Skip to main content
Service Design (MA)

Kristof van der Fluit

Kristof is a strategic designer with the ambition to make lasting positive change in the world. He graduated in Design Engineering (MEng) from Imperial College London; part of the first cohort of its kind globally. This unique background provided him a platform to establish a distinctive identity; being a jack-of-all-trades between the fields of engineering, technology, design and innovation. He has practiced design in Silicon Valley, London and in Amsterdam; spanning startups (in ed-tech), open-innovation for cities (AMS Institute & CTO of Amsterdam's office) and architecture (UNStudio & UNSense). Having been exposed to the Royal College of Art’s ethos, he is equipped with the necessary design and storytelling skills to significantly drive design for social innovation, resilience and solve systemic challenges anywhere in the world. Interested in designing at scale, creative processes and big ideas.

He is a founding partner of RCA’s Design & Philosophy Society, and during his time at RCA he collaborated on entrepreneurial projects, exploratory visions and social impact ventures with the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Wellcome Trust, CERN, Logitech, London Business School MBA programme, London Borough of Camden, and Aalto University Campus & Real Estate Board (ACRE).

Brief

How might we harness digital platforms to address social inequalities through digital identity and our relationship with “place”? 

To what extent can ‘digital narratives’ (think Pokemon-Go! , Google Maps) mediate physical space? How far do uneven representation & power inequality reverberate back into "place" and shape how we understand ourselves and physical "place"? In today’s world, where data is power and automation is used for neighborhood masterplanning (Delve, Sidewalks Lab); what will be the consequences for people? 

It is down to us designers to include a voice of what is “fair”, and an expectation is set upon us around what worlds we can create through means of designing these futures. Service design has the potential to design-in people’s voices, design for more equitable societies and bring forward a set of needs and principles that can sustain us into the future.

STUDIO - Voices Shaping Better Spaces

Voices shaping better spaces. STUDIO is a digital platform enabling social housing residents facing demolition and rebuilding of their council estates; to directly translate their voices into 3D-shape and a collective neighbourhood vision. A model, never achieved before; finally bringing an inclusive bottom-up resident-led approach to social housing planning.

STUDIO - Voices Shaping Better Spaces (video).
Conversational-design based tool.
Democratic design tool: in real-time translating voice into 3D shape.
Guided by constraints & AI-assistance. Then lead the redevelopment & share the experience.

Introducing STUDIO

STUDIO is a democratic design tool, facilitating council estate residents in their struggle to voice their unheard ideas and in shaping the vision of their future council estate. STUDIO is a near future service provocation; a digital tool that translates voices directly into visual shape and form, supported by future technologies and advancements in AI, natural language processing and generative design (think GPT-3 by OpenAI, Finch3D); facilitating a bottom-up approach to council estate redevelopment. Positioned as a pre-vision stage, it avoids the current interpretation gap between; residents, architects, planners and the council in creating aligned masterplans. The council inputs project requirements from the outset, and guided through the tool and platform, residents create visions within those constraints. This enables the transition away from imposing top-down visions and toward a bottom-up resident-led approach.

1) From top-down, to bottom-up 2) Translating individual voices into a collective vision 3) Visualising overlooked social value.
From individual voices to a collective neighborhood vision. In your own language, at your own time.

Experience

A key unique feature of STUDIO, is the ability to gift residents the experience of voicing their own thoughts; in their own language and at their own time. This is in contrast to current consultation experiences; where the consultation workshops are not suited to residents’ own personal schedules as well as feeling discouraged to participate due to language and accessibility barriers. By opening up the process to those silent voices in the community and concretely visualising ideas in real-time, facilitates more residents to participate than ever before. Inviting a higher quality and degree of participation. Prototyping and co-design sessions have led to the design of this experience, highlighting key aspects; 1) opening the tool to residents and neighbours; 2) hosting critical discussions and including constraints to guide conversational designing effectively; 3) including offline touchpoints along the way, and 4) Assistance in automatically generating documentation, to act as authority towards stakeholders.

