Seminar Highlights: Policy Innovation and Inclusive Design

It's definitely a tough day and a day that many of us will never forget. 

I admit that I am not into politics and I don't pay much attention to news either. Therefore, I won't comment much on what happened and why.

So why this post?

As a designer and a student at the Royal College of Art, I had the privellge of attending to two insightful lectures today (making this surrpressing day a productive day): first it was the Service Design Seminar on public service innovation presented by Marco Steinberg, founer of Snowcone & Haystack and Andrea Siodmok, Head of the Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office; second it was John Maeda, discussing about 'Computational Design and Inclusion'. 

Highlights & Takeaways

  • The world is full of 'centers', not only 'a center'.
    No single voice (or perhaps we should say the 'mainstream' voice) should be able to represent the entire crowds.

Air Canada flight route map

Air Canada flight route map

  • Rethinking the definition of 'a good government'? 
    We’ve been led by those ‘successful leaders’  (or even their sons and daughters) hence lag of realizing the shift in reality. Does the success in the past still fit for today's society? Or does it blind us from seeing the reality? What role does the government play? Should they offer support in enabling the people to do the things people care about?
  • We need 'a portfolio approach' to change.
    Currently, there are many projects running in parallel but does not align to a mutual interest, therefore leading to resource waste and inefficiency. Projects need to add up to positive change. It is crucial to understand how each projects are connected and acknowledge the interests of different parties.
  • We are moving from risk to uncertainty.
    We cannot and should not handle uncertainty the same way we handle risks. Risk - Measurable by statistics; whereas, Uncertainty - Lack of measurement, no precedent (ie. climate change, policy transformation). Plan implement and change should happen at the same time, not a process. And the role of design here is to transform uncertainty to risk (through prototyping) and nudge towards solution.
  • Admit being ignorant, remove presumptions.
    Sometimes, we don't mean to be exclusive. We thought we were considering 'everyone', but that 'everyone' is just someone like 'you'. John Maeda gave the example of Snapchat not being able to capture black people's face on their face filter function. It is not that the designers/developers at Snapchat are intentionally exluding people of color, it's just that when they tested the product there were no black people on the team.
  • Just because it was easy, doesn't mean there is no 'learning' involved.
    Compare between cars and cameras: cars are bigger than camers but their maunal size are significantly the opposite. Why? Because we had to take driving lessons and pass the test in order to drive, but there's no test required before purchasing a camera (right?) 
  • Good things take time.
        - esign is about finding patterns. 
        - esign is best when familiarity + Novel
        - cheiving simplicity is complex
  • Start doing it...
        - Change the default
        - Work at the extremes
        - Take on the impossible

I found the two talks very inspiring and reflect upon the current social issues that is happening around the world (not limited to the US election today). Yes, I admit that I know too little, and perhaps ignorant in someway, maybe being too comfortable in my bubble – it's time to change that.

Global Futures Forum: The Dislocated World (Part I)

'Shocks and surprises are the new normal and brands need to begin to anticipate change.'

I attended the Global Futures Forum on the 12th October, 2016 at the Shoreditch Town Hall. The forum was organized by The Future Laboratory, a research consultancy for trend forecasting. Due to the extensive content, I will try my best to tease out the highlights. Maybe seperate the post into 2 parts, so keep an eye out for the continuous post!

The Global Futures Forum is an all day event from 8am-6pm, consisted of talks, panel discussions, as well as experiential activities that are showcases of uprising startups consulted by The Future Laboratory. The topics ranged from technology, neuroscience, to hospitality, luxury brands and even food and drinks.

The conference kicked off with a short video The Dislocated World, addressing the current disruptive changes around the world, and how the current socio-economic climate is affecting consumer attitudes. It further identified the top nine words that people are most concerned and fear for in the future. That being said, when people have fear, that's where opportunity rises – are we ready for transformation?

Opening introduction by Chris Sanderson, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory

Opening introduction by Chris Sanderson, Co-founder of The Future Laboratory

Martin Raymond and Chris Sanderson, both co-founders of The Future Laboratory unpacked the dislocated world that we live in and characterized it as following:

1. Distrust

Discarded Futures: The systemic distrust of the organizations and businesses, whether it be banks, government, or even like recently with the Samsung case. Profit at any cost has become a one-way street to failure. According to Boston Consulting Group, "75% of senior executives in investment firms agree a company's sustainability performance is materially important to their investment decisions." Trust in financial services have decreased from 13% in 2015 to 8% in 2016. How to reinvent and recreate trust in the system is crucial. 

