Updated: Jul 24, 2020
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
David Constantine - Founder of Motivation
We're able to come together under these very odd, strange, unique conditions at the moment, with a view to then bounce into the next phase - William Knight
There's a lot of need for a conversation about how do we actually use design to solve the new challenges - Mark Bergin
From my perspective, we have even more mission critical topics to address - Loïc Sattler
I'm not seeing anything normal... everything seems to be the new abnormal - Mark Bergin
People are seeing opportunities to readdress and reframe some of the problems that they had before all of this started - Phil Nutley
How can technology, but also how can human behavior shift and challenge some of those new abnormals moving forward? - Phil Nutley
I think we are looking forward to mid 2021 to have a certain solidity in the system again - Loïc Sattler
Whilst calls like this give you a certain level of intimacy, we're beginning to see that it's actually quite tiresome for people to be on video calls all day long, one after the other... dare I show my greyness and my age, but I quite enjoyed the idea of of just talking to someone without them having to see me and all my facial expressions play out - Phil Nutley
Allow some play and some thought and some time for people to go and stretch their legs and walk the dog or do whatever - Phil Nutley
Projects are taking longer because the phased approach has more intricacy and complexity - Phil Nutley
Creativity is often commoditised and not necessarily taken seriously as a process or a systems device to improve or make things more efficient - William Knight
One of [my team members] said to me yesterday, ‘God, this is so good to just have to stop and turn off for a moment and catch up with life, the kids, the allotment, and actually do some thinking.’ There are some advantages as well as problems for organisations and businesses. It gives creative people a chance to actually stop and think for a minute - David Constantine
It’s that having some work and then having no work, which is almost more detrimental than actually having a complete break, because you call people back in, you've asked them to be ready and tooled up, and then you're going to go cancel them - Mark Bergin
[The exhibition industry] are basically specialists in temporary environments, and of course what do we need at the moment? We need a whole lot of temporary environments - Phil Nutley
Utilised effectively, [the exhibition industry] could make really critical contribution - Phil Nutley
This is a really good opportunity, particularly if you're a creative thinker, to start looking at parallels across different sectors and to draw on them and not be afraid to share some of that content - Phil Nutley
We're going to need more and more great examples of what the new abnormal looks like - Phil Nutley
[00:00:00] Mark Bergin: You're listening to a Design Executive Club Town Hall . I'm Mark Bergin, the Founder of DRIVENxDESIGN, and I have here four fantastic voices to go have a bit of a chat with us.
This is the second of the Europe/U K town halls we've been doing, we've now done the Asian, the American, the Australian and the UK. We're into our second series of episodes here. What we're going to be talking about today is how people are using strategies? How are they actually getting from the immediate Plan B response and just trying to go and keep things together into actually then enabling what's coming beyond Covid.
This began with a post that I did about two months ago. Where I made the proposition that we have to actually make sure that we're maintaining momentum, and that we've got a focus of beyond COVID. Designers a great people at dreaming of what the future might be and getting the type of people that I've got on the call here to go help me out is how do we go do that.
We've got William Knight here. William has expertise as a show director, and also for big design events. He also has a background in doing conferences as well. So, Will's going to be talking to us a bit about the London Design Conference, which is in development. Will is that right? Is that how we should be describing that?
[00:01:24] William Knight: Yeah. I think for me, having lived abroad for a couple of years I have a fairly unique perspective of coming back into my hometown, to look at how design was really operating. And I mean that as a kind of community rather than from a practitioner perspective. And there seems to be a complete lack of connections. Some of the connections that have made design very successful in this city, in this country, over the last 15 to 20 years.... there seems to have been a breakdown.
So my basic strategy, and how to, I think, make a contribution, is to connect people, to have conversations- not unlike this Town Hall format, whereby we're able to come together under these very odd, strange, unique conditions at the moment, with a view to then bounce into the next phase.
The London Design Conference is one concept which we may be able to pull off. I think a few things have to be aligned, but certainly I'm beginning to beat the drums that makes a rhythm towards that.
[00:02:32] Mark Bergin: I think the really interesting thing about having a new conversation is often it's at the time of need, which isn't necessarily when you can organise how to go get the conference together and so it's going to be really interesting to see where that goes. Obviously there's a lot of need for a conversation about how do we actually use design to solve the new challenges. Also on the call, we've got Phil Nutley. G'day Phil.
