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Digital Health Design Update

Download Karten Design’s Digital Health Snapshot to see the latest developments in digital health.

 

At the CES Digital Health Summit, I had the opportunity to see the technologies, business models, and ideas that will shape the future of healthcare. Entrepreneurs, scientists, and even celebrities like Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Oz, converged to discuss new solutions that can improve health outcomes with less cost. We got a peek into the technology beginning to trickle down from military development, the genomic solutions that will help to fight cancer and help more of us live to be 100, and the little electronic nudges that intervene in our day to remind us to stand up, sit up straight, and eat more vegetables.

There’s a growing consensus that the health of our country comes down to individual decisions, especially as largely preventable “lifestyle diseases” like obesity and diabetes become a greater burden on the healthcare system. The goal of the digital health industry is to give people– patients, doctors, and caregivers– the information they need to make smart decisions that will benefit their bodies and minds in the long-term.

The challenge is to make this information compelling and actionable. How do you develop a product or service that becomes beloved and important enough to make its way into a user’s daily routine? How do you make sure she understands the information she’s seeing and is able to make changes to behavior when needed?

You can see the conversation unfold in Karten Design’s Snapshot. With 30 years of experience designing medical devices and consumer electronics, Karten Design is at the center of the convergence between medicine and consumer technology. We’re excited about solving the challenges this presents, and dedicated to bringing you the latest developments.

 

 

 

Why I Curated a Design Exhibition/Pop-Up in Los Angeles

It seemed only natural to say yes when my friend and bike-riding partner, Ilan Dei, asked me to curate a design exhibition at his pop up retail shop focused on human-powered movement.

Ilan is a Venice-based furniture and environment designer. We share similar passions and run in the same professional circles. We’ve been riding buddies for 20 years, and for a long time we’ve wanted to collaborate on something. This seemed like an opportune time to finally do it.

We decided to bring design to the streets, sourcing the most innovative “people-powered” products designed and or manufactured in SoCal and highlighting them in Ilan’s pop up store on Abbot Kinney Blvd., where crowds perusing this strip of funky high-end shops and gourmet restaurants could wander in to view a colorful collection of products all available for purchase.

Our goal was twofold: to educate people about the innovative design happening here in our hometown, and to improve the health of our community. With that, we came up with the name “Moving LA: People-Powered Design.”

The double entendre encapsulated everything we wanted the exhibition to be about: the people of LA are physically moving about/around with the products on display, and LA moves us, or inspires us, to create and design.

Focusing the exhibition on physical movement was a perfect connection to my personal passion, as well as to Karten Design. My consultancy has been innovating in the health care industry for over 28 years, creating products that meaningfully improve people’s health experience.

The products on display at Ilan’s store are designed to get people moving across or in Los Angeles, from bikes and skateboards to hula-hoops and yoga equipment. They engage people to physically move and be active in their bodies and in their communities as they enjoy a healthy lifestyle. At Karten Design, my team and I are made aware every day through our work that not everyone has his or her health. To further promote wellness in our local community, Ilan and I decided to dedicate a portion of the proceeds from the exhibition to the Venice Family Clinic – a community health clinic that provides affordable, quality health care to 24,000 low-income, uninsured, and homeless patients each year – so they can help others operate a full power.

As a business owner and innovator, I also appreciate living and working in a hot bed of innovation. Los Angeles, where I’ve lived and worked for nearly 30 years, has deeply influenced my creativity, my perspective, and my mindset. The city is a hub for trends and groundbreaking ingenuity; it breeds freedom to create and innovate unlike anywhere else.

It wasn’t difficult to find fitness, health, and recreation products that are designed and manufactured in Southern California. This place is an incubator for innovation, particularly in these categories. Our temperate year-round climate and miles of beaches and mountain paths as well as the athletic community our environment has fostered drive creativity and ingenuity.

Over the past month, I’ve enjoyed learning about and meeting local, leading innovators who are creating positive experiences for active people. The common narrative, I learned, amongst these innovators is that they turned their hobby or passion or an experience they were missing into a business. The advantage with having this kind of story is that they are true insiders; they are incredibly in touch with their users and the values of their communities. In turn, they create meaningful, useful products that they themselves need and want to use. Some who participated in the exhibition even created new experiences through their products, such as surfskating and elliptical cycling.

