Ep.37 Design's Transformative Touch | Leanne Munyori

Exploring the Connection between Spaces and Human Behavior


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Leanne M'munyori [EP 37]

[00:00:42] Adrian Jankowiak: Well, Leanne, thank you so much for joining me. Really excited to hear your insights and, and hear your story and learn about how you've gotten into circular design and environmental psychology and systemic design. So I'd love to know, first of all, what has your journey into design and appreciation of creativity been like from childhood?

[00:01:07] Leanne M'munyori: Oh wow. That's, that's way... how much time do we have? Cuz if it's since childhood, we might be here a while, but...

[00:01:14] Adrian Jankowiak: let's go for it. Go for it.

[00:01:17] Leanne M'munyori: So in terms of creativity, I think it's been there in the sense that if I saw something interesting in the house, there's a good chance it wouldn't last long cuz I want to understand how does it work.

[00:01:29] So I, I remember there was a calculator that folded, it was a bifold calculator and I thought it was very fascinating cuz it was a fast I'd ever seen. And yeah, granted I got a beating cuz , um, I couldn't restore it, but, I kinda... it was fun, trying to see how it works. But in terms of, now design in what I do, it was more accidental than planned.

[00:01:55] My background is in psychology in terms of training and um, so when I did a master's in environmental psychology, it was way more broader than I had expected. And so there were so many ideas coming at me in terms of how it could be applied in Nairobi and in, you know, the larger area of Kenya.

[00:02:14] So, there was issues on climate change and how that can be affected or the course of that can be changed based on, uh, behavioral change. But then I'm like, okay. Other than that there's how spaces influence people, how they think, how they behave and vice versa. Cuz we make buildings and we make spaces, then they make us and they make the communities that we live in.

[00:02:38] And so in the course of trying to figure out where exactly do I fit, that's how I landed into human-centered design. And as that progressed, cuz there's, there's such a thin... sometimes it's very difficult to differentiate between a service designer and all the different titles that come with design except for maybe product design cuz it's a bit more concrete.

[00:02:59] But when I look at all of it, I think I'm more naturally a systemic thinker, a systemic design thinker, because I see connections across so many things. And it's interesting when I'm working with people who are way outside of my field because then I get to learn new ways of doing things, see how a framework can be transferred into a completely different industry and, you know, give some new ways of approaching or tackling the challenge.

[00:03:26] And yeah, so far it's been a fun journey. And circular design will, you know, came up as a result of trying to see how climate change and, you know, thinking a bit more green without greenwashing can be a reality rather than just an idea that we pedal. Oh, that was a lot.

[00:03:49] Adrian Jankowiak: Oh, not at all. Not at all. No rush. No rush. Um, so it's interesting really how a lot of the most useful design thinking is actually done by people who don't necessarily need to come from a design background. They actually have other specialties, and they're using the methodologies of design thinking to further, further their field or further their work in a, in a particular direction.

[00:04:17] And so you mentioned environmental psychology. So, what is environmental psychology?

[00:04:24] Leanne M'munyori: Oh my goodness. Yeah. So it's, it's just basically how environments and people interact because it's, it's not just a one way relationship, we create spaces. We make buildings, whether they're, you know, flats or low rises. And then over time, those are the places that define who we are, you know, so our identities get tied to the places that we've lived, the places that we've studied, the buildings that we work in.

[00:04:52] And other than that, even when we think about how our emotions can be tied to a place because the first time that you learnt how to ride a bike was on a particular street. So if you see another one that resembles that, it'll trigger a certain memory.

[00:05:05] So it's those nuances that then create, um, it's almost like an unbreakable bond between people and places. And that's, that's generally what it's all about.

[00:05:16] Adrian Jankowiak: Uh, what are some more examples of these bonds that humans naturally have with nature and maybe other species? Maybe it doesn't have to be humans, but what, what are some of these examples of how we're tied in one ecosystem?

[00:05:33] Leanne M'munyori: Oh, okay. So, another one would be how relaxing green spaces can be. I mean, we've seen on Instagram how people go out on hikes and take pictures of landscapes and they're in awe of just how beautiful it looks and how, you know, they get back home. Yes, they're physically tired, but mentally they feel more relaxed.

[00:05:53] And so in that kind of setup, it's how restorative green or open spaces can be. In other settings, it would be how we do our lightings. So if it's a harsh white light, you'd probably be more focused and you associate it with places like hospitals where surgeons need to be alert, or schools, cuz the students need to be reading, sharp or rather not fall asleep while they're having their prep time, especially in the evenings.

