Using Co-creation to Make Design Solutions that Work (EuroIA 2013, Edinburgh)


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As UX designers, simply crafting a beautiful solution and presenting it well is not enough. Getting it accepted by and sold to a client is the true challenge! The best way to do this is involving your client directly in the design process and having him co-create the solution.

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  • Good morning, thank you all for coming.My name is Koen Peters. I’m an information architect currently living in Brussels and working at a company called Namahn. We do human-centred design of digital products and services.I will be sharing some insights on co-creation, and how co-creation can help you make your design projects successful.
  • The basic idea behind co-creation is: as a design company, you involve a client directly in the design process by having him co-create the solution.We as a company have evolved towards co-creation;our focus is still human-centred, but co-creation now sits at the heart of our methodology, so our way of working with clients has drastically changed as well.To illustrate this, I would like to start off my talk with a little story, the story of the building, the offices we work in.I started working at Namahn some twelve years ago. The company had just moved into a new building in the centre of Brussels, a former print shop. It was renovated by a Belgian architect called WimCuyvers, it was adapted to fit the purpose of a design company. Then, in 2009, the back part was renovated and new spaces were added.Now, if you look at the spaces that were created in 2000 and compare these to the recent additions to the building, you can see some big differences.
  • Here you see the Namahn library, and the desks for the Namahn offices. They show how we worked then and how we saw ourselves as a design company. Library: a modern, trendy environment, suited for a design company, a bunch of books to impress visitors, and on two big tables to meet the client. The desks represent what I would call the idea of the "lone genius designer": he lives on his own island, in his own enclosed world, in this black box he does his magic and creates this beautiful design, he is going to show off the result later on to a client during a review meeting. He could look at himself in the mirror from time to time... So in retrospect,this was how we saw ourselves in 2000.
  • In 2009, we added the DesignStudio to our offices, now this is a completely different type of space: a flexible workshop room, with almost 60 door panels: you can put them against the wall or use them as table-tops, you can write on them like whiteboards, apply magnets to them.This is what we do now and how we see our work now. The UX design world has changed as well. The challenge is not making a good-looking, efficient and user-friendly design any more. There are often plenty of good solutions readily available on the web. Clients expect more, they want to have solutions that are tailored to their own needs and context, and they want to have a say in the solution. They don’t want a design being handed over to them. The DesignStudio allows for this kind of interaction with the client.
  • This is what happened to the black desks in our offices.We now have simple, open tables allowing you to work together more easily with your colleagues.
  • So we use our DesignStudio to hold co-creation workshops. There are other words to describe this way of working, like co-design or participatory design.But I’m not going to go into definitions because that costs money at this conference ;-) Let me just say in this talk , with co-creation I mean creating a solution for a problem together with a client.One of the main points I want to make, is the fact that co-creation is not something you do ad hoc, or at one or two early moments in the project. Like a workshop to "get input from a client” or a vision & strategy workshop at the start of a project. What we try to do is involve the client throughout the design process, from start till finish. That means we try to involve them as well in later steps in the process like scenarios-of-use or prototyping, steps that used to be done without any direct involvement of the client.
  • Here is a simple presentation of the design process, in 3 broad phases: understanding the problem and getting to know the user and his needs, exploring possible solutions for the problem, and finally define and prototype in detail the solution.I will demonstrate a number of techniques that allow you to involve a client from start till finish...
  • Why do you want to do this? Why co-creation throughout the process? A few reasons:1. Get buy-in, get your solution accepted by and sold to a client.You are actually giving the client the impression that he has come up with the solution himself. So, not just co-design but also co-ownership.Of course, this means that as a designer you have to be able to let go...2. When you are working on complex problems, better to do it with a group of people instead of on your own.3. Momentum: a co-creation session creates momentum, it gives an extra drive to the project. It brings different departments closer together, becausethey are often not used to working together like this.4 It allows you to go lighter on deliverables: everyone in the team is involved and understands the solutions that is created together (and the reasoning behind it), so you don't need detailed reporting. It allows you to work in a more agile way.
