Design Jam Milan 1: Just How Do The Italians Jam? (with Nutella of course!)

A guest post by, Franco Papeschi – local London Design Jam champion. Franco attended the day solely as a spectator but as is the case with most enthusiastic And passionate folk, he got right stuck in within helping the organising team wherever required.

Design Jam team

Team SbonJamBob starts working


Design Jams are growing fast. The inaugural one take place in London during November 2010. Since then this was repeated in February 2011 – with the first one outside its boundaries taking place Chapel Hill, North Carolina during March 2011.
Design Jam Milan logo

To add to that tally, a few weeks back – another occasion for designers to meet and spend 9 hours of brainstorming, sketching, collaborating and refining solutions arose.

Local Milan champions – Francesca, Davide and Costanza decided to put together the first Italian Design Jam during the Salone del Mobile (think about a South by South West for all sorts of designers; or like a Royal Wedding with young people in scarves, and furniture instead of Princes).


On Saturday the 16th of April at 9.30am, doors opened on the LBi Italy loft (who kindly helped with the organization and the hosting). 35 people, 3 organisers and 4 mentors decided to spend their day there, despite the temptations from hundreds of other events outside, and the sunny day. Vodafone Italia kept the designers’ minds fresh and active (by sponsoring refreshments and lunch). UX Magazine was the media coverage sponsor, while – as per the previous Design Jams – Mozilla Labs Concept Series supported the organization and the promotion of the event.

The occasion given by the Salone was very appealing, especially to try and attract a wider variety of designers (product, graphic, interaction), as well as developers and people with a ‘business hat’.

Design Jammer

Costanza: local champion, organisation support and our point of contact for all things venue-related.

The Challenge

“Design a solution that helps give meaning to the huge amount of incoming communication received through digital social channels, and that are tied to our digital (social) identity”.

The challenge – this time around – was broader than the usual. Mainly due to the diversity of people in the room, we decided to restrict the focus a bit less at the beginning, and help them along the way, with hints, tips and suggestions. Things to consider included: focus on a given type of users; specific activities and routines are associated to different types of information need; devices to be used create different requirements (e.g. smartphones vs tablets);…

Wake up and smell the coffee (and please help yourself to some Nutella)

The 6 teams started working in the morning in completely different ways to unpack the challenge, and to narrow the focus in a proper way.

Nutella and Bread

Dario & Federico decided to bring bread and Nutella, and share it with everyone. It couldn’t be more Italian than that 🙂

Some team started creating personas, and focusing on the typical information patterns of some of them. A couple of teams started from a theoretical model of filtering to bring a perspective to their solution. A team decided to move to parallel design methods (technical exploration on one side, user centred design on the other), and then unify their divergent explorations only in the afternoon.

By the end of the morning, the mentors were in full action to help the team clarify some of the ideas they were playing with: Gianluca Brugnoli (Creative Director @ Frog Design and Researcher Professor @ Design Department of Politecnico di Milano), Massimiliano De Carolis (Head of Business development and mobile ADV @ Vodafone Italia), Roberto Venturini (Digital Marketing Consultant) and Diana Malerba (UX Researcher @ Sketchin and UX Magazine Editor in Chief) initially had some quick interactions with the teams, and then decided to split and dedicate more time to some of them, where they felt they would have added more value. In a couple of occasions, they almost became team facilitators for one hour.


Mentors in action: Massimo de Carolis (centre)


Mentors in action: Gianluca Brugnoli (centre)


Mentors in action: Robertto Venturini (right) coordinating with Francesca


Diana (left) and Davide (centre, red t-shirt) discussing projects over the lunch break

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.


Teams at the interim presentations


Intense moments while listening to the interim presentations


Davide (centre, red t-shirt) and participants listening to interim presentations

After the interim presentations each of the mentors shared their point of view to help the teams focus – and be productive – in the afternoon. Among the other
feedback, it was interesting to hear comments such as:

  • imagine the system to be ‘as smart as a puppy’ (credit to Matt Jones for
  • describe the interaction through user journeys and storyboards, to make
    sure the system supports users in their activities, step by step;
  • Where does information / data come from?;
  • How does the service manifest itself? Is it an autonomous application? A
    service that is integrated / sits on top of other services?;

Serious Play (the afternoon)

Thanks to these ‘focus points’, the afternoon was one of the most intense work sessions I’ve ever seen.


