Magazines

“I don’t read the magazines cause I don’t want to be influenced by trends”. A friend said this to me and got me thinking. Why do I read magazines? Just to let you know, I read all kinds of magazines; from Vogue to National Geographic, from Dazed to Works that Work.  The answer is the following. Magazines are filled with ways to tell stories. In one image, in an images series in different writing styles, both long and short and of course in the overall issue of the magazine. I read and explore a magazine for joy, to learn new things and to be inspired by the great variety of ways in which stories can be told.

 

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Rules for Revolutionaries

Bernie Sanders’ fight to be elected in the USA was remarkable as no one had seen him as a potential candidate. Becky and Zack describe the revolution they tried to start together with Bernie. This politician understood that politics was not enough, he wanted a movement. Just like Obama did in 2008, Bernie worked hard on community organizing as a tool to raise voters, awareness, dedication and power. It was not enough in the end. But the two campaigners, Becky and Zack, share the rules they discovered in their journey in this book. 22 rules that I will not all describe.

I will share one: Rule 11. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the big. In other words, if it is not shiny and designed but does fulfill its purpose, work it! In some occasions not having the end design is fine and unnecessary. This rule is a bit scary to me, as a designer, but also challenges me to give it a try. There is a big pro to this rule which is that if it looks unfinished you will get more input from its users to make it work better. In my previous job as spatial designer a finished render could sometimes feel too finished for a client, they saw no room for changes they wanted to make. The question is: what does the thing you present has to represent? Is it the finished design or an idea? Is it about how it works or the looks? Do the looks care in a social revolution?

The social revolution worked, thousands and thousands of people connected with Bernie Sanders’ team of staff and amazing volunteers. Community organizing on a big scale, I am impressed. The book describes internal and external struggles, management decisions and volunteer request, a must read if you want to work on big change!

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Bond, Becky and Exley, Zack, Rules for revolutionaries – how big organizing can change everything, 2016.

The Key: How Corporations Succeed by Solving the World’s Toughest Problems – Lynda Gratton

This book did something to me. I meant to write about it for some weeks now and I couldn’t as I was not sure how to start and what it really had meant to me. Lynda describes organisations from their core to the far outreach of their network. The Key she is talking about has everything to do with people management. From building inner resilience to making sure the community and your production chain are a part of the network used by the organisation. Not an ordinary approach to innovation. Yes, innovation starts with allowing people to move beyond the boundaries of the office into the field and let people in from the outside. 

Innovation is a term that is almost used too much. Is it about change, new things or are we talking about great inventions. I prefer the definition: the process of doing new or old things in new ways. The reason I like this definition is that it is process driven and it is more than a tangible outcome. When it comes to enhancing innovation at the workfloor I believe strongly in the approach Gratton proposes. I just wonder if all the great examples she gives also have a darker side we do not hear about and if you go out or make your boundaries transparant, what should you have build within the organisation to allow integration? Good food for thought. 

John Thackara – In the bubble, design in a complex world

Thackara is a design teacher, director of Doors of perception in Amsterdam and Bangalore and he writes about what a sustainable future could look like. 

The book in the Bubble describes how our life has evaluated from relaxed and reflection into more and more speed and stuff. He pleats for thinking before making, rephrasing before taking things as they are and human centered before maker centered.

He illustrates his ideas with very simple examples that actually stand for a very complex man made system. I’d like to name one or two. The book begins and half way again he comes back at the place where he is sitting in his car in an endless line of trucks. He starts wondering, and explaining, that this is one row of trucks, imagine all the trucks that are send all over the world. This amazement builds up to the quest to produce and source lighter. The second example is questioning smart objects, the internet and digitizing our world. The simple example is a house thermometer that is keeping a house at a perfect temperature all day long. But because the skins of the houses are not well made we need to keep adding heat to have a warm home rather than improving the house’s skin we have chosen to give more force, and energy, to the heating system. Is that really smart? Or are penguins, that heat and cool when needed by using their feathers, smarter?

Not just digital areas are touched. Thackara has a holistic view on all sides of designs such as buildings, communication, health systems, sourcing materials, school and speed. The missing links are the exchange of knowledge and tools from one industry to another. Not just that, the way we demand things has often to do with how we’re missing the actual point. For example: do we demand to be quicker to one another? Or should we say: we want to bring people closer? In essence he keeps wondering how we ended up in a system where such a small amount of people are represented and is exhausting our world and our brains.

Mister Thackara, I would love to meet you, just to start drawing with a big group of designers how our world is at the moment. To understand our systems and to see where we can break in and make an alteration.

Service design, design management and product design are some of the fields I will walk around in. While I am here I hope to be able to make sure I am not exhausting our planet. In the bubble, burst the bubble, next to the bubble, however I am able to put it I wish to reorganize to find smarter options to innovate.

Mapping simplicity

‘Most of the times you need the book next to the book you came for’ – a teacher

When going to the library to search for books on mapping strategies. It dawned to me that it might be good to look into infographics. And yes, next to the handbook on infographics were highly interesting books on making diagrams. Which looks a lot like the maps we create as service designers. The purposes are different and we can learn from the graphic designers. I’ll write in depth about that aspect in my essay. One of the books that sparked my attention is from Jozua Zaagman: ‘Comfort zone and disillusion #4 from here to there – reality mapping’ who made maps out of real time situations using a strict grid and mapping language. A small book explains his method and way of going about it. His way of mapping is precise and rigid. I would like to connect this with the work of Jan Rothuizen, a Dutch illustrator, who draws the stories of places and the people in it. The two have a completely different style but are both on spot when it comes to registering happenings. It also links back to a class we had from Tine Bech who uses her own ‘language’ while observing people in the playgrounds she creates. I think we could use these methods during research in a more rapid way than what we do at the moment. Now we’ve conducted research, came back and made the maps. The two mentioned people make the maps at the spots and these become like recording machines. A tool I hope to use with my next research interview or observation.

