Reading up on service design research

Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

For fun on holiday, I started reading recently-published service design dissertations that are openly available on the internet. I owe Johan Blomkvist a debt of gratitude for the picture he published on Twitter that got me started:

Here is the list the studies I am exploring, including  some suggestions from Fabian Segelström , in alphabetical order:

Blomkvist, J. (2014). Representing Future Situations of Service: Prototyping in Service Design Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, Dissertation No.618. Linköping, Sweden: Linköping University Electronic Press.

Lee, J.J. (2012). Against Method: The portability of method in Human-Centered Design. PhD Dissertation. Helsinki, Finland: Aalto University.

Secomandi, F. (2012). Interface Matters: Postphenomenological perspectives on service design. PhD thesis. Delft, Netherlands. Delft University of Technology.

Segelström, F. (2013). Stakeholder Engagement for Service Design: How service designers identify and communicate insights. PhD thesis. Linköping, Sweden: Linköping University Electronic Press.

Vaajakallio, K. (2012). Design Games as a tool, a mindset, and a structure. PhD Dissertation. Helsinki, Finland: Aalto University.

Wetter-Edman, K. (2014). Design for Service: A framework for articulating designers’ contribution as interpreter of users’ experience. PhD thesis. Gothenburg, Sweden: ArtMonitor University of Gothenburg.

So far I have read Blomkvist, whose kappa on methodology was extremely helpful, and Segelström, whose studies on design ethnography  and participant observation of service design practice  helped me better distinguish anthropological and design ethnography  and offer a very useful process description for how service design consultancies work in practice. I will share more thoughts in the coming weeks..

Thanks to Jeff Sussna for pushing me to compile this list. If you know of any other cutting edge researchers in the field, please let me know.

On The Experience Economy

Reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

What does street theatre look like in your workplace? (Photo: July Pasterello)
What does street theatre look like in your workplace? (Photo: July Pasterello)

I decided to read Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy (1999/2011) because it was frequently cited in Peter Benz’s recent collection on Experience Design.

Here,  Joseph  Pine introducing the concept of economic progression, which is at the heart of the The Experience Economy:

This theory makes for an entertaining business anecdote — the other famous one in the book is the fact that people are very happy to pay €17 for an expresso to sit amidst  St. Mark’s Square in Venice —  but I question the underlying model of economic development. (Thank you, Mary Bryson and Erica McWilliam for helping me to learning to question taken for granted concepts like development.) Only towards the end of the text do Pine and Gilmore point to business models that are social- or value-driven rather than simply capitalist in focus.

Pine and Gilmore’s text has lots to offer service and experience designers who are developing service- and experience-based business models. In fact, in the later parts of the book, the authors present the idea of transformation-focused business. Orginally written at the turn of the 21st century, this book resonates with transformative learning theory, which was at the peak of its popularity around the same time.

Pine and Gilmore have a penchant for models built around 2×2 matrices,  and they devote an early chapter to aspects of effective experience. Personally, I prefer Grimaldi’s adaptation of Desmet and Hekkert’s experience design framework because it is more flexible . Overall this book now seems a bit dated, having been surpassed by social innovation and the Internet of Things. What is lacking for me is serious critique. I found myself pining  for Ian Bogost’s amazing essay “Welcome to Dataland” as I read Pine and Gilmore’s retelling of the history of Disney experience design.

The chapter I like the most is entitled “Performing to Form”, which makes the argument that workers can draw on four classic forms of theatre to craft and hone authentic workplace performances:

  1. Improv Theatre
  2. Platform Theatre
  3. Matching Theatre
  4. Street Theatre

Pine and Gilmore spend a lot of time looking at improv and street theatre. There is no question that improv remains a popular method for business to respond to dynamic and emergent conditions. I’ve toyed with reading some of the more recent popular titles like Yes, And.. or Do Improvise, but would rather play with it as an experimental method to prototype service experiences. The most fascinating sections  of the chapter were Pine and Gilmore’s analysis of street theatre, drawing extensively on Sallly Harrison-Pepper’s study of street performers in Washington Square,  Drawing a Circle in the Square. The point they make is that regardless of where you work and what you do, we can all strive to  cultivate performances adaptable yet thoroughly rehearsed.

What do street theatre or improv look like in you workplace?

The Design Journal Special Issue on Service Design

Reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

Daniela Sangorgi and Sabine Junginger have edited a special issue of The Design Journal on Emerging Issues in Service Design.

