Brilliant Basics Edition Podcasts
Nur Karadeniz on System Design
Nur Karadeniz, Head of Experience and System Design Practice Lead, Brilliant Basics, discusses system design. The discussion covers design thinking, system thinking, sustainability, innovation and skillsets needed in this practice.
Hosted by Anand Verma, European Head of Digital Services for Infosys and Founder & CEO of Brilliant Basics, Infosys’ Design Studios.
“System design is a new approach to design where systems thinking and design thinking come together to try to solve complex problems.”
- Nur Karadeniz
Nur shares her background.
What is system design?
Nur explains system design through an analogical example - iceberg example.
Nur talks about sustainability and intelligence systems.
What are the key differences between design thinking and system thinking?
From an organization perspective, how this new approach can be adopted? Who do you talk to, to kind of sell or even enable system thinking in organizations?
What's wrong with the way we design today?
Nur talks about the challenges that she tackles in projects.
Anand and Nur talk about “Uber Eats.” Does this company use system design thinking or something similar?
As Nur develops this practice, how is the skillsets changing first of all? Where does she look for skillsets?
Nur summarizes system design in a few sentences.
Nur shares a book that she is currently reading.
Music by Ruhan Verma, 13-year-old upcoming Drummer and Producer
Anand Verma: Welcome to this special episode of the Infosys Knowledge Institute podcast, Brilliant Basics Edition, where we talk about the future work and digital disruption. Today I'm delighted to welcome my colleague Nur Karadeniz as our head of experience and system design at Brilliant Basics. The topic today is system design.
Nur Karadeniz: Thanks for having me Anand.
Anand Verma: You are a long-term veteran of Brilliant Basics. We worked together back in 2013. Why don't you talk about yourself, what you've been up to and then we'll dig deep into the topic of today.
Nur Karadeniz: My academic background is heavy on technology. Studied computer science and human computer interaction design. For the last three years I've been working in more service and system driven projects and areas where I spend a good time in Dublin in the innovation center from Accenture Fjord and that's where we kind of delve deeper in systems.
Anand Verma: That is so exciting and I think you're the lighthouse for a lot of people listening about how to bring computer science, technology and design together. So Nur, you've joined us. Your background is absolutely amazing. The industry is becoming more designed led and any articles, any publication, any CEOs talking about customer centricity, design centricity in the organization. The design has evolved dramatically as well from classical design to design thinking to system design and computational design. Just for our listeners, I would love for you to define what do you mean by system design?
Nur Karadeniz: It's an experimental definition I would call it. Because it is evolving because the challenges are changing that we are trying to solve. System design, the area that we've been practicing, it's really to work with the entire system's components. So if we think about design thinking and systems thinking come together, so these are two worlds and their designers now not only working on the interface but also working on behind the scene. Always like the background of how things work.
Nur Karadeniz: Are there any efficient way of doing these processes and partnering with other groups, or how the background of the organization work? It basically changes the nature of how maybe traditionally we approach design. But in maybe like a one [inaudible] definition would be, yes, let's bring design thinking and systems thinking together and to map out more smart and efficient systems.
Anand Verma: And just again, because I'm also learning through this conversation, I'm sure our listeners are also learning through this conversation. When you say systems, right? Let's kind of give a bit of an analogical example here. Let's take the example of an iceberg, right? So iceberg has what's above the water and what's below the water. And what I'm hearing from you is there's a need for both to be understood properly and there's a role for systems in making the iceberg above the water much more valuable from a customer perspective, from employee perspective. Have I got this right? I would love for you to take this analogy forward and start to define it for our listeners.
Nur Karadeniz: Yeah. I love iceberg examples, because it's really to kind of resonates what we are talking about. So if you think about the top part of the iceberg being the interface of a system so that services and that's where people actually interact with a service. That's where people perceive how the service or how an experience is actually quite smart, quite intelligent. So this is the kind of new expectation, right?
Nur Karadeniz: What do we mean by system design? Everything that happens underneath that surface. Because if you think about different parts of the systems, the processes and partnerships and everything happens at that level. So this is where I think one of the challenge that we often come across, where is the boundaries of a system? What is the system? We're talking about a complexity of a system. But the boundaries can go as far as the sky, the climate change, so anything, everything that system can interrelate it. That's what we mean by system.
