Archive for the ‘techniques’ Category

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.

Nathan Shedroff’s barn-burner of a keynote focused on the creation of value and the difference between qualitative and quantitative value. This talk was originally scheduled to close out the conference on Wednesday and structurally that would have made sense but it really helped to cut through my jet lag so I’m happy that it showed up when it did.

Service designers have been aware of the gulf between design and business for years but generally the solutions have revolved around designers appropriating the language of business. Chris Downs gave advice on that topic at the second Emergence conference in Pittsburgh seven years ago. More recently, books like Business Model Generation come to mind. Even here in Stockholm, Lavrans Løvlie made a similar observation about the utility of translating for business needs.

I don’t think that Nathan is necessarily opposed to that. He joked that at CCA he’s training the “right” kind of MBAs. But mostly he made an impassioned call to push back against the idea that price and functionality are the only aspects of value that matter or indeed that those are the only things that can be measured. Richard Buchanan made a similar argument a few years ago in the context of his work at the Weatherhead School of Management.

Nathan’s presentation here in Stockholm spoke to the creation of financial and functional value and how MBAs generally focus on quantitative value because that’s what they’re taught how to measure. Nathan outlined how price and functionality complement meaning, identity and emotion as co-equal elements of value. I appreciated his articulation that value exists in the context of a relationship and that relationships happen in the context of an experience.

There’s a lot of great stuff to dig out of this keynote including some interesting visualizations. I’ll circle back with an update once the videos and presentation materials are available.

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.

Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider have put together a nifty tool called the Customer Journey Canvas [PDF 220K] as part of their upcoming book on service design thinking. Their A3-sized design is nicely done and inspired by the canvases in the must read Business Model Generation book.

This tool supports the audit of existing services and covers not only the period of time associated with the encounter but also the pre-service and post-service phases of the journey. Customer journey maps are typically focused on the front stage encounter from the customer’s point-of-view but as an audit it’d be great to see a complementary version demonstrating the connections with the back stage supporting processes.

They’ve released the customer journey canvas under a creative commons license so I’ve taken the liberty of slightly reformatting it for US printers using tabloid paper.

I missed this when it was released back in March but the Open Book of Social Innovation [PDF 5.5MB] finally came across my radar while I was researching my previous post. It’s the result of a two-year collaboration between the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and The Young Foundation to develop a body of knowledge on social innovation. This report is part of a series on the topic.

The 224-page PDF describes over five hundred methods and tools for innovation being used across the world. As a grammar of social innovation there’s a lot to digest; I only got about halfway through before my brain shut down for the day.

Here’s an overview of the first section showing the contents and the number of methods (in parentheses) for each topic. Sections two and three are after the jump.

Prompts, Inspirations and Diagnoses

  • Triggers and inspirations (6)
  • Recognizing problems (27)
  • From symptom to cause (3)

Proposals and Ideas

  • Imagining solutions (10)
  • Thinking differently (5)
  • Open innovation (7)
  • Participation (11)
  • Facilitating participation (8)
  • Institutions (3)

Prototypes and Pilots

  • Prototypes, pilots and trials (10)
  • Finance for emerging ideas (14)


  • Creating a business (5)
  • Ownership and organizational form (9)
  • Governance (7)
  • Organization and management models (5)
  • Operations (4)
  • Relational capital (10)
  • Venture finance (7)
  • Sustaining innovations / public sector (4)

Scaling and Diffusion

  • Inspiration (2)
  • Diffusing demand (6)
  • Scaling and diffusion / public sector (6)
  • Commissioning and procurement (14)
  • Suppliers of innovation (7)
  • Transmitters (9)
  • Organization and scale (8)
  • Metrics to show what works (22)

Systemic Change

  • Ideas that energise systemic innovations (13)
  • Infra- and Interstructures to support new systems (5)
  • Formation of users and producers (4)
  • Strategic moves that accelerate systems change (6)
  • Regulatory and fiscal changes (9)
  • Information, accounting and statistics (3)
  • Progressive coalitions and social movements (3)
  • Systemic finance (3)

I’m surprised to find that there’s a booming cottage industry in the design of university tours for prospective students. Eric Hoover explores the Disneyfication of campus tours in an article this month for the Washington Monthly.

For decades, most campus tours were as plain and standard as notebook paper. But recently, many colleges have turned the traditional tour into a more intimate, more elaborate event. Some colleges have full-time “visit coordinators” who preside over tours with personalized touches, quirky diversions, choreographed “signature moments,” and even souvenirs — the stuff of theme parks. Such changes have made tours more fun and engaging, and families tend to get multiple options for who to meet and what to see during their visits.

As I read though the story about former tour guide Jeff Kallay it seemed obvious that the guy was channeling Pine and Gilmore, throwing around terms like “authenticity” and “experience.” He finally mentioned The Experience Economy on the second or third page and it’s clear that he’s a disciple.

