Live blog: PD+I conference, London – Day 2

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Well we’re back, running on coffee and anticipating another day of industrial design goodness.

Day two of the conference will see talks around ethics, education, automotive and wearables, so there’s great variety.

If you missed yesterday’s action then check out the full summary from day one, otherwise be sure to check back here throughout the day.
Starting today is ‘Ethics and how to stop feeling guilty about stuff’, brought to us by both James Woudhuysen, Prof forecasting and innovation at De Montford University, and Rodrigo Bautista, senior sustainability advisor at Forum for the Future.

James begins proceedings:
– There’s a lot of books about minimising your consumption – ‘They’ve had a damaging consequences on the world’s forests…!’
– There’s new resources found every day, nothing is leaving the planet.
– There’s more oil and gas being found all the time, figures are going up… As are lots of minerals.
– ‘Rare earth elements aren’t rare, they’re just a bit hard to extract’
– ‘We’re not running out, and that’s before we begin with recycling’
– There’s water to be found too – yes there can be shortages, but we’re not short of it
– Dishwasher argument, we don’t actually need these and they use lots of resources, but do we want to give up time-saving devices and what they enable?
– ‘Anti- consumerism is mindless’
– ‘You might not like Marxism, but it’s a lot more fun than Buddhism!’ – brilliant!
– Take Easy Rider’s commune scene as an example – they’re a ‘grow you’re own’ society, but they’re all starving
– ‘Minimalist consumption means you starve’
– ‘They’ll never automate human ingenuity… We need to remember this in our designs’
– The waste coming out of British factories and industry is declining in the time the population has increased by two million
– ‘Like Pavlov, I can’t even eat without worrying about my environmental impact…!’
– ‘Everything that’s creative about product design should fight back against stuff-ism’

Now it’s Rodrigo’s turn to fight back:
– Fast-paced debate isn’t suited to a live blog…
– ‘Who wrote the brief?!’ From that side we need to start influencing the brief, and create better products
– 20,000 products were launched at CES last year, only three per cent survived
– Given the high numbers of obese people, and the high numbers of malnourished, this sounds more like a distribution problem
– When the developing nations start to use more resources then resource scarcity is going to make a big difference

The debate has rattled along at a pace, probably not reflected incredibly well above, but what it shows is that there needs to be less of a ‘ban this’ attitude, and more solutions for problems brought about by better design.


Ralph Ardill, brand consultant at The Brand Experience
– Billed as a pioneer of experience design, now he’s looking at culture change
– Formerly he was band manager for New Kids On The Block… Hopefully he has the Right Stuff… I’m sorry.
– The past 25 years has seen him work with all different types of designers
– ‘Clients never went to Client School’
– So why you should push? There’s never been a better time to be a designer – there’s a lot of overwhelming evidence for why businesses should invest heavily in design. But businesses don’t.
– 70 per cent of big strategic change fails, time and time again
– Three-quarters of the reason for this are the enemies within
– J.W.Lees brewery: an example of Ralph’s work – a six generation family company in an industry on its knees
– The industry wouldn’t be fixed by a bit of tinkering, it needed wholesale change
– First up they needed some belief – change takes belief
– Then survival – often brutal decisions
– Then transformation – a three year plan
– ‘Early on we accepted we were in a bad place – we put it up on the website that we were going to face the problem – we outed the problem, it bought us a bit of space and time’
– They re-wrote their rules – a manifesto for how change would work that everyone in the business could understand, and a new creative charter (a lot of change that wouldn’t happen by accident)
– Developed the Grip Glass – ‘became a fantastic way of signalling a big change in J.W.Lee’
– Needed to attract new talent – people to run the pubs – and recruiting on values. Not updating the pubs first, ‘that’s like changing the car but not upgrading the driver’
– Growing from this into promotion and building spirit amongst the community (note, not customers)
– When working with a company that’s hundreds of years old fate can lend a hand – finding a shot from an old Coronation Street episode featuring J.W?Lees they managed to approach the program and brew official Corrie beer!
– Having a belief and purpose helped drive the design’ having principles and not selling out the brand, and having the right design practises in place to deliver it

‘Automotive: New Models’
Gregory Votolato, course director and lecturer at RCA and the V&A museum
David Hilton, auto designer formerly Bentley’s head of exteriors
Michael Goatman, head of automotive design at Coventry University

– The future of personal mobility, given the number of people joining car share clubs, or not even bothering to learn to drive, and the design challenges for this.

