[CY1] State Change in Representation during Research


Signs in English have stuck out to me while being driven around, probably because they are the familiar amongst the unfamiliar. Some make sense. Some are a bit grammatically interesting. Some, like “Right English School”, arguably don’t need to be written in English. I’ve particularly taken a liking to the signs for new housing developments. “Welcome to the Wonderful World” certainly aroused my curiosity as to what alternate fantastical land lies beyond the stern looking red and white barricade.

Signs with pictures on have also stuck out to me. In part this is because they are vaguely familiar, but also because even if not familiar they are at least relatively easy to understand. But even with pictures, misunderstandings can take place. A picture of a brass instrument with a red line through it on the DUT campus had us guessing, no trumpets… no saxophones… no jazz? All obviously unlikely to be the actual meaning, but suitably entertaining as guesses until we found out that it meant no beeping of car horns. Curiously, it seemed to be obeyed – a stark contrast to the roads on the other side of the campus gates.

Symbols are important modes of representation. They assist in enabling effective collaboration despite lingo-cultural barriers. What could be a long verbal and non-verbal explanation can effectively be shown in a couple of shapes, some coloured lines, some emphasis with a pen, and a few accompanying words. I saw this tonight in my team’s discussion of our findings from the site. In trying to explain what struck him the most during research on site earlier that day, Cristian Ruiz, my teammate from UTS, an industrial design student, began to draw.

What had been a mix of confused Chinese, Colombian and English accented verbal discussion gradually dribbled to a close, as one by one our heads leaned in, tilted to one side and our mouths dropped open. Realising we had fallen silent, Cristian looked up. Like the car horn sign I had seen earlier that day, at this stage it was all guesses. Rectangles lined up with coloured criss-crossing lines. A strange disjointed shape sat in the middle of the diagram with different coloured lines criss-crossing within it. Cristian continued drawing. New colours suddenly spurted out in straight lines from each rectangle across the page, over the strange shape in the middle. I was clueless as to what I was looking at. But then, Cristian explained in some short simple words while emphasising with a pen on the picture, what the rectangles were, and what the strange shape was. The residents housing blocks and the mine pit.


Suddenly the picture made sense. It was inventive. It was creative. I could visualise what Cristian was talking about – probably more effectively than if he had tried to explain it verbally. Through the picture, the symbol representing his idea, I could see his idea. Our teammates were nodding in agreement. Soon, we were all contributing our own ideas. The representation in the face of lingo-cultural barriers as a key element of our state change facilitated effective idea communication. In doing so it freed our team to individually choose which mediums were best to communicate their ideas and especially opened up the possibility of representation as an effective medium of communication across lingo-cultural barriers. As a result of this, effective collaboration was enabled. Needless to say, the pens and coloured pencils were used a lot more after that.

Thus, while sometimes representations, be they signs or pictures, can be misunderstood requiring a few words to be added or some pen emphasis or demonstration of movement, they are particularly effective across barriers resulting from state change. In this case those barriers were lingo-cultural, however I can see how they could cross barriers of locations, paradigms, types of intelligence used and of course as a method itself, cross barriers caused by other methods of collaboration.


I was struck in this instance by how with the representation I could see his idea. As someone who typically is quite comfortable communicating through written or verbal language, I have realised how effective symbols, pictures and other forms of representation can be to seeing, and thus, better understanding an idea. Indeed, my eyes have been opened beyond the barricade to a wonderful new world.



I Will Depend on You for the Rest of my Life



Day 1

[CW1] Hi! I found that moving countries encouraged me to depend on others and keep communicating constantly. Because I was out of my comfort zone, I wanted to speak to both students/teachers from Sydney and China to get the information I needed to adapt to this new environment and culture shock! How did you sleep? Where do I sleep? Where/what do I eat? Did you like the food? Are you cold? What clothing do I need? What are you going to get up to today? Where do I go? These were the initial survival questions I asked.

