The importance of Prototyping

Prototyping or Modelling

Applying various design thinking techniques such as traces or probes allow us to understand and identify the needs of our users. Probing techniques such as Bodystorming or Shadowing give us an insight into user behaviours and values and are critical to informing our own decisions. It is all about positioning in the mind of the customer or user. Peter Drucker famously said;

the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.

In order to find that fit we must build a dialogical relationship with users. Bodystorming is particularly useful to gain a greater understanding an event or experience, taking a step by step approach. Shadowing on the other hand, allows us to take a fresh perspective to how users actually interact with our products and services.

While prototyping a service innovation will not be physical it must be tangible. Pictures and videotaping performance helps in understanding behaviours. The founder of IDEO Tim Brown reinforces the fact that, ‘the goal of prototyping isn’t to finish but to learn about the strength and weaknesses of the idea and to identify the new directions that further prototypes might take’. Prototyping doesn’t have to be complex and expensive. Rudimentary prototype is useful and it is worth remembering that the more finished a prototype seems, the less likely its creators will be to pay attention to and profit from feedback.

In class prototyping

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Designers v Consultants

Chimps, Designers, Consultants and Empathy: A ‘Theory of Mind’ for Service Design by Steve New and Lucy Kimbell Sept 2003


Designers Consultants
  • Groovy designer
  • Affective Immersion in the life and experience of the client/user
  • Imaginative Visualisation of ideas
  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Paid less
  • Offer a process
  • Client-advisor relationship is often interactive with a balanced power dynamic
  • User needs/Cognitive Aesthetic Empathy
  • The design problem co-evolves with repeated attempts to solve it
  • Deep engagement with users


  • Shiny suited consultant
  • Rationalist empathy
  • They know something that you don’t
  • Diagnosis and prescription of problem.
  • An understanding of the problem based on locating it within a universe of familiar problems
  • Paid more
  • Creators of and traders in knowledge
  • Empathy with users but also communications of specific values and assumptions
  • Degree of formality and distance




Empathy relates to individuals ability too imagine the opinions and feelings of others.

Rationalist and Aesthetic Empathy

Rationalist empathy is based on some procedure or programme of inquiry.

Aesthetic Empathy is based on an immersion in the life and experience of the client.

Cognitive and Affective Empathy

Cognitive Empathy relates to an individual’s ability to work out what is going on in the other’s mind. Descriptive understanding.

Affective Empathy refers to a shared emotional response. Embodied understanding

Client-advisor relationship is typically top management

Deliver an answer, presumed expertise likely leads to less empathy.

The problem of ‘client capture’ –  in professional services it is important to maintain a degree of formality and distance. This may limit the scope of empathy.

Equipment for Empathy

Mirror Neurons the brain has some type of dedicated circuitry which allows for the transmission of ideas and sameness.


Individuals can flip between different types of empathy given different situations. Or in the context of a professional environment. Empathy needs to be more than just a toolkit. For the consultant empathy requires mechanisms of internal communications and knowledge management such as the development of ‘archetypes’ shared linguistic and conceptual models of relevant issues, continuous translations of tacit and explicit knowledge.

3 spaces of Design Thinking

Review of Design Thinking article by Tim Brown, Founder of IDEO, Published HBR June 2008

Leaders now look to innovation as a principal source of differentiation and competitive advantage; incorporate design thinking into all phases of the process

Design Thinking

3 stages of Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a methodology that involves a range of innovation activities with a human centered approach.

  1. Inspiration – the problem or opportunity. Framing, Defining, World View, Technology, Empathy with Users
  2. Ideation – The search for solutions. Iterative cycles of Brainstorming, Prototyping, Testing and Refinement
  3. Implementation – Execution, Marketing & Communications, Business Case

Prototype of a service innovation will not be physical but it must be tangible. Pictures and videotaping performance helps in understanding behaviours. The goal of prototyping isn’t to finish but to learn about the strength and weaknesses of the idea and to identify the new directions that further prototypes might take.

Prototyping doesn’t have to be complex and expensive. Rudimentary prototype is useful. The more finished a prototype seems, the less likely its creators will be to pay attention to and profit from feedback.

The future

Search for meaning and emotional experiences. These experiences are not just products but complex combinations of products, services, spaces and information. Design Thinking is a tool for imagining these experiences as well as giving them a desirable form.

Transformation is needed

There are an abundance of problems to be solves and opportunities to be exploited, health, poverty, sustainability etc. These problems all have people at their heart. They require a human-centered, creative, iterative, and practical approach to finding the best ideas and ultimate solutions. Design Thinking is just such an approach to innovation.

