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What and When? A visual synthesis of service design methods and the phases for implementation


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This paper was presented in September 2012 in the International Conference on Materiality and Knowledge in Nottodem, Norway.

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What and When? A visual synthesis of service design methods and the phases for implementation

  1. 1. What and When? 1 (14)What and When?A Visual Synthesis of Service Design Methods and the phases forImplementing themSalgado, MarianaAhvenainen, MirjaLaurea University of Applied SciencesThis paper presents a set of methods, instantiated as "info-cards", to help guide designprocesses. The derived methods are based on interviews with, and subsequent design-feedback from design-researchers focusing on service design. Our focus was to find a setof methods that describe and aid different key design process phases. The methods wereinstantiated as six cards; physical boundary objects to open design processes anddiscussion.We describe possible uses of the cards in learning, research and developmentenvironments. Also, we compare our cards to other design research methods-cards.The uses of our method-cards are multi-fold. They open discussions of design-methods,their characteristics, possibilities and limitations. In doing so they are differently relevantat different levels of design. They introduce beginners to design methods, including thepublic, and, they open up design processes for discussion and analysis with designteams, as well as to co-deciding users. To aid co-deciding users in design processes, thecards help share understandings of design processes and methods, enabling users tofurther understand the realm of possibilities and be more informed in helping find relevantco-determined paths through design processes.KEYWORDS: service design, methods, design process, boundary objects,visualizationsIntroductionThis paper is based on the material gathered for thesis work carried out in theUser Centered Design MBA, at the Kerava unit of Laurea University of AppliedSciences. Our main research question was, what methods are currently used inservice design processes, and when are these methods are applied during thedesign process? In order to answer this question, we produced a set of cards thatare a kind of visual synthesis of the results.Our interest in discussing methods comes from the impression, that the amountof user-centred design methods is confusing for people not familiar with them.This was the case for students and professionals with a Business background.ServDes2012 paper submission
  2. 2. What and When? 2 (14)Researchers have tried to classify methods achieving different results (see forexample Tassi, 2008 or UsabilityNet, 2006). As Service Design methods are inconstant development by many different fields of knowledge, understanding boththe design process and the multitude of service design methods has been felt asa challenge.In certain cases, participants of the design process and students were lostamongst the possibilities of the methods and their characteristics. In other casesthey had difficulties understanding the possible outcomes of certain method. Inaddition, during this research process we discovered that even designers haveproblems navigating the sea of methods. This is why we decided to create a setof cards that works like an inspirational artefact that bring ideas on the most usedmethods in service design, rather than try produce a exhaustive classification ofall possible methods.For reference and inspiration, we have reviewed other sets of similar cards, suchas the ones created by Ideo (2002) and Moritz (2005, pp. 106-107). Amongst thereviewed cards, the main goal was to present methods, rather than linking themwith a particular phase in the design process. Ideos cards set includes 51 cards.Each introduces one method. They are an inspiring tool which might have thesame functionality as ours: working as a reminder of the possibilities. The info-cards presented in this paper do not merely present the methods, but link themwith a particular phase of the design process. The metaphors are a reminder ofthe phase in question. On the other hand, each visual representation of the Ideocards, gives material for better understanding the method. A further difference isthat the Ideo cards are sold commercially while ours are a free online resource.Design work is characterized by gathering and mobilizing a great quantity ofmaterials in different forms (Binder et al, 2011, 79). Designers seek for materialityin their practice, even when their work is focus into the digital world. This is whywe believe that our cards could serve the needs of beginners not familiar withdesign processes and also to participants that do not necessary have had designeducation. The type of visualizations we have chosen for our cards relate to thevisuals that business experts and engineers are using at the moment. We seethese cards as a compass that could help all the participants in the designprocess map possibilities, appropriate these methods, and make more informedchoices. They are a creative synthesis of research results. There are six cardsServDes2012 paper submission
