What does a data scientist do at a design company?


Having literally just applied for a data science role in at Melbourne-based design company, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this short blog post about data science at IDEO. Only a few* design companies have integrated data science into their work; IDEO of course, and Dalberg Advisory.

As a global leader in design it’s no surprise that IDEO is leading the charge in this space, and at least once a week I find myself looking at the the IDEO career pages thinking “could I move back to the Bay Area?”. I know most people would probably think “Heck yes! put me on that plan”, but after spending my entire first career moving country/continent every 3 years in order to stay in the field – from Australia, to San Francisco, to Liverpool, Oxford, and back to Australia again – I’m not so sure. Data science was supposed to be the career change that meant I could stop doing that.

So I love seeing articles like this, because a) it makes it easier to explain my data science/design obsession to my family; b) it means that change is definitely coming (“I can feel it in me bones”), and; c) it makes it much easier to convince others about the enormous potential and opportunities that data science brings to design.

About a year ago (I think…) IDEO acquired Datascope Analytics, which is how Lisa Nash started out at IDEO, and why their data science team is still based in Chicago. But it appears they are expanding their data science efforts, with positions advertised in Palo Alto… And while I was in London – working as a data science fellow for a tech startup, IDEO advertised for a Quantitative/Digital Design Researcher, that contained more than a splash of data science. I won’t be surprise me if IDEO London (or perhaps IDEO Europe?) establishes cross continental data science hub.

Meanwhile in Brussels, Dalberg Data Insights is working on a bunch of fantastic international development projects – mainly in Africa, around food security, healthcare, and micro-financing. Dalberg Advisory established their data science arm in 2017. At the end of my data science fellowship I couldn’t help but swing by Brussels on my way home, just to check out the city…. you never know…

Fortunately we have some fantastic design agencies in Melbourne.

Portable recently dabbled with data science as part of a their Design for Justice project, and for at least one of their internal projects. More recently Paper Giant advertised for their very first data science role** which is really exciting. I’ll keep you posted on that front. I have no doubt there will be some tough competition.

 

So who benefits the most when data and design come together?
The data scientist? or the designer?

 

Both. Equally.

Designers benefit from having a data-driven design approach, where data is brought to the forefront of the decision making process. Rather than trusting their gut, or intuition, they have hard data to back things up. I can imagine scenarios where hard data might be really useful, where user interviews or anecdotes are hard to synthesise, or in cases where they may be misleading, or where there are many different perspectives.

 

The job of a good data scientist is not only to solve problems, but also to discover the questions worth asking.

 

Data scientists benefit from having a human-centred approach, where decisions around how to best to select and analyse the data, or to build the right algorithm or visualisation, ensure that the design goals are met. Combine that with rapid prototyping, where feedback can be integrated quickly, and you will undoubtably end up with a better design-driven data science solution.

– A.B.



*based on the two that I know of…

**she says with fingers tightly crossed….

Footnote:

I couldn’t help but love that podcasts made an appearance in her post, and that they’re considered part of her everyday work. About a year ago a friend of mine set up a private Love to Listen Facebook group and my podcast playlist has grown steadily ever since. After finishing Serial Season 3 (amazing — talk about wanting to redesign a justice system… ) I’ve moved on to IDEO Creative Confidence Series and the surprisingly amusing IDEO Futures. Definitely worth checking out…

Designing for Resilience


A few months ago IDEO published an article about designing for resilience and using technology can be leveraged to make services more intelligent and empathetic. Which got me thinking (yet again…) How do you actually do this?

 

How do you back up anecdotes or interviews with hard data? and what are the most commonly used algorithms, platforms and tools that data scientists, designers, and social entrepreneurs are using?


 

Kuja Kuja is one product that has made significant impact in Africa – the world’s first real-time customer feedback platform for refugee environments, I’d read about the development of this before and it’s a great example of how a successful platform co-designed and built for one particular organisation can become a tool help communities throughout the continent.