Taken as a whole, this special issue contributes valuable and critical perspectives to the service design community.

Through conceptual and empirical studies of particular service design initiatives, the authors explore a range of important questions that service designers worldwide are facing:

  • How can an anthropological view of service practices usefully inform conceptions of co-design and co-production? (Blomberg and Darrah, 2015)
  • How do “organizational design legacies” frame and impact the kinds of change outcomes that service design can and cannot produce? (Junginger, 2015)
  • How might service design unpack place-making to understand community? (Predville, 2015)
  • What conditions and relations impact the success of experience-based co-design in the public sector? (Donetto et. al, 2015)
  • How do “fragile relations” amongst partners in cross-organization and cross-sectoral service network impact service design initiatives? (Hyvärinen, Lee, and Mattelmäki, 2015)
  • How can local service design initiatives scale across large geographical areas (Morelli 2015)

What stood out for me as I was reading these papers was the need for service designers to address power relation amongst partners and stakeholders at the outset of any service design initiatives. I was reminded of Wenger-Trayner et. al‘s call for system convenors to carefully design early interactions amongst  networks of collaborators and to openly address power differentials. The papers that stood out most to me were Blomberg and Darrah’s exploration of what anthropology can offer service design, Junginger’s analysis of how existing organizational design practices (however tacit) shape and in some cases thwart service design initiatives, and Moretti’s case studies on how service design initiatives can scale.

Hyvärinen, Lee, and Mattelmäki’s exploration of “fragile relations” offers useful ideas for public sector partnerships with private sector organizations. What sticks with me is the idea that the bureaucracy of the public sector inhibits progress in complex service design initiatives and colours other participants perceptions of whether an initiative might succeed.

Morelli (2015) makes the point that the measure of a service design network at scale is not the number of users who engage with a platform but rather  the number of “circles” or communities it spawns. This insight is relevant in social learning circles as a way to figure out how best to measure an initiative’s impact at scale.

What this special issue reveals for me is the complexity of service design. Lauren Currie, Wim Rampen, Fabien Segelstrom and others on Twitter are absolute correct when they playfully commented recently that there is more to Service Design than workshops, touchpoints,  or digital or even design. Indeed, I am left pondering how service design is also a field at the front end of systems and organizational change that extends learning and development beyond the scope of the individual or an organization, to systems concepts like communities and regions.

If buildings can learn (cf. Stuart Brand) and organizations can learn, then how can service networks and other assemblages learn as well?

Enough philosophizing. Get you hands on the special issue and share your observations and insights.

On Frame Innovation

Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

Framed (Photo: Darrel Burkett)
Framed (Photo: Darrel Birkett)

Kees Dorst’s Frame Innovation (2015) centres around a methodology and model for framing problems.

The most compelling part of this book were the varied case studies, which grounded the methods and principles underlying the model in concrete examples. Also, Dorst bases his method and model in empirical studies of expert designers and how they address problem situations.

Frame Innovation will interest service designers working in the public sector or with government because many of the problems that Dorst explores in frame innovation address problem situations in public spaces or in local government interactions with the public. For example, one example that surfaces multiple times in the text is the case of King’s Cross in Sydney, Australia, and how, through the project, the participants were able to reframe the situation from an entertainment district as a centre of crime to an entertainment district AS a music festival.

Watch Dorst explain this example in more detail:

Dorst shies away from prescribing processes. In fact, he devotes an entire chapter to a critique of rationality particularly in relation to problem-solving methodologies, and  like Thomas Wendt and Dan Hill challenges rational-technical design thinking. The brainiac that I am, I loved Dorst’s detours into philosophy and into the difference between beginners and experts.

My takeaways from reading this book will be the nine-step model Dorst proposes, the particular propositional approach he suggest for describing paradoxes at the heart of complex design situations and potential frames. I am reminded of transformative learning theory (Mezirow et. al). If one successfully innovates the frame through which we or others experience a situation, how we see the situation may be radically transformed.

Note: Thanks to Thomas Wendt for recommending this book on Twitter.

 

On Gray’s The Connected Company

Reading time: 2 – 2 minutes

Dave Gray‘s The Connected Company (2012) is an easy read for anyone who wants to explore networked, social business models and work.

What I appreciated most was Gray’s ability to make important, complex, academic concepts like service-dominant logic, platforms, and networks accessible for a broad business audience. For anyone wrestling with the challenge of explaining to clients what it means to put service and social learning at the heart of a business venture or coaching others to design service-based business models, Grey offers valuable examples and explanations.

