emergence 2007

September 9th, 2007

This past weekend I attended Emergence, CMU School of Design’s second annual student-run conference. The theme this year was Exploring the Boundaries of Service Design. Dan Boyarski, Head of our School of Design, discussed the theme by asking how service design relates to disciplines such as systems, strategy, information, infrastructure, information, interaction, and product design. We spent most of the last conference trying to define and introduce service design as a discipline, and this year sought to work at the definition a bit more by looking at different fields.

That being said, here’s a quick glimpse of what I got from the conference. I attended one workshop, nine lectures, and two panel discussions. Here goes nothing.

Day 0

Birgit Mager’s workshop: Designing the Service Experience
Somehow I’ve misplaced my notes from the workshop. But one of the interesting things I got out of this was the role of the performing arts in looking not only at service design and services, but at the connection between the orchestration of roles in the performing arts and the coordination of people in organizations. I am biased because of my thesis essay topic, but Birgit spoke to some great beginnings in linking organizational notation (e.g., seating chart for an orchestra) to the impact that could have on corporate structures.

Day 1

Fernandas Viegas and Martin Wattenburg, IBM Research: Visual Thinking at a Global Scale: The Story of Many Eyes
Most people know the Many Eyes tool. The interesting points from this lecture: the impact on making data public, and once you make data public, the global conversation that happens around that data. Also, target a client’s erogenous zones, not their pain points…

Harold Hambrose, Electronic Ink: Service as a Discipline, Designers at the Helm
I wish Harold could’ve delved a bit more into what the role of a designer is in service design. A third of the way through the lecture he handed the lecture over to two of his designers who presented some of the visualization tools they used in one of their projects. I especially liked the use of the clock paradigm in visualizing customer timeline… I had thought about using this for the blueprint work I did this summer. Getting into details now, but I liked the way they were able to express service roles and their duration during the service process. I know I had a hard time trying to think of a way to do this in a blueprint scenario… and while their method isn’t perfect, it’s a great idea. Made me sketch out some ideas for notation systems for my thesis paper.

Claudio Pinhanez, IBM Research: Service as Customer-Intensive Systems
The first person to try and define service and service design. Also the first person to really talk directly about service design in general. Instead of trying to define a service, he introduced the idea of a “customer-intensive system”, where the customer doesn’t control most means of production, but is a significant input of the production process. A lot of ideas and things we need to consider with this definition of a customer-intensive system: consideration of time (both perceived and actual), quality measurement (where quality needs to be measured during the process for a service, rather than at the end as with products), and emotional coproduction. And one of the bigger questions: what happens when a business becomes the customer? What happens in B2B environments?

Todd Wilkens, Adaptive Path: The End of Products
The biggest takeaway I got from this was to think not of service design, but of the service design mindset. Which makes a lot of sense when we think about all these definitions flying around about products, services, etc… the most important thing is to really have the design mindset. I also appreciated the discussion about service as a conversation, where products are just a piece of that conversation. Seems simple enough.

Panel discussion, moderated by Shelley Evenson: Maybe we can always get what we want
Biggest thought coming out of this: the future of design will be allowing for people to take control for themselves

Bettina von Kupsch, Swisscom Mobile, How to become a Service Champion: The Service Transformation Journey of Swisscom Mobile
I think one of the biggest insights I got from this was that people in business management are just as capable (if not, more) at solving management problems. Yes. It was an ego issue here that was resolved in this lecture for me (the first of many, it turns out). I’ve worked with so many types of people over the past couple of years… it’s important for me to realize that sometimes other people are be a lot better at certain things and at some point I need to be willing to relinquish control (another theme that emerged from this conference)!

Day 2

Chris Downs, live|work: Creating Profitable, Sustainable and Responsible Services: A Year of Effective Service Design
Design shouldn’t look to design to answer service design questions. Also, what makes designers successful at what we do? Visual literacy, empathy, entrepreneurial spirit, facilitation (we influence rather than control), optimism, ability to be open and collaborative, and finally, we bring the outside in; we bring the customers to us.

John Bailey, IBM Research: Early Reflections on Practice Diagrams to Facilitate Service Design
John’s work is very similar to what I did over the summer, in that he came up with new ways to visualize processes, and had to overcome barriers to have people accept the new tools. In terms of the actual process of coming up with the visualizations, for me it was nice to see that he struggled with exactly the same issues that I did with my work: limited space for annotations, the issue of time, and that diagrams don’t scale well. It will be interesting to see if they resolve these issues, and how they will go about doing so. An interesting thought from this lecture: does making these new “simple” diagrams deskill users?

Jennifer Leonard, IDEO: At Your Service: The Blind Man, the Elephant, and the Design of the World
Biggest takeaway: service design (and design in general) is about people. Which means that service design is about, among other things: support, penalty, risk, reward, trust, surprise, needs, expectations, context, ability to give and receive, responsibility, accountability, vulnerability, and ability to give to ourselves.

Panel discussion, moderated by Oliver King: How Service Design Could Have Saved the World
I really liked the discussion generated in this panel, in particular the top ten (and more) items that we came up with that are crucial for, well, service design to save the world. Will post more on this if and when materials start getting posted on the conference website.

Richard Buchanan, CMU School of Design: Closing Keynote
As always, Dick did a fantastic job tying all elements of the conference together. He noted four boundary areas he found to be predominant throughout the past two days: 1. information visualization (the shift from graphic design to community) 2. products/industrial design (roles of artifacts in the environment) 3. system vs. service designer 4. relationship between service design and management. Lots of good conversation was also generated at the end of this talk.

Well… that was my first pass at digesting the past three days. One of the big pushes coming out of the conference was to start continuing the conversations we’ve had over the past three days so that we don’t just convene every once in a while to talk about what we’ve done and instead start tackling problems and pushing through ideas together. I hope that works out. Aside from attending the lectures, it was really great getting out there and talking to different people, both familiar and new. Without some infrastructure for continued conversation, we’ll never push our discipline out there fast enough to make a difference.

Kudos to the conference organizing committee; I know that they’ve ignored themselves these past couple of months in favour of putting together a great conference. And big thanks of course to Shelley and Dan for making it all happen.

Here’s to continued success at CMU’s School of Design :)

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3 Responses to “emergence 2007”

  1. Imran Says:

    Good summary, I would write something up similar if I was able to take notes :P It’s crazy how relevant our discussion that one night was about it. It set the stage with a lot of questions about everything. So we weren’t just wasting time not working ;)

  2. Emergence 2007 » Blog Archive » What People Are Saying About the Emergence Conference Says:

    […] Chan also provides a review of every session she attened. One of the big pushes coming out of the conference was to start continuing the […]

  3. viesorosque Says:

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