The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Frank Long ‘Designing a Design Culture to empower richer social outcomes’

John Carter
October 9, 2018
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Frank Long ‘Designing a Design Culture to empower richer social outcomes’

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Gerry Scullion: 00:05 Hello and welcome to another episode of this is HCD. My name is Gerry scullion and I’m a service design principle now based in Ireland. In this episode, we caught up with Frank Long, one of Ireland’s UX forefathers. Frank mentored me way back in the nineties and shortly after he began working in the usability and accessibility space for Frontend, one of Europe’s oldest UX consultancies. A number of years ago when I was living in Sydney, I began to see Frontend winning awards, left right and center, such as at the iXDA awards in America, then again in Lyon and UX Awards and so on, beating some stiff competition to some of the biggest design awards in the design world. Now I wanted to go and dig a little deeper to understand what they were doing internally and how they were doing it and turns out they created an initiative called DesignFix, which was led by the UX designer, John Buckley.

Gerry Scullion: 00:56 We chat about DesignFix and the two projects that were born out of this initiative. One focusing on the Syrian migration crisis, which was actually supported by the UN and later Moot a civil dialogue for the post-truth era and that resulted in an incredible white paper that included some of the world’s finest UX thought leaders such as Whitney Quesenbery from the Center of Civic Design and Chelsea Mauldin from the Public Policy Lab. Look, this is a massive episode. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s get straight in.

Gerry Scullion: 01:26 Frank, a very warm welcome to the This is HCD podcast.

Frank Long: 01:29 Nice to meet you again, Gerry. Nice. We’ve known each other as a disclaimer. We’ve known each other for quite awhile, but we’re thinking about 20 years more years than I care to remember. I know we’ll get into that a little bit more about frank, how he, how he influenced my career, but before we do that, tell us a little bit about how you got into design.

Frank Long: 01:48 Well, I was always interested, I suppose in art at school I wanted to go to college. I want to go to art college specifically, and I guess design was a way of. I mean, my parents were a little bit apprehensive about letting me go to art college, but we found this magical course called industrial design. It seemed to marry everybody’s hopes together. I got to do design and my parents thought that might be a job at the end of this little did they know. So I went and kind of applied for industrial design, you know, thinking that I ended up designing cars and all that kind of stuff. Um, and so that’s, that’s how I started winter and cd spend four years there. And then, uh, after that we graduated at a time in Ireland where there was very few jobs to be hard and particularly in design creative field.

Frank Long: 02:43 Uh, so I spent a couple of years doing creative stuff like painting the orals and working at gigs and various things until eventually I landed a, my first proper design job with LG electronics who had the European design center in Dublin. So I worked there for four years designing TV’s, microwave ovens, mainly vcrs, all that kind of stuff. We used to restyle the products for the European and global market based on the Asian, kind of a under carriage and uh, did that for four years. I think a designed 27 microwave ovens and my time in the king of microwave oven. And then I’m a colleague of mine, uh, who I’d worked with analogy. He founded Frontend along with two others. He was my lucky and uh, to a colleague’s Fiona and Nigel had set up this company to make the Internet more easy to use a better place. And uh, six months after they set up, Monica asked me would I be interested in coming to join them for the rest is history. The rest is history.

Gerry Scullion: 03:50 We’re going to discuss a little bit more about Frontend because I noticed over the last maybe say five years or six years maybe. There was a lot of activity in the iXDA community. Like, you’re winning all these awards. I’m sitting in a room here, every one of the must be about 15 awards and seven of them are Ixda gold or the whatever it is. There’s lots of awards, So tell us how to manage this, where did it start?