[00:02:58] Phil Nutley: Hi there, Mark. How are you?
[00:02:59] Mark Bergin: Not bad. Now what part of the world are you in?
[00:03:02] Phil Nutley: I'm based in Brighton at the moment in the UK, so on the South Coast.
[00:03:08] Mark Bergin: Fantastic. Phil's expertise is in the space of a large infrastructure projects, particularly around transport. So we're going to have a little bit of a chat with Phil in a moment about that. Loïc Sattler coming in from Berlin. How are you Loïc?
[00:03:21] Loïc Sattler: Hey Mark. Thank you. Very good.
[00:03:26] Mark Bergin: We also have Dave Constantine. David, where are you? Somewhere in the UK?
[00:03:31] David Constantine: Bristol.
[00:03:32] Mark Bergin: Okay. So David is a Founder and runs an organisation called Motivation, is that correct?
[00:03:41] David Constantine: Yup.
[00:03:42] Mark Bergin: And motivation is non-for-profit who help to put wheelchairs into a range of communities. We're going to talk a bit more about that now. Because of the furlough that the staff at Motivation are on, it means that the delivery of those wheelchairs aren't getting into those communities, which has a knock on effect because there are probably people who wanted to get a new wheelchair, or are expecting one.
[00:04:06] David Constantine: Just to correct that, we have kept the staff that actually access the factory in China, which is now producing again. They got going pretty quickly after a period of furlough and a short lock down in China. They're in Shanghai so they're now producing, and our social enterprise side of the organisation, which is owned by the charity- our logistics people- are still working. It's our design team creating the next range that are currently on furlough. So we haven't stopped. Those products are having difficulty getting to places obviously, through the clients and NGOs that buy them, but it's still working.
[00:05:01] Mark Bergin: Thank you for that. What you've done there is you've described a very complex supply chain. You've got a design team, you've got a management team, you've got delivery partners who are helping you manufacture them. Then there's logistics teams and distribution teams which are in at the recipient end... and all of that is at various stages, from lockdown through to opening up.
But as we know, an orchestra doesn't sound particularly good if only some of the instruments turn up to a rehearsal. And so it's probably not moving as smoothly and as efficiently, and that probably means that there's double handling on things. There's some inefficiencies there, but because we're all so focused on just making sure the outcomes being achieved we're not yet focusing on how some of those inefficiencies are in place.
Loïc with your work that you do, particularly around the service design and the digital design space in Berlin, how are you finding it with clients? Have you got some which have pulled right back? are there others that have actually brought projects forward? We don't want to necessarily know which clients, but tell us about the cadence of their projects and how they're working for you.
[00:06:20] Loïc Sattler: I mean, the, the big clients we were working for, they all have a lot of critical missions and it's all about digital transformation. And with all these mission critical topics they want to go forward faster.
So we had deadlines that were pushed back and everything had to go faster due to the context of working remote. Basically, I would say from my perspective, we have even more mission critical topics to address.
[00:06:53] Mark Bergin: And that's, that's a story that we've heard from other markets as well, where people said there were some projects that were in the 'nice' category and all of a sudden they've been shifted into the 'important' category. It's almost like someone's Kanban board has been moved around... the rebranding exercise or the new point system for loyal customers can go to one side. What we have to do is be responsive to the needs of people so that we're actually delivering something, which is, and I hate the term, for a new normal, because I don't know about you guys, but I'm not seeing anything normal. Everything seems to be the new abnormal might be the better way of describing it.
Phil, how about for yourselves? Because big infrastructure projects have a two to five year timeframe at best. What's happening with the pipeline? Are they people who aren't available for decisions? Or have you got enough of the key people who are helping with those projects available through a remote context?
[00:07:58] Phil Nutley: So a little bit of context: I head up Experience Designer at CCD Design and Ergonomics in London. And as you mentioned, we work across the kind of travel transport sectors, particularly aviation and rail. We've seen what's happened to the aviation sector.
I think to answer in part some of that question: a lot of the people that are making those decisions, as you just alluded to, are starting to think about the short term, which is now probably become the next 12 months; how they can fast track some of those kinds of projects.
