Category Archives: Ideas

What Marina Abramovic’s art has in common with my design approach

I went to Marina Abramovic’s show at the Serpentine Gallery last year, and like most of the other visitors, I was profoundly moved. She is pushing what art can be – she is making art out of interactions.

In this Ted Talk she explains principles behind her work.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 13.55.14Image from Ted Talks Continue reading

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After the Polls: Predicting the Post-Election Landscape

Today I am at an RSA talk entitled ‘After the Polls‘. Normally I either live tweet or write notes on Evernote that I always intend to publish on this blog but never have the time to… so here’s a new approach: writing directly on the blog as the event is happening. It’s not quite live blogging because I will have a look over the text before I publish this – as I understand it, live blogging is a bit like a series of extended tweets, right?

Tweets are at #RSAelection.

‘Today’s event is about analysis, not advocacy’ – Anthony Painter, chair.

Our speakers today are:
Tim Bale – politics professor, wrote a book predicting what Ed Miliband would be like as PM.
Miranda Green – Newsweek contributing editor, knows about Lib Dems.
Janan Ganesh – FT political correspondant, knows about Conservatives.

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Tech For Good

Last week I went to my first Tech for Good event. I was impressed at the quality of the projects that were being showcased. I am a social designer, and it was fantastic to hear what social design is going on in the tech scene.

The speakers were Digital Mums, The Good Data and Peek. The event was held in The Bakery near Old Street.

Find out how the event unfolded with photos here. If you’re interested in coming to the next one, join the MeetUp group.

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Data for Democracy at the Open Data Institute

I attended James Smith‘s talk on Data for Democracy at the ODI on Friday. Find out how the talk unfolded via Storify.

He is challenging our political system by:

– creating a system to make political spending transparent
– creating a system to write political manifestos collaboratively with others
– standing as MP for Horsham with a new party he’s created, Something New

This is a man who is acting on his beliefs and demonstrating how change can be made. Go James!

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What is designerly about service design?


Today at Central Saint Martins I took part in a debate about whether we need specialisms in design. I argued for the movement: I am a service designer, and you need specialist service design skills to be an effective service designer. Continue reading

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How can we embed creativity in organisations?

Image from Shift website

I was at an RSA talk by Charles Leadbeater today. At the end of the talk I very briefly met a lady who said that her work was about getting leaders to be creative, and to embed creativity in organisations. She wasn’t sure how to make that happen yet.

Earlier today I was asked how to get non-creative people come up with good solutions to problems. The person I was having the conversation with and I had both noticed that too often, when people are asked for ideas, people will outline the problem again rather than thinking of solutions. Or if a solution is thought of, it’s an area of solutions rather than a specific imagining of how that solution might work in practice. It’s something that I have experienced time and time again with groups of people who are not used to thinking creatively.

The conclusion I am reaching, at least for today, is that it’s not enough to ask ‘non-creative’ people to be creative and expect brilliant results. Creative thinking workshops and introducing design thinking processes into workplaces alone are not going to make the change.


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The Best Graduate Project at New Designers


Stephen Douch‘s project, Last Orders, is one of the very few projects that have stuck in my memory from New Designers. Too often New Designers is a load of unoriginal, not innovative, same old regurgitated ideas. Stephen was studying a design MA at Central Saint Martins under one of my old tutors Matt Malpass.


The project deals with something deeper than designer’s typical concerns. It doesn’t come from a place totally preoccupied with design theory about form and function. It comes from a place of social concern. It’s about our societal norms and problems. Our British relationship with death is not necessarily as healthy as it could be. Last Orders attempts to improve the services around death, for the person who dies as well as people around them.

And it’s all done with a huge attention to detail: the user experience is meticulously thought out. The designer had an answer for every question I could think to ask. He is actively seeking partners to take this idea forward, so please do get in contact (contact details upon request) – particularly if you work in the Department of Work and Pensions.


In Stephen Douch’s words:
It is becoming too expensive for the poor to die. The average cost of dying has risen by 80% since 2004 to £7,622 and almost 1 in 5 people intend to leave their funeral cost to family and friends or the State. Society faces a perfect storm of economic stagnation, an aging population and a poverty gap not seen since the Victorian era. Without change we may see a return of the pauper’s funeral.

This proposal is intended to explore how death poverty can be addressed against a backdrop of state welfare cuts, where providing more money simply isn’t an option. It explores the role death rituals play in modern British society and critiques the material culture found in the funeral industry.

The goal of this study is to understand if benefits can be gained by de-sanitising death, and attempts to leverage rampant individualism to re-imagine modern death rituals. In changing preconceptions to funeral rites this study highlights that both the poor and wider society can regain ownership of their deaths but concludes with a need to reconsider legislative and political ideology.


The Product
A joint public and private sector service which enables people to plan for their end of life, free of charge. Last Orders brings families together to help plan for the future and prepares them for the eventual passing of a loved one.

Last Orders is a global approach to issues surrounding death poverty. It attempts to exclude stigmatisation through inclusivity. By people choosing to be different it will become more acceptable to make economy funeral choices. Although this may have its detractors they will have to contend with the fact that it’s “what he/she would have wanted”. It’s hard to contend with that statement when the person who made it has died.

In Issuing their Last Orders individuals perform a selfless act which provides emotional support to loved ones and breaks reliance on the state. It aims to break down the taboos surrounding death through frank conversations, freeing people from the standardised funeral by focussing on their preferences for simplicity, certainty and affordability.


Graphic design guidance: Maki Ota.

Talk to the designer: email him at or follow him on Twitter.

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