  • So what exactly do you need to run co-creation workshops
  • First you need participants.From the client's side, members of the core team and representatives of the departments that are concerned (business, ICT, Marketing & communication). If possible also a few users.
  • We tend to strive for 8 to 10 participants. Not more than 12 (this is 3 break out groups of 4 people). Bigger groups or more groups make the workshop less efficient.You also need a good moderator, a designer with workshop facilitation skills (but I will come back to that). We always have a second person from Namahn present, in support of the moderator and also to observe, take notes, and register everything.Now, when you looking at who will participate from the client’s side, it is not just about their roles in the company, it’s also about their personalities: a balance of extroverts and introverts makes for a better team; it’s good to have one analytic thinker on board; better to have a mix of men and women.Not that you will always be able to influence the choice of participants to this level, but it helps if you can.
  • You need a workshop space that is inviting and allows for creativity.Usually we try to take a client away from their own office, invite them to Namahn, to our DesignStudio! Why?
  • Well, here you can see a picture of a typical meeting room. It's clearly made for meetings. Even stronger, it seems like it is specifically designed to avoid all kind of creativeness.What you need is the opposite: daylight (a co-creation session will easily take several hours, and you shouldn't feel like you are imprisoned for half a day); you need a more flexible room, your need a space that allows for creativity. A space like the DesignStudio
  • You will also need some stuff to run a co-creation workshop, weapons, peaceful weapons
  • (1) Pens & paper, post-its, erasable markers, whiteboards, but also somelego, playmobil, kapla building blocks, play dough, wire. Stuff that allows you to be creative.(2) Then, you may also want to prepare some workshop tools (templates or posters you can use during the workshop, cards you have prepared,etc.). You will see many of these tools in a minute, when I'm presenting the techniques.(3) You will also need a device to register/record the results. Audio recording, taking pictures, in some cases video recording (I use my smartphone with a decent 8 Megapixel camera to take pictures and record audio – using my phone, I can do it discretely (I always turn off the sound).
  • Let me show you now a few techniques that we have developed and have been using ourselves lately.
  • Again, these are techniques that can be used at different moments in the design process. I will explain most of these more in detail.
  • The first technique can be used at the start of a project, you try to frame the context (of your project) and set the boundaries by building together a context map
  • Basically, you try to get a common understanding of what is there, for whom, by whom, in what locations. So, you will include people (target groups, stakeholders, different departments, suppliers, etc.), and also things and locations in your context map.There are two ways of doing this: you can either start from scratch and use post-its, markers, kapla, lego etc. to create the context map, or you can prepare simple facet cards, with the things you already know (people, locations, main products, etc.). Without anything prepared in advance, it becomes more abstract, more difficult for some people to get started.
  • In this example, we did a framing exercise for a company in the transport sector:back office, shippers, chauffeurs etc. were all using different tools. The exercise helped us to map out what was there and who was using what.Here’s part of the digital version we made afterwards. We used the same visuals that we used on the initial cards. We used this digital version throughout the project is a point of reference.
  • A second technique is the lotus blossomIt's a simple brainstorm technique to create ideas in a structured way. You find ideas by association.
  • You put a core word in the centre and brainstorm or freely associate 8 words or concepts suggested by that core word. Then you transfer these8 words/ concepts to the outer ’flowers’ and brainstorm again around each of them.Nothing spectacular, but the advantage of this technique is that it is structured. You set clear boundaries for a brainstorm, and you avoid chaotic brainstormings that go in all directions, but don’t really help you.
