(rhythmic synth music) - Thank you, thank you John.
Just as I'm the last person, thanks to John and everyone else who's been organising the conference, all the A/V people and everyone else, can we just have a round of applause for all of them. (Audience applauding) So Nathan very handily already did a summary of two-thirds of the conference before I got up here, so he spared me actually from having to do some of that. But loads and loads of thoughts running around my head. The penalty of being last is that I'm just culling my presentation all the way through as I curtail... Take that Zuckerberg quote out, no I don't need that any more.
So I have done some of that and I have tried to kind of weave in some bits and pieces and I'll try and kind of remember to make the links.
As a result there's a bit of a kind of rambling narrative, but we'll see where we go and we'll see if I get it done in time.
So I want to talk about speed, and our addiction to speed.
I don't mean the drugs, although some of the people I met last night I'm not so sure.
(audience laughing) There was a guy called John Warwick, I don't think anyone knows him.
There's creative agency and collective called Tomato from the U.K. who we did a lot of work with and shared a building with years ago, I think John's now in Melbourne.
He said this thing once a little while ago, He said I miss the days when computers were slow. I used to be able to, whilst Photoshop was rendering something, we used to call it grey barring, I could think about what I was going to do next. And, as an industry I put 30 years remaining. I guess I've been in it about long enough, nearly 30 years. I don't really feel actually, although it feels like it's so mature and the tech industry's so huge I actually don't think it is very mature as an industry in the kind of broader term of things.
Sarah mentioned this thing, if you don't slow down you might not know what you're breaking.
And, literally this seems to be the day of old screenshots of software.
This was what John was talking about.
This is a screenshot of, I think, it's Photoshop 1.7 or it's 1.5 or 2.0 or something.
The first version of Photoshop I ever used. John, you're right, it is running on Mac OS 7. It used to be system 6 before that, for the nerds out there. I really like it actually.
I kind of would like Adobe to do a one bit interface mode for all of their apps, it would be great.
When I did fire up that laptop a couple of years ago, it wasn't that long ago, to fire up some old work, I found that the interface was incredibly snappy, and I quite liked it.
But I do remember these days.
There was no multitasking, which was a really good thing. So if you tried to open something else, you had to close Photoshop.
But I also remember scanning something in and I would have a book.
I had a book next to the scanner 'cause I'd read a couple of pages whilst the scanner was running.
Then you apply a Gaussian blur or something and there I am, read the chapter while that's going on. (Audience laughing) And actually it was really good, it was where you had this kind of thoughtfulness, this time in between.
And now, of course, we've got this need for speed. Just before I go on, just take a moment to appreciate what these pilots are doing here, it's absolutely bonkers when I found that photograph. But one of the thing that pilots do is they practise manoeuvres really slowly.
Also, if you've ever seen people doing skydiving practising , if they're doing that formation stuff, they're all on the ground, obviously, first, and they're sort of doing like a kind of Riverdance whilst they're all kind of working everything out quite slowly 'cause at that speed you can't be distracted, right, you can't be checking your phone.
The Zuckerberg quote about move fast and break things is a cliche now.
But, as Sarah said, it does accurately describe a common philosophy and a general kind of culture. So we live and work in this culture of speed. Of NVP's, of sprints, of speed to market, fail fast, all the rest of it.
But it catches us in this weird cycle and it's pretty unhealthy, which is I'm really really busy so I need everything to be faster. When that comes in our direction it's like we need that thing from you really fast and you go, "Well I'm really busy "and I've got to do so much stuff "because everyone's asking me to do stuff faster." So I need everything to be faster.
And you just go round that cycle so we're all making each other much more busy and it's a bit of a disaster sometimes and sometimes things break.
Two things get lost in that process and they are mindfulness and long-term thinking.
Now Remy talked about mindfulness and talked about mindfulness in life and so did Sarah and Stephanie also talked about this.
But it has consequences, right, many of them unintended. Because that's what mindfulness, or a lack of mindfulness and a lack of long-term thinking lead to.
They lead to unintended consequences.
Now by definition, unintended consequences are things you don't know are going to happen.
But I know if I run out into the middle of the road without looking I'm likely to get hit by a car. So there are things that you can think through a little bit more carefully.
This is of course what we tell our kids.
And I think we've lost that sort of long-term thinking. By long-term thinking I'm not talking a year or two, I'm talking decades and centuries.