Who owns the future – Jaron Lanier

A book about silent services. Our details that are being sold to third parties without our agreement, let alone benefits for us. How else can a company that is only giving us information making money out of us? This books gives a genius insight into the world of ownership. Is my Facebook profile picture mine? Or is it just my head and can Facebook do with it whatever it wants? We don’t know these things as all that is written about this issue is far too complicated for anyone who isn’t a lawyer. Lanier is able to pose questions, go for the extreme and then get back to reality where he shows strikingly how our world is shapable. 

While reading the book I had the feeling that Lanier was urging us, readers, to rethink value and ownership. He never said that any situation was good or bad, but he did explain how all these elements are a part of what we know as our reality. In any given situation we would ask someone: why do you need to know this. But when it comes to our behaviour online we don’t seem to care. As a designer with a possible future in chair positions I will at least review how we deal with these elements of our world. If possible I’d like to show what is happening with data we take or use. 

At the moment we, 6 service designers and myself, are building a service where the data of people is used. We made very clear that the benefits would not just be for the seller and buyer but also for the person who undoubtedly shares his information. Perhaps that is a step into the right direction.

Nassim Taleb – The black swan

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable  – Nassim Taleb

A book, confusion explained and lessons learned. This book explains why it is so hard to predict the future. The unimaginable is sometimes pushed away by our biased minds, sometimes it does not appear in previous statistics and many statistics do not embrace the exemptions of society.

Why are we programmed to believe futures with the knowledge we have? Why do we not believe a story when the details are not usual enough? Why do we want to catch happenings in curves so badly? The book does not offer an answer but does show how true these assumptions are. Taleb gives examples and insight into theories and questions he has about our lives.

Black Swan is the exception on the rules that we have created based on our previous experiences. I used too feel comfortable knowing that people knew and understood these rules and based decisions on them. After and while reading this book I started to open my eyes for the unknown, unpredicted moments. In the mean time Trump has become elected president in the United States. Many talkshows in the Netherlands discussed the question: Why did this happen and Why did we not see this coming? Trumps’ success showed how we cannot base our assumptions on previous counts and outcomes. We have to revise how we get our information and listen for the words unspoken everyone agrees with. I hope that Trump will show how he as an unusual figure for politics can be create a swan of the USA. In the mean time, as Taleb has shown as well, people will search for the gaps in their statistics and predictions to find what they have missed. I will keep my ears and eyes open, wondering what the future will bring, and not predict too much, rather find out along the way.

Design for the real world – Papanek

‘Increasingly, many of us (especially the young) have come to reject the mere accumulation of material possessions. That this emotion is endangered largely by the fact that we live in a postindustrial society bursting with gadgets, knickknacks, and manufactured trivia is abundantly clear.’ (Papanek, page 40, 1984)

History will repeats itself is what’s been said often. The quote above could be applicable for the millennials. From what I see happening in design courses, emerging industries and movements I could say we are making some progress today. Between the ‘80s and today we have had a huge hang for possession, now we go into a world where sharing and experience are more important than owning. The difference is that we share so much of our personal lives on social media and we learn from each others’ stories. Could that mean that sharing what we own will become easier in the future as well?

Papenek describes situations where design lacks the vision for a sustainable future. We use too much of our planet and we design still for reasons that no one really understands. The production of products that people don’t need but only want because of the idea that the new thing is better. Or even worse, we design for people who needed something else than what we propose, and it doesn’t even fit their environment.

The cultural blocks and the descriptions of cultures being invaded with unfitting designs puts a smile on my face. I have seen this often while traveling in Nepal, Swaziland, South Africa and Vietnam. The words Papanek uses are spot on:

The design of any product unrelated to its sociological, psychological, or ecological surroundings is no longer possible or acceptable.”  (Papanek, page 188, 1984)

Next to imposing the idea of different cultures means different designs Papanek shows how different cultures also means different solutions. Problem solving works in a different way in every culture eskimos and the 9 dots, or drawing maps in Alaska. We should learn! I would like to explore and work with this knowledge one day.

The version I read is rewritten in 1984, it is 32 years later and the material is still relevant today. Papanek could be called the founder of Uber taxi’s on page 270: ‘The user should summon a mini taxi to his particular location with his radio (thus eliminating the biggest argument against public transport: a long walk in the rain and then a wait at the bus stop). The mini taxi could then take him to his specific location, again eliminating approximate destinations. Payment would be via credit card and billed monthly.’  If you ask me, Papanek is an idealist who understands how to read development.

This book shows that we are either not there yet or maybe that there are still many opportunities left for the new generation of designers to grab. We as designers have the responsibility to think about our actions in multiple layers before we make new stuff. We from the west could be blamed for the rubbish that is made in the past years. I don’t like to think in terms of blame and shame, I would like to propose that the way we have behaved shows us neatly how we can mold our world in different ways. Now it is time for a new way.

A guidebook, the basics, explanations and examples, not all the answers but it provides some straws in the wind. This book is clear and understandable. This book has a multidisciplinary approach towards Service Design. It is nice to read how a product designer approaches Service Design. My bachelors’ in product design is pleasantly linked by Satu Miettinnen who explains that service design in product design has to do with approaching the whole manufacturing process. The idea of developing hybrid products, developing products that also provide services, is a field that suits me as I always search for the moment where the user comes in. The stakeholders play an important role in all service design developments. I am keen to start applying the approaches!  

The new book called ‘This is service design doing’ is the follow up, I am curious to find out what hands-on techniques they will explain.