How Are Objects Born?”
A PROJECTIZED DESIGN MEDTHODOLOGY
Munari’s world was introduced to our class as a multifaceted down-to-earth creative. He positioned a so-called “projectized methodology” as a logical sequence of desing operations aimed to maximize outcomes by applying the minimum required effort.
Munari emphasized the merits of painstaking work addressing “objective values” to generate creative outcomes… and strongly dismissed any whimsical and fanciful approach that would shortchange thoughtful due diligence and, therefore, proper design.
In that context, no disciplined practitioner should ignore the fact that discovery and iterative workstyles can lead to modifying and improving any method, as design tools and process also become a subject of design. Why? The set of assumptions, principles and rules deployed a project’s front-end… might not necessarily be the ones delivering successful outcomes at the project’s backend.
THE UNDERLYING THINKING
Munari’s referred to Rene Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method,” which was published 344 years before “How are Objects Born” was released. Most people relate Descartes’ better known “I think, therefore I am,’ statement. At the expense of possibly sounding corny, let’s translate that into “I Design Think, therefore…” for the purpose of this discussion.
In the 17th century, Descartes positioned a proven-fact based approach to problem solving: “true and sound judgements” that we can “intuit or deduce with certainty.” The so-called cartesian doubt involves methodological skepticism: nothing is taken for granted. The Scientific Revolution was taking hold. Earlier momentum generated the Renaissance was taken to new levels of enlightenment.
Descartes taskflow entailed decomposing complex matters down to what become atomic level ones: those are still coherent and manageable enough (cognitively speaking) for us to effectively address. His method calls for solving for the ones that can be successfully tackled first.
GETTING THE DESIGN JOB DONE
Munari’s mind-mapping illustrated a taxonomy of primary, secondary and more granular lower level problem statements as needed, followed by data gathering and analysis. Experimentation ran options assessment.
New discovery was encouraged. Technical and production feasibility considerations being instrumental early in the process so that constrains and implementation choices were well understood. Once testable prototypes become available, iterative user involvement and validation drove improvement and optimization A design prospectus and project file would feature:
- Final design proposal and prototypes.
- Problem mindmap.
- Design specifications sheet.
- Notes on streamlined design considerations optimizing for simplicity.
- Production cost and comparison analysis.
- Use cases, expected functionality and performance.
- Sensory and experiential assessment, accounting for all senses.
- Ergonomics, usability, maneuverability, including health hazards.
- Journey touch points and wear & tear: upkeep, maintenance, serviceability.
- Impact of ad-ons, packaging, and any other attached and surrounding items.
- Aesthetic coherence and modular design components.
- Social value and cultural contribution.
THE GREATER VALUE OF DESIGN’s WHOLE
Back to Descartes, he would point to the need for addressing the integrity of the overall system and, therefore, the higher value of the composite view. This also is about ensuring that no gaps, breaking points, ruptures, weak-links, leaks, and loopholes remain. Basically, stress testing our solution with a “continuous and wholly uninterrupted sweep of thought” as he would put it.
Just a couple of more things about Descartes… in his “Rules for the Direction of the Mind” explicitly he stated that “we need a method if we are to investigate the truth of things” and should investigate “what others have already discovered.”
And in the “Discourse on the Method” he introduced data visualization by means of correlating values with the cartesian coordinate system, which intersected geometry and algebra to become the foundation of analytics geometry.
The Bauhaus’s centenial anniversary, 1919-2019, is worth highlighting. During my industrial design studies, the German Bauhaus‘ lasting influence was quite significant and largely conveyed by professors and program directors with a professional background in architecture. Here is a summary of what that meant:
- Form follows function.
- Less is more: straighforwarness, abstract simplicity, and great refinement.
- Clean design and aestic finesse, all production friendly and scalable.
- Adopting and pushing the boundaries of emerging technologies.
- Designing is not a profession, but an attitude.
- Indivisible unity of formerly separated and indenpendent fields and silos.
- Craftmanship pride and signature designs that make a difference.
The American New Bauhaus influenced the post-World War II culture and settled in Chicago at the Institute of Design, part of th IIT, Illinois Institute of Technology.
Our class was confronted with a compeling Bahuasian approach that could result in highly formal, rigid and austere geometrical configurations while Barcelona’s environment was (and continues to be) a reminder of the contrasting Catalan Modernism of the early 20th century, unapologetically being:
- Abstracted organic shapes, shapes and structures that are nature inspired.
- Carefully crafted eclectic sophistication and visually arresting outcomes.
- Celebratory by mashing up historical elements under a new light.
- Theatrical experiences as people become design’s live audiences.
