Tag Archives: social work

Beta karma

12 Jan

The virtuous cycle of prototyping, beta-testing, feedback & reiteration is part of enlightened product design, liberating us forward to an ultimate salvation from the hell of useless objects…


The holistic harmony of participatory co-design, & relations with the social work field

Armed with the mini prototype, I went around as many friends as I could to gather comments about the Book Bag. Design thinking methodology tries as much as possible to include users as early on as possible to co-design and co-create the product. This is one good way of ensuring that whatever goes out as a final product had already been accepted by customers, and thus less risk of investing in technology and marketing when it won’t ‘sell’.

This is one of the best parts I like about design thinking – trying to achieve a holistic balance between desirability by customers, business feasibility and technological viability. IDEO proposed this method in their Human-Centered Design Toolkit, a free innovation guide which they produced together with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for social enterprises and NGOs worldwide [you can download the free toolkit intro here.]

Source: Adapted from IDEO HCD Toolkit Intro


I’m a firm believer that for-profit business have lots to learn from such a framework built for not-for-profits, especially now. Often in the past, we can hear of not-for-profit organisations expressing some form of ‘business-envy’, and they try to emulate business systems and quantitatively measure the ‘market numbers’, which can get pretty difficult and tricky in the very different and human-centered social work field. I respect that both sides can and should learn from each other, but I believe consumers are increasingly seeking qualities which these traditional helping professions are really good at – empathy, customised help and care, focus on benefiting clients not system efficiency, and sharing resources through inter-organisational collaboration.

Anyway, I digress again! Design thinking, combined with my passion and previous job in social work field, is juicing me a lot creatively!


Hear ALL about it!

I’m listing the comments gathered from my friends – I’d forgot who said what, so if you’re reading this and one of the comments belong to you, please stand up and comment on the comment!

  • Have 2 variations of the prototype to compare and choose, in order to get the most honest opinions. It’s just like the proverbial situation where the wife asks the husband whether he likes the dress, and he’s damned if he does and damned if he don’t. Better to have 2 so that people can state their preferences of one over another, and not have to criticise just one option (and thus potentially making things defensive or socially awkward).
  • Bag handles – opinions were mixed. Some preferred handles from years of shopping experience, some were okay with a slot-type handle.
  • Most expressed a curious interest at first look even before I said anything about the Book Bag.
  • Most liked the idea of integrating a book and a bag, and appreciated the aesthetics.
  • Most were skeptical about whether getting people to borrow it like a book can work.
  • Add-on ideas included instructions for use on the bag, incorporating some ‘reading’ on the opened pages itself.
  • Someone pointed out that only right-handers can complete the picture – something I didn’t realised! Since most people are right-handed, I’ll go for it! Moreover, when it comes to carrying bags, don’t we frequently switch hands when one hand is tired?


Book Bag beta version 1.2 and 1.3

So I quickly made some improvements and made full-sized prototypes. It ended up being pretty nostalgic process; of youthful primary school days during the 80s when we worked on “science projects”, using vanguard sheet, UHU glue, colourful ‘magic pens’, cutting, pasting, colouring…… It was strangely comforting getting re-aquainted with those activities again – so fun! If you have a keen eye, you’d realise that I made a mistake when scaling up the ‘floating’ hand – it’s too small! Haha…. it can be rectified easily but to capitalise on the mistake, I got my lovely niece to model her hand for the prototype – see how the picture gets completed through the human user? I made 2 versions )open book/portrait vs closed book/landscape) to compare and choose.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So what do you think? Which one would you choose? More beta testing needed, this time in real time and place – the library!