Frank Long: 04:29 Well, I suppose just to kind of start at the beginning, I mean Frontend is a UX design consultancy. So for the last 20 years we’ve been providing clients with UX design services, research interaction design or visual design and user testing and all of that good stuff. We’ve worked with clients all over the world where we’re kind of lucky because we started so long ago. Uh, it’s 20 years ago. That field was incredibly new at that time and so we very quickly built an international client base. You’ve got to work with people like Barclays Bank in the UK, worked with HP in Spain or working with UPC in the Netherlands and, and all of the time we’re working with these guys on groundbreaking stuff. So it was the first digital TV system, the first internet banking system, that first web enabled server for printing where we’re really kind of getting in at the early stage and all of these projects.

Frank Long: 05:26 So our company very quickly got exposure to a lot of new technologies, a lot of interesting projects, a lot of big challenges that had to be overcome. And we’ve written the rollercoaster of, of design, you know, through the good times and the bad times over that 20 years. And I guess, you know, after crash, which was probably the biggest challenge, we decided that to survive we needed to specialize. So we became very focused on complex problems we can focused on, you know, primarily software that had very specific, you know, domain knowledge required to very complex problems to solve. So things for stock traders, things for analysts, medical software became something we got involved in. And so, you know, over the years, I guess that’s how our company has developed. So we got to a stage a couple of years ago where we got a dream project who walked in the door to design a system from Milkman, which was a job, they still exist, but it was from a very big company called Glanbia who are worth billions of euros that have businesses in 33 countries around the world. Milk is a very small part of what they do and Milkman or very small part of that. But nonetheless, I was intrigued by this idea that we could design something from milkweed. So I’ve been asked to design something for astronauts, you know, milk man. So I went out and we did research with milk. When we get up at dawn, we traveled around the rounds with them. We, you know, we watched how they do things and like it was fascinating because it’s an industry that has changed not one bit in 100 years. Yeah. So everything’s done on the back of an envelope. Money left under plant pots, sending like the local neighborhood kids out into a housing estate to collect your money for you and hope they come back.

Gerry Scullion: 07:23 It’s crazy. Right?

Frank Long: 07:24 So we were designing a system for people who, uh, who had never sent an email, would never like even bought a flight online. It was quite challenging. And that project, I think the story behind it, it’s been, it’s been credited, incredibly successful. Like it’s, it’s got revenues of over $5 million a year. It’s got 300,000 customers signed up. It’s been really, really successful. This is just the Irish market. Yeah. So we entered that in vix awards and that was our was our first win over this and we didn’t expect to win, will be totally honest, but it was over in San Francisco and we decided, look we’re, we’re, we’re finalists, we should go. So we actually brought a good chunk of the office over to attend the event and go to the conference and everything. And then we’re amazed to find that we’re not only did we win our category, we won the Grand Prix that year.

Frank Long: 08:14 So this was like a, we were majorly emboldened by this injection of confidence from the International UX community to say, wow, people from Ireland can hold their own on a world stage. So that made us think about, okay, well how do we create great projects like that? Or do we have to wait for one of these projects to walk in the door in order to do something really great or can we make it happen ourselves? So that’s I think when we started thinking about, you know, DesignFix, which is our pro bono social design challenge that we do every year and that’s, you know, perhaps gave us the confidence to do that i think

Gerry Scullion: 08:51 it’s an absolutely brilliant idea. Like for this businesses out there that are listening this, I’m sure there’s, there’s people in their staff, they’re like, oh, this is kind of a boring project DesignFix actually works towards fixing that kind of need of a designer. I wanted to get more into the nitty gritty of fixing stuff, but also I think it has a massive role to play and actually improving the culture and setting up a design culture. And also like giving you the opportunity to like, to have a sandpit to try stuff out.

Frank Long: 09:18 Absolutely. So I mean we were sitting down in, in, you know, in the studio one day and John Buckley, one of our, our designers, he was keen to do some work with students and he just said, you know, frank, can we, is there anything we can do, maybe run a competition or something I want to go reach out to students and third level in our. He made a good business case for it. So it’d be good for recruitment. It’s good for all of that kind of stuff, which there always has to be a, an underlying kind of benefit for the business. But you know, the main objective I think was just to engage students and to um, to work with them. And you know, the students bring incredible energy. I mean, as you remember, even when I worked in lg, I used to do lecturing in, in your college and I think that’s where we first met. So I don’t think you’ll get any energy out of me.

