High Resolution Service Design

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High Resolution Service Design

In the rush to design for increasingly complex service systems, we risk losing sight of the people they serve.

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6 10 12 16 22 24 LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

Published by Bridgeable Editors Chad Story Spencer Beacock Art Director Kyle Schruder Contributors Terri Block Shelley Chen Melissa Cory Jessica Craig Daniel Epstein Chris Ferguson Everton Lewis Cheryl Li Galen MacLusky Heidi Mok Claire Orange Kristin Ryan Marie Serrano Alice Zheng Website bridgeable.com Twitter @bridgeable Cover photo: Meteorological Satellite Center of JMA























In the design discourse, and particularly within the community of service designers, we’ve witnessed a shift recently. We’re talking more and more about systemic change and designing at scale, with an eye towards infrastructure and complex sociotechnical systems. We’re designing beyond particular touchpoints on a journey, and looking instead at whole transportation systems, in the case of Uber, or global delivery processes and experiences, in the case of Amazon. As our confidence has grown as a discipline, so has our ambition in designing for large organizational and infrastructural systems. At the same time, we run the risk of losing track of the people at the heart of these systems. In the pages that follow, we’re asking you to reconsider these stakeholders, whose lives are most impacted by the consequences of systemic design. We’ll look at users, who we mustn’t forget as we build sprawling constellations of online and offline touchpoints. We’ll talk about workers, whose ability to effectively deliver services and embody the values of a system is too often seen as replaceable. We’ll think out loud about designing for the public as well, as a social counterpart to technological systems. Finally, we’ll ask what it means for designers to rethink their relationship with systems, and how to do so in ways that keep people at the centre. After all, this is one of the most exciting roles of the designer in the 21st century: to make complexity knowable, and to make the immense personal. Yours, Chad and Spencer



In the delivery of a modern service, workers mediate between complex technological systems and users, all of which takes place in the context of broader publics and public interest.






Ontologically, economically, and operationally, a service without users doesn’t really exist. This is self-evident to most service design practitioners, and yet, when designing at the system scale, there’s a temptation to reduce people to lines in an analytics package or points on a map. In this section, we explore opportunities to rediscover the emotion, agency, and creativity that people can bring to service systems.




UNPACKING MOBILE ETHNOGRAPHY Mobile ethnography holds the promise of collecting detailed data at scale. But can it deliver? S TO RY AND AR T BY KR I S T I N RYA N

When designers approach designing for systemlevel challenges, knowing your users becomes harder. Mobile approaches to ethnography are tempting for their ability to give us qualitative data combined with metadata, essentially turning it into a form of quantitative data. We’ve tried it, and here’s our assessment:

Not enough context While mobile ethnography gives us detailed data, what it doesn’t provide us is the context we need to make sense of that data. It might give us information on geographical context, but there’s more to meaning-making than a pin-drop on a map.

Remove researcher influence Mobile ethnography offers us the possibility of removing the influence of the observer from the research context, eliminating some bias on the part of the respondent. With that said, the requirement of using a mobile device to record data introduces different kinds of bias, which may wind up being worse.



Too much information Mobile ethnography occupies a strange middle ground between qualitative methods and quantitative ones: it can collect huge reams of data, but we aren’t able to process it in bulk like quantitative data. The result is that we can wind up with too much data, unable to make sense of it.

Fill in the gaps in what we already know When used secondarily, mobile ethnography can help confirm (or raise questions with) what we’ve learned through traditional qualitative and quantitative methods.

Leverage tools participants are familiar with Most people are already carrying a phone of some kind, so mobile ethnography can let us use comfortable tools to gather data. Unfortunately, this closes out those participants without phones or with phones that are incompatible, factors that are likely to correlate with demographic factors.

Not in the moment When we ask participants to collect their own data, we’re also asking them to add additional actions to their routine activities. The end result is that it might take them out of ‘the moment’ (altering the data), or might encourage them to self-edit what they record, resulting in the absence of possibly-key details. ■





THE CH A N G I N G HANNEL Transmedia approaches allow us to create cohesive stories about what our multi-platform services are and can be. BY DA N IE L E P S T E IN


s I sat in the audience at SDGC 2015, I tweeted short notes, recaps, and responses to the speakers, and I Googled every phrase I didn’t know or project I hadn’t heard of before. I had a lot of fun. What I didn’t think about consciously was that I was participating in a transmedia narrative about the conference, where each link added to the story of what service design is all about. Sandjar Kosubaev and Zhan Li want service designers to think about pop culture. In a talk that Kosubaev gave at last year’s SDGC, he argued that transmedia storytelling isn’t just for Hollywood. Transmedia storytelling takes place across different channels over time. It involves audiences transitioning from film to book, from theatre to YouTube clip. It’s a way of thinking about entertainment that embraces digital media’s propensity for exploration. Transmedia is also participatory, allowing audiences to define narratives through cosplay (wearing the costumes of favourite characters), fan fiction, story modifications, and other fan engagements—in some ways, transmedia is a co-creation session in slow motion. Participatory designers should take

note. As service designers, we can use transmedia as a strategy to tell better and more effective stories. And telling stories means we can better implement the services we design.


ransmedia, a term coined by media studies scholar Henry Jenkins in 2007, describes the practice of spreading a narrative across multiple media channels. If I love Star Wars, I can watch movies, read books, play video games, and dress up as ways to explore the fictional world of the films. Kosubaev used the example of The Hunger Games, a series of novels that have been adapted into a series of films. The marketing for the second film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, mixed social media, fan participation, and printed advertisements. The fashion of the film’s fictional decadent upper-class city of Capitol appeared on billboards. It also appeared on a Tumblr called “Capitol Couture,” which encouraged fans to upload their own art. The marketers created websites that behaved as if they were in the fiction of the Hunger Games’ world—they coopted the web suffix for the Pitcairn Islands, “.pn” to stand for Panem, the fictional nation where the films take place. Throughout social



media, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire presented itself as if the fiction was real. The effect is that fans were able to navigate the narrative in a self-directed way. From the campy Twitter account making announcements on behalf of the world’s totalitarian government, to “CapitolTV,” a series of videos with real YouTube stars set in the fictional world, viewers have a number of options to immerse themselves in the narrative. Each audience member gets to become a part of the narrative and participate in the way each story gets told, similar to the participatory model that service designers use. Human-centredness is at the core of service design, which lines up nicely with transmedia’s focus on audience engagement. “I see the building of transmedia projects as an opportunity to foster collective intelligence,” says Li, “whether that means direct collective participation in an organization’s creativity and content production, or the generation of creative consumers that supports the organization’s messages and goals from the outside.” For Li, transmedia presents an opportunity for designers to create better services by leveraging organizational knowledge. For service designers, leading participatory research sessions and co-creations brings up new opportunities to seek community involvement in understanding a service. We can seek opportunities to design services around online participation, and use online participation to design services. Jenkins

talks about creating plots, characters, and worlds that audiences can access via multiple points of entry. It can also be a model for us to communicate to clients about service outcomes. When we hand over a service blueprint, a journey map, a slide deck, a short video, a research booklet and a series of prototypes, clients have to take those artefacts and use them to implement organizational change. One way that we can increase shared value is by using the techniques of transmedia storytelling to enhance the stories these outputs tell.


