Service Design: Mapping Experiences

In the Spring of 2017 I taught course called Service Design to undergraduate communication design students. The first project was titled “Mapping Experiences” and was intended to introduce student to the idea of using a service design research methods to map an experience while at the same time making a compelling poster project. As artifacts for communication I have observed the landscape of journey maps and service blueprints often feeling complex in part due to how they are created. Post-it notes and scribbles dominate how we make them to begin the process. They are good for getting the ideas out on paper and moving information around. However, taking these posters to another level in which they become tools for organizational understanding and communication can improve their impact and usefulness.

Above are some sample of the student posters by Olivia Alchek, Wade Johnson, Alex Hammarskjold, Lydia Kim, and Kelly Tsao.

Below is the project description.

Mapping Experiences

Overview

A map is a common tool used by many disciplines. Service designers use maps as strategic tools for understanding large complex systems, the objects people use in them, the steps people take through the system and the people that provided services along way. Often these maps capture a variety of emotional and or decision point data that informs what might solve specific or sequences of the challenges or opportunity. Journey maps and blueprints are two methods. Maps are also created to support interaction between a consumer and a service such as to simply guide a person from point A to B. At opposite ends of the spectrum, from strategic overviews to daily tools, each has a different context to address and goals to meet. The process for creating them can also vary in depth and breadth.

For this short project, you will select an experience of your choice to make a map that communicates at multiple levels. It will error on the side of a strategic map, yet with the graphic fidelity that makes it quickly understandable and compelling as a visual. Readings provide a foundation for various types of maps and structures. While many of the examples may be “simple” they offer levels and structures for exploring a service experience that is key in the understanding phase of a project. Your challenge is to select the appropriate visual structure and create a visually compelling map that communicates at multiple levels and suggest potential solutions. The topic should be one you can have quick access to people that can give you insights about the topic area.

Prompts

The following are various prompts; however, you are free to select an experience you are interested in. Do not dwell a great deal on the topic and once you select it you must stick to it.

  • Planning for post college life in a place you have never been to.
  • Exploring the zoo with five people you sort of know.
  • Going to the super market to buy food for a vegetarian party with four friends.
  • Thinking about, going to, ordering and eating your favorite food.
  • Traveling to the St. Louis Arch and back.
  • Navigating the career counseling experience.
  • Going to visit a friend at the hospital and navigating various spaces.
  • Managing your class registration and course selections over college life.

Readings

  • Mapping Experiences by Jim Kalback pg. 1-44
  • This is Service Design Thinking by Stickdorn & Schneider pg. 28-51 and 68-87
  • Linn Vizard, There’s a Map For That! The Designer’s Cartography of Complexity: https://vimeo.com/190602711
  • Phil Robinson, Being Scrappy: Service Design Meet Rapid Growth: https://vimeo.com/190606863
  • Touchpoint, Vol 1, No 1:  What is Service Design?
  • A Guide to Service Blueprinting by Nick Remis and the Adaptive Path Team at Capital One
  • Hugh Dubberly & Shelley Evenson, “Designing for Service: Creating an Experience Advantage,” (2010)
  • The Difference Between a Product and a Service – As Told With Hammers by Eric Flowers
  • The difference between a journey map and a service blueprint by Megan Erin Miller and Erik Flowers

Thanks:
Thank you to Christine Stavridis for helping out with this class. She was a visiting designer, alum of the program, and terrific partner in supporting the content for this new class. The posters in the slides above are from the following students in order of presentation: Olivia Alchek, Wade Johnson, Alex Hammarskjold, Lydia Kim, and Kelly Tsao. These are only a few of the many created.

Design Thinking: A Human Centered Approach

I have facilitated a number of workshops called “Design Thinking: A Human Centered Approach” developed by an arts organization called COCAbiz. The companies I have worked with include accounting, marketing, health insurance, schools, banks, and agriculture. While I facilitate design, the workshops are couched in a broader leadership and innovation framework led by COCAbiz’s Steve Knight. What is fascinating is how teams work together and what they can create in just a couple hours.

The workshop has a five-step approach. In teams of four members explore feeling empathy, defining insights, ideating, prototyping and testing ideas. I give a little history of design thinking as popularized by IDEO and others, share personal case studies then we launch into two hours of making. The prompt they work on is “How might we create a wow that works sitting experience for Steve?” The final goal is to create a chair out of one sheet of cardboard. Teams ask Steve questions to learn to empathize and identify insights they can ideate on to define key features they might explore. Prototyping with small sheets of paper then allows them to use their hands to make shapes and structures that in turn facilitate discussion and comparison as they narrow the direction. They then test one agreed upon idea, or a combination of prototypes, by building one chair with a large sheet of cardboard. No glue or tape is allowed.

