July 9, 2019

PG #37: The Peculiar Blindness Of Experts

Two hands above a pile of papers. The one on the left is holding a pencil, about to write something. The one on the right is pointing to something on the paper. There is a cup of coffee and a pen to the left of the paper. There is a cup of tea and another pen on the right of the paper.
Illustration by Hope Lumsden-Barry, Communication Designer

There’s this strange thing that happens in Australia every June – it’s called the ‘End of Financial Year’ (aka EOFY). It’s an odd time where companies and government agencies alike are trying to spend as much money as possible to justify their budget requests for the next financial year and reduce their tax liability.

What it means for consultancies like ours is that June is the busiest time of year: the time when our clients desperately need work delivered before July rolls around, and we are working as hard as we can to deliver it.

It’s also winter, and everyone wants to take a break.

It’s also school holiday time.

It’s also flu season.

And what happens is the interaction between these things – busiest time of year + winter + holiday time + flu season – means we arrive early July exhausted and gasping for breath. I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to design a healthy working economy, this is not how I would go about it. And there are ways to design better economies – check out this article on 5 things Australia could do right now to end poverty

All this is really just a preamble to explain why you might notice the newsletter is a little light on this week. We hope you are able to be kind to yourself for the rest of the winter months!

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #37 here.

June 26, 2019

PG #36: From Self-Care To Community Care

About two years ago, we had the opportunity to do an amazing research project into something that affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives.

The project was called ‘The Death of a Loved One’. It aimed to map the experience of dealing with death in Australia, and for a good reason: to make clear the failings of public and private services, and to find opportunities to make a difficult experience a bit less difficult all-round for those of us left behind. 

Qualitative research on ‘life events’ (e.g. ‘having a baby’, ‘moving out of home’, ‘dying’) is foundational for service providers because these events are foundational to our lives. They affect every aspect from the financial to the emotional, and are the times we are most likely to need external support. Research in these areas will always have application far outside the instigating project’s scope. Even though our work is two years old, the findings are still relevant, and will likely remain relevant for many years to come. 

This project was foundational for Paper Giant too – it helped us formalise and cement in place our approach to ethics and care on projects, which we’ve written and spoken about elsewhere (and will be doing again in London this week!).

For me personally, doing this work really highlighted the importance of gaining qualitative insight into experiences, to understand people’s situations before implementing change – especially situations that are as complex, diverse and nuanced as someone close to you dying.

— Reuben Stanton & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #36 here.

June 11, 2019

PG #35: Buzzwords Vs Reality

Two of our primary goals at Paper Giant are to build communities and start conversations.

This week marks a year since we moved into our current studio space in Melbourne’s CBD – a beautiful, spacious and light-filled room, which we’ve filled with modular furniture and whiteboards, and which we’ve tried to make feel and behave like a public library. Almost everything is on wheels, and we’re pleased with the way the space can shift and respond to the demands of project work as well as for public events.

At the time of our move, the space was much bigger than we needed. We committed to the lease because we knew it would become a key part of the infrastructure to achieve our longer-term goals. Over the last twelve months we’ve hosted a huge number and variety of events, both for and outside of the design community in Melbourne. This effort culminated in a massive May, during which we hosted four events.

Our ‘Diversity in the Innovation Ecosystem’ event for Melbourne Knowledge Week is the one we’re most proud of. We wanted to bring people together to talk about different forms of diversity and inclusion, and promote frank discussions about how it does or doesn’t work in practice, and I think we were successful. (Read a write-up of the event.)

In service of our goals though, it’s important that we don’t expect everyone to come to us. To that end, I’ll be heading to London at the end of June to run a workshop on Designing (and Surviving) for the End of Life at GOOD19, after which i'll be connecting with old and new design research colleagues at User Research London.

Right before then, we’ll be running our Design Research for Product and Service Innovation training in Melbourne. We’re thrilled to announce that this is sold out, but if you’re interested in getting better at collecting and working with qualitative data, details on the waitlist are below.

In the meantime, we hope that the spaces you make, are part of, and visit are rewarding, supportive and fun. We know that ours is. Make sure you drop by sometime.

— Chris Marmo & the PG Team

Read the rest of Issue #35 here.

May 31, 2019

#MKW19: What happened, and what’s next

Last week we hosted five incredible speakers and a room full of inquisitive minds at our workshop 'Diversity in the innovation ecosystem’ in partnership with Committee for Melbourne, as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week.