Much like me, this seems to have been terribly unfashionable in sort of recent years but I really think it's something that we need to get back to.
And I want to sort of unpack this intersection of culture and technology a little bit and try and think about what's actually going on here. We've become used to digital being this ephemeral thing. Anything that was able to be digitised, was able to be duplicated and copied and distributed effortlessly, with a cost that's as nearest to zero as makes it relevant.
That's obviously disrupted the media industries. That's completely kind of changed our world and many of us have been part of that process. But you have this culture of free content as well and that talk, that podcast with John Lanier from Vox is really really worth listening to, the whole thing, because he really is quite spot on and he's been around a long time.
Because what happens in a culture of free content is who cares? Who cares if it's broken, 'cause they're getting it for free anyway.
And actually, some of Mark Zuckerberg's kind of defences about Facebook and that whole kind of defence or response to Tim Cook's thing is that oh we're trying to build something for free. We're trying to build something, we're trying to charge as least as possible, and that's sort of been a defence but the problem is with that, if you're giving it away, who cares? who's to complain? But even when we have paid it doesn't make much difference. So people get upset about the price of a $2.99 app. They get more upset than that than a $4 coffee in Melbourne. I get upset about $4 coffee in Melbourne and there's a whole presentation to be done about the cost benefit ratio of smashed avocado and the price of food in Australia in general. We get upset, God forbid an app is $9.99, something that's perhaps central to our working life every day.
We don't wanna spend more than a couple of cups of coffee on it.
At the same time we're measuring engagement in seconds. Medium articles are measured in how many minutes it takes you to read.
Who subscribes to Blinklist here? Anyone? Okay one person, oh two people.
I feel a bit bad now.
Blinklist allows you to read books at kind of high speed. It allows you to sort of force feed very digestible versions of books.
The Blinklist advertises itself as being able to read these books within 15 minutes. 15 minutes! And that leaves us time to be more productive. More time to surf the web, reading articles about life hacks, about how to avoid procrastination.
(Audience laughs) And I can attest, and my wife will attest, that I can easily lose an hour or two on Reddit. What could possibly go wrong, so I've read it. We're all guilty of it.
We all kind of have this sense of both lack of engagement, lack of attention, but also this kind of digital ephemera.
We create all this stuff.
Look at Product Hunt, the page.
There's just so much stuff in there.
There's so much stuff that nobody really needs. And that's part of the problem because, I love this quote from Marshall McLuhan and it's well known, it's very well known.
He didn't actually say it.
His friend, this guy called John M Caulkin said it and then Marshall McLuhan sort of stole it back off of him. He said it to sum up Marshall McLuhan.
And in fact, Winston Churchill said it first. He said it about buildings and I'm gonna come back to buildings in a minute. Sir Winston Churchill said, "We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us." And Marshall McLuhan, hipster of the year, with eight telephones, he said, "We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us." You know, the tools and the methods we use, they represent mindset and they represent intent, and they really guide it.
They do it at a micro-level, so if you think of a Japanese calligraphy brush and a chisel.
And you think of doing lettering in each of those, it's very very hard to imagine doing Romanesque, serif lettering with the brush, or calligraphic characters with the chisel. It's probably not impossible, probably quite a lot of hard work.
You know, the tools we use do really define the look of what we're doing but they also define the mindset.
A digital tool as in their ubiquity really amplify this massively.
John Nader once quipped that Adobe is the world's Art Director, and he said this a few years ago, but anything that's been done in Photoshop is immediately recognisable as having been done in Photoshop.
I don't know if anyone's used Processing here? The kind of interactive sort of...
It gets used for a lot of interactive media arts. The stuff made with Processing is really immediately recognisable as Processing. And, of course, what this leads to is a load of homogeneity. All those kind of bootstrap websites that have got some kind of carousel banner at the top, a little kind of headline, and then three columns of "This is what we do" then some stuff down the bottom.
We've all been there, or used one, or been guilty of making one.
You know, that stuff all starts to look the same. And it sort of puts design in a difficult position. You know, certainly, these days of course, everything is very flat.
And you also see that kind of homogeneity across a lot of different things.
To the point where some stuff becomes unusable. There's a thing on a Microsoft Surface hub that we have at work that drives me absolutely bananas because it's a title that's actually a button and everyone misses it and I discovered it by accident. Now, I go on about this because it's so fundamentally important.
