One Line of Service Design

Thursday March 27th, 2008 | thoughts on design, service

Jeff tagged me on this interesting activity… to keep it brief, Marc Fonteijn from 31Volts is starting an experiment to gather thoughts on how people would explain service design using only one line. The point is not necessarily to define service design , but provide examples that could shed light on what service design does. Marc’s one line was this:

When you have 2 coffee shops right next to each other, that each sell the same exact same coffee at the exact same price; Service Design is what makes you walk into the one and not the other.

And Jeff’s was this:

Service designers work with companies and governments to orchestrate their encounters with people.

There are so, so many service design one liners I could think of. But to continue, here’s one of mine:

Service design is not only what makes customers want to take part in a service, but it’s what makes them want to share the great moments they’ve had from a service with their friends and family (and the world, for us bloggers).

I guess there are two major parts to my one liner. First, the “want” part. Great services are those that you are a part of, not simply out of necessity, but out of desire. You know, the services you wouldn’t mind paying a little more for, just because it’s worth it. Second, the “sharing” bit. I suppose this part was partially inspired by my thesis project work at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. One of my major goals for the project is to design the service in such a way that, in light of their child being sick, the parents will still want to share the great time they had at the hospital. Great services are those that customers will advocate in the end. This advocating bit is also the last phase in Shelley Evenson’s model of the cycle of experience; she calls it “reverberating”, and I think that’s a pretty good word for it. I’ve tried some services just because so many people have talked about all the good things about them… that reverberation of positive words is something service providers aim for.

My one liner of course doesn’t really fully explain what service design is, but I find myself using it a lot when describing what I do to people who don’t have a design background.

I’m curious to see the results of this experiment. The people I want to tag don’t blog, but I’ll contact them and see if I can post their service design one liners here soon ;)

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Don’t forget about the roots

Wednesday March 12th, 2008 | thoughts on design

Roger Sessions on the roots of musical feeling (from The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener):

In the last chapter I discussed what I may perhaps call the roots of our musical feeling—roots lying in the very depths of our nature as animate beings. Here I should like to stress the vast sweep of the topmost branches of the tree that has grown from these roots.

My metaphor, I believe, is not a bad one. For it emphasizes a fact we ought never to forget: that a genuine culture is an organic growth, and not a self-conscious achievement. Possibly we Americans especially need to remember this. We are aware, quite aside from any self-congratulatory spirit, of having accomplished a very great deal in a very short time, and we tend sometimes to minimize all that is implied in the growth from roots to topmost branches; to seek short cuts that would make this arduous process unnecessary.

Very applicable to design, if you ask me.


Faking it

Tuesday March 11th, 2008 | thoughts on design, music, service, thesis paper

I went to a chamber music performance last night (first one since the summer, sadly). The first piece they played was a Beethoven trio. Throughout the piece I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t feeling very Beethoven to me. Even though stylistically they were playing it mostly Beethoven-ly. I’m not sure what it was that made me feel like it was a bit off. Perhaps the over exaggerated body gestures in odd places, or maybe the overall sound of the trio. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it until now, as I began to refine my thesis paper (which, if you need to be reminded, is on the possibilities of service design learning from the field of classical music).

I reread a section of my paper, where I talk about one of the roles of a performer in classical music as being able to reproduce the composer’s intentions with conviction, and paralleling this to service design, where one of the frontline employee’s job is to follow the original intents of the service provider. Any deviations from the intended service actions could lead to break in core service aspects (branding, etc). Imagine Disney theme park staff greeting you with monotone, gloomy welcomes. Just this simple deviation in behaviour could take away from Disney’s image of being the “happiest place on earth”.

Of course, staff can be trained so that they embody the service provider’s core values. But as I thought back to the performance last night, it makes me wonder: if you’re not really into the composer’s music, or if you don’t really believe in the service provider that you’re working for, is it possible to be trained so that you appear to be well versed in a composer’s style or a company’s values? In other words, is it possible to fake beliefs?