The products we selected not only keep us active and introduce new functionalities, but they also look good. As seen in this design exhibition, Southern California innovators have combined the best of functional and aesthetic innovation; these are the kinds of creative thinkers powering LA.

To read more about the inspiration behind the exhibition and the innovation that came from local companies, check out the featured coverage in LA Weekly.

And thank you to all the companies who participated: Arbor Collective, Athletic Propulsion Labs, Carver Skateboards, ElliptiGo, Ellsworth, Hoopnotica, IntelliSkin, Loaded Boards, Malibu Kayaks, Poseidon Boards, Predator Cycling, Quickblade Paddles, Scott Anderson Surfboards, Sip N’Go, Valo Brand, and yogitoes.

Access and Engagement: Ideas Driving Health Innovation Today

Download Karten Design’s Snapshot for more information on specific products and themes from the sixth annual Body Computing Conference. We’re dedicated to being your resource for information and innovation in Health Innovation.

 

Last month I attended the USC Body Computing Conference, produced by Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine, Dr. Leslie Saxon, and her team at the USC Center for Body Computing. Many conferences bring together innovators shaping today’s health technology. What I really enjoy about the Body Computing Conference is its interdisciplinary perspective. Leading device manufacturers, Big Data experts, scientists, engineers, doctors, social media and game developers, sports industry executives, product designers and Hollywood producers all came together to explore how Digital Health can integrate into people’s lives and drive better health outcomes.

Though they approached it from many angles, speakers at the Body Computing Conference ultimately prescribed a clear path to success: access and engagement. We need to make data from connected health devices available to the people who use them, and we need to create deeper, more relevant value for this information in users’ lives.

Karten Design Snapshot, Body Computing  CONTINUE »

Vessix Vascular: Designing Value Through Product Innovation

This article originally appeared on Medical Device + Diagnostic Industry online. Additional coverage of the V2 Renal Denervation System can be found on Fast Company Co.Design and Medgadget.com.

Consumer-inspired design is not just for consumer-facing products. Vessix Vascular’s V2 Renal Denervation System shows how traditional cardiovascular device manufacturers can learn a lesson from consumer electronics companies about creating excitement through design.

In consumer design, where potential customers are faced with a wide variety of options and often make final purchase decisions based heavily on a split-second emotional reaction, aesthetics is a critical success factor. Consumer companies have made an art out of this split-second emotional reaction. Procter & Gamble has popularized it as the First Moment of Truth. It’s roused by a product’s looks, packaging, and the overall message that it communicates. If the message connects with the customer, this impression often leads to a purchase.

But how often do you feel compelled to reach out and touch a medical device? When is the last time you’ve looked at a medical monitor and breathed a reverent “Wow!”? Chances are it hasn’t happened in your career.

Medical devices are traditionally driven by functionality: if it accomplishes the intended clinical result with a reasonable amount of ease, then the device is a success. Over the past 10 years, design has become a more significant consideration in medical devices. However, business-to-business medical devices have been slower than their consumer-oriented counterparts to embrace aesthetic design as an integral part of the product development process.

The recent partnership of Vessix Vascular and Karten Design illustrates the power that a development approach emphasizing aesthetics and emotion can have even for a traditional medical device company.

CONTINUE »

5 Strategies for Making Design Research Actionable for Health Products

For the past month my co-worker, designer Eric Schmid, and I have spoken to audiences of designers, researchers, and product development professionals about making design research actionable for healthcare products. We were excited to present together as a researcher and a designer, sharing how the two of us have collaborated in various projects to make sure that design research is translated into product innovation.

Much of our healthcare product development at Karten Design involves introducing disruptive innovation into the healthcare system. We’ve developed products like the V2 Renal Denervation System that enable doctors to perform new procedures, and we’ve even designed products that change the ways consumers manage their own health. Although such innovations promise to raise the standard of care and save time and money, it’s still possible for them to meet resistance. After all, we’re asking people to make changes to the habits they’ve built for years.

Today, disruptive innovation is becoming the norm in the healthcare industry, and these products need to match people’s needs. If they fail to do so– if they demand more change than a user is willing to endure– then the product will not be adopted. Design research is more important than ever. Designers like Eric want to approach designing disruptive products with a full understanding of users’ behaviors, ceremonies, and perceptions.

