• Weeknote 447

    June 16th to 22nd

    Just in time for the World Cup, we increased our international diversity. Our small team currently consists of four nationalities since Chiara started her internship this week.

    We now have Sean cheering for the US boys, Chiara keeping her fingers crossed for the Squadra Azzurra, Florie hoping that Les Bleus “don’t behave like idiots again” and the rest of us rooting for the German Mannschaft.

    Since watching the matches takes up a lot of time and energy, we invited Luise, a vegan cook, to prepare a lunch for us on Thursday. Actually, we’ve been tinkering with the idea to have a regular team lunch for quite a while – not just in the strenuous times during the World Cup. There’s one drawback though: the smell that evaporates from the kitchen an hour before lunch time. Concentration loses big time against anticipation, like Portugal against Germany.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 446

    June 9th to 15th

    Once again, we opened our studio for a small public event. Organized by Florie and her colleagues, we served “Service Design Drinks” to about 30 people who had enough stamina to join us for an evening of lively discussion after a hot and humid day. Christophe talked about “Designing for the conference experience”, sharing our design approach for re:publica and NEXT Berlin and the surprising insights we gained along the way. It was a sweaty, but pleasant evening with old friends and new acquaintances. We should do that again some time.

    On Friday we had a short but fun internal workshop, introducing the Design Studio Methodology to everybody who wasn’t yet familiar with it.

    Projects: see last week.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 445

    June 2nd to 8th

    Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Sean Loomis, our new designer. Hailing from Seattle, Sean already worked with us briefly when he arrived in Hamburg in 2012. We are happy to have him back in the studio, not just because of his design skills, but also because of his energetic verve.

    Luckily Sean didn’t need much onboarding and dove directly into our new project, Kewlona. David and I also worked on first drafts for the app. Christophe is still focussing on Puichon, Florie did more research interviews for Millinocket and Svenja struggled with tricky bookkeeping software.

    On Friday, we all swapped our computers for pen and paper. Anna-Lena Schiller showed us a few tricks to improve (and speed up) our sketching skills. Christophe in particular left the workshop with a satisfying accomplishment: After more than 30 years of doodling, drawing and painting, he finally knows how to draw a bicycle in less than 5 seconds.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 444

    May 26th to June 1st

    I procrastinated with this weeknote for so long that I hardly remember what happend. It was a short week anyway with yet another holiday.

    We had a kickoff-workshop for a new project. It’ll be a smartphone/tablet app for a magazine. The codename is Kelowna, deriving from a native american word for grizzly bear. The meaning is completely unfitting, but the sound of the word somehow suits, I think.

    Since this weeknote is so short, I’ll take the opportunity to point out a new job offer: We’re looking for a studio manager. If you think you might be the person we are looking for, or know somebody who would fit the description, please let us know. Otherwise I’ll have to take over some of Svenja’s duties while she’s on maternity leave, which would mean I don’t have time anymore to write weeknotes.

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 443

    May 19th to 25th

    Let me start with something that made everybody in the studio happy: We bought a new coffee machine. The old one wasn’t bad, but some of us critized the consistency of its extraction, especially when in heavy use. When 15 people begged for coffee after lunch last week at our workshop, we had to bring some in from the coffeeshop down the corner. To avoid this situation in the future the espresso delegation visited our trusted coffee machine dealer and test-drived some heavy-duty equipment. Two hours later we had a shiny new machine in the studio kitchen, marveling its full and rich crema.

    Unfortunately Michael wasn’t part of our coffee machine inauguration. It was the first week of his two-month parental leave. Florie, too, was on vacation for the better part of the week.

    When not honing their barista skills, David and Christophe worked on Puichon. David was also preparing and conducting a training workshop for a client’s in-house design team with me. I immersed myself in the challenges of a restaurateur, writing user stories based on Florie’s research. I must admit I don’t know what Svenja’s main accomplishments were, as we didn’t have weekly review.

