Super Bloom: New Floral Frontiers in Public Planting Design

This article from the Plant Hunter bu Australian Landscape Architect Jon Hazelwood highlights the difficulties of conveying to administrators and developers the value that high impact landscape planting in public spaces is equals or exceeds the value created by conventional, commercially driven, urban upgrading. While the maintenance budget of the New York High Line project of $18 million annually, exceeds the construction value of most project landscape budgets here, the key take how is that planting design in public spaces that has a “WOW” factor , is measurable and “bankable” in terms of foot traffic generated and this information needs to form part of our sales pitch to our clients and to authorities.

Immersive, thoughtful and resilient planting is the unsung hero of some of the world’s most celebrated urban places – a design device/attractor that’s often underused or valued. Using high-intensity, naturalistic planting in a way that connects with people and commands attention, landscape architects can add value to public open spaces beyond the accepted ecological and green infrastructure benefits. How can we, as designers, open eyes and minds to the powerful impact of stunning ‘wild’ urban gardens, and encourage greater buy-in and proliferation?

The High Line, New York. Photo by Michael McCoy.

The misunderstood magic of the High Line

The High Line is an interesting conundrum. Imitations of this most influential and adored landscape project are ubiquitous. But, just like our favourite unknown musician becoming successful, there can be an inevitable backlash; numerous half-baked copies appear, and then we forget what made it great in the first place. 

The High Line in New York spends approximately US$18 million annually on the maintenance of the extensive planting along its 2.5 kilometre length, as well as the management and operation of its public activation program. 

The High Line, New York. Photo by Michael McCoy

Speaking with Robert Hammond, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the High Line, he revealed that their visitor surveys indicate the park’s planting is the number one touchpoint for visitors, with 95% also indicating it as their reason to return. Conversely, 5% of visitors cited the programming as something that left an impression. Overall, the three things that people most wanted more of were planting, art, and programming.

The planting design of Piet Oudolf is rarely cited as a reason why numerous urban landscape design briefs include a precedent picture of the High Line, or why a consultant’s concept design includes a detail of its planting and paving. Preference is usually given to ‘activation’ as an attractor to an urban project – usually through food and beverage and occasionally via event spaces for pop-ups – ahead of planting. 

Oudolf knows better, summing it up in the 2015 book he co-authored with Noel Kingsbury, titled Hummello: A Journey Through a Plantsman’s Life: “The group of tourists looks out over the city. One takes a photograph while others point to something in the cityscape. The view down the street from two stories high, however, soon exhausts their interest and they move on. Just a few feet later, something else seizes the attention of one of the members of the group – a flower in front of her. Soon everyone is photographing it. Progress along the elevated walkway keeps being delayed by plants, which attract their attention again and again.”

Of course, $18 million is at the high end of the scale for maintenance and we cannot expect budgets like this to be the norm for all public planting. The work of practitioners such as Nigel Dunnett in the UK, however, has demonstrably shown the increased footfall and dwell time achieved in high impact planting projects such as The Barbican in London, or Grey to Green in Sheffield – both of which have been achieved on local government budgets and maintenance regimes. 

The High Line, New York. Photo by Michael McCoy
The High Line, New York. Planting detail. Photo by Michael McCoy
The High Line, New York. Planting detail. Photo by Michael McCoy

Plant blindness

Unfortunately, proposing large expanses of planting on a public project, to the point where it becomes truly immersive and engaging, is a hard sell. Australian lifestyle programs such as Gardening Australia and Dream Gardens, are incredibly popular, as are exhibitions such as the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. We easily accept the idea of ‘the garden’ within our own fence lines, but unfortunately, too often the concept doesn’t extend into the public open spaces of our cities – instead we have acres of lomandra and Philodendron ‘Xanadu’.

‘Plant blindness’ is a term coined twenty years ago by Elisabeth Schussler and James Wandersee, botanists from the United States. They refer to “the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment,” which leads to “the inability to recognise the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs.” Plant blindness also comprises an “inability to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features” of plants and “the misguided, anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals, leading to the erroneous conclusion that they are unworthy of human consideration.”

Further research into plant blindness shows a demonstrable preference among children for images of fauna versus flora. This is for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a face, movement, colour variety and – with increased urban living – a lack of physical connection with plants. 

Why is something as beautiful as a colourful, densely-planted garden in the city such a hard sell? 

JON HAZELWOOD

As landscape architects, we instinctively know that greater density of tree plantings and more green, open space is a good thing for cities. Cities create iterations of ‘green grids’ and x-million tree programs, but if city residents aren’t engaged and overjoyed with this planting – enough to become champions and stewards of their city’s flora – then these initiatives stall when it comes to implementation. 

There are reams of quantitative research into the environmental benefits of city greening and tree canopy expansion, but less so on the value of our emotional responses to it. We need to arm ourselves with evidence of the ‘wow factor’, the excitement and engagement created through immersive planting schemes (and the inevitable ‘Instagram moments’ that come with it) to ensure buy-in from city-shapers and makers. 

Immersive urban gardens – A new floral frontier

In January of 2019, the Victorian Government announced HASSELL and New York based architects SO-IL as the designers of the new public realm and landscape for Australia’s Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation. The project will deliver around 20,000 sqm of public open space, stitching together the National Gallery of Victoria, the Arts Centre Melbourne, and a number of new cultural buildings. The design proposal is simple and clear – fill the space with plants and then carve out the various ancillary, performance and movement spaces. But, the planting will be of a scale and complexity previously unseen in Australian cities, and will be designed in collaboration with world-renowned horticulturalists James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield. 

