Digitalist Network // January 04 2018
Greetings from the London Studio
Hello from Digitalist London. We’re situated on Camden High Street opposite Mornington Crescent Tube station and two doors down from the world famous Koko theatre*. For a bit of historical trivia, Koko opened in 1900 on Boxing day and was a variety theatre where Charlie Chaplin regularly performed. So you could say, we keep esteemed company. We have been here for a couple of years and have recently undergone some internal renovation works to create meeting rooms with white wall vinyls and branded decals. It’s all looking very creative (as it should) and along with the branded hoodies, water bottles and pens, we’re feeling like we’ve taken another step towards laying down a marker in our space.
Our team is fifteen strong, consisting of UX, UI and Service designers, Front-end Developers, Solution Architects, Project and Account Managers and Business Development personnel. We’ve recently had a transfer from Helsinki, hired an additional PM and Account Manager and we have a Service Designer joining us in January 2018. So we’re on a transformative curve.
One of our main strengths is the ability to take on a variety of roles. Although we have our respective disciplines, no one is pigeon-holed here and I’m proud to say that everyone is self-motivated and keen to get stuck in and learn new things. This resourcefulness and willingness to work outside of our comfort zone is entirely in keeping with the spirit of this organisation and has served us so well in client projects. The other interesting facet is that the team is comprised of many different nationalities and ethnic origins. We have (in no particular order), Spanish, Canadian, South African, Dutch, Indian, American, English, Greek, Finnish, to name a few. I hope I haven’t left any out, but it’s a melting pot and I believe it to be a real strength. Cultural diversity brings with it so many different world perspectives and approaches and we all benefit from it in some capacity.
Digitalist London team members: Senior Visual Designers David Orridge and Borja Sampedro, and Project Manager Frans Henning
Diversity takes many forms. There are those who bring life experiences to bear in some remarkable way or another. Our Principal UX designer was once a builder and a car mechanic. You could say he knows a thing or two about piecing things together and making them fit for purpose. We also have a former English teacher and probably explains why she’s been pivotal in content production and can command the attention of fifty engineers in a workshop scenario, as was the case recently on a major client engagement. Our Senior VP and Head of the UK is an ex-member of the US Armed Forces and Intelligence Services, who consistently denies possessing any military intelligence related to Area 51 and JFK. This has only served to heighten the conspiracy theories, but his no-nonsense approach inspires confidence and loyalty.
Our work and focus
Most recently, we have engaged in digital innovation project for a large blue-chip brand that required intense periods of market research, focus group testing, ideation and concept refinements. We have also delivered business transformation projects where we help companies to identify opportunities to improve their customer journeys.
Jason Quinn, Principal UX Designer from the London studio
Increasingly and unsurprisingly our attention is gravitating toward machine learning and AI. We are already engaged in an AI project for Flexy, a temporary staffing agency that has an ambition to replace analogue processes with AI-led digital solutions. Machine learning algorithms interrogate specific candidate attributes to determine their suitability for a job. Whilst Digitalist built and designed all the artefacts from the mobile App for candidates to the Desktop UI for admin staff, there clearly needs to be a paradigmatic shift in our thinking about how we go about designing for AI. It’s not about designing artefacts, but designing the environment or system for AI to work within to sculpt highly personalised and natural experiences. This is known as meta-design. In his post, Rune Madsen, an artist, technologist and blogger, predicts the rise of the meta-designer and cites Donald Knuth a prominent computer scientist when describing the challenge we face:
“Meta-design is much more difficult than design; it’s easier to draw something than to explain how to draw it” – Donald Knuth **
Perhaps the best description of meta-design itself is one put forward by Joshua Newnham of Method in his blog post titled ‘Sculpting Experiences with Data’***:
“Metadesign is where the role of the designer is not to design the final artefact but rather to design the constraints and parameters for the artefact to manifest.”
The exciting thing about AI and machine learning is to do with the fact we won’t always know exactly how it will manifest. As designers and technologists we have to ensure that we are creating an environment borne out of the right data inputs. Where we have traditionally seen products to have a predefined and unchangeable form and set rules for navigation and use, we have to start thinking about products that have the propensity of dynamically transitioning between different states depending on how it is being challenged and interacted with. We look forward to applying our design thinking and bring about additional value to our clients, in a space that is still in its infancy, albeit awash with headline grabbing sensationalism. I anticipate many more posts on the subject in 2018 that are far more informative and thought provoking and ones that draw on our actual experiences.
This company has changed in so many ways since I came aboard in 2011. In that time we have experienced some great challenges but the values that define Digitalist is that we always look forward, embrace the new and are committed to making a difference through our work. As Charlie Chaplin is quoted as saying; “Imagination means nothing without doing.” With that indomitable spirit we want to carry on doing. Bring on 2018, Digitalist has arrived.
By Rajen Yadav, Creative Director, Digitalist, London