People are making decisions because there's less pressure on the system. So particularly in rail here in the UK, obviously there aren't as many commuters or passengers using the rail infrastructure. So, I think what we found is people are seeing opportunities to readdress and reframe some of the problems that they had before all of this started- say at the end of last year and early 2020. How can we begin to look at some of those problem spaces and address them? That's usually across kind the three Ps: Product - the systems, the architecture that's in place; People - how people are having to be more altruistic in their behaviours, and open to each other by showing more understanding and empathy; and Place - physically we're having to rethink social distancing and social space.
So where you've got complex infrastructure projects, certainly people are starting to say, 'well, how can technology, but also how can human behavior shift and challenge some of those new abnormals moving forward?'
[00:09:55] Mark Bergin: Yes and thinking that they are abnormal means that we don't cement them in as new procedures. Recognising there is probably another two weeks or month before we go through another stage.
Loïc, I'm not sure where Germany is up to, whether it's been done in the localised sense, but definitely there's been some outbreaks. Has that meant that people have lost some confidence? With those that thought that they were going to be getting back to a new context, and then all of a sudden there's an interruption to that building of confidence.
[00:10:35] Loïc Sattler: Since the beginning, there have been scenarios are taken much more as a long-term period kind of thing rather than a short term. Now there is a problem of the people really understanding what is happening, and making sure that they address it the correct way. And even though German people are extremely respectful for the political system, you have people that are a bit more careless.
I mean, we are going to be addressing that for a long period of time as Phil said, and I think we are looking forward to mid 2021 to have a certain solidity in the system again.
[00:11:34] Mark Bergin: So I want to get into some interesting time or temporal aspects that you just mentioned. Mid 2021... I know that I've killed all of my international travel until February next year. I doubt that I'll be doing it even by May next year. I think it could even be that there are two years I'm not doing that. It's a strange thing when you're trying to go run a global business where you're used to having a lot of contact.
If we go and we think about the vaccine, even if we get a vaccine that comes out the next 12 months, which means that we're in May, 2021, then they've got to work out how to manufacture it, distribute it, and then dispense it- and even when it's been distributed, dispense it into enough people. And that's good. But now we're in September, if not December before we get to that state. So, really, we've got 18 months of this abnormal state.
Do we stay with the same sorts of strategies and operation methodologies? We don't know that this isn't a short-term thing. So Phil I'm wondering for yourself when you're approaching some of these projects, keeping the inertia behind it is probably going to be the most important thing I'd imagine. If you lose a month now that ends up being more like two months, extending out a completion date. There are all sorts of contracts with these big infrastructures. There's synchronising and tying in with other people. How do you keep that inertia upgrade and is that something that's been discussed with the team or is that something that we're yet to get to, but we expect it in the coming month?
[00:13:17] Phil Nutley: Nice. Okay. It's a great question. We, like every other person listening into this, have had to adopt and adapt to new tools, like Zoom, which we're using. We’ve also been using Miro as a platform to share content and create virtual spaces where we can come together and co-create with a range of stakeholders be they, people from inside organisations or sectors, right the way through to working closely with end users, passengers or patients, depending on the sector that we're working in. Clearly the timing has been stretched out. Naturally I think whilst calls like this give you a certain level of intimacy, we're beginning to see that it's actually quite tiresome for people to be on video calls all day long, one after the other. You know, the other day I actually enjoyed having a phone call with one of my colleagues, which was fantastic. Dare I show my greyness and my age, but I quite enjoyed the idea of of just talking to someone without them having to see me and all my facial expressions play out. Naturally when we're working in teams, we have to get that momentum right because it is exhausting. You've got to be very empathetic. You've got people that you're very intimate with, that you've hardly met, say on a new project. You've got to understand they've got young families running around or family members… we're all working from home, so it's super intimate. It's having that empathy, but naturally saying, we're only going to have an hour or two together maximum to work on this. Allow some play and some thought and some time for people to go and stretch their legs and walk the dog or do whatever.
And naturally, if we were all together in London or if we were together in Berlin or wherever we were in the world, we would probably have a super 48-hour concentrated effort where we'd stop for a coffee break and a half hour lunch. Whereas, of course, now that process is elongated. That means that projects are taking longer because the phased approach has more intricacy and complexity, right? It's got a lot more humans in it, and we've got to be more empathetic. So yeah, they are taking longer.