Professors Hitchmough and Dunnett are world leaders in creating ‘high impact, low input’ urban planting proposals – a body of work that’s often referred to as ‘The Sheffield School of Planting’. Much of their research centres on the emotional responses to this style of planting, which takes its cues from spectacles in nature, such as a Californian super bloom or kilometres of fox tail lilies (Eremurus tianschanicus), flowering at once on the steppes of Kyrgyzstan. Their work explores how these breathtaking floral events can be replicated in an urban setting as ‘designed plant communities’ and how we respond to these events. 

Fox tail lillies (Eremurus tianschanicus) flowering in Kyrgyzstan. Photo by James Hitchmough.

Planting vs program – which delivers the best high?

In the paper, All about the ‘wow factor’? The relationships between aesthetics, restorative effect and perceived biodiversity in designed urban planting, Hitchmough et al collected the responses of over 1400 members of the public who walked through planting of varying structure, species character, and percentage of flower cover, while completing a site-based questionnaire. 

The research demonstrated an emotional response of ‘excitement’ and ‘elation’ to planting that was highly floral, and a response of ‘calm’ and ‘relaxed’ to predominantly ‘green’ vegetation. “Percentage of flower cover had the single largest main effect on aesthetic perceptions. Planting with a flower cover above a threshold of 27% was perceived as significantly more colourful, attractive and had a higher perceived invertebrate benefit than planting with a lower flower cover.” 

While we all need moments of calm and relaxation in our busy urban lives, it’s the moments of elation – and the subsequent triggering of endorphins – that create return visits and excitement in our public realm. These are the very same responses that a marketing consultant would attempt to elicit using food and beverage activation and ‘pop-up’ stuff. 

This appreciation of the emotional response to planting (not just its green infastructure credentials), is being slowly accepted in Europe and the United Kingdom. Projects such as Grey to Green by Sheffield City Council, The Barbican in London by Nigel Dunnett, Beethovenplein in Amsterdam by Ton Muller, and Kings Cross in London by Dan Pearson, all demonstrate public support and return visits that would make a branding consultant hot under the collar. 

The Grey to Green project in Sheffield, UK. Image by Nigel Dunnett

Learning to embrace the ‘urban garden’ together

So, where are these schemes in Australia? Of course I would argue that they’re coming with the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation, but I’m still constantly amazed by the response to landscape, trees, and in particular, the word ‘garden’. Why is something as beautiful as a colourful, densely-planted garden in the city such a hard sell? 

As Julian Raxworthy notes in his book: Overgrown: Practices Between Landscape Architecture and Gardening, perhaps the problem stems from our own profession – with landscape architecture distancing itself from gardening, and landscape architects “taking pains to distinguish themselves from gardeners or landscapers”? 

I have to be honest and admit my past frustration when a fellow architect or client called me a landscaper or garden designer. But I’m now happy to embrace this. It has taken getting my own hands dirty – testing, killing, and most importantly, watching plants and how they respond to the seasons and different growing conditions, to feel fully connected to what should be the landscape architect’s primary artistic material. 

To quote Nigel Dunnett, in his writing for the Melbourne Arts Precinct project, our public landscapes should be ‘exuberant and overwhelming in their beauty, provoking a deep, uplifting, joyful and sublime emotional response’ and we need more local research into these responses, along with more hard monetary facts. Let it not be forgotten that the High Line has brought an estimated US$1.5 billion to its surroundings, not bad for a giant 2.3km-long garden. Beat that, ‘activated food and beverage street’.

Cover image by Jon Hazelwood.

EndAUTHOR

Jon Hazelwood, when he isn’t gardening in rural NSW, is a landscape architect, Principal and Head of Public Realm at HASSELL. He’s the Design Director for the Public Realm design of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation.  WEBSITE /  INSTAGRAM

I have for many years admired the gardens and landscapes of Chilean Landscape Architect, Juan Grim. This has largely been from a few images in magazines and books, so I was very pleased this morning to read an interview with him by Lucy Munro on the PLANTHUNTER Here are a few excerpts and pics to wet your appetite to read more.

“On the coast of Los Villos in Chile, a garden balances on the edge of a clifftop, limbs of wandering shrubs crawling over the rock face towards the depths of the Pacific Ocean below. The architect of the seaside shelter, Juan Grimm, can be found hidden within the many pockets of the garden, experimenting with unusual plant combinations or admiring a newly sprouted shrub whose seed arrived on the wind. His enduring wonder for the minutiae of the natural world is one of the many reasons Juan Grimm is considered South America’s most outstanding landscape designer. With a career spanning over thirty years and a design portfolio that includes nearly a thousand hectares of public and private gardens across Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Chile, Juan is the master of creating natural spaces in harmony with the richly diverse landscape of South America.”

After thirty years of creating public and private gardens across Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and your home country, Chile, what keeps you excited about landscape design? When I first began designing and building gardens, I thought about how they would develop over time. Due to the little knowledge of botany and gardening that I had then, I worked with great intuition, without being very clear about the final results; I wanted the years to pass quickly, to see the newly planted trees mature. Today, after thirty-five years of experience, and with the privilege of having seen so many of these trees develop and grow old, I am deeply motivated to continue to create public or private green spaces; knowing that these places will endure over time for the use and enjoyment of future generations.

What does a typical day in the life of Juan Grimm look like? The vast majority of my days are dedicated to garden design; projecting and drawing in my studio, with the advice of the team that accompanies me. Another important element of the day happens in the field – supervising and distributing plants in the gardens that are in the execution stage; work that is fundamental for me because on the site, many things are decided that are impossible to resolve during the planning stage. It is in these moments that the garden begins to take on a life of its own. On weekends, I spend my time in my house on the coast, enjoying the landscape and the garden; I never finish intervening.

