Archive for the 'global' Category

Design in China – taking a great leap forward

ApogeeHK published an article I wrote to reflect my experience with User Friendly 2007 and the workshop I did there. Go read it and give them some props ๐Ÿ™‚


The rise of the Chinese experience economy
Currently, Chinaโ€™s economy is largely based on an manufacturing-age mindset. This mindset causes the work flow of a product development organization to resemble that of the old assembly line. Everyone is responsible for one task and is rewarded for successfully doing just that. When that task is completed, it is passed on to the next person. Design is just one function in this linear process where collaboration and teamwork is a foreign idea. The product manager writes the specification and gets a design resource to finish “drawing up the concept”. Despite the current situation, I believe that Chinese companies will join the rest of the world in the Experience Economy sooner than we would think. The Chinese economy have been growing at rate that many of us can’t ignore. The government, while still politically far removed from the world, is committed to growing the economy at GDP rates in the teens on average. Thus, Chinese companies will realize, like their Western counterparts, that Design thinking will need to be core to their organizational structure.

The user experience field will take a huge leap forward, working at a higher level in the organizational chart as well a huge demand for design thinking to bring these companies into the next decade. The designers I talk to are ready for it. Consumers will become smarter as spending per capita increases with the rise of the middle class that we see so much of in Beijing, Shanghai, Canton and so many other major cities. Chinese designers are optimistic that this day is coming and they want to be prepared to take that opportunity. I saw great energy and a yearning to build up their skills to face challenges and responsibilities that comes with design being a core competitive advantage of an economy. I believe that the struggles Interaction Designers are facing in China today will soon become an opportunity for them.”


Keynote: Adapting the path – by Jan Chipchase

Jan is my hero. He’s like the James Bond of user research and design. For the first time, I think it’d be pretty cool to be a bond girl ;D

All joking aside, Jan’s doing some really cool stuff, jet-setting around the world engaging in researching the way people live in emerging markets. His group is located in Japan, tracking technology trends along with human behavior. Answering questions like:

  • Who are you?
  • How can you prove it?
  • How do illiterate people communicate?
  • What do you carry where and why?

Seems like a random set of questions, but I guess Nokia would be interested in that. To answer these questions, he and his team engage in some international investigation in allies and homes. They get challenges like: “you have one month to design a phone for illiterate people.” Turns out delegation is a big deal in that situation, good thing people who do that often live within strong knitted social networks.

He is now involved in the study of the future of urban spaces. Which turns out, as expected, to be a huge, elaborate study involving 20 translators, months to prep, tons of local guides, other experts, creative team, street survey team, running 6 types of social gatherings…

Co-creation (participatory design) is also a big part of what they do. Watching people express themselves can be a great learning experience.

Observations are the most important part of field work. What do things around people tell you about their values, perceptions, and how they will interact with your stuff.

Local norms are telling. For example, in Thailand they sell fake braces, people wear them to show status = being able to afford dental care.

All of this adds up to having an informed opinion. It builds credibility.

Our international man of mystery offered some valuable advice to the young ones:

What’s worked:

  • Make your colleagues smarter: how can I do what I do to make you smarter?
  • Know who you are: what are you interested in? what are you not interest in? Communicate boundaries, use resources at your disposal, shit happens in the field.
  • Let go: we want to know so much about people, let people in control of helping you find out more about them.

Jan’s blog.

One laptop per child – Lisa Strausfeld and team

This talk is definitely the highlight of the conference. The One Laptop Per Child project is one of those larger than life visions that anyone would be lucky to get involved in. Not just because it’s a good cause but also because of the magnitude of its influence on the world.

The team at Pentagram who got to work on this project to develop the Laptop’s UI showed a tremendous level of gratitude as well as passion. The team talked about the UI concepts and did a demo. Everyone was very moved by this project, you could feel that aura in the room. I know I got choked up and re-examined the meaning of my work after that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here are some tidbits about the UI concept, which is based on community and playing together. The reductionist aesthetic represents the ethics behind this project and works within constraints of these lower cost lower power units. They also tried to make the design to work across cultures.

The people
The o with x on the bottom represents you who is using the laptop. You can pick a color from the 6 choices to represent you. Simple and effective iconography.

The sphere
There is a sphere around you, which represents your space. You can do activities in your sphere. There are three layers to the sphere: you, friends, and the rest of the community.


The activities
Activities are launched from a bottom panel and my sphere holds the activity I’m doing. I can share my activties with the rest of the community.

The prototype demo:
img_9074_small.jpg img_9075_small.jpg

Takaaki trying to show the e-book mode: