Brain Disruptions from The Do Lectures 2013. Second Bit: Design

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This post was first published on “Look Up!” by Paul Kaan, where I share personal Musings, Inspirations and Play, and, on Medium.

My first post on The Do Lectures 2013 explored Brain Disruptions on Purpose, People and Crowdsourcing. This second post explores Brain Disruptions on Design.


Experience ~ Beauty ~ People ~ Functionality ~ Beyond the Physical ~ Time ~ Experimentation ~ Collaboration

Great designers seek elegant solutions. They don’t maximise they optimise. They connect to cultures. They seek radical innovation, not, just incremental change.

Design featured in everything at The Do, some of the best bits were completely hidden. The first bit of design I noticed was as I unzipped the flap to the tent that was to be my sleeping place for the next few nights.

My sleeping spot and the cloth goodie bag on the right Do Lectures 2013 by Paul Kaan

In a cloth goodie bag on the camping bed were two items that stood out. The first a power plug charger thingy. On closer inspection the “mu” designed by Min-Kyu Choi & Matthew Judkins was so much more. It took the UK power plug, one of the worlds ugliest and largest and converted it into a fun toy + charger for your mobile devices. I just couldn’t stop playing with it. The second, a box of “Art E Facts” by John Willshire of the Smithery, a simple creative tool to help you think and do better. A box of cards and Sharpie (texta). Used well it’s a tool to help you easily unpack and arrange ideas, designs, well anything really.

Examples of product design at the Do Lectures extended as far back as the caveman, Sam Pearce re-inventing the proverbial wheel with his Loopwheels for bicycles, looking like something straight out of the movie “Tron”.

These were all great example of the end product of Design. Questions still remain: Where do you start? What steps do you take to get to the end? How would this apply to service design? or Designing for experience?

Sure, there are some who have incredible intuition, synthesise patterns and have “Eureka” moments. For us mere mortals, this is where Design Thinking comes to the fore. Intentional thinking striving to deeply understand a challenge and pursue meaningful, viable solutions.

Owen Rogers from IDEO had the rare opportunity to speak twice at The Do. IDEO is a Design & Innovation firm. IDEO work with Government, NGO’s, Multi-Nationals and Countries to help them design solutions for the things that inspire them and for their most pressing challenges. His talk highlighted the difference between a beautifully designed product or experience and the design thinking that goes behind it’s creation.

He shared a wonderful example of the importance of perspective in Design Thinking. Charged with exploring how a hospital might improve it’s level of patient service the IDEO crew did something very simple. They strapped a camera to a patient’s head and recorded their experience. They mapped the patients journey and shared that perspective with the hospital board. Owen shared stirring footage of the patient, lying helpless on a hospital gurney, looking up at white ceiling panels, the thrum of the hospital in action pulsating in the background. The sense of feeling alone, isolated and afraid, in a foreign, sterile place was palpable. The rawness of the visuals shifted the hospital board’s paradigm to action in just a few moments.

Back to The Do Lectures itself and Fforest it’s home, they were both carefully, beautifully designed to create the conditions for magic to happen. Go and you’ll instantly know what I mean. As a teaser check out the Do Lectures and Cold at Night (Fforest’s) Instagram profiles. Wildflowers lit up simple wooden tables, a peg board with the sign “This is Everyone” above it stood ready for all to share a little bit of themselves with a “Doodle”, cauldrons of fire mesmerised eyeballs, relaxed brains and warmed cold bodies between intense periods of thought. This care and attention to the little things elevated the experience. Somehow, I don’t think it would have been the same set in a drab conference hall!

Images from the Do Lectures’ Instagram profiles

Images from the Cold at Night’s (Fforest’s) Instagram profiles

Design thinking extended through to the workshop element where the Doer’s were split into 6 groups and charged with designing solutions for some of the worlds biggest problems: Global Sustainability, Childhood Obesity, Homelessness through the Housing Crisis in the UK, and, the Death of Manufacturing. These issues seem insurmountable. With optimism, effort, shared tools and lots of clever people in the room, some outstanding, often simple solutions, were evolved through intentional focused thinking. They might not have necessarily directly addressed the problem, but, they had the potential to create real impact. The Do Lectures and Fforest crew created the right conditions and magic happened.

Good designers see patterns and assemble solutions that encompass Purpose, People, the Physical, Experience, incorporating Beauty and Practicality, they Experiment and Collaborate to make real sustainable difference. They do this intentionally, they have an evolving toolkit in their back pockets to help them. And, they practice over and over again.

Great designers go few steps further. They think holistically of the whole system, including the humans. They explore the consequences of how they design, considering resources, sustainability, and, who will be impacted by what they do. And, they incorporate Time. To me this doesn’t mean the design has to last for ever, just, that it should be ready in time and last the right amount of time.

Great designers don’t maximise they optimise. They connect to cultures for impact. They seek elegant solutions.

We can apply design thinking to our individual lives, just as we applied it to some of the worlds biggest problems. The Do Lectures was opened with these words, spoken by Duke Stump, words that are wholeheartedly about designing for life, your own life.

Imagine on your deathbed you were able to see two films of your life: One showed highlights of what you actually achieved. And then the other showed highlights of what you could have achieved with your ability, your talent, the opportunities that came your way etc. It would probably bring you to tears to know what else you could have done. The heights you could have climbed. The people you could have met. The races you could have run. The ideas you could have made happen. The change you could have made. If only when you had come to the edge, you hadn’t taken that step back to safety. If you had just kept going after failing that one time. If only you had believed in that crazy dumb idea enough to tell the world about it. Yes, if only you hadn’t, well, played so damn small. So that’s why we started The Do Lectures. To narrow the distance between the ‘Two Films’. ~ David Hieatt, Co-Founder of The Do Lectures

What will I be Doing?

  1. I’ll be seeking to grow my Design toolkit.
  2. I’ll be seeking to INTENTIONALLY apply design thinking to my own life.
  3. I’ll be seeking to spend time with exceptional designers, absorbing and hopefully participating in their craft.
  4. I’ll be practicing design thinking until my eyeballs bleed

If you’re intrigued by design thinking check out these IDEO initatives:

  • Open IDEO is an Open Innovation platform where the “Crowd” contributes to “Inspirations” helping to develop them into “Prototypes” for “Evaluation” and then pushing the best ones forward. It packed with a heap of tools and a massive cognitive surplus to help you along your way.
  • Human-Centered Design Toolkit – Developed specifically with NGO’s and Social Causes in mind and guides you through an intentional design thinking process. There’s an online community supported by Bill & Melinda Gates
  • Design Thinking for Educators is a creative process that helps you design meaningful solutions in the classroom, at your school, and in your community. The toolkit provides you with instructions to explore Design Thinking. It’s been designed with teachers for teachers.

And, from the Do’s very own Mark Shayler one of the first five books published by the Do Book Co.Do Disrupt: Change the status quo. Or become it.” At first this book seems overly simple, perhaps lacking depth. In reality it has simplified an extremely complex process, addressing core elements that anyone should consider, whether starting a business or looking to stay relevant. It intentionally applies Design Thinking to disrupt business.

Next up …

Brain Disruptions from The Do Lectures 2013. Third Bit: Critical & Consequential Thinking

Go back to “Brain Disruptions from The Do Lectures 2013. First Bit: Purpose, People & Crowdsourcing”

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