Conclusions and next steps

So: What are the ingredients of succes of a design project? Reports and notes from: Martine Posthuma de Boer (Virtual Platform), Hugo Manassei (Nesta), Lorna Goulden (Philips Design), Lucas Verwij (Premsela), Rory Hamilton (Royal College of Art), Simon Niedenthal (Malmo University), Dirk van Oosterbosch.


The context of the project - public, academic, commercial, or a mixture of these- will influence the criteria defined for the project to be succesful.
(Which is why some people talk about "designing the context").

Project Planning And Management

An increasingly complex field. We have to deal with a multitude of factors:
- multi-disciplinary team composition;
- a competitive environment (shrinking pie; more hungry researchers);
- a growing variety of technical means;
- government and other institutes wanting more influence and control;
- the difficulty of communicating the designed processes and solutions back to the funders, and to other stakeholders including the public;
- involvement and engagement of real people, with their own, real problems: this brings projects to life but complicates matters a lot.

Formulating Project Objectives And Criteria For Success

Can exist at multiple levels:
- the project itself;
- the politics (small p) affecting partners and stakeholders;
- the project team and management;
- the design or research process.
- of course all projects need be "innovative" - but be aware that this word means different things to different people; also be aware that the compulsion to be innovative can itself be a constraint on projects (eg if "innovation" is understoodf to mean technical innovation);
- design-in time/space/resources for the unexpected.
- a project ideally needs to deliver something that is going to be used - something with the potential to take on a life of its own in the public domain;
- projects need to meet their objectives; this sounds obvious - but it follows that the objectives have to be carefully designed and understood by all stakeholders at the start;
- brave failures look good on your cv;
- a successful project needs to be sustainable - ie there will be enough time, people and resources to keep it going.

Politics, Partners And Stakeholders

- selecting and engaging partners is itself a design action - and a critical one;
- "only do projects with people you like";
- build projects on the basis of transparency between and among partners; (easier said than done, but vital for success later on);
- assume that projects will involve connecting with and among networks (government, business, academics etc.); make sure that there is enough money/time for this;
- be prepared to manage politics, egos and personalities (ie rather than hoping these will take care of themselves);
- explicitly manage the balancing of the different agendas of parties and people involved (designers, partners, other stakeholders);
- communicate in different 'languages' to different people involved;
- marketing people/departments tend to be good at the above: try to get them involved;
- yes, get top people to sponsor and support the project; but beware of going to the top when troubles arise - this can backfire;
- don't only go for big companies; small entities can be livelier and more fun to work with;
- the CEO or Minister's ambitious young gofer/slave can be an even better ally: he/she will be desperate for a project to impress his/her boss with.

Team & Management

- budget 50 percent of project time for communication among partners, stakeholders, within team, to outside world;
- (few projects budget enough time time and budget for co-ordination);
- be prepared to take on different and fusing roles - teacher, marketeer, psychologist etc.

Process Rather Than Product

- we are increasingly designing processes, rather than services or products = easier said than done.
- how do we measure succes? what/where are "process metrics"?
- how to measure return of investment? How to prove that funding is well spent, when a project deals with more subjective matters?
- what does a process look like? (this is a large design challenge by itself);
- how to deal with intellectual property (IP)?
- a project is a service, you could say, and needs to be designed using service design tools;
- who owns a collaborative process? How do you give respect to the designers of projects that have inspired, but not directly led to, sellable solutions?;
- design in the time and communication of the evaluation at the start (otherwise it only gets done at the end, as a formality, and is often therefore not effective);
- "processes" are about people; never de-populate processes;

Also overheard:

- "Empirical measurement is now the main way to create data that is trusted. Empirical data are good for old sciences but design is about people and perception, not numbers." (Jon Rogers)
- "Breaking patterns" and "subversive use of technology" are success factors (Marcus Kirsch on his and Jussi's pigeon project)
- Lucas Verweij: "This is not what I call a project. This is a place, and a problem, but not a project".
- "Why Do This At All?": Do we ask this question enough?
- Public sector = 65% GDP - Skunk Space is vital (Alan)
- Is there a danger of "the tyranny of the useful" (Monica Narula)?
- Is there a design equivalent of "fundamental research"?
- We should have heard more about projects that went wrong
- The Natural Step's funding comes from: 57% Foundation Grants | 16% Individual Donations | 02 % Corporate Donations (!) | 25% Earned Income