2. Disconnection

Technological Discord: Not everyone has access to the internet and can afford to get online; Bio-enhancement technology has the potential to divide society into those that can and those that cannot afford it. Scarcity becomes a commodity that nobody has enough of anything. 

3. Disenfranchisement

Rising Disenfranchisement: Those at the margin of the society, increasingly feeling disadvantaged. The richest 1% now have as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. Everything that we have created since the industrial revolution hasn't actually necessarily created all of the improvements that we would like to perceived. Our quality of living is no longer increasing, in fact, it is reversing. 

4. Disgust

Income Disconnection has also contributed to the economic and social changes. Millennials cannot afford to invest in what their forebears considered the traditional markers of success. For the first time over 130 years, living with your parents has become the most likely living arrangement for young adults aged 18-34 in the US, stated by the Pew Research Center. The definition of success and 'ideal life stages' may no longer be applicable in todays' society. 

5. Disorder

Demand Control: Everyone wants to be in control – whether it being their jobs, their bodies, their food, and many things in life. However, are we really in control of these things? Or are they being dominated by the greater system, and how much control do we really have? 

Source: The Future Laboratory

Source: The Future Laboratory

Although there seem to be many challenges in front of us, it's the perspective that matters. The opportunity sits behind the negative figures. How do we move forward? We must understand the consumer behaviors and forces in the dislocated world:

1. Automation Anxiety

People fear losing their jobs to automation. In the UK, almost a third of retail jobs are expected to vanish by 2025; McCann Japan has recently hired its first AI creative director; and according to Moshe Vardi, professor of computer science at Rice University, "Machines could take 50% of jobs in the next 30 years."

2. Uncaring Economy

The rise of the gig economy has led to labourers feeling volatile. The lowest earners in the US typically have 30% change in income from month to month (JP Morgan). People are insecure to make plans in advance due to the large differences in their financial support.

3. Post-Materialism

Product-led brands are finding it difficult to appeal to those who place less value on materialism. 72% of Millennials want to spend more on experiences than physical things. The intangible experiences and emotions become a selling 'product'. In China, 61.9% of Generation D teens no longer believe financial accomplishment is the main signifier of success. There is a shift in mindset that is more about how you live your life. (RTG Consulting). 

4. Media Fatigue

People are tired of spending their emotional energy on content that causes anxiety. We are overwhelmed by information and that the content definitely requires filter of some kind. Ad-blocker usage ranges from 12% in South Korea to 38% in Poland and 36% in Greece. However, when designing the filter, we also need to think carefully about the consequences of our selections. "Most of us have empathy, but we can't spend all of our emotional energy on terrorism", said Hilda Burke, psychotherapist. 

5. Control Anxiety

People are now less willing to hand over their personal data. Security (51%) and privacy (35%) rank as top definition of future luxury. The assumption that users will willingly share personal data in return for personalized services is wrong (Mary Clark, Syniverse). It's now the businesses' challenge to think how to reward the users to release their data. 

6. Decentrailisation Society

New technology is forcing old financial, cultural and democratic models to adapt or desist. We no longer need centralized services: in the future, we can buy our music directly from the artist and skipping the middle man (Imogen Heap, Mycelia).

7. Dislocated Labor

The competitive nature of our society is pushing us to work and exceed our natural limits. One shocking statitics – 26% of students at Oxford University have taken or are taking Modafinil (pills that keep one awake and energized). The effort and sacrifices we make in order to stay focus, to acheive and to compete is dramatic – and is that really what we want continuing moving to the future?

8. Access Exclusion

New technologies may create greater division in society. Definition of poor used to based on the access to food and space, but now it's access to TV or even wifi. We live in 'internet poverty' society: US families in poor areas are five times more likely than affluent ones to have no access to high-speed broadband (Center for Public Integrity). So would our future quality of life be determined based on our AR experiences? "With every new technology, there is legitimate concern about the impact it may have on us," commented by Dr. Thomas Metzinger, Johannes Gutenberg University. 

