Category Archives: #Design

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories are from the British Library’s “Digital Conversations: Cultural Heritage Institutions and Videogame Technologies” panel held on the 8th of December and have been chosen by the Institute’s Maria Pirkkalainen.

Minecrafting the British Museum

Putting together the world famous game Minecraft and the even more legendary British Museum might not sound like the most logical pair at first glance. However, like Nick Harris from the British Museum’s Museum of the future project pointed out at the Digital Conversations panel discussion, the mix of these two has proved out to be very fruitful to both parties.

Initiated and managed by Mr Harris, the crowdsourcing project Museumcraft aims to give anyone interested in the Museum or Minecraft the opportunity to engage with the Museum’s spaces by working together to build the Museum in Minecraft. Engaging the interested audience first via a post on Reddit, the project provides Minecraft users the chance to personalise and modify the Museum according to their wishes. The building will be freely available to download after its completion, and it is also planned to be used as an educational tool.

The idea behind the project is to give the museum and the general public a chance to think together how, for example, the museum space could be customized. Would the people want to build the museum themselves? Judging from the enthusiastic feedback and interest that Museumcraft has generated, the answer seems to be a strong yes.

Victoria and Albert Museum’s Games Designer in Residence

The world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, the Victoria and Albert Museum took another step forward when it introduced its new initiative of a games designer residency in 2013. The museum’s first chosen games designer Sophia George completed her yearlong residency in the fall of 2014, and the V&A’s Team Leader for Digital Programmes, Alex Flowers, discussed some of the achievements and results of their collaboration at the Digital Conversations panel discussion.

Before her residency, BAFTA winner and Chair of Swallowtail Games Sophia George was known, for example, for her family-friendly puzzle game Tick Tock Toys. Organized as a partnership between the V&A, V&A at Dundee and the University of Abertay Dundee, Ms George spent the first half of the residency in London and the other half in Dundee.

The residency aimed to find new interpretations and ways of use for the museum’s large collection of British heritage. The final product of the residency was therefore a free iPad game called Strawberry Thief. The game was inspired by a historical William Morris textile piece in V&A’s Britain 1500-1900 galleries.

Besides working and producing the game in question, the games designer’s residency tasks included working on public engagement, workshops and being active in calling for more women to enter the games industry. The museum’s focus on video games will also be seen at their upcoming video games exhibition in 2016.

World’s first cultural centre for gaming to open in the UK

GameCity is a British institution that celebrates the artistry and creativity of video games and has held the annual GameCity festival each year ever since 2006. And as the company’s Director Iain Simons told at the event, starting from March 2015, GameCity will also be the main party behind the world’s first cultural centre for gaming; the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, United Kingdom.

The 2.5 million pound centre aims to promote video gaming as an art form as important as for example film and theatre. With five floors, video game exhibitions and a permanent display of gaming world objects, the centre is sure to answer a need for an important area of the creative culture and economy.

British Library’s annual quest for finding inspiring video games

Besides engaging professionals from the cultural heritage and academic videogame design sectors, the British Library’s Digital Conversations event also introduced the third edition of the Library’s and GameCity’s annual video game competition Off the Map. The competition’s co-curator Helen Melody explained how the theme of the next Off the Map coincides with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – or as originally known, Alice’s Adventures Underground. 2015 also marks the year when British Library will celebrate the anniversary with an exhibition.

The idea of the contest is to challenge video game designers with the task of using the British Library’s collections as an inspiration to create new digital media – and in new creative ways. The competition will have three entry categories in 2015; the games should be submitted as either 3D, 2D or Interactive Text. On top of this, the competitors should search for inspiration from three particular themes: Oxford, underground and gardens. Taking into account the interest generated by the previous years’ competitions and the forthcoming anniversary of the legendary book, this will no doubt be another successful year for bridging together the gap between cultural heritage institutions and new digi-savvy audiences.

Mozilla Festival and Archives Without Walls


Head of Society Programme Antti Halonen blogs about the recent web making festival in Ravensbourne.
The Finnish Institute was privileged to take part in the annual web making feast of Mozilla Festival in late October. 

According to Mark Surman, the chief executive of Mozilla, the event is “where many of Mozilla’s best and most innovative ideas spring to life. It’s where passionate thinkers and inventors come together to learn from one another and engage in a conversation about how the web can do more, and do better”. Exactly the right place for us.