Can you please tell us a little about your life growing up and how this influenced the person you are today? My childhood was always closely linked to contact with nature; family summers on the coast were repeated for several years.

My connection with the sea – the infinite space, the rocks and the vegetation that appears very delicately from the coastal edge towards the interior – was a very important experience in the direction that my professional life would take.”

Initially, you trained as an architect. What prompted the change to landscape and why? My training as an architect was essential to recognize my passion for nature. There was no event that determined a change; rather, my architectural student projects always involved the landscape. Once I graduated, I had the opportunity to present a project to the first Biennial of Young Architecture. The proposal was the design of a park and an urban structure strongly affiliated with each other. I won first prize at the Biennial, and this confirmed to me that my path was in landscape design.

What is your design philosophy? I consider that there are interesting and fundamental concepts for the good design of a garden; notions that I seek to incorporate in my work, and whose presence will become evident as the garden grows and the projected space acquires form and volume. Movement, exuberance, infinity, sustainability and mystery.

One distinctive feature of your style is your choice to design primarily with native plants, or plants you have grown from seed. What is the thought process behind this? Native vegetation, anywhere in the world, is the vegetation that best adapts to the demands of the climate and other characteristics necessary for its optimal development. There are times when a project is located in a place where there are no nurseries available to acquire these plants. This was the case of the Tambo del Inca Hotel Project, located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, in Urubamba, Peru, where we went to the mountains to collect seeds from trees and shrubs, which were then grow in our own nurseries. Today those trees have already reached full maturity, and the garden is a reflection of the intimate landscape of the gorges of the Sacred Valley.

Global warming, and the climatic changes that our planet faces, makes it imperative that landscape gardeners increasingly use native vegetation, because with their high efficiency in adaptation and prosperity, they ensure the best energy economy in a garden, with optimal results.”

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The Crazy Political agendas of SHADE

 

It’s a civic resource, an index of inequality, and a requirement for public health. Shade should be a mandate for urban designers – this long essay by Sam Bloch in PLACES JOURNAL could just as well apply to Cape Town as to Los Angeles – where apartheid era planning has made its leafy suburbs of the wealthy the exact opposite of the slum tenements and shanty towns of the poor and squatters. A similar pattern of legislation, bureaucracy and politics seems to make the provision of the seemingly innocuous commodity: shade- a luxury ! Is shade the missing link to environmental, cultural, social and and health – can a focus on shade make a new type of equality a reality instead of the urban deserts that planning now mandates? This impeccably researched and documented article is well worth a read – here are a few small teasers:

Tony’s Barber Shop, Cypress Park, Northeast Los Angeles. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]

“As the sun rises in Los Angeles, a handful of passengers wait for a downtown bus in front of Tony’s Barber Shop, on an exposed stretch of Figueroa Street near the Pasadena Freeway. Like Matryoshka dolls, they stand one behind another, still and quiet, in the shadow cast by the person at the head of the line. It’s going to be another 80-degree day, and riders across the city are lining up behind street signs and telephone poles.

For years, the business owners on this block have tried to do something about the lack of shade. First someone planted banana trees and jammed an I-beam into the sidewalk well. Tony Cornejo, the barber, swears he didn’t do it, but he admits rigging up a gray canvas between a highway sign and parking lot fence to put a roof on the makeshift shelter. He was just taking care of the street, he said, so that the “ladies and children” who had grown accustomed to waiting out the heat in his shop could be comfortable outside. He dragged wooden crates under the canopy and nailed them together to create two long benches. In the shade, people ate their lunches, read magazines, scrolled through their phones. Can collectors rested. Bus drivers waited before beginning their shifts.

within two miles of Tony’s Barber Shop. 1 Who decides where the shade goes? You might imagine that transit planners call the shots — strategically placing shelters outside grocery stores and doctors’ offices on high-frequency routes, according to community need — but Los Angeles, like many cities, has outsourced the job. The first thousand shelters were installed in the 1980s by billboard companies in exchange for the right to sell ad space, and they tended to show up in wealthy areas where ad revenue surpassed maintenance costs. 2 In 2001, the mayor signed a deal to double the number of shelters and give public officials greater control over their placement. The new vendor agreed to install and maintain shelters throughout the city and offset its losses with freestanding ad kiosks in lucrative areas. But when politically savvy constituents complained about the coming spate of advertising, the city withheld permits, and the deal broke down. As the contract nears its end, the vendor, Outfront/Decaux, has installed only about 650 new shelters, roughly half of the projected number.” 

Bus shelters are installed and maintained by the company that controls the ad rights. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]

“You can’t install a shelter here without disrupting underground utilities, violating the ADA, or blocking driveway sightlines. On this block, shade is basically outlawed.”

Shade in the Skid Row neighborhood, Downtown Los Angeles. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]

Shade is often understood as a luxury amenity. But as deadly heatwaves become commonplace, we have to see it as a civic resource shared by all.

Shade was integral to the urban design of southern California until the advent of cheap electricity in the 1930s.

Top left: Awnings on Citrus Avenue in Covina, ca. 1908. Top right: Craftsman bungalow on Vermont Avenue near 9th Street, Los Angeles, n.d. Bottom left: Pergola and porch of bungalow in Altadena, 1910. [All courtesy of University of Southern California/California Historical Society] Bottom right: Harnetiaux bungalow court in Pasadena, 2013. [Wikimedia Commons]

Look at what happened to Pershing Square, where sunlight was weaponized to clear out the ‘deviates and criminals.’

“Pershing Square set a template for Los Angeles: the park as an open space to walk through, and as a revenue-generating canvas.”

Rendering for the new Pershing Square, with shade pergola. [Agence Ter]

“Shade creates shelter, and Los Angeles is very conflicted about creating shelter in the public realm.”