Anand Verma: That is really interesting. But systems can't be dumb, right? They have to be intelligent systems. Now intelligent systems in isolation could become dumb when you look at an issue like sustainability or transparency for example. And we are talking about last week about how these bigger issues are becoming purpose for large companies to operate with, right? So what I'm hearing from you Nur is the systems and intelligence and the purpose and the values can be combined together with the system design mindset, I'm thinking, "Have I got this right?"
Nur Karadeniz: Yes. You hint into sustainability and intelligent systems. So this is really key for you really tackling system design and trying to solve complex problems. I want to give one maybe description on intelligent systems. So how systems can be intelligent. If we think about intelligence in a way that it requires a body, it requires a mind and it requires an environment. If you take that metaphor and apply it to a system. For a system to function intelligently, learn patterns, learn kind of how the system's going to use data over the time, even collaborate with people. How AI is going to help and not, you know? So all these kind of defines what do we mean by intelligent systems. But at the same time, so we want system to behave in a way that these behaviors it's got consequences, right? Do we want system to be sustainable? Do we want system to see certain things and not to see other certain things? Because if we leave everything to technology, then it's very, I would say almost dangerous because that's not design led.
Anand Verma: So I think what you're saying is that is about the people who have been looking at the system. You're changing the definition and the roles of those people looking at the system. Because they're thinking with a different mindset than, "Hey, I've got this technology and this does A to B." How exciting is that? And I want to talk a little bit more about that Nur. With regards to for our listeners, what are the some kind of key differences that you see in terms of what happens in design thinking and what happens in system thinking? Clearly there's a need for both, but the perspectives are different from what I'm kind of hearing from you. Would you elaborate on that?
Nur Karadeniz: Definitely is another important point that lot of designers actually raise this question. First of all, with system design we're not really moving away from user-centered design. So it's still user-centered, it always start with users at the heart of the problem. So therefore design thinking is not ... Is core and is fundamental and lot of learnings from how we apply design thinking is actually applies to system design. So that makes designers is in a perfect position to practice and apply systems design. They're really good skills to do.
Nur Karadeniz: But at the same time, if you think about only design thinking, it's heavily focuses on user and it becomes more solution oriented that these users are raising. But if you think about that systems to the conversation that they can be complex, they can be trunky, they can have hundreds of different variables, then the users need it become one of the variable, right?
Nur Karadeniz: So this is where systems thinking more strategic, more service designing, more understanding technology piece comes into place. So I would still definitely work with very strong design thinkers, but also who also can bring that systemic and strategic layer on top of okay we're talking about this problem but let's find out what are a chain of problems. What are the links behind these problems?
Nur Karadeniz: So it becomes more problem oriented rather than maybe just delighting users. Could be one success. But what we're looking at more, that's because we want to design more sustainable solution. So for those solution to be sustainable, we need to see this healthy balance of what users want but also how system can handle that on the long term.
Anand Verma: That is amazing. You know it sounds like design thinking is almost like a glue between user experience design and the system thinking, right? One is led by to your point solution and empathy. Other is led by finding the problem statements in there. Now the question I have is, from an organization perspective, how this new approach can be adopted? Who do you talk to, to kind of sell or even enable system thinking in organizations?
Nur Karadeniz: I think the systems thinking and strategic approach to design is becoming more and more hype. But at the same time the technology, I'm not sure as designers, if we are in the same speed as how technology is developing. So I'm not sure if you're looking at AI, computer vision, robotics and all aspects of these technology and how can we leverage them. Of course the idea is not to be able to leverage and where can we use them. But also like we need to know them to be able to map them to the solutions. So that's one it's been, my main target group for practice and system design. I've worked with service designers, because service designers have some aspect of system design. Majority is there, especially on design thinking and strategy.
Nur Karadeniz: But we talk a lot about systems thinking, which is a theory and approach has been out there for many, many years. It's been developed by academics and there's lots of reading writing about it. Maybe the one thing that it's maybe less and less, we've seen that applied into design, especially in our area of digital transformation type of design. But I think that's also like a next thing. So there are the good discussions in the industry. Service designers are in a good position to do that. But I also notice, and there are a number of courses around the world that actually provide this background. I do love three skills that's core for systems designers. So one, they're really on top of this human computer interaction design or that's very old school, that user-centered design skill.
Anand Verma: When I did my computer science degree, [inaudible] CI was one of my modules I did. So I remember that. But that was in 1996.