So one of my goals for this week is to…

Find as many examples of data science projects that have a significant level of co-design involved, whether that be for the social sector, for government, for research, the tech industry, or business; and try and identify the common tools, technologies, algorithms that underpin each one.


– A.B.



Why I love running RHoK

 

We’ve received a lot of RHoK love this year, but last weekend’s Melbourne and Sydney hacks was probably the most productive with respect to getting prototypes & solutions across the line, and the most satisfying in terms of how well the hackers and change makers connected with each other, and with their causes. It’s clear we’re doing something right ☺️

Now we get to relax for a couple of months (“and breath”… 🧘🏼‍♀️) before we prepare for the Winter Hackathon and find our next batch of amazing change makers. A massive congratulations to Eddie for a successful first hack as our new Melbourne Community Manager. Handovers are not always easy, unless of course your new Community Manager has been involved in RHoK before; as a change maker, a hacker, and steering committee member. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to take up the reigns.

– A.B.

 

Design your Death: A Portable R&D Demo Evening

 

It’s not often that you get to see what goes on behind the closed doors of a design consultancy. But Portable is no ordinary design consultancy. For a start they are based in Collingwood, which automatically gives them a gold star – my old neighbourhood was a just a hop, skip and a jump across Hoddle St.
Secondly, I’ve heard them say that in their early days they aspired to be a kind of Australian IDEO — and doesn’t everyone love IDEO.

I’ve been to a few of their breakfast and evening talks and they are always (a) fantastic, (b) completely packed – standing room only. I first heard about Portable through fellow RHoK buddy and adopted design mentor Zen Tim. He’s possibly the most chilled out and thoughtful person I know. The first time I visited Portable was back in May 2018. Jason Hendry (Partner & Creative Technologist) gave an excellent talk about how they are using a human-centred design approach to building machine learning tools. More recently I heard Joe Sciglitano (Design Lead) talk about empathy in design and what to do with it. Both talks have been brilliant, and since then I’ve been reading through all their design reports. You can check them out here.

 
We don’t just do design. We start conversations with like-minded and diverse groups of people, whether they have a shared interest in design, technology or inspiring social good. 
— Portable, Collingwood.
At Death’s door

At Death’s door


Needless to say I knew that their R&D Demo Evening would likely be a pretty special event. I wasn’t disappointed.

I had a great time chatting to Portable and non-Portable folks about all things death and ageing and cancer. I also managed to pick a few Portable brains about tech for social good and the value of working at the intersection of data science and design research – thanks for indulging me Tam Ho.

We were invited to test out and provide feedback on the four prototypes they’ve been developing over the past year. It was a such a privilege to talk to their designers about their though processes, what they define as a success, and to hear more about their plans moving forward. Sarah Kaur (Partner & Chief Operations Officer) then launched their most recent report: The Future of Death & Ageing – 81 pages and 17MB of design goodness.

The highlight of the night was catching up with the lovely Martina Clark, founder of Carers Couch (@carerscouch) – I have no doubt her app will be an amazingly good resource for cancer carers. I also meet Sally Coldham, founder of Airloom (@AirloomSocial) and a She Starts alum, who is also doing amazing work in this space.

An all round fantastic night talking about all things data and design.

– A.B.


In case you missed it…

Empathy. Everyone's talking about it. But who's actually doing it? And what do you do with it once you've felt it? Our Human Centered Design specialist Joe takes us on a journey to discover the what, how and why of empathy, and how it's transformed his design practice. Hear all about how feeling stuff can help you win arguments, how to innovate by implementing the radical practice of listening to other people, and how an empathetic approach will not only help you understand your customers, but give you and your team the natural drive to solve some of the trickiest problems they face. With plenty of storytelling, animated GIFs and pop culture references along the way, you'll laugh, you'll cry, but that's kinda the point, ya feel me?


Worth watching this one too…

To initiate the re-boot of Portable Talks, we look at how a human centred design approach can be used to build AI and machine learning tools. Our Tech Lead and AI enthusiast Jason Hendry will cover the basic principles of machine learning and show you how anyone with a computer can begin the process of creating a basic machine learning model.