Frank Long: 10:05 So John was keen to do this, this kind of student outreach thing and I was just thinking about well if we’re going to do something, can we not make it more meaningful? Is there, is there something else, you know, is there an angle we could take that would, that would maybe allow us to achieve something that could maybe help us emulate what we’d done for the Milkman, you know, in a, in a more social context. And at the time we were watching all these distressing pictures on the TV or the Syrian migrants, you know, pouring over borders and being kind of rescued and boats and I just thought out loud, what could human center design do to solve a problem? Like the Syrian migrant crisis I not even work towards making a better. Exactly. And I mean I say that I kind of facetiously in a way, I mean not trying to fix the problem but like what difference could we make?

Frank Long: 11:00 Could we even make a little difference? Like I mean it’s almost a challenge to even make a little difference. So at the time we did a lot of work in the healthcare space in Geneva with a large pharmaceutical company, a sower over and back to Geneva a lot as we reached out to the UN who are based in Geneva and they have their migrant group over there. So quite quickly really we kind of arranged a meeting where we chatted to them about what we could do, what, what problems were they facing in, in dealing with this challenge. And they literally had hundreds of people on the ground in various countries like, you know, trying to manage and catering, deal with this chaos that was going on until we identified the healthcare space within this kind of migrant problem as a big opportunity or something that was causing them a of pain. So initially that first project was based around a future vision for migrants healthcare. So we worked with the UN and the students and various industry experts to come in and to, you know, to frame a problem, to do some kind of work and to come up with a concept that would perhaps shine a light in the way that maybe these systems should work, you know, and then that was quite successful. So that led to the, to the following year where we, uh, we, we tackled Moot.

Frank Long: 12:24 We’re going to get onto a little bit, but let’s hang on the Syrian one for, for a minute because you’ve got three very successful projects. Three very strong outcomes from them. We can talk probably a little bit more about the, my milkmen one, but the one that I’m really interested in now is the Syrian one. Okay. So, um, talk to me a little bit about how you reached out to universities and what role did they play in the Syrian migrant health care projects? Sure. So we wanted to work with students, but I suppose we were limited to an extent. We needed to work with students who are at a certain level of. So we limited our outreach to master’s programs, so we went to the National College of art and design, which you’re familiar with, uh, we went to Dun Laoghaire (Dun-Leery) College of art and design. We also had input from Carlow design course and a University of Limerick and also Trinity College Dublin. So there was five colleges involved and we were not, all of these colleges had the UX design or interaction design courses. So some of them were more software focused, some of them were multimedia, some of them were more designed, which I think kind of lends a bit of strength to the program because the students that we’re bringing together out of these courses, we’re um, we’re all slightly different, you know, different kind of culture from a different perspective as well. It was really, really good. And, and we, we basically reached out to the courses.

Frank Long: 13:50 We asked students to, uh, to make a video, a 62 second video explaining why they want to take part. And then we just reviewed the videos in house and we picked a, we had to keep the numbers down because it’s got to be manageable. And we know your studio, like, you know, is not massive. Uh, so we picked I think 13 students while still got a lot. Yeah. And we had them come here then for three days. So we had a bootcamp at three day bootcamp. We rented a house for them in Dublin so they could all live together. So it’s Kinda like, you know, a celebrity, big brother, everybody gets to stay in the house and uh, they’re working 24 hours. I mean it was literally 24/7. They were working non-stop on a very big problem. Required a lot of work to get through it all.