    On Friday and Saturday, Christophe, Florie and I went to the “Social Design” conference at MK&G. There were some interesting talks, but overall we left with mixed feelings. Probably due to the fact that the conference was organized by the Gesellschaft für Designgeschichte (society for design history), there where too many talks about the historic contexts of social design, only a few showing current projects and almost nothing about how technology could be leveraged now and in the future to tackle social issues.

    During the conference – and in the discussions it instigated – I realized that my definition of social design may was a bit too narrow. To me, social design was something like morethanshelters do. Their founder Daniel Kerber gave in interesting and inspiring presentation about how they are trying to solve problems in a Syrian refugee camp using design methods. Also the exhibition “Design for the other 90%” shaped my image of what the term social design stands for.

    But during the two days of the conference some books where quoted and referenced multiple times – and I realized that I read most of them. However I didn’t read them as books on “social design”. Sure, Victor Papanek’s “Design for the Real World” is clearly about using our skills as designers for "the poor, the sick, the handicapped, the aged, the obese and the Third World” (blurb from my UK edition of the book). But to me, Lucius Burckhardt’s essay “Design ist unsichtbar” (Design is invisible), or John Thackara’s book “In the Bubble” was about designing systems or “service design”, although I wasn’t aware of this term neither when I read those texts 7 or 8 years ago.

    All those books taught me that design can be more than just the visible artefacts; that we should think in a holistic way. And that with design comes responsibility.

    These believes are in precious’ DNA. We always strive to find projects that address people’s needs, rather than their wants. We often think beyond the client's briefing and consider our work in a broader context. But so far we only have worked on projects for the 10%, not the “other 90” (though we would love to!).

    Still, that doesn’t mean that our work doesn’t touch the realm of social design. Florie brought up the notion that some projects we are working on right now do have the potential for real social change: Designing tools that help small, independent business will not just affect their owners. If local shops can survive and even thrive alongside the big guys, it’ll impact whole neighbourhoods. A renaissance of specialised local business would change our cities and thus society.

    It might sound overly ambitious and optimistic. But I consider this a necessary trait of a good designer. It’s what drives us (fueled by the coffee of our new machine).

    Posted by Johannes.
  • Weeknote 442

    May 12th to 18th

    Over the course of a week, we often have very different moods and paces in the studio. Because some of us are working part time or doing home office, and sometimes we have students and freelancers helping out, there are days when just three people are in the studio and others when our eight desks aren’t enough.

    When it’s just three or four people, there is usually a very concentrated atmosphere. A quiet busyness. It’s a bit like in the olden days, but it feels different in the place we are now. Our studio with it’s large open plan and very high ceiling is like a huge resonator. It amplifies the atmosphere. Quiet is quieter.

    With eight people it’s another kind of busy. It’s more energetic, more social, but also less focussed (at least for me). I like both modes, and the fact that they change during the week is great. But I think we (or I) aren’t using it effectively enough. It would make sense to plan our tasks more in regards to these different kind of vibes. Probably everybody does it to some extent, at least unconsciously, for herself. But I wonder how much we could benefit, if we would use it deliberately as a team.

    Another question to be solved in the near future as the team grows: how can we ensure a focused, quiet atmosphere for each one, when she needs it.

    So this week we even had 22 people at once working in the studio for a whole day. We hosted a workshop with a client and cranked out ideas for new products. It was exhausting to work with that many people, to make sure they have a good time and produce something worthwhile. But it was also a lot of fun, and I realized once again, that we like being the “host”. I only half-joked when I said to one of our guests, that we might start a cafe or restaurant sometime. But I’m sure we can also find some other activities and outlets for our hospitality that are a bit closer to what we do now.

    Another thing I like to mention (mainly as a reminder to ourselves): cleaning up the space for the workshop was a matter of an hour, but it felt so good, cathartic even. That’s why I hereby propose “House-Cleaning Friday”: Every first Friday of the month we all leave our desks for an hour, crank up the music really loud and take down those scribbles from long gone projects, put away the debris that gathered on our common tables and do a little home improvement.

    Posted by Johannes.