[00:06:19] But then when you go into restaurants, it's more of a yellow mellow light, cuz it's supposed to give an ambience of coziness. You know, you can get cuddly if you're on a date. But if it was a white light, you probably wouldn't even be slouching on when you are, when you're already done with your dessert.

[00:06:34] Another case would be, generally even with animals, we seek refuge when we are escaping certain dangers but then even with that refuge, we want to be able to see if there's danger approaching us. So that's the prospect. And the same goes for when people get into a restaurant, they'll choose places based on, um, I want to feel safe.

[00:06:57] So you'll have your back to the wall, especially if you got there first and then you'd also have the vantage point of seeing if whoever you're meeting is coming. In such a case it would be caves if it's from an evolutionary point of view, right? So you'll hide and cuz it's dark, you are also camouflaged but you can still see if there's danger coming or if your, your fellow tribes people are approaching with the day's supper. That's the general, and it, I mean, it, it can keep changing cuz of how we also orient our houses. You'll find that obviously the sitting room is facing the gate, and most of the bedrooms will be on the backside of the house.

[00:07:35] So it's, and you know, the boss's office is probably at the very far end so that he can see everything or she can see everything, you know, and the newer you are... the intern is right at the entrance. So, it's a very interesting concept when you, when you look at it from different settings.

[00:07:51] Adrian Jankowiak: Really interesting. Yeah, and it's interesting how we take some of these behaviors that we've had probably for hundreds, thousands of tens of thousands of years, and we still display those behaviors, maybe for slightly different reasons, but they still show through. Um, so then, in environmental psychology into systemic design and design thinking, how did that journey take place for you?

[00:08:21] Was it in the course of a particular project that you discovered it, or was it a longer period of time?

[00:08:28] Leanne M'munyori: I think it was actually through everyday life. So if I go to the supermarket, for example, and, there's the exit and the entrance, and we separate those. I remember there was one instance where it was, it was a new supermarket and they had just opened and it looked fancy. So I was, I was keen to go in, see what they have to offer, and then the guard there was like, I'm sorry madam, but you can't go through, you can't come in through here.

[00:08:55] But yet everything that was around that area said, come in. Cuz you know, there's the, the shopping carts are right outside that particular exit. The luggage storage area is the same. And so just by them stopping me so harshly, all the enthusiasm that I had just dropped down to like 20 from a hundred, and I was like, oh, maybe I'm not supposed to come into this supermarket.

[00:09:19] You can even stay with your supermarket. So, just it's small things. And then there are other places I go and, you know, it's, it's almost like a contrast. I like how it looks but then I feel either anxious, so there's a conflict between what I see versus what I'm feeling in, in that space or as I'm going through that space.

[00:09:38] And the same goes even for applications really, where I like the look and feel. But then when I'm trying to use it, it's so frustrating. And so like, okay, what, what exactly don't I like about this? Or what exactly is causing me this agitation that I'm feeling. So it's, it just came about over maybe cuz I'm just, I don't, I don't want to say I'm critical, but , uh, maybe reflective with how I was living and over time I, you know, I figured out that there was a name for it and it can be put to good use.

[00:10:08] It just doesn't have to be me journaling.

[00:10:14] Adrian Jankowiak: And is, is that name also, uh, rude Empath? Is that part of what you've done, some of these experiences that you've, you've noted. I remember probably when I was around the time of university, I used to write blog posts that I thought were about good and bad design, and it was always these little things that frustrated me.

[00:10:36] And is that some of the things you're talking about here?

[00:10:39] Leanne M'munyori: Yes. Yes it is. Oh my God, can, yes it is. That's actually how I started blogging because it was covid time and there was a lot of unoccupied time and I thought, you know what? I might as well start putting some of these into writing. And, um, yeah, luckily I had a group of friends who were encouraging, so I kept on writing and I don't know if, I know, it has been a, a while before I've written anything else.

[00:11:05] I don't know if it's because my frustration has decreased and it was the fool for my writing. and now I'm looking for, for a different kind of inspiration, which is probably now looking at opportunities cuz that's what I, I now see, reframing it from just frustration to opportunities to have better services, better experiences in physical spaces and across.

[00:11:31] Cuz again, as a citizen, I don't see let's say roads as separate from buildings as such. It's cuz it's a continuous journey, from the road into a building, either back home or wherever else if I'm meeting my friends. So all that is interconnected. And at the end of the day, rarely will people sit down and disentangle one experience from another.

[00:11:52] It'll just be a summary of the whole day. And so, yeah, opportunities are everywhere.