What can science learn from advertising? – Sara Camnasio

 

For your Friday afternoon coffee. An oldie but a goodie…

This talk was given at a local TEDx event in New York, produced independently of the TED Conferences. For a long time, science has been made out to be dense, complex, and inaccessible. Sara explains how we can fix science's bad rap, and how to make the field more exciting and engaging to young people - especially students like her.

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to design and develop a couple of astronomy research websites, including the first iteration of OzGrav. This talk reminded me of two of my favourite “what a mess” research websites that can only be described as disasters from a design perspective…

Theoretical Particle Physics Group – University of Melbourne

Theoretical Particle Physics Group – University of Melbourne

ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D

ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics in 3D

About Sara Camnasio

I met Sara a couple of years ago at Astro Hack Week 2016, held at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and GitHub HQ in downtown San Francisco. With a strong interest in science communication and multi-media, I remember her website being really impressive and full of creative side projects. It definitely made me think more carefully about how I could present my own independent projects and experiences as part of broader career portfolio. Over the past few years she’s managed to make the successful transition from astronomy research assistant/graduate student at the American Museum of Natural History to designer; creating engaging user experiences at Designit.

Oh, did I mention she’s also a 2017 National Geographic Young Explorer (wow!)…

RHoK Melbourne Changemaker 101

 

Last night we held our biannual Changemaker 101 session for our Melbourne cohort of Summer Hackathon change makers. W’re working with a really diverse group of social warriors this year, with projects focussed on improving medical services for LGBQTI patients, enabling better access to legal services, connecting volunteers within communities, and creating safe urban spaces using anecdotal sexual assault data

Software Development for Social Impact

As most change makers non-profits and social enterprises don’t typically have strong tech backgrounds, Changemaker 101 is a chance to introduce them to software development processes – specifically those that work well for RHoK, and to prepare them for what will undoubtably be an overwhelming experience.

The goal of the evening was to start unpacking the problems they’re facing within their organisation and to guide them though the process of preparing the problems statements which they will pitch at the upcoming RHoK Info Night. Our Melbourne Community Manager, Eddie Chapman (@acd_eddie) gave everyone a brief introduction to the history of RHoK Global and RHoK Australia. Roberto Pietrobon (@MrRobertoPietro) from Care to Compare, talked about his experience with RHoK as a  two-time changemaker, and I gave a brief introduction to agile methodologies; the benefit of adopting a Lean framework for software development; the concepts of rapid prototyping & measurement; how to communicate effectively with development teams; and how to craft a focussed and compelling problem statement.


 

Introducing the RHoK Australia – 2018 Summer Changemakers

 

The RHoK Australia – Melbourne Summer Hackathon is just over a month away and we have six fantastic organisations/social enterprises that we’ll be collaborating with. We also welcome DocDir, which is only at the very start of its social impact journey. DocDir aims to train GPs and other health professionals to have an integrated LBGTQI practice.

 
“We are looking for ‘Goldilocks’ problems; they need to be small enough so that they can be progressed over a weekend, but large enough to make a real difference.”
— Eddie Chapman, RHoK Community Manager
 
 
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Kensington Neighbourhood House

www.kensingtonneighbourhoodhouse.com

Providing adult education, personal development, community building and childcare programs to their local community.

 

ANIKA

anikalegal.com

Providing free legal advice to Australians in need who can’t otherwise access it.

 
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Moral Fairground

moralfairground.com.au

Creating awareness and raising the profile of ethical living and ethical business throughout the Australian community.

 
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RPH Radio Reading Network

www.rph.org.au

Supporting the Radio Reading network and the voice of print media in Australia, with a vision that print disability is not a barrier to participation.

 
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She’s a Crowd

www.shesacrowd.com

Ending gender-based violence by sharing stories to help decision-makers understand and address the issue.

 
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Onemda

www.onemda.com.au

Enriching the lives of people with a disability.