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Protos Typos: When first impressions don’t need to last

28 October, 2012

NB: A version of this post, written with Justin Barrie, is also published at DMA/We Think

Recently at work we did some service prototyping with a public sector client. We wrote about it on our blog. It’s a topic I’ve often wanted to capture here because, in my experience, prototyping and service prototyping in particular can be a challenge for people to get their head around. It took me a while and then it clicked (I suppose being schooled by IDEO, and having the opportunity to mull as my full-time job did help ; )


What Prototyping is for

Prototyping is about visually and tangibly putting together a working model of a concept in order to quickly test out various aspects of a design, illustrate ideas or features, and gather early feedback. Prototyping is the language of design and its basic tenet is ‘make to learn’. It helps you move beyond talking and thinking towards action. The prototypes are not the solution itself; they represent ideas, before artefacts are created, code is written, components are developed, and solutions are implemented.

Creating a representation of a concept through a prototype, or a service prototype of the whole system, means you build something in a fast, cheap way and can test it with users – inviting real input – from your own reflection, to colleagues, to collaborative partners, to users themselves. Better yet, prototyping gives the means of creation to the users themselves.

It’s a little bit semantic, but from my perspective there are two types of prototyping:


Service Prototyping in particular

The potential of service prototyping runs the gamut from conceptually illustrating service experience through sketching or storyboards to isolating part of a system and trying changes in real time. Most people would be familiar with the concept of a pilot, where 90% of the end product is there and the intent is work out the kinks. Service prototyping can and should happen way before then.

Like prototyping, service prototyping is about learning, failing fast (roughly and cheaply) in order to design success. But service prototyping is method of methods – that is, it encompasses a number of tools and techniques. The key difference is that service prototyping is explicitly concerned with service design context itself – how it works, where it connects, who’s involved, what has to happen.


Service Prototyping in practice

So to our recent project. Unfortunately, we can’t share what the topic was about (public sector budget sensitive), but we can share that it was a rare case (when we talk to other designers in the service space) of service design not concerned with improving an existing service, but designing a new service. Blank page territory and a fantastic opportunity with a keen public sector client.

We can also share that the timeframe was tight – only five weeks. We’ve done tight service design projects before but this was extreme. It meant there was some documentation compromise in terms of depth, but in terms of breadth it was still collaborative intent > research > analyse/synthesise <> prototype/iterate > define. It also meant working closely with the team and their trust in us was critical to get to the right outcome all round – a service design that represented the users, and a service design they could use. It also meant service prototyping was invaluable to fast-track synthesis and engagement.

The opportunity for the nitty-gritty of service prototyping occurred about Day 12 – Day 15. We had done the background research, and field research with actual and potential users in one-on-one interviews and exercises. Up to Day 11 we formulated with the client representatives (our team) emerging insights – both from the internal and external view, emerging design principles and a value proposition for our component of the service within a broader service program context. And we had design features we knew would and wouldn’t work for users based on considering existing ‘like’ services.


Working up the service prototypes

On Day 13 we worked up the service prototypes for the workshop to be held on Day 15. They had to be paper-based and mobile because the workshop was going to be interstate, and in a room we where we knew we couldn’t stick stuff on walls. Sidenote: why do so many event facilities not allow you to use the walls!?

We started with all the information in our heads, a wall full of the refined insights, what we knew were key design features, the design principles and value proposition. We talked a bit about what we knew, and what knew we wanted to explore. And what we knew was likely to be the shape of the service.

And then we gave ourselves 10 minutes to sketch out how the service might work.

A bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of interpretation, a bit of personal perspective, some sacrificial red herrings, but mostly a lot of evidence. We named our concepts, and then we told them as a story – drawing out how the concept illustrated the pertinent points we wanted to learn more from. They worked! We then spent the next three hours working them into presentable component versions that we could put in front of people in a workshop. These components would also give the participants the means to work up their own versions during the workshop (some examples shown below – no artistic skill necessary!)


Workshopping the service prototypes

The workshop itself was half a day. Deliberately short for the participants who were a 2:1 mix of real users and business team representatives. The tight time also meant we could focus the thinking and activity; this was to be divergent and blue sky, but blue sky with feet firmly on the ground. After some scene-setting and informal validation of our findings so far using brainstorming and discussion we introduced the service prototypes. Telling them as a story the same way we’d done in the office. The energy of the participants was palpable as you could see they were naturally were inclined to particular prototypes they wanted to explore.

