Pioneering curiosity: a ‘new design magazine’ feature
Kerry Briggs, Head of Medical and Craig Wightman, Chief Design Officer at KD, recently featured in the latest edition of New Design Magazine , explaining the value of experimentation and self initiated projects, as part of a series of articles on self initiated concept work.
Two behaviours we actively encourage at Kinneir Dufort are curiosity and a pioneering spirit. Whilst we constantly deploy these attributes on our client work, we also regularly define self-initiated projects to develop and express these. Our motivation and objectives for undertaking our own self-defined projects are in three areas:
- To express and showcase our insights, ideas and opinions on a range of topical and emerging trends and technologies.
- To experiment with new tools and techniques in a “safe” environment outside of client work.
- To provide opportunities for our team to develop their skills and channel their passion.
Our self-initiated projects have covered a range of topics including: health and wellbeing, inclusivity, retail futures, haptics, sustainability, technology obsolescence and the Internet of Things. Specific examples include: InTouch – a concept demonstrator, developed in partnership with Bristol University as part of the REACT Objects Sandbox project, which explores how haptic technologies could be used to reconnect us physically, in a world of increasingly digital and remote communications – and REVIVE; a response to the issue of electronic waste and the reducing lifespans of mobile phones and other high-volume consumer electronic products, inspired by our exposure to the remanufacturing industry.
The REVIVE concept envisaged a smartphone that was capable of being upgraded, and a system that encouraged users to retain their phone for longer through a service model backed up by sophisticated remanufacturing facilities, as well as the use of materials and an engaging user interface, which would encourage users to build a long-lasting attachment to the product. The concept gained traction, featuring in several publications, including the New York Times, which featured the “Longlife Smartphone” in their 2010 annual “Year in Ideas”.
One current area of particular interest to us and many of our clients concerns the impact of digital systems and connected devices. Working, as we do, in healthcare, it’s clear that technology has the capability to engage users in the management of their condition, providing information to help both patients and healthcare professionals (HCP) improve outcomes. However, in a world where people often feel overloaded by information, if not applied in an appropriate way, the potential benefits of connected technology will not be realised. In order to help prototype and test new connected device systems, we initiated a programme to develop a prototyping framework to allow us to implement demonstration concepts of digital connected device solutions in very short time frames.
Our framework makes it possible for the prototypes to be in the hands of users within weeks. We have developed our knowledge of the sensors available, including their capabilities, regulatory considerations and the environmental impact, as well as hardware and protocols required to provide seamless data connectivity. This allows us to pose the right questions at a very early stage in the development to give the client a full understanding of what is most important to users and how it can be implemented. Feedback from the user is then key to clarify any assumptions made during the development process. This can help to not only identify key features to include but also help spot redundancies in features, helping cost to be stripped out.
Often the focus is on the capabilities of the device itself, but there is much more to consider in terms of the full ecosystem. The real benefits of adding connectivity can be realised when both the patient and their HCP are involved, meaning two different interfaces will be needed. One for the patient which would usually provide regular updates and encouragement, whilst a second will be needed for the HCP where it might be more relevant to highlight trends and issues as they arise.
Our purpose is to add value to our clients’ businesses by targeting our expertise to uncover and develop successful new products and experiences, so our focus, as well as our own business imperative – given that all our income is based on professional fees – is on our client work. However, the investment we make in diverting a proportion of time on developing our own insights, ideas, methods and development tools, such as our connected device framework, is hugely valuable in keeping our edge sharp and our thinking current, ultimately, translating into an ability to design a better world for us, our clients and the people we are designing for.