Frank Long: 14:33 You know, we also reached out to industry experts, so we had healthcare experts come in, we had people who work in kind of connected health technologies. We even had a Syrian migrant who actually had made his way to Dublin and we reached out to a migrant center in Dublin and we had him, one of the Syrian migrants come in and meet with all the students and just talk about his, his journey, his perspective. Absolutely. And I mean, that really brought it home to the students because, you know, after point you’re dealing with a theoretical exercise and then when you come face to face with somebody who’s been true, it’s suddenly becomes a personal experience and something that you can empathize with, you know, the very fundamentals of user experience design. I mean, going out and meeting people and not just taking, you know, the brief that you’re given, but going out and finding out for yourself and examine as designers, we thrive on that, you know, that empathy. So he came in and he talked about his story and, and, and the challenges that he faced. And so yeah, that’s how we kind of organized the bootcamp. So for three days we worked through various elements of the challenge and at the end then the students present, they broke into teams and there were four teams and they presented four different approaches to solving the problem.

Frank Long: 15:46 So, um, at that point they come back and they present back to Ryan. Henry and Fiona in Frontend unjammed bulky as well? Of course he’s heavily involved. What was the projects like? They’re all difference. And how did it get from there to Ixda?

Frank Long: 16:02 Okay. So we triaged it a little bit. We, we broke the team, like the big group into like after the initial research we broke them into four groups and we gave them themes to work on. So one theme would work was on systems like technology systems. One was on kind of not where those but more like a physical artifacts that they could use. Another was on medication labeling and another was on a different aspect of it. So we were, we were basically dividing the problem up into kind of component parts and in a way all of the pieces, all of the solutions could work together in an ecosystem, but we’re splitting it up that way to, to make it more interesting and more varied. We chose at the end of the day was the medication labeling project, which is really, really excellent piece of work that was carried out by um, two students, one of whom actually we hired after the bootcamp.

Frank Long: 17:01 Part of the whole process for the students was that we were going to pick one of them as an intern, uh, and offer them a job, a proper job. So she’s been with us now for, for I think nearly three years. It’s little bitty girls name and its crew. Nancy is her name. She’s Indian. So Nancy was one of the designers on the project. It was a very thought through solution based around pictograms coding using a web based template to generate these labels on the fly. You need to understand how medication is distributed in, in a makeshift medical center or a transit of. Yeah, exactly. Have some to frontiers. They would have like large drums of Prozac, Paracetamal, you name it, that they buy very cost effectively, but there’s no packaging secondary packaging to tell you how to take the medication or what it is.

Frank Long: 17:55 So they simply put them in a Ziploc bag, the stick and avery label on the front and they hand write, like to have these twice a day. You 5:50 milligrams, like quite often the patient doesn’t know what they are, what they do, how to take them. If they get more than one type of medication, that confuses them when they arrive at the next frontier to guys who, who asked them what medications they’re on, they can find out, they don’t. They’re not able to read the label, they don’t know where they are in some cases so it can lead to problems. So the system was designed to work within the constraints that they had, which was through buying bulk medication and we need to apply a secondary label to it, but allowed them to make that solution work so much better in terms of localization, choosing different languages, adding notes, pictographics so that you know, a lot of these people traveling a difficultly reading.

Frank Long: 18:49 So there’s a lot of like really good ideas in there and the UN are really, really keen on it. At the time. The World Health Organization, we’re looking for a standardized label for medication for all eight agencies because everyone uses a different standard or no standard at all so that there is a feeling that this solution could be starting point for what needs to be done. The baseline from there and you can take from there. So that’s a fantastic example of just, you know, brilliant work and you’ve got international recognition from Ixda again feel when my milkman and uh, then you, you won another award. I think we want the UX awards in Palo Alto last year as well for the future vision. I mean winning awards is lovely and it’s not really the main aim. But as a small UX design consultancy, relatively small consultancy based in Ireland, we need to do our own marketing to get to let the world know that we’re here, this is what we do.