[00:15:44] Mark Bergin: I know with the Design Executive Club Town Hall calls we've actually taken some advice from the different panelists on how do you make these sessions be less arduous? And it's been interesting, just little tips that came through. One of them was at the end of the meeting, asking everybody after we finished recording to hang on the call and let's actually do what happens when you finish a meeting in the physical world - there might be a little bit of banter, we might be talking about something that we're going to do, we might be talking about a point that came up. Whatever it is, trying to make it a bit more human, not just: ‘I've done my commitment, I'm turning off.’
There was a very interesting study that came out about soldiers in the Nevada desert who were working with drones. They found that there was interesting behavior where they were going in and using drones and they were finishing their shift, getting in their car, driving 15 minutes, and they were at home playing with their kids. The purpose of the drone was to eliminate somebody, so how do they get that psychological difference? Now, that's an extreme example, but we've got a similar thing going on here. You know, to imagine Will, I think you've got kids that you’re home schooling, and at the moment you're likely to get off this call and immediately go into father mode. Rather than actually staying in commercial mode, and there and there some stress involved with that. Or there might be that there's somebody who's trying to get your attention just off camera because they don't fully understand that you're trying to go and do something. So we know that the meetings aren't the same. We don't get the same energy. I think Brian Collins brought up in the US Town hall that he loves just the energy that comes from people and he doesn't get that same energy through the call. Working on those strategies, working on the behaviours, getting in the socialisation of how to hold a Zoom call, what's the maximum number of hours you should be on a zoom call a day is all very important. There was one point that came out of the Australian town hall that we’ve recently done, which was about the amount of attention time that people had. It was thought that there was actually a lot that was going on because we've got what's happening up here in the background, we've also got the messaging that's happening. We've now got back channels that are happening in real time. We can see that people are interested. We can also see some of these a bit distracted, which is a step up from the from the telephone conference, but we still haven't worked out those behaviours yet. I think that's going to be the next six to 18 months that we have to work that out, because otherwise we're all going to be exhausted.
Will, you and I have been having a long conversation about the software for society, not the digital software but how do the systems work in society. Before the call, we were having a chat with David about some of the ways that the different health systems in the different countries are operating. And that to me is a really interesting viewpoint, looking at when are we going to have the conversations about how to upgrade those operating systems inside different countries? The Australian health system has got some gaps in that. The German health system seems to have fewer gaps, mainly because it's coming from being a human centred system. Will, is that the type of thing that you're thinking of starting to talk about at the London Design Conference? How do you do these system designs? How do you think about those macro changes that we looked at?
[00:19:35] William Knight: I think really design, creativity is often commoditised and not necessarily taken seriously as a process or a systems device to improve or make things more efficient, or work or humanise any of these kinds of objectives we may want to see these projects take on. My role as a design promoter, I would describe as being to try and help design find its voice again. That’s not to say that design is silent or not working away on lots of commercial and other projects, but there doesn't seem to be much cohesion around this this notion of improving how we all operate. I think to some extent, as a kind of sector body or as an industry, design itself has been suffering. There’s very little cohesion. It's very fractured because of the nature of the different disciplines that go into making design one sector. So, the temptation is always to go to practice and to think about some of the things that design consult, but ultimately, design in its myriad of different ways, can solve all sorts of things. The key for something like the Design Conference is really: where do we position design; How do we focus on the parts were design really should be taken more seriously? The classic example that I use is that as a sector design has responded very badly to be climate emergency. If we were a little more united in our approaches to tackling climate change, we could be much, much more effective. But that requires occasion, and I think that's something that the conference could look at.
[00:21:36] Mark Bergin: I know that we'd been having some conversations with the team at McKinsey Design. They’re trying to work out how they make sure that it's understood that we need to accelerate this process. The tee shirt I'm wearing is talking about accelerating to a Better Future. It’s such an important thing that we don't try to go back to some old broken things. Also the we stop trying to think about whether it's the right letter styling and whether it's the right graphic styling, and we start to think about whether it’s the right system solving that's in there? Part of the conversation that we had before we began recording was that there are these very simple responses from a publicity perspective that are trying to be applied across a plurality of problems and needs that are in the community. Therefore, that means that there are people who are slipping between gaps.