– First up is Gregory, a very nice man who we spoke to during lunch yesterday, who is now ‘Dissertation Tutor’ at RCA, but who gets a great insight about the students’ design agendas.
– How much do people still love their car? It still exists with car customisers, people that put their name on the license plate, Tesla owners that wave to each other (a fraternity! That have bought into the experience), belonging to a mindset or an owners club
– People ‘nest’ in their cars, happy in their cars, a sense of solitude
– The notion that a car has to shine and always look new is beginning to change – designers thinking about longevity, but also the emotional bond with the product: taking the ravages of time and wearing them well
– Being liberated from the traditional aspect of owning a car. Taxis for instance, we wouldn’t want to see it go but it’s an elitist form of transport (you wouldn’t take them everywhere unless you’re rich).
– Taxis have so much potential that hasn’t been exposed yet, the students at RCA are looking at this quite seriously
– How do you convince a person that drives a SUV or pick up that they should be driving a glorified shopping trolley or golf cart? I don’t think you can teach old dogs new tricks
– Families used to share cars, but now people travel in their own car on their own
– The car isn’t going away anytime soon, especially with growing markets, but the way we approach cars are changing – a growing choice of transport types

David Hilton: E-car sharing
– Difference between product and car designers? ‘We spend a lot more time fussing over things – a 3m long object that when tweaked by half a millimetre will make a huge difference’
– Worked on the ECtoGo project with the German government with his consultancy Motorcity Europe
– Theory: As cities get more cramped there’s going to be less space for personal cars, but that they’re going to have to share cars. Electric cars are expensive,most this helps make them more available.
– Car sharing companies are increasing with demand, a giant percentage of which don’t own a car – different in Europe than to the US, where you can get door to door without your own car
– Data threw up a lot of things:
– People find it important that they can transport things as well as just themselves ‘A case of beer in Germany!)
– People would use the little car sharing cars very little on the Autobahn
– A lot of these people don’t want to drive fast (‘I can’t get my head around that mentality!!’)
– ‘I wanted to create a world before a car’, customer profiles from the research done
– How do you interact with this product – you don’t walk downstairs with the keys to your car, it’s a different experience (pay, unlock, options, infotainment)
– ‘What kind of cars are out there that would be suitable now? None’. The Smart Car would do, but not financially viable to convert them all, so they designed and built one
– Came up with package for the design – 2.5m long as the idea of VIP parking as part of the schemes incentive gave them a good level of size to work with – different layouts tried
– ‘Every car brand can relate to its cars as a type of animal – should it be friendly? Toy like? Aggressive?’
– ‘As a piece of the city they should somehow relate to the city that they’re in’
– ‘Like every good design you should be able to draw it with three lines’
– What they learned from the project: Must be cheaper than a taxi; trend is shifting from urban mass vs usable space; must be power washable; mobile independence as the key emotional value, and environmental concerns are of growing importance.

As a last second stand in Michael Goatman is commenting on the themes – mainly between product design and automotive
– The students he teaches are amazing at sketching; automotive clays still fascinate everyone ‘they grapple with details’.
– As with the holistic approach to design, they don’t do that – but with E-share car themes they are having to broach the holistic angle.
– ‘There are very few cars on the road that follow this product design theme’
– ‘JLR want more people that understand crossover design – product and fashion – because this approach is perceived by them to be becoming much more important’
– Perceived Quality is very big in automotive design

Gregory has an opinion on car sharing that: ‘Until there’s a fully automated car that can drive, park and clean itself then I’m not sure this will work’. Think I agree. ‘Cleanability’ is a huge issue – nobody wants to sit in a dirty car.

The afternoon session is beginning with a debate on education, featuring (deep breath):
Ian Aitchison, director of Plan
Gus Desbarats, chairman of The Alloy and BIDA
Dr Mark Evans, reader in industrial design at Brunel University
Steve Rutherford, co-editor of the Design Student’s Handbook
Stephen Green, programme director of integrated product design at Brunel University
Peter Bosson, CSD president elect, founder of Colebrook, Bosson, Saunders

