Eilidh Dickson is a student at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design where she’s part of their Pilot Year program in collaboration with the Danish Design School.

I interviewed Eilidh by e-mail about service design at CIID/DKDS and her team’s project for the Copenhagen Central Library.

Travel Global Read Local

Travel Global | Read Local

Project Overview
Final Presentation on Slideshare

Concept Video 6min 45sec

Jeff: Hello Eilidh, thanks for taking the time to talk about your project. Let’s start with a bit of background. You’re currently participating in the pilot year at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Can you tell me a little about the program and how you came to study there?

Eilidh: Its my pleasure to talk to you about the pilot year. In my eyes it is probally one of the best decisions I have ever made! I originally studied Product Design at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee, but during my final year I started to explore service design, and soon became fascinated by how products and interactions can play a more valuable role when they are part of a bigger experience over time. When I graduated in 2007 I really wanted to keep exploring service design but was eager to gain a better understanding in how technology could be applied to services and in general to peoples lives to create beautiful experiences. So when Gill Wildman (founder of Plot) told me about the possibility of a new Interaction Design course taught by the ex-Ivrea team I was straight to the internet to research it, and luckily I had a month till the admissions deadline! As you can imagine I was super happy when I was accepted to the program!

It’s very intense, as we are essentially doing a two year Ma in one year, but we are learning a huge amount and being taught by amazing faculty (visiting and resident)I feel It goes behond a level of respect between the staff and students, we are almost like a family! We all want to the best for the Pilot Year and it to be a success.

The program is a collaborative initiative between Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) and The Danish Design School (DKDS), and the aim is for students and faculty to work together in a multi-cultural, multidisciplinary studio to co-create a new kind of education that is relevant for academia and industry. The main emphasis on the course is learning how to apply design and technology to people’s lives through designing and prototyping new ideas for products, services and software. We use user centered design processes to develop our projects from initial user research to the final outcome, often building working prototypes…we have a very hands on approach to learning!

During the last seven months we have completed five skills blocks ranging from user research to physical computing and worked on three investigations covering GUIs, TUIs and Service Design. Although each block has focused on learning a specific skill or area of Interaction Design, all the courses have had a real life conext. We have designed for sustainability, telemedicine, libraries and elderly people suffering from dimentia. We also had a very exciting two weeks during our first industry project where we had the option to work with Intel or DSB (Danish Rail). For the rest of the year we will be working on our personal thesis project as well as one more industry brief.

Jeff: That’s interesting. I hadn’t realized that former Ivrea folk were involved with the CIID/DKDS program. It’s good to see a bit of that legacy continue. Simona Maschi and Neil Churcher’s Zoom-In Zoom-Out course on service design at Ivrea was great. We referred to it quite a bit when I was in grad school.

You mentioned being interested in how technology could be applied to services. Now that you’re coming to the end of the service design block of your studies, can you give me a sense of how that fits with their view of the discipline? In terms of the technology focus?

Eilidh: At CIID/DKDS we are always considering how technology can be applied to people’s lives, and this has been important for each course including our sevice design block… So I without a doubt have gained a far deeper understanding about how to use technology appropriately, and how this can be harnessed to create enjoyable interactions within products and services. During the service design course the starting point was a context of either designing for the danish libraries or telemedicine, so the emphasis wasn’t on a specific technological application, however when we were designing the touch points of the service, we were always thinking about potential technologies that could be used to improve the user experience or aid it in some way.

As the service design course was our last investigation it gave us the opportunity to work on a project where we could use all the skills we had learned in the last seven months to create innovative service solutions that were insightful and of a high resolution. The process and documentation of our work was as important as our final outcomes. We followed a user centered design process starting from creating our own design domain and opportunity area to experience prototyping our final concept, and creating a compelling story that told the journey of our final concepts. Although we were using previous skills we had learned we were introduced to new research methods, building scenario’s, how to facilitate brainstorming sessions, new ways to filter our insights, specific service design methods such as stakeholder maps and service blueprints, experience prototyping and effective storytelling techniques… and much more! We were taught to look at the services we were designing with the zoom in, zoom out approach… Making sure all the details of the service were there to create a beautiful user experience, but also seeing the service as part of a bigger more systemic picture that will sustain over time.

Jeff: Let’s talk a bit about how that process unfolds. From the documentation you’ve posted on your website it looks like you work in teams. Can you tell me about that dynamic?

