Nokia Open Studios

Very interesting work that Jan Chipchase and Younghee Jung have been involved in that they call “open studio.” The design approach is quite intriguing as it involves participation from on-the-ground “locals” given a particular question and allowed the freedom to explore possibilities — however preposterous it might be considered from a rational, conservative design perspective.

Younghee also presented this work at the Lift08 conference in Geneva. The video is available here.

Isaaneeyat: For this participant, phones are much more than a communication tool: They can also be a means of survival. The idea behind this bottle-shaped phone is to help carry drinkable water, a valuable commodity in many of the shantytowns Nokia visited. This phone also can act as a float, enabling people living in these towns to survive in extreme conditions such as floods. In the words of the participant: “It’s my style of phone because is helps you and others to survive. I would like to help others with my phone.”

The design philosophy here is that perspectives and considerations as to what is a normative basis for design, as well as what “counts” cannot only be determined from above. Rather — there’s an opportunity to diversify at least the initial assumptions of what designs are best for whom?

There was a brief article in BusinessWeek on this based on a presentation that Jan and Younghee gave at the end of April.

BusinessWeek says:

Nokia provided the space and the drawing tools, and more than 220 people offered up their vision of the ideal handset. Nokia asked participants to address the following questions:

What does it look like?

What does it do?

How will you use it?

When and where will you use it?

Other questions were aimed at providing Nokia’s researchers with deeper insight into the broader issue of identity within these fast-growing urban environments. The team gleaned information on participants’ tastes, style, personality, profession, religion, sense of heritage, and community. Some of the participants knocked off sketches in 20 minutes, while others spent two full days on the project.

And further:

Working with local experts such as NGOs or even students, Nokia designers went into each city and set up a community based competition asking people to design their dream phone. The results were unusual and led to some interesting insights such as a star shaped phone designed by someone in Ghana that could house up to four different SIM cards, reflecting the local preference for using more than one operator in order to get better prices and coverage.

Here are more of the sketches created by the “open studio” participants.

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