Having done a number of these now I have some insights:

Gaining empathy is hard work.
There is much discussion about “empathy” in design fields and many others. The basic idea is that getting to know your user the better you can create products and services for them. Ethnography is another method to gain empathy given that what people say is not always what they do, so observation is critical. Marketers use surveys or focus groups; others use large data sets to see trends and build from there. Designers though use small sample sizes to learn from and build off those insights combined with design trends in the market. Great insights always come from asking question that illicit a story beyond what your are trying to directly solve. Questions such as recalling early memories of comfort or places that invoked warmth and security are some that can inform a deeper understanding of people, and thus inform a more empathetic direction in the product.

Prototyping makes you think and talk critically.
Using one’s hands to make something forces exploration and is a form of thinking. What is fascinating to observe from groups of people that do not make physical things every day is how much conversation little pieces of paper in the form of chairs can generate. Describing how something works and why it will meet the user’s needs becomes real when seeing it, even if seemingly little half blobs of a chair. It generates debate and having many options forces comparison, which in turn helps identify key features that meet a user’s needs. The more prototypes the more teams can decide what to keep and what to toss. Often times we make the predictable, but by having many option on the table we start to see elements that build with others to create novel options.

Testing in small ways builds risk aversion.
“Fail faster, succeed sooner” attributed to David Kelly of IDEO is a core design idea used by many entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs I think have a high innate tolerance for risk while designers I think do it in very small increments in order minimize the sense of risk over the entire process.  A designers constant looping and testing helps form confidence in the final solution through incremental steps. When the workshop participants arrive at the finish line and chairs are lined up to test holding ten pounds, which is part of the challenge, the fear of failure I think is somewhat masked by having prototypes of many possibilities. In the end, with many colleagues presenting options, there is also the sense that one will win. From there they can keep iterating to build an ideal chair for Steve if they keep going for more rounds. And as Kelly might say, they have grained some creative confidence in the process.

What is good design?

 

This past fall I did a presentation to students from around the country that were attending the Archhacks HealthTeck hackathon at Washington University in St. Louis. It was the second day when many of the teams were deep into production mode, had a decent lack of sleep, and were in the home stretch to submit their work. A tough crowed! The title of my talk, selected by the event organizers, was “What is good design?” Challenging question and one I am not often asked, nor have thought to really test. Anyone can check out the annual awards from likes of AIGA, Print, Communication Arts or IXDA and many others to see the who’s who of awardees from the industry. But it is not often, in a thirty-minute presentation we make a stab a really articulating good design.

I decided to provide a balance of big picture thinking combined with the basics of hierarchy, contrast, harmony, as well as nitty gritty of typography, composition, and color. All matter at certain points in the design process. For the strategic side, I combined a 3D model adapted from Richard Grefé with Humantific’s four levels of design (pg 19-23). The graphic depicts the makers of artifacts in the lower left then moving to the conceivers and strategists that use design for larger systems level interventions in the upper right. What is important about design in a broad sense is that there is this continuum from the artifacts to the strategic, from the micro to the macro, and often they work in tandem going back and forth in a constant dance that reinforces each other. For emerging entrepreneurs and creatives in the audience this was my attempt to say that design and the methods of design have a large role in creating valuable products and services at both ends of the spectrum. I peppered the talk with industry examples and even dissected the New York Time website to demonstrate the value of a grid systems. A recent project I think demonstrated the best example was the rebranding of Docdoc (pg 61-62). The re-brand is a demonstration of a changing target audience, a more mature strategy and a clarity of message through the simplification of color, image and type. My parting visual point to all was that ever line counts, how thick or thin, its color, etc. You have to make deliberate choices and the sum of them either results in a clunky overly complex set of visuals and technology we can not navigate, or a clear graphics we understand and travel through because extraneous information is eliminated.

At the end the day, I go back to classic Steve Jobs line that sums of good design: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Take a look at the presentation deck and drop me a line. Would love to hear what you think.