The Connected Company cites and interprets examples from many leading service-based enterprises like Nordstrom, Zappos, Amazon, and GE. It draws on popular business thinkers and concepts from the Harvard Business Review and leading design ideas like Stuart Brand’s theory of shearing layers.

The idea that seems to be sticking with me is the notion that connected companies finds ways to “absorb variety”, to enable customers, users and internal teams to pursue multiple aims, goals and intentions simultaneously. I am oversimplifying, and probably misrepresenting the idea, but designing to “absorb variety” and learn from variety is at the heart of the educational challenge that universities like the one I work at face and at the heart of what it means to learn, too (cf. Ference Marton).

Those of you who work on learning and development within organizations will enjoy Gray’s ideas on individual and organizational learning. There was plenty of resonance between Gray’s ideas and Wenger-Traynor et. al’s concept of navigating boundaries in a landscape of practice and addressing boundaries between a multiplicity of practice communities.

If you are looking for models of self-governing, user- and customer-centric business, then you will like Grey’s work.

On Learning in Landscapes of Practice

Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

I just finished my first read through Etienne Wenger-Trayner, Mark Fenton-O’Creevy, Steven Hutchinson, Chris Kubiak, and Beverley Wenger-Trayner’s new edited collection, Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identities, and practice-based learning (2014).

I’ve long been a fan of Etienne Wenger-Trayner’s theoretical and anthropological work on learning. I owe my colleague Barbara Berry a debt of gratitude for telling me about this book and for pointing me to Wenger-Trayner’s recent lecture on the content of this book.

This book is essential reading for anyone who espouses “social learning” in the industry learning and development community. Unlike many current popular approaches, Wenger-Trayner et al. offer ideas that are practical and, at the same time, based thoughtful, seminal scholarship on learning.

Wenger-Trayner et al. offer those of us who work with organizations comprised of diverse groups a whole new vocabulary and approach for facilitating change and enabling people to work at, across, and through boundaries in the organizational and societal contexts.

Professional coaches will find value the ideas on identity in social landscape

People in the higher education sector should pay attention to this text because in several places it at addresses classic challenges that universities face like students’ transition into and through higher education, and, more importantly, the tricky relationship between academic learning and work. This book would be useful for student services specialists, academic developers,  and university administrators alike.

The chapters in this book on systems convening will interest experience designers and design researchers who practice strategic design or systems design with large groups  and use methods like design charettes or other community engagement approaches. I wonder whether the framework of ideas that Wenger-Trayner et al. present around identity, multimembership and boundaries might also extend current perspectives on product and service experience design by adding a sociocultural dimension to the list of factors to consider when designing an experience or interaction. Also the landscape framework may offer systems and service designers new ways of thinking about ecosystem mapping as considering multimembership and circulating regimes of competence might reveal new value flows and relationships.

Service Innovation Handbook (Kimbell, 2015)

Reading time: 2 – 2 minutes

Lucy Kimbell’s Service Innovation Handbook offers different value than most popular texts on service design. Like classics in the field like This is Service Design Thinking or Experience Design,  Kimbell grounds the book in rich case studies and particular how-to methods, including templates and worked examples. But what differentiates Kimbell’s text is that she prefaces the case studies and methods sections with solid, rich evidence-based introductions to the theory and research underlying service innovation. In particular, Kimbell doesn’t shy away from addressing service-dominant logic, boundary objects, or progressive approaches to outcomes and assessment. 

 Another useful feature of the book is that it focuses on the very front end of service innovation. It shares some similarity to Terry Pinheiro’s The Service Startup:Design Gets Lean, but Kimbell’s methods are more thoughtfully interconnected and less complex. Like the dSchool’s Make Space, Kimbell’s methods include how-to equipment, but she also included a work example for a sample case that threads throughout the text.  

Kimbell’s blend of theory, cases, and methods is a key strength and reminds me of Sam Ladner’s Practical Ethnography or Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context.

But a copy for your methods shelf and one to share with design clients who want to go all in.

What is your favourite handbook on service innovation or design? What is your prefered blend between theory, cases, and methods?

On Experience Design: Concepts and Case Studies

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

In the wake of reading Thomas Wendt’s post-phenomenological exploration of experience design, I picked up Peter Benz’s edited collection Experience Design: Concepts and Case Studies.

