Looking in from the outside


Published on

Here's the presentation I gave for the annual Project Managers's Club seminar at Aalto University Design Factory 25.11.2009.

My intention was to share a point of view from designers' perspective, and especially on what makes design organizations tick.

It was a honor to be invited to give a point of view, as other speakers included Janne Korhonen from Seos, CEO Tuomas Syrjänen from Futurice and MD Iñaki Amate from Fjord.

Published in: Design, Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Looking in from the outside

  1. 1. Hello! My name is Sami, and my background is in interactive design since 1996. I have worked in media/publishing, mobile since 2000. Also advertising for a short time (I was young, and needed the money). Moved onto human-centric design and IxD in 2004. Spent 2 years at Nokia Design Insight & Innovation HEL/LON/LA, Nordkapp since 2007. Local leader of IxDA, entrepreneur since 2000.
  2. 2. “ I love deadlines— I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. —Douglas Adams To get started with—I’m sure you’ve all heard this. It’s a tragic story of an average design project and the cliched gap between designers and project managers.
  3. 3. An outsider— looking in. So I’d like to share you a point of view: Even though, as an entrepreneur, as a creative, designer, I’ve always been the outsider to the world of management. But, sometimes things a seem clearer from the outside so I’ll do my best to offer you some insight here
  4. 4. SCALES Wikipedia Let’s start with a story about a bumblebee. (This is actually not true, but it’s a nice story nevertheless.) They say bumblebee’s wings are too small for it’s body mass. Being inaware of it’s incapability of flying, it succeeds under the power of it’s ignorance. In retrospective, sometimes being a designer feels like this. There are powers greater than you, but somehow you pull it through and great things happen, especially when you’re starting out. Sometimes it might feel more like failing early & often. This naturally changes when you gain more experience, but can be a bit intimidating in the beginning.
  5. 5. PERCEPTION http://www.flickr.com/photos/bfishadow/3634882948/ Continuing the same train of thought, this is the designer’s cliched perception of a manager: The police, officer, the enemy. This is not very co-operative, and luckily the ecosystem around us is evolving and forcing this thinking to change.
  6. 6. “ The people in business must understand what they can achieve with designers. Designers have to understand that they really must deliver to business not just beautification, or another form of it, but substantial change.” —Hartmut Esslinger, Frog Design It’s essential for designers to be more business-aware, understand the forces that surround their work. This is changing, and also business people are becoming more aware of design as well. Aalto Design Factory itself is a living proof of the transformation in progress.
  7. 7. http:/ Design Thinking, IDEO.com /www.flickr.com/photos/bfishadow/3634882948/ As design is recognized as a major innovation force, and there are more and more methodologies that empower both designers and managers in discovering the latent needs and innovation opportunities in the intersection of different disciplines.
  8. 8. Agile 1 : marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace <an agile dancer> 2 : having a quick resourceful and adaptable character <an agile mind> source: www.merriam-webster.com This also calls for different methods on delivery, Agile development being one of them. Let’s focus on semantics for a second—
  9. 9. Agile 1 : marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace <an agile dancer> 2 : having a quick resourceful and adaptable character <an agile mind> source: www.merriam-webster.com Especially the second bit— “resourceful and adaptable character”— is by definition is very interesting, and important. In my mind this says a lot about the role of a project manager in the modern design practice.
  10. 10. PLANNING CLIENTS PM DESIGN So, enter the typical digital agency team model. There are a lot of variants but the basic balance remains pretty much the same. PM in the middle, stretched between different stakeholders and disciplines.
  11. 11. DESIGN PM CLIENTS I think especially from PM’s perspective it needs to change to something like this. Again, this is not 100 % accurate description but better—let’s get back on that in a bit.
  12. 12. MANAGER CATALYST The elementary idea is, that overall role and accountability of a project manager changes from a one of manager to a catalyst. Someone filtering the necessary bits and pieces for the team, and the client.
