SVA Service Design Lecture: Recap

Earlier this evening the School of Visual Arts in New York hosted a lecture on service design. I listened via their live web broadcast and took some notes on the event. I also recorded a couple of the talks and posted them below.

Liz Danzico, chair of the new MFA in Interaction Design program at SVA introduced the speakers.

Chenda Fruchter’s talk wasn’t broadcast and Jun Lee’s engaging presentation about design research for Lego didn’t remotely qualify as a talk about service design — at least from the final eight minutes that made it on the air. In fact, none of the speakers focused more than tangentially on service design. That’s frustrating, but it’s a topic for another day.

After the intermission Jennifer Bove talked about how technology has changed how we think about real-world services. She structured her talk around five points: immediacy, co-creation, voice, expertise and customization. There was a question from the audience at the end of her talk about how to design for failure in a service. On that topic I thought I’d point folks toward a paper from HBR on seven tactics for service recovery.

The highlight of the lecture for me was the final presentation by Sylvia Harris who talked about her work for the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Harris is an information design strategist and at first blush her presentation was a straightforward wayfinding case study. It was very top-down, without much co-design, and she even admitted that they don’t call what they do “service design” as such.

But of the presentations I watched, this touched most closely on issues that I think affect service designers. First of all, the engagement with the hospital lasted for seven years. That allowed them to work much more closely with the client and it’s more indicative of a service design process than a product design engagement. They also were able to affect the management of the hospital and get two new positions instituted to focus on interfacing with the public.

She was very clear that this was a management problem, not just a signage problem. The solution was a synthesis of four separate components: people, signage, information and brand.

There were three key takeaways:

1) In order to win the project, they designed a visual customer journey map as a rhetorical tool for convincing the powers-that-be that there was a problem. Management had no idea that things were so bad but photographs made the situation tangible. After that, the project was funded within weeks.

2) Of course, they didn’t know it was a seven year project when they began. At first it was just a “study,” and its scope grew over time. She said that whenever they start out talking about sprawling experience design projects and how everything is connected to everything else people’s eyes just glaze over and they shut down. So instead they start small.

3) Designing anything big and public involves politics. This grew into a four million dollar project and every department wanted a piece of it. Anyone who isn’t interested in navigating the political waters shouldn’t be doing this type of work.

The UX Workshop broadcast the event and they’ll eventually be posting the video. I’ll let you know when that goes up.

Update: They’ve posted four videos from the lecture.


  1. redjotter

    Thank you for sharing this Jeff! Perfect for those of us who weren’t there!

  2. Hey Jeff- Thanks for the write up! The archives are now available: http://tr.im/SrvDesigners

    Lighting could have been better, but the room was packed that night and we couldn’t get our lighting up without being in the way. The ideas are still there, though.🙂

    Thanks again!

    C




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