ur work often involves telling two types of stories. One is the story we tell customers or end users about a service through particular interventions, and the other is the story we tell clients about how to implement changes through artefacts. We tell these stories to clients through journey maps, service blueprints, design principles, insights videos, and slide decks. Each of these artifacts provides an entry point to a service. As we create touchpoint-specific interventions, we tell a story to the users of a service. Consider the experience map from Bridgeable’s 2013 pro bono project, Field to Table Catering. Field to Table is part of Foodshare Toronto, which is an organization dedicated to providing sustainable and accessible food for people

In co-creation sessions with multiple stakeholders, FoodShare arrived at a new understanding of the unique role Field to Table could play — and where it could and should stand apart from the larger brand.



“I see the building of transmedia projects as an opportunity to foster collective intelligence,” says Li, “whether that means direct collective participation in an organization’s creativity and content production, or the generation of creative consumers that supports the organization’s messages and goals from the outside.”

of all incomes. Each point in the customer experience falls into a “positive,” “neutral,” or “negative” memory category, demonstrating to the client where interventions need to take place. The lowest points on the chart correspond with key insights about what is going on—the website looked too much like a charity, customers waited two or three days for a reply on their order, and food was too late, too early, or delivered to the wrong location. We can see the narrative that certain parts of the process are breaking down because of the service design story. As service designers, we are in a unique position to reveal this narrative. Transmedia storytelling takes us to the next logical step. As the customer passes through multiple channels and touchpoints, each one acts like a piece of a transmedia story. The brochure implies crucial things about the catering service, as does the website and the way employees conduct themselves when they arrive on time.


he Field to Table project team designed intervention prototypes for each low point in the map. The website redesign, branding, customer manifesto, and back of the house improvements each do their part to tell the story of how things can be better for the customer experience. They presented each touchpoint redesign to the client, along with a plan for implementation. Telling a story to the client

about how to tell their story to their users is a key meta­narrative in the work of service design. We have to be able to tell complex stories to be able to effectively create systems change. Kosubaev spoke about the concepts of spreadability and drillability in transmedia, and we can use those concepts to chart a new direction for service design storytelling. Spreadability is the ability of transmedia narratives to exist throughout society in many contexts. Getting a key stakeholder to tweet about a service redesign or a change in the system spreads the idea further into new contexts. When an organization sees champions of a new approach appearing throughout their horizon, they are more apt to make their services more human centred. Drillability describes the depth of transmedia narratives. If that stakeholder tweet inspires a government minister to want to help implement a design for a new service, they can find a lot of information at key touchpoints. Drillability enables individuals to learn more, drilling down into the details.


s we work to make services better and systems more functional, we can learn from pop culture strategies. Transmedia approaches can help us reach more people and involve them more deeply in the process of making large systems and services more human-centred. When we design services, we want them to have fans. ■ BRIDGEABLE


sense 2.


sense 1.


sense 5.


sense 3.


sense 4.




As our services get more complex, it’s not enough to lean on technological brilliance or organizational efficiency. We need beauty and emotional resonance to tie omni-channel experiences together. There’s nothing worse than a service experience that attempts to appeal to your senses, but in the cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells you’re left quite literally dazed and confused. Senses, like touchpoints, need to be thoughtfully arranged. Every sound, fragrant note, and touch should guide the user through a broader story arc — with tension, a climax, and a heroic resolution. At SDGC15, Transformator Design led a workshop on designing for the five senses, demonstrating a process that as service designers we might be able to use to elicit an emotional response, by appealing to the senses. In our everyday practice, we rely upon affordances to guide and instruct users on the proper use of a designed object. The seat of a chair, for instance, indicates a comfortable place to sit. What if we extended this thinking to include the emotional elements of a service?



Below are eight provocations for using emotion, aesthetic, and the five senses to tie a service together:

Leave room for people to bring their own meaning/emotion The people involved in a service experience are complex human beings with complex emotions. Think about how you can leave room in your service experience for people to bring their own emotions to it without major dissonance; it may be as simple as leaving room in your service scripts for flexibility. For example, a customer service hotline with an overall upbeat mood needs to be able to flex to upset customers.

Consciously determine the emotional affordances for each moment in the system using aesthetic clues An interaction is going to have an emotional tenor whether you’re deliberate about it or not. Setting the emotional tenor for each moment thoughtfully can give your cross-touchpoint teams a north star to navigate by.



Enable aesthetic immersion by designing for the five senses We’re used to designing in order to engage a couple of senses at any given time; most often, we design first for the eyes, and then maybe for the ears or for touch. It’s rare that we design for taste and smell. Immersion, achieved by designing for a multilayered and subtle mix of senses, can help people focus fully on the experience and provide moments of unexpected delight.

Design for different levels of experiencing Some users will engage with an experience for a few seconds; others an hour. Use aesthetics to provide value that blossoms regardless of the length or depth of the user’s service experience. Consider a transit hub. Some travelers are just passing through on their way to a train or bus; others will have to wait some time before they can leave. Both kinds of users should have a great experience that recognizes their specific time-structured needs.

Encourage the development of familiarity We learn through cumulative experience, gradually gaining skills of discernment; that is, we can start to recognize and appreciate details and information that we might otherwise miss. Consistent application of aesthetic decisions can help users to develop discerning skills related to the experience you’re designing, making their engagement richer over time and making it easier for them to reimmerse.

Use aesthetic clues to set expectations As important in a service experience as the delivery is expectation setting for what that delivery will be like as it unfolds. People whose expectations are confounded can be unhappy even if the end result is the same. Using aesthetics, we can prime them for what they might experience: chaos, serenity, or a need to wait comfortably.

Be aware of elements that detract from the emotional tenor of a moment It’s difficult to build a harmonious experience, but we all know it’s easy to break one. Consider what elements of the system might ‘act out’ and disrupt the story you’re trying to tell and the intended emotional responses you seek to elicit.

Use the unexpected — but do so carefully There are opportunities to deliberately turn an emotional tenor on its head. In theatre, art, and film, the use of reversals, twists, or surprises can help evoke deeper engagement and empathy. But do so carefully and with tenderness towards your users. ■






An obsession with the systemic can lead us to think of workers as fungible widgets in a giant clockwork contraption: interfaces between an organization and its users, or the interstitial tissue between the databases, warehouses, and networks which service them. In this section, we consider work as an essential facet of citizenship. When we design service systems, we design work, and therefore the way we are empowered (or disempowered) to interact in society.