We were fortunate to be named as one of several scrum leaders. Essentially this means being a facilitator of a make, that is a particular task that was hoped to be achieved during the two-day festival. 

Our make was to gather ideas and examples of how to enforce a participatory and digital historical culture. Provisionally, we have set our minds on creating a network of partners to start working on a project called Archives Without Walls (AWA). 

In short, the purpose of AWA is to provide a reliable and visually exciting way of building open online archives that provides solutions on how to capture physical contents and human interaction as well as digital audio, video and text – all in the same digital repository. Archiving method would have to enable open reuse and remixing of all contents. 

The overarching purpose of the project parallels the recent challenges that have been laid upon the discipline of History itself. 

Archivists and ITC experts respectively have expressed their concerns on the so called Digital Dark Age: a phenomenon where significant amount of important cultural heritage is lost due to rapid digitisation of information and lack of reliable long-term preservation methods. For instance, various organisations changed their internal correspondence into email format during the 1990’s before records management had come up with proper methods for preserving email correspondence. Similarly, what is left of the early days of the web for future historians’ use? While historians have so far relied on a rich source of paper-based documentation, future historians may face a prospect of empty archives. 
Social scientists, on other hand, have raised into discussion the topic of the knowledge gap. While the information environment has evolved unprecedentedly in a way which enables much more varied source for information consumption, simultaneously those who are least interested in current affairs can bypass it altogether if they so wish. We need to develop our thinking in terms of how to provide larger portion of the population an access to relevant historical knowledge.

Moreover, historians have pointed out the need to embrace new ways of creating and preserving everyday history. Participatory historical culture aims at both improving historical consciousness and offering citizens a possibility of “tackling their own present concerns and thinking over how to make a better future for themselves”, as Finnish historian Jorma Kalela puts it.

This was the setup but what about the results? 

Discussion arose around the concept of memory. How could different memories be integrated into the digital environment in a remixable and reusable fashion? The number of people who still have vivid memories of the second world war, for instance, is rapidly diminishing, yet amidst the rise of nationalistic right the understanding of the very reasons behind the horrible times of war is as important as ever. How should we find new ways of interpolating this historical knowledge into public discussion?

Another strand of thought focused on the question of preserving events like Mozilla Festival itself. What kind of material will a future historian use when doing research on this year’s event? Arguably, historians today have mostly relied on paper-based documents: letters, diaries, essays etc. However, the essence of Mozilla Festival is not to be found in printed documents, but in demonstrations, ideas and discussions. What kind of challenges does this pose to archivists who will have to make the increasingly difficult appraisal decisions?

Our new programme strand seeks to find some answers to these questions and we are continuously looking for interesting initiatives that promote the fair dispersion of knowledge in the society and try to find novel solutions to preserving our digital cultural heritage. One interesting case of the latter was MozBug, an online tool for archiving events by analysing Twitter behaviour. Something to consider for next year’s OPPI – Helsinki Learning Festival, too?

Service Design – An approach to Better Public Services?

Director of Administration and Finance in the City of Jyväskylä, Heli Leinonkoski, gives a Civil Servants view on Service Design.

That was the question on my mind when I first time heard about the discipline called Service Design – only a year and a few months ago. As a civil servant I wondered if this was the way to connect citizens more closely to the service development work we do at the local government level. I became immediately interested. So much that in two months, February 2011, I was already in London chasing up what Service Design is really about. Thanks for that arrangement go for Mr Jussi Nissilä, Programme Director at the Finnish Institute in London and the City of Jyväskylä, my employer in Finland.

Did I get the answer to my question during my stay in London? I think so. Because of my background I had a very practical approach to Service Design and I really wanted to know how it works in practice. Does it help me and my fellow civil servants in public sector challenges? After talking to several design linked people I was pleased to realise that it was not about a rocket science and it did not taste theoretical. The Service Design helps people to piece together a problem, provides tools to find the solution and makes this all using communication, visualisation and co-creation. The tools are logical and understandable or what else you can say for example about the Desktop Walkthrough -tool where Lego figures act out common scenarious of a service process.

