BBC News – Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes

For 75 years, Finland's expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It's like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world's lowest infant mortality rates.

It's a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it's designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they're from, an equal start in life.

The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.

What an amazing design thinking story. This is just like our LOLA box, only even more sustainable. Look at the history of the design over the centuries and see how context and time changed it. I would make one side removable so it becomes a bed-side bed.

Building Stories

Here are some funny interactive animations of the design thinking of three famous british architects Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, and Terry Farrell. Nicole Lotz has consulted on the content and design of these animations. They are called Building Stories.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 09.59.59

The stories were created in support of the BBC Four series The Brits Who Built The Modern World. It was also inspired by the RIBA season of eventsExternal link  that tell the story of why and how British architecture developed globally from 1750 to the present.

Herman the Humanist

I have to admit to being a huge fan of Herman Hertzberger but even given such a prejudice, you have to admit that he really did start with people and their behaviour when considering buildings.

So it was great to come across the man discussing some of his own ideas on Youtube :



Now, I'm note entirely convinced by some of the detail he gives about why people might be doing things with the building elements, but that doesn't matter. The simple fact is that he is aware that they do this and he is also completely aware that different people will do very different things.

To quote that Lloyd chap :

That hollow feeling is the feeling of being manipulated by a building with a purpose. The purpose being to deliver an experience, like a ride at a fair ground. It might seem interesting and exciting at the time, but it's soon forgotten. What we tend to remember are the people we meet, the unexpected conversations we might have, and the funny things that happen to us; the human things that connect us. Of course these things can happen in iconic buildings, but the buildings themselves aren't helping us when they manage us through an experience in our own little bubbles, coughing us up into the gift shop at the end. (Lloyd, 2011)

And yes, I know it's hard to do this in practice but Hertzberger was also a superhero at doing this at very low cost. Some of the most effective elements he discusses in that video don't really make that much difference to the capital cost of a building.

So if anyone is thinking about becoming an architect remember this – you don't need to be an architect to start.

You just need to be human.

Green Design through to Sustainable Innovation

Ok, this is arguably a bit more advanced than U101 core material but the Autodesk videos on Design for Lifetime and some of the Sustainable Design series are pretty good overviews of some of the main issues.

Here's the intro to Design for lifetime:


Now, apart from the cheesy music, the rest in the series intorduce the different cycles and processes of Green Design, Sustainable Design and Sustainable Innovation (those are T307 terms…).

A really nice way to visualise the lifecycle recycle/reuse pathways is given at the end of this next video (at about 3:46) :


And there are a few other nice ones there for the engineers in the audience…

A word of caution, though. This is very much an introduction to the topic and it definitely glosses over the real-world difficulties in actually trying to implement this in practice.

Engaging in Sustainable Innovation is difficult – necessarily so, it's a complex design thinking problem. To engage in genuinely sustainable innovation requires designers to think beyond their products or specific domains and really think about the wider implications.

For me, though, the simple examples given of designing fixings for assembly and dis-assembly are perfect examples of those little design details that make a huge difference. Just a small bit of detailed, considered design thinking is all it takes.


[Photo: Sundeep Bali]

Came across this very thought-provoking article, What Falls to Hand, on creative and innovative re-use of resources. 

What really struck me abou this were the cultural aspects attached to it. which the author calls Jugaad:

Indians have a word for such startling ingenuity in the face of adversity. It’s called jugaad (pronounced joo-gar), a colloquial Hindi term that roughly means “doing more with less.”

And in Kenya:

What is known in Kenya as jua kali, or entrepreneurial spirit, has enabled people there to envision heaps of worn-out tires as the feedstock for the soles of sandals

Orin Mexico:

Consider the concept of rasquachismo, the Mexican cousin of jugaad. Among Chicanos, it has traditionally referred to the “worldview of the have-not,” in which a work-around solution to a practical need “suggests vulgarity and bad taste — tackiness,” writes Jose Anguiano. [3] But in recent years musicians and artists have celebrated rasquachismo with pride, even swagger.

In the UK, post-war Britain viewed re-use and making-do as a reminder of austerity during the war, leading to the explosion of product, interior and fashion design in the 60's and 70's. The cultural attitude to re-use did vary but the predominant view was one of 'new is better'. As with any social pattern, this has ebbed and flowed, but ultimately, our entire economic model is premised on the continual replacement of objects – not their efficient repair, re-use or re-purposing.

The article also explores the dangers of romanticising views of re-use due to necessity:

Other critics argue that raising jugaad to a national virtue is a symptom of neoliberal economics and the privatization of public responsibility. To laud the poor for their "adaptive capacity," writes Oxford professor of geography Craig Jeffrey in The Guardian, is in effect to suggest that if “barefoot entrepreneurs” are able to "'pull themselves up by their own bootstraps' there is little need for the state to wade in with things like effective training, cheap credit, and a decent public infrastructure.”

So, as with many other aspects of creativity and innovation, the psychological, social and cultural aspects are the real drivers here – and the cultural differences might provide a clue to the 'flavour' of jugaad. Fischer sums this up beautifully with this:

This extensive innovation infrastructure emerges from a more fundamental cultural ethic: people are taught from childhood to improvise by acknowledging — even honoring — scarcity and finding the possibilities within it. Everywhere in my travels in India, I encountered evidence of this mindset. A sign above the trashbin at a highway McDonald’s urged patrons to return unopened packets of condiments to servers.


‘The end of User-centered Design?’ …

A really intereseting talk from August de los Reyes (@augustdir) questioning user-centered design.


I think there are some very strong points in here – and the headline of the end of user-centered design is certainly just that. This, if you like, considers human-centered design rather than 'users' – like the tool analogy, the word user is an abstraction of the thing we design for, not the thing we need to design for.

I can see lots of interesting links here…

openIDEO release their University Toolkit


openIDEO have just announced their University Toolkit to encourage universities engaging with openIDEO:

We've been blown away by the university stories you've shared with us, so to help support your efforts to bring OpenIDEO to even more campuses, we're excited to publish our OpenIDEO University Toolkit – a short, fun guide for OpenIDEO newcomers and veterans alike.


It's definitely not as extensive as the IDEO Toolkit for Educators, which is a real shame, but it's interesting to see their basic process enshrined in there: Inspiration, Concepting, Refinement, Evaluation, Realisation.