SMILING SERVICE AND SELFAC T UALIZ ATION HelloSmile, an oral health company based in New York City, isn’t your average dentistry provider: a crucial foundation of their approach focuses on empowering their employees. S TORY & ART BY ALIC E Z HEN G


or Brooklyn-based Hellosmile, developing a committed workforce is an explicit goal. A non-profit pediatric dental service, Hellosmile aims to tackle the childhood oral disease epidemic through a three-pronged approach: connecting communities, engaging families and children, and empowering changemakers. ‘Empowering changemakers’ means training and recruiting employees who are committed to their own health and happiness. When people are dedicated to their own well-being, according to the Hellosmile model, they will be more motivated to care for others as well. The idea has analogues in the larger healthcare sector, as well as social work, where maintaining a level of self-care is necessary to prevent burnout. The Hellosmile model, however, goes beyond maintenance to encourage self-growth and actualization, taking inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s writings to teach others “how to live” in this world. ■

Establish Strong Values and Provide Room to Embrace Them In practice, this comes down to creating a workplace culture that reinforces organizational values and gives employees a space to practice them. Hellosmile provides employees with an online portal where they can post messages, interact, and even nominate each other for awards. Hellosmile co-founder Farhad Attaie reports that the biggest change to employee behaviour has been the last feature — a form on the employee portal



that allows staff to nominate someone at work for being “Totally Awesome,” a nonspecific criterion that everyone understands nonetheless. Hellosmile also maintains a YouTube channel that features educational videos on topics, such as “What is Empathy?” The employee culture is driven by a common set of values — gratitude, appreciation, and community-building — all of which align with the organization’s very public mission.

Provide Clear Paths for Self-Improvement Many dental students have successfully trained at Hello­smile clinics, guided by a clear career path laid out by the organization’s founders. Training follows a leveled system, from trainee to full dentist, with transparent pay rates and timelines at every point in the journey. Employees are encouraged to be proactive and to take responsibility for their own careers, and to be ambitious about their choices.






EXCHANGING VALUE WITH SU S TAINABLE HANDOVERS Aligning stakeholders is a never-ending challenge; conflicting agendas and priorities can inflame tempers. What if we used play to resolve these tensions? BY M E L IS SA CORY

What can service designers learn from geese? In the SDGC workshop, “Designing playful service design handovers”, Joumana Mattar and the Fjord team presented the goose migration as a model of teamwork— their “V” formation is efficient while remaining flexible. Inspired by this, they developed a Value Exchange board game that allows clients to collaboratively build their own V formations and come up with an effective personalized approach to implementing a new service.



The game should be played with a diverse range of client stakeholders around the table. It begins by aligning on the end goal of the particular service that’s being implemented—who is the end user, and what is their main moment of discomfort? What is their moment of delight after using the new service? These are printed as cards and placed on the game board for the remainder of game play.


Each stakeholder (e.g., legal, marketing, HR) chooses a set of three hexagonal plastic playing pieces. They record the colour of their playing pieces on the gameboard, next to their role in the company.


The team of stakeholders begins to think about how their organization will implement the service by first breaking the implementation process down into tangible phases. They give each phase a name.

The team works together to arrange their playing pieces on the V formations for each phase. The position of each piece should reflect the stakeholders role in the phase, with the leader being out front and centre.

Each stakeholder takes some time to drill into their role more deeply, thinking about what assets they can make available (e.g., money), skills they can offer (e.g., research), and assets they might need (e.g., feedback) in each phase in order to perform their role most effectively. These are recorded on top of the playing pieces with dry-erase marker.

The team looks over the board and reflects on any interesting interactions that emerge between the playing pieces. Final takeaways and major wins are recorded at the bottom of the game board.

Unfortunately we only had a small amount of time to play the game during the hourand-a-half workshop, and our role-playing as stakeholders from a fictional company made it hard to ground game play in concrete roles and responsibilities. Regardless, it was apparent that the level of detail in game play could lead to a robust discussion of tacit knowledge and new insights, if used in context and given a few more hours to play out. Most of all, by allowing employees to co-create the service implementation process, the Value Exchange game can build buy-in and excitement across an organization. â–





DESIGNING THE WORKER BACK INTO SERVICE WORK Despite designing the future of work, service design ignores the worker more often than it should. How do we design them back in? BY S P E N C E R BE ACOCK

New York City has a huge concentration of service workers. Union Square is a park in New York City. It’s a phenomenally busy park, situated at the corner of Broadway and 14th. Looking at the business data layer of Google Maps, I was able to identify about 25 big name service-dependent businesses that directly border the Square. Let’s do some quick math. Let’s say that each business on average employs ten folks who are involved in the day-to-day operations of that outlet, whether they’re customer facing or working behind the counter in some way; this is a pretty conservative estimate (the Whole Foods alone probably employs several times that in various shifts). Collectively, the businesses at street level employ about two hundred and fifty service workers, or a thousand if we count the other three sides of each block. If you add in the people working in service roles of various kinds in the towers found in these blocks, that number increases, maybe by a factor of two or three. If you count taxi drivers, Uber drivers, bus drivers, bike couriers, and paramedics, despite their

transient natures, this number gets even higher. This is all in an area that’s less than a square mile. These are the people who serve you coffee, bag your groceries, adjust your insurance plan, and grab you the size ten Air Jordans you asked for. They take your calls, schedule your appointments, hand you your money. It’s hard to say exactly how many people in New York City work as service workers, per se, because labour statistics don’t typically get chopped that way. What you can say pretty definitively is that private sector jobs are growing in areas that are pretty often serviceoriented: educational and health services (+34,200), leisure and hospitality (+16,700), professional and business services (+15,200), other services (+9,700), trade, transportation, and utilities (+8,200), and financial activities (+6,500).


he 2015 Service Design Network Global Conference was held at Parsons School of Design at the New School. It is a short walk from Union Square to the campus, which is clustered around 5th Avenue and 13th.




companies are increasingly hiring individuals with no promise of giving them actual work. While this might not surprise us when it comes to low-skill service workers, increasingly these contracts are used in higher-skill professions, like university teaching.