  • You can also use the lotus blossom to brainstorm on a service you are designing. In this example, we were brainstorming about what the service offering could be of a newly formed web team at the European Commission. First they had to look for 8 requirements or key characteristics for their service, for instance ‘quality’. Then we brainstormed around models from the real world they associated with the key characteristic. For instance, they associated 'quality‘ with Amazon, so in the second part of the exercise they had to brainstorm on these models, and say what they liked so much about Amazon.This is really helpful for people that are not used to creative thinking. If they have to brainstorm around abstract characteristics such as ‘quality’ or ‘authority’, they tend to get stuck. But, they have no problem saying why they like Amazon so much.In some cases, we let the participants vote on the qualities they find most important, like you can see in the screenshot here.
  • Collaborative mind mapping is a technique I have been using myself for some years now. With a beamer, you display amind map on a large screen. Together with content experts from different departments you start listing content of a site or application, grouping and ordering it.
  • In most cases, the end goal of this exercise is a classification for a site: the sitemap,a list of the main content types and their important metadata.I like working with a mind map: it’s easy to manipulate. You can move things around, try things out (like grouping content by target audience or by topic) and see what works well and what doesn't. All participants see the solution grow in front of them. In this way, it is very good for consensus building. Everyone can have a say in the result.
  • Another IA-related technique is cores and paths. Central idea of this technique is simple: when you are creating a site, don’t start by designing the navigation on the home page! 
  • On the contrary, you start from the core, the reason why users come to your site. For instance, on an online shoes store, the core is a pair of shoes.You describe the core, you determine how users will get to the core (inward paths), and what they want to do next, call to actions, where they want to go next (onward paths).This technique is not new, it was presented already in 2007 at euroIA.This technique can be done in co-creation workshop format.You do this in two steps: first you define the content (core, inward and onward paths) with the help of a template we have prepared (we adapted Jim Kalbach’s template). Second, you use this ‘inventory of content elements’ to sketch out a draft design of the page.So in less than two hours it will give you the basis for your most important pages (both thecontent, the building blocks for you page, and a first draft design).
  • Storytelling is another technique we have been applying a lot in co-creation workshops. I don’t have to explain what personas and scenarios-of-use are anymore, right.
  • Again, these two storytelling techniques really lend themselves well to a co-creation context, that’s why I included them here.Writing a narrative is something even non-creative people can pull off. Every one can write text, right. A narrative can be understood by all, and is a good basis for discussion, and to get an idea of how this tool you are designing will be used.We usually start off by having them create personas. We give a briefing on the main findings from the field study we did before, we have a pack of persona pictures ready and we use a preformatted template like on the picture here.Then we ask them to write scenarios for the different personas.
  • An interesting variation of storytelling is serious play: serious play is a brainstorm about a future service. You ask the participants to develop scenarios, not written out scenarios, but you ask the participants to ‘act out’ the scenarios with three-dimensional props
  • Basically, they haveto visualise the service in 3 dimensions.In this example, the European Commission did a serious play about what the service offering could be of a newly formed web team. It really worked well.It was a full day workshop, and this was an exercise we did right after lunch, well, I have never seen a group being so active and having so much fun after lunch. This is how you activate people in a fun way. Alot of useful ideas came out of this exercise.
  • The last technique I’m going to show is the user journey map (or the customer journey map).
  • A user journey map is scheme or graph that describes the journey of a user by showing the different touch points that characterize his interaction with the service.Now, a journey map is something really fun to build together, and you need the insights of different people from different departments, so again very much suited for a co-creation workshop.
  • You can use this also outside the field of service design, in typical interaction design projects. For example Sony asked us to reorganize and redesign the Sony support web site. Now, customers need ‘support’-like information at different moments in time, not just when they have a problem during use, and also that the support site itself (as a touch point) is used in different circumstances, at different momentsin the customer journey. So we mapped the customer journey in a workshop together with the client, and used that as a starting point for the redesign.Here is part of the digital version we made afterwards.