Nur Karadeniz: Yeah, I know. I sound very old when I say [inaudible] CI. And then the second is yes the systems thinking, but also the way we facilitate design. So here designer become a little bit more facilitator. So it brings different type of experts into room and trying to look for who are the potential partners and facilitate this conversation. So for a project like I don't know for example for security, why not working with the hackers? So I would really understand deep down what goes into attackers mind when they attack the system. So I think that's the second piece and the last piece for designer to be orchestrating all the insights and knowledge. So this process is, the big difference is non-linear. You might be research in one part of the system while you might be testing a concept for the other part of the system. Because as often what we see is there is no one solution fixes every problem in the system.
Anand Verma: That is a super. And you know, just to kind of elaborate on this, what I'm hearing from you Nur and for our listeners as well is it's a different mindset. It's almost a different responsibility by bringing design and emerging technologies together. It's about having permission to operate in the system design space. So it needs education and training. And this is a new breed of people both on the client side as well as in building talent as well.
Anand Verma: Now if I take a step further right and think from a macro perspective, now we have been designing solutions for a long time, right? It's a classical design like I said, or design thinking or computational design or system design. There are many design tools available out there, many design processes available out there. What's wrong with the way we design today?
Nur Karadeniz: I like this question. I like it because I think the way we started systems design is not really with the idea of, "Oh, let's come up with something cool and let's name it." Especially working in the industries, the buzz words are so popular. I think the key challenge what we faced with the design or the way we design. Often with the digital transformation, I think our design process has been very prescribed. You kind of do this and then that and then that. That worked really well and that has been working really well, is proven methodologies.
Nur Karadeniz: And lot of the way we do things in design approach is inherited from psychology to actually very scientific and artistic. Probably what's missing there it's the way bring this technology to little bit more into that process. So this is what we call sixth sense. So how can we get AI been part of that model? And how can we have that conversation with businesses without being too tacky or too designy. So I think there's that approach. And another way of looking at it, it's basically the complexities are so big now Anand.
Anand Verma: This is a really good conversation, and what you're trying to say is, "The world has changed." Things have moved on, complexities are massive. They're too many systems with too much innovation out there and the processes and tools we have been using might not fit for purpose going forward, right? That's what I'm hearing.
Nur Karadeniz: I so agree with that. Especially if you look at the type of challenges we tackle in projects. So it's no longer really a come and digitize my process. What we've been asked now is less given. That's going to happen anyway. That's the UX and interaction design tackles and delivers amazingly. And what type of challenges we're looking at. The industry is becoming really challenging. There's a lot of conversation about the durability of a company's, how long they going to live in the future.
Nur Karadeniz: This is the kind of challenge that companies coming up with like, "Okay, how can I be more sustainable the way I operate? Or if I need to change the way I operate, can you help me?" This is really big question. We don't even know what's going to happen in 10 years and yet trying to find a solution for this. The complexities around the challenges the businesses are facing is one aspect.
Nur Karadeniz: The second is the need. So the customer's need, the customer's expectations. Because everything's becoming smarter and smarter and we knew from design that people compare ruthlessly. Like for example, my local taxi app to my bank, which is 200 years old bank trying to adapt that services startup started last year. So this is this kind of challenge is kind of get into another level of, "Okay, if you are offering me a service, why don't you offer me everything before and after?" So it's just products and services becoming more one stop shop.
Nur Karadeniz: So AUTO1 is one example. In Germany they launched this service where you can find a car, you can insure it on the same platform, you can get finance on the same platform. It basically takes a lot of things off the thinking list. So that's also the type of models we start seeing. The reason this model is successful because there are three different companies behind the service. There's Deutsche Bank, there is AUTO1 and there is insurance company. So this is basically another drive why we want system design to help achieve this kind of complex, but also bringing multiple systems together to offer new services.
Anand Verma: That is super. And what you're saying is means I can cite another example from my own experience, which is Uber. I'm a big Uber user and all of a sudden in the app is telling me to order food, gone a step ahead and now it's kind of saying, "Hey can you want to control the temperature in the car?" So I think there is abundance of functionality and feature is coming together in one place where Uber has got my attention. So would you agree that they're using system design thinking or something similar?
Nur Karadeniz: Exactly. So I think a lot of people approach design this way without maybe calling it system design. I think Uber Eat is really good example. So you've got a service that sits on two different platform. It might be owned by the same company or partnership, regardless. User customers receives a service that is end-to-end and they don't really worry about other things.