One of the things that I talk about when I talk about the difference between products and services, and I'm going to talk about it in a second, is that management culture and the understanding of general management philosophies, they're an artefact of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to that, in general, you had artisans and craftspeople making something together and they would make a thing and then they would make another thing.
In doing that they had a much more tight interaction with their customers, with their end users, who could talk to them about how they wanted things different most of the time, and talk to each other.
And in the Industrial Revolution all that changed. This sort of tailorist approach to taking everything apart and breaking something complex down into discreet pieces that unskilled labour could create.
So you could just be a person putting on wheels at one end, and someone else putting on windscreen wipers at the other end of an assembly line.
You don't even have to know each other.
You don't have to talk to each other.
And that works because the design of the thing, the object, is not changing its design from one end of the assembly line to the other.
And you need a manager, then, to manage putting it all back together again and organising everything.
The person who's got the kind of big picture. It radically changed society as people moved out of rural society and into cities. It changed education.
Public education arose on the back of that. So, our tools really do shape how we think. The dominant mode of thinking over the last 150 or 200 years has been an industrial one.
And of course now everyone's talking about networks because that's the dominant technology.
Fjord create this trends report every year, It's crowd-sourced across the entire company, now there's about 1000 people in 28 studios around the world and it gets more accurate, usually, you see the patterns because the sample is bigger each year. And we always have one about design and this one this year is called Designing Outside the Lines and really, it's a reaction to this issue of speed. Designers really need to evolve if they're going to stay relevant to organisations and keep having an impact.
It's a really challenging time for our discipline because you've got this proliferation of design-thinking and there's this sort of commodification of that. You've got a demand for products to be scaled, fast, and the potential of emerging technologies. A few people touched on A.I. in the design space but there's also all this other technology so, I think when Diana, yesterday, was talking about should designers code, we've been talking recently about this idea of a full stack designer.
Because you think about it, you've got to be across web, mobile, wearables, nearables, voice U.I., it'll be automotive stuff soon, or autonomous vehicles and so forth, you know, there's a massive range of stuff that we're expected to be curious and actually capable in. But, at the same time, trying to champion an emphasis on design and design craft in a world that's fixated on speed and plagued by sameness. So design craft is essential and it takes time. I gave a talk about this about 15 years ago, it's slightly frustrating.
There was the rise of Flash and I was at a conference where a lot of young, to me, Flash designers, were talking about how quick they could make stuff. It was really the height of vector, vector shard kind of style and a lot of people were starting to do some programmatic stuff in Flash.
Because it was vectors, they could use Flash to kind of render these things and I remember seeing someone, they were like, "Yeah, I just quick stick my headphones on "and really I kind of crank out design in about an hour. "You know, and then I just kind of get onto the next thing." And he was very very proud about that.
And I was just really appalled.
And I felt a bit bad about that.
But, it felt to me, so mindless.
And it felt to me that what had happened is that abstraction aesthetic was a very useful way to be mindless because you're not really thinking about that. And, I also realised about the same time, some version of Flash came out and it had a thousand new methods and I just thought "Ugh, I'm never going to learn this." It's just so hard to keep on that software gravy train, or treadmill of keep learning new stuff.
And it struck me because about that time I got married. And there's a woman called Susan Cohn, she's a quite well known jewellery designer and artist down here in Melbourne, and when she made my wedding ring, it's made out of three different concentric rings that are kind of pressed together.
But they're stepped at one end.
And she had to make a special mould to press those together to make it.
But she didn't have to learn how to make wedding rings all over again and that's kind of what it felt like. Every time there's a new bit of software, I thought, "Oh my God, I've got to start again with half of this." Especially in Flash, Axios Group just kept changing so radically, all of which draws away from you actually honing your craft because you're constantly being reset.
And all of it sort of leads to this issue of just creating all of this digital ephemera. It's kind of who cares? Maybe none of it matters. Perhaps none of it matters at all.
It's all kind of pretty irrelevant, it's all duplicatable. It's all digital.
Who cares, we can copy it, we can just reboot it, we can just throw it away.
None of it matters until it does.
You know, we're kind of talking first world problems with this stuff, a lot of those things.