David, when we were having a chat before that you mentioned that because of the accident that you had, that you've got some diminished lung function, but the government missed out finding you on the extreme danger list. It took them two attempts and you making some inquiry. The gaps are everywhere. It’s important that we are working out how to go and say: by thinking from a system design perspective, we're likely to accelerate through that. But, for some reason, design still keeps putting on events which are cultural in basis, not strategic and economic accelerators or multipliers. That’s been my work for the last 10 years, talking about how we think of design as an economic multiplier and an economic accelerator. Of course, it's got to have style, grace and elegance to it, but we also need to remind people there more utility than just thinking about is it nice and is it a cultural thing?
So, David for yourself with your design team now effectively offline, what does that do as a knock-on effect for motivation over the next 12 or 18 months? Can you keep them offline for that long or are you thinking that you'll bring them back on in a month or two? What are your thoughts?
[00:24:06] David Constantine: It all needs to fit together with our forecasting, with income projections based on this new situation, and the funding opportunities, because they're funded on a project basis. Like many design agencies, if the salaries are coming out of core funds, that ends up being a problem for us. We’ve been waiting to hear on some new funding, but of course everything's been a bit mixed up and the roots that we had towards that funding, well we've been waiting for a phase two of this particular funding from DFID. They're going through the throes of being probably taken over by the foreign office, like AusAID DFAT. So, they don't know what's happening with their world… and that was before all this happened, so it's all gone up a bit in the air. The longer they keep extending the furlough then the better really. I'm not worried about them personally. I've been managing and calling them to see how they're doing. They’re all creative guys. They've all got an inventor license at home. So, they're sort of happy fiddling and doing stuff. Their minds haven't stopped working because their creative people. One of them said to me yesterday, ‘God, this is so good to just have to stop and turn off for a moment and catch up with life, the kids, the allotment, and actually do some thinking.’ There are some advantages as well as problems for organisations and businesses. It gives creative people a chance to actually stop and think for a minute.
[00:26:27] Mark Bergin: I want to just drill in a little bit there because you know we've got the three-step strata. There's the obvious one, which is Health. There's another one, which is Economic, and there's the third which is the Social layer. I'm really glad to hear that your team are doing well from the social perspective; that they're there in their homes, that they’re doing things which they’re actually finding useful. The system's working there. On the health side we've worked out how to go do track and trace in certain economies. We're getting an idea of how to go and deal with some of the new outbreaks that are happening. I think particularly Loïc in Germany, you’ve gone from the R zero being about 0.7 to just about 1.1 at the moment, which is getting concerning. The fact that we know those numbers gives an idea that the health side has been dealt with. It's is in restarting this economic phase, which is so complex to me, that I think the real strategies need to be looked at. To take the example from Motivation: there were funding packages that were meant to come through but the people who are doing those funding packages had their own internal reorganisation that was happening and now they've got attention distraction because of other needs that are coming around. This has a kick-on effect, which means there's lower initiation for the projects, which then has another kick-on effect with the manufacturing side, which then loses the community benefit that it was meant to go and create in the first place. In this case, it was foreign aid. Now we’re putting a handbrake on some in foreign countries, which often gets lost because we look in our own village first.
[00:28:22] David Constantine: that department has announced other funding specifically for COVID. It will come at some point, but we don't know when.
[00:28:34] Mark Bergin: That’s a really good example of the complexity, and showing where the gaps are? You know, we've got this, but Is it something which is important for us to be doing? That’s a troublesome thing because how do you telegraph that up to those in the government department who are busy with other things, who haven't finalised that reorganisation because that person may have been infected. There are all sorts of supply chain issues that are in there to get that money flowing out.
We were having a talk about how the Nightingale Hospital in the UK was an example of how although every event and exhibition is canceled at the moment, the events industry was able to respond in the building of that structure along with the army and the NHS. They had this little burst of work, but now what else is there that they can do? It’s that having some work and then having no work, which is almost more detrimental than actually having a complete break, because you call people back in, you've asked them to be ready and tooled up, and then you're going to go cancel them. What do you think is going to be the answer?
