Design Principles

This set of phrases is supposed to help guide me through the upcoming design decisions. I established them before having a concrete concept but I already know I want this principles to be important in my work. Those principles are a high level strategy that should be reflected in most of the parts of service (This list is still in progress and might or might not be extended in the next couple of weeks.):

  • It is getting better with time
  • It is about life
  • It is clear and understandable
  • It is personal and individual
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Inspired

I watch Objectified this weekend and had to write down the 2 quotes that I loved the most and are so related to my thesis:

“The value, and especially the legitimization of design, will be, in the future, measured more in terms of how it can enable us to survive …, and I don’t think this is exaggeration, …to survive on this planet.” -Dieter Rams

“You are going to pick the most meaningful objects to you, because those are the true objects that truly reflect the true story of who you are and what your personnel narrative is and the story that you are telling to your self and no one else, because that is the only audience that matters.” -Rob Walker

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Structured Brainstorming

In order to continue with the ideation phase (with the goal to determine concepts worth moving forward) I try to structure the brainstorming. This structure should help me look at the problem form different angles. More information about Ideation and Design Principles can be found here.

Pain Points

  1. Entry-point – Make people think about death
  2. Maintain – Visiting the service in a regular basis (not only decide once and never come back)
  3. Curate – What parts of a users data are really important and are telling a story that further generations can understand
  4. Creating meaning – Why do things become meaningful for individuals and future generations. The service should reflect that this is a long-lasting experience

Opportunities

  1. Milestones – Creating smaller goals to work towards
  2. Tangible – Meaningful objects that can carry important data
  3. Birth – Not only death could be a reason to enter the service, but birth (creating a legacy for ones child)

Process Moments

  1. To bequeath during lifetime
  2. Milestones in life – Graduation, birth, wedding, birthdays, 1st school day, 1st love, family gathering
  3. The process of daily updates
  4. Funeral

Personas

  1. Families and close friends – People that are very important in ones life, that might only be a handful.

Metaphors

Those are experiences that possibly are far away from my project: Tree (woods), floor clock, rocker chair, sailing tour, cooking, walking, a guided experience in a museum, vacation, days, concerts, dinner on a big table, migrating birds, tides

I created the mood-board based on some of the metaphors.

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Moodboard

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Week 9 – Ideation

This week I put a lot of thinking in the value proposition of the service. Since I had the chance to talk to Jesse (co-founder of Entrustet) this weekend I asked about his opinion on this topic. His insights and tips from my thesis advisor helped me come to the conclusion that the value proposition can probably be divided in two big areas. First, the personal values, this includes experiences, stories or even physical things that a important to someone but not necessarily have a material value. On the other side there are digital assets, those are the things that might have a financial value to the person and the heirs. A immediate access might be important (for example in order to get the access to a website that sells something and that someone left behind).

But the value proposition for the potential customer is not only having and saving this content, it is also to control it. I think this is very important to keep in mind: What people want is to make sure that after death they are remembered in a way they are comfortable with, they want that the right information/assets are getting inherited. Interestingly this controlled legacy can already be seen in oral traditions that are being told in families: most of the times repeated and fairly specific.

After having the value proposition outlined I started to think about the key activities for the customers of my service. I am still not sure if this service enables the user to built a legacy by collecting data from daily life or if the main goal of this service is to sort already existing data/assets in a “legacy bucket”. Potentially it could even be both but in order to make a decision I started to prototype different scenarios. During the first prototype I want to get insides into the experience of reflecting on life as well as collecting in a regular basis. I asked people to write down 1 sentence and chose/take one picture every second day. Those memories could be a reflection of the last 2 days, a very good moment or just things that are in mind and important. I made boxes for half the people in which the sentence could be stored in order to research the relevance of physical objects. This prototype will go on for another week.

In the meantime I started with a first round of ideation. I only took about 5 minutes for one idea and then moved to the next one in order to look at the problem in as many angles as I could. I also tried to consider the milestones in the service experience, since I found out that it’s hard for people to constantly have death in mind while using the service. I think this was a good starting point but still needs some more work:

1. Time Capsule – A object that opens its content only once a year. During this one time new content can be added (things that happened over the last year) and old content can be viewed (what was going on two years ago). A milestone/reward could be a yearly report that could be shared withing the family or even a family gathering to look at the last years data.

2. Future Message – This message can be written now but send to the future. For example I could write a message to my sister right now, but send it in 16 years as for example a birthday present. This message could also be send to the children in 50 years.

3. Memorialize – This portable object comes with a camera, audio recording and a button, by pushing the button a picture gets taken and audio gets recorded – a moment is memorialized. The content will be saved on the object as well as on a private online site. Ideas like memorialize button on websites, reminders to collect more content and a easy way to decide on what happens with social networks came up.