“Mexican fan palms were the ideal tree for an automobile landscape, beautifying the city without making a mess.”

Avalon Boulevard, South Los Angeles. [Monica Nouwens for Places Journal]”

“If you see a mature shade tree today, you can assume that a private citizen paid for it and maintained it. Canopy inequality thus follows lines of wealth”.

To the list of environmental injustices in this country, we can add the unequal distribution of shade.

“The city won’t permit the planting of large trees where the roots could rip up sidewalks or destroy underground utilities. That effectively zones shade out of many poor neighborhoods.”

“Surveillance is another concern. When a new pole camera goes up in a public park, the mature canopy around it vanishes.”

 

One study found that the difference in surface temperature between shaded and unshaded asphalt was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The mayor has pledged to reduce the temperature by three degrees by 2050, but sustainability programs will vary by neighborhood.

The grant programs now for urban forestry are crazy. It’s money that we’ve never seen before … [but] they have no idea of the real challenges behind these kinds of projects.’

Imagine what Los Angeles could do if it tied street enhancement to a comprehensive program of shade creation.

What we need is urbanists in and outside City Hall who conceptualize shade itself as a public good.

Drawing by Joyce Earley Lyndon and Maynard Lyndon, from Growing Shade, a brief study of “tree umbrellas” in Switzerland, published in the third issue of Places Journal in 1984. The drawing was presented last week at a discussion of shade equity in Los Angeles convened by Christopher Hawthorne, the city’s chief design officer and a professor of practice at Occidental College.

 

Sam Bloch, “Shade,” Places Journal, April 2019. Accessed 18 May 2019. <https://placesjournal.org/article/shade-an-urban-design-mandate/&gt;

 

Lets get Dirty

We are the microbial systems and live in a microbial world,  our survival as individuals, communities and as a species depend on it ! In the movie “War of The Worlds”, Steven Spielberg attributed the success of humans in surviving the aliens invasion, to our immune systems evolutionary adaptation  to withstand our microbial environment. Heres a look at how this could impact our design thinking from The Dirt

Designing Cities for Healthier Microbiomes

Artistic rendering of the human microbiome / The Why Files

Humans are essentially super-organisms or holobionts made up of both human cells and those of micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, archea, protists, and fungi. Researchers now know the human body hosts a comprehensive ecosystem, largely established by age three, in which non-human cells vastly outnumber human cells. The latest study from the American Academy of Microbiology estimates each human ecosystem contains around 100 trillion cells of micro-organisms and just 37 trillion human cells.

But while rainforest or prairie ecosystems are now well-understood, the human ecosystem is less so. As researchers make new discoveries, there is a growing group of scientists who argue our microbiomes are deeply connected with our physical and mental health. The increased number of prebiotics and probiotics supplements on the shelf in drug stores and supermarkets, and availability of fresh pickles and kimchi in local farmers markets, are perhaps testaments to this increasingly-widespread belief.

The question at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference in Oklahoma City was: Can we design cities to better support our microbiomes and in turn our overall health?

Through urban farming and gardening — or just plain playing in the dirt — humans can also increase their exposure to healthy microbes found in soils. A group of scientists and advocates argue that greater exposure could help fight depression and anxiety and reduce rates of asthma and allergies in both kids and adults.

The incredible increase of allergies among Western populations may be caused by our “sterile, germ-free environments” that cause our immune systems to over-react to everything from nuts to mold and pollen. Dr. Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta even wrote a book exploring this: Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Over-sanitized World.

Wener said we have created cities that reflect our fear of bacteria; instead we must create microbial-inclusive cities that improve our health. “Most microbes in our bodies have co-evolved with us. They are important to our vital functions. The future of urban planning and design should support healthy microbes.”

As part of this vision, landscape architects could design parks and plazas to be filled with accessible garden plots and soil-based play areas that let both adults and kids get dirty. We could design for holobionts instead of just people, boosting the health of the collective urban microbiome in the process.

Wener’s colleage at NYU — Elizabeth Henaff — is leading much of this research. Learn about her artful experiments. Read this article from Michael Pollan in The New York Times outlining the connections between our microbiome and health, and this Q&A from The Guardian.

Read the full article

THE SHAPE OF WATER

From Jason King’s Landscape+Urbanism site

 

sketch_2-e1528755612550-2000x974

“Rendering of Houston wetland channel showing ecological wetland, conservation areas, and recreation trails” p. 90-91

An amazing resource posted on ASLA’s The Dirt (here) focuses on Design Guidelines for Urban Wetlands, specifically what shapes are optimal for performance. Using simulations and physical testing to investigate hydraulic performance the team from the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU) at MIT. Led by Heidi Nepf, Alan Berger and Celina Balderas Guzman along with a team including Tyler Swingle, Waishan Qiu, Manoel Xavier, Samantha Cohen, and Jonah Susskind, the project aims to have a practice application in design guidance informed by research. From their site:js_plan_typical-01

“Although constructed wetlands and detention basins have been built for stormwater management for a long time, their design has been largely driven by hydrologic performance. Bringing together fluid dynamics, landscape architecture, and urban planning, this research project explored how these natural treatment systems can be designed as multi-functional urban infrastructure to manage flooding, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and create amenities in cities.”
Starting in the beginning by outlining ‘The Stormwater Imperative’, the above goal is explained in more depth, and issues with how we’ve tackled these problems are also discussed, such as civil-focused problem solving or lack of scalability, but also explore the potential for how, through intentional design, these systems “can create novel urban ecosystems that offer recreation, aesthetic, and ecological benefits.” (1)

single_island

The evolution that has resulted in destruction of wetlands through urbanization, coupled with deficient infrastructure leads to issues like flooding, water pollution due to the loss of the natural holding and filtering capacity of these systems and the increased flows. However, as pointed out by the authors, this can be an opportunity, as constructed wetlands “can partially restore some lost ecosystem services, especially in locations where wetlands do not currently exist.” (5)

The modeled flow patterns are also interesting, showing the differentiation from fast, regular, slow flows, along with any Eddy’s that were shown in dye testing using the flumes.