  • You can take the user journey one step further and draw storyboards to make these touch points come to life (show them in their context of use)You will probably need a designer to help and do the actual drawing and sketching
  • So this was a brief overview of co-creation techniques we are using in our projects at the moment.We come now to the final part of my talk: first, I would like to give you some best practices on running co-creation workshop
  • ((# have a clear goal in mind))Make sure you know what you want to accomplish in a co-creation session. Don't just do an exercise because it’s fun or it will make the participantsfeel good; try to make some real progress. So, now exactly what you want to have at the end of the workshop.# Have everyone participateDon’t let dominant participants overwhelm the introverts.Foresee some private time in the beginning of the exercise (for instance in a brainstorm), Use break-out groups. Also, try to avoid group discussions, because these tend to turn a co-creation session into a classic meeting.# Get away from the chairsStand up and move around, have higher tables for stand-up work. This will make the participants more active. This is the idea of “thinking on your feet”.
  • # Have a minimum of structureHave a minimum of structure in your exercises/sessions: this works well for everyone. Structure never harms. It sets the boundaries and leads to focused creativity!# keep the exercises simple. If people don't get it, the results of the exercises will be useless.When the exercise is complex in itself, for instance you want them to draw a content model, then do a simple trial before you dive into the actual exercise. In the example of the content model, do a warming up exercise with a simple example, with the content types song/album/artist/chart# if possible, make it fun!Use playful elements in your exercises. Introducegamificationinto the workshop. People like games and challenges, it will activate them. Remember the example of serious play I gave earlier.# Register the results in detail, and document sufficientlyTake pictures, audio record the group presentations, keep the exercise sheets and post its... But also, take the raw results one step further when you are reporting on the workshop. For instance, in the digitalized version of the context map, we clean up the messy parts and fill in the gaps.
  • What are possible risks when using these co-creation workshop techniques?
  • # ("Where is your expertise?“)Here is a quote I literally got from a client a few months ago, in a project in which we held four co-creation workshops to develop a content strategy. The client had the feeling that we hadn't brought in enough of our own expertise, that we were relying too much on what was said during the co-creation workshops...#What about the director at C-level?Her presence can be useful but risky as well. A director can become a dominant factor in a workshop (you may loose control of the agenda). Also, in most cases she will not have the time to join in for the full session. She might pop in later or join in for the first hour only. Be prepared for this.#(Time consuming)Running these co-creation workshops is time consuming. Prepare the workshops, run them, digest the results... But it will pay off in the end. # (Budget burning)Co-creation workshops can also be budget burners, so you maynot have enough time any more to think over the results of these workshops or to work individually. Make sure you foresee enough time for the designer's 'homework‘ after the workshops [[you as a designer need to absorb what came out and take it to a next level.]]
  • You as a designer will have to adapt as well. You need other skills. You can’t work on your own and stay in your black box anymore.
  • # empathy: as a designer you need empathy for your end-user, and for the client your working. In co-creation workshops you will need it even more...# workshop facilitation skills: keeping an eye on timing at all times, knowing when to intervene, when to move on, when to skip an exercise etc., # knowledge about group dynamics - recognizing different characters and knowing how to act upon them -get familiar with the 'social styles‘ that were presented last year in Rome.# openness to criticism -  be able to let go of your own 'perfect' ideas, let go of the design and let others intrude in the process.# in the end, it is also a question of doing it a lot. It has been a trial and error process for us at Namahn. In the beginning, I was scared about these workshops. You learn by doing it. We now have a number of tools and techniques at our disposal, and I feel more confident now doing these workshops.
  • So, that is all I have to say about co-creation. Thankyouverymuchforlisteningto me.I hope this was usefulforyou, and I hope youwillalso start running co-creation workshops yourself. It’s up toyounow...
