In this bright future you can’t forget your past

(Bob Marley)
A lot has happened over the years, but here's our attempt to summarize the IXDS journey so far and what we've learned along the way!
It all started with "TouchIt"!

The very first project we did was with our long-time partner and friend Prof. Gesche Joost, who at that time was a research scientist at Deutsche Telekom Laboratories and responsible for all design research with Deutsche Telekom. She asked us to explore the potentials of new technologies for handsets and the way we interact with them. The entire project team was made up of students and staff from the University of Applied Sciences. The project not only led to three patents and numerous scientific publications, but also to an intense discussion within Deutsche Telekom about their strategy for future handsets and their upcoming collaboration with Apple.

These days opened our eyes to what's possible, and since then, through the projects we pursue and the culture we create, IXDS has aimed to be the best workplace possible! So it's a good sign when there's still team members with us who were part of that first project. We're very happy Julia WernerHans Kadel and Johannes Landstorfer were there from day one, and are still working with us today! 

Fritzing

Parallel to our first commercial project, we started our first research project: the open-source initiative Fritzing, which aims to support non-engineers to work creatively with hardware. Backed by a grant from the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, we were able to start working on the software with a very international and skilled team.

First office: Brunnenstrasse 196

In the early days, we mainly worked in nomadic way: sometimes in the university, sometimes in Reto's home, sometimes in temporarily rented studios. However, it soon became obvious that the kind of work we were doing needed a space to brainstorm, a workshop, a space to set up and test prototypes, a space to host co-creation workshops, etc. And so we found this space: 40 sqm in the heart of Berlin-Mitte, with a little garden in the front!

During this phase, we continued doing open-ended explorations, based around new technologies or new interaction paradigms. For example, in our first project with VW, we explored how novel sensors and actuators will impact the way we interact with our cars: Would we use rougher gestures? Should the seats or the steering wheel communicate with us? Can information be located in relevant spots, such as the side mirrors? We were exploring these kinds of questions by designing new forms of interaction and implementing them in prototypes. Especially for the car industry, we learned how to build high-end prototypes, which would enable people to realistically experience new ways of interaction in a high-end seat box.

Already at that time, it was clear to us that if we wanted to design interactive experiences and services based on novel use of hardware, we needed to prototype as soon as possible. Therefore, we set up our first prototyping workshop in this office and used it extensively!

In this period of IXDS, Verena Augustin joined us. She not only brought in the KISD perspective on service design, but also shaped the way we work together. Still up to today, Verena is shaping our work culture: today she is the director of the Berlin studio!

Offsites from the very beginning of IXDS

The idea to do offsites with the entire team is something we did from the very beginning. The aim was to reflect on how we want to work (and how we want to live), what kind of clients and people we want to collaborate with, and what skills and methods we want to learn or develop. On a yearly basis we leave our office for three days to think about all these issues and come up some kind of plan. The first offsite took place at the Lügenmuseum ("Museum of Lies") in Gantikow, one hour north of Berlin.

Connect with the community

Another long-running tradition of IXDS is our aim to be involved with the community. As mentioned above, with Fritzing we laid the foundation for sharing with the open-source community. Another way of interacting with our peers is through our Pre-Work Talks, which we have hosting since the beginning. These events enable us to discuss trends in design, art and startup culture; inviting individuals who make us curious, and asking them to talk about their passion. While we learn new insights, ideas and perspectives, we're also connecting people. These were and still are the goals of our various #events.

Office #2

In 2009, we moved to our second office – because we needed more space! We found a large loft in a building on Brunnenstasse, number 7d, just over the road from the old office. This building was more than a building: it was an inspiring community of artists, designers and other people with alternative lifestyles – very much in the typical Berlin way.

We designed our office space in a highly flexible way, so that it could also function as a space for workshops, meetups or parties :-)

At that time, IXDS began to become a strong partner in internal innovation processes; for example, we started supporting the team of Deutsche Telekom's Creation Center in their mission to facilitate co-creation processes which led to "products and services that are innovative, profitable and valuable for their user". Our role was not only to involve individuals, but also to facilitate workshops with all stakeholders and to prototype ideas coming out of these workshops. We did the same for companies such as BMW, ImmobilienScout and Erste Bank Austria.

In parallel to this, we also started working on design projects close to market. We wanted to learn what it means to design for production and for launch – and we did! For example, we helped to design dash boards for NSN's security technology – dashboards, which would help network administrators better detect attacks and better react to them. We also helped to design modular UX and UI for VW internal HR tools, based on SAP. And we also designed and implemented some interactive exhibitions; for instance, for the Curry-Wurst-Museum, Deutsche Bahn and others. 

In this period of IXDS, Susi Heuer joined us. Susi was really important in managing our back office and building up processes right from the start. She has grown to become our Finance Director, taking care of controlling and creating financial dashboards, which have allowed us to grow without sleepless nights!

Work hard, party hard!

Having great paties with colleagues, friends, clients and the community has always ben part of our culture! The first really big party was when we moved into our 2nd office. We not only set the standard, but also destroyed the sound system and had our first encounters with the police!