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Check it out and see what you think.  The report is available as a online version via ISSUU or via PDF download from the LCAU site, where there are also some additional resources.  All images in this post are from these reports and should be credited to the LCAU team.

sketch_1

UX Process: What It Is, What It Looks Like and Why It’s Important

via UX Process: What It Is, What It Looks Like and Why It’s Important | Adobe Blog

Nick Babich

As a UX designer, I am sure you have been asked many times “What is your UX design process? What and how many steps does it have?” There is a simple reason why this question so popular among designers: UX process is a cornerstone of UX design, it’s a make-it-or-break-it aspect of UX design. Without a solid UX design process, a designer could be completely moving in the dark. A clear and concise UX process, on the other hand, makes it possible to craft amazing experiences for users.

In this article, we’ll define a general UX design process, as well as the order in which specific UX phases should be taken. We will also see what methods can be used by UX designers during each phase.

What Does a UX Process Look Like?

The answer to this question is: it depends. A UX design process is something that everyone has in the UX industry, but something that everyone does differently. This happens because UX process depends heavily on the project. Different projects require different approaches: the approach to a corporate website differs from the way we design a dating app. And while there are some practices UX designers should follow for each project (such as conduct product research before moving on to prototyping), there are principles in every part of the process that have to be custom designed for the specific project.

UX Process Overview

At its core, every UX process should consist of the following 5 key phases:

1. Product Definition

One of the most important phases in UX design is actually done before the UX design process even starts. Before you can build a product, you need to understand its context for existence. Product definition phase sets the stage for the success of a product. During this phase, UX designers brainstorm the product at the highest level (basically, the concept of the product) with stakeholders.

This phase usually includes:

  • Stakeholders interviews: Interviewing key stakeholders in a project to gather insights about their goals. Defining the goals and values of the product that you would like to build is a key driver for a results-driven process.
  • Create value proposition: Value proposition maps out the key aspects of the product: what it is, who it’s for and when/where it will be used. Value proposition helps the team and stakeholders create consensus around what the product will be.
  • Concept sketching: Creating an early mockup of what the team is looking to build.
  • Project kickoff meeting: The kickoff meeting brings all the key players together to set proper expectations both for the team and stakeholders. It covers the high-level outline of the product purpose, who is involved in designing and developing the product, how they will work together, and what stakeholders expectations are (such as KPI and how how the success of the product should be measured).

2. Product Research

Once the product idea is defined, product research (which naturally includes user and market research) provides the other half of the foundation for great design. Good research informs your product and the fact that it comes early in design process save a lot of resources (time and money) further down the road (as fewer adjustments will need to be made).

The product research phase is probably the most variable between projects – the phase varies based on the complexity of the product, timing, available resources and many other factors. This phase can include:

  • Individual in-depth interviews (or IDI): A great product experience starts with a good understanding of the users. Not only do UX designers want to know who their users are, but designers want to dive deeper into their needs, fears, motivations, and behavior.
  • Competitive research: A comprehensive analysis of competitor products maps out their existing features in a comparable way. Research helps UX designers understand industry standards and identify opportunities for the product in a given area.

3. Analysis

The aim of the Analysis phase is to draw insights from data collected during the Product Research phase. Capturing, organizing and making inferences from the “what” users want/think/need can help UX designers begin to understand the “why” they want/think/need that. During this phase, designers confirm that the most important assumptions being made are valid.

This phase usually includes:

  • Create hypothetical personas: Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a product in a similar way. The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of the key audience segments for reference.
  • Create experience maps: An experience map is an important design tool to understand the product/service interactions from users’ point of view. An experience map is basically a visual representation that illustrates user flow within a product/service. A basic experience map just follows one path (one user, one goal, one scenario) even when the product/service allows multiple path variations.

4. Design

When user expectations from the product are established (it’s clear what their goals are and how they like to operate with it), UX designers move to the design phase. An effective design phase is both highly collaborative (it requires input from all team players involved in product development) and iterative (meaning that it cycles back upon itself to validate ideas and assumptions).

The design phase usually includes:

  • Sketching: Sketching is the easiest way of visualizing our ideas. Drawing by hand is also the fastest way to visualize a concept – it allows the designer to visualize a broad range of design solutions before deciding which one to stick with.
  • Create wireframes: A wireframe is a visual guide that represents the page structure (hierarchy and key elements). Wireframing acts as the backbone of the product – designers often use them as the skeletons for mockups.
  • Create prototypes: If wireframes are mostly about structure and visual hierarchy (look), then prototypes are about interaction experience from it (both look and feel). A prototype is a simulation of the product, commonly using clickable wireframes.
  • Create a design specification: Design specifications usually consist of user flow and task flow diagrams which outline the functionality and style requirements of the product. Design specifications describe the processes and graphical assets needed to make a working product.

5. Validation (Testing)

Usually, the validation phase starts when the high-fidelity design is fleshed out. A product is validated with stakeholders and end-users through the series of user testing sessions.

