Weeknotes are updates about what your business has been doing over the past seven days or so.
They're about reflecting on your work, your achievements, and what's on deck.
With two and a half weeks of travel behind us, and just a few more days left on our HDL tour, the most common question Justin and I have been asked is, "are you ready to kill each other?" On the contrary, we're lucky to travel well together. This kind of trip would be impossible otherwise.
Today is London, fresh off the plane from Dubai. Later today we will give a talk to the MA Design Futures students at Goldsmiths University. I'm especially looking forward to this, as I hope we can spark a discussion about the boundaries of the applicability of design fiction. HDL has been an attempt to push beyond the fictive and that's one of the things we're most proud about.
Dubai was a quick stop, but we enjoyed a couple of morning sessions hosted by Noah Raford in the Prime Minister's Office. The conversation there was focused on improvement of services, the importance of synthesis (and thus design ability), and prototyping towards solutions. Many thanks to Noah for putting these discussions together. Although it's more recognized for deep spending on hard infrastructure, it was impressive to see the amount of attention being poured into the soft infrastructure in Dubai as well.
We also managed to zip down to Masdar City, which has long been part of our discussions around Low2No. We've seen Low2No as an alternative model to Masdar, one that's more appropriate for cities with legacies of built form, legislation, and financial regimes that cannot be swept aside. Seeing Masdar in person was enlightening. It's hard for such a hugely ambitious project to ever meet the hype, and there's certainly plenty of room for Masdar to grow into the reputation that it has created for itself. Still, what is happening there now may end up being more interesting than the original Foster master plan. As the planning adjusts to a smaller scope and a smaller budget, perhaps something more modest and more replicable will emerge?
We arrived to Dubai via Hong Kong, where Justin and I stopped over to meet with Cees de Bont and Alvin Yip of Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design. They shared insights about the current state of design in China that have evolved since our last visit there in 2009, including a growing recognition of the role for designers in social innovation. In fact the Jockey Club, which makes a substantial purse off of track betting, has endowed the Design Institute for Social Innovation. They are just booting up now, but we will pay close attention. It was encouraging to hear about these plans, as it makes the HDL closure easier. HDL is fading out, but the ideas and the practices of strategic design certainly are not.
Hong Kong is currently in love with a giant rubber ducky.
Before Hong Kong it was Tokyo. Justin describes it thusly:
After an overnight from Sydney, we landed on beautiful spring morning in Tokyo. The privilege of arriving at Haneda Airport, close to the center, is that some of the scale, complexity and diverse functions of Tokyo are revealed. From the air, Japan’s industrial base, which is mostly absent in Hong Kong, seems robust, busily making small things very well.
We were invited by the University of Tokyo i.School to give a talk to students, staff and like-minded practitioners on strategic design and our projects at Tokyo Midtown Design Hub. Our gracious hosts Fumiko Ichikawa and Hiroshi Tamura had teed up an engaging facilitated workshop following the talk where the audience was asked to define “what is strategic design” (which we probably didn’t help them with during our talk!) and how could the approach be used to aid in tsunami recovery. With this group the idea of building a rigorous and active feedback loop between understanding the nature of the challenge systemically, and acting to make change via proposals and projects, clearly resonated.
Similarly, during a workshop we ran at the i.school on the following day with Tokyo’s leading social innovators, the need to better connect thinking and doing was a popular topic. I was struck by how the tsunami had cracked open the opportunity for individuals to rethink and possibly begin to take on Japan’s structural challenges such as the widespread expectation lifelong employment with a single large employer or the lack of funding for smaller enterprises. The social entrepreneurs in the room seemed well equipped to compel Japan to remake itself as a more resilient society after the crisis.
On our last day in Tokyo, we had the pleasure of visiting ETIC, which has been working for two decades to ignite entrepreneurship among Japan’s youth. Their experience during that time suggests that Japan’s entrepreneurs are heading in the right direction as they are now more professional and impact oriented than ever.
We also visited the Nippon Foundation, which like Sitra, has a broad mandate to spur innovation nationally. Impact, measurement, outcomes, etc. are all ideas that are in the water in their organization as well.
Tokyo was a wonderful stop on our tour. On the one hand, their highly sophisticated culture has produced incredible gains for society, but on the other the dominate cultures of decision making seem opaque and unbendable to many. But events like the tsunami are providing a way in for social innovators like the ones we met at the i.school.
Before that? Australia.
Best part of a long flight is that you can write emails without receiving any. It's pure inbox upside.
Amidst all of this, Legible Practises is going to press. No pictures yet of the printing process, but here's a glimpse of what it will look like:
Very late weeknotes. Alice was on holiday last week but I fear I’d have been told off if she was around. Although, strangely it’s easier to write a summary of the week once it’s finished. So what’s been going on?
Like a tiny army we carried a fair few (read: lots) of wrapped, stickered and sealed Here & There maps to the Post Office across windy Old Street to send on their ways, near and far. (There’s still some available, if you like that sort of thing). Helen wins employee of the week for some extraordinary Post Office endurance.
Loads of Little Printer / BERG Cloud things happening as usual. Tying loose ends for manufacture / Remote edits / Website planning / sales / firmware / hardware / operations / Dev Kit progress / picking and packing (we’re selling paper for Little Printers now if you missed it… it comes in a nice box)… it’s quite exciting selling actual things to actual people, and we’re all learning a lot.
The workshop reminded me of my Grandad’s aviary this week, as Andy and Neil fine tune sounds for #Flock. Unlike ‘Sounds of the Serengeti’ which has become an off-key regular on bergtunes, I quite enjoyed this. I might pinch the sounds from Andy next week.
Aside from all of that business, there’s been a lot of workshop consolidation, Keynote’in, customer service and the other stuff that keeps the office ticking along. Looks like the weather’s turned in typical British fashion, which gives us another week to try and work out how to turn the air conditioning on in the new office.
And because I like inflicting my musical wanderings during my time on this blog, this week I’ve been enjoying the skippy niceties of Kaytranada. Until next time!