A couple things stand out about the practice of re-designing college tours and how they’re pitching it here.

First, it’s a shame that “Disney” is our cultural touchstone for the design of experiences. People are certainly familiar with the reference but it carries a lot of negative connotations. Experiences don’t necessarily have to be plastic.

But aside from that it’s important to step back and take a look at the context. Can you imagine a university hiring a design firm to craft this type of experience? Universities are way too conservative for that. They might hire an outside design firm to create a logo or a mascot. Or hire an architect to design a stadium. But never something as intangible as this.

Against all odds colleges are lining up seventy deep for consulting from TargetX, a Pennsylvania-based company, because they’re not a design firm. They focus exclusively on student-recruitment strategies. It’s the triumph of the specialist.

The only counter-example I can think of is IDEO’s work with the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. Both conservative organizations. But IDEO was focused less on tactical design and more on establishing internal innovation units within those cultures. That’s not what’s happening there.

Mel Edwards shares her approach to Customer Journey Mapping and Service Blueprinting along with some nice examples over on her desonance weblog. The detailed posts both do a great job of outlining the techniques and synthesizing material from several different sources (Shostack, et al).

Also be sure to check out her older posts. There’s a thoughtful exploration of service design definitions.

Athina Santaguida, Miki Aso and Molly Oberholtzer are students from the Health Services Innovation Class at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. Their team worked on a group service design project for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

I interviewed Athina, Miki and Molly by telephone on May 18, 2010 about their GROW project at Parsons.

Read Interview

I’ve added a couple new papers to my Service Design Research collection. Silent Design and Why Design is Difficult to Manage are a pair of papers from the London Business School by Peter Gorb and Angela Dumas. Silent design has come up in a few different service design contexts [PDF 240k] over the past year so I finally decided to check out the source:

It can be argued that a great deal of design activity goes on in organizations which is not called “design.” It is carried out by individuals who are not called “designers” and who would not consider themselves to be designers.

In framing silent design activity the authors reference the work of Herb Simon in The Sciences of the Artificial. He proposed that design is a basic human activity and that, in fact, everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.

This perspective can be a little difficult for professional designers to accept. But that also makes it a decent shibboleth for evaluating potential service designers.

At any rate, the researchers adopted a broad classification for design activity. Their definition was “a course of action for the development of an artifact or a system of artifacts.”

They carried out a one-year pilot study in the UK to explore the silent design phenomenon. They followed this up with a more detailed questionnaire, enlisting the participation of sixteen companies across the manufacturing and service sectors.

The first paper outlines their methodology and includes two tools that strike me as incredibly useful for service designers.

Their first matrix [PDF 212K] includes seven levels of design activity that organizations might adopt: from initial exploration to deep integration. It’s a way to quickly map out silent design activity across the organization.

Their second matrix [PDF 208K] is designed to map out the relationship between functional areas responsible for types of design activity. The diagonal matrix allows for any area of the business to intersect with any other area, including professional designers. The half diamond shapes can be shaded from either direction to indicate which side initiates the contact. The idea is to complete up to seven copies of the second matrix, one for each level of design activity identified in the first.

These matrices are a great way for service designers to explore the “linkware” within an organization.

The second paper follows up on the pilot study to outline four types of organizations that emerged from the research. The basic split is between product and service organizations and between organizations that employ some form of “design manager” and those that do not. These factors were the two strongest predictors for how design manifests within an organization.

Here’s a quote from “Why Design is Difficult to Manage” that describes the silent design phenomenon:

A senior engineer who had responsibility for the design department identified himself as the design manager and answered [the questionnaire] throughout the interview in that role. However, all of the other senior managers from this company who participated in the survey felt unable to answer questions on the role of the design manager because they did not consider that their company had a design manager.

This highlights the confusion that can surround design: the ‘Silent Designers’ who unknowingly participate in design tasks are scattered throughout organizations. […] As long as managers can only identify a fragment of the design process as design, the sense of diffusion and lack of definition will remain.

It’s worth noting that examples of silent design turned up in every organization involved with the study, including those with formal design departments.

The researchers encapsulated their findings in three simple maxims: First, a design policy cannot be purchased off-the-rack; it must be tailor-made. Second, do not expect a design policy to be effective if the structure does not exist to implement it. And finally, do not expect designers to understand the company if the company does not develop methods to integrate them.

This research took place over twenty years ago and I’d like to think that attitudes about design have progressed since then. The researchers mention a follow-up study scheduled for the United States but I haven’t been able to track it down.

If you come across any information about this study or silent design in general I’d appreciate a heads up.

