Keynote discussion: Jan Chipchase


Let’s discuss perspectives, questions, thoughts and ideas around the first ixd15 keynote from Jan Chipchase.

Profile from Wikipedia:

Jan Chipchase is the founder of Studio D Radiodurans, a research, design and strategy consultancy that specializes in understanding consumer behavior in emerging markets. He was previously Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at Frog Design, where he led the firm’s global research practice in both mainstream and emerging markets.

Before joining Frog Design in 2010, Chipchase was Principal Scientist at Nokia, based out of Tokyo but frequently traveling. The goal of his research was to understand the ways technology works in different cultures, with a focus on understanding technology 3 to 15 years out. out. He mostly consults for Fortune 500 companies and their local equivalents. He is widely considered a thought leader in the space of consumer and user behaviour, and how insights can be applied to the innovation process.


I was mixed on the keynote this morning in a few ways:

I feel that Jan was a bit narrow in how he framed “social good” … what about things with small or local impact? what about enterprise software that just helps people like their jobs better? All of these are things I feel can be framed as “social good” and have a positive impact.

How else can we think about the value of our work? And the personal value? I’m not sure I see the risk continuum as quite divisive as he presented it… risk exists in many ways in an organization and as an individual, and part of design practice for me is understand where we can, and should, take risks, and where in the context it’s worth being more conservative.

I did like his framing of the studio as a group of people working towards a common objective… it gets us past processes and methodologies and into the heart of what design is really about. We’re professionals, and if we have a team that is comfortable with each other (including clients/outside participants) we can generally just use our diverse skills to make progress towards a “solution” (whatever that means in context).


Do you think he was trying to frame social good, or was it an unintentional framing based on his own work? I’d guess the latter. I believe strongly in the societal value of the work I do, but wouldn’t categorize it as “social good”.

I would like to have heard more about the work that his popup studios are doing. I was very interested in that approach. As Charlie Hannon put it, his talk ended where we wished it had begun.


I don’t think he was trying to frame social good (which I think resulted in ambiguity). I felt that he was being intentionally provocative, but didn’t end with a point. I felt kind of lost at the end. It would have been good to have him answer “why” his talk? It just wasn’t clear.


I have to say it was a huge dissapointment but not a great surprise.

Jan’s professionalism has plummeted since he left Frog. His blog post on the matter was shocking with its implicit messages aroud his discomfort with working there. He chose to use an Interaction Design conference to project these feelings further and lay a guilt trip on the design industry.

The thing is. It would have been a bit easier to take if he had just been explicit, rather than make all of us who work in commerical contexts feel bad about our lack of focus on social impact.

That said, I think the false dichotomy of social impact vs. commercial work was pure provocation with no rigour.

His mapping of size of organusation with creative edge was just full of BS.

I’m not saying all of his points were false, but it was hard to discern for the less critical and experienced people to understand what was truth and what was not.

I wish he’d shared insights around his work. Around people and technology in different cultures, not design organisations. This is what he should be remembered for. Not the petulant brit who wanted to pour scorn on his previous employer, in the most underhand way possible.

Once again, I feel that an Interaction keynote has done the job of splitting the audience, but unfortunately not in a good way. It made some of us excited and inspired. It made some of us feel guilty about our work. It made some of us plain angry (according to the hallways conversations I had).

In my opinion, this was not a well thought-through keynote.


Full disclosure: I wasn’t there. But what Jason said certainly applies to many keynotes I’ve heard through the five IxDA conferences I’ve attended. Too often style over substance, or provocation without point has been the rule, not the exception.


Well, I did think this keynote delivered exactly what the title said; reflections from his last year. It wasn’t edited too much. It was raw and not polished for us. Furthermore, Jan being someone who is on the edge of things / being in the research practice, it’s not a surprise this was sharp too. Findings should never always be music to our ears. It was memorable. I would argue the opposite point to the comment above - it didn’t have style but it did have substance.

I do agree with the wishes to hear more about insights around his work though. ‘Designing the experience’ towards the end was interesting and briefly shined some light about how he does work.

Still I enjoyed it nonetheless.