To do this we asked them to capture on the prototypes themselves:

  • What worked
  • What didn’t work
  • What would they change or add

This quickly helped us test the basic precepts of the design principles and validate or discard key design elements.

After this first round we gave the participants the pens, paper and scissors and tape and asked them to design the service themselves. As designers it was a delight to see. Having had their appetite whetted with the ‘review’ and the means made accessible with the basic service component representations the participants weren’t intimidated. They were inspired!

Using the components from the original prototypes they built on them, coming up with their own user whose journey they plotted – exploring who might be involved, what tools they’d use, even giving themselves boundaries of service because it was a government service. To bring their prototypes together we asked them to:

  • Name their service – which helps drill down into what it is at essence
  • Describe it’s key features or benefits in their own language
  • Describe what they thought might be some of the challenges – especially fruitful for their take on government service boundaries.

At the end, the participants had not only given us feedback, but had also seen and felt like they had been an active part of designing a service they would one day use themselves (hopefully soon).


The value of service prototyping

In this instance the timeframe meant it was critical to not compromise on what can sometimes look to the client like ‘play’. The value of the service prototyping enabled us as the designers, with the business team, to rapidly, roughly, and cheaply; propose, make, explore, discard, enhance, learn, and extract solution options in a few hours better than any individual crafting could have achieved.

Because the team representing the business and technology sides of the service were in the room and working with the users they were part of the conversation and saw how users interacted and talked and felt about the potential service experience. This gave them a better perspective of what was to be built. Not just what policy initiative or CabSub (that’s a cabinet submission for those of you outside of the public sector) needed to be met.

  • At a practical level, the service prototyping gave us and the client clues and direction to the ultimate service design in a very short amount of time.
  • At a client and service capability level, the service prototyping activities gave the client an exposure to the type of design thinking and practice that will help them approach their work differently because now they are thinking about humans using their service, not as use cases interacting with a system.


Post-writing-This-Post Reflection

Early on in my service design career I would have said the value of service prototyping is something like “a technique that represents the most effective tool to rapidly process ideas in a collaborative way, engaging with business partners and customers.” Mostly because organisations still don’t like the idea of the user/customer being in control. But now I say, rough a service concept out, and then give the means to the users to prototype. They’ll amaze you, and the clients. And you’ll appreciate that you really can’t come up with the answers in the same way an actual user will. That said, you still have to do the service design – I ain’t saying users are designers, you’ve still got to design the service – but they and the prototypes will help you move more quickly from talk to design and towards an implementable solution. Which is the point.

What has two thumbs (down) and doesn’t care

22 September, 2012

This designer!

I recently saw Design & Thinking, the movie.

Warning: if your life changed from seeing this movie don’t read on. My life didn’t change. In fact, I’ll never get those 75 minutes back.

Some of my favourite things in the world are documentaries and design. I previously waxed lyrical and was genuinely energised in my profession when I saw Design the New Business earlier this year. In 2004 my whole design and career mindset was shifted when I saw The Deep Dive (I (used to also) love television too). I even did reviews of the BBC The Genius of Design series on this very blog. So, I don’t mind a good show about my discipline.

But this one? Not so much. I am not even going to do any background fact checking – this whole post is assumption, presumption and selfish gumption.

Here’s what it had going for it:

  • Great trailer. When I first saw it I thought 1) this looks good 2) oh dear, design as slick packaged movie, but let’s not judge too early.
  • Great design personalities. I mean, if you’re after a role call of influential voices here’s your top five-or-so voices and or companies/organisations together – and they say some good stuff.
  • The phrase ‘ambiguous problems’ – I’ve not heard it phrased that way before. I think it’s useful – amongst designers. Better than ‘wicked’.
  • Designers as solvers problems in an integrative, system-related way (I know – these are pretty weak highlights, I think I’ve even said this one before but I can’t even embellish it any more as I write)
  • The reiteration that as designers we solve problems, but not as they are originally stated. This is the ‘diagnosis’ aspect of our discipline. We ask ‘why?’ when faced with an expressed problem, then we research and prototype options to solve and re-articulate/re-frame the problem. We don’t mind being wrong and prototyping gives us the vehicle to put that into practice. Happily, in my real work we recently did this with a skeptical client and it won them over. But more on the project itself in later post.
  • When Tim Brown said something along the lines of – and I’ll completely paraphrase; after he referenced a quote by an author about being a professional author he basically said “while ‘anyone’ can be a designer, I do it for a living, so I think I might be better at it than an ‘anyone’” He was more articulate. But I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment.