And, it turns out that first world problems are actually problems. They're just not anything
that Kendall Jenner's going to help us with. That in fact, those things that have become embedded in the fabric of our society, as Sarah was talking yesterday morning, they actually do matter.
The problem is our mindset and the tools we're using create this sense of digital ephemera and then none of it matters.
And it simultaneously makes people feel invincible, and also it doesn't matter.
And it's a kind of weird mix.
And I think that's really what you see, well, she probably feels invincible.
She probably feels like she matters too.
But I think that's also what you're seeing here, is this kind of weird duality of this is all digital, it doesn't really matter, and at the same time I'm invincible.
And it's been very interesting.
Remarkably, I feel a slightly sorry for Mark Zuckerberg. The lonely life of a billionaire.
He just looks really tired and slightly scared in most of these and a bit confused in most of these senate hearings. And, I don't feel that sorry for him, but there's a bit of an empathetic level of a human being where I kind of think, look at his eyes.
Look at the bags under his eyes.
You know, he just looks like, I don't know, looks like he's been crying actually.
The thing that I've really experienced over and over and over again and it's a sort of a combination of all those factors that I've just been talking about.
Is this: That the capability of technology is always overestimated as a solution to things.
And the difficulty of great design is always underestimated. And I just have this conversation over and over again, and I feel like most of our lives are spent having this argument.
The software, the platform is going to solve it, the platform has these features, and we are saying, "No, but features aren't experiences." That's another thing. Features are not experiences.
And that to get this right is going to take time. Yes, but can you do it quicker? But why would you? Why would you do it quicker? Why would you try and think about this in a shorter amount of time when it has such massive ramifications at the other end? It makes no sense.
It's mindless and it really underestimates the complexity of things.
Now I've shown this next diagram before in an earlier version of a talk I gave.
This is the sort of newer version of it.
And this is the products versus services rant. Where's Lisa? She's heard this a few times. Now I know I've lost this argument.
I really do get that I've lost the semantic argument that digital products aren't services.
My brother's a trained industrial designer. It drives me nuts that we talk about digital products because almost everything, the only thing I can think of on my phone that's not really a service is the calculator because it's one of the few things not connecting to anything else.
But even that, arguably your phone is a little service ecosystem anyway, and the jobs to be done, folks, you'd see it that way.
Most digital products aren't products.
This service ecosystem, you have a touchpoint and that touchpoint's existing...
You might have a single touchpoint, and maybe the client's coming to you, saying we've got a problem with people not using this touchpoint or this service properly, or we can't get it right.
But that's always living inside a multi-channel service. As soon as you have anything that connects... I used to have a lot of design students, I used to teach in Switzerland, and my real product design students would say, "No, I'm not interested in service design. "I want to make some object." I go, "Okay. Are you sure? "I really think that idea you have is a service." "No, no, no, I'm not interested in services." And then in a semester before they had to present, they go, "Andy, can I chat to you about services "because I've realised, I've got my product, "it's some new device to kind of measure your pulse "and your blood pressure and it connects to the internet "and you can have all your results up there and stuff, "and I've realised I'm actually making a little service." So, most of those things, and certainly any of our large clients have this thing. It's existing inside of a larger ecosystem. Then part of the job there is how do you make those seamless as they move between one part to the next? But that's always living inside a business ecosystem, which might have several services going on. Atelka has lots of different offerings, for example, from enterprise, to small businesses, to customers, pre-paid, contract, all that kind of stuff. And that's complex.
But that's all living inside PEST, a political, economic, social and technical ecosystem. And the complexity comes from not just the fact that they're layering on top of each other. That's bad enough, but exponentially, the area of complexity gets bigger each time you zoom up a little.
So you get these wicked problems, right? That's problems inside problems, inside problems. And they're all related to each other.
And part of the issue with rushing around and being too fast is not considering that you're actually in this ecosystem and actually moving between these layers all the time. And many many conversations we've had with clients and colleagues, we get in to tie ourselves in knots because we think we're at the same level of one of those diamonds, but in fact we're at different levels, and having a conversation at two different zoom levels. You know I've had conversations about micro-steps of a log-in process when we're still trying to decide is this a thing that the world needs? They're very different.
And really the scale of, certainly of service designs, many people working in UX and digital, is the ability to fluidly and fairly seamlessly and rapidly, move between layers of this conceptually and mentally, and quite effortlessly, often, to a way that really baffles people who've got more of that industrial mindset. So, I like thinking of ecosystems.
