Ahhh, That felt nice—that month-long break from weeknotes we just took. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and videos that replaced these weeknotes during the month of September. After the big event we needed the break, but now we're back at it refreshed and invigorated.
At the moment our attention is split between a couple bits of media to be produced in the near term and some decisions to be made about our long term activities. For a while it seemed as though the fall would be a quiet season, but after sitting down with Justin and Marco to review the calendar the myth of respite is once again shattered.
We've been on the horn this week with Tel Aviv inquiring about upcoming case study research, Zurich to talk about an exciting opportunity, and DC to check in on media-related issues.
This is a week of comings and goings. I'm back from my post-event holiday and Marco is leaving for some time with his family. Meanwhile, we have a more significant departure: Minna is leaving Sitra to begin a PhD program at the University of Helsinki. Thanks for everything, Minna, and good luck on your next adventure!
In celebration of the fact that we're actually posting this weeknote on Friday, let's close it with links to two bits of beauty. If you haven't seen them already, Steven Johnson's introduction of his upcoming book is a great four minute scribble of ideas about hunches, connectivity, where ideas come from. And there's not really a way to frame the five-minute video entitled Making Future Magic other than to say that if someone somewhere is giving us a glimpse into the future, it's most definitely the fine people at BERG.
One week on and we've just about recovered from HDL Global. The scattered papers and other piles of random bits are cleaned out of our office, the team looks fresh again, and we're steadily chipping away at backlogged emails.
As a testament to our quick recovery, I offer this "Strategic Design 101" video which introduces our work and the opportunity space we operate within. After debuting it at the event we wanted to share this as soon as possible.
To date we've begun a journey with studios on Ageing, Education, and Sustainability; began a library of case studies (which we hope to grow before the year ends); and hosted 120 people for an event that brings together government and design.
The big question at HDL—one that many of our guests asked at the end of last week—is beautifully simple: what's next?
A beauty it may be, but this question has no easy answer. Our thoughts on this have not changed substantially since the last time we pondered the future. We're dreadfully allergic to hype so we will continue to under-promise and over-deliver.
Taking a cue from the Education Studio, at the moment we are practicing being comfortable with ambiguity. Now two years in gestation, HDL's role at Sitra is in a moment of transition during which time we're taking the opportunity to hunker down and think carefully about the many opportunities before us and which we want to pursue first.
To frame this with a small touch of specificity, our thoughts are swirling around three big questions:
- How can we help more teams benefit from strategic design in their own work?
- How can we accelerate the rate of strategic design success stories?
- How can we better serve our awesome network of collaborators, partners, and friends?
Once we have some answers, this will be the first place we'll share.
During the rest of September we're going to take a bit of a break from posting these weeknotes. Over the next three weeks a selection of videos and photos from HDL Global 2010 will trickle onto the blog. Hope you enjoy and see you in October!
Done. Is there more to be said? We're done with the big event, this team's first stab at hosting a gathering of 100+ people from all over the world. I'm very proud of our effort. Feedback from the participants thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. Go team!
At 11am on a Monday morning the team is still looking a little tired. The previous week of hyperspeed organizing, preparing, futzing and fixing is now being paid back as all that expended energy echoes ahead of us while we ramp down, disintegrating focus at an equal but opposite rate as we applied it during the ramp up.
If you missed it before, I highly recommend you read Marco's welcome letter to the HDL Global 2010 guests.
We're also happy to have guest blog posts from four participants: Rory Hyde's summarization of the bus schedule vs. the building is a nice recap that explains strategic design, Helen Han gives us some thoughts on the importance of visualization, Ido Mor wonders what problem solving looks like when we work on problems with no reference, and Anna-Leena asks us to accept complexities.
In coming days we'll be posting follow ups from our four guest bloggers as well as more images and thoughts from the event. For now, our sincere thanks to: Emil+Stephanie for making the finest of event materials; XOXCO for their excellent help on the dossier and liveblog aspects of this site; Ivo Corda and Pekka Mustonen for fantastic photography; Sanna and her team at Management Events for their able handling of everything behind the scenes; the 100+ people who came from far and wide to be part of our event; and to you, dear reader, for following along at home. See you in Week 078!
To summarize week 076 it would be easier to make a list of the things that we did not do rather than those that we did, so here are a few items:
- We did not finish the memo to the photographers telling them when and where to be
- We did not have a slow, multi-course lunch while basking in the sun
- And we did not make a playlist for after dinner
Since it's technically Monday as I write this, our big event starts in two days. In light of that, let's pretend that these pictures are each worth a thousand words and this weeknote goes on for pages and pages.