Nur Karadeniz: So the other example is Costa for example, the coffee chain in the UK. They partnered with Barclays Bank to offer refilled coffee cup to make a payment while you are getting your coffee. So actually this saves, two things I love about this design. One is okay, you don't have another trip to your pocket to take your card. It saves time. But it's more about refilling, how much it can encourage people to refill your coffee cup instead of using other cups.
Nur Karadeniz: So I think it's very good for sustainability is really, really good example. And it's no-brainer, right? So Costa is a really great place to get coffee and Barclays is the ... They have the payment giants. So you can actually use strength of these different systems and bring together a new service.
Anand Verma: It is incredible. And what that shows is that thinking from a system perspective has led to that innovation. So it's not that innovation would never happened, but rather than just saying innovation might happen one day, you're saying system connecting together can make that happen. You've talked about some examples. You talked about the Costa example, we talked about Uber example. Let's talk about an enterprise example, right? So one of the big areas for focus for emphasis and BB is supply chain. And more of the conversation we're having with large retailers, large logistic companies, sustainability is top of their mind. Though what's happening with the plastic free world is a big part of their conversation. Traceability is another big part of the conversation that we are hearing from our clients. I would love to understand an example about intelligent supply chain or supply chain of some kind where system design thinking can actually be leveraged to make that happen.
Nur Karadeniz: For supply chain, a lot of companies at the background, they're somehow part of supply chain or procurement. And these models perhaps created a 50 plus years ago and trying to serve today's needs. And that's becoming quite a big challenge. When we think about systems design, in theory the approach of systems thinking and design thinking, "Okay, why not solve bigger problem?"
Nur Karadeniz: I can give you one example from my previous work, what we looked at the textile industry and supply chain for fashion. So with the textile industry it's actually reported to be one of the most toxicated industry in the world right now. And it's more than petrol. So it's really environmentally not very friendly, especially fast fashion and the way, the dying process and the system is so complex and complicated in a way that brands, they have no idea where their material come from.
Nur Karadeniz: There's like tiers of layers and layers in the system. So in this project we started looking at, "Okay, let's first understand the consequences of what's going on with the current supply chain model, and talk to people who are more industry experts and environmentalist and find out what are their concerns." So this is, and also really try to understand what is that people's expectation from fashion and do they really questions where the items are coming from? Do they really questions if they find out for example, if piece of garments, if you know about their carbon footprint to the world, would you still buy it? So this is a type of research we did.
Nur Karadeniz: So this is the tangible example where design thinking, the user research and the kind of environmental research comes together. So we created this group of environmentalist experts and technical architect and clients, customers. And it was so interesting that we brought together customers who are competitors or also like insurance companies. They actually check their processes. So they actually validates their certificates so that they can sell stuff.
Nur Karadeniz: And so in this conversation what happened is we applied systems thinking and system design, and I have to say because we've been working with very senior group and across the countries and continents and lots of troubles, it took a little bit time to pull together a giant system map of how the supply chain works. And what are the current problems in the textile supply chain. This is from going to India, talking to suppliers, talking to people who's actually dyeing materials, talking to people who manages mills. And also asking brands, "Within this complexity, how do you want to ... What's your plan to meet your customer's demand in the future?"
Nur Karadeniz: Because one key challenge for example, I want to give you this example. For example, when people dye fabrics, the water goes to rivers. And in countries like emerging markets, this process is often very common. Low labor and maybe less policies in place and et cetera, et cetera.
Anand Verma: You're listening to the Brilliant Basics special series of the Knowledge Institute podcast where we're talking about future work and digital disruption. I'm delighted to be joined by Nur who's our head of experience and system design practice leader at Brilliant Basics. Now Nur, let's move on to the skills gap or skills required. Let's put it that way. Now, the way you're talking about system design, it sounds like a hybrid skillsets or multiple disciplines coming together. Since the original Brilliant Basics we've always punched above our weight in terms of what we used to call [inaudible] people.
Anand Verma: Now it looks like it's even pushing the boundaries on [inaudible] people out there. I would love to hear from you as you develop this practice, how is the skillsets changing first of all? Where do you tap into for the skillsets? And how do you start to kind of bring together a movement of some kind that allows this to become the norm in next few years to come?
Nur Karadeniz: It's like in any other design discipline, you need people who love what they are doing. And here what we're looking at, skills that system designer, who's system designer? Someone who loves facilitating, someone who actually tells very complicated stories in a super simple way. Those are very important skills. And at the same time design thinking, someone who's expert in user-centered design and systems thinking, very strategic and loves tech. So wouldn't be worried about, "Oh my God, when someone's talking about AI models."