Eilidh: Yes, at CIID/DKDS we have worked in teams for all of our investigations, which works brilliantly. Being able to work in teams is a skill that we really value. Generally we try to work with others that have a complimenting skill set to us. Over the last seven months we have all become very close and you can see how much passion and hard work everyone commits to their work and the pilot year, so in my eyes it is a pleasure to work with anyone from the course. Naturally over time you begin to find out who you work well with, so for this service design block I worked in a group of three with Adam Little and Siddharth Muthyala. We had previously worked together during the tangible user interface course. During the TUI block we worked really well together and had to overcome many challenges, it was a great group dynamic to work in so we decided to reunite!

Adam has a web and digital design background, Sid originally studied industrial and furniture design and I have a product and service design background, so our practical skills compliment each other well. However it goes beyond being able to cover a wide range of design disciplines. We have trust and respect for each other that even if we don’t always agree we will still come to the right decision that is best for the project. I really enjoy the dynamic we have as a group as we love working towards a challenge!! exploring emerging areas of interaction design and working on projects where we feel we can make a difference to peoples lives.

Jeff: How did your team approach the service design block?

Eilidh: We decided to work on the Danish Libraries topic. From an initial meeting with the Copenhagen Central Library and some preliminary research we soon found out that the Danish library system was extremely efficient. So we were really excited about the opportunity to explore something completely new for the Library and try some more radical ideas, rather than just improving an existing system.

We took a very active approach to the service design block, we tried to spend as little time in the studio as possible! Initially we were carrying out inteviews and observations, doing vox pops, visiting the airport, we even tried being a fly on the wall! Our main goal for this research was to get inspiration for an opportunity area that we felt we could design for.

After our research we spent a little more time in the studio, but it was still always hands on and very active. We had the the enormous task of finding the best quotes and observations from all our notes, videos and photos. For each insightful quote or observation we collected we answered “what does it mean?” Once this helped us understand the value in our insight, we then created ‘how might we statements’ that could then become design challenges that we could brainstorm around. In the middle of the five weeks we had a brainstorming festival! All the groups came together to brainstorm each others design challenges, each group faciliated three one hour brainstorming sessions and attended another four sessions! It was great fun and brilliant experience to learn how to faciliate them properly. After the brainstoming we literally had hundreds of concepts. Most were purely inspirational but they provided material to develop several solutions, creating initial scenarios for the ideas we felt were strongest and then building a low fidelity video prototype and inital service blueprint for the idea we wanted to experience prototype.

I should probally mention at this point that our research had led us to designing for this opportunity area:

Foreign visitors and new residents are interested in local knowledge and Danish culture that matches their own interests and tastes. The library is seen as a trustworthy source of information, and for the few foreigners that visit the library, it makes them feel part of the local community. But for most foreign visitors, the library plays no role in exploring Denmark.

How can the library bring its services to foreign visitors and guests so they have access to Danish knowledge and culture that is both personalised and trustworthy?

The idea that we had developed at this stage of the process to meet this design challenge was a service called travel global | read local. A library service for hotels and their guests.

It aims to promote Danish culture and knowledge to visitors of Denmark by giving them access to library materials and services. At the same time, Travel Global | Read Local allows hotels to serve their guests in new ways by arranging to have library materials delivered directly to their rooms.

After carrying out a live experience prototype at a boutique hotel in Copenhagen we refined our hotel/library concept based on the insights from the experience prototyping and produced communication pieces to help make the concept clear and understandable. These included a documentary style concept video, service blueprint and system diagrams. We also began thinking about future scenarios based on the service we created and how a larger system could give travelers access to books all over the world.

Jeff: Can you tell me a little more about the experience prototyping for the project? And about how your team worked with the hotel and the library?

Eilidh: At the beginning of the experience prototyping phase of the project we had some main questions and assumptions we wanted to answer and validate before presenting our final concept. Some of these were:

  • Are hotels willing to implement a book service for their guests?

  • Are hotel guests interested in looking at books they did not bring with them from home?
  • What material would be most useful or what type of books would guests like to see available?

Initially we visited a variety of hotels within Copenhagen, ranging from budget hostels to 5-star Hotels. We spoke to the hotel guests and members of staff, and told them about a potential new service the Libraries of Denmark were piloting. The aim for these initial visits was to gage people’s reactions towards the idea. These initial visits really helped us understand what hotels would be suitable for the collaboration as well!

