Strategic Design – Dundee Capital of Culture 2016

A project inside Strategic Design module with the lecturer Tom Inns.
We develop a concept to defend Dundee as Europe Capital of Culture for the year 2016. We also should design a workshop to involve citizens, policy makers and other stakeholders in the planning and making of such event.

Check the final result:

Awesome graphs and motion design from Navid Gornall (take note of this name).


WithScotland: Complex Idea – Simple Video

Design Ethnography is not just about discover, is also about how to communicate findings, insights and conclusions in a straightforward way.

At the Strategic Information Design module our challenge was to get WithScotland message across the a quite broad audience they intent to reach – from academics, practitioners and other professionals deeply involved in child and adult protection to the mainstream public who might be interest in the area.

Main challenges:

  • Align a very diverse team – 5 people, 3 different courses, 4 different nationalities
  • Be very careful with terminology due to the delicate field (child and adult protection)
  • Respect WithScotland brand parameters
  • Align level of quality, the skills of the group and a tight schedule

This is the final result chosen by the client as the best of the final solutions.

What is WithScotland from Fernando Galdino on Vimeo.

We would like to thank Beth Smith, Director of WithScotland for her trust, support and feedback. We also want to thank Megan Robertson for her outstanding voice, Setuniman and FreeSound for the soundtrack. We also want to thank Flickr and the following photographers: Frank Guido, Davide Cassanello, Adrian Dreßler, Josep Ma. Rosell, Maessive and Stefano Corso.

Thank you very much for your support through Creative Commons.

Soundtrack: Setuniman at

Pictures: via

Frank Guido –

Davide Cassanello –

Adrian Dreßler –

Josep Ma. Rosell –

Stefano Corso –

Maessive –


And last but not least, a big thank to our team!

Alina Achiricioaei – Design for services –

Chongyu Tu – Product Design –

Claire England – Design for services –

Ying Zhang – Design Ethnography –

The whole process is described at our blog –



Re-focus Group

I love Tom Fishburne’s cartoons!

Don Norman and Roberto Verganti are asking in this articleCan design research ever lead to radical product innovation?“and they provide the answer Yes, but this is unlikely to occur through the methods of human-centered design.

Going on they say:

The more that researchers study existing human behavior, activities, and products, the more they get trapped into existing paradigms. These studies lead to incremental improvements, enabling people to do better what they already do, but not to radical change that would enable them to do what they currently do not do.

Of course they are not against research – for those who do not know Don is the “Norman” on Nielsen Norman Group – one of the biggest and most influential research institutes in the world and he helped to define what HCD is nowadays.

What I think is that disruptive innovations are not common and organizations need to know, get inspired and connect with people, so research is crucial. However, trapping people into a lab-like aquarium and watch a discussion while eat snacks will not be very helpful.

I have moderated many “focus groups” with a diverse range of objectives. From exploring a very abstract concept and its relation to transportation, to very concrete testing where was hard to tell what was prototype and what was a working product. For me the worst part was always the lack of context. Small comments that in a contextual situation (such as house visits) would lead to a conversation around a pan, a ring or a bible ended or simply never happened because the “hook” for the conversation was not there.

It is not new that “innovation” people hold some mixed feelings about focus grups, lately Gianfranco Zaccai from Continuum wrote on FastCompany that “Focus Groups Kill Innovation” and after a lot of negative reactions he wrote a more a more friendly article “Focus Groups Are Dangerous. Know When To Use Them“.

But why business and focus group live such a happy love story?

According to Jenn Schiffman and Defne Civelekoglu from Gravity Tank at their presentation Re-focus Group there are three main reasons for such love.

Cost effective – You can have a relatively big group of people coming to a facility and giving answers.

Time effective – You can interact with 16 or even more people in a single day, a lot compared to house visits for example.

Proven method – It is somehow traditional and known at the clients side. Way easier to understand than more less traditional methods.

Their proposal is to develop a more empathetic kind of focus group. Do it in other environments, having researchers, designers, participants and clients together in a more natural conversation. Use rough prototypes to stimulate conversations and so on. Have a look on Gravity Tank’s lecture and gather some tips for future focus groups.