Martin stregthens here, "For those business innovations, it's not just the impact but also the unintended consequences of technology. Take mobile phones for example, they have not become one of the most successful terrorism tool. Do we panalize all telephone businesses for creating such effective and powerful weapon?"

I am going to pause on this powerful thought...

Design with intentions but also consider the possible consequences of unintentionals.

How might we create innovation values, working with the products, systems and experiences? What kind of experiences are we trying to create? Will be back for more exciting updates! Stay tunned.

*P.S. I didn't come across many articles on the Global Futures Forum, but here's a nice one by Nicola Kemp, Campaign – a summary of David Rowan's talk The Seven Rules of Successful Disruption

Solo Dining Series: Princi


  • Restaurant Name: Princi
  • Total Spending: £12
  • Dining Duration: 30 min (6:00 – 6:30)
  • Awkward Level: 1/5
  • Seating: Bar table by the wall
  • Interaction with waiters/waitress: 2 times

Pre-dining Expectation

I have passed by Princi many times, but it just never occured to me to walk in and eat for some reasons. One is probably becuase when I'm usually in the area, I am usually with other people, and they tend to lead and choose the places. Two is that the place looked more like a chained restaurant/cafeteria, which are not exactly the type of places I would like to go. When I eat out, I like to explore and potentially finding some hidden gems. I was quite surprised to discovered that Princi is actually not a big chain (not in London, in Milan though).

Once I entered, the wait staffs could probably see the confused look on my face. There were two different areas in the place, and I was trying to figure out why. A manager came up to me and asked, "First time here?" I told him it was my first time and he explained how the place works. They have a pizzeria, which is made-to-order and offers table services, on the left and self-serve food counters on the right. With the self-serving sections, they have a great variety of choices, from cakes, pastries, breads to sliced pizzas and selections of salads. 

With a big plate, you can select up to four different 'dishes'. I got a green salad, pumpkins with creme, beetroots, and quinoa with salmon; and then ordered for a bottle of sparkling water to go with it. It's like eating at a buffet, but instead of getting your own food, they help you to put on the plate. I looked around and found a spot at the bar table, which was facing the wall with some weird water fountain setting. I would prefer the window seats, but it was already mostly taken and I didn't want to sit right next to other people. 

Since I had nothing to do or see while eating, I decided to read on my iPad. The food was nothing surprising but tasted not bad. I liked the fact that I could create my own combination. It didn't take me long until I got full, I couldn't finish the whole thing. So I just sat there reading, and picked on some more food here and there once in awhile. I liked the feeling that I don't feel rushed by the latter customers coming to eat. I could take my time and eat. 

Always room for desserts

I was at the hair salon earlier today, and my stylist told me there's a dairy-free ice cream place called Yorica. I have recently decided to cut out dairy products from my diet and testing out whether my skin condition would improve. Coincidentally, it was just right across the street, so I decided to give it a try. I first tried the ice cream flavors, but since it was made with coconut milk, the coconut flavor was quite strong, which I am not a fan of. I then tried their fro-yo, which was less coconuty, so I ended up getting a vanilla and matcha fro-yo topped with some fruits. 

This time, I sat next to the window and just watching the passersby. It just felt really relaxing and a good ending for the meal. 

135 Wardour St, London W1F 0UT
020 7478 8888

Solo Dining Series: The Palomar


  • Restaurant Name: The Palomar
  • Total Spending: £49
  • Dining Duration: 1 hr (6:45 – 7:45)
  • Awkward Level: 1/5
  • Seating: Open kitchen bar
  • Interaction with waiters/waitress: 6 times

Pre-dining Expectation

When I came across this restaurant on the recommended list for solo diners, I was quite intrigued to see Jerusalem food here in the UK. I have been to Jerusalem when I was in elementary school, but to be honest, I can't recall what types of food we had when we were there. I was also particularly drawn by their asthetic style, seeing their beautifully designed branding immediately added bonus points in my mind. 

I tried to book in advance, but there wasn't any availability during my chosen time slots. Reading from their website and other reviews that there's a waiting bar available, I thought I'd just drop by and if I'm lucky, I get seated right away; if not, I wouldn't mind a drink before dinner. When I arrived, the front house host was busy settling couple groups of guests. He rushed in and out of the different section of the restaurant and apologized to me more than 3 times, asking me to wait on the side. When he finally finished, I told him I was here on my own; he looked through their reservation list and told me that the wait would be about an hour. My heart sank but decided to stay positive and give it half an hour before I go elsewhere to eat. The guy told me that I can leave my numbers and he will call when a table becomes ready. He didn't offer me to the bar area – was it full? or did he think that I wouldn't be interested? I don't know...