As a design researcher, I go out with my team to study people. I end up in hospitals, homes, offices… even bathrooms. Getting rich, nuanced information from people about their needs and desires is only the first challenge I face. Perhaps even bigger and more important is the challenge of communicating this information to the rest of my product development team in a way that’s engaging and ultimately actionable.

If designers don’t latch onto the insights our research team uncovers in the field, then our insights are lost and the value they could bring to a product never materializes. This is especially problematic for healthcare products, where applying research insights affects product safety and patient well-being, and where product design can have such an impact on an emotionally charged patient journey.

That’s why this transition phase between research and design has become an important part of our product development process at Karten Design. We’ve found that making design research actionable comes down to a few key principles. Eric and I shared these strategies with our colleagues at the IDSA and PDMA SoCal Chapter, and want to make them available to our followers who could not be at these events.

1. Define a Success Criteria.

As a team, it’s important to define the necessary elements for your program to achieve success. Before anyone goes into the field or puts pencil to paper, talk to your teammates and establish a common vision. This alignment will help researchers target their programs to provide information most useful to product development. It also helps teams stay focused on the big picture and avoid spending too much time on the tangents that research can unearth. When working with a medical device company to drive innovation in non-invasive ventilation, we hosted a kick-off workshop at Karten Design that brought together 25 people, including the client’s engineers, marketing team, and sales team– disciplines that rarely talked to each other and had competing priorities for product development. One of the biggest factors to success in this project was the written Criteria for Success that came out of the workshop, reconciling the needs of every stakeholder involved. Having a shared vision creates a common framework that enables better communication between researchers and designers as a project progresses.

2. Marble Disciplines.

Throwing information over the fence from one discipline to another invites disconnect. Instead, we practice something that we call “marbling” at Karten Design– like a delicious marble cake or a succulent piece of marbled beef. (What can we say, we have a bunch of foodies in the studio…) We believe that product innovation works best when research, design, and engineering collaborate throughout the process, spilling outside their silos. By getting designers in the field and involving researchers and engineers in concept development and reviews, we create engaging experiences for the entire team. Each discipline is responsible for making research actionable, so designers start to feel a personal ownership of the research insights.

3. Build Empathy.

People, not just systems or products, are a big part of our research– how they feel when they undertake a task or interact with a product, what challenges they face in their lives and work, and even how they feel about themselves. The most fertile research creates an empathetic experience for those who attend interviews or ethongraphies. Whether we’re watching babies in the NICU or listening to someone talk about the toileting experience with the complication of hemorrhoids, we come out of the field inspired by the human emotions we’ve witnessed, driven to find better solutions. It’s then our job to recreate the empathy we feel for team members who were not involved in the field research. We invite designers and other team members to mine these stories along with us. This deeper engagement starts the empathetic process as designers begin to connect with users’ joys and frustrations. With an internalized understanding, designers quickly realize opportunities to design a better experience.

4. Study the Full Ecosystem.

Understand the interactions and relationships between all components in an environment if you want to ensure you’re considering the full range of opportunities. This means studying all stakeholders who interact with a product, from doctors and nurses to patients and caregivers. It also involves looking holistically at the product experience. For the V2 Renal Denervation System, a key research objective was to ascertain the optimal location for the device in the cath lab, how it should be operated, and by whom. We answered this by studying the full ecosystem of the cath lab– the complete use environment, the different people and equipment, how they relate to each other, and how things flow during a typical procedure. After studying a handful of cath labs we started to see the different possibilities and the opportunities for design.

5. Make it Visual.

Most people, especially designers, are visual learners. It’s important to transition as early as possible in the analysis phase from text and data to image-based information. We’ve developed a number of tools, including ModeMaps, Thread Matrixes, and Opportunity Landscapes, to put our information out for all to see and analyze. These tools help us to interpret and organize information to communicate, prioritize, and comprehend findings by all team members.

Regardless of the size or scope of the project, or the nature of your business, these are principles that you can apply to use design research effectively to turn research insights into innovation. In the end, they’re all meant to facilitate communication. It’s this dialog that forces project teams to own design research, internalize it, and dig deep to create insights that are larger than the sum of their parts.