The Refocus Group from gravitytank on Vimeo.

What do you think?

Why Design Ethnography?

If I had a penny for each weird look I receive for the answer to “what are you studding”…

This post aims to show how getting these two fields together just make a lot of sense.

Firstly, “design ethnography” is formed by two terms. The well known “Design” and the not-as-popular “Ethnography”, which is for the anthropologist a basic method as drawing is for designers. Hence, to talk about this subject it is necessary to talk about both design and anthropology.

1 – Design

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) defends that:


Design is a creative activity whose aim is to establish the multi-faceted qualities of objects, processes, services and their systems in whole life cycles. Therefore, design is the central factor of innovative humanisation of technologies and the crucial factor of cultural and economic exchange.[emphasis added] 


ICSID also list a series of tasks delegated to the design field: 

  1. Enhancing global sustainability and environmental protection (global ethics)

  2. Giving benefits and freedom to the entire human community, individual and collective

  3. Final users, producers and market protagonists (social ethics)

  4. Supporting cultural diversity despite the globalisation of the world (cultural ethics)

  5. Giving products, services and systems, those forms that are expressive of (semiology) and coherent with (aesthetics) their proper complexity.

[emphasis added]

As presented by Brenda Laurel’s book Design Researchif they [designers] desire to attract and delight customers or audiences for their work, they need to understand the people for whom they design.” It is also defended that until the 1990’s it was quite simple, populations – people from the same country or region, for example – were, in general, exposed to the same brands, products and media references, hence, sharing the same culture. Well… we know that it is not as true as it used to be…

2 – Anthropology  

According to AAA (American Anthropological Association), “anthropology is the study of humans, past and present” and the “central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems”[emphasis added]. Anthropology can also be divided in four areas: Linguistic, Archeology, Biological/Physical – and Sociocultural.

The AAA describes sociocultural anthropology as a practice which “seeks to understand the internal logic of societies through ethnography”[emphasis added], define in more details they state:


Sociocultural anthropologists examine social patterns and practices across cultures, with a special interest in how people live in particular places and how they organize, govern, and create meaning.[…] Research in sociocultural anthropology is distinguished by its emphasis on participant observation, which involves placing oneself in the research context for extended periods of time to gain a first-hand sense of how local knowledge is put to work in grappling with practical problems of everyday life and with basic philosophical problems of knowledge, truth, power, and justice. Topics of concern to sociocultural anthropologists include such areas as health, work, ecology and environment, education, agriculture and development, and social change. [emphasis added].



3 – Design Ethnography 

Given these definitions, it is straightforward to come with a simple logical relation and conclusion: 

  1. if designers must understand peoples’ cultures in order to generate relevant and marketable solutions;
  2. if anthropology is the area of knowledge covering this subject;
  3. and both seek to apply their knowledge to create solutions to human problems;
  4. it is reasonable to suppose that designers could – or even should – apply social-anthropology methods – such as ethnography – to better understand the users of their future creations.

As AIGA’s Ethnography Primer summarizes “Ethnography is a tool for better design.”

And I think it is not just that. The extremely applied characteristic of design helps to turn research findings into down-to-earth outcomes as products, services and media.

For me it is this simple. What do you think?

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 4

Today was the day to talk about Brand, Services and Ethics.

Firstly we had some historical perspective on branding and how it has changed since late 1800’s thought out 1900’s and how it is seen now.

Talking about branding? Talking about Coca-Cola.

They are HUGE and have passed though lots of changes over the years (you know, in the beginning it was some sort of remedy…), for decades they were as American as bald eagles, stars and bubble gum, but, you know, US is not the most friendly reference nowadays, maybe for this and many other reasons now Coke are more about making the world a happier place.

Be happy! Share these Cokes!

I really admire the work David Butler have done with the brand (as recognised by Fast Company in 2009). Great stuff going on there.

Maybe not by coincidence Tatil, which was present with 2016 Olympics identity in many parts of the presentation, have done some very interesting projects with Coletivo Coca-Cola in Brazil (this one is in Portuguese, sorry) you can check more about it here (this one in EN).