At the conference, there were bureaucrats and brand managers, service designers and design researchers, technologists and academics, the embodiment of a zeitgeist focused on disrupting and streamlining the service economy. This was a room setting its collective mind to changing the world through the design of services, and in fact, they might pull it off. But this isn’t the adjustments of pixels or plastic or bytes of information we’re talking about here. There are real human beings on the periphery of this changeagent core, people pouring coffee at each outpost of this vast infrastructure of service delivery. But where were they? Certainly there was no one speaking for the Duane Reade cashier, although we could have gone and asked them what they thought in thirty seconds or less. The absence of these voices, here at the beating heart of the discipline, is deafening.


hat do we lose when these voices are absent, in our professional discourses and in our projects? It seems like there might be a cascade effect, from our largest social structures down to the design of the touchpoints and service interactions so central to our work. First, there’s a business case to be made. At the touchpoint level, the level of individual interactions with the system, there’s a risk that we can build service experiences that are great for customers, but corrosive for workers. Here’s an example from a project Bridgeable worked on recently for a company with a large customer service department that was trying to encourage online chat. We learned from customers that they needed a more personalized chat experience in order to know they weren’t talking to a robot; one obvious solution was to introduce video chat. Had we not talked directly with customer service reps, however, we might not have learned that this introduced new kinds of professional risk for them, particularly for female reps who worry about harassment when customers can see their real faces.



This percolates up to the organizational level. We’re living in an era with unprecedented automation, where service is increasingly self-driven or computerassisted; it’s easy to view employees as replaceable. But they continue to be crucial, the human face for your organization (or the human brain behind the scenes, in some cases), and a service that isn’t designed with their needs, desires, and values in mind will burn them up like firewood. It’s hard to build a culture of people that customers want to interact with when those people are leaving. Finally, there’s an impact in society at large. Cameron Tonkinwise, a design scholar at Carnegie Mellon University, presented the idea that service designers are designing not just services, but jobs, and taken in aggregate, we might also say that service designers are designing work itself. Without workers playing an active role in that process, we run the risk of winding up with a work environment that none of us like very much. The reaction to the gig economy, sharing economy, and companies like Uber demonstrate the kind of unrest that we might expect when workers aren’t part of the collective conversation on work upfront.


his isn’t a lost cause. There are things we can do to make workers our valued partners in creating new kinds of work. In fact, I’d venture that some of the tools of service design position it advantageously to drive towards a future state where this is the case. What might this future state look like? First, there are two things we can implement in our practice right now. Foundationally, we need to expand our vocabulary and our value set. ‘Customer centricity’ is a watchword for designers of all stripes, growing under the umbrella of human-centred design. There’s a risk, though, that customer centricity can come to eclipse many of the other stakeholders for whom we design. Growing a vibrant set of practical values related to employee experience is crucial, as well. It’s something we live and breathe at Bridgeable


Uber is famous for describing its drivers as ‘independent contractors’ rather than as employees. This distances Uber from some of the risk that the drivers take on related to equipment and lawsuits, while still allowing them to enjoy full profits.

(it’s arguably the most important value as our company grows), but we’ve seen it pay dividends in projects too: in a project working with a non-profit, we found that engaging the frontline workers as core stakeholders enabled us to develop solutions that not only worked well for them in a mechanical sense, but which also gave them a greater sense of agency and ownership over their work.


a work situation that doesn’t provide the typical security or benefits that we expect from work. Often, individuals can find themselves in a chronically precarious state. Around 40% of workers are in precarious situations in the Greater Toronto Area (where Bridgeable is located).

Building from this shift in values, we need to leverage the tools of our work to more effectively engage workers. At the Service Design Global Conference, co-creation and co-design were consistent elements of many of the case studies and professional practices on display. Often, the practitioners sharing these stories talked about co-creating with client stakeholders at the management level, or with customers. These are useful advances towards the kind of shared value creation that service design is capable of delivering. Surprisingly absent, however, was the engagement of frontline delivery staff in co-creation. In the earlier example from the telecom industry, we enabled frontline workers to directly influence the design of their own work by engaging them as equal stakeholders in co-creation, learning from their intimate knowledge of customer behaviour and designing towards solutions that worked great for them and for upper management. Beyond these instrumental changes, imagine a future where the definition of who can be a client or project partner broadens to include organized labour. Service designers are experts at creating complete, complex, and compelling visions for the future of work. Often, these visions take a technologically-deterministic slant, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, the need for human ability, emotion, and capacity for empathy is becoming greater than ever. The union in the 21st century needs these kinds of visions to make their case for the recognition of human value. Bringing constructive approaches to creating shared value might bolster their position at the bargaining table, and the conscientious redesign

of both the professions they represent and the services they offer might help these organizations reverse the trend of declining membership. Finally, we need to not only open our professional discourses to workers, but actively work to engage them in producing it. At our conferences, in our journals, and in the stories we tell about our work, workers should be at least the protagonists, and in the best case, co-conspirators in designing mutually-beneficial futures.


n his discussion at SDGC15 of design as a transformative tool for organizations and, more broadly, economies, Christian Bason talked about how, in his experience, the redesign of an organization or service often left about 10% of current employees in the dust. This is not because of uncovered ‘efficiencies’, but because these individuals simply couldn’t cope with the change. These people departed, moved to other parts of the organization, or were in some other way marginalized. This was presented by Bason as the cost of doing business. It should not be read as anything but a failure of design and communication. A doctor who leaves 10% of his patients in the morgue during the course of his practice is a bad doctor. A factory that generates 10% waste in production is woefully inefficient. These are loose analogies, but the point is clear: to fail 1 out of every 10 in a group of key stakeholders in designing solutions and implementing them is unacceptable. As we more powerfully flex our disciplinary muscles and more fully engage with the challenge of designing jobs and work, it seems crucial to be dissatisfied with a 10% failure rate. If service design eats the world, in the same way that software has (and this is surely the goal, for if it isn’t, why do we do what we do?), then it seems imperative that we strive for a practice that seeks to build work into a sphere of shared value, in the same way that we are refactoring services now. ■ BRIDGEABLE





There’s a temptation in designing services at the system scale to view technology as a neutral medium, a flow that simply is. Of course, the more you scale up, the more technological problems become political ones, too. In this section, we’ll look at the political side of the systemic, considering the public, the sphere of values and decisions about resource distribution in which everything else floats.




Pretending to be a public servant who knows nothing about service design yielded some unexpected lessons on how to sell service design. BY GA L E N M AC LU S K Y


retending to be someone else isn’t easy. Even as an experienced researcher, I sometimes find it difficult to imagine what it might be like for an internal stakeholder who has to justify the value of service design to their superiors. At the SDGC15 this year I attended a workshop, “Communicating the Value of Service Design to Government,” that grappled with this very issue. Participants pretended to be senior officials working within the public service. Each of us took on a different role. The aim was to communicate the benefits of service design to those who were less familiar with the practice. In truth, the exercise was as frustrating as it was useful. It was clear early on that those in attendance were more interested in advancing their agenda as a service designer, than they were listening to and addressing the perceived needs of government officials. Here are two lessons role-playing taught me. Listen first. Great designers listen first and act second. In the workshop, those that identified as being designers tended to launch into lengthy expositions about the value of their work, without listening first. Meanwhile, those who role-played government employees felt that their needs and questions weren’t being heard, and that the designers were speaking an unfamiliar language. This disconnect wasn’t always apparent during the roleplay, but during follow-on reflections our group noticed that this pattern repeated itself several times. Focus on outcomes, not process. The design process is less important to non-practitioners. They are more focused on outcomes and results. At our table, we had a lengthy discussion about not “burying the lede,” in other words, government stakeholders wanted to know what problems service design could solve and what outcomes they could expect. The roleplay was a compelling reminder of how easy it is to get swept up in excitement around process, and lose track of what is meaningful outside of the service design community. ■




Participants took on the roles of service designers and public servants, roleplaying scenarios to explore what public servants might need to get on board.



SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE FOR CIVIC SYSTEMS Redesigning a city service on its own can make a difference for citizens, but to tackle system-level challenges, we need new kinds of relationships and institutions oriented towards designing for scale. BY JE S SIC A CR AIG & M AR I E SER R AN O I L LU S TR ATIO N S BY H EI D I M O K



A city is a dynamic, non-linear, and selforganizing entity, made of a myriad of interdependent, co-existing, yet distinct public and private services and organizations. However, to meet their needs, citizens are often still forced to navigate siloed public institutions and bridge the gaps left between the public and private spheres. Driven by the desire to replicate successful innovation ecosystems, city administrators are rethinking services individually; the risk is that they will create a myriad of good services in a disjointed overarching experience.

As service design is integrated into the public sphere, it is interesting to note that cities using design as a way to tackle systemic policy and organizational challenges are, in fact, rare. Yet, to tackle ‘wicked’ challenges at a city scale (like financial empowerment), and impact society at large, we need to envision the city at a systemic level, interlacing public and private services and activities in a cohesive network. In this article, we’ll draw on ideas raised in a panel discussion with representatives from the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment, NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, Citi Community Development, and the Parsons DESIS Lab to outline three broad areas of work for service design as a discipline in order to address system-scale public challenges: building knowledge alliances, operating with a multi-level approach, and the development of a sustainable collaborative system. Extrapolating from ideas shared by Public Policy Lab and Reboot, we’ll underline each of these areas with practical ways individual service designers can contribute to this new approach to system-level challenges.






Build knowledge alliances To be able to challenge existing services and break down silos, designing within the complex system of the public sphere calls for a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of the existing services and institutions, as well as the local social, economic, and political context they fit into. Learning from the partnership model between the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment, NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, Citi Community Development, Parsons DESIS Lab, design practitioners will need to think beyond multidisciplinary teams, and form knowledge alliances introducing equal collaboration across industries and institutions, emphasizing the inclusion of citizens, civil society, and civil servants in those alliances.

Be prepared to work politically: Designers tend to think that a great idea will speak for itself and may not invest in how that idea is framed. In a public sector context, different stakeholder groups have complex ways of evaluating ideas based on their resources and their needs. Furthermore, in the absence of financial capital, interpersonal relations are critical to driving change — as a result, onboarding key stakeholders might make all the difference in the successful launching or failure of an idea. Tailor the presentation of your ideas and the value they can deliver to different audiences, and practice building coalitions of support over time. Work around differentiated incentives: Private sector projects often apply profit metrics to demonstrate success. In public contexts, however, a wider range of metrics are in use by a diversity of stakeholders; this tangled web of evaluation can result in a general risk aversion. First, seek to understand the different incentives and metrics that various stakeholders are working towards. Next, use the tools and methods of design, like co-creation, to harmonize these metrics across groups and create spaces for risk-taking. Lastly, as you move towards implementation, make sure specific, clearly-defined outcomes and indicators of success are articulated. Learn to translate between different groups: Enabling design for public policy and the public sphere hinges partly on language: we need to be empathetic to stakeholders’ positions and frame our ideas within those contexts. For example, ‘failure’ is a comfortable concept to designers, but is politically untenable; framing discussions around ‘learning’ instead can help move the conversation forward. By learning to understand and speak these diverse languages, we can express ideas in terms of their needs rather than our process.






Operate with a multi-level approach The networking of disparate services and policies requires us to be able to think at multiple levels of scale in the private and public sector, addressing the needs of citizens and communities, as well as structural and systemic causes or limitations. Co-creation can act as an integrative agent, focusing on uncovering and activating meaningful connections. Participatory and collaborative methods are particularly useful for looking at many of the social and societal challenges reorganizing society, beyond just creating new life-changing services. Combined with a large-scale knowledge alliance approach, the development and prototyping of multi-level experiences can gain by borrowing from ‘social design’ and its living labs approach. By working to build relationships that support experimentation, designed connections between services and organizations can be prototyped as ‘friendly hacks’ of existing infrastructure, enabling us to test with users in their everyday contexts, helping make ideas real across disciplinary boundaries.

Make multi-layer meaning by integrating quantitative data with qualitative narratives: To design in public space, we have to be able to answer the question of how design brings value. In this age of Big Data, it’s relatively easy to produce countless abstract statistics, to the point where it becomes overwhelming. Qualitative narratives within a design create meaning across multiple layers of information and help us prioritize which numbers to pay attention to. At the same time, designers shouldn’t shy away from becoming comfortable dealing with the quantitative: the numbers can be useful clues up front and help us provide measurable proof of impact throughout a project. Be conscious of solution biases: A desire to be ‘future-oriented’ in the public sphere often translates into a bias for digital solutions. But to achieve the promise of a multi-level civic design approach, this future orientation should be reoriented from the deliverable to the approach: by co-opting the human-centred methods of digital tech to build interest and engagement from policymakers, we are able to uncover the core need and identify appropriate solutions at every level, rather than force-fitting a digital response. Lean on the traits that make digital great, too: emphasize modularity and flexibility, open source elements, and the power of the network, regardless of medium. Design for meaning, not just impact: When we’re working on civic problems at the system level, it can be tempting to focus on solutions whose defining characteristic is impact at scale. An overemphasis on impact, however, can lead us to an overly-narrow approach obsessed with metrics. To succeed at multiple levels, we need to design for subjective meaning as well as objective impact, incorporating the needs, desires, and values of diverse stakeholders at various levels. A focus on meaning lets us access new kinds of interventions (the simple facilitation of a conversation can be as crucial as a broad program implementation), and forces us to ask questions about who will find a particular intervention meaningful. While this approach may be less tangible and satisfying in the short term, a focus on meaning lets us build multilevel solutions that are more likely to last.