Similar to the product research phase, this phase is also variable between projects. Validation phase can include:

  • “Eat your own dogfood:” Once the design team has iterated the product to the point where it’s usable, testing it with the product team is a great low-cost validation technique.
  • User testing sessions: User testing sessions serve as a validation of design, based on tests with real users.User testing sessions have a lot of forms, some of the most popular are usability testing, focus groups, beta testing, A/B testing, and surveys.
  • Create user diaries: User diaries are great at capturing an information from real-world users. Using Google Docs, UX designers can create a simple template and then include open-ended questions such as:
    • Where were you when using the product?
    • What tasks did you hope to achieve?
    • Do you have something that frustrated you?
  • Metrics analysis: Numbers provided by an analytics tool about how a user interacts with your product: clicks, navigation time, search queries etc. Metrics can also “uncover the unexpected”, surfacing behaviors that are not explicit in user tests.
  • Working with feedback from users: Feedback data such as support tickets, bug reports, and other analytics are able to drive product refinement.

How To Improve UX Design Process

Now you’ve seen how each phase is connected to each other, let’s consider some helpful tips for improving the UX design process:

Consider Overlap Between Phases and Iterations

It’s important to understand that UX design isn’t a linear process. The phases of the UX process often have considerable overlap and usually there’s a lot of back-and-forth. As the UX designer learns more about the problem being solved, the users and details about the project (especially, constraints), it may be necessary to revisit some of the research undertaken or try out new design ideas.

The Importance of Communication

Communication is a key UX design skill. While doing great design is one thing, communicating great design is equally as important, as even the best concepts will fail if they don’t accept by the team and stakeholders. That’s why the best UX designers are great communicators.

Processes Morph To Fit Projects

UX designers should be flexible with every project – the process employed should be tailored to fit specific project needs, both business and functional. A process tailored to the capabilities of the business and the clients proved to be generally effective.

Conclusion

When it comes to UX design process, there’s no one fits all solution. But whether your UX process lightweight or it’s full of a lot of activities, the goal of each UX design process is the same – create great a product for your users. Thus, use what works the best for your project, get rid of the rest, and evolve your UX process as your product ev

introducing mixed reality

via designboom’s TECH predictions for 2018: mixed reality

THE future ..its already arrived but it definitely not evenly distributed yet ….

four decades ago, virtual and augmented reality were the future. fast forward to the present day and they combine to create a 21st century passport into an alternate universe in mixed reality. merging the digital and the physical, tech giants everywhere are recognising the value in bringing together the immersive capabilities of a head-mounted VR set and the ability of AR to place data into the real world environment. mixed reality reinvents the storytelling process. it merges narratives with reality and presents viewers with a wholesome experience that’s perpetually indistinguishable from real life. this cultivates a fertile ground for increased contact between all participating entities, ergo fostering the creation of shared experiences.

 

google invested in ‘magic leap’, an allusive mixed reality company. now, apple are getting their teeth into MR which means only one thing – world domination. but back in 2015, microsoft launched hololens, one of the first devices both popularising and merging AR and VR. and the evolution of this device provides an interesting framework with which to navigate the future of MR.

 

‘computers used to be flat?’

2018 tech predictions mixed reality
microsoft hololens enables you to interact with content and information in the most natural ways possible.
image courtesy of microsoft

 

 

microsoft’s creator of the hololens, alex kipman, thinks headsets could be the successors to computers everywhere. its no surprise when MR extends current limits of presenting data, making physical screens a thing of the past. simple 2D analytics tools seem old school when you can project renders as large as the environment allows. employees of the future could even don company-issued mixed reality glasses as their PCs, releasing employees from the chains of their desks as well as their desktops – read more.

 

hello holoportation

2018 tech predictions mixed reality
holoportation looks set to transform the way we communicate with each other from afar
image courtesy of microsoft

 

 

heard of holoportation? well as MR evolves the advent of holographic images talking to us becomes ever more real.microsoft’s hololens uses a new type of 3D capture technology allowing 3D models of people to be transmitted anywhere in the world in real time. that means talking to your friend who lives miles away from you in a hologram – read more.

 

 

shop till you never ever drop

2018 tech predictions mixed reality
tenants will eventually have the option to view their potential accomodation in VR
image courtesy of airnbnb

 

 

mixed reality could transform the way we shop, creating a productless experience where consumers get to try items and services in real-time without breaking a sweat. furniture giant IKEA already saves couples all over the world by letting them skip flatpack fury, placing furniture in-situ via their PLACE app. and airbnb just recently announced it’s in the early stages of adding VR and AR to its services, predicting their own use of 360 photos and 3D scans to let tenants explore homes and cities before they arrive.

 

 

entire ecosystems made of sound

2018 tech predictions mixed reality
a shot of what magic leap and sigur rós’ tónandi looks like in action
image courtesy of magic leap

 

 

the secretive mixed reality company, magic leap, made waves back in 2015 with a huge investment from google which many people doubted would ever come to anything. well apparently it has it’s an alternate sonic universe… the company has been working with icelandic rock band sigur rós on an audiovisual project called tónandi which projects waveforms of the music into the physical space. this immersive way of releasing music could either be the future of music as some are predicting – a flop similar to the google glass – read more.

 

and there’s more…

2018 tech predictions mixed reality

magic leap one’s lightwear which comes with a lightpack and control

 

 

if the internet is a virtual, infinite universe, then the ‘magic leap one creator edition’ (the company’s main focus) may be the first step in exponentially multiplying the size of that universe by colliding it with the physical world. it’s an AR headset for developers (‘built for creators’) that according to an interview with rolling stone will ship in 2018. the technology is supposed to accept multiple input modes including voice, gesture, head pose and eye tracking whilst mapping persistent objects onto the environment.

Co-living 2030: Are you ready for the sharing economy?

