Service Design in Heritage day 1

See, I’m getting better at this insta-documenting lark!

Today was the first iteration of Service Design in [Arts, Culture &] Heritage workshop(s), held at the Barbican Arts Centre in the Life Rewired Hub. Borne out of some great conversations with Kristen Alfaro about common difficulties with designing holistic, inclusive services when working in a Cultural institution – be it a museum, an art gallery/space etc – the goal is to introduce some service design techniques and approaches and providing a space for participants to learn by doing.

Thanks to lessons learned from previous workshops e.g. at Wild Conference, this was split into two workshops, partly to give people more options but also because even doing half a design jam is still quite intense!


Session 1 focussed on collaborative ideation techniques; session 2 on data/insights mapping and introduction to prototyping.

Much like the neo-mmanwu workshop, the structure was half a presentation type lecture sort of thing and half actually trying out the particular methods that would be used at that point of the design process.

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Why Having the Stuff Doesn’t Always Cut It

‘AI: More than Human’ is the soon to be closed extravaganza on the history of AI held at the Barbican arts centre. It’s in two parts, the first which takes you through how cultures have thought of creating non-human sentience, to the development of mathematical and computational models, the use of big data in machine learning and where A.I. could go in the future; the second part is an art installation where you can interact with pretty things on a wall (it was very pretty).

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Useful HCI stuff: Kano’s model

I found this article a helpful primer on using the Kano model, particularly for discussing which features to focus on, when they give near enough value. If you’re a perfectionist, or find yourself in perfectionist mode, knowing at what point the detail lacks perceived usefulness, satisfaction and emotional impact can be helpful not just for prioritisation, but also for framing research.

Quite often our product team might find itself having one of those discussions which could go on forever which is basically about how much effort to put into refining something before letting users see it/test it. Now to be clear, this is for features that are in test mode and have passed user acceptance criteria, reach a minimum AA standard in accessibility etc. and the next test is to see how it behaves in the wild.

From prior testing of prototypes and interviewing people, you should have an understanding of what matters, what prevents them from completing a task or understanding what’s going on and so on. Combining these through Kano’s model provides another lens into what should be tackled first, like so (bold italics represent a Kano metric):

  1. I like it – the things that users have specifically called out during interviews/prototype testing
  2. I expect it – the things that users have naturally done without thinking during tests
  3. I’m neutral – didn’t mention it
  4. I can tolerate it – the things that people notice as a bit confusing or unnecessary but not to the point they prohibit them from completing an action
  5. I dislike it – again, the things that users can specifically called out during interviews/prototype resting

Mozfest 2018: The co-designed city; building smart cities with embedded social justice

A sign telling people when the workshop would start (it started at 11am)

For Mozfest 2018, I decided to go a little deeper on the topic of smart cities. The first workshop I ever facilitated there had been on the topic of pervasive computing which has many intersections with smart cities but now I wanted to explore some of the outcomes a bit further.

I am still a bit obsessed with this whole question of approaches to designing complex systems and design jams allow me to explore that. Plus it means I get to better understand the issues that come up with collaborative approaches instead of… just lecturing people.



The session will be structured as a design jam where participants go through the user centred creation process to prototype features for (or even an entire) smart city which puts intersectionality at the heart of its digital and physical architecture.

Combining methods inspired by critical design and community centred practice and traditional Igbo masquerade (mmanwu) performance, we will start by ideating based on not only issues but also existing solutions we see in our own contexts, then perform light ethnography amongst fellow Mozfest attendees and the local community before getting down to prototyping our solutions through cardboard, code and post-its!

Following an iterative design and test process, we will end up with prototypes of a human+environment centred smart city.


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Building without bias – digital technology and architecture for the post-binary: In the shadows of hateful glass

Wednesday I was at the Building centre as part of their ‘Building without bias‘ event, chaired by Vanessa Norwood and curated by Hannah Rozenburg whose research and practice explored methods of tackling and subverting gender bias in architecture.