For the rest of the week this site will transition into a tumblog format, meaning that posts will be snippets rather than fully formed ideas. This is so that we can keep a steady stream of images and ideas flowing during the run up to, and during, HDL Global 2010. Hope you enjoy it!
This week at HDL we began doing things labeled "final." Final venue visits, final guests lists, final head counts, final prep meetings. This is appropriate with HDL Global now less than 10 days away.
In anticipation of panel discussions which will use the HDL Studios as starting points, we wanted to share some of the outcomes of the Studios... but how do you present something that is in flux, under development? The format we've developed is called the HDL Dossiers. Go check it out—and if you like, you can read below as I share a bit of the thinking behind this format.
A slightly nerdy introduction to the HDL Dossiers
If your process is non-linear, as the design process often is, forcing yourself to use a linear tool is counter productive. Since most blogs and other content management tools are rigidly linear, we needed a new tool to support the work of HDL. We needed a new way to see our work.
The ease of use that a blog allows, as a simple long list of stuff, is great. But its not designed for content that is evolving. We wanted a format that would enable us to evolve a presentation of information and ideas as our understanding develops and changes. One of the important aspects of this is the ability to have control over how bits of information are located. Does A need to sit next to B to make sense? With a normal blog you don't have control over that. The best you can do is to post things in chronological order.
We needed the ease of use of a blog, where content is stored in a database and easily manipulated, with the flexibility of a sketchpad, where the presentation is freeform and maleable. And since this is a tool that we intend to use in the daily course of HDL's work, it needs to have a sense of history as well. It needed to be able to keep track of time by allowing versions which the user can then "scrub" back and forth between.
The result is something like this. Here's an image of the Sustainability Dossier in two different states. The left shows what it looked like before the studio. In that state we've just assembled the bones of the challenge briefing. But on the right the studio has concluded and their recommendations are starting to filter into the mix. Between the versions some information becomes less important (and thus smaller) or disappears altogether because it's no longer important.
It was a squeeze to get this work done with our already-ambitious HDL Global preparations, but I'm glad we did because we are finally reflecting a bit of work from the Studios. I hope you enjoy digging around the Dossiers and please direct any tips to @HDL2010 or the contact form on this site. We'd love to hear from you.
For once I'm getting to the weeknote during the actual week itself. To start, a recap of some new things here in case you missed them.
The first of three interviews is now online. We started off the series with Juhani Pallasmaa recounting his experience at HDL Global 1968. Next week we'll have an interview with Jaakko Ihamuotila and ending with Yrjö Sotomaa the week after that. In the meantime, you can have a look at the Clues to Open Helsinki, a quick project Sitra did with OK Do to get the brain juices flowing in advance of Helsinki's World Design Capital year in 2012. One bit looking backwards and one looking forwards. We like balance.
This week was more of the same with regards to HDL Global: catering, AV, venues, transport, logistics. We've taken to joking about being wedding planners. Government, do you promise to love and care for design, in sickness and in health?
As part of the event we will be hosting conversations around each of the studio themes. This is an opportunity to leverage the work of our HDL Studios to frame a conversation about the globally relevant themes of ageing, education, and sustainability with particular attention to facets where strategic design may have a role. To kick off these sessions we've created video recaps of the three Studios. Those videos will be posted here after they premiere at the event.
It feels very good to have these three videos done. Not only was it a significant and hectic effort on the behalf of Seungho and I, but they're also our first foray into using video to explain our work. We've wanted to do this for a long time and the biggest outcome of the past two weeks is a reminder that sometimes you just have to force yourself into new territory rather than waiting for the calendar to magically clear itself up.
If you're doing your first video project while organizing your first major event, why not also throw in the first piece of HDL software? One of the difficulties we've been struggling with since the very start of the challenge briefing work is a way to organize research around fuzzy topics. Most of the research and info gathering we're engaged in comes into focus over a relatively long period of time, and we're often fickle when it comes to categorizing, arranging, weighting, and editing our sources. We like to test out different editorial decisions—arguments, ultimately—quickly and often.
Unable to find the right tool on the market, we decided to build one for internal use. We needed something more accessible than a raw database of content and with the possibility for more articulate relationships than a typical reverse-chronology blog. After experimentation with just about every knowledge management tool we could find, nothing felt right. Instead, we've been working with XOXCO to build the HDL Dossier tool, which is at it's core a 2-dimensional blog. If your average blog is a linear list of diverse content, we've created a place to keep bits of information organized in 2 dimensions, therefore allowing for more specific relationships to be built up between the bits. We'll have some more thoughts on this when it goes live. Next week, hopefully!