  13. 13. CATALYST LEADER And what’s more important, as the duties should involve nurturing both the team and the client, the correct term actually should gravitate towards a project leader
  14. 14. DESIGN TEAM PL CLIENTS …and as there will be overlap, designers need to step up and take responsibility of their actions as well. Be proactive, and take responsibility.
  15. 15. PL DESIGN TEAM So... The project leader will act as a catalyst, and enabler towards the client. What else is there?
  16. 16. PL DESIGN TEAM DL As the project leader will act as a barrier from the external forces such as time and requests, there needs to be a separate person who handles all design decisions. A good cop/bad cop if you will. One of the most important tasks for a PL is also to act as a nurturer for the team, to make sure they have all they need and are in a happy, productive place. To do this it’s essential that the PL understands design as a way of thinking, not just a bunch of deliverables in a schedule.
  17. 17. PL DESIGN TEAM: CLIENTS DL CLIENT LEAD BD Of course there are a few extra particles in the equation— client lead talks with the client on more macro scale, and thinks about the long term strategy. Consultancy needs also an business development person to take lead in mostly new business opportunities.
  18. 18. CEO CD SD BD CL CL D HF PL PL HF DESIGN TEAM DESIGN TEAM For example, this is how we work at Nordkapp. A company of 10-ish people can form 2-3 design teams, while taking advantage of freelancers such as human factors and freelance design specialists. What does this mean in practice?
  19. 19. PROCESS Zubizuri Bridge, Bilbao. One thing is that in order to deliver on a correct level, the design work needs a backbone. Something flexible enough to let it adapt, but strong enough to keep all the parts together…
  20. 20. PLANNING RESEARCH CONCEPT DESIGN DEV So...this is the usual design project, right? Pretty straightforward
  21. 21. INSIGHT SYNTHESIS This is what basically happens in practice. At the beginning, each project has a discovery phase where the team needs to get the valuable insights and discover the latent needs. After that, the design team knows what to look for when looking in and out the challenge and synthesizing the insights. And of course there’s an iterative design in the end—the amount of rounds depends largely on the budget.
  22. 22. Briefing Discovery Elaboration Refinement Implementation Release Exploration Immersion Cohesion Adhesion Delivery Metrics Data Patterns Concepts Interactions QA Images Personas Task level flows Visual Design Testing Models Stories & journeys Interaction Experience design Directions Sketches Prototyping Technical Build Ideas Prototyping Visual Design etc Impressions High level flows Prototyping Constraints Requirements Design Principles For example, this is our way of working at Nordkapp. Instead of being locked down into tangible deliverables, our projects are divided into steps that scale. Each step can contain multiple different phases and methods for different type of project types, scales and sizes. It’s all very flexible, and from a client’s perspective very…. agile.
  23. 23. PROCESS FRAMEWORKS So, in a way the process actually becomes a framework for the work itself. In a way, this is agile design, although executed somewhat differently. But still works well with agile development practices.
  24. 24. And when each member of the team has a center of gravity on something they believe in, are 100 % motivated on their share of the pie, wonderful things happen. Design teams start to behave like swarms, producing great work with a little management at all. It’s all about the people, and hence… the need of a catalyst.
  25. 25. Here’s a case study how it’s done in practice. This was a fairly short project, with a lead time of 3 weeks. But the beautiful thing is, our process can be used as a framework for very different scales. The video can be found online at http://vimeo.com/nordkapp
  26. 26. So, to take with you I’d like you to remember a few things: Develop frameworks for your projects, and accept the fact that things will change and evolve. If you are a project leader, act as a catalyst to empower the design team to do their best work. It’s chaotic, but it’s going to be allright. Thanks. (post scriptum: and remember, in the end it’s all about making things happen. Get excited and start working—goes for all team members alike. Image courtesy of Matt Jones at BERG London)
  27. 27. THANKS! sami@nordkapp.fi @samin www.nordkapp.fi / blog.nordkapp.fi