Basically the brand is helping disadvantaged communities providing education focused on helping these kids to become more employable, which is obviously perceived as an engaging attitude with a very positive feedback in the media and in society as a whole.

Also in Portuguese… 

Want to know a little bit more about David Butler work with Coca-Cola? Check this lecture he gave at an AIGA event in 2009 (he was on fire that year, wasn’t he?). “Oh Fernando, I would love to see his slides”. There you go.

Back to the topic.

Tom Inns presented a framework with 3 branding structures: Monolithic, Endorsed and Branded.

Monolithic would be defined by:

  • The single business identity 
  • For companies that want to promote a special idea about 
  • themselves. 
  • Very often operating across many business activities 
  • Because every product and service has the same name 
  • everything supports everything else 
  • Staff are very clear about what the company stands for 
  • Companies have a high visibility and a clear positioning

The very British example for this? Virgin! they surely have a special way to do stuff (apparently any stuff actually). I really feel attracted by the way they present themselves.

I think another great example is RedBull. They managed to create such a brand value based on performance, energy and youngness that it is easily shaped in different offers, from the energy drink to the media industry passing by an F1 TEAM! Come on, these guys are great.

The funny thing for me is that even without competing directly in many markets, I think as brands they are quite similar. I mean… Both have this special way to approach other areas by been very young, fresh and energetic.

Caring on there is the Endorsed brand defined by:

  • A multi-business identity
  • A large number of companies have grown by acquisition
  • They want to retain the goodwill of the brands that they
  • have acquired
  • But they want to superimpose their own management
  • style and attitudes
  • They want to impress certain audiences with their size
  • and strength, among these audiences they want to
  • emphasise uniformity and consistency
  • They frequently operate in different countries where
  • their reputation’s vary

I think it is valid for most of these brands behind other brands.

Good illustration of this is Procter & Gamble, offering from Mr Clean and Hair & Shoulders to Pringles (actually recently sold, but you got the idea).

Unilever is also a big umbrella of valuable brands. For me the most interesting is the paradox between some of their brands, specially Dove and Axe. Dove defends that all women are beautiful in their own way in this very modern-pos-feminism way, while Axe is all about using this product to became the ultimate bimbos womanizer. An Unilever promote both ideas. How awesome?

No. Those models ARE NOT that perfect early in the morning. Hail Photoshop.


Really? Check YouTube for more pearls like this.


And the third, the Brand based identity

  • Usually in pharmaceuticals, food, drink and other fast
  • moving consumer goods (fmcg)
  • Do not present their corporate face to the consumer
  • Based on the fact that consumerism is based on simple
  • symbolism
  • Brands have a life cycle of their own … independent of
  • the company
  • Brands from the same company might compete in the
  • same market place
  • Brands should be free to develop their own identities

The umbrella is there but far behind the stage, and usually one have no clue about the ownership. A great example is LVMH, owning lot of luxury brands in several different categories (fashion, drinks, jewelry and so on). Diageo is almost the same thing but focused on beverage only. Have you ever tried something from Diageo? No? Probably yes since they own Johnnie Walker, SmirnoffCiroc and even Guinness.

In the afternoon we talked more about service design and ethics, that Tom approached from a social / environmental perspective.

There is a lot of material out there about service design… I just define it as the design of things that are not things, which means processes, systems and other intangible offers.

Tom showed a little video to demonstrate it, but I like this one better:

About the ethics part… it is interesting how most of young people already have this eco/social concerns embed in their way of work. I think nowadays been environmentally and socially concerned is a commodity. Really, there is no space for you out there without this!

I think this is it for today.



Strategic Design Thinking – Day 3

Process! Process! Process! – Processes!

Another day, another process.

Today we talked a lot about process and the way we do things. Fisttly I liked because we were not talking about methods or how to fill up our tool boxes, but how to visualize the process a project usually pass through in such way that one can replicate it to other projects.

I think for me was a good reflection on my experiences and how I use to think / work.

Besides the fact that they were never my teachers in a formal way Kleber Puchaski (DesignIt BR) and Luis Arnal‘s (INSITUM)references came together in my mind today to visualize the process I believe I usually follow as a design researcher / innovation consultant.

