Food for thought from #FOWD 2015

Reignite your mojo, by designing 24 hour experiences — for a healthier life


A bit of a mouthful I know, but for the second year in a row I have just had a great 2 days at the Future of Web Design 2015 conference, over in East London and it gave me food for thought.


‘With a healthy blend of inspirational sessions and practical advice, #FOWD is the design and developer conference to take your skills to the next level and meet like-minded individuals ready to make the web awesome together.’


There was a lot to get my teeth into this year and I came away stuffed full of ideas, inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose for the year ahead. However there was clearly too much to talk about in one little blog so I wanted to share 3–4 key things that I took away with me.

1. Conflict is the key to great user experience

Steve Fisher @Hellofisher Republic of Quality

This was my favourite talk of the whole weekend presented by Steve Fisher from The Republic of Quality. He shared some great insights but his fundamental point centred around how we need to understand people so we can get to the heart of their conflicts.

It is only natural that businesses, teams and individuals have conflicting opinions, agendas and motivations but it is our job as design, business and team leaders to get to the bottom of them, discover the real problem and agree a course of action — not a compromise! (neither will be happy) but an agreed plan.

He asks 4 questions:

  1. What do you do?
  2. What do you love?
  3. What is painful?
  4. What do you wish?

Simple yes, but pointed and I am already using them with my clients who have proved very receptive to this format and has already provided them valuable insight they are acting upon.

The questions got me thinking about myself too, what are my conflicts and how are they inhibiting me? And they took on even greater significance when aligned to the next talk I found really inspiring.


2. ‘Finding your mojo’

Dan Edwards @de NoDivide

This young creative shot to fame by winning the .net young designer of the year. He had to rediscover what it was that made him want to become a designer when he was following a path that was leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. His passion had ebbed, as I am sure it has with all of us designers at some point along our journey.

Our jobs and career paths can take on a life of their own and if we are not careful they can have a corrosive effect on our mojo.

Hands up if you have experienced any of these things:

1. Ever sacrificed creativity for efficiency?
2. Stayed on the treadmill so long, it took you somewhere you didn’t want to go?
3. Fell back on the ‘good ol ideas’ that never let you down before?
4. Entered cruise control to deliver a project?

Our values matter and so do those of my team — we have more time and power than we think to make the most of our talents and avoid ruts. Our passions like our characters set us apart, so what can I/we do to foster a stimulating, exciting working environment that encourages risk taking, creative thinking and inspires bravery?

Dan showed this video during his talk and I found it a very inspiring story that talks about looking at time differently.

To succeed we need to be happy and to be happy we need to know who we are and what we want. Ask yourselves those 4 questions from earlier (remember them?) and then watch this next video and make it happen.

“You can fail at what you don’t want to do so you might as well fail at something you do want to do” — Jim Carey

Following these two sessions I was feeling ‘pumped up’ as David Cameron would say, and I took those feelings into the next session i’d like to talk about briefly — I know I have rambled on a bit about introspection, inspiration and all that jazz but hang in there.


3. Design for a 24 hour experience

Jon Setzen, Media Temple @jonsetzen

This talk resonated with my new found love of service design and my agencies new proposition which is centred around this subject. John talked about the importance of understanding your customers customer so your design thinking can solve their real problems.

He told us a story about one of his health drink clients’ ‘customer groups’ actually wanting the product to taste worse! — because it made them feel like it was doing them more good!!! It goes to show…

don’t make assumptions, research, research research!

He was a believer that great design not only solves problems but shapes behaviours, he referenced Nike+ and all that was good with what they do and how they changed our behaviours by fitting in seamlessly with our lives but I am sure I don’t need to explain their story to all you learned folks☺

I have realised that as I get older I am becoming less concerned with the little things and more empowered to influence people and solve the bigger problems. Perhaps as a bloke, my ‘empathy gene’ took a little longer to kick in and all to often agencies and designers claim to be user centred but once in the throws of the project they forget about them, design for themselves and their clients. I now want to know the needs of the end user, I want evidence to inform my process and wont assume I know they want.

‘Knowing your customers is knowing your roadmap’

We should use customers to guide us — yes I still want to make things beautiful, but on its own beauty is not enough. ‘It’ needs to be functional, helpful, timesaving, enjoyable and seamlessly integrated into my customers life.

Slide from Dan Edwards — but it sits nicely just here ☺

But how do we start working in this way if we want to?

The last talk I want to mention started to answer this and seemed a fitting example to help sum up some of my conclusions from the conference.


4. How to survive a career in design

Arthur Irving, Skylark Creative

Arthur runs his own agency and found his motivation waning. He took up jogging and immediately witnessed a change in his mindset at work. With that in mind he implemented a health experiment in his studio that reflected his ‘jogging process’ and monitored each member of staffs activity levels before making some small changes to their culture and environment.

He established a baseline over a few months, implemented his changes and then started to watch the results come in. There were immediate changes and the results were very enlightening with staff feeling happier, more energised, healthier, feeling that they were more productive and talking with each other more. The experiment continues but you can follow their progress here.

‘Design your own experience and your own way of working for a healthier life’

Arthur designed around his passion. If you are competitive — set goals. If you are collaborative — make time to work with others. If you sit down all day — stand up!

One cool little fact about standing:

Standing up while you are working for 3 hours a day over the year burns the same amount of calories as running 8 marathons that same year. Pow!

Chompin’ at the bit

Our proposition here at Pancentric is Imagine Tomorrow™. We believe that by working together we can transform experiences and lives.

This years conference resonated with me. It fed my imagination and helped me answer those 4 questions (remember those?) for myself and with those answers now firmly in my mind — I will draw upon them to implement changes in my own work life and hopefully those of my colleagues.

Inspire. Motivate. Reflect. Co-Create. Wellbeing.

5 areas that I will be working on to re-imagine and reinforce our approach and the culture that supports it.


Feeling motivated I have already been thinking of ideas and implementing programmes internally — it is work in process and if you have any tips or other ideas I would be happy to hear them so please add comments.

Our activities
These are only some of our internal activities that support the company value work we have also been defining.

Stand + Deliver — Flexible co-creation environment (standing desks!) — in progress
Walk + Talk — Out of office activities — sunshine meetings and cultural excursions
— implemented
Doctors + Nurses — Internal peer to peer training programmes
— Planned and in the diary
Eat + Imagine — Monthly passion project sharing sessions
— implemented
Live + Learn — Internship programmes / Service design workshops (agency education through play)
— planned and in the diary
Free + Easy — Pro bono passion projects — gathering ideas
Judge + Jury — Creative debate forum
— implemented

If you read this (well done go grab a cuppa, you’ve earned it) but you might like to read this too if you get 3 minutes ☺: