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Exploring the information space

Using co-creation to make design solutions that work (Euro IA 2013)

With a title that includes a potentially ambiguous word, Koen Perters‘ talk started with intrigue. It went on to deliver meaningful value, inspiration, and ideas on ways of… letting go.


Co-creation is an approach to consultancy that builds not on being the genius-expert with all the answers to every question, but a facilitator who can tease the meaningful answers out of the client. On the one hand, it delivers results that the client feels more attached to, because they participated in defining them. On the other, it can leave them feeling they actually did all the work.

In order to work, it is a mindset that needs to be maintained throughout a project’s lifespan; if it is abandoned after the initial sessions, it is no more than a kick-off workshop. This requires far more commitment of key client stakeholders, team members and users than other approaches based on handing off the work and receiving back a set of deliverables. It helps cross-pollinate, exposing different parties to each others’ ideas and challenges.

The whole approach is largely to turn the discovery and solution design process into an exploration and puzzle-solving exercise. It is participatory and interactive. It is fun (yes – there should be games). Much of the output will be in the form of images, or even interactions (that are probably best captured as video).

While Koen approached some aspects of his presentation from the perspective of co-creation, many apply irrespective of the method used. Primary amongst these was the question of content design: simply, start with what is important, the reason for the actual content. The landing/navigational pages will take care of themselves. And, of course, you and the client had better know what youa re doing, why, and what you expect out of the session from the beginning, or it won’t produce as good results.

Raw notes:

  • The principle of co-creation is that the client actively participates in creating the solution, not handing it to an agency.
  • The new Namahn design studio. Whiteboard walls are convertible to desks. Now that’s flexible/functional space.
  • Co-creation is not just a way of starting a project. It runs throughout the project.
  • The value of co-creation: buy-in.
  • To design via co-creation, you need to be able to let go. It’s not all your genius.
  • Co-creation brings more mindsets together to help solve complex problems.
  • A co-creation workshop needs client core teams and department representatives, plus users.
  • Mix personality types in your co-creation workshops.
  • Co-creation does not work in a meeting room around a table. You need room to move, shared boards, etc.
  • The context map: What is there, for whom, by whom, in what locations?
  • When designing navigation, start with the core: the reason for the content. (Not the home page.)
  • Describe your content core, inward path and outbound paths. This is what your site is about.
  • Serious play is brainstorming about a future service – by acting them out (e.g. with lego characters)
  • In a co-creation workshop, you – and the client – need to know the session goals.
  • If you need output from a co-creation workshop, have someone there who can document the output.
  • The risk of co-creation is that the client feels your expertise hasn’t been used; it’s too much of their input.
  • Co-creation workshops are about people skills, not about designing. Empathy and facilitation skills required.
  • When inviting the client to co-creation workshops, invite the difficult ones. It can make them less difficult.
  • The key value of co-creation is it can (surreptitiously) build bridges/consensus between silos.
  • To capture the output from “serious play,” think video.
  • Inviting users to client co-creation… sometimes, the clients have never met a real user before.
  • Co-creation is no different from any project, in that your deliverables will be different to the pre-defined deliverables.

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