  3. 3. What and When? 3 (14)and each of them represents a design phase. In many design processes thephases are not clear and the roadmap for going through them is not linear.Although this fact does add some challenge for answering our researchquestions, we believe that a deep understanding of these phases has tonecessary relate to the methods involved in each of them. But this classificationdoes not pretend to be extensive taking in consideration all the possible methods,but just merely inspirational.Drawing and ThinkingResearch in Service Design has lately been increasingly implemented qualitativemethods. Therefore, to use thematic interviews within a small but selected groupof experts it was considered a suitable method for answering the researchquestion. At the same time it seems to us natural to ask them to draw whilethinking, as they are designers and they tend to do both activities at the time.Thematic interviews were done to four design-researchers in the area. Theirbackground and level of experience within the field of service design varied.These interviews focused on innovative service design methods but started withsome background questions about the designers and questions about servicedesign process: 1) Which methods could be selected in developing a service?, 2)In which phases of the service design process certain methods could be used?(Ahvenainen 2011, p.10).For discussing about phase, the model presented by Stefan Moritz (2005) wasproposed. Though, the model is not well known within designers, it is still in ouropinion a good one because of its simplicity and clearness. Moreover, of theinterviewed designers, even those unfamiliar with the model, found it easy towork with. Moritzs model (2005, p.123) brings several service design processestogether. The six phases Moritz suggests present a sufficiently detailedexplanation of service design process requirements.During the interviews, drawing was used for visualizing service design processand phases. Particularly in this paper, the aim is to give an account on ourdiscussions regarding when in the design phases the methods were implementedand why. We do not analyse why certain methods are considered and others aretaken out of the selection, but all the methods mentioned in the interviews arepresent in the cards.ServDes2012 paper submission
  4. 4. What and When? 4 (14)The visualizations that interviewers made were helpful for establishing outunderstanding that our research questions were not going to be answered onlywith words, but also with images. One of the interviewees said: ”The process evolves in the same way that the ISO-standard describes it. At the beginning there is a design problem and then there are certain circles of iteration. For example we can interview users at the beginning. From these interviews we can get some preliminary idea of what the solution could be. Afterwards, we do a meeting within designers where we develop this preliminary idea. In a later phase we can call the users to participate and discuss with us possible solutions. We continue in this way and at a certain point a prototype appears. Again we call the users for another iteration cycle. These iterative cycles are described according the ISO-standard. Many iterations till we get to the final solution in which both users and designers are at ease with the design solution1”. Another of the interviewers said that the process is never linear, but is going ahead tracing cycles. ”We do, learn, ideate, and we realize that we need to test a bit more and we go back here (he pointed a place in his drawing) to the understanding phase. The iterative process does in a way a loop ”2.We got different visualizations but there were certain recurrent topics andelements, such as the iterative cycle and the loops. The design process,according to our interviewers, goes forward in the constant dialogue with usersand different methods were combined to feed this dialogue.Methods and PhasesUser knowledge about a certain service has different levels. Therefore, we needdifferent methods in order to get to these levels (Sanders 2002). In each momentof the design process we also need information with different degree of detail.For example, at the beginning we need information on the service offerings andthe environment or context in which the service will be implemented. When wegrasp the big picture related to the service in question, we go into the specificsregarding users and special characteristics of the new design proposal. In order1 This is a free translation of the authors from the original version in Finnish.2 This is a free translation of the authors from the original version in Finnish.ServDes2012 paper submission