Given the number of people on stage, this’ll be another summary in brief (I’m also nursing a brew so am reluctant to put my mug down…)
– ‘Design’ is the second most popular degree choice after nursing – Ian
– A room poll on the nifty iPads has thrown up some points about skills students should learn – nobody believes that students should be being taught about ‘The new basics: user research, experience prototyping and foresight’. If you’ve just shat out £9k on a course specialising on that this year, then essentially this room full of professionals is saying you’ve blown your cash.
– The most popular choice (50 per cent) was: ‘Breadth not depth: a broad knowledge of creative, analytical, realisation…’
– ‘Universities are huge machines, they’re hard to steer. We’ll need your help.’ – Steve

My brain has switched off. Sure the talk title was along the lines of ‘Why are the graduates you’re producing not good enough for industry?’ Nobody has stepped in and argued that either ‘they are’, or given reasoning why students are coming out of universities under skilled. Peter’s having a crack at saying what industry wants: ‘Wildness in creativity… The connection between materials and making… A series of core matrices of fundamental competences that can say someone is qualified’.

– Design is such a broad umbrella, graduates go off in all different directions and vocations. ‘We have courses with different names, and those names might as well be walls… We need to ally with similar disciplines’ – Steve. Good point.

The final half of day two is split between digital interfaces and wearables, first is digital and the merging of physical and digital coming together:

Jason Mesut, head of user experience at Plan
Jim Blyth, managing director at The Alloy
Lee Sankey, design director for innovation and customer experience at Barclays Bank

– ‘Screens seem to be dominating our futures’, says Jason, who’s leading the session with a presentation.
– ‘In this new world of smart products it’s digital natives driving this hardware revival future, not industrial designers’
– There’s a huge disparity in pay – in some circumstances UX designers are getting paid double what IDs are, with three years less experience!
– Needs to be a wider integration of types of design to deal with all these new integrated products
– ‘We need to find the common ground between ID and UX designers… Translate our language and share a common purpose’
– ‘UX people couldn’t move into ID, there’s too many core skills they’d need to go back to college to learn and they’d have to take a pay cut, but ID could make the move to UX.’
– ‘If we don’t seek greater harmony then both sides are going to lose relevancy – we need to connect, calibrate and collaborate together’

There’s a debate going on, it’s a bit animated but there seems to be a lot of email checking and doodling going on around us…

– ‘I do believe there will be a new breed of designers that will be a bit more elastic… We see some graduates coming out with physical and digital skills, like the courses at Dundee and Ravensbourne’ – Lee
– What’s it better to do, specialise on one element in design or take on as much as possible like learning how to code? Does everyone have that in them in the first place? Interesting questions being asked… I’m now daydreaming about rum…
– ‘If it was easy [to switch from ID to UX] then everyone would do it. I wasn’t taught CAD at university, so I had to learn that, it’s similar’ – Jim, putting it out there that UX can be picked up by designers
– Lee prefers hiring ID graduates due to the whole swathe of skills that make a designer – ‘universal skills that all great designers have’

Gadi Amit, founder NewDealDesign
– ‘With wearables the story of the interface becomes more complicated – not just digital but physical’
– Have worked with Fitbit ‘a precursor of all the wearables industry’. Now the next wave is coming to deal with exposures, sports sciences and even pets (a lot for pets!)
– The more dogs using a device called Whistle, the more research vets can do on animal health. – we can’t do that with humans
– Brain research is suffering from limited MRI scan data, so as an example, wearables could help with this
– ‘Problem is that everyone wants to do a wearable design, but they’re not solving problems, but disconnecting users from the human environment’
– There’s people that want data from the devices, and there’s people that just want to wear them for an experience – there’s a disconnect of what is right and what is wrong
– Sizing matters, in Tshirts there’s a limited size change, but between a baby wrist and a XXXL man there’s a huge difference
– Fashion matters, think of the differences in a women’s shoes collection
– A sense of self – how you perceive yourself – ‘creating devices that make you into some kind of cyborg is something people abhor’
– Where to put wearables – do you conceal them or make them visible? Fitbit was generally worn by women on their running bra’s, front and centre – or BFC as the design team abbreviated it down to
– Fitbit was on a clip – which gave it flexible placement
– There is a need for a new UI language – ‘there’s a tendency to put too much on display’ – Fitbit conceals the data to you request to view it
– ‘You need a device that can filter between the junk information and the important stuff – not a smart device but a wise device’
– UI features can include haptic feedback, ambient illumination, and lots of filtering
– ‘There will be people that want them to be discreet (medical), there will be people that want to flaunt them’

That’s it for another year – a great conference for London designers – thanks to the PD+I team for having us here!

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