Here’s where it lost me:

  • It seemed to want to elevate ‘design thinking’ to some kind of magical intersection of art and science, as the most unique problem solver for unique times. While this blog is testament to the fact that I believe design is an amazing discipline and practice, I think it is no more important or relevant or special to business/societal change (given my focus is public sector design) than business analysis, or project management, or solution architecture, or communications. It can be, given the opportunity, ‘transformative’, but I’m too personally and professionally pragmatic to believe one discipline can facilitate that alone. Even a multi-disciplined discipline.
  • If it’s supposed to represents ‘design and thinking’ it was very American-centric. I appreciate IDEO is an American company, as is Jump and AIGA, but I am not sure that I think of America as a centre of design thinking, at a real and practical, non-flashy, non-product-based level. I think of Europe, then I think of NZ and Australia.
  • If you’ve ever heard of buzzword bingo, take a card along to a screening. Before long you’ll be shouting “Ooooooh, that’s a bingo
  • The theme of societal change, big problems (the ambigious and ‘wicked’ ones) was introduced early, and then left behind and we got to hear from the director of AlliZilla vs OctoShark or something, and an actor-turned-corporate-team-building-through-cooking guy – both held up as users/appliers of ‘design thinking’ and ‘multi-disciplined’ approaches.

Where I started out hopeful and a bit excited, it just left me slightly sad (and a little bit mad) that people will see this documentary and see design and thinking through a Hollywood sheen and as a buzzwordy, flashy, ‘cool’ lifestyle and BIG THING. It’s not the design I see and do. Now, to be fair I do service design not product design – which I think was a big angle in the film, but I do get what design and thinking is and while this film is a point of view, there are better representations out there.
To finish on a positive and inspiring film here’s a video of a pig saving a goat – innovative, multi-disciplined, stated problem (goat in the water) diagnosis and quick core of the problem solved (get goat out of water), visually transcribed on film, a potential prototype for future pig-goat opportunities. Best example of design and thinking on film since Design the New Business.

*I would like to thank those who put the movie on and invited me to the screening. This post is in no way a reflection on the intent of the organisers, whose take on design I respect and support ; )

Customer Experience Map – Redux

15 July, 2012

At last I have updated the high-res version of my take on a customer experience map.

Prompted by a request for a high-res copy (a proper high-res, mind) I decided to review and update the original customer experience map I posted in June 2010, based on my original how-to customer experience map. Much time and practice has passed since I first did the original version so I took some time to reflect on what I’d do differently.

[insert pithy quote about the pain/embarrassment of looking back at naïve work and “when you know better you do better” sentiment]

I’ve done quite a few of these maps in real life now and it was a fun! (…”fun”? Is that the right word? – “fun” if it means bloody hard work, concurrently occurring with ‘ohmigod I’m never going to capture the complexity of the experience, followed quickly by ‘yeah, this is something!”)

I haven’t changed much from my original proposed content – bearing in mind it’s a public sector service focus:

  • I’ve eliminated the touchpoint qualifications (describing the nature of the information) because they’re too much to take on board, and make the map more about the delivery of the service than the experience of it.
  • While I’ve left them in the example, I don’t actually tend to do the Opportunity identifiers on the map itself anymore. Opportunities need to be put into the context of the service delivery parameters. That is, an improved experience opportunity might be great for the customer, but public sector context may mean, parameters, policy, funding, constraints just can’t cater for it. The packaged up service design (what I call the Service Design Specification) addresses all these aspects of how the service should be designed and implemented. Again, this is just a map of experience – not the design of the service.
  • One of the comments I had on the original map example was that ‘moment of truth’ was missing. I appreciate what the ‘moment’ means, but – as this is a public sector service – the ‘moment’ that leaves a lasting impression, say in the hospitality industry, just isn’t the same in a regulatory service. I have attempted to use it in a recent map, but it hasn’t resonated with the outcome the service change is seeking. I will continue to consider how it could fit, but it’s not represented here.