  5. 5. What and When? 5 (14)to be accurate we clarify why each method was linked with a certain phase.However, the choice of a certain method in a phase, does not necessary lead toanother specific methods in the following phase. Therefore, info-cards wheresuitable to visualize the results.Although there are many nuances in the complexity of service design processes,it is important to recognize some key phases and methods in order to ensure thatthe design is based on user research. According to the design-researchersinterviewed, it is seldom that designers go through all these phases andimplement a certain method for each of them. In most of the design processessome methods are implemented in two or three of these phases. In this paper wedo not want to discuss the relevance of each phase, but describe them in relationto the other phases.1.1 Phase One: UnderstandingIn this phase the materials gathered, for example from the context and the usersare analyzed, taking in consideration the design problem. This is the moment oflearning, in which we get to know about other services, context and point of viewsregarding the service or possible future ones. The materials could have beengathered using different methods such as observations, mystery shopper(Goodwin, 2009, p. 187), surveys, focus group , card sorting (Goodwin, 2009, p.196), contextual workshops (Hultcrantz & Ibrahim 2002), interviews, diaries(Goodwin, 2009, p. 188), cultural probes (Garver, Dunne & Pacenti, 1999),drama or theatrical methods (Iaccucchi, Kuutti, & Ranta, 2000) and designprobes (Mattelmäki, 2006) or games (Brandt, 2006; Vaajakallio 2012). One of themost popular methods with designers, to give sense to background researchmaterial that have different formats (photographs, videos, voice recordings,sound, text etc), are affinity diagrams (Beyer & Holtzblatt, 2005). This analysisdoes not only give the possibility to better understand the data, but also to arriveto a common perspective and interpretation of it by all the participants in aservice design research project. Other methods for interpreting material comingfrom user studies in this phase are: actors map, concept maps, system maps,SWOT analysis (Hill & Westbrook, 1998) and customer journey map. Theanalysis of the material can be done also with users (see for example Hyökki,2011) and invite them to these sessions in which designers go through thematerial together. Certain interpretations can contrast with the opinions of theServDes2012 paper submission
  6. 6. What and When? 6 (14)users, therefore to invite them to the sessions to analyze data can be useful.Other design teams prefer to do this in two steps. One session is used to analysethe data, free from the opinions of the users and another session to ask theiropinion. In this phase the users and the designers perspective come together.The designer understand not only the users needs and emotions involved in acertain service but also her own position or prejudices with respect of the service.This first contact with the users and their environment is crucial for arisingempathy towards them.As in this phase might happen the first encounter with the user it is important todiscuss how to select users. Though we do not want to go deep in thisdiscussion, we want to mention some relevant considerations. Most of thesemethods are qualitative therefore the participants, in the projects with the role ofusers, are limited from five to twenty. The most common practice is to get apeople belonging to different demographic categories (age group, gender, familysituation, education, etc) of possible users of the service intended to bedeveloped. However, nowadays there are other possibilities that designers takeinto account such as, mapping Living labs (Feuerstein et al 2008), Fab labs (FabCentral 2011), panels of clients, or Lead users (Von Hippel, 1986), in the areathat could be interested in collaborating with the project. These networks ofcollaboration can bring to the project a group of people already involved andcommitted to innovation processes and even familiar with the methods thatservice designers are using.1.2 Phase two: ThinkingIn this phase people involved in the design process realize the direction andexpansion of the project based on the understanding that has happened inprevious phase. The analysis of the material gathered will be the locomotive ofdesign concepts and will point the direction and expansion of the project. It is themoment to give character to the project and make certain decisions that trace asmooth path towards concept design.Common interpretations can be visually represented in the form of moodboards(Rith, 2007), storyboards (Vertelney & Curtis, 1990), maps, video scenarios(Ylirisku & Buur, 2007), rapid or rough prototyping, metaphors or posters(Moggridge, 2006) and used to elicit discussion during interviews or workshops.ServDes2012 paper submission