From the civil servant’s point of view the most fascinating feature in Service Design is that the tools and methods are also applicable in tackling complex social issues, such as youth marginalisation or the welfare of senior citizens. Furthermore the methods can be used in finding ways to change people’s behaviour in order to generate positive, sustainable social impacts, e.g. reducing water consumption.

In UK there are brilliant examples of public sector cases in which Service Design tools have been used successfully. One of the best-known is SILK, Social Innovation Lab for Kent. The team of three, innovative women in Kent County Council has definitely shown how the gap between a council and citizens can be reduced. Read about the projects at SILK’s website:

As a civil servant I believe that there is potential for using design methods to increase mutual confidence also between civil servants and political decision-makers. In financially hard times, like these days, there are difficult issues to be resolved in councils: radical cut-backs and savings, re-allocation of resources even redundancies. A new, refreshing approach would be more than welcome. I find design methods useful also in cases where in-house processes, like HR or internal invoicing, spanning different departments have to be rationalised. Using service design tools to visualise processes can help to understand how things flow within the organisation, and whether there is anything that can be simplified.

In Finland the town-planning process is strictly regulated by the Land Use and Building Act. The hearing is too often carried out solely because the rules say so. Critical opinions are considered as a burden that slows the process. To make the whole process easier, both for citizens and for planning architects, there should be true co-planning and more communicative methods in the early stages. Finnish cities like Helsinki and Jyväskylä have used new interactive methods in some town-planning cases and the experiences have been really positive. Hope this trend is going to continue.

On the whole the Service Design is worth of taking serious at the public sector. We civil servants too often think that we know what people need and unfortunately that is mainly based on box-ticking surveys. We need to look at services through the eyes of the people whom those services are intended, and we need a deeper understanding of how the services we deliver affect people’s everyday lives.  As Katherine Kerswell, Chief Executive of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “We are very privileged in local government that we not only deliver services but what we deliver can change lives and communities”. The question is: do we recognise the responsibility which is included in this privilege and genuinely co-design services around people? Should we put a little bit more effort to understanding people’s lives and what really matters? Service Design offers tools – it is up to us whether we use them or not.

Heli Leinonkoski
Director of Administration and Finance
The City of Jyväskylä, Urban Design and Infrastructure
 “Service Design – An Approach to Better Public Services? A Civil Servant’s View” by Heli Leinonkoski was published on the 5th of March 2012 in the Working Papers Series of The Finnish Institute in London and may be downloaded here.