It’s still got a fairly dense level of content, but it is a map. Maps aren’t for reading they’re for using. And, if nothing else, the experience I’ve experienced of experience maps is that they really work when you involve clients in the development experience. And that they’re bloody hard and satisfying work.

As always, comments welcome.

A state of service design (view from the top of the world)

31 May, 2012

This top of the world!

It’s been a busy month of many dialogues, conversations, presentations, seminal decisions, great client work, painful service design moments, great service design moments. That means this post has gone through some incarnations:

  1. From love letter
  2. To surprised yet slightly reserved observation
  3. To rant (strewn with swears galore…galore I tells ya!)
  4. To laid-back reflection.

The ‘Love Letter’ Part

We Heart Service Design in the Public Sector

On May 4 the second Australian-based Service Design Conference was held in beautiful Melbourne. First off, let me just say that I have always dreamed of speaking at a service design conference. The chance to encapsulate my thinking, my experience, my style in a visual and verbal form was something I thought I’d maybe get to do one day, but didn’t actually expect until the opportunity unexpectedly presented itself in April via Steve Baty. (It shows the value of putting your voice out there, having a network, and being authentic – at least that’s my take on how me and my colleague Justin Barrie were invited to participate.)

The topic we chose was service design in the public sector. A topic I’m drawn to (see this for why I say that). The chance to speak was great. The chance to solidify thinking was even better and set me up for the coming month (and this post).

You can see the presentation and hear the audio on our DMA blog.

I’m very proud of our presentation – I like what we said, I like how we said it, I like how it looks, I liked the response, and I really do love service design in the public sector!

The ‘interested-yet-slightly-detached-observation’ bit, including edited elements of the ‘rant’ but mostly a ‘laid-back reflection’

Straight after the conference I went for a trip back home to NZ and, given most of my friends are designers, I caught up with a good number of them. It was inevitable that the topic of design, service design, and design in the public sector came up over an extraordinary amount of delicious food and beverage. I also caught up with some old managers I’ve worked with who are in charge of service design groups in a couple of public sector organisations – one with a well-established capability, one whose capability is being established (at a grand pace thanks to leveraging off the former well-established capability ; )

Because I don’t want to call out specific agencies or designers (this is my opinion piece after all and there’s a mess of commercial-in-confidence sensitivities) what follows are my observations on the state of service design practice and leadership as reflections:

  • The challenge for any in-house design capability will always be to make the case for service design – why the organisation should spend time, resource and money on research and understanding, why the organisation should involve customers and users early, why the organisation should think differently about concepts and options, why a designer’s voice is as valid as a BA or an Architect or a Project Manager (but also why the designer voice should not dominate, except to bring together all the voices in the conversation).
  • Focus on outcomes not outputs. The tangible deliverables like maps and blueprints and diagrams may help make the case for the value of service design but don’t spend a week on a draft map of the customer experience if it’s going to take your time away from actually ‘designing’ the solution – which means time spent working with the other change disciplines and people in the organisation (assuming it’s a given you’ve engaged constantly with actual customer/users). Craft the beautiful elegant artifact towards the end, but don’t think it’s good design because it looks good on the page and executives say they love it even though the design isn’t actually finished.
  • Measure, measure, measure – If you can’t tie a line of sight between what you design and recommend, what is built and delivered/implemented and what difference the designed service makes to customer and business then it’s hard to make the ongoing case for the value of service design.
  • Warning: rant portion begins: You wanna know something? Service design is hard. Fucking hard. You’re not only trying to change the way an organisation does things, you’re trying to humanise their strategy, you’re dealing with all level of customer, user and stakeholder, you’re educating your client – on how their business works, on how their business should work, and you’re doing that by doing the design work with them. If you get it right you create new thinking that results in those you work with changing the way they think. To reiterate – it’s fucking hard – but a great hard when you get it right, and you get your expectations right (see this to see my view on that).
  • If you want a service design to stick: capability building is an integral part of design practice, organisational change is an integral part of design practice. If you aren’t as focused on these parts of the service design activity than I think I’d call what you’re doing UX (see this for my views on that). That is why service design is exquisitely fucking hard at times. Rant portion ends.
  • Being seen to be ‘innovative’ and undertaking ‘transformation’ isn’t as important as you think. They may seem so at the time, but real innovation/transformation isn’t measured purely as savings or internal change; if you say you’re customer-centric the measure is by the experience of the customer (that said, the two aren’t mutually exclusive). Hearing about ‘transformation’ programmes that started in 2000 and are still ‘describing what they’re about’ is not transformation. ‘Innovating’ business process improvements to save on widget production with no real impact on the stress a citizen experiences isn’t innovating (see this or this to see what I think of innovation and transformation).
  • There seem to be three emerging takes on service design practice. This has certainly been observed in NZ, somewhat observed in Australia, and conversationally validated in a recent conversation with both New York and Melbourne-based academics:
    • UX-led (see this post on my views on this)
    • Marketing agency/advertising agency-led (see this on my view on that)
    • Institutionalised by large organisations. Think (and probably see this for my view on that).
  • Governments desire centralisation of design (at the moment). At risk of never being invited to work with certain departments (and both NZ and Australia are looking at this model) I just don’t think I believe in a cross-departmental centralised-design capability centre-of-excellence type model. I’m just going to put that out there. I think the battle over having the ‘right’ approach will homogenise what is fundamentally a creative business discipline. Like when a great British show is re-made by an American network. It just loses somethin’.  I reserve the right to change my mind on this one.

