Well done to Ian Fitzpatrick whose post on Intake and Interruption took an early lead in voting and deservedly never looked back. Ian joins the hall of fame, and my thanks to everyone who took part. Next vote in early September.
Wednesday night saw the great and the good of UK planning come together for our twelfth (twelfth!) Google Firestarters event, themed around 'Designing for the Future', and we had three amazing speakers who gave three excellent provocations.
Anab Jain, TED fellow, founder of Superflux, lecturer at the Royal College of Art (and whose work has been exhibited at MoMA, Apple and the Tate Modern), spoke about designing for the 'new normal'. She described a world of 3D printed guns, DIY drones and amateur space rockets, hackerspaces, crowdsourced innovation and surveillance (including Tiltor, the location-based 'group challenge' service designed to influence crowd behaviour and stop riots). A world where an algorithm gets appointed to the board of a VC firm. A world of technological empowerment. A new normal.
Design, said Anab, traditionally uses comfortable and well understood metaphors to cloak novel innovation (skeuomorphism) but this can be like conceptual valium. Designing for the new normal should be about uncloaking the 'strange now' (learning from edge cases or disruptive forces hidden behind those comforting metaphors), and extrapolating current trends to present the full breadth of (often unsettling) future possibilities. Anab gave some examples of work that Superflux are doing in this area including creating a drone aviary, and the fascinating Open Informant project.
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino followed with a really compelling talk charting the progression of internet of things and how the increasing proliferation of IoT and wearables are turning us all into measurable entities. The data which we generate is becoming increasingly valuable and yet there is no capitalist environment for data. Right now, not knowing the value of what we own, what we produce, what we generate in terms of data is leading a kind of consumer privacy myopia.
Alex used the example of Jennifer Lynn Morone Inc, the Royal College of Art student who has turned herself into a corporation and collection of marketable goods and services as a graduation project in Design Interactions designed to determine the value of an individual. She went on to talk about the potential for data to become stigmatised as it is used more and more to determine personalised experiences, policy and pricing (using the insurance industry and the use of wearables to track lifestyle and behaviour as an example). It is therefore crucial that we are really clear about how data is being used (privacy is only an issue when the value of a service is unclear and handling of data lacks transparency), that we build standard communication strategies, that we decide where our responsibility to end-users lies and engage in opt-in behaviours, and that we give people the opportunity to benefit alongside us.
Faris gave a hugely energetic talk to finish off, focusing on how we define the future. Humans, he said are to a great extent defined by our ability to imagine future scenarios and it is this that enables us to build that future (and without it there would be no planning). Design is making future in our heads, and how we imagine the future defines what it looks like.
He then talked about how difficult it is for us to imagine 'multivariant' future scenarios and how this often results in things that no-one wants (with reference here to the well-worn internet-connected fridge example which has been around for a number of years but has failed in terms of consumer adoption because there is no good use case). And he finished with a lovely thought about how being positive about the future is a lot easier if you like people.
Suffice to say that my head was spinning after all that. A number of people mentioned to me afterwards how refreshingly different the event had been and our speakers certainly gave us three very challenging, brilliant and distinctive perspectives on our theme, so my thanks to them, and to Google for hosting of-course. You can see a Storify of the event here, and see the Scriberia visualisation in all it's glory here.
I'm happy to be working with the smart folk at Brilliant Noise to curate a brand new conference on innovation which will be a part of the excellent Brighton Digital Festival in September. The festival is one of the most eclectic and rapidly growing festivals of ideas in Europe (the 2013 festival had an audience of over 41,000 people to 175 events) and so our event will be in good company.
Dots is all about fresh thinking, connecting ideas, new things from existing things, the process and practice of innovation. It's a one day conference running on Wednesday 3rd September, and we've got some excellent speakers confirmed including:
Russell Davies – creative director at GDS, currently busy transforming the delivery of Government Services
Nathan Guerra - Nathan is industry head of creative agency partnerships at Google.
