London has been home to some of the most influential and innovative physical product designers of the 20th and 21st Century; Kenneth Grange, Tom Dixon and James Dyson to name just a few. When over 600 talented Product Designers packed into an east London warehouse earlier this month at Jam London 2017, it was clear to see that we were in the presence of a few new icons in the making.
Jam London has rapidly become a cornerstone of the Product Design community. Now in its third year, Jam brings together Product Specialists, User Experience Designers and Digital Business Leaders for an experience that truly puts you in the epicenter of cutting-edge product design – combined with amazing coffee – a great day!
Speakers and guests from around the world met to listen and meet up with problem solvers from Facebook, Strava, Hopper and Made by Many amongst others. It was humbling to think that our audience was shaping the way we experience and interact with many of today’s digital products and services – they’re affecting the way we navigate the world, share feelings and emotions, make decisions and increasingly, influencing our lives, every single day.
Save my problems, don't just give me features.
Brands such as Hopper, a flight prediction app that has only been born as a result of the technology from flight providers, illustrated how the core principles of design are as true today as they were during the industrial revolution.
Pantelis Korovilas, Lead Product Designer at Hopper spoke about the value of trial and error, how listening to users and observing usage proved again, that what an organisation thought was their most important feature, was actually well wide of the mark. In their self-confessed feature focus, they’d forgotten the user and shipped a product that added no value. Returning to the drawing board they were able to observe, listen to users and design a solution, something that actually solved a problem, not added to it.
Hopper’s situation reminds us of the great German designer Dieter Rams, he served as the head of the consumer products company Braun and famously told us "Good design is as little design as possible."
Good design only takes place with genuine observation and understanding, it provides the richness of insight and ideation for product designers to produce the right solutions for products and services. Paradoxically, it’s about removal not the addition of things that get in the way of a delightful, effective product experience.
Data blindness - Are you looking at the right thing?
Chad Jennings of MOO, demonstrated that whilst it is important to look for data and information to help drive those business decisions and new product development, you must be confident you’re looking at the right data. The Chief Product Officer shared a very transparent view of how MOO, the printing company interpreted data from their website. Their view of the world was dictated by the people that chose to view and interact with their product. Consequently, feedback only came from the minority that had been successfully converted and were already customers. The majority; those who had not viewed their site, simply didn’t actually know about MOO.
Trying to understand a potential customer who never shows up in your data is an impossibility. It takes the brave and the humble to step outside their existing frame of reference to discover the problems that actually need to be solved.
A chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment
Finnish architect Eliel Sarinen, perfectly summarises the importance of context, “design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan”.
In the case of MOO striving for information about what to do and where, they had missed this point by focusing on existing customers and not potential ones. Now, Chad and his teams are re-framing their view and by adopting this new perspective they can solve bigger problems, fighting the fire at its heart rather than beating around the flames.
Fuelling Innovation inside Strava
I spend a huge amount of time meeting with clients and partners to discuss how their business needs to think and behave differently. Corporate structures by their very nature are risk adverse and bound by process.
Strava, the San Francisco based social network for athletes operates company-wide hackathons once a quarter. Melissa Sweet from the Product Design team shared how their open Strava Jams now challenge the company to think on its feet and continually challenge their status quo. What started as a small hackathon for just a few team members, have evolved over time and Strava Jams now rapidly create new products, experience and visionary ideas at a companywide level.
Melissa and Strava illustrate how design thinking is an immensely powerful business tool. The increasing demand and expectation of users can no longer be supported by traditional corporate process and structures. Dynamic organisations are adopting design thinking and agile methodologies at the heart of their businesses.
Practices such as user observation, ideation and prototyping allow product teams to continually frame and reframe their proposition, prioritise what people want and importantly convert it into value.
Designing beyond the screen
Today, is still all about the glass square we stare into for hours a day; confined by the 4 sides of a screen, technologists, industries, users are striving to go beyond the 2D glass experience. From print to the web, the primary importance was ensuring users could navigate information and content on a 2D screen. The mobile evolution put information into the hand, the app generation then accelerated mobility and the addition of rich content and services. As devices increasingly become able to respond to ambient cues and intentional movements, augmented and virtual reality interaction will become more intuitive and personalised. This new emergent medium must be mastered and will redefine intention, efficiency and fidelities of user experience.
Gabriel Valdivia described the journey he and the Facebook team have been on as they design for Facebook’s first Virtual Reality Apps, Facebook 360 and Facebook Spaces for Gear VR and Rift respectively. The Facebook team are uncovering mental models and modes of interaction that will shape how we immerse ourselves in VR.
The design team at Chelsea Apps Factory fuel innovation, disruption and define new modes of interaction. Alongside our strategists, analysts, architects and technologists, we live, love and breath product design. If you’d like to talk, come and say hi or drop us a line at email@example.com.
See you at Jam London 2018, if not before.