I gave him my number and walked to the Costca coffee around the corner, since I didn't want to walk too far away from the restaurant. 

Time to eat

After 30 minutes, the restaurant called - yay, lucky me! I went back and was led to sit at their kitchen bar. The restaurant was probably one of the busiest out of my experiment so far, not only the kitchen staffs were chatting, singing while cooking, guests were also talking, and perhaps the narrow aisle added to that 'crowdness', but it wasn't a negative impression of noisy, it was just lively, which I quite enjoyed. 

There was a couple sitting on my left hand side, and a women in about her mid-40s sitting alone on my right. While I was trying to figure out what to eat, I could hear the waitress coming by to ask whether the lady wanted to order more food or drinks. I could sense the lady got a bit frustrated as she said no thank you but the waitress kept pushing. 

The thing about solo dining is that your eyes are always more hungry than you really are.
Especially if you go to a new restaurant for the first time, you'd want to try many different dishes and making a decision tend to be very difficult. Sometimes you end up listening to the staff's recommendation, and if it didn't turn out the way you expected, you'd wish that you have stuck to your original instincts. Today, I decided to go with my own guts. I ordered fish of the day, which was cod with tomato sauce, polenta with asparagus and mushrooms, and sweet potato chips (i read many reviews about it!). I didn't know what polenta was, but since I love mushrooms (again!) and asparagus, I just got it anyways. 

The sweet potato chips were amazing! It was seasoned nicely and wasn't greasy at all. It also comes with yogurt and mint sauce for dipping, but I like it plain. The polenta was served in a very cute tin pot, it had a texture kinded reminded me of mash potatoes. It was really delicious, and I then learned that it's one of their signature dishes. However, it was too rich that I could only finish 1/3 of it, just eating the vegetables and sadly leaving the rest of polenta. While I waited in between dishes, I saw the chefs grilling some bread that looked fluffy and tasty. I wonder what it was on the menu, thinking I wish I had gotten that or have it next time when I'm here. A few minutes later, the fish arrived, and also served with generous piece of fluffy brioche that I was eyeing for – dilemma solved!

So much food, just for one (full)

So much food, just for one (full)

For dessert, I asked the waitress whether to pick Orange Blossom Ice Cream or the Chocolate Crémeux. She recommended the Chocolate Crémeux, which was a very smooth-textured earl grey infused crémeux, with blood orange, milk streusel, cardamom marshmallow & coco-hazelnut tuile. When they served it, it came on a giant stone-like plate, much more bigger than I expected. I watched the chefs preparing other desserts and they were all served in small cups, so I was expecting something similar in size. If i had known how big it was, I probably wouldn't have gotten it. I don't know why i always like asking for recommendations; I suppose they know better about the food they serve. However, seems like most of the time I always wish I had stuck with my own choice. It could be, perhaps, I would still have not liked what I ordered, but at least I would be more comfortable since it was my own call. I think for future reference, I should just go with my instinct. 

Post-food Reflection

The Palomar is definitely worth coming back again, whether it's by myself or with few other friends. The kitchen bar makes me feel very at ease – people going in and out, and constantly talking noises around, doesn't make me feel out of place. The only thing I would change is to take more initiatives and inform the wait staffs what I am in the mood for and how hungry I am, so I don't over-order.

While I was eating, two other ladies came to sit next to me, both by themselves. One seemed like she just finished watching the show with a program booklet in her hand, and the other one seemed as if she just got off work. So far throughout my experiment, these two were the first solo female diners I came across. I noticed that one of them also ordered a polenta but in a much smaller portion. I felt a bit disappointed as it wasn't available on the menu and the waitress didn't inform me of the option. So I decided to make a suggestion while I was paying for the meal. The waitress (she wasn't the one who took my order) said that she always tell the customers if they are dining by themselves, but she said to make sure the message will be passed on to the rest of the staffs. 

The Palomar
34 Repert Street
London, W1D 6DN
0207 439 8777