Frank Long: 19:48 And awards are effective way of doing that. Yeah. And so that’s why they’re important. I suppose that customers from Wisconsin or like a Germany or Sydney who haven’t heard of us before, at least when they see that you’ve won some recognized awards that okay, these guys may may well be good and, and we have one work on the back of that. So, uh, it is an important part of how the business functions. It’s brilliant because, um, you know, those last two projects haven’t been just pie in the sky. They’ve actually driven real outcomes. Yeah, I mean that was, well I milkman was obviously was a commercial project and, and has been very successful and continues to be the future vision of migrant health care started off as we because it was the first time we’d done it, we didn’t really know how successful it would be, whether it’d be successful at all in terms of creating a coherent solution or saw or creating something that anybody was interested in. The fact that the UN founded volleyball that I, you know, felt that there may be something in this for the future was a bonus and hugely gratifying I guess. So we remain, we wait to see how that’s going to progress. We don’t know yet what’s going to happen next with that.

Frank Long: 21:04 So just moving on, um, the piece that are, you know, we were chatting about this for awhile, the Moot project, which again, I don’t mean to keep on saying it, but you won another award and iced tea, but is, it’s a bit like river dance in the nineties for Ireland. I’m sure you get an open that stage win. Another award would, um, mood is a white paper. I guess, and it’s about rebooting democracy and it’s something that I know the listeners on the podcast are very much like, you know, about fixing social problems and social design and stuff. So tell us a little bit about where this came from and you know, there’s this serious design superstars involved. Threaten yourself, of course Frank involved throughout. So let’s talk a little bit about work came from. So I suppose how do you follow the success of the future vision of migrant health care, which had kind of exceeded beyond our wildest dreams what we felt we could achieve. So the following year we were thinking, okay, well what’s the next problem we want to solve or look at? And trump had just been elected in the U. s the brexit referendum had just taken place. I mean everybody was in a way I suppose shocked by the outcome of both of those. And so, you know, and even in Ireland we had protests against water charges and there were 100,000 people in the street, like demanding that, you know, government reverse the legislation and that. And it continues to this day around, around, around, you know, the world that there is a feeling of civic unrest and political erosion of trust in political establishment and in some cases I think technology is playing a role in why that’s happening. So we’ve, we’ve obviously got the whole facebook fake news thing that was going on and so we thought, okay, there’s something in this, there’s a problem that because it has a, a technology kind of rude in some respect that thought, well this is an area that we should be able to maybe do a bit of thinking and come up with something that um, you know, can shine a lighter, propose an alternative solution to how this could be addressed.

Frank Long: 23:17 So liquid with the project. Again, John Buckley, he was kind of kickstart the project of thingies that as A. Yeah. How did you go about researching in this space?

Frank Long: 23:31 I guess like we do most of the projects, a lot of it is carried out online, you know, reading, you know, and uh, and doing desk research. We had made a couple of contexts. I was at the interaction conference in New York that year and um, there was a really interesting talk by Chelsea Malden from the public policy lab and I, I met her afterwards and I said this is an area we’re interested in working in and so we, we kind of forged a bit of a contact there and, and so, you know, it’s through her actually. I spoke at another conference in Poland, uh, that year as well and I was introduced to Whitney quesenberry who is proud of the, um, design with Danishes. No, exactly. So again, she gave a really interesting talk about like, uh, the design of a voting ballot papers in the US and how challenging it is for a lot of people.

Frank Long: 24:29 Uh, and so true for meeting people like that. I guess we, uh, we got to know a core group of, um, of advocates and organizations that were already working in this space. We then also looking at the tech space. We’re, we’re lucky in Dublin that we have a lot of the major social media companies are actually headquarters here are or have major operations here. So we had a reach at facebook and we had some involvement from facebook during the early stages just to understand their thinking on how they were gonna was that thinking, uh, I guess facebook, we’re, we’re under a lot of heat for the large at that time, the seller, but it was, it had started around that time. So they were very much focused on like putting fires out, you know, rather than, I suppose, you know, do helping us deal with some longer term.