[00:11:58] Adrian Jankowiak: I really like that insight. Maybe as designers, you know, I, I got into design because I wanted to fix things, whether it was a table or something that I thought that didn't work for me. And so we, we see ourselves as problem solvers, but it has to start with spotting those problems and practicing in spotting them, and then going into looking for solutions.

[00:12:23] So what are, what are some of those areas that maybe you've moved from trying to look at it as a problem into actually trying to work on solutions for them?

[00:12:34] Leanne M'munyori: Ooh. Okay. That's a very good question. I think at the moment it's more every day so, challenges that are within reach rather than very grand. Cuz if we look, I think one of the hurdles or the uphill task with systemic design thinking is that it's usually so many systems that are interlinking. So it's not just one.

[00:12:58] And most of the decisions that would affect or affect change are at a very high level. So breaking those down to a point where it's actionable rather than just, I mean there is a place for having think tanks and coming up with solutions that can then be disseminated by the various bodies that are in charge.

[00:13:16] But if it's at home and it's, it's something as simple as how we manicure our lawns and how that's affecting the biodiversity. So instead of having like a pristinely manicured, because sometimes when there's overgrowth during the rainy seasons when the sun comes out, you see all these little types of insects and bees are everywhere.

[00:13:38] And different colored butterflies, which ordinarily you wouldn't see. And it's just because the area hasn't been too, like, it's not just grass, one type of grass or one type of tree and just by that activity. So it's, it's almost like orderly chaos, cuz again too much order can get boring and in those small actions or if you know a friend who is doing a Mjengo or having a construction, you know, thinking in terms of how can you save more energy, use less water in the design phase rather than after the fact where you're now trying to fix, oh, I need solar.

[00:14:19] So how can some of those design solutions be integrated in the design phase rather than after? And I, I mean we have parents, uncles, even some of our peers who are either purchasing land so that they can build their homes and get some sort of security. So practicing with them is usually a good way to get individuals to buy into design thinking and it's merits.

[00:14:44] Adrian Jankowiak: It's good that you talk about these wicked problems because of course no design problem is, is a simple one, especially when you're trying to solve something bigger. Like for example, you talk about using less water when building a house. I saw you have a blog post. I see were both fans of washing machines. I've worked in laundry care and really see the importance and the practicality of having a washing machine, for for many people. So it's something actually we're trying to encourage as well. We'll see how far the plan gets but it would be great to have more community washers, right? So I wonder how people can get washes out into communities.

[00:15:26] Leanne M'munyori: Yeah. And you see the rippling effect of that is that you also get to know your neighbors. Cuz if I'm taking my clothes to the same place that you are taking it, then I get to know you. And it, I mean it does, I don't need to know your entire family history in one laundry day. But over time, even the Nyumba Kumi that let's say the government was trying to impose comes up more naturally so it doesn't feel forced.

[00:15:50] Cuz people want to still maintain their autonomy. So one, I get my clothes clean, they're smelling fresher than if I did it by hand and I get a new friend. So wins all around. Oh. And yes, we've spent less water as well.

[00:16:02] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah, many, many. That's the thing. It's again, the natural kind of outcome of working with systems of nature where you might implement a solution to something and it may have negative consequences, like, like so many things that we've done in the past, but it might have actually positive consequences of revitalizing that ecosystem.

[00:16:27] Right. Um, the, there was a film I watched, I'll have to remember it. The biggest, the biggest little farm I think it's called. I'll have to let you know, but it, it's all about them trying to really let nature manage their huge land. I found it very interesting. Yeah. So we were talking about some of these projects you, you've encountered or some of the work that you've done.

[00:16:50] Maybe you can give some examples within the systems thinking, circular design, service design, et cetera.

[00:16:57] Leanne M'munyori: All right. Currently I work as a service designer for a company called Marathon XP. They are a Kenyan service design company, and so far we deal within the telecommunication and FinTech spaces. And hopefully over time we'll get, cuz I know there's a push for the finance sector to get or to incentivize a lot of the manufacturers and big businesses to move into circular production and a circular way of operating where it's not just take, make and then waste.

[00:17:31] It's how can we then create loops? So that we are not using virgin materials. And you know, part of that is heavily influenced by finances cuz at the end of the day, most people, it comes down to cost. If I'm spending more, becoming greener or becoming more sustainable, it's, I mean, I'll be out of business in, in a very short time.

[00:17:54] So why should I? And I think the fact that we are already playing in that space, it might be easier or it will be a way to kind of nudge or, you know, it's almost like education , uh, not civic education, but industrial education in terms of how do you move towards a more circular practice as a financial service provider, either in terms of payment or banking.