PDF Presentation Deck

Graphic Design 101 @ Middle School

16-10-24-design101

I spent an hour today talking to five students at a middle school about graphic design. We were preparing to embark on designing their year book. I went into the conversation sharing a few books about design that I love, such as Ellen Lupton’s Graphic Design: The new Basics and some AIGA annuals. I decided not to do a slide show, but rather to draw out my talking points on sheets of paper in from of them as I shared ideas. I talked about hierarchy, contrast in scale, texture, type, line, etc. I would ask them to comment on my pencil sketches as to which elements on the page they found more appealing and why. I asked them to list all the ways in which hierarchy could be achieved, and they promptly listed over a dozen ways. I was amazed! My college level students in basic design classes often cannot do articulate the same ideas. I continued to talk through my thumbnail sketches of grids, margins, gutters, and general strategies of theme and variation for compositions in a sequential narrative. Again they seemed to get it and point out strategies for making a compelling story. We discussed the section of a year book and I ask them to develop a few spreads in ten minutes that express some concept they thought might be compelling. The sections included athletics, arts, staff, and others. Again they worked quickly and we had time to do a quick critique in the last ten minutes. Once again they were articulate and I think they realized the having a “drawing” in front of them to talk through made all the difference. While many were busy multitasking on their phones, I managed to get them to focus and share their ideas and give each other constructive critique. Wow!

What did I learn? That you can teach a ton about graphic design in one hour to middle school kids. I am not sure they fully absorbed it all, but if my own twelve-year-old daughter is any gauge of this age, they are all sponges able to absorb far more then we give them credit for at times, even if they are bouncing back and forth on their digital devices.

What do I think they learned? We will see next class. I asked them to come back with a type face example that they really love that we might use in the year book. I brought a book all about type design that had tons of examples. One of the students asked towards the end if she could take a look at it. It was one of those moments when you watch a student looking at a book and wonder if this is a turning point for them, a type designer in the making. I am sure she had no idea that there are people out there that make a living out of just designing type faces.

What can you do? Share your practice with a middle school kids. Chances are they have not been exposed to your specific discipline in your unique view, and even if they have, you will just be amazed by their ability to take it all in.

Insight Combination

insight-combination

Insight combination is a “a method of building on established design patterns in order to create initial design ideas” and is typically used at the synthesis phase of a project after some initial research. I have run this exercise a few times with limited success. However, in my most recent class called Interaction Design: Understand Health, I ran it with what I would call a seamless process that resulted in students generating a great amount of ideas to build upon. The exercise was developed by Jon Kolko (at least this is the only person I can find linked to it) and you check out the deck he uses at ac4d at this link. I peppered my talk with some health related projects such as PillPack that I think exemplify ideas that blend new technology in ways that produce really novel solutions.

The project I have students working as a warm up this semester is to explore allergies. I gave them each an allergy from the top eight and had them live with it for a week. A bit of empathy experiences to have them learn how others live with health challenges. A stumbling block I find for many students is simply coming up with an idea to pursue after some initial ideas. How does one turn some contextual research into an idea to develop further can be a challenge. By the end of this exercise they had all come up with ideas that each would advance into storyboards and initial wireframes of the idea. If you want to try out the method, follow Jon’s slide deck and have fun! I highly recommend it.

Interaction Design

IxD

I have taught a class about interaction design for the past few years. It is about making stuff, not history, though we do talk about some brief key moments. Before launching in I ask students to define the term. Here are some definitions they have:

“Interaction design considers the user to be the most important factor. The user is continually considered and consulted throughout the process.” Emma

“Interaction design is a category of design that focuses on the user and looks specifically at improving the interaction between the user and interface, product, environment, most often in the context of digital interfaces.” Elise

“Interaction design is an approach to design that prioritizes a human centered approach to a solution. The result of the design process would be tailored and specific to the users of the design objects, idea or service.” Andrew

“Interaction design is functional and aesthetic design with the goal of the optimal user experience.” Monika

“Interaction design takes usability as its first rule, all decision made take into account the experience of the those who must interact with the work.” Chris

All of these have elements of the definition yet take a more expansive view of interaction design. Some focus on people’s interaction with a computer or technology, but others consider the entire system with the user as a key player in determining success. The Interaction Design Association defines it as:

“Interaction Design (IxD) defines the structure and behavior of interactive systems. Interaction designers strive to create meaningful relationships between people and the products and services that they use, from computers to mobile devices to appliances and beyond.”

It is a relative young and emerging field from a historical writing standpoint, but much like graphic design, industrial design or illustration there is a long history of work once one really starts looking. What I think is unique about the field is that many see the person at the center of solving the challenge. Much like a Human-Centered Design process, interaction design does the same in really looking at the person(s), their context and the end goals. The solution, be it an interface, device or object, is in the service of the persons. While there may be tangible solutions, there are also intangible ones to consider. In addressing both side I think we come closer to appreciating the complexity of how humans interact with and through designed artifacts and systems. Many times it is exploring the intangible elements of the interface that make the overall experience stronger.

Here is an abbreviated reading list if you are interested in pursuing more ideas and methods.