Frank Long: 25:20 I wonder did a theoretical solution didn’t work? You get an email with, you know, Frontend, can I going, these guys are going to reboot democracy and fake news. You could do a lot worse than reading this report. I’ll tell you that for a fact. So tell us a little bit more like, you know, storyful business. I’m really keen to understand, you know, that the kind of things that came out of the report, there’s three great principles or maybe it’s a bit more as a three principals. Uh, there’s actually sort of done my research more. I mean, just to kind of like fill in a little bit of a background. We, we did the research, we got students into, we did a little bit differently this time. We, we learned from the first year, so we actually, in each of the courses we gave them a project to do, um, so that there were primed and ready in this area.

Frank Long: 26:10 So you’ve got slightly different projects in different colleges that they would work on that for a number of weeks so that when they arrived at our bootcamp they’d already done a piece of work that had kind of prime them in this area and that they were already versed into it. A lot of the research that was out there, that was really helpful. So when we got to the bootcamp phase was a lot more productive. We had story, you mentioned the story full there and they were really helpful. They came in. Storyful gave us a lot of insight into how they authenticate online stories for their news platform. You mentioned this like to tell us a little more about how they triangulate and figure out the city of A. Remember driving somewhere one day and I heard an interview on the radio of somebody from story for explaining the process that they go through when they, let’s say, get a tweet from somebody in Syria or, or in some part of the world where they say something is after happening and then they need to have before they can use that as a source for news story.

Frank Long: 27:11 They need to authenticate that it’s true and they’re not some fake news. So they have a series of protocols that it goes through and it involves, you know, looking at that person’s online profile. They do research into who their connections are online. They’re looking at the locations and the times they even examined the content of their photographs streams on facebook so they can identify it in the location they say they’re in, are they, you know, are the dates consistent. So there’s a lot of work and this obviously, you know, coincides with like, um, telephone calls and reaching out to them and different channels to make sure that they’re authentic. But I guess it was impressive to things impressed me. One was that the, the rigor of the process and the levels they go to, I mean it is quite arduous and the second thing was the speed it’s done out of it has to be done in a number of hours.

Frank Long: 28:03 Like literally they, they will do all of this work which sounded like a huge amount of legwork to be done and it all has to be done within a couple of hours. So the story is still relevant and fresh and out in time to inform the world. So when Kennedy came in and he gave us good insight into how they do all of that, we also had experts from the field of machine learning for artificial intelligence. We know we’ve got some heavy hitters in terms of giving us all of that insight and I guess a lot of the work that we do in Frontend for our commercial side of our business will be working in those areas anyway. So we have a lot of knowledge in house about how natural language processing works and how machine learning and and various types of ai can be used in these projects.

Frank Long: 28:51 So that would be brought to bear on the group as well. So let’s, let’s go back to the principles I guess. Yeah. So I suppose what we found, I’ll be honest, when when we started trying to reboot democracy, we got about a couple of months into it and then we realized had bitten off a huge amount of storage. We could probably chew just very difficult to settle on one design asset or design artifacts that was going to body the research that we had done. So it became apparent to us that what we really had here was actually two things. It was a kind of almost academic body of work that we had created through all of this research and contributions from all the various people that we mentioned. And from that we created a series of design principles on these design principles are basically how do you improve civic dialogue, how can we repair the trust and political institutions, true employing better design.

Frank Long: 29:55 And so we came up with six principals and the principals were fairly, you know, like I can call them out here. They’re like their immediate inclusive representative, meaningful, informative and transparent. I mean, all, we’re going to it to too much detail, but I mean it’s fairly. Some of them are pretty obvious, like if, if it’s gonna work, it has to work for everybody. So it’s gotta be, you know, inclusive and easily accessible. It has to be resent representative. So the problem with social media is that it’s very polemic, so you get one side of the argument and it’s usually pretty extreme and you get the other side of the argument is pretty much extreme, but there’s no middle ground or there’s no effort made to kind of create real solutions rather than just objecting the status quo. So about trying to get a kind of a more rounded view of well the approach we took based on these principles was that first of all it’s got to work on whatever channel works for the user.