Establish a sustainable collaborative system Breaking the frontiers between selforganizing and independent institutions and service providers means relocating ownership and responsibilities in a way that recognizes the multiplicity of places or levels in which the services occur. In our role as facilitators, it is key that we enable organizations to be in control of this transition, involving and educating them in our process to ensure a sustainable and harmonized collaboration. Beyond simple networking, long-term relations of trust will have to be built and maintained. By opening our professional discourses, the service design methodology and language can be the medium for others areas of expertise to merge, helping organizations to get a deep understanding of each others’ practice and tackle emergent opportunities in a long-lasting way. ■

Don’t just ship; build capacity: Rather than separate capacity-building from solution delivery, embed it in the design plan. Increasing involvement and understanding of the final product creates ownership and eases the transition to a successful implementation. It may even be necessary to over-involve stakeholders in the design process, so that they can begin to replicate pieces of the process on their own and in other contexts. Give staff first-hand experience in the field, working with them to conduct research and validation, then reiterate these lessons through ‘key takeaway’ guidelines and process documents. Build an ethical foundation: As practitioners of a relatively new discipline, service designers don’t have the same kinds of ethical foundations that older professions like law, medicine, and even urban planning have. While the community of practice is relatively small, norms of practice can help us practice ethically, but creating a broad collaborative system means that we need clearer ideas about ethical practice. While we can borrow the start of an ethical framework from research ethics, helping us determine how we gather and use data, what we need to develop further are frameworks for ethical intervention. Design is not neutral. We must always consider the consequences of our designs: by defining the tools that people use, we are shaping and influencing the possibilities for action and self-actualization. We should always be fully aware of who and what we may be displacing with the direction we choose to take. As a community of practice, it is crucial that we start to concretize these considerations for a broader system of stakeholder participants who might take up our methods. Contribute to a community of positive critique: A crucial contributing factor to a collaborative ecosystem is our ability to give and take feedback. The role of criticism has a long and bitter history in design discourse, but abandoning it for unvarnished optimism doesn’t seem like an option either. Service designers, confident in their practice, can lead the way by sharing not just their successes for discussion, but their failures as well. In this way, we can turn the relationship from one of external criticism to a collaborative dialogue around what works and what doesn’t.






We might assume that, as people thoroughly embedded in complex infrastructural and informational networks, it’s easy to think and talk about the systemic. A more honest evaluation seems to be that this relationship, between designer and the systems in which they live and work, is one that must be cultivated. In this section, we examine ways in which we can do that, looking to both the swiftly-changing peripheries and slowlymorphing cores of these complex contexts.



TIPS FOR THE DISRUPTIVE EDGE As we push our practice out to the disrupted and disrupting edges of service systems, we'll need to shift our thinking and action accordingly. BY E V E RTO N LE W IS


ystem change doesn’t happen all at once. It occurs in fits and starts, unevenly distributed and more volatile at the leading edges. It is in these rapidly evolving parts of a system that new customer needs and new customer markets emerge. How can designers operate effectively in these shifting environments? Three speakers at SDGC15 offered some useful thoughts. Cesare Bottini from Sketchin discussed the opening of new (licit) markets following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Mike Varon from ThoughtWorks examined cloud services and the reorientation of the software industry, and Raz Godelnik from Parsons spoke about the ways in which Uber upended traditional transport systems. Despite being radically different in some aspects, these three case examples are similar in that regulatory, economic, or cultural change are rearranging past assumptions and creating flux in the system. Here’s what we can take away from them:



Get creative to get your prototypes in front of the right people It can be difficult to find and recruit research participants based on an emerging need in the customer environment. So, it’s important to have a variety of techniques to get user feedback. Uber regularly has a variety of features under test in the market, a set of possible futures for the company’s offerings as they adapt to the changing state of customer needs and regulatory structures. Sketchin used a variety of traditional and non-traditional relationships to find likely medical marijuana users pre- and post-legislation changes in Colorado. Keep an open mind and allow for pivots A constantly-changing system means that there are constant opportunities to adjust your offering. Workable solutions with some error that can be changed quickly are better than rigid offerings that limit change. Don’t create hard and fast rules for systems and processes until you have no other choice. Uber


constantly iterates its features looking for new options to deliver value. Many of the companies working with cloud technologies try to use open source code, seeking to nimbly assemble service solutions from basic building blocks. Stay curious about the system Unexpected connections within the system often create new value. We have seen many new connections deliver better experiences, including those between iPhones and heating systems, Fitbits and packaging information, or traffic patterns and pricing. We have also seen misunderstood connections create uncertainty, from tax implications to food serving dosage standards for legal marijuana. It is important to not only focus on the business problem at hand but also keep in mind the operating context and its potential impact. ■



MIRRORS AND METRE STICKS R E FLEC TION, E VALUATION, AND COMPLEX SYSTEM CHANGE In designing for organizational or system change, we often approach the change using standard evaluation methods. By integrating team reflection into the evaluation process, we can develop more flexible tools for understanding our impact. BY T E RRI BLOCK I LLU S T R AT ION S BY S H E L L E Y CH E N





“ We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” — JOHN DEWEY 50



he underlying question that drives my work is how to sustain the change in complex human systems that successful service design requires. The glue that has connected all that I learn about sustaining system change is a core tenet that I hold close: if the work we do can demonstrate impact, and if we can communicate that impact, then sustaining change is possible.

Demonstrate Impact

Let’s unpack this idea a bit. My mental model of demonstrating impact follows a particular and incomplete pathway. Do the work  evaluate it (throughout a project and at the end)  share results with others to gain support. The incomplete part is that I have always had trouble with the idea of “evaluating” service design. Service design creates better experiences for humans and despite the inordinate amount of things we can measure (from sales, to site visits, to shopping habits over time, to interactions— you name it) there is something that is simply unmeasurable, untidy, uncontainable that comes with designing for very human interactions. Attending the Business Impact session at SDGC15, my ingoing assumption was that I would learn about how others are making and measuring impact and that I would pick up a few concrete tools for evaluating impact. Instead, a brief snippet of Barbara Weber-Kainz and Linda Kaszubski’s workshop on

how service design rocks the organization would challenge my mental model of measuring impact and invite me to think about it in a way that I hadn’t thought of before: as Weber-Kainz and Kaszubski explained how they achieved sustaining a design-focused system of problem-solving pods within a large public organization, they shared a simple technique they used in their working sessions with the teams that were implementing the change. They would ask the folks who were testing the work out in the field to reflect on their experience and unpack what worked, what didn’t, and why. At first I filed this technique in my brain as a straightforward way of allowing people to reflect on the learning they were doing by engaging in the new activities. As a former educator I know that reflection is a critical part of learning and that in order for people to make sense of new information or experiences and apply meaning to new information and experiences, they need to reflect upon it. My tidy filing of this piece of information into my brain was interrupted by a thought: this group wasn’t evaluating their impact (that is measuring their work against a set of pre-determined dimensions), they were reflecting on it and using that information to map their next move. In this way, reflection was supporting their change process. I had never before thought of reflection as a means to generate and sustain change within an organization in the same way I had thought evaluating impact could. A stream of questions that I hadn’t before considered blew up my

neatly-stacked filing system: Was reflection in this circumstance more impactful that evaluation? Could there be a causal relationship between this group’s reflection practice and their ability to sustain change? Might reflection be an activity that bridges new learning to sustaining change? Might reflection be more effective than evaluation? What could evaluation learn from reflection? To answer some of these questions, let’s engage in a thought experiment*: imagine a world in which we only used reflection to measure impact. Here’s what that world looks like: Teams who are implementing service design come together at critical project milestones and through multiple touchpoints between critical project milestones to reflect individually and as a group on how things are going. Questions they explore include: • W hat has been challenging about the process? • W hat has been delightfully surprising about the process? • How has this process been different than other processes you have engaged with? In what ways is this process additive to how you may have worked before?