Interview with Chris Wu

 

Karten Design is excited to welcome a new designer to the team, Chris Wu. Chris joins our studio with a breadth of experience applying his proven talents in a variety of industries. I sat down with Chris and took a few minutes to get to know him better. Our chat is detailed below.

 

What are you most looking forward to as a new Karten Designer?

I like being a part of everything. As a designer, I find that it is important to be well versed in all facets. Whether it is the product, graphic, interaction, or overall strategy, it’s important to be able to speak to all of them in order to really have a hand in everything design has to offer. My goal has always been to see and do as much as I can, and find a place where I can do that. This was what really attracted me to Karten Design. I’m looking forward to working on the incredible diversity of projects we bring in to the studio. Even in the short time I’ve been here, I have already had a hand in consumer electronics, medical equipment, and business strategy. But more than anything, Karten Design has already shown to be a place where I can express and apply my passion for creating truly innovative products. Here, I’ve found a place where not only do I have the ability but am also encouraged to test the limits of what is possible.

Aside from working here, you also teach a class at Art Center. How did you get involved in teaching?

Honestly, I had no interest in teaching until I had Norm Schureman as an instructor at Art Center. He was someone who was incredibly passionate about teaching and his students. Norm took an interest to help me grow as a designer, and after I took his class, I became his T.A.  In my time working with him he showed me that design is just as much about the work as it is about the people. Before he passed he imparted an undeniable love for teaching on me. Today, I teach to not only carry on his passion and what he gave me, but to also have the ability to affect other people (the way he did me). Every time I step foot in my classroom, I attempt to convey the same passion for design my professor had and hopefully drive my students to love design and become great.

You teach to inspire others. Has teaching inspired you?

Teaching has definitely helped me in my profession. In the real world it’s easy for us [designers] to become jaded. There is something wonderfully naïve about school – students haven’t had someone tell them they can’t, and because of this I have been amazed by some of the stuff they come up with. We in the real world have the burden of knowledge and practicality, but students…they go all in, and as a result come up with amazing ideas despite their lack of experience. More than inspiring, it has been recharging for me to see how passionate and stoked the students get about an idea, which is just the boost I need to stay fresh, fearless, and innovative with my own work.

What work are you most proud of?

There isn’t one project that I am more proud of than others. If I think about it, when a project is successful and the final product is rich and useful, I am proud not because of the final result but rather because it is a testament that we gave the design process the right amount of time and energy. I am most proud of the depth we dove into the process so that the final product does its job. I design because I want to create solutions and help people, and when I know I’ve done the work to achieve this, that’s what I enjoy the most.

You’ve been a great curator of music in the studio. We’re curious – what are you listening to on your iPod right now?

Right now? Let’s see…Two Door Cinema, Walk the Moon, Young the Giant, and The Black Keys. These are all bands I’ve discovered through trial and error using Spotify. Without trying to make it sound too much like a commercial, Spotify has been great because it really shifts the traditional model of how we consume music by making it easy to “try” music without feeling like you need to invest in a CD.

It seems like you have a particular interest in sustainability. Can you share your thoughts on this with us?

There is this preconceived notion that sustainability means to be environmentally friendly, but to me, sustainability is a philosophy of design. It’s the idea and practice of being thoughtful, mindful, and respectful to those you are designing for and those providing their resources in the design. This philosophy must be established before you even start designing, and it starts by considering and thinking about whether or not what we are creating deserves to be in existence. We, as a forward-thinking design community, need to be catalysts, empowering other designers and even the people around us with a deeper understanding of how to live, create, and consume more conscientiously. The fact is that we have become so adept at designing stuff at a record place that we’re filling landfills at a record pace. We need to shift the paradigm of creating just things that are ephemeral into a realm of conscious and responsible design that is enduring and makes a difference. Designers aren’t here to create more stuff; what we want and need is to manifest things we and our users feel strongly about. With this mindset, the opportunity then lies in the idea that sustainability can and needs to be a baseline to everything. The quicker we embrace that we live in a world where sustainability is no longer a feature but instead a baseline, the quicker we can make greater strides towards crafting a world that we all are proud to live in.

What is your favorite place in Los Angeles?