Frank Long: 30:56 So I mean we had lots of scenarios worked out, you know, and personas. So you think about it like you’re, you’re sitting in the pub on a Friday evening and you’re really concerned about the housing crisis and you know, you’re having a conversation with your mates and you know, you’re trying to put the world to rights as we’re very good at doing and these situations and an opportunity that at that moment in time when you’re engaged, can you either find out more about what’s going on, are asked a question, our contribution in some meaningful way to like this system and in a way have the system be able to take that information, process it and provide you back with a response or if it’s not possible to provide you with a response to kind of like further it along to the representative that might be able to deal with that, the office that might be able to deal with that.

Frank Long: 31:45 So it started off as a, from the citizens side. It’s a multichannel client so you can sms, you can email it, you can talk to it to use it on your desktop. Uh, you ask a question, it will respond to you on the same platform that you ask. We use a little bit of like natural language processing and Ai Algorithms to define or redefine the question that you’re asking, you know, so you might phrase it in a certain way and it would come back and say, are you talking about this issue to qualify and to qualify, which is a big thing in Google home and trying to get around this anomaly. And it’s really, um, you know, I suppose a way of what we need to do is to try at the back end of this, we need to kind of classify and categorize and stratify all of the topics that are being talked about because it’s a very open ended interface.

Frank Long: 32:38 So questions can be asked. So in order to make sense of it, they need to be grouped and needs to be managed in a, in a way that allows somebody to come in and see what most of the, of the conversations or issues raised are about. And then to drill into those and to see the specifics once you’re in there. So, so we’re relying on heavy hitting technology to manage a lot of that from the representative side. They will have their own log in dashboard where they will see the issues relating to them. They’ll be able to get all the various different levels of opinion for against inbetween. It’s possible to for them to communicate individually with the citizen or to do it in groups. It’s possible to pull groups of people as possible, put forward different suggestions and all of this can be done in a, in a very easy to use way.

Frank Long: 33:35 When you think about these solutions, you should always, you know, we all as we do, we think about what’s there at the moment, how does it does this work at the moment. And what happens at the moment is that a politician opens his inbox and he has like 20,000 emails and he’s got a guy who sits there and he goes through those emails and he cuts and pastes a response. Every everybody gets responded to. It’s kind of meaningless because there’s no time to deal with with issues citizen by citizen basis. You need to have a more effective way, so that’s what the back end of the system is trying to do, which is to a certain level, it’s automated and providing information where information does the job. If that doesn’t work, it’s kind of becomes more of a human response and that can be done by groups, different types of groups, polling questions and all of that kind of stuff.

Gerry Scullion: 34:26 Yeah, it’s amazing. Like it’s, it’s a fantastic paper and you know, it’s one of the reasons why we call it up today because like I read it after we met a number of months ago, I was like, this is brilliant work and I’m like, I’m going to put a link in the show notes for anyone who wants to download this and I encourage, encourage any designers out there with a social design, I guess appetite to really read this because this is. This is the kind of work that you could bring to your boss and say, you know what? This is something we could try and challenge ourselves and do it on our downtime. Because I think as designers we can actually. We can do a lot more than we actually believe we can.

Frank Long: 35:01 Absolutely. I mean, design can change the world sometimes we forget that and you know, when you spend 20 years working at a consultancy, you might, you might forget that you can change the world, but those projects don’t always walk in the door for you. You have to sometimes go and create them yourself, grab them by the neck. And I mean, you know, just to, just to finish out on this, when we launched the results of this project, the, the white paper was released at a symposium and Chelsea Mauldin was kind enough to come over to Ireland to speak at that conference. We had members and representatives of Government there, uh, who in the audience who listens to what was being said. And following on from that, we’ve actually done work on Ireland’s government website that I eat to come directly from this, which was something we again, didn’t expect to happen. You didn’t do this to directly when work, you know, in the area of civic democracy. But, uh, that’s how it turned out. So, you know, as I think if you do good design work, they will come.

