Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Cameron Tonkinwise and Terry Irwin from Carnegie Mellon spoke about their ongoing efforts to redesign the curriculum in the School of Design across several design tracks and areas of focus.

They summarized these efforts in a 32-page monograph called Transition Design 2015 [PDF 635k]. I haven’t had time to dig into the details but it immediately called to mind the RED group’s influential 2006 paper on Transformation Design in the UK as well as Pine and Gilmore’s framework about transformations representing the final stage of the evolution from commodities, goods, services and experiences.

Terry framed service design as a key component of designing for transitions and the long-term future. Carnegie Mellon has always set itself apart in its approach to interaction design which goes beyond interactions with things to interactions between people, the built and designed world and the natural environment.

The shift in Carnegie Mellon’s curriculum represents an evolution with service and social innovation take center stage along with a new emphasis on transition design concerned with system level change and an awareness of place.

Cameron’s half of the presentation was more aspirational and caused the only moment I witnessed during the entire conference of spontaneous applause from the audience.

He pointed out that transitions are at the heart of service design. As service designers, we’re designing roles for people and transitioning them into new relationships with co-workers, organizations and customers. This focus on the employees of the service in addition to the customers is a key distinction between service design and CX or UX design.

He also cautioned that as a community we may not have the right organizational forms for transition design. Stand alone consultancies are often too small to efface long-term change. Teams within management consultancies typically deliver commoditized plans and aren’t built around longer-term engagements. Teams within corporations are often too insular to reach beyond their local mandate.

Finally, he presented quite a bit of new service design literature, including a paper by my former advisor. I’ll work on digging up the references and adding them to my service design archive.

Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider presented an overview of their tool for mobile ethnography called ExperienceFellow.

The app allows participants to record their journey through ratings, photos, videos and geolocation. At first I drew parallels between their offering and other established apps like which I’ve also seen used for this type of journey documentation.

Where ExperienceFellow stands out is in its attempt to combine the quantitative and qualitative aspects through some basic analysis tools like search, filtering and geo-clustering.

Here’s a rundown of the product features:

  • Real-time visualization as journey map
  • Graph emotional reactions to service encounters
  • Filtering by demographics, search terms, etc
  • Map view by clusters of positive or negative experiences
  • Export in PDF for printed deliverables

Something in the back of my mind kept telling me that I’d seen this app before. Back in 2009 I wrote a post about Marc’s Ph.D project called MyServiceFellow, which appears to be the precursor to ExperienceFellow.

It looks like a valuable addition to the service design toolkit. Sign up with the code SDGC2015 to document one sample project.

Dr. Nick de Leon from the Royal College of Art spoke about service design within the two-year RCA program in London.

There are 60 graduate and Ph.D candidates working on 10 concurrent projects with industry partners across the private and public sector. Consumer electronics, luxury retail, Ministry of Justice, etc. Students take on these projects to build a mutual capacity for design between the designers and clients. People are the raw material of services.

Dr. de Leon framed the role of the service designer as more of a midwife, not necessarily conceiving the ideas, but helping to bring those voices into the world and nurture them. In the spirit of last year’s disdain for tea cups, he observed that the world doesn’t need another chair or another lamp.

RCA is beginning to work with the public sector both in the UK and internationally in order to align policy and practice rather than developing policy in isolation. Design can help to find the right policy, not just the right implementation.

The final part of his presentation focused on RCA’s work in the public sector across the healthcare industry, criminal justice. Like the previous presentation from GE he advocated for the intervention of designers much earlier in the process.

He also emphasized the importance of partnerships with private sector actors to help deliver aspects of public services.

Edite Amorim invited me to sit in on her workshop exploring the connection between positive psychology and service design. I have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with this branch of psychology but Edite quickly dispelled any misconceptions about the practice and instead framed it as the study of what makes people thrive.

She and her researcher Rita Pureza facilitated an activity based on the theme of “interconnectedness,” one of the basic concepts of positive psychology. She challenged the group to identify strengths in their fellow attendees. Each participant received a set of post-it notes and guidelines to circulate throughout the room, interacting with others and jotting down first impressions which were then affixed to their target’s back anonymously. The observations didn’t need to be strictly accurate as long as they were positive and made in good faith. No criticism allowed.

The ensuing activity reminded me of team-building exercises I encountered during my time as an RA in college. The attendees mingled easily, laughing and making new connections.

According to Edite the exercise was about acknowledging others, paying attention to what’s good and filling each other’s “positive bucket.” This served as a point of departure for attendees to reflect on things they were grateful for in life and to use that insight to identify the potential for new services incorporating those values.