So it goes.
If this was any indication of what we can expect for the whole of August, it's going to be a crazy month as we narrow in on HDL Global. Lots of things cooking right now—probably too many.
XOXCO are nearing completion on the HDL Dossiers, a new part of this site which will help us keep track of our focus areas in a new and exciting way. That should launch in another week or two, depending on whether we send them timely feedback or not.
Seungho has been drawing like a madman as he finishes up the artwork for a series of animations that Eetu and I are putting into motion. As I type this, one of nine animation sequences is rendering in the background.
We've also started sending things to press. This week was 14 A-frame signs to be used in our venues. Next week we will be sending badges and other bits. From now until September 1st there are deadlines every few days so it's marathon mode.
Tomorrow: catering decisions. Have you ever had a Sea Buckthorn Berry? They're delicious, good for you, and plentiful here in Finland. Highly recommended.
Speaking of food, Kigge, Liza, and Adam from INDEX stopped by for lunch while there were in town on other matters. It was nice to catch up and to hear about the Designing for Education student challenge they've just launched.
Everything else is proceeding as usual. The whole team is finally back from summer holidays and things are moving quickly. This week was tiring but good, a formula that we're anticipating a lot of in our near future.
Things were already picking up in the Sitra offices this week as people begin to trickle back from summer holidays. We were occupied with a full checkup of our operational plans for September. This was a pragmatic follow up to last week's review of all HDL Global 2010 content.
Over a long lunch Marco and I looked at the calendar week by week through August, and then day by day in the final week leading up to the event. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up in the next month, but it's coming together pretty well.
And we also have something nice to look at. This sneak preview of what HDL Global 2010 looks like is from Emil+Stephanie:
As the quiet month of July comes to a close, we're savoring these last moments of relative calm. This morning began with a thunderstorm in Helsinki—a sign?
We've been re-working the programme for HDL Global yet again—it's subject to constant tweaks as we fine tune the flow and punctuation. Marco has taken to keeping the programme schedule as a constantly-open document on his computer and from time to time we open that window and twiddle bits around. Should Talk A come before talk B? As we've witnessed while attending other events, getting the order of the day right makes a big difference. Get the sequence wrong and you lose momentum, but if the programme unfolds properly ideas will be humming by the end of the day.
Various other bits: on the horn with Eric in San Francisco, Cecilia in Singapore, and Bill in Cambridge, MA; meeting with Emil+Stephanie to review print design work; had a prep meeting with Eetu, who will be helping with some video editing next week; and started thinking through alternative scenarios for all three days of the event. What happens if Person X misses their flight? That sort of thing.
We also began uploading transcripts from HDL Global 1968 to our Flickr account. If you're a fan of Christopher Alexander's work you may enjoy his presentation of "The Organization of Design Pattern." I thought it might be interesting to try an experiment in crowdsourced OCR. I've transcribed the first page of Alexander text, maybe you would like to contribute by OCRing another page?
Last week was supposed to be a slow one, but two meetings fell into place at the last minute and so the HDL team (those of us not enjoying the Finnish summer) was split between Zurich, Moscow, and Helsinki. It was a time for us to focus our thoughts some long term ideas about what HDL is and could be—an exciting thing for us to be thinking through.
One of the biggest questions on our minds has been, "what next?" We have a clear idea of where HDL goes, but on a broader sense we're interested—maybe even concerned about—the hype that has been recently poured into the term "design." The danger is that the hype becomes destructive if the design community is not able to deliver. So far, many corners of the business world have been convinced of the importance of designers involved in many different, and more strategic roles, but what about NGOs, cities, or even nations? Although early evidence from that sphere is positive, as one can see in our case studies and elsewhere, the available pool of successes is small.
Which makes us curious: what should HDL do to grow that pool? What's the right role for design within larger organizations? How much design "presence" is necessary, or even wanted? Our own Studios are one proposition, but we're anxious to see more happening, and more quickly.
How will strategic design engagements be funded and by who? If one of the defining factors of truly strategic work is that it cuts holistically across silos, it might always be difficult to find funding. At the end of the day, the majority of the world operates under the cruel logic of the budgetary line item, so how can strategic designers find a place to fit when their work is naturally between the lines?
This is a true design problem in every sense of the word.