Interesting alternatives living and working typologies for co-living examined with background on a possible history

via Co-living 2030: Are you ready for the sharing economy? | Features | Archinect

Illustration Evgenia Barinova

Illustration Evgenia Barinova

Last month I attended a SPACE10 forum led by New York-based design duo Anton and Irene on the resurgence of co-living. They suggest the financial squeeze of modern life combined with an upsurge in digital nomads is bringing the ‘sharing economy’ into the home. As 40% of the urban areas required by 2030 are not yet built—which means a city the size of New York needs to be constructed globally every month—it is crucial architects stay up-to-date with contemporary living patterns to respond appropriately to shifts in housing requirements. My last Archinect feature of the year will provide a short overview of the history and challenges that co-living has previously faced, discuss trends emerging from the ‘ONE SHARED HOUSE 2030‘ survey and speak to Dorte Mandrup, architect of the Lang Eng Co-housing Community, on how to approach the challenge of designing successful spaces for co-living.

‘Co-living’, an umbrella term for different types of ‘co-housing’ setups, can loosely be defined as a home where two or more people live together who are not related. While ‘co-housing’ is an intentional community created and run by residents, ‘co-living’ may also encompass shared accommodation initiated by an external agent, such as a developer or entrepreneur.

Aside from the investor rush to fuel co-living startups, concrete figures on the international co-living boom are not yet available. However, early indicators such as the UN now offering support to co-living initiatives within their sustainable development goals and last year’s prestigious Harvard Wheelwright architecture prize being awarded to a project innovating in co-living, suggest it is gaining traction. While it is indisputable that young people strapped for cash have always had roommates—think Bret and Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords—co-living is now simultaneously becoming part of everyday urban life and billion-dollar business.

I expect most people reading this who have lived in cities during their 20’s have experienced a houseshare, myself included. I rented a terrace with friends in Sheffield, moved into a Danish kollegium when I started my masters in Copenhagen and had a stint in a family attic while working in London. But rather than remaining a student necessity, increasing numbers of families and professionals are now opting to co-share. This also reflects a surge in the rental market, which in the US has jumped from 52% of total adults in 2005 to 60% in 2013. This is perhaps unsurprising with soaring urban property prices and take-home wages barely rising across the country, a pattern which is echoed in cities worldwide.

Last year Anton and Irene initiated ONE SHARED HOUSE as they became fascinated in how co-living seemed to be experiencing a cultural resurgence. The documentary maps Irene’s childhood experience of growing up in a communal house in Amsterdam. In the early 1980’s Amsterdam was facing an acute housing shortage so the government enacted a law ruling that 1% of all apartments had to be communal. In 1984 Irene’s mom responded to a newspaper ad for a co-share and moved their family into Kollontai, a communal house with 8 other women and their 3 children designed by the new brutalist architect Sier van Rhijn. In the film, Irene explains “they were feminists and non-conformists […] and many were rebelling against the traditional 1950’s families they had grown up in.”

Amsterdam co-housing showing Kollontai. Image: Anton and Irene

“Whenever I would tell people I grew up in a communal house”, Irene explains to me, “it inevitably turns into a 30-minute conversation about the pros and cons of communal living.” To delve deeper into the subject, she contacted architect Sier van Rhijn about his experience of designing Dutch co-living spaces during that period. “It was fun,” he explained, “even though [the occupants] had no experience designing living spaces, they were very engaged and very idealistic. As an architect, it was sometimes hard to deal with their ever-changing demands, and sometimes it drove us a little crazy.”

It was fun. Even though [the occupants] had no experience designing living spaces, they were very engaged and very idealistic. As an architect, it was sometimes hard to deal with their ever-changing demands, and sometimes it drove us a little crazy.” Sier van Rhijn, architect

Modern co-living can be traced back to thoughts emerging from Denmark in the 1960s, which crystallized in Bodil Graae’s 1967 newspaper article ‘Children Should Have One Hundred Parents’. There was a consensus at the time that modern housing was unable to provide adequate wellbeing for occupants over their lifetimes, and that ‘bofællesskab’ (living community) should instead be the aim for future housing projects. In 1972, a group of families were inspired to create the Sættedammen co-share, realized by architects Palle Dyreborg and Theo Bjerg. The project is generally accepted to be one of the first contemporary co-shares, favoring both autonomy from powerful landlords and the Danish government. The living community approach was introduced to the States in 1989 by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett in their book ‘Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves’.

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Spotting the Patterns: 2017 Trends in Design Thinking

via Spotting the Patterns: 2017 Trends in Design Thinking | Stanford Social Innovation Review

More insights in alternative design methodologies

Creative leaders and innovators are thinking about design thinking in more mature ways. Moving away from a sole emphasis on language and learning, they are increasingly focusing on questions of application, ownership, and impact.

(Illustration by John Kutlu)

Design thinking: It started as an academic theory in the 60’s, a notion of starting to look at broader types of challenges with the intention and creativity that designers use to tackle their work. It gained widespread traction as a product design process, has been integrated into culture change initiatives of some of the world’s most important organizations and governments, and has been taught in schools kindergarten to grad school. It’s been celebrated, criticized, merged with other methodologies, and modified for nearly every conceivable niche.

Regardless of what side of those perspectives you fall on, it’s undeniable that design thinking is continuing to grow and evolve. Looking across the social innovation landscape today, we see a few patterns that, taken together, suggest that social innovators continue to see great promise in design thinking. They are working to find ways to make it yield real performance gains for their organizations and clients.

From design thinking to design doing

Creative leaders have moved beyond increasing people’s awareness of design thinking to actively seeking concrete opportunities for using it. One of the principal drivers of this shift has been the need to demonstrate value and return on investment from design-thinking initiatives—something people have talked about for years. (Ever heard the question, “Is design thinking just the next fad?”) Social sector organizations, in particular, stand to benefit from the shift from design thinking to design doing. Timelines for getting things built in the social sector are often slow, due to legitimate constraints of responsibly doing impact work, as well as to legacy practices and politics. As long as organizations use design thinking responsibly and acknowledge the broader systems in which new ideas live, some of the emerging models can help them move projects along more quickly and gain greater stakeholder participation.