Screenwriting is a bit of an outlier when it comes to my investigation of sketching and the performing arts. After all, a screenplay by itself isn’t a performance. But it has a lot to teach us about sketching and the structural aspects of service.

Practically all the techniques I’ve outlined in this series have focused on sketching at the level of a service encounter. Moment concepts. Localized interactions. What I love about screenwriting is that it focuses on holistic narratives. Screenwriting is one of the best avenues I’ve discovered for learning how to sketch the arc of a customer journey at the macro-level.

Beat sheets are probably the most important technique to understand when it comes to sketching the structure and cadence of a narrative. A “beat” is the smallest unit of story telling in a screenplay. It describes a particular development. Taken together, all the beats in a story form a beat sheet.

From a service design perspective, you might think of the customer journey as unfolding like the narrative in a screenplay. Each service encounter is a beat; each moment of truth is an individual step in the arc of the story.

The point of writing a beat sheet is to get a clear sense for how the story will flow. You’re not trying to sell the story to an outsider; you’re just trying to grasp the story all at once. That’s why I see beat sheets as a form of sketching. They’re not about showing, telling, explaining or convincing. Beat sheets support exploration into the structure of the narrative.

You really need to see a few examples before the technique makes sense. A website called Beat Sheet Central serves as a hub for prototypical beat sheets and step outlines from popular films. They’re mostly written after the fact as a learning exercise but it’s a good way to understand the basic approach.

Stepping back a little further we can map out the structure of an entire collection of self-contained narratives.

The image at the beginning of this post is from the short-lived television series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It’s a picture of the “show board” at a sketch comedy program modeled off of Saturday Night Live. Each week they start with a blank slate and as the skits develop the head writer uses the board as a tool to visualize the overall structure of the program.

Each index card represents a particular comedy sketch, with color codes for particular writers and structural cues for commercial breaks. It’s something that shouldn’t be too foreign to designers. Just substitute Post-it notes and you’re set.

This type of sketching persists in analog form rather than digital (even in fields outside of design) because it supports collective inquiry and exploration. Marc Rettig speaks to this in his 2004 presentation Atoms are Better than Bits [PDF 1.7MB].

To give you an idea about how this might apply to service design consider the checkout encounter at a retail store.

Traditionally cash wrap is separate from shopping. If you were mapping it, checkout would probably be one of the last index cards on the wall. It’s a terrible location. But being able to grasp the entire journey at once might inspire the team to ask, “what if we tried moving that card around?”

It’s a painless way to experiment with the structure. And who knows? It might lead to instant checkout.

Of course screenwriting isn’t only about the structural perspective. I love watching the DVD featurettes for my favorite television programs because they sometimes give a glimpse into the creative process.

For example, the second season of Deadwood on HBO shows a typical writing session with David Milch. The rest of the writers are gathered around and he’s lounging on the floor vocalizing lines of dialog. Someone is transcribing his stream of consciousness on an HDTV and it’s clearly a sketching process. As quickly as he can experiment with different versions of the performance the unseen transcriptionist is able to update the dialog onscreen. It’s amazing to see the words jump around with such fluidity.

That type of parallel note-taking is something that I’ve written about before in the context of choreography and film but this is different because the notes feed back in real time and influence the sketching. It’s a little like graphic facilitation.

The final concept I want to explore deals with sequential art. Comicboarding [PDF 352k] is a technique by Microsoft Research for co-creating narratives with children. The research team developed several variations of comic boards that presented a simple narrative with blank frames so that participants could complete the story with their own details.

The researchers tried a few different approaches. Some consisted of comics with original artwork and blank word balloons. Others began with a few frames of an existing comic before transitioning to blank pages. The most successful example used the beginning and ending of an existing comic to constrain the narrative with a series of blank frames in the middle.

I wonder whether a similar type of scaffolding approach might work for co-creation sessions within service design.

With comicboarding the idea is to give the participants something to start with in order to overcome the “tyranny of the blank page.” The comic serves as a point of departure. But there are many ways to do this. Photographs or a short film could help set the stage or even a brief skit. Urban planners sometimes begin co-creation sessions by leading a group tour of the community. Something to spark a collective appreciation of the domain.

Ultimately screenwriting is most valuable for service designers as a way to think about how to sketch the structure of an encounter at a scale beyond the individual touchpoint.

It’s widely held within the screenwriting community that good screenplays are all about structure. William Goldman explores this thesis in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade. In many ways service design follows the same pattern. Good service design isn’t really about the design of touchpoints, it’s about the relationship between touchpoints. It revolves around structure.

Screenwriting offers a compelling way to question and explore that structure while inventing new relationships.

. . .

This article is part of a series on how to sketch a service based on techniques from the performing arts.

How to Sketch a Service
Sketching in Choreography
Sketching in Music
Sketching in Film
• Sketching in Theater