So what’s the State of Service Design from all that and who am I to comment? As just a gal, who loves the complex complicated world of service design, who has practiced and practices in both NZ and Australia – with a focus on the public sector, who cares not to generalise about ‘designers’ and what they do or don’t do, should or shouldn’t do, but observe what works and what doesn’t from a do-something-to-get-something-done perspective, I think service design’s state seems about right – growing, making a difference, creating new meaning and perspectives for complex organisations but also subject to some ego, some claim-staking and some ‘I have the right way’ posturing. So not really any different to any other discipline that’s concerned with making change happen in today’s crazy complex world.

While I didn’t want to name people directly above I do want to credit these great designers, thinkers, and conversationalists for my great May immersion: Justin Barrie, Meena Kadri, Matt Ellingson and Emma Saunders (from Empathy), Ramari Slattery (and the gang at HousingNZ), Yoko Akama, Anne-Laure Fayard, most of the speakers and people I spoke with at Service Design Melbourne.

Design research: sorting your shoe walking from your talk talking

7 April, 2012

Collage of field research

We’re currently doing field research for a pretty cool project and client – it’s government so I can’t share too much. But it’s government that potentially touches everyone and they effectively want that touch to be a gentle shoulder pat, not a punch (even though the current design represents more of a wave from the other side of the street). So to speak.

Anyways, it’s prompted me record my thinking about designing the research activity itself (there’s a whole other post about empathy). This post is specifically about ethnographically-based, or field research, and specifically in-depth interviews. I have a love/not-love relationship with field research because I know, KNOW! the best data and insights about people’s experience comes directly from talking with the people themselves. People are the experts of their own lives. But I don’t think designers are researchers. The research itself is a means to an end – it informs decisions – doesn’t make them. The outcome sought from the research is understanding in order to design from that understanding (as opposed to researchers whose outcome ends at the analysis of the research findings).

  • The love part is how sweet it is when you start getting good information and insights and you’re excited about the emerging possibilities for a solution. It’s is meeting all kinds of different people (although I maintain after 10 people you rarely get new insights – just putting that one out there). It’s also the traveling to different parts of the country and often realising how beautiful it is. New Zealand, I’m looking at you. Australia, I’m only just discovering you.
  • The not-love part is the initial stages when you’re not sure your approach is right (even when you’ve piloted it and it worked). It’s the time it takes to get into the rhythm of interviewing. And preparing and noting all the (necessary) paperwork.

I cut my teeth in design on some deep and long research studies. When I think back to 2004 when I first went out with a small team and spoke to people about who they were so we could understand them in relation to the Agency I worked for we seemingly had months. Luxury! Because I had such an excellent schooling in the approach (initially via Leslie Tergas, IIT ID alum), I consider field research a specialisation within the design discipline. That’s because it’s not just a conversation, it’s not just creating activities someone can do to help elicit information in different ways. It’s all those things plus what you’re going to do with, and how you’re going to use, that information.

