Designing Future Digital Workplaces (Part I)

Our Process for Designing for Konica Minolta

This project was done in collaboration with Tessa Schwartzmann and Jordi Pedemonte as part of IED Barcelona Masters course in Design Management.


Our project began the way an episode of Man vs. Wild would. Only instead of Bear Grylls, we had designers and researchers. Instead of a pocket knife and a flashlight to survive the next couple of months in the wilderness, we had post-its, markers, and a ton of ideas. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to eat slugs or spend the night concealed in some poor deceased land animal far deep in the Siberian forest (sigh).

The challenge for this project was to design the Digital Workplace of the Future. Our client, Konica Minolta, is an international firm that manufactures business and industrial imaging products. Their products include copiers, laser printers, as well as other optic devices. With their eye on business technologies, our client was interested in exploring the types of services they could offer for the modern knowledge worker. Seeing the fall in demand for commercial and industrial printing, our client was exploring opportunities that could address the evolving changes in workplace culture. In ten weeks, we presented our solutions. We broke it down to show you how we did it.

W1: Develop a Hypothesis

Forming a hypothesis is critical to the design process. It is an idea, or hunch, of what we think will lead us to the solution. By doing so, we are giving the project direction or aim. Since it is just an idea, we need to be able to test it by gathering data through research and interviews.

Innovation Planning Process

What helped us define our hypothesis involved asking first what are the company’s strengths and what is it already doing to address the challenge. Knowing some context and sensing intent following our kick-off, we drafted a list of questions that we wanted to address with this project. For instance, how might we best integrate workspaces with the new ways of working? How might we facilitate user experience in the office? How might we balance the needs of work with the desire for independence? And how might we achieve growth based on adaptability?

Our hypothesis would address these questions. For our challenge, we framed our hypothesis as an issue that we were particularly curious about: Can an office itself by a system?

W2: Diagnose Company

To go out and do research without first understanding who you are designing for is a major faux pas. To find areas of opportunity and understand the needs of our client, we needed to understand the challenges they currently face. What are their strengths? Their weaknesses? Who are their competitors and what are they doing to address future workspaces? It is not just what our client does but how it does it. What in particular helps them do what they do? Value webs allowed us to visualize the business structure as it currently is, a product-oriented company with few services.

W3: Prepare & Conduct Interviews

Soren Kierkegaard’s summed it best with “De omnibus dubitandum est,” which translates to, “question everything” which applies neatly to this part of the process. Since the solution for this project will depend largely on insights gathered from interviews, the quality of the questions will determine the quality of the solution. There are two aspects of this process. One consists of finding the right users. Because our client had arranged for us to visit a co-working space during our briefing, we decided to frame our target users to knowledge workers.

From left to right, Lluís Obradors, Graphic Designer, Berta Pedemonte, Researcher, Antonio Prado, Graphic Designer, Carlos García, Brand Strategist, Carmon Requejo, Service Designer, Itziar Blasco, Head mStartup, Mónica Diaz, Teacher, Yonah Frost, Software Developer, Eduardo Forte, Marketing Specialist

The second aspect involves preparing list of questions. Since we wanted to address different elements of our users working experience, we divided our questions by list of categories. From user profile (e.g. freelancer) to company structure (e.g. small business), to different types of workspaces (e.g. anytime office, home studio).

From left to right starting at the top: Betahaus & the Garden, two co-working spaces, Designit, a design consultancy, Savia Colabora, a design agency, and Media Tic, an accelerator. All workspaces based in Barcelona

In addition to conducting individual interviews, we also held a co-creation session. A co-creation session is a group activity where participants immerse themselves in a specific challenge. Guided by a moderator and a facilitator, participants discuss and engage in some activities which invite them to build solutions to existing problems.

In our case, we invited participants to talk about everyday struggles related to their workplace. By providing them with abstract materials, participants designed a solution that showed a physical representation of their ideal workplace. The results of the co-creation session gave us a better grasp of the challenge and understanding of our users. By the end of the week, we had completed five one-to-one interviews along with the co-creation session.

Co-creation in action, from left to right, Lucas Fontes, Monica Diaz, Berta Pedemonte, and Lluis Obredors

W4: Research Trends & Define Criteria

At this stage, things are starting to heat up. Post-its are flooding the walls, tensions are starting to bubble, and everyone is trying to figure out what to do next. By researching the latest trends, we can gain contrast with all the data we have accumulated. This allows us to validate, in a larger scope, what we are seeing with what is happening. Unlike interviews, researching trends involve going online and sourcing material from second-hand sources. To keep things organized, we categorized patterns into three main components: people, devices, and spaces.

This part of the journey is messy and chaotic. We’ve managed to put our insights to develop a persona and craft a journey that maps out what our user is doing, thinking, and feeling throughout the course of a regular working day.

To define the criteria for our solution, we need to gather our personas pain points, needs, and motivations and understand the ‘why’ behind each action and belief. Thus, the criteria help define what our solution needs to deliver to our user. In our case, we identified five criteria’s required for our solution: modularity, encourage flexibility, simplify the workflow, inspire motivation at the workplace, and facilitate knowledge building.

With the criteria in mind, we were now able to carve out an opportunity space for our client.

W5: Present Findings & Gather Feedback

I like to think of this part as an intermission in the process. We are now midway through the project (woohoo!). At this stage, we are presenting our clients with what we have found so far. Presenting our findings helps validate some ideas we’ve found in our research as well as appease some of the doubts we’ve had. In having an open dialogue post-presentation, we can gather feedback and move on to the next phase of the project.

Thanks for reading.

Please check out Part II to see how we took our insights and turned them into solutions for our client.