Service Design Toronto: Community Show and Tell

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Service design is really taking off in Toronto, with the introduction of an SDN Canada chapter, an upcoming IxDA workshop on service design and several presentations on the topic at Embrace UX in Hamilton over the past weekend. The SDTO community was out in force to kick off events for 2016. We wanted to highlight some of the work with a service design flavour that is happening locally, and we had two excellent case studies, which did just that. Over beautiful views from the LinkedIn offices on the 25th floor of 250 Yonge, we heard about two Toronto projects that are evolving design practice.

Tim Dolan of Kickframe presented with Alex Grunwald and Rob Tilley, on work they had collaborated on for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Tim’s blog post first drew our attention to the journey map that they had created, and we thought this would be a wonderful project to share with the SDTO community.

The challenge was to support the TSO in creating a digital strategy to support them in ‘transforming a 93-year old start-up. One of the challenges that service designers often encounter is that of clients thinking about themselves from within the confines of their organization – rather than being able to see things from a users point of view. The outbound marketing push for events doesn’t always match how people find events – and in this case, customer experience mapping supported the discovery of these opportunities.

TSO customer experience map

TSO customer experience map – courtesy of Tim Dolan

Tim, Alex and Rob talked about the opportunity to use customer journey mapping as a strategy tool rather than a design tool. This speaks to the flexibility in intention of service design tools – they often provide a framework for the work, which can be adapted to suit a range of needs. One of the exciting key opportunities for service design is that the non-linearity of experiences means that friction points often sit between touchpoints – and tools like journey mapping can assist us in identifying this.

Tim and Rob presenting

Margaret Fraser and Daniela Kraemer shared the work they have been doing with InWithForward, with people at the Meeting Place in Toronto. InWithForward is a social enterprise, which works with the idea that social welfare systems could move “from safety nets to trampolines”. That is to say that rather than being a minimum level support for when things go wrong, there might be ways for these services to encourage flourishing – the building of relationships, self-esteem and new possibilities.

Daniela and Margaret shared moving stories of the people that they have met through their deep ethnographic approach. This design approach works to start with people and influence practice and policy from there. People’s stories can give us great insight. Lots of people are struggling with lots of different things but trying really hard, and one of the insights from the work is that you can’t just have one intervention; you need a whole suite of interventions.

Margaret and Daniela of InWithForward

A practical takeaway from the presentation was the reminder not to overwhelm your co-design participants! Bringing a whole series of ideas to people in these sessions can be too much. Striking a good balance of giving people something to respond to (a prototype, a co-design activity) and making the session feel manageable is key.

The Q&A discussion after the presentations brought up lots of thoughtful questions. How does service design reveal the gaps and opportunities? What does it mean to do self-care in the context of this type of work? How do these projects get funded and measured? How do you make both the backstage and front stage processes and interventions line up?

For us, some of the key overlaps and themes that emerged were the importance of listening – for the people involved to tell their stories – be it members at the Meeting Place or staff at the TSO. This might be why designers talk a lot about ‘empathy’. Whatever we call it, it was clear from these two case studies that people feeling heard is powerful, and a great first step in any project. A further theme was that of the gaps and frictions – where are things falling between touchpoints or interventions? What does qualitative data tell us that other formal measures don’t? The need for ways to collect, understand and value qualitative data continues to be a challenge in the service design space.

We are very grateful to Tim, Alex, Rob, Margaret and Daniela for sharing their work with us. Big thank you to our volunteers, our sponsor Usability Matters, and to LinkedIn and Lynda.com for the event space. Looking forward to our next event! Hope to see you there.