Editor’s note: Jan Chipchase, a former creative director of Global Insights at Frog Design and principal scientist at Nokia, is the founder of Studio D Radiodurans, a research, design and innovation consultancy. His interest lies in field research and the exploration of human behavior, which he addresses in a booklet guide entitled Pop-Up Studio. We talked recently about this notion, the concept of a “studio” and about his plans for the future.
Nicolas Nova: Prior to discussing this new book, I’m curious about the very notion of “studio”. It’s a concept coming from design and architecture that found its way to field research, in the context of design exploration. What do you mean by “studio” and what does mean for field researchers ?
Jan Chipchase: Most of the work is commissioned as part of design projects that encompass concepting, prototyping, future scoping, strategy and so on. In that sense it is a space that needs to support collaborative learning, the exploration and iteration of ideas and designs. The studio is the closest model.
NN: The idea of having a “pop-up studio” close to the field is an intriguing notion. What kinds of activities can happen in this context (unlike getting back to the consultancy office/motherboard)?
JC: Like any approach there are pros and cons and the trick is understanding where and when it’s most appropriate. We explore some of the alternatives in the book.
The benefits of running a pop-up studio for the kinds of deep immersive projects we’re tasked with include:
The space inspires, supports different forms of interaction, collaboration and allows the team to move to a different level of understanding with one another – this is especially important on multinational teams. Done right you can see individuals and the team achieve a sense of flow. The psychology of the space is critical, and we also look beyond the project to how the experience is reflected upon.
Regardless of how things are normally done as a team you can reinvent the rules of how you want to live and work, which most people find invigorating. It might give the HR department palpitations, but it works. From a creative standpoint. It’s not so much thinking out of the box as challenging the notion of what a box is, the materials it’s made of, the properties of those materials and how they relate to one another.
It makes it easier to staff a research + design + strategy project with a single researcher and still give the rest of the team meaningful field experience, in that it impacts what they make or how they think and the outcome of the project. People naturally want to talk about the experiences that shape their life, not out of obligation to the project or the organisation that they work for but because it defines who they are, who they want to be and how they want to be perceived. That’s your delivery mechanism right there.
“People naturally want to talk about the experiences that shape their life, not out of obligation to the project or the organisation that they work for but because it defines who they are, who they want to be and how they want to be perceived.”
It also allows you to engage executive level (CEO, EVP, …) people. One of our rules is “no tourists”. Everyone, no matter how senior, is put to work. They are some of the biggest fans.
We have a dedicated synthesis and sense making process, but this model allows for constant (after each session, each day, at the end of each location) iteration on the questions, so that the next day when the team goes out they are pushing the learning forward. There’s a learning curve for individuals and the team and the trick is to know where you are on that curve – it’s only apparent when you’re in the field.Read More… Jan Chipchase’s guide for pop-up field studios