Design Events

Design Thinking: Penny Hagen, 2 February 2011

What are social technologies: Penny Hagen @ Design Thinking

Where have I been all this time that Design Thinking has been meeting? I have no context to this event, other than to say that more events were promised, which going by this week’s standard can only be an awesome thing.


  • Getting to sticky beak at Digital Eskimo’s oh so cute offices.
  • The Eskimos! Despite the mandatory photo on entrance (that was like a border crossing!) the Digital Eskimo guys were the most hospitable folks ever. Wine in hands, snacks in sight, they were ever so lovely and chatty hosts. The photos did come out nice though.
  • The suggestion that banks, who have to face the sensitive issue of money that no one likes to talk about, can learn from sexual health, something else people don’t like to talk about.

Now to the talk! Penny Hagen presented on her doctoral paper: Social technologies, participation, design methods. The central question being how to support and frame participation in the design process when using social technologies? The social technologies in question are the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc. And you can guess that if people are participating in the design and/or research process using these methods that the design process is in the “wild”, so to speak. The sticky issue is that design practice and research are public but the advantages are a “design that emerges through use, which is hard to simulate in the studio”.

Available examples of “design in the wild” exist: Threadless, the P&G open initiative, Crowdspring, 99 designs and more. But what of the crowd? How can it be harnessed so design by community doesn’t become design by committee? Penny outlined two models to describe this design process:

  1. iterative design
  2. emergent design

Iterative is what we have seen with the continuous Google beta launches and subsequent product improvements. Emergent is the evolution of the design through use and prototype. Interestingly the latter model was described as not necessarily having to illicit requirements at the start of the process. If I understood it correctly (please correct me if I am mistaken in the comments), the design process can begin by prototyping with an existing and available technology, to address the design problem and see how people use it.

Simultaneous design and use: Penny Hagen @ Design Thinking
Concurrent design, research and use: Penny Hagen @ Design Thinking

Keen to see how they could adopt a more experimental approach the audience discussion centred around how to convince clients to let them get away with an approach that, at the outset, may not have a defined process let alone a predictable outcome. Unfortunately I missed the second discussion and the playtime at the studio afterwards. Thankfully, another event is promised in April at the Arthouse.

Penny has presentations on participatory design practices on Slideshare, is published in industry mags, and chats on Twitter. The Moggill community digital noticeboard case study cited in the presentation is available online. A much better write up of the event was captured Sketch note style by Ben Crothers. And lastly, if one of the organisers can respond with how to get on their database for the April event announcement, that would be grand.

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