Kleber describes design process in 3 bigger stages:

  • Discover – When we learn “what is going on”. As a more ethnographic designer I tend to learn from users, consumers, clients… “people” if I may.
  • Connect – When you take these pieces of information and make interesting connections to create new things. In my case I use the word Ideate because it sounds better to the way I end up doing things. Usually I start to generate ideas very early in the process, it doesn’t mean that I will fall in love with them in the first sight and never let it go, it is just my way to analyse and make sense of the collected data, sometimes re-analyzing the ideas to see what else they mean.
  • Construct – Turn these ideas into visually interesting concepts or even prototypes. I prefer to call it build because… well, for no especial reason, maybe because the word is smaller.

Arnal’s influence comes with these waves representation. As he believes (or at least presented in his paper during the master at IIT) I also think that projects just cant be really described by defined stages. Yes, things kinda hap[pen one after the other and stages depend on results of some previous work, but the thing is that they are not as sharp and defined as process are usually described, with boxes for example.

For me the real word is more like waves, were the horizontal axis describe time and the vertical axis the amount of work / efforts / resources were applied.

If you take this idea along with the most common payment system for consultancy and any other “knowledge labor”, worked hours, it makes even more sense.

So for me the ideal flow in a project would be something like this image:

I always try to spend a lot of time leaning about people and what they do. Even before leaning about “applied ethnography / applied anthropology” I use to work like this, sometimes my design professors though I spend too much time research and not doing things… C’est la vie.

I also like to bring more references than just what the fieldwork has to offer. Theories, TED Talks, literally ANYTHING that can help to generate ideas considering the challenge.

At the deliverable phase I am more useful shaping ideas roughly than going into details. But that’s why I feel such a victim of team work, I always need someone more detail-oriented than me to help building the finest deliverable.

In the afternoon we talked a lot about prototyping. For me this is really great and underestimated by most people. As IDEO’s Richard Eisermann say “If a picture paints a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures”. And it is totally true. However they are not talking about pretty clay models that look like the real products, they call prototype anything that can be used to test an idea. And early the better, as soon as you can have an impression and feedback (ANY impression and feedback) about the idea, more likely to make a better you are of making an assertive decision.

Let’s see what tomorrow will bring.

Process me.

Strategic Design Thinking – Day 2

Templates! Photo Saskia Coulson

Another interesting day.

I have to say that I am taking profit of this module in a meta-way. I don’t want to sound like a yes-man or apple polish but I really like the way Tom is leading the sessions.

Points that I like and plan to copy:

  • One piece at a time – present block of information that closes on itself but keep connected to the bigger scenario.
  • Practical activities in the end of each block – helps to keep the information by practicing something related to the content.
  • Promote discussion – even when the group is silent (and I cant shout up).
  • Sheets – Using templates to exercises make it faster and keep everyone in the same track (but sometimes I like to get myself a little lost).

I must say I don’t know much about British design, I think by tradition Brazil is much more influenced by German schools (yes, that one).

(Insight about design culture from the 90’s in the end)

Part of the exercise of the week is to write design definitions (we did one yesterday and I have to make another today). I was thinking about a discussion I saw at the PhD Design mailing group and maybe a good way to go with this would be try to define design as a noun (what is this) and as a verb “to design”, or “what designers do”.

The history recap was to talk about what he called Design 1.0 and Design 2.0. It reminds me of Luis Arnal (former boss from Insitum) who used the term “Innovation 2.0. I think they both are talking about the same thing.

While the last version of design / innovation were pretty much running in one direction, many times based on ideas and inspiration from one person, a big boss in the organization, the 2.0 versions are more complex, network based and hard to track. Just like the “internet 2.0”, the name given to the more democratic internet with user generated content (yep. Blogs).

I think the relation is not just by chance. It is way easier to access information today than ever, therefore, to create new knowledge. It is also possible to do so by getting together with other people and exchange ideas almost without limits.

These things have blurred the limits between designers and non designers (or innovators and non-innovators). And when everybody can design / innovate, nobody owns “design” or “innovation” anymore. For me the version 2.0 of both things is basically the open source version where virtually anyone can design and innovate.