The Standard Rooftop. Not only because it’s a great place but also because when you are there you become more aware that there is a part of L.A. that is actually city-like. I grew up in the Valley where everything is super flat and spread out so there is something interesting and unique about being amongst buildings that are vertical and dynamic. Rooftops in a city provide an oasis from the busyness that is Los Angeles.

Last question. You can tell a lot about someone by what they keep in their ‘fridge. Since I can’t see your fridge, I will ask you: What did you make for breakfast this morning?

Haha. I had a boiled egg and a cup of Orange Juice. I’m not really a morning person. But I love breakfast food. I just don’t like waking up to eat it.

 

You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn, or send him a note to say hi, welcome, or ask him any questions you might have.

The Art of Wine: Conversations with Eric Kent Wine Cellars

Kent Humphrey & Colleen Teitgen-Humphrey, the owners Eric Kent Wine Cellars, were our guest speakers at Karten Design’s second Conversations of 2012.

Eric Kent Wines, an award-winning boutique wine label that features emerging artist’ work on their bottles, is a family affair run out of a cooperative in Santa Rosa, CA: Kent, Colleen, and Kent’s sister Renee Humphrey run the business. Kent makes the wine; Colleen curates and produces the artist labels; and Renee distributes the wines in restaurants and wine stores.

The idea to create their own wine label was conceived 10 years ago when Colleen was still in art school and Kent was running his own advertising agency. Kent, who holds no formal winemaking degree but is a self-proclaimed “hyper-enthusiastic wine geek,” and Colleen, an artist and former art director, decided to combine their love for wine and art and founded Eric Kent, whose name is an inversion of Kent’s first and middle name. At that time they knew they wanted to make wine, but had no idea what their label would look like. With so many artists surrounding Colleen on a daily basis and seeing the need for unknown artists to get exposure, the idea to feature art as part of their labels seemed like a natural extension of their passions.

In the 10 years they’ve been operating Eric Kent Wine Cellars, Conversations was the first time the couple shared their story together. Kent said that until now they tell their stories individually and differently, so they were excited to be able to share for the first time as a unit. And we were excited that Conversations provided an opportunity for them to do so as we believe Conversations is a forum for sharing stories that inspire. It also reinforced that Conversations is just as inspiring and beneficial for the speakers as it is for us Karten Designers. To tell their story, Kent and Colleen took us through visual tours of the label art curatorial and winemaking processes.

It was inspiring to meet and hear people who are passionate, taking big risks, and making things happen. Below are some of the takeaways from Conversations: The Art of Wine that are beneficial for anyone in any business.

HAVE A STORY TO TELL
The combination of art and wine is nothing new. As Kent mentioned, Mouton Rothschild has been putting Picasso, Miro, and other famous artists alongside the winery name on the front of their labels forever. But what makes Eric Kent unique is their display of deserving, but yet undiscovered talents whose work compliments the spirit of each vintage. As Colleen guided us through the process of how she chooses the label art, she explained that throughout the year she meets with numerous artists to experience their work and be inspired. Once the vintage is made, she will do a tasting to, similarly, experience the wine and be inspired. Then she’ll go back to the potential pieces she’s acquired that year, and will choose a few that set the tone for the vintage. The piece that evokes the same emotions as the wine is the art that eventually is featured on the label. To best describe the goal of the process, Colleen says the art must complement the spirit of the particular vintage. The Eric Kent story is manifested when consumers drink the wine, as the art brings an added dimension to the drinking experience by providing a conversation starter, as well as engaging multiple senses – taste and sight – in an emotional experience.

STAY IGNORANT
At the end of every Conversations, we have a Q&A where guests can interact with the speaker(s), often sparking in-depth discussions. Kent was asked if it hard to leave the corporate advertising world and start his own business. He replied no, it wasn’t. The hardest parts came after they started their wine business. And looking back, Kent said the key when taking a risk is to stay ignorant. If he had known how hard it was, he and Colleen probably wouldn’t have started Eric Kent Wines. His words were reminiscent of Steve Jobs, who advised in his famous commencement speech “to stay hungry, stay foolish” because if we didn’t we’d never have anything new. Similarly, Kent lived this maxim when he and Colleen first decided to start Eric Kent Wine Cellars. He considered entering University of California Davis for formal training in winemaking, but realized that many of the wines he most admired were crafted by people who had no academic training, thus they were not confined by convention and often invented their own unique way of making wine. Kent and Colleen’s bold career change is inspiring and a testament to the importance of risk-taking, and most importantly, staying ignorant.