The production of architectural space in the digital age is increasingly reliant on automated technologies which infer that data is truth. But this ‘truth’ is saturated with the bias and prejudice inherent in contemporary society, with serious implications for the design of our built environment.

Hannah Rozenberg’s award winning research project, Building without Bias, found that artificially intelligent technologies understood ‘architect, steel, cement and screw’ as terms most associated with males, while ‘tearoom, kitchen and nursery’ were among the most female. With algorithmic design methods set to increase, what will be the implications for architecture and our urban fabric?

In the shadows of hateful glass was my contribution very much inspired by certain musings as I wander through Southwark and the rapidly regenerstagnating Southbank. You can read through the slide deck embedded below (or linked in text if that’s not quite working!)


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Birmingham Design Festival part 1: It was never about learning how to code

Birmingham Design Festival arrived with a thud, even with sensibly opting to take the time off! Heading off to the Steamhouse for my talk, I was incredibly excited – this is the first BDF after all, and I’d never been to Steamhouse so…

…unfortunately I was incredibly ill, beset with hayfever which left me with chest pains from sneezing so much it was that bad.



Just when balance is achieved, someone tries to make “Should designers learn to code?” happen.

Yet, as the recent history of app and web design has intimated, you could understandably think that as a design movement, much of digital design remains superficial in light of the increasingly intertwined systems we’re designing for. Somewhere between tech fetishisation and death by post it notes, there’s a chance to apply the lessons from product design movements of the past and incorporate a deeper understanding of the digital material into the way we work.

This talk will go into the problematics of design thinking and our day-to-day processes, the need for ‘deep co-design’ with users and communities, why every UX designer needs a Solution Architect as a best friend, and why you’re so missing the point about Brutalist design for the web.

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JSConfEU 2018: Hey you, do you even design?

I still can’t get over that this actually happened. JSConf EU has a very special place in my heart as it was the ultimate conference for me when I first got into tech. Even though I’m more on the design side than the coding side, I still watch their videos and follow the twitter devotedly as they have not only the best roster of speakers ever, they are serious about creating a tech ecosystem that is inclusive, sophisticated and interesting!

So you can imagine my thrill when my talk proposal got accepted. You can watch the talk below or read through the slides beneath the ‘Read more’ (speaker notes are open).


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Bulgaria Web Summit 2018: Understanding the Job to Design the Service

…which turned into ”Designing for the Job in a Noisy World”.

I’m usually very professional!

Bulgaria Web Summit was one of the best conferences I have ever spoken at and actually the first where I learned to have faith in my instincts. The initial idea I had for the talk was to go into the Jobs to be done framework and how any tech product – from an app to an API – needs to be framed as a service and not a product. My concern was that Jobs to be Done would seem tired and the kind of thing someone might have copied and pasted and also that I wouldn’t be able to get anything that practical in – I always want to make sure my talks have something about how theory can be applied, not just discussed.

Ironically enough, focussing on complex systems theory provided scope to be very practical on several levels, not simply on how one frames data and research using personas, user journeys and JTBD but also on bigger questions like how to design/build collaboratively to mitigate the impact of growing complexity.

You can find the slides here.

UXCamp Brighton 2018: Co-Creating UX for Interesting times

I love barcamps and unconferences and I wish there were more of them for designers. When I saw UXCamp Brighton come up on a list of meetups and conferences, I pretty much signed up on the spot!

They’re actually one of the things I love most about the maker community – unconferences (combined with sturdy code of conducts!) are so intrinsically democratic, if you’ll excuse my theory hat it just shows how important the structural philosophy of an event is.

Anyway, my contribution to UXCamp Brighton was a quick talk extolling the power of design jams as a methodology for collaborative and inclusive design.

The slides can be found here. Speaker notes are open.

I still have a lot of fond memories of this event as it was how I became friends with amazing designers like Matteo Menapace and Laura Yarrow. I was also seriously impressed by the fact that the buses had Wifi!