And anyone that knows me knows I love a good metaphor. And the reason why I love a good metaphor is because it helps you, and someone was talking about it earlier.
It helps reset the mental model.
You take one mental model, and it's why I get annoyed about the products and services things, because when you use the language and use the understanding of a certain kind of mental model, it brings all the baggage with it.
And metaphors can help reset that and recalibrate it. And the one I like a lot, is I think we're doing stuff that's much more like landscape architecture and gardening, than it is sort of about products.
So this is Stoke Park, it's in Buckinghamshire in England. The building's by a guy called James Wyatt. He was King George III's architect.
There's a great bit about this.
The owner of it was a guy called John Penn. So, this was built in sort of early or late 18th century. John Penn is billed as a soldier, scholar and poet. And I just think that's a really nice combination. It really tells you a lot about the era.
But the best bit about it, he spent the best part of £130,000 building this. That would get you a lock-up garage in Sydney if you were lucky.
And someone's gone and screwed it up now and turned it into a golf course, as golf just does to everything.
Good way to ruin a great walk.
The landscaping was done by two greats of landscape architecture, Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton in the late 18th century.
And there's something about this that really resonates with me as a metaphor. Capability Brown, he designed over 170 parks, many of which still exist today, and that's a couple of hundred years later. You know, there's some humility and there's some long term thinking in that. You can decide to plant a copse of trees somewhere and you could even plant fairly mature trees, and not just tiny little things.
But, he must've known, "I'm never going to see this.
"The vision I have in my head of a kind of mature garden, "of rolling hills and all this kind of fully grown through, "I'm not going to see this in my lifetime." It's really quite humbling.
And at the same time there's an ecosystem factor in gardening, which I'll get back to you later on but you plant things and you create things and you put stuff somewhere, and then you realise it doesn't work, and that stuff grows. And what you do is you think, "That tree has grown much quicker that I thought it was, "and now it's casting shadow over these shrubs here "and they're dying off. I'm going to have to move those." Or, "That thing that I thought was going to grow "really well there isn't" and you cut it back or you spend some more time on it and fertilise it, or you pull it out.
So, it's this constant thing.
You don't make a garden and then go, "Okay, I'm done, shipped.
"Shipped the garden, we don't have to do anything "to that anymore." (Audience laughs) It's a constant tending to the whole thing. And that's why I like that as a metaphor and a mindset. But you can also learn from architecture.
I keep this sketch of my Opera House.
(Audience laughs) I keep this sketch of the Sydney Opera House on my desktop as a reminder of a few things. One is, it was once an idea.
You know, it's such a kind of massive symbol of Sydney and I see it twice a day on my commute.
It's such an archetype, it's just this kind of icon. But at some point it was just an idea.
It could have been something else.
It didn't win the competition initially.
It wasn't selected.
It did win the competition, it initially wasn't selected for the shortlist.
The committee had selected some other buildings and the Chair of the committee decided he wasn't very happy with the blocky buildings that the committee had chosen so he went back through the reject pile and this was the one he picked out.
The whole idea of this is that, Utzon was saying that the gift of the architects to society is to bring the people joy from their surroundings that they create.
It's really thinking about what's the impact that this has. He was thinking about, when people approach Bennelong Point from different angles, what should be the experience? He wanted it to be a free standing sculpture so you could see it from every angle and he had all these different influences and the buildings in Mexico that have these really long broad steps, and you kind of walk up to them and you're sitting up there and kind of looking down, that's why the Opera House has these really long steps in front of it, that people sit on, and now they take selfies of themselves on it. But part of that is as you walk up those steps and you see the sails of the Opera House, there are no skyscrapers behind it.
You know, this idea of whichever angle you're looking at as you move around, it's always changing.
So he was basically kind of doing UX with a building. He was really thinking about what should the experience of this building be? And doing lots of different sketches.
There's this thing called the Red Book in the New South Wales State Archives.
You can see all the sketches and notes, and his commentary about it, it's really interesting. But he also wanted to build a building that faced outwards, rather than normal sort of blocky buildings, skyscrapers, they're quite sort of egotistical, much like many of the people working in them, and they kind of face inwards, they're all about themselves, whereas the Opera House is very much about the space around it.
