Design How (part of the Design Manchester Festival)
Tuesday 20th October 2015 / 6pm – 9.30pm
Location: Royal Northern College of Music
The Design How event was one of the many events taking place as part of the week long Design Manchester Festival. This particular event aimed to focus on how different designers, thinkers and creatives solved complex design issues.
This blog includes interesting key points/summaries from each of the speakers and their talks.
Ben’s talk was titled ‘From Persuasion to Usability – Design Meets The Internet’.
He used to be Director of Design at the Government Digital Service (2011 – September 2015), and talked about some of the processes and work he did on the GOV.UK website whilst he was there.
Ben said that the key was to “make government services simple”. One of the ways of achieving this was by making the government sites look the same.
This project and aim was across the whole of government – not just the design team. By simplifying and streamlining the website, they saved £1.7 billion.
He talked about how important user feedback/research is, and hearing “proper people speak”. It’s important to start with needs – but user needs, not government needs.
As well as making the website easy to use, the team wanted to make it feel ‘British’. They initially tried this by using iconography, but from user feedback, they found that many people didn’t understand them. They decided that they needed something else to inspire this Britishness – and they used a variation of the ‘Transport’ font (which is used on road signs).
Ben explained that GOV.UK worked in a very agile way. Creative Directors can become a bottleneck as things have to be signed off. 8 changes could happen everyday, and as a Creative Director, he just had to trust others – he couldn’t go through and sign everything off. He said that “openness is an essential part of leadership”.
His top tips were…
- Think about user needs
- Fix the basics
- Trust = delivery
- Work agile
Steve O’Connor, IDEO
Steve is the Executive Design Director at IDEO.
IDEO has 700 people in 10 different locations. It is a hugely multi-disciplinary team, including product designers, interaction designers, architects, and more. The team work across different industries, “so people don’t get bored”.
IDEO have been going for 40 years. They originally started doing traditional product design (including the 1st Apple mouse, which Steve thinks could be worth $9000 today!)
However, today, IDEO work across experiences. “What is the role of people mediating a design or experience? We talk about designing whole businesses…”
Everything that they do is human centred. Steve explained that understanding desirability is hard – “people aren’t transparent, they are opaque” – so they ensure that they observe people, looking underneath what you actually see. They try to look out for workarounds or hacks, as these are opportunities for design.
IDEO build to think. In an example where they were designing a remote control for a TV service, they gave lots of people different white shaped objects and got them to draw what they wanted.
Steve explained that everyone has their own experience of what a good design is. IDEO do many iterations of a design within their processes.
He felt that the Nokia NK702 was a great example of good design. Steve thought it was a really simple design with an easy to use digital interface. He stuck to using Nokia devices for some time (around 10 years). However, things stopped working well for him. Nokia made things more difficult to do and added too many features. Steve explained that, “Nokia died, but kept going”. He compared this being like a zombie – they didn’t know that they weren’t being successful, and just kept going. Nokia released the N95, but then 6 months later, the Apple iPhone came along (2007). The iPhone had no buttons, and the services were product based. Everything was integrated, whereas Nokia was not.
Steve thinks that there are still some zombies out there, including projectors, printers and set top boxes.
Clive Grinyer, Barclays
Clive is the Customer Experience Director at the Barclays design office.
He believes that politics, tech, people and vision are the 4 drivers for the design world.
Clive explains that the banking world is changing. There are 200 designers on the 22nd floor of Canary Wharf. It is a collaborative, close team that is multi-disciplinary.
Design is always at the beginning of every project. They have a “crawl, walk, run philosophy” – making sure that they get something going, and then improve it later.
The method in the Barclays design team is as follows:
- Bus stop sign (shaping up the proposition for the customer)
- User journey
- Prototype (this is done really early on)
Clive explained that they have re-engineered agile so that it is design centric.
Clive says he talks about design politics a lot. He believes that 90% of a design challenge is getting the politics right. He fights to talk to customers and get feedback, even though others in the company might want to see the design first. Clive explains that 90% of design decisions that went wrong weren’t made by designers.
Tech has been a feature of design for years…
- Imagining – they need to communicate the benefits of the product
- Experience – (Clive gave an example of the Digital Mirror by John Lewis)
- Storytelling – this is what we are doing through technology
- People – “the kernel of creativity”
He believes that bringing things to life is vastly important.
A customer model for Barclays was explained as…
User feedback is extremely important at Barclays, and Clive says that they are currently doing testing every week.
He also believes that vision is a key part of design. They fake an idea onto a bus stop – if it doesn’t work, they don’t take it forward.
Lee Fasciani, Territory Studio
Lee is the Founder and Creative Director of Territory Studio. The studio is London-based, and is around 5 years old. There are 25-30 people working there, and they focus on creating future UI graphics for the film industry (but they do other work as well).
Lee talked through some of the work that Territory have created, and how he describes/categorises the work…
- Exacting Detail – for The Guardian, they created an icon set, that had to match the same design language that was currently being used across the website.
- Consistent Identity – for The Avengers film, they helped with generating screen graphics for the characters. Although the characters needed to have individual styles, they found a way of making them feel related and consistent.
- Beautiful Moments – these are what Lee calls “nice bits of design”, such as the Lift London branding work that they did. They create a logo with a sense of play.
- Future Experience – they created a digital product for an investment company.
- Designing for the Future – “film work really resonates with that”.
Territory Studio have a process that they work to for any film UI graphics.
Lee gave an example from working on Prometheus.
- Started with a script. Everyone needed to understand which bits included on screen graphics.
- Had conversations with the art department.
- Had conversations with the director (Ridley Scott). They found that he didn’t want robust structures, but an aquatic, fluid theme.
- They began to develop key screens for the head scanner screens.
- It took a month of solid work, including 3 designers and 2 animators.
In the end, they only got 3 seconds of footage included in the actual film! Lee explained that Ridley wanted the screens to actually be on set. They usually get green-screened, but he wanted it to be realistic.
Territory Studio have also worked on the film The Martian. For this project, they got to work alongside NASA. This is because NASA wanted all the screens to be as realistic as possible in the film. Lee explained that although NASA is a leader in technology, when you look at the screens they use, you wouldn’t think so! “We literally redesigned NASA! They wouldn’t let us sleep until everything was accurate”.
This was a really inspiring event – it was great to hear about the different creative processes that everyone goes through to create design that delights audiences and users.