I’m just back from an interesting trip to Finland, where I met a lot of people that have done the history of service design (e.g. Prof Birgitte Mager) and who will make the next history of this new discipline, such as my friend Redjotter and Satu Miettinen. The occasion was a workshop organised by Satu Miettinen and Kuopio Academy of Design.
The first day was mainly a seminar with Prof Mager and many other very interesting speakers; the second and third day was organised in 3 parallel workshops on different service design themes. I was particularly impressed by the organisation of the workshop on the hotel experience (for the use of personas and touch points, very well planned) and the use of the concept of journey (but I call it routine), to describe the average day of some of the actors, in the workshop on healthcare.
I also visited some colleagues at the Joensuu University of Applied Arts. In both cases I had a chance to expose my idea about service design as something that should not be just the design of the “front office”, as implicitely suggested by the idea of Experience design. I believe that if designers run the risk to get stuck, once again, in the position of “decorators”. The idea that product designers are just good at decorating the surface of products that have been technically defined by someone else is far from being antiquate. I believe that the idea that designer should just look at services as experience is more or less the parallel of this position in service design. I thing engineers and managers, who now claim their “ownership” on service design, would be very happy if we, designers accepted the idea that service desgin be just related to a series of human intervention to make the fron office more acceptable for users. But I cannot accept this role. I think we should work on the “mechanism” of a service, that means working on the organiational structure, on the technological infrastructure, and even on the business aspects of the service.
Well the reaction to this position have been positive in general, but a couple of comments struck me more: one of my colleague called me “engineer”, that implicitely means that he associated me with a sort of “machinistic” or even tayloristic idea about desgning services, nothing farther from my intention. Another comment, this time from a business professor, was that, seen from the perspective I propose, service design is boring. I may agree with this last comment, in the sense that the technical aspects of service desgin may imply less emotional involvement. However, given my whort past as an Architect and designer, I must say that I found the technical part sometimes challenging and even interesting!
However those comments, and especially the second, left me with the doubt: can service design be boring? If so, do we risk to make this discipline less “sexy” and therefore to loose students in the coming courses of service design? And above all, should we bother about this (And this is not just a rethorical question, I’m really asking this to myself)?