Working with IKEA, through Vastint, their property development group, we got to understand how a company known for bringing affordable great design to most of our homes makes it work for a small location. We brought the design research, they brought the challenge of how do we make this place work? Their site is surrounded by a host of clunky development, where ground floor retail spaces remain vacant for months, despite promises to the tenants and buyers of hipster bars.
So how do you make a proper urban neighbourhood? People know what it looks and feels like. They source their inspiration from all of the experiences they have ever had – with shopkeepers who knew them, and saved something for them, or services that stayed with them over years. Everyone knows what ties them to a place, and what it feels like when they feel supported by a place, if only because we can all identify when we don’t.
The project brought us slam into the depths of understanding the dimensions of the London housing crisis. This work gave us a glimmer of hope, that there is a way of developing that is enriching, if only developers could see past the cash right now.
We are developing a design incubation service for creative and maker startups, that comes in the form of a plug-in to other spaces where the hidden and recent entrepreneurs hang out, and where they might just get that idea off the ground. We have a sector agnostic approach to our work – combining commercial and also social and not for profit startups to work together. Our companies do not need to be high tech high growth, but high impact startups.In our industry there is a phrase “eat your own dog food’ which graphically illustrates the point that if you are asking others to do something, you should be doing it too. So that’s what we are doing. Prototyping the incubator. Five pilots are up and running across London, and next month in Bristol and Barcelona, to test out these ideas, and to see if there is a place for them. We’ll be sharing what we discover!
We think incubation is a subversive act of reminding people of their innate abilities to create their own living, and we are calling our nomadic incubation service Upstarter.
You can read more about why we think this is important here.
Taking final year students into new spaces and places
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership are challenged with making a sparse Downtown into a thriving place day and night. In Spring 2012, we ran a 15 week studio with final year designers to explore and develop a range of services that could exist in 10 years time, to help them think about the kinds of things that could be possible that they might start to develop now. They took on a lot of new approaches – first future scenario making, using materials and existing research such as The Institute for the Future, and learned to extrapolate their thinking into the future. We then took them through service thinking and design. Finally we explored the kinds of technology and pervasive computing that will allow them to create evidence and artefacts of whole new services which cannot exist right now.
Our time with CODELAB and Masters of Tangible Interaction Design at CMU
Here are some of the amazing people who work and study there, from Zack Jacobson-Weaver, Madeline Gannon, Daiki Itoh and Meng Shi. Established by Mark Gross, this community of hybrid individuals who are as great at making as they are at designing, is a wonderful group to know.
Here is a small project I did with Mark Choi and them on making – why they make, and what it means to them.
First up is Madeline Gannon, a PHD candidate we had the pleasure of working with.
You can see more films about makers from the CODELAB here.
More from us about the CODELAB experience here.