  7. 7. What and When? 7 (14)The discussion can be nurture by reinforcing the relationship with the users andwithin the design team using these preliminary proposals. The design arena isdefined.1.3 Phase three: GeneratingIn this phase designers make suggestions and expand the spectrum ofpossibilities. New ideas, patterns and practices that the future service could bringare analysed. It is the phase for innovation and creation. Methods used in thisphase are brainstorming (Jones, 1992, 274) and creative techniques such as thesix thinking hats (De Bono, 1985).There is a basis, or background material that isrequired and it was gathered and analysed in the previous phase. In most of thecases designers use visualizations in this phase as boundary objects (Star &Griesemer, 1989). At this point there is a clear description of the characteristicsof the service based on the needs of the end-user. Challenges and opportunitiesare also analysed for example using scenarios (Carroll, 1995; Bødker, 2000),bodystorming (Oulasvirta, Kurvinen, & Kankainen, 2002), roleplaying (Iaccucchi,Kuutti, and Ranta, 2000), service evidencing (Moggridge, 2006) and prototyping(Ehn & King, 1991; Holmlid & Evenson, 2007). Contextual workshops whereusers are invited to visualize ideal experiences or to give opinions towards certaindesign concepts are also a part of this phase.1.4 Phase four: FilteringIn this phase options are evaluated in respect to the end-users needs andwishes; and socio-economical and environmental impact and conditions.Depending on the service provider and its possibilities for delivering certainoutcomes in a sustainable way, choices are made. However, regarding thisphase, we only included the methods that allow to better understand end-usersneeds and emotional tights to a certain service. We know that in some casesother issues might have more relevance in the decision-making agenda, but inthis paper we concentrate in methods coming from the user-centered designfield. Therefore, the most common methods in this phase are Wizard of Oz(Kelley, 1984; Dahlbäck, Jönsson & Ahrenberg, 1993), paper prototyping andother prototyping techniques (Buchenau & Suri, 2000) or mock-ups (Moritz,2005), scenarios, contextual workshops for discussing on already well-definedoptions, personas (Cooper, 1998; Grudin & Pruitt, 2002), SWOT analysis,ServDes2012 paper submission
  8. 8. What and When? 8 (14)cognitive walkthrough (Polson, Lewis, Rieman & Wharton, 1992) and heuristicevaluation (Nielsen & Molich, 1990).1.5 Phase five: ExplainingIn this phase designers take the last decisions that will develop the concept into areal service. There were already a selection of options and the new service takeshape with its details. For describing the services in this phase the most commonmethods are: prototyping (in this case some details of the system are describedand it is not only the rough idea of the whole), personas, scenarios, mock-ups,use cases, system maps and usability testing. Ideas of the users are taken inconsideration in order to give shape to the details of the service.1.6 Phase six: RealisingThis phase takes place when we have already done a functional prototype andthe service happens. Evaluation is still needed for the constant development ofthe service. The methods used at this moment are: blueprint (Bitner, Ostrom,Morgan, 2007) maps and usability tests (UsabilityNet, 2006). Also, in this phase itis important to involve people that are not using the service in question in order tobroad the spectrum of possible end-users. In this phase the service goes back tothe organization that has asked for it, in case it was outsourced.Visualizing resultsVisualizations are good, effective and natural complementation to show researchresults within the framework of design-research. Most of the design teams arenowadays working in a transdisciplinary environment. In some cases the workenvironment is also multicultural. Therefore, visualizations are playing a big rolein finding common vocabulary for designing together. The cards aim to serve thechallenges of nowadays design teams that include end users, developers,technicians, entrepreneurs, local institutions and civic society organizations.Furthermore, the cards could be efficient in bringing new inspirational ideas inregards of the methods to use. Sometimes designers work within the same arrayof methods, as they are more familiar with them, or they have developed acertain skill that the method implied. The cards show the variety and motivateexploration regarding methods.ServDes2012 paper submission
  9. 9. What and When? 9 (14)Here are the cards. Figure 1: Understanding. This card shows a person listening. The attitude in this phase is receptive. Designers get inspiration and information that is vital for all the phases that will come. Figure 2: Thinking. This card shows the team working together. The idea is to put emphasis in the collaboration that is the key element in this phase. It is the moment to open the spectrum of possibilities and analyze them. Figure 3: Generating. This image is based in the idea of that each method has a role in a certain moment of the design process. But it is only in the combination of certain methods, that it is possible to get clear picture of end-users perspective. This is why the methods form a construction, because they support each other. The selection of a method is the vital question in this phase. Figure 4: Filtering. The image plays with the metaphor of a card game. We have the cards, or the elements from the user research to make the right choices. Therefore, we have all the possibilities to win this game but still we need to play it to the end. Figure 5: Explaining. This image shows a woman showing a panel with the methods. Because this is the moment of explaining the others what has been done and reach aServDes2012 paper submission