This workshop was the only time I observed any technical difficulties during the conference. The presentation system was offline for most of the workshop and although the conference staff eventually rigged a stop gap measure it meant that the projector was unavailable for most of the presentation. This led to Edite valiantly describing the contents of her slides for the audience to imagine. It worked surprisingly well and to my mind the graceful recovery engaged the audience more than if the slides had worked in the first place.

Edite’s workshop was concerned with exploring the intersection between positive psychology and service design. I can definitely see the overlap. Some of her photographs resembled traditional design research activities such as card sorting or affinity mapping. My impression is that, for designers, the differences would lie with the form-giving activities which follow the initial research and analysis.

For the past several months I’ve been researching co-design practices around the world. Participatory methods don’t have much of a track record in the United States apart from the work of Liz Sanders at MakeTools. I’m interested in understanding the circumstances behind that gap.

There are plenty of good examples of co-design overseas so I’ve been reaching out to contacts in the UK, Australia and New Zealand for brief interviews about designing with groups and incorporating non-designers into the design process. Aside from the crazy logistics of interviewing people with a 19 hour time offset things are going well. I’ve spoken with designers from consultancies as well as within industry. My focus has been less on the “how” and more on the “why.” I’m exploring the culture surrounding participatory design as a first step in understanding how to catalyze those processes closer to home.

If you’re wrangling with co-design methods in your own organization I’d love to hear about your perspective. This could be as part of a design consultancy, an internal design team or as a component of design education. My interviews have been directed overseas for the most part but if you’ve found a pocket of co-design stateside then I’d definitely like to get in touch.

Service Design: From Insight to Implementation, by Andy Polaine, Lavrans Løvlie and Ben Reason is the book I’ve been waiting nearly a decade for someone to write. There aren’t many books that focus on services from a design perspective and the few that do exist have always seemed too expensive or too academic to make the case to a wider audience.

This book goes a long way toward solving that problem. Two of the founders from live|work, along with Andy Polaine from the Design and Art School at Lucerne have written a concise guide to the practice that seems perfectly suited for traditional design teams new to the concept of service design.

Like other books from Rosenfeld Media this one is available as a PDF or in electronic formats for Kindle and e-Readers, but I opted for the paperback version. It’s easy to flip through the text in an afternoon and at only 216 pages there’s no danger of it becoming a doorstop. The small format means that it might not be as comprehensive as other books on service design but it’s by far the most accessible I’ve found.

There’s a nod toward Lynn Shostack’s pioneering work on service design in the early 1980s and a bit about SERVQUAL and RATER but mostly the book picks up about a decade ago when live|work opened their doors. It highlights important tools such as blueprints, ecologies and customer journey maps and introduces distinctions such as designing with people rather than designing for them. There’s just enough theory to ground the argument without causing clients to roll their eyes.

This is primarily a book about practice, filled with photos of research in progress and illustrations of key deliverables. Most of the examples fall short of proper case studies and many involve only a screenshot or a synopsis, but together they cover a range of service sectors. A quick scan turns up over a dozen examples from Gjensidige Insurance, Hafslund Utilities, Orange Mobile, HourSchool, the National Maritime Museum, Garlands, Riversimple, Oslo University Hospital, FIAT Future Design Group, Rail Europe, Norway Transport, Zopa, Streetcar, Whipcar, Surebox and an unnamed airport in New York.

Topics such as design research, experience prototyping and service metrics each get their own chapter, along with a couple pointers to other (Rosenfeld) titles for more information on the particulars of recruiting or certain prototyping methods. The level of detail is perfect for quickly getting a sense of the process and for offering a foothold to design teams who may already be familiar with some of the techniques.

The one criticism I have of the book is political. The case studies (such as they are) are heavily weighted toward projects from live|work. The authors try to defuse this objection, and the fact that one co-author comes from outside the company makes it less of an issue but the book feels a bit insular. There are plenty of other books on design that are unapologetically self-promotional and this one is much more reserved, but it’s the same political issue that undermined the now-defunct wiki years ago. A handful of cases from Australia and Asia (and a little more from the US) would help the book to resonate with a wider audience.

There’s still room out there for someone to write the equivalent of a Little Golden Book for non-designers that spends two pages explaining service design and then showcases a few dozen examples across hospitality, banking, transportation, healthcare and entertainment along with some public sector case studies to round out the pamphlet. It would include huge photos of process, methods and outcome, and take about three minutes to browse. Mostly it would be inexpensive enough to give away.

I can see myself giving away copies of this particular book too and, cost aside, it’s the first one I’d actually be comfortable leaving with the client as an overview. All things considered the book makes a compelling argument for service design.

