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I have to start October’s newsletter with an apology. You might have noticed that September’s newsletter was missing; completely absent from your inbox. I'm sorry. Deadlines and important work has kept us away from putting pen to paper. Let me attempt to rectify the situation and to catch you up with what’s been happening at Modern Human…

Like many people we’ve spent much of October watching the news and wondering what’s going to happen next in British politics. We’ve been paying particular attention to the will-they-won’t-they saga surrounding the possibility of a general election. I have to admit that it’s more than a passing political interest: one of our design research clients has asked us to examine the influence of media consumption on democracy, and we’ve planned a significant ethnography project to probe at people’s election experience. The problem has been that it’s been very difficult to predict with any level of certainty when a general election would happen. Now we have a date, 12th December, which means we have five weeks of fieldwork to get an unprecedented view of the democratic process at work.

I can’t imagine a more interesting or more valuable piece of research to be conducting in 2019 than examining the impact of media, including social media, on democracy. It seems especially pertinent given that Facebook have changed their terms and conditions to allow politicians to lie and mislead the public with impunity on their platform and, in a counter-move, Twitter have banned all political advertising. Yet more twists in the interesting times in which we live. We agreed to take the project on the proviso that we could to talk about it. Our client was keen, so I look forward to sharing more as we gain further insight.

Whether you’d like to follow the progress of Croft, our Fulcrum project to remove bagged salad from the supply chain; or you’d like to read our insights into how media consumption is influencing democracy; or you’re eagerly awaiting our Modernity Report on Workplaces; or you’d just like to read our latest thinking – subscribe and make sure you follow us on Linkedin and Twitter.

Until next month… Stay brave. Keep being disruptive. Believe in a better future.

— PJH.


Tesco invited me to give a talk on Wednesday night at a UX event they were running. I took the opportunity to talk on ‘The False Profit Paradox’ and using Design to reconcile the pursuit of profit and economic growth with a more human and sustainable future. It did feel a little odd going on last, with the audience sipping their beers and eating pizza, to talk about irreversible climate change and the myth of eternal economic growth - but it also felt important.

Studio notes

With our September newsletter being absent there’s even more to update you with than normal. Whilst the leaves were turning golden, the nights drawing in and temperatures dropping we were busy in the studio.

We put the finishing touches to the redesign of a Tech firms workplace. Their large IT group asked us to work with them to create an environment perfect for their Agile ways of working. Our ethnography with them unearthed valuable insight into Agile work practices and the needs, values and motivations of their employees. In response we created a pattern language for Agile workplaces.

We’ve also been working with a UK Supermarket on Service Design for online fulfilment. It’s involved being in store at the crack of dawn to shadow pickers, packers and drivers, so that we can really understand how an online order becomes a bag of groceries at your door. 

Just this week our design researchers have been visiting people’s homes to uncover families’ use of streaming services and look for opportunities to enhance the experience for the whole family. That work will continue through the long dark nights of November.

With all of this work on, it’s inevitable that the studio would need to grow. In October, we added a new member to the team. Erica joined us after freelancing in London in Research, Insight and Strategy roles. We know we’ll be able to put her fascination with socio-cultural drivers of behaviour to good use on upcoming research, design and strategy projects. We’re still looking for a second experienced design researcher to join the team. Get us your CV this weekend if you want to be considered, because we’ll be interviewing next week.

And at the end of October we moved to a more spacious studio just minutes away from our previous Kirby Street abode. We’re now to be found in the palatial surroundings of 24 Greville Street. We’re still minutes away from some of best coffee shops and street food in London though.

We hope you’re enjoying Modernity. Please share it with your friends and colleagues and make sure you sign up to avoid missing the next one. Remember to connect with us too. You can find us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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