Archive for June, 2009

I was going to ignore this when it was just random concern trolling on Twitter, but Peter Merholz from Adaptive Path seems to be casting some doubt about whether the term “service design” is gaining enough ground in the United States. We’re still miles behind the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands in developing the practice and the public sector may never embrace it here, but there’s no doubt that the term is getting more attention.

Service design is an established force in academia. There are courses at CMU, ID, RISD, ITP, SVA, ASU, Berkeley, Northwestern and an entire graduate program at SCAD but service design isn’t confined to the academic realm by any means.

The Harvard Business Review adopted the term back in 1984 when Citigroup’s Lynn Shostack wrote her widely influential article Designing Services that Deliver, following up on “How to Design a Service” two years earlier. Since then the Harvard Business Review has become perhaps the strongest source for service design literature. Their most recent example to mention service design as a term was last year’s “Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right” by Frances Frei.

Just off the top of my head, service design has made its way into business publications like Fast Company and Inc. as well as design publications like Interactions.

Since 2003 the most fervent evangelist in the US for service design and innovation has been Peer Insight in Washington D.C. With strong ties to both business and design they’ve done a phenomenal job in spreading the word through presentations, seminars and white papers. Bob Cooper from Frontier Service Design in Pennsylvania has been doing his part more recently in business circles with a seminar on service design last February in New York and a workshop at last month’s Art and Science of Service conference. The Service Innovation Design and Development conference in Chicago just last week drew the likes of McDonalds, Ebay, IBM, and Allstate.

In the US, service design is perhaps strongest in the healthcare industry. Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic and UPMC in Pittsburgh have all embraced elements of service design and innovation within their practices.

On the traditional design front IDEO and Design Continuum are both behind service design 100%. IDEO’s service design practice in Chicago is well established and Continuum’s more recent foray in Boston has involved evangelization at business conferences and in collaboration with business groups. In May they held a half-day workshop on service design in Rhode Island sponsored by the Business Innovation Factory. They even carried the flag back to Europe last year, presenting a case study at the Service Design Network conference in Amsterdam.

Adaptive Path itself has hosted design panels on service design and workshops at UX Week. Designers from the firm have lectured on the topic at conferences and they frequently blog about the practice of service design.

At some point it’s reasonable to ask whether it matters what we call service design. Merholz makes the argument that he’s actually writing about service design over at Harvard Business — he just isn’t calling it that. As a term, “customer experience” may be a better fit with Adaptive Path’s focus on “user experience” but overall he’s doing a disservice to the community, on all sides. There’s nothing magical about the term “service design,” but at this point it’s a defacto boundary object between academia, design and business. A vibrant worldwide network has identified with the term “service design” and a deep pool of knowledge is developing to support the practice. An emerging generation of service design students will become tomorrow’s service design practitioners with alumni from CMU, ID and the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea leading the charge.

Service design faces an uphill battle here in the states. There’s plenty of interest on the design side but we need more voices speaking to the business side of the equation. For better or worse Merholz is one of the few people with access to a platform for making that argument.

One important distinction between service design and experience design involves the theme of control. This interview with the lead designer of the upcoming video game God of War III struck me as a perfect example (emphasis mine):

The idea is that the game is crafted to be a cinematic experience. Expertly and lovingly pieced together. “Directed” the way a film is. You won’t find any Grand Theft Auto style open-world elements in God of War III, because the fun you find on your own might not be as great as the fun the team can make for you. And they’re not willing to take that risk.

Video games are one of the few examples of digital interaction that rise to the level of an experience. Emotionally engaging and multi-sensory in a way most software can’t match.

But crafting such an immersive experience comes at a price. Control is pretty much baked into the discipline.

Playstation Magazine [PDF 4.6MB]

Tim Ogilvie from Peer Insight shares a brief recap of last week’s Service Innovation Design and Development conference in Chicago, a massive industry-focused event that somehow flew completely beneath my radar.

The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation is hosting a Transform symposium this fall on innovation in healthcare. Maggie Breslin, Tim Brown, Christi Zuber, Larry Keeley and Clayton Christensen are among the scheduled speakers.