It's interesting, I was reading through the submission for this to be a World Heritage site and I didn't know this, this was quite recent I found this out.
But he was saying, "The separation of architecture and engineering "that had begun in the 19th century," begun, really also around the Industrial Revolution, it "wasn't responsive to the complex nature "of modern architecture." And so previously it had been a waterfall process; design the thing, throw it over to the engineers, who build the wall.
And, instead, it turns out, he was one sprint ahead. "We made the working drawings just ahead "of the actual construction going on at the building site "so the development wasn't very far "from what was actually going on at the site at the time." Because we all have that thing, where we design to think, and this is the difference between design thinking and design doing.
And it gets lost quite often, which is, you make something in order to think about it. Another metaphor of describing this, or explaining this, is if you've ever either tried to chat someone up or try to break up with someone, and you've planned out that conversation in you head very carefully, or had a difficult conversation, it doesn't have to be the breakup one, but you know, one of those conversations where you'd been thinking about it, maybe the night before you think, "I'm going to say that, "and then he's going to say this, "and then she's going to do that." And then you start speaking and it all just comes out wrong. Or you're standing up here doing one of these things and what you thought was going to be brilliant is complete failure.
It's because as you start making it tangible, all the ideas we have in our heads, they're Platonic, they're these perfect forms, and as soon as you make it tangible, it just goes so wrong sometimes.
And so, he talks all the time in this about we started to do something, we built a model and we realised that it was never going to work when we built the model. And so we went back.
He was going constantly back and forth between an idea and a sketch, to making quite detailed plans and making models, and in this case they're starting to actually build the thing and having those moments and going, "No, it's not going to work".
And he goes back and sketches stuff.
Now, part of that, the problem was that it ended up being 10 times as expensive and massively overran in terms of time and poor old Utzon never saw it completed before he died. That sort of works here because construction is inherently slow.
It's less slow now.
It's why you get a lot of really awful buildings. And when you get a lack of long term thinking, it can be really deadly.
This is the Grenfell Tower in London.
71 people died because of some really shitty thinking and not spending the time to think it through, and I guarantee that the money they would have saved on that cheap-ass cladding, they would have blown somewhere else in some RFP process. But there are some positive ones too.
You probably all saw that they fired up these things called TCM Thrusters on the Voyager recently. It took 19.5 hours for the signal to get there. They got all the assembler code out, and they kind of went through it all, and they've worked out, "We think this is going to work," so how to use these thrusters.
It hadn't been fired up for 37 years.
And they were firing them up in these little millisecond bursts.
And they were designed for something else.
They were designed for constant thrust.
19.5 hours to send it, 19.5 hours later they get the signal back, they work perfectly.
I can't think of a car that would start after 37 years, in zero temperatures.
And part of that is about thinking long, and thinking in terms of what are people going to need, generations from now, not just what's the next sprint team going to be? So I'm going to leave you.
I'm going to try to see if I can hit the time. I'm going to leave you with four principles and a metaphor. This is probably an age thing now.
I'm showing my age. This, in my head, is a film that was just a couple of years ago. I used to get this all the time with my students, where I'd say, "So you know that film, Four Weddings and a Funeral?" They'd go...
And I'd go, "You know," and I'd look it up and I can't remember when it was, 1990-something. Did someone just say? Does someone know the year? Off by heart? Watches it everyday.
And they were going, "No, I was two years old then, Andy." And I'd go...
There's nothing like students to make you feel old because you just get older...
What was it? '94? Thank you.
(Audience laughs) Jesus. So was I, I was just advanced in my development. Yeah, students, they kind of stay the same age in a way because you're just getting this new intake. On their application forms I just see their birth years get higher and higher.
Yeah, and there I was thinking I was young, and trendy and connected to them, and then I realised that I'm just a different generation. So here we go. One of them is design for long-term and worst case scenarios. You know, NASA is classic for this, because you don't get to do a second one.
The fact they do two because they have one that's still... They always build an exact replica of the thing and keep it on earth so that they can work out what's going on if something's out there in space. There is no other, well, there's other Voyagers, obviously, but there's only one of these, and if it doesn't work, if something fails, it just fails, and then it becomes a bit of debris that's floating around, gets hit by an asteroid.
