The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist – a saying that became reinterpreted to teach a different lesson after black swans were discovered in the wild.
Again there is something that we think is highly unique that is getting ‘computerised’, making it easy to generate, duplicate or modify.
You don’t know all people. In the end a real face or not does not really matter, right? These faces are generated by a piece of software, and more interestingly, software can be controlled.
Why care about faces
We are hard wired to look for faces, it’s the first thing we notice on a website or in a magazine, it’s what we look for when outside. We not only look for faces in people, we even see faces in objects all the time.
A face says; he, here is another human. And that’s good if you’re in a forest with wild animals living in the Palaeolithic era. Other people makes us feel. safe and if these people look like us it’s even better, they are part of our tribe.
From now on the faces you see can be generated by a piece of software. And given the fact that we are biased by pictures it makes us susceptible to more nuanced nudging.
What if all the models in a clothing shop look like you? Uncanny or will you be more likely to buy something? What if people in ads are tailored to your profile?
I have written about generative systems on this blog a couple of times. I think generative systems are the most fascinating thing that is happening right now from the view of the computer as a tool.
I believe they are crucial to designers or other people who like to solve problems. It will change how we think, work and make.
Creativity or creation is often about ideas, iterating, try-outs, feedback, bounce ideas, see what sticks or clicks and continue from there. It’s why we organise brainstorms, design critiques and creative sessions.
It’s why a multi disciplinaire team works and why diversity creates better products. Different views, different angles make ideas stronger. The lone inventor is romantic, but it might as well be a myth.
Generative systems are like adding this person with a completely different background to your team.
A computer is something we know as being very logical, the more examples we see how machine learning comes up with alternative solutions for existing problems, the less logical this computer seems to be.
It’s like these systems operate in a parallel universe without any of the knowledge we have. They don’t respect our rules, or don’t really care about them.
Reasoning without prior knowledge of the problem domain, but a deep understanding of the problem.
To illustrate this two examples from the past days.
This is work on “generative” drug design, which as the name implies, is trying to generate new structures rather than evaluate existing ones.
I strongly believe that the biggest challenges and opportunities for designers are going to be on a system level.
Systems grow in complexity; every touch point is connected all the time
Behaviour personalisation increases; what you see is not what I see or what we see
This results in less control; it’s hard to design a blue print for something with a lot of dynamic parts, so design (as a field) also has to move the boundaries of design, where you aim for guidelines, intended behaviour, principles.
In this edition some examples of why we?—?as a design field?—?need to think bigger.
A car controlled by a computer it’s still limited by the sensors and rules and data we’ve put in.
People have always been great manipulators of systems. This video shows how easy it is to manipulate a system when you start talking to a system in its language.
We relying more on camera’s for a lot of services, this is a new domain for design, right now mostly driven by technological capabilities.
A lot of platforms are having issues with filtering content. Because of the network effects and gaming a system a lot of ? gets the attention it doesn’t deserve. This as much a technical problem as it is a design problem. I don’t think there will be a simple algorithm to fix this, it’s more a systemic problem.
If you don’t design for it it from the beginning you will never be in control.
While most discussions are about Facebook I personally think YouTube has issues of a similar size. It’s the magic place where you can find someone explaining how to replace that tiny spare part in your car, but it’s also full of nonsense, spreading faster then a computer can stop it.
Snap showed some nice demo’s of what it can do with augmented reality. AR personalises reality. Again, we can look at the same object and my experience can be totally different from yours, just like a news feed.
What if AR meets all the problems Facebook and Youtube have? Would you let your kids use it?
Design automation is still on the rise and this year it made it to the ‘keep vigilant watch’ of Amy Webb’s yearly tech report.
Not only do our design tools get better, algorithms are taking over a lot of jobs that can be done manually, but are require a lot of time or craftsmanship. Better, more accessible tools democratise design and the act of making something.
For example Spectre uses machine learning to create a beautiful time-lapsed pictures, something very difficult before. Or take a tool like colourise, it takes a black and white picture and colourises it, with a focus Singaporean photos. Or SC-FEGAN, a tool for altering faces just by drawing on them.
Pinterest on steroids
If these generative tools move from pictures to video (and they already did) we eventually move beyond 3D-modelling to create alternate realities that look completely real.