4. Social Gravestone – During lifetime important data could be send to an online database. After death this database will be implemented in a gravestone. If friends and family wanted to visit that data they can go to that gravestone and enter memories and saved information from a loved one.

5. Rough potential interesting ideas – Data: How can the service tell a story with someones data? Here I want to have a closer look into editing process and making data interactive. Nature: What makes me, me? What could I take from the bionic science to influence the service or the product?

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Week 8 – Business Model Canvas

This week we were given the task to to think about a business model within our chosen thesis space. With not having a concrete solution in mind this was a fairly difficult thing to do. What this task did do though was making me aware of the whole system and made me think about all parts of that system:

1. Customer Segments
My goal is to create a service that outlives its owner in order to be inherited with a reflection of the owners identity. With this intention in mind I am looking at people that are alive and can build or put together a digital legacy. For now I think the customers are divided in two segments, the first one are people that have digital data and assets and want to decide what will happen with that, the second segment might be people who want to built a digital legacy by collecting.

2. Value Proposition
I think customization is a key with that service, it is about building a personal digital legacy in a meaningful way. A share might be newness and I want to look in tangible ways of saving this data.

3. Channels
Customers will be reached through web sales, which is a direct channel between the service and the customer. By looking at the channel phases (1. Awareness, 2. Evaluation, 3. Purchase, 4. Delivery, 5. After Sales) I realized that Awareness (How do I bring people to think about their death?) and After Sales (What is a good way to make people maintain their legacy?) might be the most difficult phases in my intended service.

4. Customer Relationship
Trust must be a very important goal that the service should reflect to the customer. Transparency might be a way to make the service trustful. I am imagine that the customer interacts with this service in a self-service manner with the help of automated assistance.

5. Revenue Stream
By looking at the market context I saw that most services offer both a monthly subscription and and a once in a lifetime fee.

6. Key Resources
The most important assets required is the online storage with a save security system in order provide privacy.

7. Key Activities
In order to make this model work I will have the web site as a key platform which needs to be continually developed and maintained. For that reason my key activities might be platform management, service provisioning, and platform promotion.

8. Key Partnership
I could imagine key partnerships with existing social networks.

9. Cost Structure
This business model is value-driven, it is important to focus on a personalized service.

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Week 7 – One-on-one Interviews

I had some one-on-one interviews last week and was lucky enough to get insights from Paul Andrew Leonhard Licensed Funeral Director and Vice President at Gravenor – Home for Funerals and James Leedam from UK based Natural Burial Grounds.

In those interviews I heard a lot about Facebook and I thought it is interesting how the role of a Facebook pages changes after someone passed away. That page becomes a place for the friends to talk about their loved one and it is interesting how people can talk much more openly about that person: they post pictures, share memories and tell stories. The page becomes a digital meeting space just like the funeral where people come for one reason (the person who passed away) and can feel free to talk about their grief without having the sense of not being at the appropriate place or time. One of the reason might be that the Facebook page provides a group of people that all have one thing in common: they knew the person who passed away and each one has their own memories about that person. It might also help that this Facebook page is a digital representation of someone and it is in that sense not the “real world”, so even if somebody is gone, the digital representation remains and makes it easy to talk about that person or even to that person.

A second, for me important finding from the interviews was that only a few people prepare for death and that stands to reason. A good example is my sisters comment on that subject-matter. When I asked her why she thinks that topic is wired she responded: “Because people do not want to deal with something like that, since it makes them become scared”. Which is true and from what I heard from the interviews the only reason for people to really think about that issue is when a particularly good or a particularly bad thing happens. Those experiences can be the birth of your child, a funeral or a near death incident. What that means for my intended designed experience is that I want to think in different directions: How can digital assets be saved, stored and curated in way that is not awe-inspiring? So I want to look into designed experience that are maybe not directly related to death, but rewarding in a short space of time. Maybe there is even a tangible way to encourage people to delve into their personal digital assets.

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Market Landscape

This research is based on a article that appeared in My Life Scoop on October 4, 2010.

I am very excited to have an interview with Jesse Davis next week, who is the co-founder of Entrustet. In order to be prepared and full of questions I put some more research in the market landscape:

The first 3 services are enabling the user to bring all your digital assets in order. Those are full services were all digital assets can be included. Although I miss something the personalized aspect in it, like a story that has no material value but has a intangibly value through memories.