Good2Great and back again – Jim Collins

There are many books out there on how to make it, shake it, break it and I thought Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’ was going to be just another naff read. The fact that Good to Great came in audio was the clincher as it was a convenient way to subliminally take it all in while travelling. I was really surprised with the book as it gives many powerful timeless principles that we all need reminding for business and indeed life. The integrity of the book is underpinned by an in-dept anlaysis of how 11 organisations are led by 11 extraordinary level 5 leaders from good to great. A great read for both aspiring and established entrepreneurs. Here are a few of my favourite twitter-size chunks;

Get the Right people on the Bus  – the best people do not need to be managed.

be sure to incentives the right people

When in doubt, don’t hire

Get rid of the wrong people for the sake of the company.

Results, Discipline, Modesty, Luck

Fun – Having fun gets more done

Do what needs to be done

Set standards! Driven by inspired standards

A culture of Discipline – develop a rigorous culture and make rigorous decisions. 

Build a culture on discipline, around all 3 circles to create your own Hedgehog Concept.

Breakthrough results come about by a series of good decisions!. Diligently executed and accumulated,one on top of another

Distinctive decision making process based on 1) facts of reality 2) frame of reference for all decision!

Face the most brutal facts of your reality – Stockdale Paradox

We must retain faith that we will prevail in the end and face the brutal fact of reality

Life is unfair, sometimes to our advantage, sometimes to our disadvantage!

Key elements of greatness are deceptively simple and straight forward – strip away the noise and focus on the few things that make the most impact.

Be the Hedgehog not the Fox

Hedgehog Concept – the one unified idea that makes everything else irrelevant. See whats essential and ignore the rest.

The Hedgehog Concept is an incredibly simple Frame of Reference so that good decisions are make.

3 circles 1) Best 2) Passion 3) Drive (Economic Reality)

Good to great companies have a deep understanding of their 3 circles and translate this into a Frame of Reference.

A Hedgehog Concept is an understanding of what you can be the best at, an intersection of the 3 circles. It is just as important to understand what you cannot be best at.

If you cannot be the best in the world at your core business….then your core business cannot form the basis of your Hedgehog Concept.

To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence!. Do what you are great at.

Few startups respond to growth and success in the right way and it no longer becomes fun. Exciting startups become mediocre and the cancer of mediocracy begins to grow.

User Centered Design v Design Driven Innovation

Design, Meanings, and Radical Innovation: A metamodel and a Research Agenda

The Journal of Product Innovation Management 2008: 25;436-456 Roberto Verganti

Design Driven Innovation does not start from user insights. DD Innovation is pushed by a firms vision about possible breakthrough meanings and product languages that could emerge in the future.

Investigation and experimentation on meaning and language = Design Discourse.

The team exploit their network position to move language (meaning & value) across industries and socio cultural worlds.

User Centered Design = FIRM – USER

Design Driven Innovation = INTERPRETER – FIRM – USER

The key capability in user-centered design is to get as close as possible to the users, to elicit their needs, and to be creative in finding solutions, the key capability in design-driven innovation is to access and to share knowledge with the design discourse and, more precisely, to identify the key interpreters, to attract them and develop with them a privileged relationship, to share and recombine knowledge to build unique proposals, and to rely on the design discourse to communicate with users.

The presence of INTERPRETERS is key to DD Innovation. They include alliances, trust and cognitive distance. Co-design and supplier involvement.

Defining Creativity

What is ‘creativity’?

CreativityCreativity is difficult to define however an increasing amount of academic attention has turned to explore its various dimensions. The most significant of these contributions are from George Kneller (1965) and John Howkins (2001).

They explain how creativity can be view as ‘the person’, ‘the act itself’, ‘the environment’ and the ‘actual output’ created. Creative outputs include process, theories to well-defined inventions, artworks, music and poetry. However creative outputs are ever-expanding as it includes the complexities of the ‘inner states’ of the creative person’.

The difficultly of defining creativity, is itself encompassing of the many elements at play. Kneller quotes Louis Fliegler from the ‘Dimensions of the Creative Process’

All individuals are creative in diverse ways and to different degrees. The nature of creativity remains the same whether one is producing a new game or a symphony….Creativity is within the realm of each individual depending upon the area of expression and capability of the individual

The influential American psychologist Carl R. Rogers recognises a similar viewpoint adding that creativity is;

the tendency to express and activate all the capacities of the organism, to the extent that such activation enhances the organism or the self

Kneller’s book The Art & Science of Creativity explains how definitions of creativity fall into four categories.

Defining creativity

  1. Creativity may be considered from the standpoint of the ‘persons who creates, that is, in terms of physiology and temperament, including personal attitudes, habits, and values.
  2. The Mental processes – motivation, perception, learning, thinking and communicating – that the act of creating calls into play.
  3. Environmental and cultural influences.
  4. Creative outputs – production such as theories, inventions, paintings, carvings and poems etc.