[00:30:14] William Knight: Despite working in the design industry for a long time, I spent five years in the UK working very specifically in the exhibition industry. There are some similarities there where the people who work, they're incredibly creative and very much about problem solving. I think to some extent investment and decision making is probably the issue because the exhibition industry, as the Nightingale project proved, is able to respond to an enormous amount of challenges. They’re basically specialists in temporary environments, and of course what do we need at the moment? We need a whole lot of temporary environments; some of them for direct health care, others for the functioning of retail, and of other spaces that are currently shut down.
Think about the combination of a great design team and a great exhibition team, who are essentially able to achieve all sorts of things. To certain extent, the industry itself has got a bit of a confidence issue, and should really push itself forward, see itself looking more laterally instead of finding themselves in Olympia. They can build anything. They have a huge amount of experience with materials. The trick that I think the exhibition industry has unfortunately failed to embrace is obviously digitalisation. All of the exhibition world is really looking at digital platforms - how they can complement the physical events, how they maintain their relationships with their exhibitors and their visitor base. It's a very tricky thing to try and achieve, but I think utilised effectively, they could make really critical contribution.
[00:32:23] Mark Bergin: I was talking to an interior design in Sydney today, and he was telling me that maximum size that you can have for a gathering in Sydney at the moment is 10 people. He has two apartments that are highly styled, sublime, and he's now running private parties for 10 people in one apartment, and in the second apartment he's got all the catering chefs and staff. When I heard that I thought that is brilliant to see how he's gone from running a thousand person gala banquet to a 10 person dinner. He’s worked out how to scale it, the chefs love him because their restaurants are closed and now they're getting to go do events. Everyone's pretty happy about this and I think that adaptive side as you were saying. Does the events industry stay in their previous templated model or do they start to work in the temporary structures business work out how to make those changes.
Phil you sent across an article which had to do with the idea of accessibility and people in wheelchairs trying to get repatriated back through the airline system. That that was really interesting to me because it shows that airlines and accessibility haven't really worked things out, have they?
[00:33:51] Phil Nutley: Yeah as you mentioned earlier, we were having a discussion before we started recording and I was just interested to hear David's back story and how he's coping. At CCD, we work across aviation and airlines as I've mentioned, and we look at accessible and inclusive design. I think we're always looking to see how we can look cross sector.
I was just going to make a point on Will's comment about that confidence. Where Will's very good is taking some of those exhibition skills and tool sets and saying to them: come over here, look at retail, look at co-working spaces. I mean, that's definitely going to need some of that exhibition skillset and mindset and temporary nature.
I think the article was to say that this is a really good opportunity, particularly if you're a creative thinker, to start looking at parallels across different sectors and to draw on them and not be afraid to share some of that content. What we've done in the past is be a thousand islands across certain sectors, and I think we've got to be smarter at partnering with groups of people and not be afraid to share. We’re being very intimate on a lot of these calls. I think it's okay to share some of that content and to see and explore where it goes, because we're going to need more and more great examples of what that new abnormal looks like. The more we can share those and inspire others, I think that's great. Whether that's what we learnt from the Nightingales that was temporal? Where else can we take that skills and expertise? Because as you say, moving forward, we're going to need a lot of temporary space and it's going to have to be very agile. Likewise, the article that I put up for David and myself, I hope to continue the conversation. It’s super interesting to understand what is it that we can learn from a whole bunch of different users, that we can then apply to spaces - be that aviation spaces, rail hubs, transport hubs, even civic space, the public realm.
[00:36:06] Mark Bergin: I’m going to wrap things up, but just before we go I'm going to tell you a quick story about Paralympians and what happens when they go travel to the Olympics. When you go get a team of Paralympians all trying to get them to the same air aircraft and then one or two of them need to go to the toilet. They can be the best in the world, but when it comes to the time to get on the toilet in an airplane, they can't do it themselves. We haven't solved that. That to me is one of those examples where it really hits you. You go, wow these are the best and most able people, but we put them in an airplane and there's so much yet to be solved.
I did really love the thousand islands and the idea about sharing. Thank you for sharing your time with us and we'll see you again at another town hall. Thank you.
Hosted by: Mark Bergin
Podcast Production: Pat Daly
Notes and Publication: Lucy Grant