Greenberg, S., Carpendale, S., Marquardt, N., & Buxton, B. (2011). Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook. Amsterdam ; Boston: Morgan Kaufmann.
Hinman, R. (2012). The Mobile Frontier: A Guide for Designing Mobile Experiences. Brooklyn, N.Y: Rosenfeld Media.
Lupton, E. (2014). Type on Screen: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Developers, and Students. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Pannafino, J. (2012). Interdisciplinary Interaction Design: A Visual Guide to Basic Theories, Models and Ideas for Thinking and Designing for Interactive Web Design and Digital Device Experiences. Assiduous Publishing.
Pratt, A., & Nunes, J. (2012). Interactive Design: An Introduction to the Theory and Application of User-centered Design. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers.
Saffer, D. (2010). Designing for interaction creating innovative applications and devices (2nd ed). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
Weinschenk, S. (2011). 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (1 edition). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

And if you are interested in perusing some great examples, check out the IxDA awards.

Contextual Research Methods

opportunity-map72dpi

Research in the design profession has many methods and outputs. Some clients require and value a research and synthesis process before a design is considered, while others want an experts design direction. As a practicing designer, design educator, and through my graduate work in design management, I have become ever more appreciative of a strong research methodology and process to inform opportunities. Undergraduate design school rooted me in the foundations of visual literacy and form to support my print, branding and environmental graphic design projects when in practice. With a strong foundation in hierarchy, form and message development I delivered solutions appropriate to target audiences. However, these were often limited in scope of audience understanding or engagement. As projects become larger and more complex, a strong contextual research process can be used to truly understand an audience or culture that can then inform appropriate strategies for design.

A project with colleagues Amber Benson and Jason Spinks demonstrates how deep observations and contextual inquiry of letterpress practices and cultures can shed light on new opportunities. For the work each selected a press in our respective city and began with fly-on-the wall observations. We developed interview questionnaires and spent many hours embedded in the process of letterpress culture, sometimes taking up the actual making of printed work or even attending workshops and events. This contextual research was a deep dive into the power of being present and deeply observing, listening and capturing every detail of the project.

The fifteen-week process resulted in an opportunity map. The map was titled “Letterpress Culture: Engendering Sustainability” and describes the life cycle of learning the craft of letterpress and what motivates individuals to continue on a path to passion. We identified key steps, from initiation in to the culture, operation of the business, integration into the community, then contributing to profession and finally continuation of the culture to passion and sharing of the practice. Each step was supported by key insights from our interviews. As collaborative project in three cities we were able to identify similarities across all that resulted in a unified understanding of the culture. The map is in some ways a path for those potentially exploring the practice but also an visualization for further opportunities to advance or engage with the practice of letterpress printing.

Project Blog
Download PDF of Map
Project Video

Drawing for Visual Thinking

Drawing for Visual Thinking

Drawing is a core skill for artists and designers. It is used to create, communicate and collaborate at multiple levels. Anyone can gain proficiency but some have fluidity to start and combined with determination over time can lead to proficient. In recent years drawing applied to a “visual thinking” process has become a valued skill set for not only creatives, but for many that use a design methodology to generate ideas, especially in facilitating design thinking. For design managers, drawing in the context of idea generation and collaboration can support any number of activities. Here are some questions to consider.

How can idea visualization methods help brainstorming be more efficient and communicative?
We all have ideas about objects, processes, places, actions, people and much more in out daily lives. We live in a visual world and while we can describe it through words we are programmed to understand the world visually. Colin Ware’s book Visual Thinking for Design takes us through a journey of how we see and why visualization works at so many levels for human communication. Ware notes that “perhaps 95% of what we ‘see’ from the outside world is already in our heads” and helps with our “visual working memory.” While visual working memory allows us to hold one to three meanings simultaneously, we are able to make connections by chunking these images together when they are next to each other and thus process more information faster. Ware argues that a scribble can be a powerful strategy for communication and poses four tools. The fist is simply that a scribble allows up to see patters. Second is that a scribble is fast and thus helps with multiple iterations of ideas. This is that cognitively we interpret a sketch differently and thus making things visual helps us communicate and iterate on those ideas. Lastly is that drawing the idea one can help individuals and teams add to those ideas quickly. While it takes many years to perfect taking a scribble to a refined sketch, even a novice can generate visuals that help communicate an idea, and most importantly help communicate more ideas.

In my own work I have found that by placing a piece of paper in the middle of the table and making a few marks inevitably invites others to point out what is and is not working. Sometimes they begin to scribble further ideas and notes expanding upon the initial thought. This back and forth process, a creative process of thinking through visuals, can bring greater clarity to questions.