This kind of generative technology can also used towards turning any idea into pictures or maybe even a technical scheme. Think what this can do for architecture or interior design. It’s like talking to Pinterest or turning a mood-board into AutoCAD. Increasing accessibility by lowering the technical barrier.
The watch website Hodinkee makes a Podcast and they have some great long discussions with designers and their passion for design and engineering.
IDEO popularised Design Thinking. The definition is quite broad. For me it’s applying skills designers learned to bigger problems that aren’t necessarily a design problem, but a human problem. And allow non-designers to use them.
It’s a different way of looking at a problem. Long time IDEO was on the forefront of this design domain. It’s great they created this overview. IDEO and Design Thinking contributed a lot to how design is spreading through companies.
At KLM, Marco and I send out a monthly e-mail with some of the best things we came across that month. In one of the version I linked to 3 people I really like to follow, because what they share often sparks your thinking.
Auke Hoekstra, Researcher Auke is a researcher at the TU in Eindhoven and has a strong vision on electricity and vehicles.
In 2040 Norway wants all short haul flights (leaving the airport) to be electric. In this series of tweets Auke describes the idea.
What if it could be done?
There is quite a big network effect when it succeeds. Planes that do not pollute, are silent and have a shorter runway can be much closer to cities and have less limitations. It’s one of these moments where a technological innovation can have a big impact on the the playing field.
When working on a digital strategy it often becomes very complicated, very fast.
I like to use two simple metrics when building a product strategy.
Sales Clear goals. Measurable in conversion, sales or whatever metric you like to use. Very tangible and easy to track. Short term.
Satisfaction How do people value the experience they have. Do they like it, is it a reason to return. Measurable based on how people rate a certain product or experience or how often they return. Often less tangible, a bit more difficult to track. Long term.
As a designer you need to be able to merge both.
Long term thinking, building a relation while not forgetting what keeps the boat afloat.
In 2018 I read, discussed and talked a lot about Product Design roadmaps and Design teams. On building career paths and scaling the capability of designers within companies that are more and more driven by technology in every domain.
I believe digital design is moving through some of it break through years and how we organise as a design community, share and learn will deeply influence the future of our jobs. It’s so exciting to just look at the challenges ahead.
How the role of the designers changes/d
Agile: The agile movement pushed design towards Product Teams within companies, not just tech, but all companies dependent on tech. Let’s call it the ‘incremental movement’, which is not only for software, but also for hardware and life styles. Everything as a service, long time goals, short term plans.
Back to technology, by decentralising design it created space for centralised support functions as design system teams, design research and designOps. Moving teams in house, even for companies that exist despite of technology, not because of.
Marketing: The disconnect of Product Design from agencies and marketing departments continued. This is both good and bad.
It’s good because it helps Product Design to grow up, be independent, close to product and customers and a driver for making a better product and experience.
Agencies found new ways of operating and adding value delivering teams as a service, joint-ventures, training or some other hybrid form. It only works when you work together.
What’s bad about this disconnect is that a company is a collection of people, who all deliver value on a certain level. For a customer, product, sales and services are becoming a single thing, the experience.
What’s the difference between web and social? When is it service, marketing or sales? And who cares? The customer doesn’t, only departments do.
The companies that do well are companies that connect or integrate verticals best and are in some sense led by a clear vision or goal. Where they use customer feedback to steer. A learning system.
Integration: Marketing is becoming product, product is becoming marketing, service is product and product is service. The digital split between touch points is evaporating.
Online stores are opening retail stores, why? Because once you start integrating both online (web, app, social, smart sensors) and offline (location, experience, people) there is a lot of additional value you can deliver.
We’re moving towards a system (brand) that delivers an experience. How you organise this behind the curtains makes all the difference.
Back to design
As a result design is getting out of control of a single group. There is no single experience anymore. It’s the a collection of interactions. Beyond the control of a person or department.
A lot of people get involved in the process of design. Through design sprints, business model design or some sort of a proposition canvas. It’s based on design values.
This is why this is such an interesting time for Design. We can be the glue, between people, business and technology and contribute on a different more strategic level in companies.
That’s why it’s about the scaling of principles. Look at the overall experience and see how something small can have a big impact.
For me it’s most like a city. What makes a great city? It’s not control. It’s culture, rules or lack of rules, opportunities, safety. No single person or organisation controls the city, everyone contributes.
The big question is. How do you build a great city?