TALES FROM ISA 15 ARGENTINA - Episode II: Attack of the Cordobés

Ricardo Brito • Service Design Lead

Greetings from Interaction South America in Córdoba, Argentina. Ricardo and Paul here giving two workshops and gathering the pulse of a very different design and digital services community. If you missed Episode I, have a laugh about designer-engineer collaboration (We somehow lost the business guy on the way here).

Our first few days were intense prep and catching up on work. The advance time is never enough, so some practice and run through help us sharpen the message and comic timing. You can read dry facts in many places- we want to inform with attitude, opinion and audience participation. The participants here are amazing. We’ve learned a few surprising things along the way- enjoy!

"Design is serious business" - Yes it is! Nice to have a conference tee that we can actually use.

Future Thinking applied to Concept Design

8AM, more excellent Argentine “empanadas” (meat pies) for breakfast. A fast walk from our Airbnb to the university and pick up some sunscreen for Paul on the way. Too late, already a lobster. The staff help with shuffling rooms to arrange a more open workshop format and everything is set.

Both workshops are sold-out. Excellent. A few more sneak in anyway and that adds energy. Everyone introduces themselves which brings the first surprise: half of them are not designers. We also had Business Developers, Consultants, Engineers and Developers. This is going to be fun!

Ricardo opens the pitch: Future Thinking Applied to Concept Design. It goes down well. Our basic point: understand forecasts and where they come from helps you select the best properly to feed into your creative process of service design. The result is future-proof designs that are better business value. The natural similarities between Futures work and design positively reinforce either other.

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DESIGN VIEW: To my surprise, the audience was much more diverse than I’m used too in European design events. The multitude of backgrounds turned out to be interesting, so we tailor our speech to get out of the Design lingo. People were very curious about Future Thinking Theory, but with 30 degrees and fans running we could see in their faces they needed some action to keep fresh.

The workshop exercise is choosing a Market Segment (Governmental, Transportation, Health, Retail…) before we help them to choose among the many prepared Trends that will impact their concept development. They analysed the trends one by one using the Trend Canvas to understand where it comes from, what is driving the trend, and see how it will impact their business idea.

Each team then developed a service concept or a product based on their trend analysis. The most surprising thing in the whole experience was the self-organisation the groups had. They split in language groups by choice, and started work immediately.

By the end of the workshop my brain was on fire due to the constant switching of languages between English, Portuguese and Spanish. Paul offered to help them with his basic Finnish but it was not a particularly popular option.

One of our workshop rooms and our helpful staff.

Groups discussing trends and their impact.

ENGINEER VIEW: Wow, I thought I would be the only tech geek here. It turns out the South American designers often start technical due to differences in the education. Those with a natural affinity then evolve toward design. Brilliant.

My philosophy is “speak truth to power”. So with due apologies, let me put my head on the block again: many international designers could benefit from the mixed background we are seeing here in South America. They are forced by to step out of their narrow comfort zone (Service Design, UX, etc) and do a bit of everything. This rounds the skills and makes for a nice perspective baked into the end product. You can’t survive here in a narrow niche. It nicely matches and embodies our approach at Futurice- mixing design, engineering and business perspectives from day one with lean and fast iteration give tight results.

This feet-on-the-ground approach of the workshop participants really comes out in the group work. There is no visible harm of non-designers in the end result, but rather a broad viewpoint that brings creative, often practical ideas quickly. 

Hard working minds

A very happy Futurists family. Well done guys! :)

Brief intermission, grab an empanada and a mate, queue the Mariachi music. Ricardo: “No dude, Mariachi is not from Argentina.” Paul: “Then why did I have to listen to for the last 4 days? It is enough to put anyone in the hospital. I need some Viking death chants. Distorted guitars, primal grunts, long hairs rhythmically banging their heads on the stage. It is relaxing, safe, nordic.”

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Creating the Cities of Tomorrow, together

The goal of the workshop was to showcase how Futurice works, demonstrate the impact of LSC (Lean Service Creation) on our customer work, and create awareness about how Personal Data can be handled more ethically in design and business decisions. The specific challenge we give to present this is exploring the next generation of smart city services in an open ecosystem that combines public and private interests to better serve the citizens.

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DESIGN VIEW: I have no words to describe this workshop! People were very receptive to our (sometimes paranoid) concerns about Personal Data and Digital Services. Some of the teams embraced the idea of developing digital services that communicate locally rather than using the cloud or a traditional Internet connection. They developed great concepts, full of heart, and above all: ideas that matter.

Personally as a designer and human being I was blown away in one project in particular. An IoT public solution to help and guide the evacuation of citizens and the handicapped during events like the Paris attacks. It was innovative and touching.

The group participants were mainly from South American countries. A few joined from the US, which influenced the problems they were trying to solve and how they solved them.

The mix of cultures, backgrounds and interests was positive- one more time a proof that multidisciplinary teams, who respect each other, know how to build on top of other's ideas and leave the ego behind, will be the more successful ones.

Photo: Rosario Figueroa

Photo: Rosario Figueroa

ENGINEER VIEW: The first workshop was great- this one rocked. With the IoT Service Kit and sexy subject matter, we were blown away by the sharp, creative concepts presented after such a short time. The ethical local business and personal power over your identity angles was well received. Argentina is a place where local business is important. The results had heart and creativity with several related solutions nicely woven. None of the teams got hung up on technical or business details which is a concern about multidisciplinary work. Hopefully we will see some of these ideas put into action- it will make the world a better place.

Photo: Rosario Figueroa

Photo: Rosario Figueroa

Another happy family!

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Podcast Episode 5

It was also our privilege to work with the talented and always cheerful staff here. The local IXDA chapter has made everything smooth. We took half an hour to check their stories and gather views and personal strories from the South American design scene in our latest episode of Follow our RSS Feed.


The South American design style really matches the Futu way of doing things. Multidisciplinary, broad perspective, and fast iteration within a time box with some laughs and fun along the way. The practical pressures of performing in the real world have driven us all toward similar solutions and we can now easily trade best practices to improve ourselves. It has been a privilege to be here and trade ideas with so many amazing people. We’re looking forward to the rest of the conference and another 30 hours flying back to Europe.

Cheers- Rickito and Paulito

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