[00:18:19] And my colleagues are very interesting and fun people. They are highly skilled and fun. That's because like, again, I think it if you can, if you can have fun while working, it's honestly a bonus. And so in in those spaces we try to humanize the experiences. Cuz I think when it comes to financial products and services, it's an industry that has been there for so long and so the ways of working are very set.

[00:18:48] It's kinda like law where rarely, I don't think I've ever seen a lawyer who has gone to stand before a judge in jeans and it's for a particular reason. Cuz it's cont it's contextual. Right. We get back to that environmental psychology. So the, the social context or yeah, the work context demands that people wear a certain way and that also goes for the operational side of things and trying to shift an entire organization's way of working to be a bit more agile.

[00:19:19] Especially if it has been... not necessarily calcified is the wrong one, but it has been refined over so many years. It's now like a well oiled machine. It's just, you know, you keep it moving. It's an interesting challenge, but as, as it is, we work with the briefs that we are given.

[00:19:37] After the fact, we can now have conversations about, oh, how have you thought about X, Y, Z in terms of circularity because I try and stay away from the word sustainability because it's become a buzzword.

[00:19:48] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm.

[00:19:49] Leanne M'munyori: and depending on which field you are in, it may mean something different cuz something sustainable.

[00:19:55] It just, yeah, if I keep making money, it's a sustainable model. But then if I'm thinking in terms of circularity, there's an element of regeneration. That's also a key element when it comes to systemic design, where it's not just human because it could be human centered, but then it's detrimental to the environment.

[00:20:14] Because if plastics made life easier for us, but then now it's, it's an ecological disaster to some extent. So widening the perspective from just human-centered to yes, humans are part of this larger ecosystem that we want to create that is self-sustaining and rejuvenating.

[00:20:36] Adrian Jankowiak: Well, perfect. I feel like something we talk about a lot is life centered design, really because it's one thing to look at human-centered design, but we exist in an ecosystem and we have to consider all the other parts of that life centered ecosystem. Some people say planet centered. And reminded me when you were talking about, you know, circularity, which also, you know, I guess as soon as something becomes popular, it can become a buzzword.

[00:21:07] There was a book that I found really interesting called Cradle to Cradle, Remaking The Way We Make Things. I'm not sure if you've read it or heard of it. I think it's 20 years old now, but I think it was a kind of a starting point for me in terms of understanding how things might go cradle to cradle.

[00:21:26] Yeah.

[00:21:26] Leanne M'munyori: Ooh, I, I like that Life centered design, cuz again, if I hear planet centered, I don't think of whatever else is living on the planet. But life is then more... it encompasses way more.

[00:21:40] Adrian Jankowiak: Mm-hmm.

[00:21:40] Leanne M'munyori: Mm.

[00:21:41] Adrian Jankowiak: I guess the question is should we treat the planet like a life form? Do we treat the planet well because we as life forms want to survive? Or do we have deeper reasons for treating the planet well also, and if it's planet centered, then does that include everything on the planet?

[00:21:57] Leanne M'munyori: Yes, yes. And also the biases that come with certain words because based on your motivations. It's the same way if I'm choosing to be sustainable, there's a different motivation for me than there would be for someone else. Let me use an example of, so a friend of mine was planting their own greens.

[00:22:16] And so, whoever they were sharing the plot of land with was like, oh, so now what you need to do, let me tell you, let me tell you something. What you need to do is you make this large scale and then you can now sell and have an extra source of income. And so the conflict there, already was one person is thinking about that as a source of income.

[00:22:36] While she was thinking of it as just reducing costs. I don't want to have to buy groceries that I don't know where they're coming from and how much chemicals have been used on it. I just want one, I just want to eat healthier and I want to reduce my cost. But for this one, it's you can now make money.

[00:22:53] Let me tell you, agriculture is the in thing. You cannot miss a market. So, I think also, yeah, the motivations and how we interpret certain words is important. In terms of framing and who we are talking to, who the audience will be.

[00:23:09] Adrian Jankowiak: Hmm. Have you encountered any of those framing challenges during your work or any kind of unique experiences that you've had in, in your work that you'd like to share?

[00:23:22] Leanne M'munyori: Wow. Okay. I think, well, none that comes to mind. I think that one, the agriculture one was the one that really stood out because it's very relatable in terms of as we were saying, scaling down those wicked problems to a point where we can even help communities. Cuz again, there's a lot of conflict that comes up within communities.