  • Using Co-creation to Make Design Solutions that Work (EuroIA 2013, Edinburgh)

    1. 1. design that works for people Using co-creation to make design solutions that work Koen Peters, @2pk_koen – EuroIA 2013, Edinburgh
    2. 2. design that works for people Co-creation
    3. 3. 3 Around 2000: Namahn library and individual desks
    4. 4. Now: Namahn DesignStudio
    5. 5. Co-creation 6 Participatory design Co-design Cooperation Collaboration
    6. 6. Framing context map Ideation lotus blossom IA collaborative mind mapping IA cores & paths Storytelling scenarios and serious play Service design user journey Design prototyping
    7. 7. Why co-creation?  Get buy-in, get your solution accepted by and sold to a client Give a client the feeling he is making (and owning) the solution co-ownership  ―If you‘re trying to solve complex problems—which we‘re often asked to do—you need multiple minds working together to arrive at the best solutions.‖ (Tim Brown)  Create momentum  Go light on deliverables 8
    8. 8. What do you need for co-creation workshops?
    9. 9. 1. Participants
    10. 10. Participants  Client: core team and representatives of the main departments + some users  Moderator: designer with workshop facilitation skills  What makes a good collaborative team? 11 Cf. “9 Facts Every Creative Needs to Know About Collaborative Teams” (Jarrett)
    11. 11. Add DS picture 2. Workshop space
    12. 12. Fixed tables No daylight or fresh air Difficult to move Small whiteboard
    13. 13. 3. Stuff
    14. 14. Stuff  Pens & paper, markers, post-its, lego, kapla...  Workshop tools: templates, posters, framing cards...  A device to register workshop results 15
    15. 15. Co-creation workshop techniques
    16. 16. Framing context map Ideation lotus blossom IA collaborative mind mapping IA cores & paths Storytelling scenarios and serious play Service design user journey map Design prototyping
    17. 17. Framing – context map
    18. 18. Context map  Frame the context (of your project) and set the boundaries by building together a context map What is there, for whom, by whom, in what locations...  Start from scratch or prepare facet cards 19
    19. 19. 20
    20. 20. 21 Ideation – Lotus blossom
    21. 21. Lotus blossom  Finding ideas by association  Put a core word in the centre and brainstorm or free associate words or concepts suggested by the core word  Transfer 8 words/concepts to outer ‘flowers’ and brainstorm again around each of them  Strength: Clearly structured! 22 Invented by Yasuo Matsumura
    22. 22. 23
    23. 23. Collaborative mind mapping  Group and order content in a mind map projected on a screen, starting from an empty mind map  Create a (top-down) classification for a site  Good for consensus building 25
    24. 24. Cores and paths  Idea: when structuring and designing your site, you start from the core (= the reason why users come to your site) and work from there (= paths)  Technique in 2 steps: 1. Determine the content (core, inward paths, onward paths...) with the help of a template 2. Use this content to sketch out the page 27 Technique by Are Halland, Jim Kalbach
    25. 25. Storytelling  Stories lead to a common understanding of how a product or service will be used in the future  Create personas first, then write scenarios for the personas. 29
    26. 26. Serious play  Visualise a service in three dimensions  Provide tinkering material: lego, playmobil, dough, post-it‘s… 31
    27. 27. User journey map  Identify touch points and map the user journey over time  Note: not only for service design projects 33
    28. 28. Storyboards  Making the user journeys concrete by drawing storyboards  Storyboards help make the touch points come to life 35
    29. 29. Tips & tricks
    30. 30. Tips & tricks (1)  Have a clear goal in mind for your co-creation session  Have everyone participate Use break-out groups (of 3 or 4 persons) – avoid group discussions  Get away from the chairs 37
    31. 31. Tips & tricks (2)  Have a minimum of structure – ‗focused creativity‘  Keep the exercises relatively simple  If possible, make it fun, make it playful  Register the results in detail – take it one step further 38
    32. 32. Risks
    33. 33. Risks  ―Where‘s your expertise?‖  The director at C-level  Time consuming  Budget burning Make sure you foresee enough time for what comes after the workshops 40
    34. 34. Skills needed
    35. 35. Skills needed for a designer doing co-creation workshops  Empathy  Workshop facilitation skills  Knowledge about group dynamics – recognize social styles  Openness to criticism (be able to let go of your design)  Learn by doing it! 42