DO WELL BY DOING GOOD
Today, it can be argued that it is not enough to just have a product. Products need to be tied to a cause in order to differentiate themselves. Not only does it help cultivate a story for the product or brand, but also the product then resonates with the consumer more. With extensive experience in the advertising world, Kent and Colleen knew this better than anyone. Thus, they knew their wine needed to go beyond the grapes. The Humphreys took this to heart and have integrated their message and theme throughout the EK experience. By having artwork serve as the label for each vintage, Kent and Colleen provide emerging artists with the opportunity to get their work – be it a painting, poem, or photograph – in front of a larger audience than they’ve ever had. The Humphreys stay true to their cause and their brand story, incorporating the artists into every touch point of the EK experience. The labels are designed specifically to feature the artist’s unique work on one side and their name and contact information are printed on the other. The Humphreys also tell the artists’ stories on their website, show more examples of the artists’ work, and provide links to their websites. By being seen on EK labels, a number of artists have sold their work, received offers to be in shows or commissioned to produce new works. While Eric Kent Wines donates a portion of its sales to the artists who create the work on the labels, it’s the exposure that is invaluable to these artists.

DON’T BE CONFINED BY THE RULES
When starting a new business, it’s helpful to follow the rules and use them as a loose guide. But often times, if you go by the book, you can get stuck in a rut between generic and conventional. Hence the importance of challenging the rules and tinkering to find alternative ways so that you can stand out and be different. Such as Kent and Colleen did with their wine labels. Traditionally, the front label on a bottle features the logo, graphics, and other branding elements while the back label is placeholder for government warnings and generic verbiage about soils and climate. But in order to feature art like they planned and give it the attention it deserves, Kent and Colleen realized after a few rounds of concepting that they needed to have two front labels. Despite the branding risk, they committed to showing nothing but the art on one side. They achieved this by playing around with the font size and the typography as well as the layout to design the “other” front label that has their own branding, contents of the bottle, the artists’ information, and the mandatories. Now, because they were not confined by the rules, the Eric Kent story can be shared on every bottle.

Before they poured their 2012 Small Town Pinot Noir, 2010 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, and 2009 Kalen’s Big Boy Blend Syrah for guests, Kent and Colleen concluded by saying that they keep doing what they do, and love what they do, because they get to create a product that facilitates positive experiences and makes people happy. As Kent said, “the way I see it, making wine, discovering new art, and sharing them both with others is about as good as it gets.”

 

4 Things That Ninth-Graders Can Teach You About Risk-Taking Design

This post originally appeared on Fast Company’s Co.Design

If you’re like me, you discovered design as a career option later in life–in college, or even after graduating and working in another field. By that point, most of us had already lost the mindset most beneficial for creative design. I find that life teaches us some bad habits as we grow up that get in the way of our creativity. Chief among them are perfectionism and professionalism. They have their proper place and time, but such control-based habits need to be put aside during the early phases of an innovation project, when raw creative power is essential.

We start to learn these habits in school. Leading thinkers such as Ken Robinson have reported extensively on how schools kill creativity. With an emphasis on performance and mastery, they encourage perfection at the expense of the ability to experiment and possibly fail. Then comes the workplace, where corporate professionalism requires that business be dealt with rationally and dispassionately. Before I founded Karten Design, I worked as an in-house designer in the corporate world. I quickly realized that to succeed in this type of environment you couldn’t display any type of emotion. People never got mad or excited in meetings. They wore tightly controlled masks that hid their core, unpolished selves–their source of creativity.

With perfectionism and professionalism instilled in people early in life, how do we ensure that designers of the future enter the profession with the right mindset? Catch them while they’re still young, before they learn many of those inhibiting rules in schools and in the workplace.

Recently, I decided to do something about it. Karten Design partnered with the Da Vinci Design High School, an independent charter school in the South Bay of Los Angeles with a hands-on, project-based learning model, to teach the freshman class about product design. In a project aimed at combining physics curriculum in electromagnetism with a humanities unit on social-change poetry, we presented students with a set of driving questions: What would headphones look like if they were meant to transmit a message of social change? How would they look if they were intended to appeal to a certain target audience, so they could deliver their message to the right set of ears? To answer this question, students would design and build a pair of working headphones to address those questions.

