Less Grand but still by Design

I was at the Grand Designs show yesterday. Same music as previous years and same layout. A new influx of massage chairs and beds (loads of them, with show-weary punters being pummelled looking like bodies in The Matrix  as they lay motionless with their eyes closed), the usual replacement windows, fabulous but dull kitchen sets, new gadgets you never realised you couldn’t live without. And Kevin McCloud being affable and knowledgeable as he slides gradually from challenging young TV presenter to friendly old professor.

It strikes me though that there’s a huge gap in the story presented at this show. As Laura Ashley blinds jostle with electronic wizardry, where is the lifestyle section?

Society structures, family structures, working patterns, technology… all of these are showing an unprecedented rate of change. The role of our homes – after being pretty much the same for a few hundred years – is suddenly changing dramatically. But we don’t yet seem to have learnt a new way of approaching the subject. We still look for a the “right” number of bedrooms in a new home – then decide which one will be used not as a bedroom but as the home office. In many homes we still put dirty washing in the kitchen and boilers in the bedroom. Walls are largely fixed, traditional “sofa plus armchairs around TV” type layouts are still default and the country must be littered with dining rooms that have lost their sense of purpose.

Who will be brave enough to radically rethink our home? Start with what we WANT, and ENJOY and NEED rather than what builders know how to produce or kitchen companies to fit?

If you were to take the concept of home and start from a blank sheet of paper, where would your musings take you? Put everything you already know about homes and really focus on what you want your place on the planet to do for you.

What words would you go for? Restorative? Invigorating? Soothing? Secure? Inspiring? What pictures can you rip from magazines to represent it? (Not just  the obvious ones from home magazines but maybe a landscape, a kind of food, a favourite song. Many of us want public space and private space. But maybe the private space is not just the bed but a place to relax, to be yourself. Does it need light? What sort? What is the right functionality and emotional response for you?

Few among us will ever be Grand Designers; finding a plot, living in a caravan, enjoying – as Kevin encouraged yesterday – the journey as much as the destination. But for many of us, thinking about our living environment with this degree of freedom will spark off ideas of things we actually can do in the here and now. Once we let ourselves believe that – unless we really want to – we don’t need to do anything the way our forefathers and foremothers did.

Nudging patients

Last week I was working with the Accidents and Emergency dept of a busy London hospital. One of the improvements we were discussing was a ticketing system so patients had some sense of being in a queue, not being forgotten, making progress towards being seen and helped.

There were some legitimate concerns from the hospital staff.  What about emergencies? What about re-prioritisation? What about different cases requiring different responses?

This morning I’ve been at the surprisingly smart and customer friendly UK passport office in London. I wish I could bring the management team of the hospital to see it.  Check in took moments as my personal details had already been taken (over the phone but could also be online or in a kiosk). I got my ticket P0456 and was told to wait in the lounge. Yes really, the lounge.

Clear screens around the lounge displayed three kinds of lists the P numbers, the F numbers and the A numbers.  As they scrolled through each I could see how far down my  queue I was. If they called an F or A number I assumed they had good reason.
There was also a list of counters and who they were currently serving so I was further reassured that work was being done and my turn would come soon.

A group of numbers at the top of each list were highlighted reminding these people to be ready to go. So if the queue had been longer I’d have known when it was safe to go to the loo or buy a drink from the vending machine.

When it came to my turn my number came on the screen along with the counter number I should go to. This was backed up by a computer generated announcement so even if I hadn’t been paying attention to the screen I probably would have heard the announcement.

An excellent example of a smooth running, informative, fair system that would also work for non-English speakers. Easy to transfer to emergency rooms around the country.

1 2