So, designing those kind of long-terms, what are you delivering to, not just now, but what are you delivering to future generations taking on your problems in the future? Most of us are suffering the ramifications of some baby boomer lack of thinking long-term, because back then it felt like resources and fossil fuels, they were just going to go on forever.
So this is obviously quite a big issue and something to think about on a societal level but even in the more micro-work that we're doing, thinking about what you're going to be handing off to other people is a very healthy sanity check. I look back at some of the work that I've done years ago, and I pull out the files if I can still read them, on the old laptop that I was using back then. And I can't make head nor tail of the code I wrote or some of the stuff that I was doing, I just had no idea, and I kind of hate my younger self for doing that. So, also thinking through what could be the possible worst case scenarios.
When 3D printing first happened, and people said, "Well, what if someone 3D prints a gun?" And the makers of the 3D printers said, "No one's going to 3D print a gun." And of course the first thing that people do is 3D print a gun.
Humans are idiots.
And we gravitate towards creating worst case scenarios, so think of them.
The other one is design for ecosystems and not products. As each part affects the whole, your piece, it could be your tiny bit of UI, and really sometimes it's tiny UI things that cause major problems.
We all know the Hawaii incident.
So your piece might really be the butterfly that causes the hurricane.
The reason why this is not a snail and not a butterfly is there's a story that I think just sums this up so well.
There was a guy called Stephen Jay Gould.
Has anyone read any of his stuff? Ahh.
Read some of it.
He was a scientist and a biologist I think. And he wrote a book, one of his early books, it was one of those sort of earlier popular science writers. He was sort of Steven Pinker, from 20 years ago. And he wrote a book called Eight Little Piggies, and there are lots of different things in it. And one them, he tells this story about this island, Mo'orea, Mo'orea? Mo'orea. And there was a botanist, I think in the 18th century and he spent his whole life, really his whole entire life's work trudging through mud and measuring the sizes of snails and making this kind of amazing record of snails so that future generations would have...
It wasn't even for himself.
So future generations would have this snapshot. They could measure 100 years later and see how snails had evolved.
Amazingly sort of selfless task.
Buckets of snails and mud.
The governor of this island, he had introduced these African snails, which are quite a lot bigger because his lady friend liked eating snails. It was a French colony, I believe.
And you got more meat from these snails.
And of course these snails, they escaped the garden and they started destroying the habitat of the native snails.
So what did they do? Much like Australia, they got these other snails, and it's these ones here, they're called Euglandina. Euglandina.
And, they are cannibal snails.
They're sometimes known as Wolf Snails.
And they eat other snails.
So, brilliant, we'll introduce those, they're going to eat those African snails and we'll be fine.
And of course what happened was they left the African snails completely alone, didn't make a dent, ate all the other snails, the native snails, and then proceeded to infest the island, to completely destroy the ecosystem for snails at least, but also completely nullified and destroyed this guys' life work, who had spent ages building this record up.
So, yeah, any tiny bit you make might have that effect. So that's why thinking in terms of ecosystems is so important.
All the talk about government services, this is one of the areas where that stuff really makes a difference.
Some small things like a form or a process that takes a bit too long, or demanding a bit of data that's very hard to come by, marginalises a whole group of people, and can end up having huge ramifications.
I've talked about him before, but I nearly didn't put Gandhi up there because it's such a fucking cliche, it's really terrible. But, balancing ego with humility.
It takes a certain amount of ego to be in our industry, to be a designer.
'Cause you really have to think that I, designer, am going to draw something down and create something and bring it into the world and that it's really important. And it's important enough that the world is going to take notice or need it and only I can see how the world should be loads better and wouldn't it be better if designers around the world... Come on, you've all thought, the whole life of a designer is just walking around, at least it is for me, going "Why is it done like that "when they could have done it like this? "And why have they done this? "And look what they've done here with that button. "They should have done that check box like that. "And why is that carpet like this?" Drives my wife absolutely bananas.
But at the same time, you need a certain humility that I was talking about before.
Gandhi's a really interesting example.
If you spend the time watching the film, just don't do what I did.
It was like 11 P.M. and I decided I'd watch the film and I forgot that it's like 3.5 hours long. But it's really interesting because there's a bit in it where he's sitting opposite the British Raj, and they say, "Well, what do you expect us to do? "Just pack up and leave?" And he says, "Yes. That's exactly what I expect you to do." And he's so incredibly stubborn.