The collection offers a wide-ranging set of essays, research articles, and case studies. What I enjoyed most about the collection was the range of contexts it explores: everyday micro-interactions with commonplace objects like a tea kettle (Grimaldi), urban public spaces (Rajendran, Walker and Parnell), eating situations (Sommer et al.), and festivals (Strandvad and Pederson). Most of the studies were short enough to be read in a brief sitting, so after the deep dives that Thomas Wendt and Andrew Hinton’s Understanding Context offered me, this collection offered a fast-paced, high-level survey.

I’ve already started experimenting with one of frameworks presented and extended in the book: Grimaldi’s adaptation of Desmet and Hekkert’s “Framework of Product Experience”, which proposes that experience can vary on four dimensions:

  • aesthetic experience
  • cognitive experience
  • emotional experience
  • narrative experience

I’m starting to experiment with using these dimensions as a point of departure in conversations about designing learning experiences.  The categories are intuitive, and, in retrospect, I realize that aesthetic experience includes interactions with objects, things and other material elements in the learning setting.

Rajendran et al.’s chapter on how people experience urban public settings prompted me to wonder about how learning might be orchestrated in new and novel ways in the very constrained setting of large, front-facing lecture halls. Might there be creative, inexpensive ways of creating spaces within the room? Many years ago, I interviewed SFU mathmatics education professor Peter Liljedahl and he shared an anecdote about how he uses construction tape to direct student flows. This chapter also probes why people value particular spaces.

The final chapter that has stuck with me is Tara Mullaney’s case study of her design education intervention to disrupt design students’ tendency to adopt a problem-solving mindset rather than to search for transformative solutions to existing experiences. Working in the context of transforming the interaction between a bank and it customers, Mullaney had student do a one day design sprint to externalize an initial complete design and then mid-project had the group collectively ideate alternative concepts to interweave a personal finance and banking concern.  I appreciated how this chapter questioned the dominant logic of observational and user research. It made me wonder how collective brainstorming across disciplinary and educational knowledge domains (e.g.workplace business practice + higher education) might produce learning experience designs that transform learning experiences.

There is a lot of rich material in this collection and I anticipate returning to the first section on phenomenology and other theoretical perspectives over time.

What are you reading on experience design and how has it shaped your practice?

Thomas Wendt’s Design for Dasein

Reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

Thomas Wendt’s Design for Dasein was an affirming book for me to read. The text sits at the interface of many of my passions: continental philosophy, design, literary theory, learning and discernment, service, embodiment.

When I was in graduate school enacting the flậneur, I read David Sudnow’s amazing account of learning Jazz improvisation,  Ways of the Hand, which was my introduction to phenomenology.  Don’t ask me why I read that book or how I came across it. At the time, I was following my curiosity. Around the same time, and thanks in large part to two remarkable seminars with Mary Bryson, I was exposed to the work of Bruno Latour, Yrgo Engstrom, Brain Massumi, Elizabeth Ellsworth, and Dorothy Smith. Towards the end of my time at UBC, I delved into the literature on education and embodiment and affect theory. (Silvan Tomkins is still my favourite thinker from affect theory in particular.) What ties all this reading together, I can now see, are concerns centred around around the design of experiences, particularly learning experiences, and the assemblage of human and non-human actants into webs of significance. Wendt reviews Heidegger’s foundational concepts on design and technology and extends his framework into some wicked, contemporary post-phenomenology thinkers and concepts like Don Idhe’s thought on multistability and the difference between objects and things. Overall, Wendt’s text has helped me to is to integrate disparate intellectual threads from my past and to point me into some new directions.

What I appreciate about this book is that contextualizes service design in relation to other design fields like experience design, user experience design, and industrial design, and it offers a critical, balanced perspective on design thinking.

Design for Dasein is  generating a lot of talk on Twitter amongst designers and researchers I respect. Others are better placed to position its contribution to design theory and practice that I. But I admire Wendt for resisting the trend in design books to focus on rational-technical, how-to methods  or case studies. Instead, Wendt has written a book that offers insights that can inform academics, design research, and practitioners alike.

Top 5 Books of the Year

Reading time: < 1 minute I read voraciously. I've collected the top five books that made the most impact on me professionally and personally in 2014 on a Pinterest Board. Here they are in no particular order! Follow David’s board 2014 Top 5 Books of the Year on Pinterest.

What book made the most impact on your professional work this year?