My Approach to Design Research Design

My basic construct for research – separate to the myriad of appropriate rigor in terms of documentation, protocols, and useful artefacts you create along the way – is broadly as follows:

  • What do we know: from background research, from stakeholder engagement, about the user experience (think|do|use), about the service?
  • What is the research task: contextual, generative, or evaluative?
  • Why are we researching: to drive, inspire, inform?
  • What don’t we know: from all of the above
  • How could we find it out: approaches, techniques, games, [insert creative invention here]
  • Who from (and how can we find them): recruitment gurus please apply here
  • What will we do with what we discover: analysis/synthesis/prototyping iteration starts with the thinking here

There is no cut-and-paste approach to research. In fact, it is at this point that I’d say there is a wonderful opportunity for designers to indulge in innovative techniques, approaches and musing amongst themselves. An opportunity to take some time and space to answer the above questions with modicum of selfishly-creatively ‘designerliness’ (because for the rest of the time we must be collaborative and engaging).

But in terms of research types and sources this table is a useful reference for working out the research task. I can’t tell you if it has an original source because I’ve adapted the content so many times for different contexts but I believe Cheskin may have something to do with it.

Type Contextual Generative Evaluative
Data to help uncover: Business context – mapping of customers world, processes and users Unmet needs, discover new opportunities, stimulate creativity Effectiveness, optimise design,assess business potential
Research methods: Market research, PEST, Trends, Demographics Qualitative, Quantitative, Ethno-based, Participatory Qualitative, Quantitative, Evolving and validation design concepts, User testing, usability testing, user acceptance testing


  • Do I think you need to do research for every design project? Yes.
  • Ethno-based every time? No. (But do background research – every time). If you do it right and create meaningful artefacts – like experience maps, typologies, and other frameworks and prototypes, you should be able to use them to design services into the future. Until you can no longer answer the question ‘Do we know the user experience?’
  • Do I think this is the most overused collection of words in relation to research:

“To really understand people you have to walk a mile in their shoes. That means you have to take yours off first.”

  • Yes. In reality, when you go out and speak to people you need to think of them as Imelda Marcus – for they wear many shoes. And you need to find and walk in the right ones. But you need to wear your ones when you design. Your shoes matter too.

If you want more thinking on design research try these:

There are other bibliographies of Design Research – but, to be frank, I don’t look at any. I seek and find when I need to ; ) Happy for any comments to leave their favourite links.

Businessifying Design (Whating the what?)

29 February, 2012

NB: A version of this post, written with Justin Barrie, is also published at DMA/We Think

Design the new business - quotes

I recently saw ‘Design the New Business’ I’d heard about the movie for many months and finally had the opportunity thanks to Damien Kernahan from Proto Partners and the Canberra Service Design Drinks to see it.

A quick movie review

If you’ve seen ABC’s Deep Dive about IDEO and it inspired you to believe design really was a vocational pursuit in a business context beyond graphic design, Design the New Business will show you how design has evolved to help business solve new problems and deliver on opportunities by providing a perspective that traditional change or program methodologies can’t. Not that these methodologies are ineffective, but design’s point of difference is utilising:

  1. Customer experience as the driver of change activity
  2. The back and forth we call prototyping and iteration to progress towards better business outcomes.

A longer movie review

My longer take on the movie itself is that three key points resonated with me (consider some of the following as my notes from the viewing and some quotes from the film):

  • The notion of people/customer/consumer has evolved
    Customers expect authenticity from businesses as much as they expect adaptiveness in services that are interconnected with other channels, services, experiences. More and more, people aren’t alike which means traditional segmentation (which business still likes and asks for) needs new ways of describing customer ‘types’. These types matter because ROI is in brand loyalty and in real connections to and with the audience.
  • Prototyping and iteration is design’s point of difference
    Sometimes analysis isn’t enough, sometimes you need to synthesize – and this back and forth we call prototyping and iteration is how we progress in design. We have to do that because in the design space you either optimise or you evolve something without knowing upfront what the end result will be. And you must ‘fail-to-learn or you’ll maximize your risk to fail big’ (I think Alex Osterwalder said this).
    This point might seem obvious, but when you’ve operated this way for 12 years, you sometimes forget that’s not how most people, and business or change methodologies work. This was my wee revelation on the night and I’m now no longer frustrated/fascinated when people won’t pick up a pen and start capturing their thinking until they think it’s ‘perfect’.
  • It’s not systems thinking, it’s system humanizing
    Design provides a way of managing the complexity, and provides clarity to the fuzzy stuff, (fuzzy in nature, in complexity and because people are human…and some are even fuzzy). It can do this because it has the tools to guide the fail-to-learn process. Design exists in a dynamic context and needs to respond to the complex systems in which it supports. Business is one of those systems, as is government, as is society. Design must impact all these systems. It must translate and interpret need (whether at customer or citizen level) into business propositions that can be acted upon, and sustained.


