Service Design Toronto Drinks January Edition

Kicking off a year of Service Design Toronto in 2014, I was excited to see a great turn out for the first event of the year. A bunch of new and familiar faces braved the frigid temperatures for an evening of chatting, refreshments and two micro-presentations.

Some of the conversations I participated in were around process and studio practices. Design is not a one size fits all activity, and there are a range of ways to approach things across companies, from boutique agencies to more corporate environments to designers in house at start ups. Interestingly, two people mentioned how their initial engagement at a company had started as a narrower role, for example pure visual design, but had grown to encompass a wide range of activities such as UX, research and testing. Reflecting on this, I thought about how the value of design is often something of a progressive disclosure. To many it is not immediately apparent that design is about more than ‘making it pretty’, but over time the immense value of design activity as a way of creating intentional, seamless experiences becomes apparent.

Which reminds me of the Sir Jony Ive quote: “Design isn’t just the way something looks. It’s the whole thing, the way something actually works, on so many different levels. Ultimately, of course, design defines so much of our experience. I think there’s a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. It’s about bringing order to complexity.” 

Michael and I touched on this in our micro-presentation, “Service Design 101”. The discipline can be seen as a sort of post-discipline or meta-discipline, encompassing many different fields, such as user experience, industrial design, computer science, human factors and ergonomics… the list goes on! Service design shifts the focus away from discreet products and towards services – complex, holistic systems that encompass many touchpoints and products. We looked at this in our recent post defining service design.

Another question that commonly arises is about the difference between UX and service design. Oliver King from UK company Engine has said, “One designs the interface of the experience and the other the service and organization behind it.” I’ll let you guess which is which! Michael and I talked about how service design is holistic, while UX tends to focus on one touchpoint at a time. Service design also approaches cross channel experiences or journeys from multiple points of view, while UX tends to focus on the user perspective. Finally, UX tends to deal primarily with digital touchpoints, while a service design project may or may not include digital touchpoints or channels.

One challenge that frequently occurs is that many large corporations have a channel-oriented structure, meaning that different touchpoints like web, mobile, customer service people and physical stores exist in silos, isolated from each other. The problem created is this: customers experience a service or brand horizontally across silos, rather than in the vertical organizational buckets. Service design uses tools like customer journey mapping, swimlane maps and service blueprints to take a look at what happens back and front stage in a service, and how to better align channels to break down silos.

So who is using these methodologies? Service Design Toronto member John Di Palma presented based on his Masters thesis work on Service Design Emergence, and identified organizations working in this way. He explained how service design as a practice has developed from many different angles, including industrial design, UX and marketing. Service design has evolved as a discreet practice that is not just new jargon and buzz words, but rather a distinct approach which can be appropriate for certain projects. Companies like Adaptive Path, Designit, and Doberman have come to their service design offering from different paths, but these methodologies are now core to their approach.

If all of this is as exciting and interesting to you as it is to me, check out Global Service Jam, happening in March 2014. This weekend event will give participants the chance to practise service designing. The Toronto Jam is organized by members of the service design community here and is a great place to whet your appetite. Check it out and sign up!