Nur Karadeniz: Actually someone system designer would sit down and design these models. But over the years what I see also, so if we think about a UX person for example. Some of them will have research backgrounds, some of them will have more interaction background, so these different breeds is really depends on nature of the people who are that T, the leg of that T is. But overall on the top part, systems thinking, design thinking and facilitating, orchestrating pull in different things together and congruent in that connection.
Nur Karadeniz: These are the key skills I would expect from a system designer. And the starting point from my experience where I've seen service designers are really in a good place to start, lots of grads as well. So people actually who's questioning. People who love and passionate about sustainability, people who wants to stick on like, "I want to design this and I want that things to work."
Anand Verma: There's a purpose in their life.
Nur Karadeniz: Very purposeful people. Really passionate people who wouldn't trust the leave technology to develop.
Anand Verma: Got it. And with regards to working with industry experts in academia as well, we're driving this a lot at Emphasis and BB where we're partnering with the likes of Kings College London and many others. Looks like some of the young generation who are digital natives could also be your future system designers and thinkers.
Nur Karadeniz: Definitely. Yes, we recently partnered with UCL as well. So what we're looking at is young generation. They're more, I mean they're purposeful. I think our industry is quite matured with design thinking. And that's kind of feels like no-brainer, but okay, what else I can do to create more purposeful services and that design actually do good? And help businesses but also environment, also people. So this start having a lot of conversation. And these becomings people's purpose. There's definitely I think an aspect of academia and lot of development in academia as well.
Nur Karadeniz: I always bugged me, this connection between the academic world and the design industry. Because I also did some work with UCL at a time. But I think now and now when we look at a lot of our work becoming more experimental and if you try to see how, for example, we try to create this amazing system that we believe is going to be sustainable, there'll be lots of experimentation. So even our nature of work becoming more experimental and I think that's where academy can tap into, get lots of learnings, write white papers, get patent in place for every single project. So these are the I think areas where I think there's really great connection. How can we work better with academics as well?
Anand Verma: Fantastic Nur. We are towards the end of the discussion. If you have to summarize system design in a few sentences, then I'm sure our listeners will be delighted to hear from you on that.
Nur Karadeniz: So system design is a new approach to design where systems thinking and design thinking comes together to try to solve complex problems. And this is a new experimental way of working, be collated together a framework. And within this framework which is it is not linear and it's heavily on design and strategy and create process maps and systems map and brings together experts to trying to solve problem and always leads with their solution that actually implementable and unscalable.
Anand Verma: Fantastic. You can find more details about this podcast on our show notes at emphasis.com/iki in our podcast section. Nur, thank you for your time and a fantastic discussion and I'm pretty sure we'll go into the next level of detail in the future podcast. One of the things we do traditionally in our podcast is ask our guests to talk about a book they're reading. I'm not sure if you're reading a book or you read a book that you'd love to share with our listeners as well.
Nur Karadeniz: During one of my project I was in San Francisco, and my friend gave me a book signed by David Kelley. So I'm actually at the moment reading his book, which I still find inspiring the way design leaders articulate different things, although you know how design works. But actually refreshing that. But also finding that really detailed learnings from Stanford School for example, the way they applied. And because I have this system's design in my head I always trying to find the connections. I highly recommend, it's Creative Thinking.
Anand Verma: The book is called Creative Thinking? Okay, thank you. Nur, thanks for being here. How can people find more about system design practice, connect with you, and also find you?
Nur Karadeniz: There is a system design practice group in LinkedIn so you can find that. And this is completely system design advocates around the industry who come together and talk about system design and also they can reach me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us closely.
Anand Verma: Thank you Nur. It's N-K-A-R-A-D-E-N-I-Z@brilliantbasics.com. Thank you Nur for joining us today. Everyone, you're listening to the Brilliant Basics edition of Infosys Knowledge Institute podcast, where we talk about all things future work and digital disruption. Thanks to our producer, Yulia De Bari and the entire Knowledge Institute and Brilliant Basics team. And until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Nur Karadeniz
Nur is Head of Experience and System Design UK&I, Europe, the Middle East and Nordics at Brilliant Basics. Nur has a solid background in user centred design. She has been practising design under various titles in a wide range of industries. She has led design as a practice. Throughout her career, Nur has built and managed award-winning design teams in the UK, Europe and the Middle East.