[00:23:42] At the social level where I might not have taken time to understand what you Adrian mean by growing your own food. Then it becomes a problem and then it can move into another section altogether.

[00:23:56] So it could be anything, let's improv this. You can gimme anything and I can probably give you an example of how framing can become a challenge just because we are looking at it from different perspectives and yeah. The agriculture one definitely stood out because everyone eats.

[00:24:13] Adrian Jankowiak: Okay, well let's talk about bus stops.

[00:24:17] Leanne M'munyori: Oh, okay. So one, they're different users, right? So a bus stop for a pedestrian is viewed very differently by a private car owner. If I'm driving my own car, a bus stop is what is going to cause traffic for me because Matatus probably won't dock into the designated bus stop.

[00:24:38] And sometimes that's also contributed to by pedestrians who instead of actually going into the designated waiting area, they'll stand closer to the edge. And so for me as the Matatu driver, because I want you to get into my car first, I'll stop there because you won't chase me to, to where the actual bus stop is supposed to be.

[00:24:58] So everyone has a role to play when it comes to road usage and now like the specific context of a bus stop where it has a purpose, but is it being used the way It's intended. And how much conflict does that cause? Because if you hoot for me as a Matatu driver, you can hoot as much as you want.

[00:25:16] I still need to get my days wages. And for the pedestrian it's, I want to get on to the Matatu faster and get out of this heat. So there are different factors motivating every one of those actors in that particular scenario.

[00:25:31] Adrian Jankowiak: It's a really nice introduction into the mind of a design and systems thinker. And what people think about as, as you go about your daily life. I always find it very interesting the things we're passionate about. We tend to approach maybe life from that perspective. So I lived with chemists before and they saw everything as chemical bonds, carbon and, and compounds and things like this.

[00:26:00] And then I, I see things from a, a similar perspective perhaps to yourself in terms of systems and how things fit together, whether that's practically speaking or, or, systemically. So you've mentioned you are interested in public spaces as well, and where, where do those interests extend particularly?

[00:26:21] Leanne M'munyori: Oh, okay. So with the built environment, it's the public spaces. I enjoy walking. And in walking is where the scale of the city is way more different. My pace is much slower than if I'm in a car. I interact with people a bit more closely. So if I'm getting cat called, it's harder to get cat called when you are in a matatu or in a private car or on a boda boda. Day versus night is also very different.

[00:26:47] So there's the social economic stratification that then kind of brings in more complexity into those public spaces because then how do we define a public space? If you can still pay for it so that it's maintained by a private entity, is it still a public space? Or if I'm not paying, but it's still supposed to be maintained, yet the maintenance is not frequent, how does that impact on the quality of that space?

[00:27:15] Because then it could be yes, public, but then the quality might be wanting, and based on those differences, does it also cause more segregation between people? Because if I, I can pay for Karura, then it means I won't go hang out where people who can't pay are going to be, or if, if I can only stay in a place where, I don't pay, it means just by default, there are people I will never interact with.

[00:27:39] And so the otherness keeps on growing.

[00:27:42] Adrian Jankowiak: True. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. You're, you're spot on. And it's so good that you've talked about that because public spaces are becoming increasingly rare. Well, they, I guess they have been rare in Nairobi. In recent times, but around the world really, it, it's becoming more, like you mentioned, public spaces or rather private spaces that feel public, but fundamentally they might have some rules.

[00:28:11] I've heard of places in London where you might think you're in a public space and you might want to photograph a building, and it turns out you're actually in a private property and they have rules that forbid you from photographing that building. So generally in public spaces, we're allowed to take photographs, right.

[00:28:29] But now because of the cramming of cities, it, it's also becoming a problem. Um,

[00:28:36] Leanne M'munyori: And then on top of that, now that you're talking about photographs and public spaces, there's also the issue of data protection. Because if I take a photo of you in a public space and there are people behind you, then what rights am I infringing on? And how do I know that this is happening?

[00:28:52] So it then... it's just... I think sometimes thinking about systems and how they interact can, yeah, it has caused me some sleepless nights. There's a time to just shut off the brain and be like, you know what? Just take a cup of tea or milk and, and sleep and then you'll be better. You'll maybe come up with something that's less, um, convoluted.

[00:29:17] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah. Sometimes we, we need that fresh perspective, don't we? Are there particular stories, is there any kind of anecdote you wanted to share or, or thoughts from yourself about your work, about the meaning of stuff you do or, or maybe the process, maybe even kind of leaving people with a feeling of what should I know about systemic design and how might I now start looking at some of these problems that I encounter or start? How do I become more perceptive of the problems and the solutions in life?