After getting the basics somewhat covered, I had a sudden interest in this city I had not even heard of before a few months. Being thrown in Dalian to explore and find my way, together with some friends from Sydney, we started to compare it to Sydney and occasionally to some other cities. We found ourselves speaking sign language or pointing to things and words on paper.

Note to self: They actually do things differently here. There are different ways of living and working than to the one I know. I do not wear stockings under my pants in spring in Sydney. I should be more hospitable and go out of my way sometimes. I can eat lunch as my biggest meal. Breakfast does not need to be sweet. Sometimes you can work so hard in the city and never own a home-it is under the ownership of the government. Most people are moving to cities instead of buying a quarter acre block in the suburbs. It is common not to have more than one child for the benefit of the collective. We each had different observations and bounced off questions and comments about the city to each other. Because we were in total cluelessness, we had to rely on each other to get the most of the city and our desires met, at least I thought.

Communicating with the local students was so helpful in squeezing the most out of the city. One of my Chinese teammates bought me a Dalian map that was hand sketched and analysed- how did she know I needed that to reflect on all that we had seen the whole day to be compressed onto one giant piece of paper?

This state-change is a total exaggerated version of the things I do to keep the creative energy flowing. Not only am I going for a walk in Redfern to check out the latest renovated terrace and small business tea house start up, I am hiking in Dalian where I have an information overload of things I have not seen or heard- except in movies, sometimes. And I have to find my way too, as there is a language barrier, which helps in expanding my mind.

This state change I can say pulls us right to our core beings, and all our strengths, weaknesses and ideas are squeezed right out of us. Then we are placed in a team of people with a similar purpose but extremely different dynamics. I have already seen how, even though sometimes it is frustrating that we are not similar, we do actually complement each other to work creatively and productively. We are each a vital part of the team. If one person throws around many ideas, there is another who will analyse each one-or highlight the helpful ones. If one person goes too fast, the other will slow the pace down-and vice versa. If one person is louder, the other is mellower. So, yes, even though I do not like to admit this: I depend on you.


Design the New Business | via designthenewbusiness.com

Watch this excellent short documentary on designing the new businesses.

Design and business can no longer be thought of as distinct activities with individual goals. Design the New Business is a film dedicated to investigating how designers and businesspeople are working together in new ways to solve the wicked problems facing business today.

The short documentary examines how they are joining forces by bringing together an international collection of design service providers, education experts and businesses that have incorporated design as a part of their core approach. Design the New Business features inspiring case studies and insightful discussions, helping to illustrate the state of the relationship and how it needs to continue evolving to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

This film is a Zilver Innovation initiative, and was created by 6 students from the Master in Strategic Product Design at the TU Delft in The Netherlands. Zilver Innovation is now offering workshops that explore this relationship in more depth and the implications for practitioners. For more information, visit our website: designthenewbusiness.com

Featuring (in alphabetical order): Alexander Osterwalder (Co-Author of Business Model Generation) Aldo de Jong (Co-Founder at ClaroPartners) Amanda O’Donnell ( Head of Customer Experience at Virgin Mobile Australia) Arne van Oosterom (Director & Founder at DesignThinkers) Arno Wolterman (Managing Partner & Design Director at In10) Benjamin Schulz (Service Innovation at Volkswagen) Damien Kernahan (Founding Partner at ProtoPartners) Deniz Arik (Associate at ClaroPartners) Erik Roscam Abbing (Director & Founder at Zilver Innovation) Frido Smulders (Coordinator of MSc Strategic Product Design,TU Delft) Guido Stompff (Senior Product Designer at Canon-Océ Technologies) Jacco Ouwerkerk (Creative at In10) Jan Buijs (Assistant Professor at TU Delft) Joe Heapy (Co-Founder & Co-Director at Engine) Lukas Golyszny (Service Innovation at Volkswagen) Maria Bezaitis (Director of Intel’s People and Practices Research Group) Megan Ellis (Associate at ClaroPartners) Oliver King (Co-Founder & Co-Director at Engine) Ralf Beuker (Dean at Munster Design School) Rich Radka (Co-Founder at ClaroPartners) Ton Borsboom (Senior Director for new Business at Philips Design) Willem Boijens (Head of R&D at Canon-Océ Technologies)

Design the New Business – English subtitles from dthenewb on Vimeo.