Amplifying Social Wellbeing by Design

Alastair Fuad-Luke and Kirsi Haikio from Aalto University blog about changes in design
The School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University organised first workshop in London together with The Finnish Institute, as part of the 365 Wellbeing project for the Helsinki World Design Capital 2012, in order to share learning about designing for wellbeing. It was the first of the series of international seminars discussing 365 Wellbeing project as it evolves.
The objective of the seminar ‘Amplifying Social Wellbeing’ was to learn and share experiences on exploratory – critical – real life design cases and discuss the potential of proactive and socially responsible design to leverage change.  The programme included talks, discussions and engaging activities. Here are some reflective comments and key things we learnt from the day.
Existing projects and design approaches
Speakers talked about academic approaches to design, design in public sector projects in hospitals with elderly people or in developing new services for municipalities.
Academia brings a tradition of critical thinking, thinking differently and projective thinking. This generates a way of seeing things as something else, a means of dissent for disrupting or questioning, a means of consent to co-build, and a means to construct new dreams (or nightmares!). Design interventions, such as Bill Gaver’s Prayer Companion or Photostroller, are a means to experiment with technology and specific people-orientated contexts and reveal one approach – what to design for them.
Ilpo Koskinen’s notion of designers being as interpretationalist “Surrealists” suggests that design can inculcate debate, transferring new ideas and possibilities, and debate spreads (new) wisdom. Design can also be grounded on a deep understanding of human dreams and needs, a capability which Aalto University has its research groups with expertise in, for example, cultural probes, empathic design, user-centred design, and co-design.
So key questions for the academics and researchers then are;  ‘What is the motivation and intention of your design approach?’ and ‘Is your design approach interventionalist, provocative, aimed at causing disruption or dissent, or is it collective, collaborative and consensual?’
How do designers work with diverse actors and stakeholders?
                  “Underneath is a notion of…What kind of society we want to live, design has lots to say.”
What emerged through the seminar is a gradual revealing of the new roles that designers are taking on, or being asked to explore, in public sector or for socially orientated projects. Design is shifting towards (new) social clients.
365 Wellbeing offers a diversity of opportunities, contexts, actors and stakeholders to test the best design approaches, the relationship between designers, actors, stakeholders and beneficiaries.
The first 365wellbeing project, dealing with psychiatric care indicated several key roles occupied by the designers. From UK Design Council perspective Head of Design Strategy Marianne Guldbrandsen offered in her presentation a clear list of roles for designers in public healthcare projects. Also Heli Leinonkoski from City of Jyväskylä, Finland noted how design can help with changing attitudes.
These roles can be tentatively classified as follows
People-orientated – Building bridges between institutions and breaking down organisational exclusivity; preparing clients, partners and users; helping people feel connected through a facilitated neutral design space; testing prototypes with users; diminishing the stigma associated with people with psychiatric conditions; reduce the risk of trying something new or unknown.
Problem-space orientated – Questioning and critical activity; help define or re-define the problem(s) with a systematic view; help define the right brief.
Process-orientated – Bring adaptable processes; help explore how people understand their lives and how they define well-being..
Solution-orientated – Provide a ‘nurturing service’ for ideas and practicalities; provide proof by testing and evidencing prototypes.
Perhaps we could also add another category…Persuasion-orientated, or the key role that designers can play as story harvesters, collators, synthesisers and re-designers of existing stories into new stories by bringing them to life.
Developing design sensitivities, awareness and the right language
                  “We are designing for potential.”
The language used by the audience to describe ‘social wellbeing’ emphasised the importance of design’s impact on human relationships (sharing, values, the everyday Arki), attitudes (creative, equanimity), and feelings (joy, dignity and  equanimity).
Design should encourage people to relate to each other in the everyday (environment) to maximise socialisation and participation. Design for social  wellbeing must create valued outcomes, that have the potential to be dynamic so they are  never stuck  but can find new directions and adapt. Design can play a key role in questioning and testing the potential development of society.
Context is everything!
The importance of understanding and framing the design context was emphasised by a number of speakers and during audience discussion. Designers should feel comfortable with dealing with ‘core’ contexts (the daily ones dealt with by governments, public and third sectors) and ‘breakaway or unexpected’ contexts driven by a new need or demand. Social engagement within the context is affected by (institutional and social) structures and issues.
The relationships between context, the audience(s) and choosing the right processes are interwoven and interdependent.
Processes and solutions
                  “Sharing – it’s a great way to move forward.”
Processes are dynamic because different actors and designers enter and leave a continuous circle of participants, process tools and critical dialogue flowing through co-design, co-creation and co-production cycles. Designers need to think about the entry, exit and re-entry/re-exit points in the short and long cycles for a project.
Outcomes and impacts
                  “Everybody can have some design agency, we can take any profession; nurses, firemen, politicians…
Outcomes as solutions embed new directionality for the actors and stakeholders (and maybe the designers too) and create positive ideas for moving forward.  Some consequences of the designing can be seen, other ‘unintended consequences’ or random impacts emerge. Impacts can be on systems and/or on people or both. In the context of specific communities wellbeing projects can change them from inwards looking to outwards looking, from invisible to visible and from closed to open communities.  Impacts vary as there is always a fuzzy boundary between ‘individual’ and ‘collective’ self interest.
Design itself is changing
                  “Design has a key role, but not in a traditional sense.”
Designing for social wellbeing is actually changing how design operates and finds expression, but designers need to focus on communicating how the design has added value, how it has impacted and how it is often designing for potential by creating dynamic outcomes or systems. Designing for wellbeing implies sharing design’s processes, methods and outcomes in order that it can encourage new things to happen. This requires a certain bravery from the designers, actors and stakeholders in order to ensure that everybody can offer their own design agency to solve complex challenging problems.
While a number of approaches, techniques and case studies were examined there was insufficient time to discuss how these were transferable between cultures or indicate how they can be adapted or modified to embrace new social  clients.  Perhaps this can be the theme for a second seminar when more 365 Wellbeing projects have been executed.
Alastair Fuad-Luke
Professor of Practice, Emerging Design Practices, Aalto University 
Kirsi Hakio 

PhD student, Aalto University

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