[00:29:51] Leanne M'munyori: Mm. Oh. I think, yeah, the main one is that we are all connected. It sounds like a cliche, but I know there's a Kenya song that says "Maisha ni yangu, shughulika na yako" which basically means it's my life. Like, this is my life mind yours, and I can appreciate that.

[00:30:09] But at the same time, my actions or my behaviors have a ripple effect which affects other people. It may not be directly, but the connections do exist. Secondly, it's when, like thinking big is not a bad thing cuz we are conditioned to think in terms of focus, focus, focus, which is a good thing.

[00:30:29] And I think people who are very focused are complimentary to people who think wide. And I think it, it doesn't have to be that we all have to be one thing, so that, diversity is important and thinking of it from a collaborative point of view would be beneficial.

[00:30:46] So yes, appreciating that diversity in terms of skill point of view and just how we operate fundamentally. If your default is to think wide, go with that and find someone who, who will compliment that and vice versa. And then thirdly, it's reframing. It's easy to complain about things and to see the problems and the issues and, you know, bad, bad, bad, bad, worse, worst, but we can whine about it for a bit, but then take a step back and actually now think of how do we approach this from a different perspective of reframing it as an opportunity to make it better.

[00:31:25] The last thing would be empathy, researching even at a very basic level to understand rather than to impose a solution. And I think, going back to transport, we have had some impositions burning the public transport on a Monday from coming into town. What are the consequences having the bus back at one edge of the city?

[00:31:48] Was it really research driven? Was it for the people that it was being created for? Yes, it's a solution, but is it the right solution for the right people at the right place? I think moving away from just thinking this is the solution, but we can start from there and reverse engineer it to see if it fits and tweak it, but just offering a solution for solution sake. Ooh. Ooh,

[00:32:10] Adrian Jankowiak: Offering a solution for solutions sake.

[00:32:15] Leanne M'munyori: It's a no-no

[00:32:16] Adrian Jankowiak: Yeah.

[00:32:16] Leanne M'munyori: yeah.

[00:32:17] Adrian Jankowiak: hey, have you got any questions either for myself or maybe for the audience to put out there?

[00:32:24] Leanne M'munyori: Oh yeah. So, I have one for you. What is your process when you encounter a challenge, a design challenge. What would you say your process is?

[00:32:32] Adrian Jankowiak: It's a really good question, and I think that process can vary. It depends whether maybe I'm fixing something, you know, a wobbly table or something, the stakes might be lower than if we're trying to approach access to clean water, for example.

[00:32:49] Right. I think the key part of it for me has always been prototyping. I've naturally leaned towards trying to do things and make stuff and then seeing if it works or if it breaks. I've known to break things as well, especially prototypes. I think that's what they're there for, to, to be tested and then to be recreated, improved.

[00:33:13] So for me, there's, there's a large part in, in the prototyping and I think that that's where I lean, but really understanding that even that, Wobbly table leg. It's something that, let's be honest, I might, and I'm thinking here of a concrete example. I fixed it and I fixed it quickly with a quick nail and a piece of wood.

[00:33:37] But I'm expecting it within a few months to probably break off. And then maybe I'll think about a better solution. But at least for maybe three months or six months, I fixed that problem. So, that's also something, maybe it gives me a bit more time to think about it. Maybe for now I feel satisfied that it, it's been solved.

[00:33:57] But of course that also might be when we're working on a bigger project, it maybe the facts that we have to accept some quick wins somewhere, especially when we're part of this bigger system and we have to try and achieve where we can without being idealists. An example comes to mind when I worked in water and sanitation again, and, and with sanitation, our job was to collect the human waste and to make sure it is disposed of within one particular site in the city.

[00:34:31] This wasn't in Kenya, by the way. But the problem we were solving was actually gathering the, the human waste in the first place. We didn't have the resources to think on the next problem which was that we are disposing of it in a particular place which the environment may not appreciate that, and then what's happening with it afterwards.

[00:34:51] Right. So we had to deal with the first thing to even be able to approach the second one further down the road. Yeah. Well, does that give you a bit of insight?

[00:35:01] Leanne M'munyori: It does. It does. And I think it's, it's very complimentary to now, cuz again, there's a chance to get paralyzed when you're thinking at a systems level that the problems are too big. But sometimes the quick wins, as you're saying, they serve as good motivation to just keep you going until, you know, or unlock another level of, you know, insight that could lead to now a better solution.

[00:35:25] So my second question would be, what projects have you been on or have you participated or you were lead that was exciting or that you found had the most, I want to say impact, but yeah. That you really enjoyed being part of?