More recent research into the definition of creativity has focused on a mental and emotional process – an approach that is much more complex because it relies on the ‘inner states’ of the creative person’. Creativity is complex and for me it involves heightened sense of ‘curiosity’ ‘problem solving’ ‘receptiveness to new ideas’ and ‘originality’. I have enjoyed the work of Arthur Koestler the Act of Creation (1964) whose central thesis is that;

all creative processes share a common pattern, called bisociation which is the connecting of previously unrelated levels of experience or frames of reference. Creativity is  a fusion in a new intellectual synthesis

Creativity is not easy to define and why would it be. Creativity is complex encompassing many interchangeable elements including process, environment, output and the most mysterious of all elements, the ‘inner states’ of the creative person.

Asset Mapping


According to Webster’s Second International Unabridged Dictionary, an asset is “any item of value.” I conducted an asset mapping exercise, identifying the tangible and intangible asset around me. The map is designed to communicate my needs at a glance. It is also an opportunity to identify problems and opportunities. Asset mapping is a type of probe that allows me to stock take the rich and valuable network inventory that surrounds me. I took a methodological approach to Asset Mapping, involving both desk research and  field research including conversations with key individuals in the community. After two weeks of mapping, I visualized this information in a short video. This probe allowed me to look through the lens of where I am positioned within the community and visa versa.

At its most basic level, the asset mapping process will provide leaders with an inventory of key resources that can be utilised in a development effort.

Background work: asset mapping images

Background work excel file: AssetMappingfile




Ban it, and Deal with it!

This exercise is called ‘Ban It and Deal with it!‘ created by Siân Prime, Director, MA Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship Goldsmiths College, London. Basically, you ban something that really annoys you and then you have to propose a substitute for that ban. The banning part was easy as there are lots of things out there that gets my goat from the obvious such as plastic, packaging, time-wasting meeting, queuing to the more recent innovations of google glasses or just simple irritants such as email!

Finding a suitable and direct substitute is tricky. I wanted to take a user approach where I was the user so it would be easy and accessible. I wanted to concentrate on a product and decided on something very straightforward until you start looking into the science part that is.

Banning Deodorant

I was going to ban ‘Deodorant’ and deal with it by substituting my own solution of making homemade deodorant cream. Simple ban with a simple substitute.

The exercise proved to be a hot topic point of conversation with friends and family, many unaware of amount of dangerous chemicals in deodorants. Some not caring, others concerned and interested in alternative products. The challenge involved the assistance of my sister, the scientist…and so the experiment began.

I was thrown into the world of science, media, marketing, manufacturing. And the steady and critical alternatives viewpoint.

Ban It! Presentation

I was thrown into the world of science, media, marketing, manufacturing. Overall it was a steep learning curve. Lots of research, information and many opposing voices. Politics, big business and growing alternatives viewpoints. Lessons learned: Ask QUESTIONS. Be CURIOUS.


Typography Matters


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After years of working with designers and printers it is refreshing to step into the world of Typography as a student of ‘Image & Text’. I have always believed that typography matters and truly appreciate the pondering and passion that has gone into the creation of a beautiful piece of work.

I lean towards the Tschichold viewpoint that typography is the ‘link between text and reader’ and is often an ‘unobtrusive art form’. You are not sure why the ‘work’ is beautiful, it just is. This beauty of course has been shaped by the work of engineers, scientists and artists who have created the world’s most popular fonts and considered elements such as leading, alignment, and kerning – giving us ‘Typography’ as we know today. Of course the digital age has opened a new chapter in typographic history with the concepts of ‘web typography’ an area I will write on again.

The history is as much about understanding skill and design as it is about political and cultural relevance. We owe much to the futurist movement and Italian writer Marinetti who lead the way for expressionism and called for a typographic revolution in 1909. Followed by the work of modernist Jan Tschichold (1928) one of the greatest designers of the 20th century who gave us Sabon and Garamond and a precision in typographic instruction unlike any other. You can see my attempt sum up the main points of Marinetti and Tschichold on the visuals below – part of my own learning process and a fun way to remember.

The importance of Typography is personified in Ruari McLean autobiography ‘True to Type’, a fascinating account of the development of typography as a profession and written in the most insightful and on occasion, humorous manner. In the last chapter McLean, quotes author Joseph Moxon (1683) who elegantly put it, typography matters because words should..

‘show graceful to the Eye, and pleasant in Reading

Wordle: Typography1

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I also came across this wonderful video, presenting Tschichold work.

Jan Tschichold from Wind Up Toy on Vimeo.