Mapping the current failing regeneration resident experience.
Mission for an improved resident experience.
Key research insights.
Design opportunity for a more fair and equitable future for social housing.

Setting the Stage

Imagine you are a resident facing regeneration, looking forward to your home being upgraded, but are aware of the risk of losing your current home for the next fifteen years; being displaced anywhere throughout the UK, losing proximity to your friends, family and loved ones. You have heard the horror stories of councils not fulfilling their promise to allocate you housing in the same council estate after the regeneration process concludes; or removing those small physical interventions that made your community whole. In short, you wish you look forward to having a say in what happens. Then comes a vote, and you have a choice; either you vote in favour for demolition and rebuild, or nothing happens to your council estate for the next fifteen years; which is just not viable, as your home needs immediate attention now (leaking plumbing, mould, etc). So you vote in favour, and feel bought out. Consultations come along, where visions are imposed and predetermined, and you participate begrudgingly; it is just not the same as your voice was not heard from the start. Our project aims to intervene here, at the vision stage of the regeneration process. What if residents could lead and direct the vision stage of regeneration projects? With the ambition to build a case for greater collaboration by spotlighting issues with current practice by councils, architects and planners. 


Design ethos and speculative approach: with the aim to shift the public psyche.
The design process: from human-centred research (left) to prototyping (right).

Speculative Co-Design Approach

We co-created alongside residents, using physical and digital mock-ups, games and provocations to guide our learning process. Iteratively testing our assumptions along the way. In parallel we included the public through means of speculative workshops; where we crowdsourced ideas with policy designers, data scientists, PhD’s, and creative technologists. Using this open approach, we ensured our ideas would not only be inventive, but also inclusive, value-driven and viable.  We explored low-tech approaches as well as highly speculative technologies (think GPT-3, natural language processing and developments in generative design) to equitably enhance individual and collective voices. 


Validation - Feedback on STUDIO.
STUDIO theory of change: starting with the individual to achieve positive societal impact.
Illustration by Jialin Wang (Royal College of Art) inspired by STUDIO.

Impact

The use of STUDIO has the potential to impact residents' lives at different scales: individual, communal and societal. 1) At an individual level, STUDIO allows for self-representation, leading to a boost in self-esteem which reinforces a positive sense of identity. 2) Communal; provides an increased agency over local areas and an enhanced sense of belonging as communities are empowered and aligned. 3) Societal scale, STUDIO creates a deep sense of equality, as citizens' voices are equitably heard, interpreted and enacted upon. It also builds on an augmented sense of democracy, as there is a system that allows direct and transparent participation. By doing so, elevating social value as a critical aspect to be looked after by society. In this proposed future, council estate residents and neighbours direct the visioning stages of development projects. We envision a scenario dispelling the idea of regeneration, and going toward continuous sustainable development of neighbourhoods on shorter life cycles, empowered by digital platforms.


Magdalena Bravo Flores (MA Service Design).


Credits:

Jialin Wang; Architectural Designer who, inspired by our research project, created a series of illustrations she named "Community Impresions".

Renegade Theatre - Wornington Green Estates (Residents Oral Histories), Photography by Kevin Percival.

Finch3D.

Nina Elisabeth Gjerstad (Voice Actor), playing the voice of the AI.


With Support from:

West Kentish Town Council Estate residents and neighbors.

Jonathan Hadlow, providing feedback on UI ideas.


Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank my sponsors the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 for their continual familial support, Nick de Leon for his mentorship and supporting my journey into the RCA, my tutors on this project Nicolas Rebolledo-Bustamante and Clive Grinyer. I could not have done this without the loving support of my family, parents and girlfriend. Thank you to all the tutors during my time at the RCA, and for providing me lessons for life and invaluable guidance into the design world.



Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851