After these initial visits we began our week long experience prototype in Hotel Fox, a very trendy and design orientated place to stay! At this point the main aim of the prototype was to see if their was an interest from the guests in the service, would they like the opportunity to have books brought to their hotel during their stay. For this test we worked directly with the hotel, we were essentially acting as the library, later in the project we worked with the library to gain feedback on the feasibility of the idea.

For the prototype we prepared a welcome pack with brochures, order forms and mini catalogs for the receptionist to distribute to guests as they checked into the hotel. We also brought 20 of our own books that the guests could borrow. The books were a mix of novels, guide books and design related photo books. Almost all of them had something to do with Denmark. We also included DVDs and a few other items in the catalog even though we did not bring them to the hotel. If a guest would like to borrow a book, they just need to fill out a small order form and give it to the receptionist. We also included questionnaires so that the guests could give us feedback about the service. Inside each book we designed a bookmark with recommendations based on that particular book. These included sights, other library materials and places to visit (i.e. The Danish Design Museum)

After dropping all the material off at the hotel, we spent a few hours each day at the hotel, during check-in times to observe the reactions of the guests, how they responded to the service and how the receptionists introduced the service to their customers. The idea was to see if hotel guests, who generally only stay 2-3 nights, are interested in looking at new books and bringing them back to their rooms. We also wanted to know what types of books are most popular and how the receptionists were able to manager the service.

Jeff: What did you learn from those observations?

Eilidh: At the end of the week some of the main insights we took from the experience prototype were the type of hotel the service would suit. We generally found that newer hotels were far more interested and excited about it, as they could use the service as a selling point to their customers. Hotel FOX that we carried out the experience prototype were really enthusiastic about testing the service and were happy to pilot it. They found the service easy to integrate, the receptionists were great at promoting it and handing out brochures was natural to them as the guests checked in. Although the service was easy to implement, it was difficult to manage with a single stakeholder, and without a system in place. For the purposes of the test we used the old school library checkout system, but this did not work that efficiently and showed a joint database of system between the hotels and library would need to be implemented to keep track of all the books.

The general response from the hotel guests was very positive. They liked the idea of having the option to get books if they wanted them, and not having to carry them from home and People enjoyed reading the recommendation bookmarks that were pre-placed in the books. All the books that were checked out from the hotel were related to Danish design and culture, which was a massive positive for us as was one the core values we wanted to achieve was giving visitors better access to danish culture that wasn’t the typical tourist attractions.

Overall we felt the experience prototype was a success, but if we were to develop the idea further we would need to do far more prototypes in different types of hotels to see if their was enough interest or a real niche area that would work best with the library. The next stage could also involve bringing the library into the live experience prototype to test more of the logistics like delivery and check out systems.

Jeff: A week-long prototyping phase sounds pretty amazing. Is that typical of the projects at CIID/DKDS? I hope you got all your books back…

Eilidh: The prototyping phase is very important here. The length we spend on it depends on the length of the project really, on a four of five week project we would spend at least a full week experience prototyping. However during out four week TUI block where we were building technical working prototypes, which were integrated with electronics, the prototyping phase of the block started in our second week and continued to the end so we could iterate and user test our interface ideas. We are just about to start our three month thesis and I think at least one month is allocated to prototyping after our research and development, so I guess in answer to your question having a substantial amount of time to work on prototyping is typical at CIID! We highly value the need to test our ideas, prototypes, services or what ever we are designing to make sure they are appropriate for the user and will provide them with a meaningful experience.

Jeff: Now that you’ve gone through the service design block of the pilot year, has your view of the discipline changed at all compared to your undergraduate coursework and your internship at ThinkPublic?

Eilidh: Since studying service design at CIID/DKDS I don’t think my opinions on what service design is has changed, but I think I have broadened my approach and thinking towards it. I now have more experience in prototyping services and being able to communicate a service concept in a compelling way, something which can often be hard to achieve when you are designing something that is essentially intangible.

I also now see huge value in being able to start a project in a number of ways. Although I love starting a project with user research and working with people to find a problem area or need I am also excited by looking at future scenarios for services that could be achieve through emerging technologies or diving straight into an idea that you believe has potential and then testing it afterwards with a user group. I think different approaches are suited for different projects and contexts.

Jeff: It’s been fascinating to read about some of those approaches on your weblog. Thanks for posting so much detail about the research and prototyping. And thanks for taking the time to talk about your experience in the program. Good luck with the rest of your studies.

Eilidh: Thank you, I have really enjoyed it, it has allowed me to reflect a little!