[00:35:43] Adrian Jankowiak: Oh, love this question because there's many, there's one that I always go back to that made an impact on me, very early in my career, which was ween toys. So, I insisted that I was going to try and find an internship during university, which was abroad from the UK. Eventually, I managed to go to India and work for a advertising agency called Resonant Design. And they had just started a small toy company and an animation studio. I got to be one of the two people designing for the toy company and working with local artisans in Channapatna in Bangalore, to come up with toys. First sat down, got given a piece of paper and a pencil, and got told to design some toys.

[00:36:32] Then I got to really brief myself, understand that these were supposed to promote engagement by children within the environment and appreciation of nature, and got to discover what the colors were, what the process that the artisans used. Everything was lathed. It was lathed sandalwood and then covered in Lac, this kind of glossy coloring, which was natural as well.

[00:36:56] And I came up with three animals. One of the animals was a zebra, the other one was a tiger, and the third one was a giraffe. And each of those, the zebra had like color matching hoops. The tiger had stripes that would rotate with letters, and the zebra had a neck that you would put hoops on and you could count to 10.

[00:37:21] And it made my day because we exported these from India to amazon.com. So they sold in the US, they sold in India. And I still have this review on my portfolio that someone said that their child learnt to count to 10 on the giraffe for the first time. And so that's always, I think on that smallest level, that's why that gave me real satisfaction of being a designer.

[00:37:49] That's why we do what we do and it warms me to this day. So I wonder who that was and where they were. The Amazon review, I, I still have the link to it somewhere. So it is those little moments that are really satisfying, I think. And just designing the toys was amazing. I got to work with really talented model makers, really talented artisans.

[00:38:11] My team and bosses are amazing and India is a place that's full of culture, color, and senses. So it, it was an amazing place to be and, and make something like that happen directly.

[00:38:24] Leanne M'munyori: Oh yeah. Wow. That, that is actually very unique cuz getting a review for something you've worked on directly. It's, it's something , it's, it's very heartwarming. And I think my last question for you would be if you were to give a breakdown of how storytelling for design works, how would you describe it?

[00:38:45] Adrian Jankowiak: Interesting. I'll come back to it and thank you for flipping the, the interview. This is fun. You can tell someone who knows how to ask questions, so I think that's what design thinkers are definitely always good at. We really always like asking questions. And, and just to say, yeah, actually, you know, I worked with other products that have been reviewed and like fast moving consumer good stuff like, air fresheners and so on. But it's always that one review for the toy that actually really, really stands out and storytelling and design.

[00:39:18] Well, I tend to draw a lot of boxes, so when I'm explaining something, I will draw rectangles and I'll draw arrows and I'll say, right, this is going like this, et cetera. So I guess it's story boarding or experience, planning right. Et cetera. That works effectively for me. I think when explaining things, something is there and then it's divided in two, and then we have things fitting into those or around them. That works really well for me for both sharing ideas and for being able to add pieces to the story.

[00:39:55] Of course, if we have then those things as post-it notes that you can move around, then practically speaking, that's also a good way though. What's your post-it note consumption? Because I'm sure there's a lot of design thinkers using a lot of Post-it notes, uh, keeping Post-it in business. I think I'm talking about the practical, the drawing type of stuff, but of course everyone has their own strengths and some people are really fluent with words. Some people prefer to just write something. Maybe it's a script. So where I might draw boxes, someone else might write a script for an experience, and somewhere along the way they might meet together and then start making a cardboard model. And they can tell that story in slightly higher fidelity, maybe then they'll make a video of that model or a time lapse and, and then it can tell another part of the story.

[00:40:51] I think also coming back to thinking when I was in the field in Bangladesh or Ghana talking to people who were experiencing the issues that we were just there to try and work on. It's really trying to capture those stories as much as possible and trying to not just capture what the people are saying, but also what their eyes are saying, what their family's silence is saying, or whatever the, the situations might be that give you additional insights. It's observation, I guess, and then we're kind of expected to be able to interpret that through our own lens that hopefully is naive in when it comes to expertise and hopefully as, as neutral as possible when it comes to solving the problem.

[00:41:44] So I guess something like that.

[00:41:47] Leanne M'munyori: All right, thank you. And what would you make of storytelling for a pitch? Because if you're trying to let other people know what the value of design is, and they have either no idea or very limited understanding of what design thinking does. How? How would...

[00:42:07] Adrian Jankowiak: and I'm trying to pitch design thinking to them.