Office #3

In 2013, we move to our current office in Kreuzberg, and back into a spatial situation where everybody fits on one floor. The office provides enough space for around 40 people, which is also part of our philosophy: we want to work in an 'human' environment. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar accurately predicted that, throughout history, the smallest group size of humans that could maintain stable social relationships is around 30-50 people; he calls this unit a 'band' or 'camp'. We think that this is the right amount of people to allow for us to get to know each other's experiences, connections, strengths and weaknesses, and therefore provide the best results and the most fun when working together.

Almost a year before we moved (actually she was the reason for moving), Nancy Birkhölzer joined IXDS as a partner. She brought important experiences with her, not only in service design and how to argue design decisions from a business perspective, she also had a lot of experience in managing and growing creative teams. Based on her prior experiences, Nancy has a strong vision of how the agency of the future should look like and how the relationship towards clients is evolving.  In her role as CEO of IXDS she is shaping our vision, but also pushing forward the way we work and the way we involve and engage with the community.

One of the new skills we gained with Nancy on board was what we call the "startup approach": design, especially business and service design can help startups in an early phase to identify new business models and make them tangible through prototyping and MVPs (minimum viable products). For example, we supported multiple internal startups of Deutsche Telekom, basically as a "startup for hire". We worked on what was needed in the early phase (e.g., pitch deck, value proposition, UX/UI concept, MVP), up to launching a first version and support throughout the launch phase. We have also worked with “real” statups, e.g., mimi.io, familynet.de and txtr.com, helping them identify and implement the right approach.

It was also in this phase of IXDS that Christina Dicke joined us: Christina is a typical IXDS-person, with multiple excellent expertise, both on the technical as well as on the design side. With a PhD in Human-Computer-Interaction and multiple years of experience both in large companies, as well as in agencies, she became our first skill director, heading our growing team of “creative technologists”. She helped structure our technological skills and methods and set up a system which allows each creative technologist to grow based on his or her interest and curiosity.

Munich – we are coming!!!

There were basically three reasons for opening our studio in Munich:
1) The first reason was that we started exceeding the magical number of 40 employees in Berlin, and still didn't want to give up on our idea of a human-size office (check Chapter Office#3)).
2) We strongly believe that the best results are achieved through close collaboration, both with users (or better, indivduals) and the clients. And as more and more clients were based in Southern Germany, we decided that it is worth investing in this area and opening a studio close to them. 
3) The last reason is, of course, that there is wonderful nature around Munich - many of us love the mountains!

As I said, being close to our clients was one of the main reasons for opening the Munich office. Especially the close collaboration with the brand Siemens at BSH was a strong motivator to build this new studio. IXDS is suporting BSH in all UX/UI design challenges close to production, as well as helping to define the larger picture, the vision for the brand and for its role in the smart home of the future. This can only happen when the teams are close to each other and both formal and informal communicaiton can flourish.

Our first office in Munich was within the Impact Hub. Together with the guys running this wonderful space, we designed our office: a self-contained office within the co-working space. The nice thing about being at the Impact Hub was that we could immediately start connecting with the community by launching Pre-Work-Talks in Munich straight away.

With opening a new office came the decision to establish the role of Studio Directors. We were happy that in Berlin Verena Augustin took on this role. Verena has been with IXDS nearly from the beginning and has a deep understanding of our heritage and our vision, and knows how to apply thses into all of our daily challenges. In Munich, we were very lucky to get Alexandra Pretschner on board – she is an experienced manager of creative teams and furthermore brings entrepreneurial experience to the table. She was employee #1 in Munich and built up everything from there. Her optimistic attitude and her professional approach to design and management challenges did not only allow for an excellent start in Munich, but also fed back important insights into the overall culture and work style at IXDS.

It was during that era of IXDS that we realized that a general approach to service design was not enough anymore: all over the world, industries were affected by digitalization and developed their own cultures, standards, technological and legal framework, etc. In order to deliver superior results for our clients and partners, we needed to dive into these industires and deeply understand the environment. So, we decided to establish Hubs around topics we were passionate about: participatory healthconnected living, seamless mobilitysmart manufacturingcontinuous learning and new work.

Soon after this new approach to design challenges, Ulrike Anders joined IXDS Berlin to become our first Hub-Director, responsible for participatory health. She not only brings excellent experience in this field, but is also well connected with the German and international community; she also hosts the meetup "Health 2.0".

A little later, Sven-Anwar Bibi joined IXDS Munich to become the director for the connected living Hub, overseeing all activities around the home of the future and how we want to live in this home. 

Munich Office #2

After searching for nine months and visiting more than 40 spaces, we finally found our new home in Munich. In February 2016, we celebrated the new office with a fulminant office warming party! The design of this space reflects the way we want to work: hands-on in our workshop, open to our peers with our auditorium, reclusive in the various project spaces, or in loud and passionate co-creation sessions in our two flexible meetings rooms. And, as in Berlin, with lots of space outside to sit and work there in summer!

With the new office we also reinvented the way we want to manage and develop our skills. With the arrival of Timm Kekeritz and Stephan Rein, and with Christina focusing on leading our technical team, we now had three skill directors – each of them representing an important aspect of service design with connected hardware. They can guarantee best outcomes for our clients and partners and – at the same time – allow the team to grow individually based on each one's curiousity and passion. We are very happy that Timm joined IXDS, because he not only worked internationally, but also ran his own consultancy and knows what it means to deliver superior work for clients. Stephan is an award-winning industrial designer with many years of international experience and has a strong expertise in materials and design for production.