At The Design Gym, we have seen this eagerness for results show up in the form of Design Sprints—fast, iterative, user-focused project cycles that tackle a problem over the course of several days or weeks. Design Sprints emphasize seeing problems in smaller chunks, and encourage users and stakeholders to play a central role in problem solving, moving projects forward faster and cheaper than “business as usual,” and leading to more concrete and tested outcomes.

This year, our team led the FSG Impact Hiring Innovation Lab’s cohort of companies through design thinking sprints to gain insights from stakeholder groups, generate unique ideas, and prototype solutions. Such projects allow organizations to put design thinking to work on high-priority, strategic challenges. They often produce outcomes impressive enough to influence larger organizational and team design strategies, project scoping, and internal culture shifts—approaching problems with design thinking sometimes becomes the norm. We expect the next question for leaders who have seen the benefits of “design doing” will be how to continue designing their teams and cultures to show not tell—showing stories of real outcomes, not telling of their new training toolkit, and making design thinking more than a side-of-desk project.

Building cultures around design thinking

As design thinking has proliferated, many organizational leaders have moved from replicating the design thinking programs of academic institutions like the Stanford d.School or foundational agencies like IDEO to adapting the methodology to their own goals, external environments, and organizational cultures.

One organization that has particularly inspired us is Beespace, a New York City-based social-impact foundation. Beespace has designed a two-year program that helps new organizations not only get off the ground, but also create the conditions for breakthrough innovation. To create this program, which combines deep thinking, impact assessment, and rapid prototyping, Beespace’s leadership asked itself what tools it would need, and came up with a mix that included not just design thinking, but also disciplines of behavioral science and systems thinking, and tools stemming from emotional intelligence and theory of change.

This shift from replicating approaches to fashioning ones that serve a particular organization’s unique needs represents movement to a more mature, sustainable way of employing the methodology. It is a shift away from copying and pasting toward something more introspective, customized, and hopefully impactful. Leaders should not get too caught up in stories of success, but instead push their organization to dictate what success means and how it should show up. Given that these practices overlap so deeply with mission, people, organizational structure, and definition of impact, no two programs should look the same.

Empowering the few to shift the many

We have seen a lot of interest this year in “train the trainer” programs, particularly from organizations realizing the value of developing their internal capabilities to reduce reliance on outside consultants. Such development often entails focusing on the few people in the organization who are highly capable of instigating major change, as opposed to spreading awareness among the many. It takes time and resources, but the payoff is well worth it from both cultural and operational perspectives.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative (100RC) takes such an approach to its mission of working with cities around the world to help them become more resilient. 100RC has focused on training a relatively small group of change agents, called Chief Resilience Officers (CROs), in the cities in which it works. CROs are senior-level city employees tasked with developing strategies and initiatives—with significant support and guidance from 100RC—to bring about long-term transformation.

Although the concept of developing internal advocates is surely not new, as an approach to adopting design thinking, it is generating a conversation we believe will continue to get smarter. We expect to see different models for building internal expertise, as the work of introducing design thinking into an organization can be done by lots of different people: expert facilitators, workshop trainers, creative leaders, designers and design strategists, or even just that brave soul who suggests approaching a 30-minute brainstorm slightly differently. We’re excited to see how different organizations explore the possibilities and find which ones work best for them.

Looking at the creative community holistically to tackle larger societal issues

No beating around the bush here—it’s quite a political climate here in the United States. But, out of this has come an absolute groundswell of creative activism and some really unexpected collaborations. Among the creative community, the boundaries around problems that fit within our scope of work have expanded. Individuals, nonprofits, government agencies, start-ups, and huge corporations alike are asking what it means for them, where they can (and should) put a stake in the ground, and who else out there can help make it happen.

Over the past few years, there’s been greater cross-pollination between different industries and types of organizations—collaboration that’s creating wild innovation bigger than either political party could achieve on its own. As Paola Mendoza, artistic director for the Women’s March on Washington, recently said, “We, artists, inspire people to love when it is easier to hate.” Now is the time to begin looking beyond our traditional boundaries of for-profit vs. nonprofit, public sector vs. private sector, and one mission vs. another. The time is ripe to call for collaborators rather than competitors to tackle some of the larger creative challenges facing society today.

FSG Impact Hiring Innovation Lab, for instance, is bringing together nonprofits such as The Aspen Institute, Fortune 500 companies such as McDonald’s and T-Mobile, and creative agencies like ours to develop innovative strategies in hiring, retention, and advancement of opportunity youth and other populations facing barriers to employment.

We anticipate that collaboration between governments, nonprofits, individuals, corporations, and startups will continue to increase. And, there are few greater motivators than a sense of passion and purpose—something individuals and organizations alike can amplify to energize their cultures. We have yet to see what true beauty can blossom from these dynamic and often trying times. What we do know is that complex problems require new ways of thinking, new ways of working, new types of partnerships and conversations, and radical forms of diverse collaboration. And the creative catalysts inside all of us are best positioned to address them.

Shifting the storyline

Social innovators have begun thinking about design thinking in more mature ways. As some of the concept’s novelty wears off, the social sector is increasingly focusing on questions of application, ownership, and impact. The theme of the story is shifting from “What is design thinking?” to “Look at what we did using design thinking.” For practitioners and creative leaders, it is a good time to ask what these trends mean for your ability to tell your own future success stories.

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