Entrustet

  • free service
  • pass on digital assets to 10 designated heirs and 1 executor (in charge of executing after they pass away)
  • digital assets: social networks, financial accounts, blogs, e-mails

Legacy Locker

  • 3 pricing plans (free account, $29,99 per year, $299,99 one time fee)
  • free account: three digital assets, one beneficiary on one legacy letter (acts as digital goodbye letter sent after death)
  • yearly fee and one time fee: unlimited assets, beneficiaries and legacy letters, document backup, video upload

AssetLock

  • mass storage of important information
  • including information on financial, estate planning, insurance policies account passwords, emails and final wishes and directives
  • send letters after death
  • customizable: choose number of recipients to unlock account, choose time delay between unlocked account and information disseminated
  • $9,95 per year to 239,95 for lifetime membership

A much more specific service is Webwill, which handles all the social network someone is signed in:

Webwill

  • a trusted person can change or transfer someone’s online accounts, like twitter, facebook, flickr, linkedIn, Tumblr, YouTube
  • choose desired settings for each account and choose two “trusted verifiers” to confirm death

And the last group is also very specific but also with a high intangible value through personal messages and emails:

Futuris.tk

  • A social network with online messages service
  • schedule messages up to 50 years in advance
  • can schedule messages to be sent to recipients after a death, but trusted sources must be selected to notify the passing

Deathswitch

  • free account: one message to one recipient, $19,95 per year: 30 messages to 10 recipient per message
  • prompts account holder to provide a pre-determined password to ensure they’re still alive
  • after not entering password for multiple occasions for a period of time, deduces person is dead or critically injured than sending out pre-written messages
  • more common uses are passwords, financial information, final wishes, last words, love notes and funeral instructions

GreatGoodbye

  • schedule e-mails to loved ones
  • triggered by trusted source through a activation code
  • free plan: 1 e-mail, $20 per year plan, $119 one-time fee plan: unlimited messages, unlimited videos and MP3s, unlimited memory space that last for 20 years, data encryption, secure login, 21 days to block the sending of messages after a death notification and multiple levels of security
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Week 6 – “Living Objects”

The relationship between digital and physical mementos made me think in a different direction when Elliott my thesis advisor asked: “Your little sheep: what if you kept photos of your sheep on facebook?” I always thought about the object as something that carries data or memories, but what happens if the object itself is digital but maintains the same meaning as a physical object. So I wonder if there are digital mementos and how do they become such thing? During my research I recognized how one participant mentioned that he would scan his artwork and his sketchbooks because he wants to have a digital collection of it. He mentioned that his artwork is “pretty important” to him, because he gave some of his artwork away as a gift and that makes “the scans all I have left of the work I have done”. This example shows how ownership and a story (to remember) attached might affect the importance of digital mementos. This brings me back to the two big questions I am facing in order to design meaningful legacy: The What and the Why?

It is important to know what one wants to inherit to the next generation but it is also important to be aware that this next generation probably wants to know why this was bequeath to them. There is a big connection between the story of things and the actual things, and by things I do not only mean digital data but also physical objects that are connected to the digital. Further research in that direction took me to already existing webservices like Tales of Things, StickyBits and Itizen. Like local based social networks these services focus on giving a voice and a meaning to physical objects in our world with the intent to build a social network around them. I agree with Richard MacManus that there might be no value in forming a social network around a object. Nevertheless, I believe that there is a rich value for ones family, close friends and surely the next generation to hear those stories to understand beloved ones better.

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Week 5 – Survey

In order to get a better understanding of how people define important digital data I conducted a survey. I wanted to find out if people differentiate between important data from the present (“You have only 10 minutes before your entire computer gets destroyed. What would be the most important data you save on a memory stick?”) and meaningful data for the future (“What of your data would you like to give (or pass down) to your children/friends/family one day and why?”). I asked 68 people and despite the fact that all questions provide a paragraph text for answers 7 main topics came up repeatably:

1. Photos
For both question more than 90% answered that they would save photos (portrait of friends/family, from vacation) and in some cases videos. Some of the reasons mentioned were “personal memory”, “stories”, “share own life with the next generation”, “that might be enjoyable”, “to show how different live was”, “have the feeling that I will not be forgotten to easily”.

2. Work related Data
In this section people differentiated between the two question. Almost everyone wanted to save work related data in case the computer would have been destroyed but only a few would inherit this data. Interestingly were the view people that wanted to inherit that data freelancing or students.  Which indicates that data that has a high ownership is more important to people in the long term. Some of the work related data to be inherited were: “self initiated work”, “scanned art (from the original)”, “university papers”, “my work, but I would print it”, “scientific papers: they took so much time and effort somebody else could use it”, “my bachelor thesis”.

3. Music
Especially people with a extensive music collection mentioned to inherit that to children/Friends/Family, interestingly they did not mention the music itself (replaceable) but the collection they compile: “when my music collection is complete, I am looking forward to inherit it”, “would like to make a mixtape for friends and family”,

4. Writings
Selected mails, digital diaries, poems and personal writing were considered to be worthwhile to be inherited by about 10% of the people.

5. Personal Financial Records
Nobody wanted to inherit this but save it in case the computer gets destroyed.

6. Family Tree and Document with all Passwords
3% of the people had a family tree and/ or a password document that they would save on a stick as well as inherit.

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