* T his thought experiment draws inspiration from Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind (2007)



• Group reflection enables employee and manager alignment on the ups and downs of complex projects. This enables deeper empathy and connection between employees and managers.

• How has your behavior shifted as an employee or a manager? What do you know about yourself now that you didn’t know before? What has been personally exciting to you about this work? • W hat are your personal aspirations about this work? • W hat has been different about how we view and treat our customers? In this model, individuals reflect on these questions and then come together as a group to learn about their colleagues’ perspectives. There is lots of sharing of experience and learning. This learning is captured and fed into next steps. There is no predetermined indicator of success. Success reveals itself as reflection takes place. There is no final “evaluation” of the project but rather a set of reflection questions that generates learning and next steps for the next phase or project. In this model, success is communicated through stories and examples of triumph and growth. Why is this model worthwhile? How might this model benefit employees, the organization, and the customer? Here are some benefits that came to mind:

• W here evaluation of predetermined success indicators may have put employees and managers under pressure to “make numbers”, reflection invites people to transparently share, learn, and tweak their behavior, reducing agency issues and tempt­ ations to game the system. • Customers play a more central role in the company’s mind as employees and mangers are encouraged to reflect on how their project work is creating value for the customer and meeting customer needs. • Because this model of reflection requires that the learnings be fed into next steps, employees and managers feel that they are part of shaping what gets measured and may be more likely to adopt processes that help them achieve those measurements. • Because reflection reveals success, there are a breadth of success indicators that may not have been considered if defining success indicators happened solely at the start of the project. This model is about agility and revelation, and what really matters about this model when it comes to sustaining organizational change is that employees and

• Individual reflection that gets captured into group reflection allows the voices of all employees to be heard. Ideas that may not be shared in the first place are shared openly and the group may benefit from these traditionallyunheard perspectives.



managers collaboratively define success criteria based on their own experience which may contribute to greater support for the change initiative itself. Now, imagine a world in which only evaluation was used to measure impact. In this model, only the management team and project leads define what success looks like. Project leads craft the goal of the project and the indicators that would allow the group to know if they were reaching that goal. The indicators that are crafted are based on concrete outcomes and are quantitative in nature. There are systems built for capturing data that will support with evaluation including things like surveys and tracking systems. Making sense out of the data is a key evaluation activity. When the data for the indicators is communicated to others there is complete clarity on what the indicators mean about whether or not the team is on track to meet its project goal. The data helps the executive team and project leads to decide if the project is working or not.

and revelation of reflection so far that it actually generates the structure and predictability of evaluation? Could reflection be used to generate a more robust set of questions that we want to evaluate— questions that come from the very people whom are implementing service design and need to sustain the change they create? Here are some of the benefits of the evaluation model: • Because there is a specific group defining what success looks like, there is lots of clarity around what success means. • Because employees and managers have a clear understanding of what success looks like, they can shape their project activities around that vision of success. • Data collection is straightforward because systems are built with specific measurement goals in mind. • Because data will exist that supports the success or failure of a project, quick decisions can be made about whether to further invest in a project or kill it. This allows customers to gain maximum value from the projects as investments will be made in those projects that are working. For me, this model is about predictability and structure. What really matters about this model when it comes to sustaining organizational change is that people work within predictable structures to measure impact. As I spent time with each model, I recognized that evaluation had a whole lot to learn from reflection and that I truly valued most of what reflection had to offer. That being said, reflection was missing the structure and predictability that I value from the evaluation model. To end the thought exercise, I asked: what if we pushed the agility

When we evaluate we have already defined what we are looking for. When we reflect, we are building new knowledge. We unpeel, discover, and make a plan for what’s next. Reflection gives people the opportunity to grapple with the unquantifiable pieces of an interaction that they want to make sense of. Reflection allows people to share their thinking with one another and contribute their voice to what is working and what isn’t. Ultimately, reflection allows people to apply new meaning to information and experiences and build new knowledge. By going through a reflective process, teams come together, share thinking, and learn together what is working, what is not working, and why. When I think about how to measure service design work, I wonder if reflection as a tool is more aligned to what service design is all about and begins to solve some of the things that make me uncomfortable with evaluating service design using predetermined indicators of success. And yet, despite its usefulness, the buck cannot stop at reflection. The reality is our world currently requires evaluation in its more traditional sense. Clear numbers are comforting and tell

us a lot about how our projects are doing. But the missed opportunity with evaluation is that because success indicators are designed by an exclusive group of people and before a project it fundamentally may be missing important success indicators that were never considered. My question after all of this has become: how can we design a more robust set of indicators by employing reflection? In this way, reflection would be used not only to consolidate learning and to generate areas of inquiry that allow us to learn more, but to generate the questions we ultimately evaluate while creating group cohesiveness that supports the alignment and buy-in that change creation and adoption requires. This year, my colleagues and I are designing a training program for one of our clients that will train client employees on the new initiative we have designed. When we inject reflection periods at the end of each session it won’t only be to help participants build knowledge and make meaning, it will be to help them become champions for the initiative itself. At Bridgeable, we create a bridge for our clients to translate knowledge into action. As a tool, reflection may just be the bridge that translates knowledge into change. ■







BLUEPRINT Hybrid Tools for Future Services BY CHR I S F ERG U S O N & CH A D S TORY I LLU S T R AT I O NS BY M AR I E S E RR A N O

As designers, we have more stakeholders, fewer resources, and more demanding publics to contend with. We’re no longer concerned with only solving discrete, or isolated problems, where the end solution can be predicted. In this new era of service design, tools are secondary to the problems that need solving. At SDGC15, we hosted a workshop that sought to explore this idea. The session began with a provocation: tools alone aren’t the answer. We asked participants to put problems first and tools second, tasked them with breaking the tools they were most comfortable with (namely the service blueprint), and asked them to create a hybrid tool that could be used to address a meaty systemic service challenge. What follows is an overview of the workshop, including some of the thinking used to structure the session. Seeing the big picture: from touchpoints to service systems In the early days, re-designing touchpoints made up the bulk of service design projects, as we were accustomed to making artifacts or because our clients wanted to see immediate results. The tools we used reflected this, tracing simple journeys through one or two touchpoints. What we’ve learned since, though, is that welldesigned touchpoints alone are not sufficient. For example, an organisation may have done a great job ensuring their website gives prospective clients the information they need to make an informed purchase-decision but, if the service agreement they are asked to sign is convoluted and difficult to understand, all of that work at the touchpoint level is wasted.

