Archive for ‘experience design’

March 16, 2010

describing journeys as narrative

I’m trying to put together some idea about using a narrative approach to service design, and in particular I am trying to understand if we can use this approach to describe uers’ experience when approaching a service.

I found this description of the characteristics of a narrative on edutechwiki (according to Jean-Michel Adam’s definition)

  • a narrative involves a succession of actions (a description of a landscape is not a narrative);
  • a narrative involves at least one character, even if this character is not human (animal, object);
  • a narrative concerns a transformation from one initial state to a final state;
  • Unity of action: the actions is organized into a bigger unit, which forms a whole.
  • Causality: actions are causing other actions. Actions are not just following each other but are a consequences of each others.
  • Final evaluation: a narrative intends to exhibit a point of view, either explicitely (in the morale) or implicitely. In that sense, a narrative is a communication device.

Can a use case (or what many call “the user’s journey” be considered as a narrative, on the basis of this definition?

I hope someone will see this post and give me some feedback

April 6, 2009

Help finding scenarios

I’m organising a project on tracking systems for elderly people. The scenario is as follow:

Elderly people, their relatives, friends and assistance personnel living in a specific area can carry a GPS device (it maybe their own mobile phone) which make it possible to visualise their position on a map (maybe google maps). They can also send short messages as in Twitter or Google Latitude. The visualisation may be possible both on a mobile phone screen or on a computer at home, possibly using applications like facebook (or any other application that support any kind of social interaction).

I’m trying to figure out how this scenario could define new services for 

  • functional use (i.e. telemedicine, assistance services, ask for help)
  • Persona use (i.e. reassurance when living alone)
  • Social networking (i.e. inviting people for lunch, going out for a walk)


So, this is a call for contribution: any idea about how to use this opportunity?

I promise that I will publish a list of all the possible scenarios on this blog. We may also think of an award for the best idea, but if I promise for instance a trip to Aalborg I’m not sure I will have too many contributions.

December 7, 2008

Service design: what’s next and what’s going on now?

We had a very interesting conference on service design a couple of weeks ago, in Amsterdam. It was not the first, but it was clear that we are still at the very early stage of the definition of service design as a discipline (from the academic perspective) and as a fully defined professional competence, from the perspective of professional design studios. I started writing this post with the intention of reflecting on what’s next, but I should probably reflect on what’s going on right now.

The evidence that we are still at the earliest phase is that everyone is trying to find a definition of service design. The research of a definition is, in my opinion, disorienting and sometimes misleading. Of course it is perfectly legitimate, and in fact I keep reading messages in mailing lists about much more “mature” disciplines (e.g. industrial design) asking questions about definition of the discipline (in some industrial design lists this question comes out every second month and triggers never-ending discussions). However the definition of the competence and area of influence of industrial design is quite well defined and solid and such questions are not changing it too much, whereas the lack of a background in service design makes the discussion about the definition a time-demanding (and consuming) activity that many practitioners and academic, me included, would like to avoid, so that more time is available to work on cases, methods and tools.

I don’t want to dismiss the discussions whether service design relates to interaction design, or experience design or industrial design, this is a very interesting discussion and in fact I think that it would be stupid to ignore the inputs and the methods those disciplines can provide to service design. However I believe the most important think to do in this moment is to “learning by doing”, thus collecting methods, tools, experiences from whatever discipline, including social studies, anthropology, economics, engineering, etc, and generate a toolbox for service design to operate on concrete cases. In other words I feel the need for an “operative paradigm” on service design. The term operative paradigm is taken from Arbnor and Bjerke (Arbnor and Bjerke 1997); I explain this term with the metaphor of the plumber’s toolbox: the plumber uses the various tools in his toolbox according to his own needs: sometimes he needs a spanner and sometimes a screwdriver. Both spanner and screwdriver are also used by electrician and other professions, but the plumber doesn’t care about who else uses those tools, he just uses them, adapting the tools to the problem he has to solve. An operative paradigm is a toolbox including methods and tools that others may have developed in other disciplines. As far as such tools can be adapted to solve a problem in service design, they are meaningful and should be used. Sometimes the way we use those tools is not exactly the same way other disciplines would use them. Ethnographers, for instance, use video observation for analyzing people, whereas service designers use it as a starting point to change the way people behave. As any other designer, service designers work with such tools as “bricoleurs”. Ethnographer would be horrified by the way we use video observations for instance. But we use them anyway, as far as they are effective and produce some result. I personally experienced several negative reviews to my funding applications to social studies research councils, when I presented my research proposals. The common answer was that what I was proposed was a project, not a scientific research! But I found that this “non-scientific” work, has given me some results and I’m trying to find a way to put them in my personal toolbox.

What’s next part 1

So, to answer the question “what’s next?” I would say that a very first task is to create this toolbox, possibly using cases (I expect professionals to contribute in this sense) and methods, provided by researchers and academic studies. We have seen some good tools for our toolbox in the conference in Amsterdam, but I think that much more tools should be added, to deal with other tasks in service design.

What’s next part 2

Another consideration about “what’s next” concerns the question of industrialization of services. What we have seen at the conference was a sort of “craftsmanship state” of service design: each case was a single one, very localized, very much related to the context and the actors participating to it. Localisation and personalization of services are in fact what makes service relevant in the age of mass customization. In fact I would argue that service would possibly bring us beyond mass customization, towards highly personalized solutions. However I also think there is a need to investigate some of the aspects coming from the tradition of industrial design. Industrial design started when someone translated the knowledge in the craftsman’s brain into drawings and codified signs (blueprints) that could transfer this knowledge to others, therefore making this knowledge reproducible. Talking about the industrialisation of service means considering how local and highly customised solutions could be translated from one context to another, from one individual to another. This is not an academic speculation, this is a practical question. Working on individual solutions would be very expensive for any business, if they could not find a way to re-use the same knowledge from something else. With industrial production companies where reusing this knowledge as embedded in products, with the result that the same product could be sold to many different people. In service design the knowledge should be embedded into service activities, procedures, journeys (the most used term in the conference). The result of the industrialisation of services is that the same knowledge, capabilities, skills, interactions, could be proposed in different contexts, although the final product would not be standardised.

The service blueprint is of course the main tool we can use for industrialising services, however the blueprint we have seen so far are just focusing on the individual experience. The mechanism that would make the underlying knowledge reproducible in other contexts or to other individual is still unclear. So this is what I hope to see more insights in the next future.



Arbnor, I. and B. Bjerke (1997). Methodology for creating businesss knowledge. Thousand Oaks, Calif. ; London, Sage.


May 14, 2008

A brilliant blog on experience and service design

Adam Lawrence has a very interesting blog on experience and service design. I found his example on experience design very interesting: if you sit in a train and hear the voice of the service guy selling coffee you probably do not react, unless you really need a coffee. But one minute later, when you can smell the coffee of the passenger in the next seat, who ordered a coffee you desperately desire to get one, too. But when you call the guy he is gone already!!! Passengers needs to be prompted somehow to the service. The experience starts before the service.

Another interesting post from the same blog is the director chair exercise. you take a member of the design team and you nominate him/her as the director, than you nominate one member as the customer and a third one as the service attendant. the director has to design the interaction on the basis of the behaviour of the other two acting the service. Of course it requires that the customer behave very honestly…