Global scope with local implications
Practices and motivations relating to energy use, and other natural resources, have become more and more important in people’s lives for many reasons, ranging from finances to the environment. At the same time, we use more and more devices that need to be powered and we often become quite personally attached to them. This complex hodgepodge of issues plays out in very different ways in the personal lives and attitudes of people around the world.
The aim of design research projects in this area is to develop concepts for consumer products and services with a longer term goal of understanding consumers’ practices and motives around sustainable life. Research focusses on analysing how people around the world cope with mundane daily activities associated with their devices. And, how they think about related bigger issues, such as energy usage and the consumption of natural resources.
Maintaining the global focus while being open to cross-cultural differences requires a great deal of planning and the networked collaboration model adopted by Reach ensures a balanced approach.
This project was a collaboration across Japan, UK and US, with a focus on people’s attitudes towards ‘green’ living. Commissioned by a global electronics company, with the main client team based in Japan, STBY and former Reach partner Portigal Consulting closely collaborated on this design research project. The aim of the research was to generate insights and opportunities that could inspire new concept development for the client’s US-based target audience.
The fieldwork and concept creation workshops were jointly done in California, with the client team present. To communicate the observations from the field in a strong, empathic way, the approach Reach employed was to create short films on location, where participants interacted with probes that served as stimuli for speculative conversations. The results of the fieldwork were analysed and mapped onto a framework that described the process of behavior change that people go through when trying to live a more green life. This detailed framework became valuable because it could also accommodate concepts that were in development; thus making a connection between the concepts and people’s everyday struggles with ‘going green.’
In this case, design research was instrumental in performing two roles: First it played a generative role, in inspiring and enriching concepts, and helping to develop ideas out of contextual knowledge gained from people in the videos. Secondly, it was validating, research served as the evidential foundation upon which new concepts could be compared and measured.
Charging Up around the globe
This global study took place in 11 countries, so a large part of the Reach network participated in it: Brazil (Feel the Future), China (Apogee), Denmark (Antropolorne), Germany (minds and makers), Hungary (fuelfor), India (Quicksand), Japan (Spur), Netherlands (STBY), France (IDSL), Spain (fuelfor) and USA (Portigal Consulting).
The focus of this study was on better understanding how people use electricity and how they think about their energy use, with a specific focus on charging devices. The data repository for this global study triggered a long list of insights, pointing towards several opportunity areas and ideas for industries related to energy use and sustainability.
During the project we worked with an energy supplier based in Europe. Other companies and organizations have later also benefited from the research materials and consumer insights.