Archive for October, 2008

Nicolas Nova posts some examples of proxemics in service design. There are two books that should be on your radar if you’re interested in this aspect of design. The Hidden Dimension by Edward T. Hall and Personal Space: the Behavioral Basis of Design by Robert Sommer, both which I wrote about earlier this year. They’re showing their age, but full of great insight.

Also of interest for service designers is the difference between sociofugal and sociopetal space.

[via Choosenick]

Last night I came across an interesting article from 2006 in the New York Times exploring how airlines handle passenger boarding. Lots of different designs:

Mathematicians would revel in the intricacies of the new boarding techniques. There is the outside-in technique, nicknamed Wilma, for window first, then middle and then aisle, a technique favored by Delta and United. And there is the sort of nonsystem system pioneered by Southwest Airlines in which passengers board in the order they arrive.

Among the reformers, US Airways can lay claim to one of the most complex procedures. It is basically Wilma, with seats filled in a pattern as intricate as a microchip’s circuitry: rear window and middle first, front window and middle next, followed by rear aisle, then front aisle. The airline calls it the reverse pyramid system, but it might be better described as a V-shaped sequence that operates by zones.

It’s interesting to see the system design that underlies the service, where an extra five minutes in boarding can cost millions of dollars to accommodate.

Leland Maschmeyer links to an HBR article with a nice example of transformation design: Why Traditional Recession Tactics Are Doomed To Fail This Time.

Starbucks tried to grow by selling us more junk we don’t need — music, mugs, and mouse pads. That was orthodox, textbook, industrial-era strategy: grow by seizing share in adjacent markets. But it’s also defunct in a world where we don’t need more useless junk.

What do we need in the 21st century — not just as brain-dead consumers, but as global citizens? We need opportunities to grow and amplify our capabilities. For Starbucks, that might mean, instead of hawking mugs and chocolates, training baristas to teach classes in coffee-making, letting communities use Starbucks as a venue for local government, or, at the limit, training local suppliers from developing countries as Baristas in developed ones. How cool would that be? Very.

Of course, Starbucks isn’t doing any of this, and they don’t call it transformation design as such, but in particular the part about training people to be baristas seems interesting.

Blue Bottle, one of the elite coffee bars here in San Francisco operates out of a garage, but they have a service where they come to your office and help you learn to calibrate your espresso machine. I’m not sure if the Starbucks baristas have the credibility to do this any more, but on the other hand (and a little cynically) nothing boosts your credibility like teaching a class.

Who’s Last?

Don Norman’s “The Psychology of Waiting Lines” includes a tidbit from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The social atmosphere in colonial Hong Kong of the 1960s was anything but genteel. Cashing a check, boarding a bus, or buying a train ticket required brute force. When McDonald’s opened in 1975, customers crowded around the cash registers, shouting orders and waving money over the heads of people in front of them. McDonald’s responded by introducing queue monitors — young women who channeled customers into orderly lines. Queuing subsequently became a hallmark of Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan, middle-class culture.

This sounded interesting so I decided to do a little crowdsourcing to collect some perspective on cultural approaches to standing in line. I posted a question to the discussion board over at Metafilter and rounded up over 70 anecdotes from around the world.

Here’s a method I had never heard of for a self-organizing, conceptual queue:

In Poland, until recently, when you walked into a government office or doctor’s waiting room, you would ask, “Who’s last?” The person who was last in line would look up and tell you or at least make a positive sign. You would then know that you had become the last person in line and you would know who you were behind. When another person arrived and asked who was last, you would let that person that you were last.

It reminded me of a barber I used to go to when I was a teenager. You’d walk in and a half-dozen people would be sitting in chairs around the room and when those people were done, you’d know your turn would be next. You had to keep track of two groups: those who were already there when you arrived, and those who arrived after you. Much more cognitive overhead, but it didn’t require anyone to interact with anyone else, and it allowed people to leave without screwing up the queue.

The readership for Design for Service comes from around the world, so I’d be interested in hearing about how lines work where you live if you’ve got a story to share.

Came across this last week while I was researching the Institute of Design’s service design courses. It’s a project from 2006 on Chicago’s Union Station [PDF 1.8MB]. A team of six students from the Service Uncovered course focused on The Great Hall and how to increase its utilization during lunch hours.

Fast Company features a brief profile of Hilary Cottam and Participle in their November issue.

What may be surprising is that Participle isn’t a conventional bunch of social workers or do-gooders. It’s a design team. Participle’s interdisciplinary crew includes anthropologists, economists, entrepreneurs, psychologists, social scientists, and a military-logistics expert, but it is driven by design techniques and headed by Cottam, 42, who also has used such strategies to tackle the shortcomings of Britain’s school and health systems.

Participle also has a new website.


In 1992, Gérard Tocquer wrote a book called Service Marketing: A Relational Approach. In it, he introduced the concept of “experigrams.” The idea was to add an emotional dimension to service blueprints, which were primarily an operational tool at the time. That seemed like an intriguing concept.

The book was written in French, so it’s taken me a while to track it down and cobble together a basic translation of the section on experigrams. (I don’t speak French, by the way, so if you can help clarify the translation the relevant pages are here and here.)

Experigrams never moved beyond the initial stages as a tool for service design, but they’re an important early example of the development of customer journey maps and the transition between service design and experience design. The example from Tocquer’s book [figure 5.8] concerns the customer experience at a ski resort. There’s also a rough Powerpoint from 1990 showing how the experigram might be applied to a hotel.

What matters here is not so much the execution as the concept: matching emotional cues to touchpoints throughout the customer journey. That deserves to be explored in more detail.

Design Management Review’s entire winter issue is focused on service design. There are 11 articles to check out, by the likes of Mark Jones and Lavrans Løvlie, along with some nice case studies but I’d start with Service Design: An Appraisal:

In this thoughtful analysis, Roberto Saco and Alexis Goncalves map the landscape of service design. They define the discipline and key players, and sketch its potential vis-à-vis growth and profitability. Saco and Goncalves elaborate on the multi-faceted realities of this work with examples from the Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Herman Miller, and Egg Banking. And they wrap things up with a discussion of key principles related to practice.

The authors end with:

The label service design is somewhat unfortunate. Inadvertently, we have all conspired to fuse together two twenty-first-century meta-narratives — services and design — into a heady mélange of skepticism and hope. And yet consider: Has it ever been any different for the new, the emergent, and the truly transformative?

[via Choosenick]

September’s Archi-Tech magazine contains three articles on experience design. They’re focused on a particular facet of experience design as immersive event, steeped in the tradition of theater qua Pine and Gilmore.

From Building Fiction: The Architecture of Experience Design:

Experience design is the process of creating storytelling in space. It transcends the surface and medium to consider every sense and space. Seamlessly integrated into their environments, narratives unfold across different media surfaces and play with perception. Such stories can deliver experiences that are scripted and cinematic as well as highly personalized and choreographed. These exchanges can be passive or interactive, entertaining or informative, didactic or ambient.

Rather than a product, experience design is a hybrid design methodology that merges cinematic storytelling, motion graphics content, emerging technologies, and architecture through a highly collaborative and multidisciplinary process. Bringing together designers, animators, architects, thinkers, filmmakers, producers, writers, technologists, programmers, and futurists, experience design becomes a catalyst for collaboration and innovation.

[via Experientia]

Lauren from the Letters to Australia blog rounds up a global list of universities with service design in their curriculum.

To that list of 11 universities I’d also add the new service design course at the Rhode Island School of Design and the five-week service design exploration as part of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design pilot year curriculum.

Update: There are a couple more schools listed in the comments. Also, the Institute of Design has been teaching service design since at least 2006.