[00:42:09] Leanne M'munyori: Yes.

[00:42:10] Adrian Jankowiak: Hmm. You asked me earlier about my process. I think it's a shared process by this stage. We're very open as Nairobi Design, how we work, and we have a brief, in fact, if you go to our website, we have a brief called the Six Word Creative Brief. And it's kind of a combination of so many things that we've heard before and that we've experienced.

[00:42:35] And uh, also starts with why so many people are familiar with the Simon Sinek talk about great leaders starting with why. Our creative brief starts with 'why', because we need to capture the reason, the true emotion of what the issue is. Then it's 'why' ,then 'how', And then 'what'? And then we added our own as well.

[00:42:58] We have 'who', so who are the stakeholders? Who are the target audiences? Who are the partners? Who are the people working on different parts of the project? When, when are these things needing to happen? What are the different milestones that need to happen within the project and the resources. And that could be human resources, it could be budgets, it could be research papers and, and other things that have been gathered.

[00:43:23] So we've shared that out actually on our website. So I would approach it from that perspective because genuinely when I write a project brief, I'm trying to communicate an idea that's maybe already existing, but still forming in my mind, I go straight to that project brief.

[00:43:41] And if it's a proposal for funding, if it's a client proposal, if it's even our own writeup for Nairobi Design Week, I'll start with that, those six words. And then I find that helps me tell the stories because I don't automatically fall back on the 'what', which might be easier to say. It may be that yes, we are trying to do this, but actually we need to talk about the 'why' and the 'how' and the process before we even get to the 'what' of what we're doing.

[00:44:11] Leanne M'munyori: All right, so that, that last one was actually for the audience in case anyone was thinking about getting into that space. So, you're welcome guys and girls.

[00:44:24] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks, uh, pulling that out of me, so, okay. So a couple of quick ones then. First of all, is there a meaning or a reason or a story to your name or names?

[00:44:37] Leanne M'munyori: Oh, wow. Okay. So from at least what I know, if there are any Merus out there who would like to dispute this, you're welcome to do so, but, so my last name should actually be pronounced M'munyori, which means one who is filled or full. because, Kuuyura is to be full. So the person who is full or filled, I think, oh gosh.

[00:45:03] I hope my ancestors are proud of me wherever they are.

[00:45:07] Adrian Jankowiak: They're gonna be.

[00:45:09] Leanne M'munyori: Okay, good. In, in case I'm not, you the one who will be advocating for me, cuz you said they will,

[00:45:17] Adrian Jankowiak: Well, let's hope, let's hope it's correct. Maybe we'll have to do some fact checking, but we'll, we'll trust you on it. If any of our listeners have an answer, we'll, we'll trust you until then,

[00:45:28] Leanne M'munyori: Yes.

[00:45:31] Adrian Jankowiak: Great. Amazing. Amazing. Thank you so much. Where should people find you? How would you like to be contacted and what about?

[00:45:39] Leanne M'munyori: Oh, wow. Okay, so, rudeempath on Twitter and on Instagram and then on LinkedIn you can find me as Leanne M'munyori and what about, so anything to do with design, we can probably spitball, soundboard. Yeah. It's always interesting to hear what other designers are doing and how they're doing it cuz it, it serves as inspiration.

[00:46:02] So yeah. Reach out.

[00:46:05] Adrian Jankowiak: Thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you so much, Leanne.

[00:46:09] Leanne M'munyori: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Adrian.

In the latest Podcast episode of Afrika Design, we dive into the fascinating realm of environmental psychology and design thinking with Leanne Munyoria a service designer at MarathonXP.

With a background in psychology and a master's degree in environmental psychology, Leanne shares her insights on the intricate relationship between people and their surroundings.

Her journey began with the realization that spaces and environments have a profound impact on individuals and communities. She highlights how spaces influence our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, and how they become intertwined with our identities.

Whether it's the nostalgia triggered by a familiar street or the relaxation experienced in green spaces, our connection to our surroundings is undeniable. Her insights on the powerful influence of design on our daily perceptions is undeniable, she emphasizes the importance of empathy and diversity in creating impactful solutions in our designs.

Tune in now for a fresh perspective on the transformative power of design in our lives.

This is the seventh episode under the ‘Shifting Narratives’ program supported by the British Council SSA Arts. hosted by Adrian Jankowiak

Episode Credits

Produced by Nairobi Design

Host: Adrian Jankowiak

**Producer, Shorts & Artwork: **David King'ori

Music: Ngalah Oreyo (@ngalah_oreyo) and Mercy Barno (@merc.b_)