How do visualization methods enhance teamwork collaboration?
Malcolm Craig’s Thinking Visually: Business Applications of 14 Core Diagrams takes us through the use of series of visualization tools. For example, the “mind map” is particularly good for taking complex information and simply making connections. By diagramming it in a mind map form, the maker is able to see connection and relationship not readily apparent through a large chunk of paragraph text. It also allows for the view to have a better understanding of relationships, and then expand upon or change what is presented. Craig discusses many other diagrams that when done in collaboration with others can clarify a process, problem or develops new ideas.  He state that “it is from these ‘pictures’ that solutions and pointers to the way forward can emerge.”

In David Sibbet’s book Visual Meetings he takes us through many methods to enhance teamwork. These include storyboarding, idea mapping and group graphics. The core idea is that drawing and engaging teams in the process of drawing itself is a team building process to help see the context and actions that can be taken in solving challenges. A visualization process also creates engagement and buy in when teams need to work well together to imagine, engage, think and enact ideas. While the output may vary in refinement, such as an idea map or process map, and the circumstances around why you might take a visualization approach may differ, but the act of imagining through sticky notes on large sheets of paper can transform a team’s process and give them ownership of the solution.

In my work I have found that while the start of a meeting is often met with apprehension to the idea of drawing, by end of the meetings everyone was making stick figures and attempting to articulate their business process visually. Often there was disagreements as to the path of a product or process, but once on paper it was clear what the steps were or what they might need to be to improve the situation. Take out some paper and pens and see what happens.

What is the relation between visual thinking and design thinking?
The well-known design firm IDEO defines “design thinking” as “a holistic and empathetic approach to design focusing on the intersection of people’s desires, business viability and technical feasibility.” While design thinking has become popularized in business as a design process applied to and implemented by non-design practitioners in a business setting, the process remains similar. One might use one design process/steps as:

1. define the problem
2. observe, discovery or research the problem
3. synthesize
4. brainstorm or ideate
5. prototype
6. test
7. repeat or implement if good

Visual thinking on the other hand is, as described by Ware, Craig, and Sibbet, the use of images as a problem solving tool. Whatever is being solved or explored can be enhanced through the use of images. Walk into any creative agency and you will see an explosion of visuals being used to solve all kinds projects.

The application of visual thinking in the design process, or “design thinking” process, will only enhance the entire experience whether as an individual or as a group. Visual thinking is a tool that can enhance discovery or understanding a process.

References
Ware, C. (2008). Visual Thinking for Design (1 edition). Morgan Kaufmann.
Craig, M. (2000). Thinking Visually: Business Applications of Fourteen Core Diagrams. Continuum International Publishing Group.
Sibbet, D. (2010). Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity (1 edition). Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.

 

Design Management

DesignThinking

This diagram comes from the Centre for Design Innovation which they attribute it to the Institute of Design at Stanford. I modified it somewhat to put people on the left of the venn diagram. It is part of the “design thinking” model made popular by IDEO and the d.School. During my design management graduate work I spent time thinking about the intersection of these elements.  My definition has a focus on health care because I explored that sector during my graduate research work, i.e. a “better quality of life” direction.

“Design management is the effective use of design strategy, operational constraints, and business objectives to generate innovations that enable a better quality of life. Design managers lead teams to consider viability, feasibility, and desirability of products, services, processes, and systems in order to implement business and organizational strategy.”

I took inspiration from a few others. They are:

“Design management is the cultural, strategic and operational use of the design resources (internal and external) available to an organisation, directed towards the creation and attainment of business and organisational objectives.” – Professor Peter McGrory, University of Art & Design Helsinki TaiK

“Simply put, design management is the business side of design. Design management encompasses the ongoing processes, business decisions, and strategies that enable innovation and create effectively-designed products, services, communications, environments, and brands that enhance our quality of life and provide organizational success.” – Design Management Institute

“Design management is the effective deployment by line managers of the design resources available to an organization in the pursuance of its corporate objectives. It is therefore directly concerned with the organizational place of design, with the identification with specific design disciplines which are relevant to the resolution of key management issues, and with the training of managers to use design effectively.” – Peter Gorb, Designthinkers 2001

“In the SCAD DMGT program we prepare students to lead any organization in creating the conditions for generating innovative solutions. When these solutions begin to emerge DMGers [co-­]develop the internal structures and systems for successful implementation. DMGers are experts in not only empowering teams to think creatively and differently, but also in leading the organization toward saying ‘yes’ to innovation and toward taking risks in order to be successful at it.” – Victor Ermoli, Dean Savannah College of Art and Design