Teams at work even during lunchtime

Teams started assigning roles to the different members, in order to make the idea come to life faster. Mentors kept spending time with the teams where they could make a visible difference, and that meant longer interactions with each team. By 6pm – the end of the working day – all the design energy in the room had been transformed in concepts, storyboards, mock-ups and sketches. Time to
show off…

The 6 teams presented very different solutions. A couple of them (Im-pronti; Sbonjambob) included some game mechanics to invite people to participate in information selection/filtering. Other projects focused on associating weights and links between information and contextual factors.


Franco, in the role of the evil time-keeper (hammer and whistle!)

In short, this is what the projects covered:

  • Team M: a filtering solution – based on simplified manual ratings and profiles (work, free time,…) – for people who have little familiarity with technology and digital social media. Maria was the persona to epitomise the user the team had in mind: a 40/50-something, with a real life that goes beyond being connected online. Great to see a team focusing on a less-obvious type of user.
  • Team Sbonjambob: NewsGuild, a game to create your own mini-newspaper, based on a set of the news feeds a person receives. The newspaper has an audience of 7 friends maximum. This should invite people to: read; weigh; filter; contribute to the importance of the news. Their starting point is that it’s not a problem of information overload, it’s a matter of dedicating time and attention to incoming info (rather than playing, for instance). Great use of game mechanics.
  • Team IM-pronti: RightNow application to discover information around a person, in an unfamiliar location (e.g. new city). Each person sets the mood to ‘angel’ or ‘devil’ and can discover things that have been tagged accordingly. Each person can also tag each bit of info either as ‘angel’ or ‘devil’. Great scenario.
  • Team 4+1: Databox, information is filtered and pushed through the assignment of trusted gateways (friends, colleagues,…) for specific topics. Great to see a parallel design process in such a compressed time.
  • Mobile Code for food: tool to surface relevant information according to location, degree of connection in the social graph, topics, history of communications. Multi-channel, based on a wide set of information source; it shows information through glanceable interfaces. Great way to communicate a complex logic (see the presentation – in Italian).
  • Flu fighters: Smart Agenda to help people skim information by using Routines, behaviours, time and space as filters and frames. Another great use of storyboards. Special mention for having survived the whole day working in English, and receiving translations only after the main communications had been shared with the rest of the participants (guys, hope that was effective nonetheless!).
Design Jammers

From functional diagram to interface sketches, in one flipchart for team Flu Fighters


Team 4+1 introducing us to Laura, their persona

Scenario sketch

a "Scenario + Mock-up" presentation, for the RightNow app


Team Mobile Code for Food in a live simulation of the system logics and back-end (using baskets, folders, water bottles)


Team M, describing the flows and interaction with the application's settings

Paper Prototype

Paper prototypes have been a very popular way to present the final solutions (Team Sbonjambob, in this case)

As with all of our initiatives – these outputs, visualizations and other contributions made during the day have been shared by the teams under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.

What’s Next?

The Design Jam in Milan generated a lot of interest. Even before the event, it was discussed in some newspapers and magazines, which is cool. But – most importantly – it has given the idea to some people in Rome and Milan to repeat the experience pretty soon. Keep reading the news feed and you’ll soon discover that there is another Italian Design Jam in the pipeline.

Post event blog posts & mentions include:

Also, follow @MozConcept or the #designjam hashtag on Twitter for all the latest news and updates about global activities.

Want to get involved? Know someone?

We’re actively on the lookout for more local champions around the globe!

If you’d like to run your own Design Jam please show your interest by adding your details to the Design Jam wiki and emailing cyberdees[at]mozilla[dot]com.

Design jam Milano poster

Signage - making sure participants found their way to Design Jam