This month’s theme is SIMPLICITY in all aspects of designing, including the design process itself. There are articles on museum learning spaces, service design process, holistic learning design, and virtual reality.

Etches Collection – beautifully simple

The photo above was taken from a chair at one end of the main gallery in the new Etches Collection museum, in Kimmeridge, Dorset (on the south coast of England). It presents a small and carefully curated sample of a vast collection of fossils built up by the palaeontologist Steve Etches.It is a modern, purpose-designed building, with this gallery at its heart. The key to its success is the balance between simplicity and informational depth, achieved through careful curation and editing, and new technologies. There are important lessons to be learned here for designing learning spaces in higher education. Read my full design study here.

This month’s other articles are all written in the light of the experience of visiting the Etches, and considering the importance and full implications of designing for simplicity.

Limina Immersive – VR as curated shared experience

Catherine Allen and Emma Hughes of Limina have continued to refine their already sophisticated design for curated social VR experiences. In January and February this year they put on a week of “arts VR” public events, following the VR-enhanced seminar model, at the University of Warwick Arts Centre. They proved to be very popular with a broad range of people, and provoked productive discussions about the potential of VR, often with people who had never experienced it before. This is my personal review, having attended two of their sessions (Surrealism and Empire Soldiers). My verdict: they’ve got an approach that really works! They have achieved a simple elegance in which often quite emotional and challenging experiences may be had safely. If you get a chance to go to one of their events, don’t miss it. Read the full article here.

Experiments in holistic learning design

I’m currently developing an interdisciplinary undergraduate module on Design Thinking, which will be available to 2nd and 3rd year students from any department at Warwick. We are being quite ambitious with the aims and methods that we use for this, not shying away from the complexity of the topic and the target audience. It is a chance to see just how far we can go in combining active, experiential and authentic methods with the flexible learning spaces and technologies that are core to our digital/physical platform. This is a report on the prototypes and sample lectures that I have done so far, including innovative use of Moodle, Solstice wireless projection, Echo 360 lecture capture and the Catchbox throwable wireless microphone. It begins with an exploration of the complexity of the challenge, and shows how I am looking for ‘simplifiers’ to give us means to succeed with that complexity. I want to show how this is a continuous design process, in which I am deliberately creating events that will involve real students, so that I can get valid information and insights that will lead me to means through which I can tame the complexity with elegant simplicity – rather like that achieved in the Etches Collection. Read my article here.

Using micro-roles to dissolve the wicked problem of open innovation

And now for something a little more challenging – this month’s ‘long read’.

Open-innovation, or what we might call ‘crowdsourcing design change’, has obvious benefits: more people, more ideas, diverse perspectives, greater buy-in from those who might be impacted by change. But there are also problems: change becomes slow, complex, dissipated across an organisation and perhaps deliberately frustrated; factionalism increases; or we end up grasping ill-explored ideas and jumping too fast to conclusions. Managers may consciously or unconsciously exploit the ensuing mess to gain back control. This might be a classic ‘wicked problem’ (as defined by Richard Buchanan, 1992). Openness actually results in complexity that obscures and encourages people to manipulate the process. In this article we explore an approach to building organisational design capability that dissolves this wicked problem. Read all about it here.