I ask myself this question because I realize now that it applied to my past as a classical musician. I was always a great Baroque and Romantic era performer. I love Baroque and Romantic era music. I listened to a lot of it growing up, I studied it extensively, and as a result I almost naturally gained a touch for that type of music. On the other hand, I could not for the life of me gain the same touch with Classical era music. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I listened to Mozart of Beethoven, my piano teachers would never tell me that my renditions of Classical era music were as good as my Baroque or Romantic ones. I know this had to do with the fact that I never liked Classical era music. And perhaps as a result, this showed in my performances in that I could never truly replicate the feel of a Classical composer, even though I tried “faking” it.

So bringing this back to services: can frontline employees be trained enough to appear like they embody everything that the company has to offer, or do you really need to have employees believe in what they’re doing to make a service truly successful? And most importantly, where is the border in which customers of a service begin to tell that there are disconnects between the employees and the company’s projected values which will affect their satisfaction with the company?

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Conference, Blueprints, and Interviews

Wednesday February 27th, 2008 | thoughts on conferences, design, school, work

I haven’t had too many events to inspire a blog post lately, although laziness may have been a factor in my small hiatus from blogging. But I suppose three major events did happen in the past month that are worth mentioning and filing into my little “design milestones” virtual filing cabinet. One: I attended the first ever Interaction Design conference in Savannah, GA. Two: My blueprinting work at IBM this summer is being published and presented at the DMI Education Conference this April. Three: I completed first round interviews for my future (i.e., a job). A very brief summary below:

1. The IxDA conference

Six of us from CMU took the 10 hour drive down to Savannah, GA (where we met up with two more CMU folks) to attend the first ever Interaction Design conference. It was exciting because for the first time, all those who called themselves Interaction Designers (and those aspiring to be one) were in the same space for a weekend. While there were some good presentations and conversations with fellow Interaction Designers, I left the conference feeling a bit worried about the future of Interaction Design. It still feels like most people consider Interaction Design to be a discipline surrounding software and digital media/devices. Being educated at CMU, I often wonder if this view of Interaction Design is too deeply involved with the past, and not thinking enough towards the future. Or at least not broadening the field enough. I would have liked to see more talks hinting at the importance of service/system/environment design, as well as designing for management and organizations (I was glad to see that Bill Buxton touched on this in his talk). Maybe next year. Although I must say, the food at the conference was amazing, as was the venue!

2. My service blueprint enhancement work: published!

My mentor at IBM, Susan Spraragen has been diligently working on a paper regarding the work we did over the summer with service blueprinting. And good news! Our paper was recently accepted into the DMI Education Conference this April in Paris. I’m so glad to have worked with Susan this past summer… her motivation and drive to bring more design thinking to IBM was very inspiring, and made my job of trying to push design into IBM a little less intimidating.

3. Interviews, interviews, and more interviews

Last week was Confluence, the School of Design’s annual job fair. I had the chance to interview with eight companies: Intuit, Cooper, GE, GM, Sapient, IDEO, SAP and eBay. I was mostly very impressed with the companies. There’s a lot of good design work being done out there, even in companies where you wouldn’t think design thinking plays any sort of role in either their work, or their organization. I have yet to contact more companies as I can’t hold out hope on just the eight I’ve already interviewed with, but I’m hopeful that I’ll find something that I enjoy doing and can contribute my skills to.

I guess that’s my update for now. I can’t believe there’s less than three months before I can officially say I have a Masters degree in Design.

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Tuesday January 29th, 2008 | thoughts on design, life, web

My portfolio is uploaded and ready to be shown to the world. It’s not 100% complete yet, but enough is there to allow you to poke around.

It was my first real and continued attempt at building anything in html/css, so it was quite the adventure; I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully with more practice and iterations, my portfolio will end up looking exactly the way I want it to. I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got so far though, so be sure to check it out and let me know what you think!

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