  10. 10. What and When? 10 (14) consensus in the team and with others that are not part of the team but can be key decisions makers. We communicate the service and its characteristics. Figure 6: Realising. This is the moment to play the game and see what happens. This is why we use the metaphor of a puzzle. The last piece addition is a clear reference to the fact that this is the last phase in the design process but also that now the game is over and we have to let it grow and be in the hands of the end-users.DiscussionThe act of making these info-cards, as a synthesis of the outcomes of a thesisproject, contribute to the discussion on how materiality support appropriation ofknowledge. These material things can modify the space of interaction during thedesign process, by explaining when and how to apply methods to non-designers.Normally only designers choose which methods to use for a certain process.However in many design projects, specially within the field of ParticipatoryDesign, there is a wish to empower communities in decision making processes.Thus there needs to be a means of communicating what the methods are aboutto non-designers. We think that these info-cards, because of their playfulness,could make it easier to include different actors in the decision of what methods tochoose. It is open to discussion how well these cards support the participationand the communication between team members.New methods are developed by design practitioners on daily basis, but littleresources are invested in mapping existing ones and understanding when to usethem. Info-cards are a way to map the methods in a flexible way where methodsare classified not in a fixed way, but in a malleable solution.By using these cards designers could find out which phases needs new methods,or which methods could be adjusted for another phase. For example, aftermanipulating these info-cards, we found out that these methods concentrate inproducing a broad amount of data from/with users, but do not focus on how toanalyse this data. Many researchers use affinity diagrams to analyse this data inteams. But little effort has been made in deepening on the criteria for this analysisand for the understanding on how to get from the material gathered using thesemethods to a design brief.In parallel the cards could encourage designers to try out new methods. Weconsider these cards under development and we need still to test them indifferent environments to be sure of their possible use and suitability. We aimedto share with people involved in design processes these info-cards that can workServDes2012 paper submission
  11. 11. What and When? 11 (14)as: a reminder, an inspirational material for different moments of the designprocess and a physical boundary object to discuss the choice of methods in adesign process.ReferencesAhvenainen, M. (2011). Co-creation, Understanding and Synthesizing-Innovative Research Methods in Service Design. Master’s Thesis. User-Centered Design. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.Beyer, H. and Hotzblatt, K. (1998). Contextual design: defining customer- centered systems, San Francisco, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc.Binder, T.; De Michelis, G.; Ehn, P.; Jacucci, G.; Linde, P. and Wagner, I. Design Things. A.Telier. (2011). The MIT Press.Bitner, M. J.; Ostrom, A.L. and Morgan, F.N. (2007). Service Blueprinting: A Practical Tool for Service Innovation, AZ State University, Centre for Services Leadership.Brandt, E. (2006). Designing Exploratory Design Games: a Framework for Participation in Participatory Design, 9th Conference on Participatory design.Bødker, S. (2000). “Scenarios in User-Centred design”. Setting the phase for reflection and action. Interacting with computers, 13, 1, pp. 61–75.Buchenau, M. and Suri, F. (2000). “Experience prototyping”. Proceedings of the conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques, p.424-433, August 17-19, 2000, New York City, New York.Carroll, J. (1995). Scenario-Based Design: Envisioning Work and Technology in System Development.Cooper, A. (1998). The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. Sams Publishing.Dahlbäck, N.; Jönsson, A. Ahrenberg, L. (1993) Wizard of Oz studies — why and how. Natural Processing Laboratory, Linköping, Department of Computer and Information Science S-581 83.De Bono, E. (1985). Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management. Little, Brown, & Company.Feuerstein, K.; Hesmer, A.; Hribernik, K. A.; Thoben, K. D. and Schumacher, J. (2008). Living Labs: A New Development Strategy. In: EuropeanServDes2012 paper submission
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  14. 14. What and When? 14 (14)Acknowledgements:We wish to express our special thanks to the four design-researchers thatagreed to be interviewed for the complexion of this research project. We alsowish to thank the graphic designer; Mervi Lipp who gave shape to the cards.ServDes2012 paper submission