So you have to have a certain amount of ego but at the same time he's got this kind of humility, it's a really kind of interesting balance.
You know it's important to remember that there is a world outside of your purview and that you're just here for kind of a blink of an eye. And then the other one is to go slow to go faster. You need to go slow sometimes in order to go fast in the right direction later on. Real sprinters don't sprint all the time.
Now I've heard sprint teams who are sprinting for like three months, six months a year.
A real sprinter doing that? They'd just die. And, you know, I've seen sprint teams be pretty close to that as well.
You have to have time for recovery time, for reflection, time for training, time for an analysis for what you've been doing, and fine-tuning.
I was really heartened to see that Usain Bolt said this, that sleep's so important, you know, he needs time "To rest and recover "in order for the training I do "to be absorbed by my body." So I'm planning to have a very long sleep and I'll wake up with a body like Usain Bolt. (Audience laughs) So here's the metaphor.
I don't know if anyone knows this, but there was a book... I'm a child of hippy parents.
My parents had this book by John Seymour, called The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency. And I used to really like these illustrations in it. And it basically told you how to have your own little home, farm, and garden and do everything yourself, everything from planting stuff to slaughtering a pig, to making a belt and your own shoes and the whole lot. And what was quite nice about it is it goes through all different areas, but he has this whole thing of the four seasons of the garden, and you have your summer garden, and then you have the spring garden, and you have all the rest of it.
And then all the different things you have to do to different parts of the garden at different times. And I've been thinking that this is quite a nice metaphor for design, to think in terms of seasons.
Now you're going to wonder why I haven't started with research here, as the first thing.
I'm going to start with Spring and it'll make sense why I've started here in a second.
'Cause in Spring, you're kind of doing your synthesis, doing your concepting, the first buds of ideas. You might sort of get into Alpha and Beta and maybe even a pilot.
And then when you get into Summer, you know, that's launch right? Happy days.
Scaling, you're managing the kind of garden. The garden I used to have in Germany, it was quite a big garden, it was a very mature garden. Summer, it just used to explode.
A couple of weeks where it'd just suddenly go really out of control.
And all I could do was just snip a few bits here and there and I'd just have to wait for Summer to take its course. And it was an amazing process and constantly changing. And, you know, that's the hockey stick moment, that's when you've got your second round of E.C. funding for a startup or for when everything seems to be going well. And then you sort of move into Autumn.
In Autumn you harvest, you're harvesting the cash, your exit plan, or you're really looking at the data that's being produced here, and you reevaluate and you pare stuff back, and you cut back things that have overgrown a bit too much. You fix stuff, you repair things.
This is where you spend some time rewriting some of the code, paying back your technical or experience debt. And you're stocking up for Winter.
And then in Winter you stop.
And this is the bit that gets lost so often. In Winter you stop and you recover and you take stock. You do your research, there's time to start thinking there's time for dreaming about the next bit. And it's time to get ready for Spring.
And this is the bit where you get to be mindful, in particular.
You should be mindful all the way through but this is the bit where you actually have that moment of breathing and have the chance to try some things out because there's nothing else to do, because it's a deep dark winter and you're stuck inside. This is actually in Germany, for a nice Winter landscape.
The whole point, the reason I didn't start here, because you might think that this is the start of a project, isn't it? And maybe it is.
The cycle never ends.
One of the things that I like about it as a metaphor is many of us will find ourselves being thrown into one of those seasons we often don't get the choice.
And you don't really get the choice about when the seasons start or stop in real life either.
They're forced upon you, but there's a kind of repetitive rhythm to it, so you sort of know what to do in each season but it's not as predictable as you'd like it to be, there's suddenly been a warm snap here and it's been freezing cold in Europe.
Lucy mentioned this thing before, from Acme, that services, also, those things never end. It's like the garden. It's never finished.
And they blend into each other, and sometimes one is unexpectedly long and some things are unexpectedly short.
But their rhythm of life, which I think resonates with us as human beings, I don't have a clear idea of what exactly you would do in each of those cause I've only just been thinking about it but it struck me that perhaps there's a more sane and more humane and certainly more long term way of thinking about what we do.
So that's the metaphor.
I shall leave you with that to do with what you will. Thank you very much for listening.
(Audience applause) (Rhythmic synth music)