Read more

May 28, 2019

PG #34 – One foot in front of the other

I’m writing this days after the UN reports that 1 million species are at risk of extinction, and that CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa observatory have reached 415ppm for the first time in history. I’m also writing this hours after the Australian public has voted in a federal election, and our re-elected prime minister is a man who once waved a lump of coal around in parliament with the joy of a schoolyard bully.

As I write this, it seems we face another three years of cruelty towards people living in poverty, another three years of dismantling our social security system, another three years of pandering to white nationalists and racists, another three years of regression and inaction on climate, and another three years of cynical economic models that ignore the societal costs of inaction on all these issues.

But however we might feel about this particular election outcome, the challenges we face today are the same that we faced yesterday.

It seems to me the only solution to this crisis is transformative change – to overhaul the global economy to prioritise wellbeing and environmental sustainability rather than the pursuit of profit. We can no longer support a business-as-usual that perpetuates inequality and injustice. We can no longer support a business-as-usual that leads to ecological degradation and global warming. We must fight even harder than before for fairness, equity and sustainability.

And as I write this, I don’t yet have a clear way through this mess, other than to acknowledge that as designers we have agency, and we need to work together, to choose how to put that agency to use.

 — Reuben Stanton, Co-Founder and Design Director

Read the rest of Issue #34 here.

May 15, 2019

#MKW19: Meet Ruth De Souza

Text on the left hand side reads "Dr Ruth De Souza, Diversity in the innovation ecosystem, 6:00pm, May 22nd" with a photo of a woman on the right

One week to go and we are very excited to announce that Dr Ruth De Souza will be joining us at our workshop Diversity in the Innovation Ecosystem. We’ve been working with Ruth to support a leading community health organisation in co-designing their strategic vision for cultural safety.

Ruth has a passionate interest in disentangling racism from health and social care. She advocates for replacing the idea of ‘diversity’ with ‘cultural safety’, an ethical framework developed by Indigenous Māori nurses from Aotearoa New Zealand.

For an intro to Ruth’s work and thinking, we recommend this piece written for the Australian College of Nursing. She outlines how ‘diversity’ has become a feel-good term of celebration, rather than a tool for truly holding our organisations to account.

She discusses how our current use of ‘diversity’ still places whiteness at the centre - with everyone else being framed in terms of their difference from whiteness. It’s not enough to have nurses from a variety of backgrounds – “representation in the workforce doesn’t mean that the people who are culturally different have a voice in the corridors of power.”

Read the full piece for a breakdown of the other ways in which ‘diversity’ fails us.

Ruth is an independent consultant, and also works as Academic Convenor of the Data, Systems and Society Research Network (DSSRN) and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Informatics and Population Health Informatics (HaBIC) at the University of Melbourne. Ruth has an extensive background as a nurse, educator and researcher, as well as holding a number of community and governance roles.

Ruth blogs at ruthdesouza.com and tweets as @desouzarn. This event is part of Melbourne Knowledge Week, 20–26 May 2019, proudly presented by the City of Melbourne. Paper Giant is hosting this event in partnership with Committee for Melbourne.

May 14, 2019

PG #33 – The ‘dark matter’ of design

Artistic image of dark matter, showing three abstract coloured circles (red, yellow and blue) on a black background
Image by Andrew Watson

The first time I heard the term ‘dark matter’ in relation to design was when Dan Hill used it in his excellent book Dark Matter and Trojan Horses. This was 2014, before ‘strategic design’ was something people talked about, and before Paper Giant got started. You could almost say the concept of ‘dark matter’ is why Paper Giant got started.

In astrophysics, dark matter refers to all the stuff that we know exists even though we don’t know what it might be. We have no way to observe it, but it literally holds the fabric of the universe together. In design, ‘dark matter’ is the underlying ideological, cultural, structural and systemic ‘stuff’ that shapes and controls how organisations work, how decisions get made, and what changes are considered possible. It’s the stuff that happens in the background of our work that we don’t and can’t see.

Designers are constantly experimenting with new techniques that help us observe dark matter: borrowing language (e.g. reframing design as ‘regeneration’), using tools of speculative fiction, applying different ways of visualising and mapping systems to help people see their context in new ways.

Since reading Dan’s book in 2014, I’ve only become more convinced that the heart of our work is about detecting this dark matter, observing its effects, and making it visible to others.

 — Reuben Stanton, Design Director

Read the rest of Issue #33 here.