Post-it's by candlelight

So to some evolved definitions

What it made me (and my biz partner Justin) think about was how we define what we do, because when we talk amongst ourselves, talk with clients, or talk with people not in the ‘biz,’ we find ourselves adapting our language, but always keeping on message with key elements. And sometimes, when we hear designers or clients speak the oft heard mantra about ‘customer first’ it just doesn’t stack up if they’re actually thinking ‘customer only’.

It also made me revisit some of the definitions I’ve posted here in the past. So taking that and the awesome power of the collaborative conversation here are the definitions that work for me as at….now!.

NB: These aren’t meant as ‘lift speeches’ – they’re more the summary of points that govern our thinking and keep us honest about what we actually want to do, and how we want to create change that actually makes a difference.

  • Service (for other designers)
    The seeking and receipt of a specific outcome of a customer/user across a range of interactions and touchpoints over time. The value of the service is as much about the quality of the experience for all the people involved (customer, service provider) as it is about the resolution.
  • Service design (for other designers)
    The conscious & creative process of crafting meaningful connections (be they tangible touchpoints and interactions, or more intangible experiences) between customer, business/provider/government goals and outcomes (be they effective and efficient operations, social good/improvement, or positive profile).
  • Service design (for clients)
    It’s an approach that helps you understand if your services are working how you want them to; and how your potential/current customers want or need them to work or evolve. The approach, which is collaborative, iterative and focuses on what people actually think, do and use, means you can make decisions on opportunities for improvement, consider how your strategy and set-up drives your efforts, and consider the impacts of any decisions you make to change will have on services, staff and customer experience, and to the way your business works.
  • Service design (for our mums, friends and strangers at parties….prefaced by asking them to name a service experience they’ve recently had)
    We work out how all the bits you see (so all the online and paper stuff, and the lady at the counter) and bits you don’t see (so the processes that help that lady do her job, and systems that help everyone else do theirs) fit together so that when you use that service the experience is good for you (which may mean you don’t even notice it), and that it’s also good for the people and systems that need to work to deliver what you need (which means everything is doing what it’s supposed to).
  • Design management
    Understanding the world of the client from the client perspective in order to guide the design process to ensure the right people work together to get the best results applying the appropriate design approaches integrated with business practice.
  • Design thinking
    Puts people as sources of experience (as thinkers, doers, users) at the centre of the problem solving process, and then collaboratively visualises, iterates, prototypes and facilitates the conversation and action in order to identify the best possible solution for the system in focus.

So there you go. As always happy for feedback or critique. And see the film if you can ; ) It’s worldwide release is 6 March 2012!

Earning my money where my mouth is

14 February, 2012

Over the years on this blog I have banged on about some topics with some regularity:

So, it is with great excitement that I announce I am now a Principal at Design Managers Australia (DMA). DMA has been around since 2003, headed up by the design-talented, raconteurish, cycle-loving, connected-connector and motivational do-er Justin Barrie. We worked together during 2011 and the kindred-design-ship just plain stuck!

What matters to DMA is:

  • Making a difference to people’s lives through services that may or may not even be noticed by them – for all the right reasons
  • Creating change that is needed and that makes things better
  • Bringing together a range of voices and disciplines who can make things happen – not just talk about it, but do it

Which is a pretty good match to what matters to me. It means I now have a design collaborator in my desire to practice service design, and make a difference at community, government, and private sector levels and at design-specialist level.

And I can do cool things like this to celebrate!

DMA: Connecting Canberra, Wellington and Cool!

PS: The above pic is full of Canberran and Wellingtonian landmarks. The reference to ‘cool!’ in the tagline is a reference to our common adjectival refrain ; )

PPS: I’ll still be blogging here, but I’ll also be blogging at DMA: We Think able to talk about real case studies and our practical service design experiences.