Archive for July, 2009

I haven’t had much time for service design this week but an article against group brainstorming came across my radar that I need to come back to later on. There are some critical implications here for co-design ideology and practice.

I’ve been thinking about last week’s debacle with the Amazon Kindle e-book reader. The company discovered that some of the titles it had sold for the device were actually un-licensed by the copyright holder. Amazon’s solution was to remotely delete the titles (which included Orwell’s 1984) from any Kindle that was connected to the network and credit the account for the original purchase price. The next morning people were surprised to find their purchases unceremoniously revoked.

The Kindle is a clear example of how a product can be turned into a service. From a consumer electronics point of view it’s unquestionably a product (in the same vein as the Sony eReader) but the addition of a subscription to content blurs the line and pulls the Amazon device into the realm of service. People are only belatedly discovering that Kindle e-books aren’t products in the traditional sense but more of a subscription service like a cellphone or cable TV.

In a lot of ways I prefer the dependability of good old-fashioned products. Something about subscriptions doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the idea that my product’s functionality is out of my control. That it will only continue to work as long as the service provider remains in business and I stay in their good graces. It’s comforting to know that I can pick a book off my shelf that I haven’t thought about in ages and it’ll still work as well as the day I bought it — without asking the publisher’s say so.

I’ve seen people touting the un-networked nature of the Sony eReader as an advantage in light of recent developments. And some people seem perfectly willing to hobble the Amazon service ecosystem if they can regain the stability of a traditional artifact relationship by simply turning off network access. They’ve transformed the Kindle back into a product. It’s an interesting development for service designers to consider.

Patrick Newbery and Adam Dole from Method have published a short overview of service design on their company blog. It’s a basic expository post that reads a little like an encyclopedia entry (summary? service design exists) but it’s nice to see more US firms taking notice of the practice.

As a followup to Roberta Tassi’s service design tools thesis that made the rounds last week, there’s also a supplemental infographic diagramming the origins [JPG 1.3MB] of each tool. The map branches into social science, business, design and technology, showing the year for each tool and where possible the author. Nicely done.

Oliver King, co-founder and director of Engine in the UK, will be leading a seminar on service design next month at 12º Design to Business in Curitiba, Paraná in Brazil.

According to the Design Brasil, King will discuss the concept of service design, implemented by Engine for clients like Orange, Intercontinental Hotels, Mercedes-Benz, Visa International, the Guardian newspaper, Sky, MSN and Nokia.

The lecture is scheduled for 7:30pm on Tuesday, August 4th at the Paraná Design Center, with simultaneous translation (apparently from English to Portuguese). Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

There seems to be quite a bit of service design interest springing up in Brazil, with epicenters in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, São Paulo and elsewhere along the southeastern coast.

[via Garatuja Digital]

Roberta Tassi’s 2008 thesis on Service Design Tools presents a grammar of the practice. As a student at Politecnico di Milano she investigated how communication design techniques are typically used within a service design framework.

Her thesis organizes 45 different tools (such as storyboards, affinity diagrams and role playing) into a taxonomy arranged by design activities, representations, recipients and contents. For example, which tools feature narrative, or which might be used for co-design? Which activities are appropriate for stakeholders as opposed to designers? Each tool includes an overview, references and in many cases a brief case study. This is an extremely well-designed resource with deep content.

She’s also enabled a bit of feedback. If you’ve got a case study to suggest for any of the tools, send an e-mail her way.

Update: Looks like I miscounted. I was playing around with the page URLs to see how high the numbering scheme went, but it turns out that there are no tools one through five. I’d love to see a comprehensive index of all the tools on a single page so I could go through them one by one.

The online journal Re-public has published a special issue on service design entitled Innovative Service Design for All. The journal focuses on innovative developments in contemporary political theory and practice.

This issue includes the following essays:

Also of interest to service designers are several case studies regarding Dyslexia, Cohousing, Khulna City Corporation, Architectural Education and the Olympics.

Over at her Design Generalist blog Qin Han asks what service designers are reading. Several people have chimed in with suggestions that were new to me or that I hadn’t previously connected with service design. If you have a moment head over and contribute a book or journal article to the list.

The point of my Abandoning Service Design post earlier this week was to rebut the assertion that “service design” isn’t gaining enough ground in the US. My argument wasn’t focused on terminology, but Joel Bailey made a great observation in the comments that I want to highlight.

To paraphrase, the term “customer experience” focuses attention on the customer. And while that’s a necessary component of service design, it isn’t sufficient:

…it’s just as much about employee engagement and co-design for the benefit of the service provider. Clients have to recognise that increasingly both customers and staff operate in a service ecology. This needs integrated, holistic thinking, involving the community of players, not just a single strand.

Well said. I have the same problem with the term “user experience design” because it suggests a similar one-way value proposition. It really helps to articulate the distinction.

Sophia Parker’s new pamphlet entitled Social Animals: Tomorrow’s Designers in Today’s World [PDF 276K] uses a recent collaboration between the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and Engine (to examine the prison system) as a lens for critiquing the state of design education in the UK.

Lauren Tan from the Letters to Australia weblog succinctly paraphrases six areas of focus from the report:

  • Turning insights into action;
  • Co-design and the participation of people (also considering ethical codes of conduct);
  • Prototyping services;
  • Seeing the ‘bigger picture’ meaning taking into account the wider context projects operate in;
  • Communicating well both visually and verbally, including the ability to pitch ideas for investment;
  • Being not just problem solvers, but also ‘problem finders.’

Obviously this report is targeted toward design education overseas, but many of the findings resonate with my view of the landscape here in America as well. The lone criticism of the report itself (from a graphic design educator in Virginia) is “jargon, buzzwords, wild generalizations and the obvious restated.” Honestly, I’ve read the report twice and this seems like a breathtakingly misguided characterization.

[via Redjotter]