Service Design Studio

In spring of 2017 I taught an intro studio about service design. Students were juniors and seniors in communication design. The first project explored mapping experiences and the second team based project explored mental health in rural communities. We did design research, blueprinting, journey mapping, wire frames, design development, and many other steps to arrive at proposed solutions. The class partnered with the Center for Innovation at BJC Healthcare and the students did final presentation to them and invited guests. One of the projects, called “OK Cards” was considered for testing with BJC’s clients in the field.

The full syllabus and project descriptions are at this link. Some of the class work is at this link.

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More about the studio from the syllabus description:

Services design is an interdisciplinary approach for creating useful, usable and desirable experiences between service providers and customers. Services have always been around: hospitality, transportation, health, restaurants, tourism and many others. At a macro level it is a strategic and systems level way of thinking that shares many of the tools used in “design thinking.” Today designers from many disciplines are engaging “services” at various touch-points where people interact with a service; advocating for people and creating designed artifacts that support successful experiences.

By the end of this course you will be familiar and comfortable with bringing high-level concepts into actionable visual solutions based on system level observations. The path is fraught with ambiguity, but you will become comfortable with using research methods to identify opportunities and insights. A human-centered approach will develop your sense of empathy and support visual form making skills that in turn create compelling service design experiences.

The class assumes that you are an advance communication designer with a grasp of typography, color, composition on screen and print. We will not discuss these in a fundamental way, but rather flex and practice our visual development competencies in the context of visualizing system level information and designing key touch points in a service experience. The class seeks to leverage your visual skills in tandem with strategic thinking needed to see whole systems. We will use “mapping” to visualize service experiences and opportunities that in turn identify the best channels such as print, web, mobile, or environments, to meet a customer’s needs. While you may design a print communication solutions we will seek to see where in the service experience it lives and why it is relevant.

There are many processes and “toolkits” for services design. All have slight differences and nuances, but generally follow a path of defining the problem, exploring through research methods, generating ideas through mapping and visuals, and realizing and testing your ideas. How deep we go into each of these will depend on the project scope, the make-up of your team, and a number of moving and unpredictable variables. The first short project is self-generated and second team based, applied with partners.

Why this course in this program? As a “designistraition” Communication Design (graphic design and illustration) program in the College of Art, you are all deeply engaged in and developing your skills in visual form. You tell stories and communicate ideas that are understood, insightful and enlightening in visual forms. This class gives you the opportunity to use those skills while imagining larger services type systems and applications. How does your [fill in with app, book, environment] really resonate with a larger system in which it lives? Does that thing you made really resonate and work in the services experience? Do the people using the tool really understand it as one element in the experience continuum? Do we really need it? While we cannot “test” the experience in full, we will aspire to come as close as possible.

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.

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