Design Jam London #2: Yet another 50 UX’ers. Same 9 hours. 1 Brand new challenge.

To learn more about what Design Jams are and where they’ve come from, read more on the Design Jams wiki.

Design Jam team at work

A guest post by local London Design Jam champions, Joe Lanman, Franco Papeschi, Desigan Chinniah & Johanna Kollmann.

The all-new and improved Design Jam London 2 took place on Saturday, 26th of February 2011, with support from Mozilla Labs, Fjord, Geeks of London and hosts City University London.

User Experience (UX) people need their caffeine! That was just one of the things we learnt from Design Jam London 1 back in November 2010, where unfortunately, health & safety regulations got the better of us and we didn’t manage to provide tea and coffee.

This time round, it was all about mobile design, with mentors Aral Balkan (Naklab), Tim Brooke (Nokia Design) and Mathias Dahlstrom ( labs) sharing their expertise. And there were plenty of hot drinks available!

The Challenge

Choosing a good challenge is one of the hardest things about organising a Design Jam. It can’t be too broad or too narrow, and it needs to be inspiring. After mulling over various options, we decided on the following:

Design a mobile service to help visitors to London ‘become local’ – to discover and connect with the city in a meaningful way.

Every day people visit London for the most disparate reasons. Lots of them are unfamiliar with the city, and would like to act, think and feel like a local (the way they move around, the places they go, the people they meet, the coffee they drink… ). How can we help them on the go? What are the mobile services we could provide them with?

You can read the full challenge on the wiki.

Design Jammers at work

The Morning Session

Teams started tackling the challenge with a Research & Explore phase.

It was great to see the various different approaches, including several brainstorming techniques, empathy maps, guerrilla interviews & online surveys. Books like Gamestorming provided inspiration. We encouraged all the teams to update their team pages on the wiki with any techniques they used, so that even if you couldn’t attend the event, you can still learn from it.

At traditional hackdays, the only time when outcomes are shared is during the (often very short) presentations at the end of the day. At a Design Jam, the process is just as important as the outcome!

How did you get to this idea? How did you approach the problem?

Interim Design Jam team presentations

To allow teams to compare their processes and bounce ideas off each other, the groups shared what they had done so far before lunch. Articulating their ideas and getting questions from the audience helped teams to focus, and seeing how other teams had taken completely different steps got everybody reflecting on the many different ways to explore a problem.

After the interim presentations, mentor Aral Balkan gave the teams useful ‘mobile focus points’ to consider:

  • create data or re-use data?
  • real-time or passive interactions?
  • curation or crowdsourcing?
  • local or visitor knowledge?
  • offline or online?
  • one or many platforms?
  • Context!
  • Ergonomics!
  • Focus!

The Afternoon Session

The rest of the day was dedicated to the Design phase.

Teams were encouraged to focus on a specific part of their idea, be it a specific type of user, task, or context.
“Do one thing really well” was a mantra the mentors repeated over and over again.

Attendee quote: “Enjoyed having the mentors around to help us focus on some decisions – bringing in their expertise into the design solution.”

Design Jammers hard at work

In their final presentations, each team shared what they had done during the design phase, and presented the concepts. Outcomes included ‘Spidey Sense’ – a ui-less app that uses crime data to warn the unwary that they’re entering a dicey area by vibrating in their pocket.

City University London’s visualiser was a huge boon – it allowed the groups to project the sketches up for all to see. There was some great work to show off, including storyboards that portrayed the user’s context as they were using their phone or computer:

Sketch of a Design Jam story

Final presentations from Design Jam

You can find more information and see details about each team’s design process and outcome on the wiki, check out the photos on Flickr, activity on Twitter #djl2 #designjam #designjamlondon and videos of the day on YouTube.

There have also been a bunch of blog posts so far:

What’s next?

We’re very excited that more Design Jams will be taking place over the next few months in Chapel Hill (US), Oxford (UK) and Birmingham (UK), spreading the idea of open collaboration between designers.

We’re looking for more local champions around the globe, specifically in Berlin, NYC and San Francisco, where we have venues and support at the ready.

Want to get involved? Know someone?
Please add your name to the Design Jam wiki or contact the London organisers via designjamlondon[at]gmail[dot]com.