I had an insight when Tom was talking about the 90’s. In that decade many successful products changed collective behaviors to individual ones. Starting with the walkman, then diskman, and been really relevant with mobile phones. What once were shared, now is individual.

I am not very sure it is a consequence of the products, or if the products success is actually a consequence of the cultural stage, but I have this impression that people became much more self-centered and even selfish after that. Today’s iZombies that cant have a proper conversation without checking their phones every 3 minutes can be an evolution of that. I don’t know… Just guessing here… What do you think?


Strategic Design Thinking – Day 1

Photo: Saskia Coulson

Professor Tom Inns managed to drive all design masters students (from product, services and ethnography courses) together in the world of business strategy. And did it pretty well.

In the morning we did a very interesting exercise: a tree of knowledge.

Basically, you use a tree template to draw your own knowledge.

  1. Firstly you make the roots – the basis of your knowledge such as degrees, courses, professional and other experiences
  2. Then you build the body of the three with branches of expertise and areas of interest – what you are good at or like to do and talk about.
  3. In the end you put fruits and leaves – the outputs of your applied knowledge or the results of your work.

You can have a look at some of the results at Joyce’s and Sarah’s Intagrams or all of them on this PDF.

The whole talking reminds me of another tree with an well-known fruit…

It is quite interesting technique to break the ice and get people from different backgrounds knowing and working together really quickly. I am totally using it someday.

This module reminds of how most of the time the design community seems to be blind to what the business world needs. Which is very interesting since design, by most definitions, is intrinsically connected to business in many ways.

Very often I hear colleagues complaining that managers “don’t get it”, but the truth is that designers (and I include myself in here) does not understand the business environment they are in, or the minds that drive the company they (we) work for. And this is very dangerous.

Since 2007 I have done a little bit of homework trying to get what happens on “business people” minds. Guys like Peter Drucker, Jack Welch and Ricardo Semler has so many things to teach and many of their books / articles are very reader-friendly, written in a very accessible language, I think.

Drucker talks a lot about innovation and if you know what design does it is actually about design, one of his most famous quotes is:

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

If you are a little bit open to what design is you can see how it relates and even increase the power of these two things.

Here is an idea to my designer friends:

Take a time of e design thinking world, try to understand the basis of business world, it will help a LOT next time you need to present a result / concept / idea to the top management at your client / employer.

My initial tips would be:

Peter Drucker – Post-Capitalist Society – Almost 20 years and still very good. It is nice to how he much he forecasted now that we know how things ended – like about China and Brazil been such big players nowadays.

Jack Welch – Winning – He kind of analyse his work at General Electric and have many interesting insights for anyone who wants to step into the corporate world. Really useful stuff! (Thanks to my uncle Hilgo who gave me as a gift in 2010).

Ricardo Semler – Maverick! : The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace – This Brazilian young and rebellious son of a business man he managed to reinvent his company in so many different levels that he became a worldwide figure. With lessons on inclusion, democracy and empowerment Semler shows how is possible to “manage without managers”. On top of that, it is a very fun reading.

Semler teaching at MIT like a boss.

(If you like it, check 7 days weekend as well).


Now back to Tom’s class.

In the afternoon we analysed four cases from Harvard Business Review:

  • Alessy – Talking about how Italian designers and manufacturers join forces to produce innovative products with high profit margins – such as the famous squeezer.
 Always him…
  • General Electric – About how they shifted: from a company that exported and poorly adapted products from US to many other countries to a more inclusive model capable of develop more local and efficient solutions.
  • P&G – On how Procter & Gamble engaged suppliers, Universities, Laboratories and many other players though networks being able to search for ready-made solutions – instead of building them from scratch at their labs –  and also using these networks to monitor opportunities worldwide.
  • Nintendo – A classic: how Nintendo moved from the high competitive same old gaming war  (faster processors / better graphics) to focus on non-gamers with the Nintendo Wii.

Way more innovative than Kinect…

Personally, I like the Nintendo way of think in the sense of the blue ocean.

Bla bla bla… (I think I need a haircut…) Photo: Saskia Coulson

Your market is too competitive? Why not invent a brand new one?

Looking forward to the rest of the week.