- Strong sense of cultural change agency.
Also worth recalling that the late 80s intersected Post-Modernism, a movement that featured a wide variety of optics and was a departure from rationalism and, therefore, purposevely confrontational. Subjectivity and and criticism abounded.
DESIGN FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Munari’s “projectized methodology” helped dissect problems and got the design job done while keeping any rushed and whimsical design at bay: no need for the overly and out-of-touch “romantic” stuff as he saw it. Munari also confronted any “luxurious” and “fashionable” design statements, which he qualified as superfluous and frivolous, and the antitesis of design.
But, it did present the sort of shortcomings that can come from applying constrains from the get go. The fact is that freethinking can make a difference at the project’s onset. Applying Descartes’ methodological skepticism would neutralize that. However, relying on Descartes’ rational wisdom alone does not suffice. Damasio’s “Descartes Error” exposes the following:
“Reason may not be as pure as most of us think it is or wish it were […] emotion assists with the process of holding in mind the multiple facts that must be considered in order to reach a decision. The obligate participation of emotion in the reasoning process can be advantageous or nefarious […] when emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions”.
My next article will continue this late 80s and early 90s restropective, which takes me back to my college years. I will switch to my experience in engineering school for the purpose of deliverating about what QUALITY really is about. As an example, I will exchange views on TQM, Total Quality Management, and Operational Excellence… and will circle back to this post to connect the dots to clearly define QXbD, Quality Experiences by Design.
- Damasio, Antonio R.. Descartes’ Error. Penguin Publishing Group, 1994.
- Munari, Bruno. Como Nacen los Objectos. GG, 1981
- Descartes, Rene. Discourse on the Method. 1637
- The New Bauhaus. Opendox, 2019. Accessed on May 12, 2019 https://www.thenewbauhaus.com
KEYNOTE @ Design Thinking 2019 #DesignThinking2019
FULL LENGTH TRANSCRIPT VERSION
What are your biggest Design Thinking/Human Centered Design related priorities?
To address this last question, I would like to start with a quick recap a panel discussion, which I was involved in a recent engineering conference.
We should first run a sanity check and ask ourselves and those who we work and collaborate with: if we are not prioritizing Human Factors in design… who are we ultimately designing for?
If the immediate answer is not about optimizing for the human experience, then let’s think through our other options: robot overlords? the zombie uprising? an alien invasion? Admittedly, it took the audience just a little while to process the underlying humor. I must confess that being thought-provoking by playing the contrarian card can be a challenging exercise in a public setting.
In any case, there is a need for identifying unnecessary risks behind the so-called “if you build it, they will come” approach, which can promote technical prowess alone at the expense of human-centered design considerations, and compromise the overall project.
The negative impact of a techno-centric only strategy can manifest itself as: (a) mounting technical debt due to unforeseen usability impairments, (b) re-work, latency and hidden costs, and (c) the sort of opportunity costs in project financials and resource allocation that can deny the implementation of alternative user-friendly options.
Stage-setting and rhetorical questions aside… the business value of design is directly correlated to how we diligently design Quality considerations into any offerings.
This is not just about “left-shifting” practices and procedures to prevent “back-end loaded” issues. It does require institutionalizing Design at the front-end… and throughout the process.
Back in the early 1990s, J.M. Juran’s classic, Quality by Design, discussed two angles: a product’s better value and freedom from deficiencies, as well as the degree to which “fitness for use” could be the quality principle connecting them both.
He also made the point about misalignment between product design and the underlying operations & business processes over the product’s lifecycle.
Three decades have gone by and Design-to-Value and Operational Excellence go hand by hand. Most importantly, Design Thinking places the emphasis on “empathy,” which is how we, on the business side, learn and also “experience” what matters to users and stakholders.
In Nokia’s context, Quality Experiences are enabled by capable technologies (e.g. Design Thinking’s technical feasibility) and business model viability.
One of my priorities is to further the scope of Nokia’s QXbD, Quality Experiences by Design. That goal specifically addresses “UseCaseAbility” in a collaborative fashion to craft optimal superior offerings, OSO.
QXbD embraces the qualitative and quantitative nature of the following four dimensions applied to the front and back-end environment continuum over the lifecycle:
- usefulness and effectiveness
- utility, consumability and efficiency
- usability, adaptability and lifelong accessibility
- affectivity (desirability, adoption, delight, loyalty)
Settling for good-enough and table-stakes customer satisfaction is deemed sub-optimal. And, therefore, design efforts are sized, adequately equipped and optimized to succeed.
Design Thinking 2019 #DesignThinking2019