Design Jam London 2: post-mortem


I was honored to be asked, alongside Mathias Dahlström from and Tim Brooke from Nokia, to mentor Design Jam London 2.

The one-day event, organized by Johanna Kollmann, Joe Lanman, Franco Papeschi, Desigan Chinniah and supported by Mozilla Labs Concept Series, City University London, Fjord, and Geeks of London took place at City University this Saturday.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but – based on feedback on the day and afterwards – I believe it was hugely rewarding for all involved. Personally, I found mentoring ten teams – each comprised of designers with varied backgrounds – a lovely challenge. When I'm consulting, I usually coach a single team at a time and this forced me to up my game and kept me on my toes for the majority of the day.


After the introductions, the attendees divided themselves up into ten design teams to tackle – within the constraints of an accelerated schedule – the mobile design problem we presented them with:

Design a mobile service to help visitors to London 'become local' - to discover and connect with the city in a meaningful way.


Many of the teams started out by exploring the problem ("what does it mean to be local?", "what are meaningful ways to connect?", etc.), brainstorming, and delving deeper via the creation of user profiles, user journeys, and wireframes. Some teams even found time to do some simple research via surveys and user testing with paper prototypes.

Pre-lunch pep rally: focus, focus, focus!

All teams were asked to do a preliminary stand-up presentation at mid-day before breaking for lunch. While listening to the ten teams present, it became clear to me that there were common issues that the teams were tackling with regard to the problem domain and that there was a common lack of focus on mobile-specific considerations. Some of the teams were proposing whole systems, parts of which would be better served by a web application. Before the teams broke for lunch, I gave them a brief list of considerations and asked them to focus!, focus!, focus! ("quality over quantity") and consider context and ergonomics in their designs. Specifically, I asked them to consider:

It was very rewarding to see some of the teams really take these points into consideration during lunch (see Team 6 - Siux's wiki page, for example) . One of the teams, Hi 5, completely changed their design based on the feedback and ended up creating one of my favorite designs of the day: A "no UI" app called Spidey Sense that warns visitors when they're walking into dodgy areas of town by vibrating.

At the end of the day, there were the final presentations and I was really impressed by quite a number of them; a few of which I believe could actually become successful apps.


Based on the feedback during the event and afterwards, the event was really well received with people who had been to the first event commenting that the organizational committee had taken their feedback on board and improved the format considerably the second time around.


One thing I would love to see is the creation of two-day jams where designers and developers work together in small, interdisciplinary teams (and with an agile process) to design and develop mobile apps.

To conclude, all I can say is that if you're lucky enough to have a Design Jam in your area, jump at the chance to become an attendee or mentor. I can guarantee you that it's time well spent and a very rewarding experience for everyone involved.

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