May 10, 2019

#MKW19: Meet Mario Visic

It's only two weeks to go until our Melbourne Knowledge Week workshop Diversity in the innovation ecosystem on May 22. This week we chatted to our fourth speaker Mario Visic, Developer Mentor at Envato about his motivation to champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Mario has always been passionate about software engineering. Since 2017, he has been running the Apprentice Developer program at Envato. This fully paid apprenticeship program takes aspiring female software developers and trains them up to become junior developers at Envato. They hope to expand it to other underrepresented groups in future.

Mario, why is diversity and inclusion important to you?

When I was younger I decided to go to university to pursue my passion and study computer science. The only factor that went into the decision was “what might I enjoy doing professionally for the rest of my life?”. At the time this seemed obvious to me – why would you need to ask any other questions? Now I realise that what I had at the time was privilege. I never had to ask, “will I be safe in this industry?” or “will I be treated as an equal to my peers?” Diversity and inclusion are important to me because I would like to live in a society where my experiences aren't a privilege, but the norm for everyone.

When did you first feel like the work you are doing in this space was starting to make an impact?

My proudest moment was when our first two apprentices graduated from the program and moved into full-time developer positions at Envato. It was sad not to see them every work day, but I was so happy that I was able to help them start their new careers as software developers.

Where would you recommend people look for resources to build their practice and understanding of this topic?

I think one of the most important things you can do in a community, especially if you are in a majority group, is to work to ensure that the environment is comfortable for everyone. I recommend speaking to people that may look or behave differently to yourself, or just have a different perspective to you. Further your understanding of the struggles that others have to go through – struggles that you may not have personally gone through yourself.

Book your ticket (free event) to Diversity in the innovation ecosystem

This event is part of Melbourne Knowledge Week, 20–26 May 2019, proudly presented by the City of Melbourne. Paper Giant is hosting this event in partnership with Committee for Melbourne.

May 1, 2019

#MKW19: Meet Lynn Nguyen

This week, in the lead-up to our Melbourne Knowledge Week workshop Diversity in the innovation ecosystem, we chatted to our third speaker: Lynn Nguyen, Customer Strategy Manager at Scope Australia. Scope is one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit disability service providers. Scope supports people with physical, intellectual and multiple disabilities to achieve their goals in life.

Lynn is a marketing and CX professional but has had a diverse career – she started out in criminal law, then progressed into a number of product and marketing roles in Australia and the UK. She now leads the customer strategy function at Scope Australia. Lynn champions diversity in the workplace by only employing people who share her (and Scope’s) values of inclusion and equal citizenship.

Lynn, why is diversity and inclusion important to you?

I wholeheartedly believe that you can’t be what you can’t see. I am Vietnamese by descent and I’ve always struggled to find role models that look and sound like me in the workplace. To this day I am usually the only Vietnamese-Australian in the room wherever I am, and often non-white woman. Being a first-generation immigrant, for many years I felt that by assimilating, I had lost the right to speak for and about the things that made me different. This meant I struggled to find my authentic voice in the workplace. This is why diversity and inclusion are so important to me.

When did you first feel like the work you are doing in this space was starting to make an impact?

A part of my remit is to amplify the voice of the customer internally. One way my team and I do that is by using technology to collect and share insights. Scope has always collected customer feedback but it was never widely shared. For residents living in our supported homes, their thoughts and opinions often sat on scanned pieces of paper that were buried in a folder on someone’s PC. By introducing new technology and upskilling staff we’ve been able to disseminate this information to decision-makers in the organisation. I’ve seen this change the way some decisions are made at Scope. Diversity of voice in decision-making is incredibly difficult to achieve but I believe having access to those voices is a solid start.

Where would you recommend people look for resources to build their practice and understanding of this topic?

Diversity Australia has some great resources. You can’t participate if you can’t communicate so Scope’s Communication and Inclusion Resource Centre is also a good place to start if organisations are serious about exploring ways to make the workplace more accessible and inclusive, particularly for those with communication difficulties.

Book your ticket (free event) to Diversity in the innovation ecosystem

This event is part of Melbourne Knowledge Week, 20–26 May 2019, proudly presented by the City of Melbourne. Paper Giant is hosting this event in partnership with Committee for Melbourne.

May 1, 2019

PG #32 – Don’t Ignore The Outliers

People typically focus on the averages in their data. Designing for the middle 90% is usually faster, cheaper, more efficient. But the ‘outliers’ in your data are people, and decisions that ignore their needs might cause real suffering.

In this newsletter we take a look at; the importance of outliers, the neural implications of skim reading, the power of visual journalism and share our world-first framework for assessing refugee identities

 — Reuben and the PG Team


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Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the lands on which our office is located, and the traditional owners of country on which we meet and work throughout Australia. We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.