This article was originally published in Touchpoint, the journal of the Service Design Network.



The work of service designers today is largely concerned with organisational transformation: optimizing internal processes, policies, and structures to ensure that the back-of-house and front-of-house are aligned to the needs of people using services. In this regard, service designers are venturing into the area of organisational planning and design, the traditional domain of management consultants. This work requires more complex tools reflecting journeys across many touchpoints and touching on the fiefdoms of a diversity of stakeholders (e.g., Finance, HR, and IT); service blueprints or touchpoint maps are great examples of these kinds of tools.


Looking at our most leading-edge projects, we’re starting to see what’s next. Design has evolved from a practice oriented towards the solving of discrete problems, to a mindset for thinking through complex organisational arrangements; from nodes to networks. Now, we see our work increasingly oriented towards constellations of services and intricate assemblages of actors (e.g., competitors, manufactures, regulators, government organisations, lobby groups). At this level, successful service delivery requires coordination between organisations that in themselves have their own organisational arrangements to contend with. Service design can be used to bring these organisations into closer alignment: sharing resources, coordinating regulatory reviews, ensuring legislation is of mutual benefit, accounting for the life-cycle costs of production. We envision contexts in which the interests of different groups are held in balance; each organisation, to some degree, is dependent on the success of others. Take for instance, a typical telecommunications company; customers don’t meaningfully differentiate between who manufactures their cell phone, who ships it, who regulates the industry, and who ultimately provides the voice and data service they’re accessing. Instead, they see it as a bundle of cohesive and deeply interdependent elements which can make or break their experience as customers. As service designers, it’s our job to build alliances between these competing interests, breaking apart the tools of the past to address the challenges of the present.

We’re working towards the development of toolkits rather than tools: collections of components that can be recombined and hybridized into bespoke tools that address the particular climate in which a given intervention needs to flourish.






A team member presenting their prototype titled, “Stakeholder Impact Map,” designed to help identify areas of mutual benefit between diverse groups of stakeholders.

Assembling hybrid toolkits In addressing these more complex problems, we’re working towards the development of toolkits rather than tools: collections of components that can be recombined and hybridized into bespoke tools that address the particular climate in which a given intervention needs to flourish. This approach requires the borrowing of bits and pieces from a variety of established tools. For instance, combining multiple experience maps within a single blueprint, overlaid with current and future organisational initiatives. This conscious approach of carefully selecting components in response to the needs of the system is paired with a problem-finding practice oriented around co-creation. These hybridized toolkits are used to facilitate dialogue between participants in structured design workshops. In contrast to traditional service design tools, largely used to communicate information in the form of static artifacts, this hybridized approach encourages participants to present conflicting points of view. The tools become a space where stakeholders collect, sort, and synthesize knowledge — working through problems together.



Co-creating tools for future services To give workshop participants a taste of what this new approach might look like, we asked them to co-create a hybrid service design tool that could be used to collect information at a large multi-stakeholder workshop. Participants were asked to imagine a scenario in which they had just joined a design team tasked with implementing a new service that would give parents access to their child’s Electronic Medical Records (EMR). The service would enable parents to keep track of data, such as a child’s growth milestones and immunizations. In this scenario, the government agency responsible for overseeing the project assembled stakeholders from the private and public sectors to examine the systemic implications of launching the service, namely to mitigate any disruptions in existing healthcare delivery. Teams were given 15 minutes to break apart a set of partially complete service design artefacts and build their own hybrid tool, with instructions, that could be used to facilitate and collect data in a multi-stakeholder workshop. The challenge was messy and difficult. As expected, groups struggled at the beginning to make sense of all the existing data and artifacts that were given to them. Slowly, though, they began to break these pieces down, prioritizing the information most relevant to the group of fictitious workshop participants. They also began to identify gaps in the information. For many, these unknowns became the jumping-off point for the structure of their hybrid tool. One group, for instance, developed a “Stakeholder Impact Map”, a canvas used to identify competing or complementary areas of concern related to the project. The hybrid tool became a more neutral space where participants could project their disagreement and dissent without offending other stakeholders. Looking at the canvas from afar provided a necessary framework to assess where areas of mutual benefit might exist. Perhaps the most ambitious prototype presented was titled, “Service Tube”. The creators proposed building a three-dimensional physical space wherein workshop participants could travel down a series of corridors that would prompt them to think through complex questions related to the challenge. The physicality of this approach is particularly unique in that it draws upon the embodied knowledge of stakeholders as they encounter various provocations within the space. The hybrid tools proposed by each group highlight the importance of the sociocultural contexts in which they will be used. We know that design is political. This is even more true as we take on more complex problems. In taking part in the workshop, participants were exposed to the possibility that their work operates beyond the walls of a specific organisation, and has an effect within a broader constellation: interlocking networks of people, processes, artifacts that are relationally tied to one another. Our work as designers sits at this nexus: between systems. We make connections and forge alliances between competing interests. The tools needed for this work must be as fluid as the challenges that are upon us. We must think beyond static artifacts, predictable problems, and closed systems to embrace the hybrid and contingent nature of services today. ■



A participant presents a 3D prototype titled, “Service Tube�. A physical space that workshop participants could navigate together.








V I S I T from Nick de This model, Traditional Model Leon at the Royal College of Art, contrasts traditional Unclear models of the relationship between policy and practice, and a service-design-driven model. It usefully illustratesThis model, from Nick de Leon at the Royal College of how policy can be shaped Art, contrasts traditional from practice, allowing for models of the relationship between policy and practice, better policy-making.


This diagram, from Marnie Meylor at the Mayo Clinic, demonstrates an expectant mother’s willingness to wait on reporting an issue, as they approach their next Ob/Gyn visit. Meylor used this diagram to demonstrate that the rhythm of visits wasn’t serving these women well.


Traditional Model


Service Design Model



and a service-design-driven model. It usefully illustrates how policy can be shaped from practice, allowing for better policy-making.









Service Design Model


This model, from Nick de Leon at the Royal College of Art, contrasts traditional models of the relationship between policy and practice, and a service-design-driven model. It usefully illustrates how policy can be shaped from practice, allowing for better policy-making.

This chart, shared by Katrine Rau and Katrina Alcorn from GE Energy, illustrates the optimal conditions for co-creation: contexts where both the optimal solution and the required Unclear stakeholders are unclear.

Cameron Tonkinwise



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Smart Object

Smart Object










Bridgeable is committed to bridging the Know-Do Gap: the chasm between what is known about a complex problem and how it can be solved. Anchored in a multi-disciplinary approach, we collaborate with clients to understand and translate the intricacies of the human experience — so we can design solutions that improve people’s lives.

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