Design and the Social Sector: An Annotated Bibliography: via Change Observer

Courtney Drake & William Drenttel

This bibiography was initiatied in early 2011 as an independent study project by Courtney Drake, a graudate student at the Yale University School of Management. It overlaps with William Drenttel’s work as a senior faculty fellow at Yale SOM, where Design and Social Innovation Case Studies are published. Winterhouse Institute is adopting this bibliography as a larger project, and is publishing it as a collborative bibliography — working closely with the participants of the Winterhouse Education Symposia. Other suggested entries are welcome at designobserver@winterhouse.com, although publication within this bibliography is solely at the discretion of Winterhouse Institute. — William Drenttel


Design thinking, user-centered design, service design, transformation design. These practices are not identical but their origin is similar: a definition of design that extends the profession beyond products. The rise of service economies in the developed world contributed to this movement toward design experiences, services and interactions between users and products. The literature about design thinking and contemporary ideas reveals common elements and themes, many of which are borrowed from product design processes. They include abduction, empathy, interdisciplinary teams, co-creation, iteration through prototyping, preservation of complexity and an evolving brief.

The implications of the rise of design thinking are twofold. First, corporate and organizational leaders concerned with innovative prowess are recognizing design thinking as a tool for developing new competitive advantages. Design thinking considers consumers’ latent desires and thus has the potential to change markets rather than simply make incremental improvements in the status quo. Second, many organizations have encountered significant barriers to practicing design thinking internally. In some ways, design thinking runs counter to the very structure of a corporation — it is intended to break paradigms, which may mean questioning power relationships, traditions and incentive structure, and it may require a corporation to overhaul its business model and cannibalize its success. Additionally, many corporate leaders treat design thinking in a linear manner, a process that compromises the critical elements of conflict and circularity. In many instances, designers have failed to sufficiently translate and articulate their process, and businesses tend to favor past trends over the promise of new discovery.

With corporations struggling to use design thinking effectively, where does that leave the social sector? The organizational challenges facing corporations do not necessarily transfer to nonprofit organizations: more complex systems, higher stakes for failure, limited resources and intangible evaluation metrics. Designers may be attracted to greater complexity and more wicked problems in the social sector, but they need to be prepared to adapt their process and attitudes to create positive change. Perhaps the most significant adaptation designers need to make is in their role. Where product design connotes a sense of authorship, social design demands that designers be facilitators and educators of their processes. Further, they need to recognize they may not be well equipped to solve problems, but can identify problems and co-create with local leaders and beneficiaries.

The value of co-creation is a predominant theme in the literature surveyed here, particularly for Western designers contributing to foreign communities. Another critical factor is continual presence within projects, or better, a longer-term, sustained involvement. Authors speak of the importance of evaluation and metrics to gauge success, but find many projects lacking, perhaps for the same reasons the social sector as a whole struggles with impact measurement. Scaling, adaptation and replication are buzzwords that pervade the social sector, but are particularly difficult for the product of a design process. Because the process is founded on a deep understanding of a particular user group’s needs, the solution for one community likely does not translate directly to another. However, authors suggest that it is the design process that is scalable and should be taught to local leaders. Failed projects support this assertion; benefits flow through the process of a project as well as the end-product, which further advocates for co-creation. Finally, the literature leave us with an unsettling question: Is breakthrough innovation possible in the social sector? Most veterans in this field suggest the answer is no — they recommend that designers start small and introduce incremental change because the complexity of the systems and problems they face will demand it. However, this finding does not negate the potential value of the designer. The social sector needs designers to identify problems, imagine possibilities for a better future and facilitate problem-solving processes.  — Courtney Drake

read further at changeobserver.designobserver.com


[CD] Courtney Drake is a graduate student, Yale School of Management.

[EG] Elizabeth Gerber is an assistant professor, Segal Design Institute, Northwestern University.

[TI] Terry Irwin is a professor and Head, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University.