Hugh Garry - Hugh is creative strategist at Storythings, a company established to experiment with new ways of telling stories, and has a great take on where good ideas come from
Joanna Choukeir - Joanna is design director at uscreates and has also recently completed a PhD in communication design.
Dots will run 10am – 5pm in Brighton's funky North Lane, tickets cost £175, or just £100 if you book before 18th July (with lunch and refreshments provided through the day) and you can book here. Hope to see you there.
The next Google Firestarters event is happening next week on Tues 15th at 6.15pm, at Google HQ in London. We're theming the event around 'Designing for the Future', and considering how we design for a world filled with sensors, connected devices, wearables and embedded internet. The only thing we can say for sure is that in many ways it will be a very different world to that which we know now. Or will it? What happens when almost every product becomes digitised and has a communications channel built right in? How should we design customer experiences for this world?
To help us address these excellent questions, we have three amazing provocations from three of the best future thinkers in the UK.
Anab Jain (above) is a TED Fellow and the founder of Superflux, the future-facing design consultancy working with businesses, think-tanks and research organisations such as Sony, BBC, Nokia, NHS, Design Council, and Forum for the Future.
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (below) is an interaction designer, product designer, entrepreneur & speaker, and one of the key thought leaders on Internet of Things. She runs the London Internet of Things meet ups, has worked in this area with clients like EDF, BT and British Gas, and also made the Good Night Lamp.
Faris Yakob will no doubt be known to many of you. Well known planning provocateur and thinker, former Chief Innovation Officer at MDC partners and now running Genius Steals.
As usual it's invite only but I have a few guest passes to give away to readers of this blog. If you'd like one, please let me know in the comments or drop me a note.
This week I spoke at Econsultancy's Future of Digital Marketing conference about Fraggl - you can see the slides here. And here are my favourite Fraggl links from this week:
Another good set of slides from John Willshire on his theme of Making Things People Want. And here's Tim Leake with an interesting take on client/agency relationships and what it means for creativity (presented at Cannes this week)
A fascinating piece on introversion as one of the most misunderstood dimensions of personality. And at what age do we hit peak embarrassment? Now you know
A compelling take down of the use of technology in delivering govt services in the US, and a plea for building with more empathy (perhaps they could do with some GDS)
And a rare peak inside 'Amazon’s massive wish fulfilment machine'
I often think that the balance between thinking and doing is so critical and yet is one we often get wrong. Too much of a focus on doing and we don't leave enough time for reflection, learning and application (like the reflection time that Joel at Pinterest talked about). Conversely over-thinking everything can lead to paralysis.
So before I leave talking about Learnfest (which left thick vapour trails in my head which are still dissipating), there was a straightforward way of framing this that came from another great talk by Steph Fastre of Google. She put up a gloriously simple chart to make a point about the need for both thinking and action (in the context of learning). She drew a parallel with her days at drama school. Acting without thinking or reflection can lead to foolishness, but over-thinking stuff can mean we become frozen in inaction. The people that did the best at drama school, she said, were those who could balance the two. The same, I'd say, is true of organisations.
Here are my favourite links from this week, curated by Fraggl:
"Each year, Mary Meeker unveils her fascinating Internet Trends presentation. And each year, her insights are inestimable and eagerly awaited. But each year, I have a problem with her slides. As a presentation designer, I find them rough and busy. To the point it makes them hard to understand. So this year, here’s my humble attempt at redesigning them!" Well done that man
Mixby. An app that uses beacons to unlock content and museums and events. Rather cool.
“It turns out the Internet, like every other technology, doesn’t trend toward good or bad. It is just a convenience machine for what people want. Television was going to make us all better people, smarter and better educated, but people ended up sitting back and watching sitcoms. We want to create something that rewards other things that have more lasting value.” Evan Williams, quoted in this good article on the rise of Medium