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Karten Design Introduces “Book Klub”: A place to Gather, Learn and Cultivate

 

“In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through,
but rather how many can get through to you.”

Mortimer Jerome Adler – American Author and Philosopher

Recently our studio instated its first official book club, which we have coined Book Klub to give it a more personal touch. I had been thinking about starting one for quite some time, as I felt it was important to inject learning into our culture more directly. And in full disclosure, I thought it’d be a good way to motivate me to finish books.

Karten Design has long fostered a culture of learning – we not only hire those with an innate thirst for learning, but we also make sure to provide outlets to learn in our studio through events like our Conversations series and Lunch N’ Learns. But a book club provides an entirely different learning venue for us. We get to seek knowledge, explore current thinking, and learn together.

The books we’ve chosen thus far incorporate relevant, tangible practices that are near and dear to how we operate and what we deliver to our clients. They inspire us to further design ourselves personally and as a design firm to be better at what we do.

We’ve read three books now, and, for me, the best part hasn’t been reading – though I like that too – but rather the group discourse that has transpired. These talks remind me of what I loved most about my lit classes in high school and college: really digging into whatever book we were reading. That same level of in-depth analysis and dissection that took place in the classroom is taking place on the patio of our studio.

Similar to a classroom, we’ve formed a place to gather and share thoughts, ideas, and emotions. I am able to see how my team thinks, what stood out to some people and what stood out to others. I learn more about my employees and what they care about. What was the most refreshing, though, was the honesty and insights that were brought to the table. Our monthly Book Klub meetings are a time when we can truly blend together, build community, and cultivate our office culture.

The net effect of this discourse? We end up turning the mirror inward. Book Klub becomes an open forum where anyone can weigh in. It is an organic opportunity for our entire organization to share their opinions, ideas, and rants in a non-judgmental environment. In this setting, we are able to examine and dissect, relate and compare these cited case studies and practices to what we are doing and what we are not doing, for good and for bad. As the principal of a studio, it is pretty cool to hear everyone’s perspective on how to implement change and successful practices that we’ve read to our work.

Much of Book Klub was founded out of the collective desire to continually grow and eventually change for the better in the workplace and in our personal lives. And I can see this beginning to happen. By reading about habits in Charles Duigg’s The Power of Habit, for example, we learned how our behaviors could be distilled into one “keystone habit.” At Alcoa, creating a keystone habit of safety revolutionized every facet of its business. This example opened up a dialogue on our habits – good and bad – at Karten Design. Another example of this is from our last meeting on Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. In the book, Lehrer writes about Pixar to illustrate the power of group creativity. Teamwork, he writes, and the belief that you can learn a lot from your coworkers have been the secrets of Pixar’s success. This got us thinking about how we work together in the studio, and what we can do maximize our creativity through more collaboration.

We are still learning how to adapt and implement these lessons into our daily routines, work habits, procedures and processes, and culture. With time, I am confident that this unique forum where we can gather together and engage in a higher level of conversation than we normally have will benefit us…stay tuned as we discover how…

Fall in Love With Your End User

Over the past six years working with Starkey Laboratories, we have learned more about the unique emotional and physical needs of 65- to 85-year-old end users than any other demographic/end user we’ve designed for. We know that as people age their physical and emotional needs change, and, in turn, so do the products and services they use. It was this focus on serving aging Americans that linked us with The Aging Technology Alliance.

The Aging Technology Alliance, or AgeTek, is a consortium of companies that create solutions to fit the emotional and physical needs of older adults. These companies have joined together because they, like Karten Design, believe that innovative products and services can improve people’s lives and change the way they can thrive as they get better, not just older.

As part of AgeTek’s mission to provide professional education for its members, Director of Design Strategy and Research Ron Pierce and I presented a webinar as part of their webinar series on how to design products for older users. We discussed how to use Design Research to discover unmet needs, and keep the end user at the center of the product development process. I wrote a blog post to follow up our webinar, synthesizing what we shared into four insights that are detailed below. I hope there’s something that you can take away, as well.