From Insight to Implementation deserves to be a cornerstone of the service design canon. If you own a copy, take a moment to contribute some feedback on their Amazon page or head over to Service Design Books to rate the book, add your comments and vote on it as a recommendation.


Today it’s been four years since I began writing Design for Service. Things have been a little quiet around here over the past six months while I’ve had my head in a few interaction design projects but I’d like to turn that around.

So I’ve set a new challenge for myself. About a year ago I started working on an initiative called Service Design Books. It’s a co-created library of recommended reading for service designers. The collection has been gradually expanding with 80 books from nearly three-dozen contributors. Over the next six months I plan to add at least one new book to the collection every week. That’ll help me to focus a bit more on service design and whittle down the stack of reading beside my bed.

I’ve added a new RSS feed to the website to keep track of the reviews. Subscribe to be notified of new picks.

This week’s book is Bill Buxton’s classic Sketching User Experiences from 2007. It helped lay the foundation for my series on sketching in the performing arts.

The last time I flew anywhere the flight was 35 minutes late before it had even taken off because the airplane was nowhere to be found. Not a great beginning to a five-hour flight.

Once we were airborne the pilot came on over the intercom and apologized for our late departure and sympathized with the folks who had connecting flights. I was worried about missing my connection but he said he was going to deviate from our flight plan and something about the jet stream and tailwinds and permission from the airline to run the engines a little faster than normal. The long and the short of it was that he was going to do his best to get us there on time. When we touched down he was as good as his word. I was impressed.

Fantastic service recovery isn’t an accident. Mistakes are an inevitable part of service delivery but the best services are systematically designed to recover with grace. In fact a memorable recovery can build even more goodwill than an encounter that goes according to plan.

Next week Fabian Segelström and I will be running a workshop on service recovery at the SDN conference in Berlin. It’s in the first block of workshops on Thursday. We’re going to go through the basics of service recovery and demonstrate a tool we’ve been working on for designing effective solutions.

This topic is interesting to me because it starts to dig into the “managing as designing” side of service design. We’re going to be looking at service recovery from three different perspectives. Not only the front-stage customer service perspective but also back-stage operations and HR perspectives. We’re drawing from the service management literature on recovery and Fabian has written an overview of the findings from that research.

If you’d like to take part in the workshop then we have a request. Be on the lookout for service failures as you travel to Berlin. Airports, hotels, restaurants and taxis — anywhere along your journey. We’ll have plenty of examples of our own but we’d like to include your perspective in the workshop by deconstructing the first-hand problems you each encounter.

Hopefully your trip to Berlin will be flawless. But if you see someone go above and beyond the call of duty to fix a problem we definitely want to hear about it.

Out of Print

It looks like last year’s Designing Services with Innovative Methods is out of print, or at least no longer available from the TaiK bookshop. But it’s essentially a collection of individual essays and a few of them are floating around the internet.

Fran Samalionis’ article Can Designers Help Deliver Better Services? [PDF 7.6MB] has been available on IDEO’s website for ages and a modified version of Marc Stickdorn’s article on Service Design in Tourism [PDF 436k] is available from the proceedings at the first Nordic conference on service design last winter.

But the crown jewel is Satu Miettinen’s detailed 10-page glossary on service design terminology [PDF 76k]. It’s full of references and further reading. I remarked earlier that it really deserved wider circulation so I’m happy to see it available.

Good books on service design are few and far between. I’ve put together lists in the past and so have other designers but unless you’ve actually read the books it’s tough to see the connections sometimes. Service designers draw inspiration from across disciplines and that means that a raw list isn’t always enough of a roadmap for people to triage unfamiliar reading.

Earlier this year I starting wondering whether I could adapt the system I built for organizing service design research papers to the task of organizing books. Something that could build context and uncover the “why” behind recommendations.

I’ve been working with that idea off and on for a few months now and I think it’s finally ready to launch.

Service Design Books is a co-created library of recommended reading for service designers. It’s a community website. Anyone can add a book to the library and add ratings, tags or comments to help people make sense of an emerging field.

There are over forty books in the collection from a dozen different curators but that’s just the beginning. For this initiative to thrive it’ll need a little more help. Take a look at the collection and add your perspective. If you’ve read one of the books take a moment to rate it and if you think other service designers should read it as well then second the recommendation.

It’s easy to add your own picks to the collection. Just type a book title or an ISBN code to import a book. It should take less than a minute and you can always go back later and edit the information. The site is open to everyone.

Give it a shot and help kick the tires. And if you come across a good book this summer add it to the stack.