Gerry Scullion: 36:08 Yeah, absolutely. Like the Field of Dreams…

Frank Long: 36:10 Kevin Costner :) and just just to, if anyone’s interested in reading the paper, it’s, it’s called a rules of engagement design principles for civic dialogue and a post truth era and it’s available on our website

Gerry Scullion: 36:28 So we’re, we’re going to come towards the end of this episode and we always ask our guests three questions and I’m hoping you’re not going to put you on the spot too much, but the first question I won’t ask you is in a concise form as possible. Well, what is the one professional skill you wish you were better at?

Frank Long: 36:50 Uh, speaking less? No, I think I’m, I’m a designer. Come from a design background and I mean trained is product designer and now for the last 20 years been working in interaction design and digital design and UX. But I can’t write any code. And one thing I’ve always loved to be able to write code just to Kinda of, you’re a great thinker and like that’s, that’s more important. But if it, if it was a scale, I could wake up in the morning and I was, I was, I had it probably be it probably be yet.

Gerry Scullion: 37:22 So what is the one thing that you’d like to be able to banish from the industry and why?

Frank Long: 37:28 That’s an easy question. Okay. So it’s called UX design and UX design has become the new black or the last 10 years. Everybody has it. Everybody wants it, everyone does it. But people have forgot that there’s an emphasis on UX, but they’ve forgotten the design part. So it’s become a very process driven field. I think a lot of practitioners are slave actually following a process without thinking about what they’re doing. And you. So you don’t need to develop personas for every project. You don’t need to do wire frames, you don’t need to crank up balsamic all the time. Sometimes you do. Right. But you need to think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And we find it a lot where we’ve gone to companies to help them with their products that they’ve quite often gone some of the way already, but when you get there, you say, well, we did this and we did that, but we didn’t get any further.

Frank Long: 38:22 And and design is a leap of faith. If you can’t process your way to a solution, you follow a process. But within that process you need. There are jumping off points where you don’t know what’s going to happen. It may or may not work. You’re going to take a leap of faith and say, this is the direction I’m going to go for these reasons. And you go there and then maybe your users will tell you it doesn’t work, but I think that the emphasis needs to be reestablished on the design side. It’s all designed at the end of the day, right? I can call it interaction design called a graphic design. You can call it UX design. Ultimately it’s designed to hand somebody. A wise person once said, there are no design problems or just business problems for designers to solve. So Nice. I know there’s gonna be a lot of people nodding their heads and I know Sarah Enrollment, Scotland, she echoed the same stuff in the last episode that I recorded over there.

Gerry Scullion: 39:16 …and then finally, what’s the message you’d like to give to design talent for the future?

Frank Long: 39:23 Work hard. I think actually a movie I touched on it on the last part that remember that the problems you’re solving, they don’t exist in a theoretical world. They exist in the real world. So you need to make compromises and you need to understand the context that you’re designing into. So having a good understanding of business and having a good understanding of systems systems approach to knowing that if we change this product, what’s the effect going to be in all of these other connected areas? So we have found in the past that when students come out of college, say they’re good at solving the problem, the straight in front of them, but not always really good at understanding the consequences for the broader connected elements. And also like, you know, in terms of the business model, like revenue generation and, and all of the important stuff that clients are interested in, profit money. Frank has been brilliant, chante. Great catching up again and um, you know, welcome back in the podcast whenever you want. It’s a pleasure Gerry, and welcome back to Ireland. Thanks so much.

Gerry Scullion: 40:33 So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you’d like to be part of the conversation or community, hop on over to this and where you can request to join the slack channel and help shape future episodes and connect with other designers around the world. Thanks for listening and see you next time.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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