 

OPPORTUNITIES IN THE AGING TECHNOLOGY SPACE 

Many growing companies are focused on technology. They’ve developed something with the power to change lives and, consequently, they fall in love with their technology. A mature product has to have effective technology, but then must move into the next stage—applying technology to the human context. This requires a holistic understanding of the user—their behaviors, rituals, ceremonies, preferences, delights, and their limitations. Don’t just fall in love with your technology; fall in love with your end users. Learn what emotions they experience when they interact with your product, or even when they think about purchasing it. Getting inside users’ heads was the starting point for Karten Design’s relationship with Starkey. We quickly discovered that older people associate hearing aids with age, disability and weakness, and as a result they put off purchasing a hearing aid, living in isolation for almost a decade. Many products associated with aging have the same stigma that’s important to understand. At the point where someone needs an assistive product, he or she often already feels disabled. It’s important that technology products empower users rather than making them feel weaker.

R.O.I. ON DESIGN 

There are more ways to measure return on investment than quarterly financial gain. Consider also returns like customer relationships. We believe a well-designed product can be a brand ambassador. Good design can help your product to be distributed in new channels and reach new consumers. It also has the potential to strengthen relationships with your existing channels and end users. One of the most exciting results of our design partnership for Starkey’s executives was the improved image that the company gained within its existing sales channels. Each new product introduction has created a stir at international trade shows, building Starkey’s global reputation for design leadership. Audiologists have gone from simply carrying Starkey products to being evangelists for Starkey products. Even end users, who may have initially been reluctant to adopt a hearing aid, have become enthusiastic advocates for Starkey’s products. Building relationships between your customers and your brands is a long-term investment with long-term returns.

DESIGN RESEARCH

Karten Design spent three months in the field conducting design research with hearing professionals and hearing aid users before translating our insights into design for Starkey. During this time we examined all of the factors that would affect a hearing aid’s market impact: manufacturing process, sales channels, and most importantly end users and their ceremonies. Get to know your customers’ ceremonies and habits. As you develop a research strategy, consider whether your product fits in with those ceremonies or requires users to develop a new habit. Successfully implementing a paradigm shift, as we did when introducing the industry’s first gesture control, requires a higher level of research in order to create and evaluate the product’s value and introduce the right metaphor to make it easily understood by users.

SENIORS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH TECHNOLOGY

A common myth persists that seniors are afraid of technology. In my experience, this is not the case. Seniors are ready and willing to adopt technology that provides a benefit in their lives. When we helped Starkey develop a capacitive gesture control for its hearing aids, we were adopting a ceremony from iPhones, which inspired a slew of touch screens in consumer electronics. We questioned whether a modern technological ceremony would be relevant and easily understood by older users and the answer, with a few qualifications, was a resounding yes. Gesture control was relevant to users not because it represented a cool new development, but because it satisfied a need—to control a hearing aid discretely with a simple motion. Our strategy was to focus the technology on meeting the need. When it does this in the simplest possible way, the technology becomes transparent. The iPad is another example of transparent technology that has been enthusiastically adopted by older users. The iPad fulfills an emotional need to connect and engage with family and friends. The product is so easy to use and understand that the technology fades into the background; all you see is the benefit.

There are two areas that technology companies can focus on to improve their relationship between their products and senior customers. For any user, but perhaps most importantly for seniors, a successful product relationship is based on mutual respect and two-way communication.

I find it disrespectful when companies dumb down products either visually or technologically for older users. Today’s seniors have more sensitivity to quality and design than previous generations. Just because someone becomes physically disabled as they age does not mean they become aesthetically handicapped. When we designed hearing aids for Starkey, we leveraged inspiring design imagery from luxury automobiles and modern architecture to create a sophisticated image. Aesthetically re-framing a product this way—respecting seniors’ aesthetic sensibilities and the self-image they’ve built throughout their lives—has done much to chip away at the stigma associated with hearing aids.

Seniors’ relationship with technology benefits from frequent dialog between person and product. Pay attention to the feedback your product gives its user. The success of gesture control hinged in part on fine-tuning its feedback to let users know not just when there were problems, but to confirm that they had successfully made adjustments.

If you’re interested in additional research on the Boomer Generation, you can download Karten Design’s Orange Slice, a mini report on the lifestyle, economic and psychographic trends that will affect this generation as they move into a new stage of life.