You won’t find the term “service design” in the program, but Mayo, Kaiser Permanente and UPMC have all embraced the discipline and healthcare represents one of the most promising areas for service design to grow. I think there’s a danger in becoming pigeon-holed within a single industry, but this still strikes me as the most relevant conference this year for US-based service designers to attend.

The symposium is scheduled for September 13-15, 2009 in Rochester, Minnesota. Registration is $800.

The Lab A6 series from College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University presents a podcast on service design [M4A 21MB, 15min] featuring Shelley Evenson from the School of Design and CMU alum Maggie Breslin from the Mayo Clinic.

The podcast covers some familiar “what is service design” ground but also delves into the service design course at CMU and the Advanced Medical Home project that Mayo and Continuum sponsored last year at the university. For more about the CMU project, I posted an interview with one of the students from the class earlier this year.

It’s good to see the project getting some more exposure. The healthcare industry is one of the few examples in the US where service design is gaining ground.

[via J. Paul Neeley]

I’m skeptical about Schulze & Webb’s new found embrace of service design as a buzz word. The interaction designer in me loves their work and I think they make fantastic presentations but they strike me as dyed-in-the-wool product designers if not full-blooded technologists.

Matt Jones makes an interesting addition to the group but he seems to be cut from the same cloth.

His recent post on Maps as Service Design over at Pulse Laser made me cringe. It’s a fantastic project but it boils down to “Touchpoints as Service Design.” Or not even that. Actually it’s touchpoint — singular! This is a first-order perspective that focuses on the artifact. User-generated graphic design falls well short of the third- and forth-order potential that positions service design as something worth caring about.

Jones’ presentation at Frontiers of Interaction on The New Negroponte Switch has also been making the service design rounds for some reason. It’s aimed at interaction designers and it’s full of digital services (like Dopplr) that are better understood as examples of interaction design.

But Matt Jones does have a flair for neologisms.

In his presentation he coins the term “attention anchor” to describe “the physicalisation of the intangible data of a service … something that is in the world as a representation of a rhythm or habit of a service…”

He’s talking about touchpoints, but the “data, rhythms and habits” angle is an interesting facet for service designers to consider.

For more on the tangible-intangible continuum and product-service dichotomy, Lynn Shostack’s 1982 paper How To Design a Service is a good place to start.

Bob Cooper posts a wrap up of the Art and Science of Service conference held last week at Bentley University. Cooper presented a workshop on Identifying New Service Revenue Opportunities. Jon Campbell and Craig LaRosa from Continuum also hosted a workshop on service design, continuing their foray into the practice with “Design Thinking Applied to Service,” which sounds similar to their workshop last month in Rhode Island. A glance though a few of the presentations leaked onto the net resonates a heavy service science vibe, with IBM leading the charge.

The conference doesn’t seem to have had that high a profile with designers (virtually zero buzz about it on Twitter/blogs/etc) but I’m not sure we’re the ones who need convincing. Outside of healthcare, service design is barely on the radar for businesses or the public sector here in the US.

SVA Lecture Videos

Just a quick note that the UX Workshop has posted all four videos from last week’s SVA lecture on service design. Chenda Fruchter’s talk wasn’t initially broadcast, but it’s here now. She presents an overview of four challenges facing New York’s 311 service.

Birgit Mager, from the Köln International School of Design, will be teaching several all-day service design seminars [PDF 52K] [English translation] at the Springer-Schlößl hotel in Vienna, Austria this Fall and early next year.

Participants receive an overview of the state of development in service design theory, methodology and practice. Each of the four seminars will include participant case studies, the methodological steps in the service design process and the practical implementation of the respective operational challenges. Between the seminar, participants may schedule individual tutorials. [Google-ish translation]

Registration is 2,400 euros and all participants must contribute a service design case study to share. The first session is November 30, 2009 with followups in January, February and April.

Later this month, the folks at STBY will be participating in a half-day conference on co-creation put on by ReDesignMe and Syntens in the Netherlands. The event will feature lectures, workshops and a panel discussion on co-creation. Along with ten other participating firms, STBY will be facilitating two workshops on the topic centered around case studies that demonstrate the techniques and offer hands-on experience.

The conference is scheduled for June 24, 2009 from 1pm – 6:30pm in Eindhoven. Registration is 75 euros.