Nick Marsh is a service designer for Engine Service Design in London. This monday he held a work shop at Hyper Island in Stockholm for the Interactive Art Director program about service design. He is currently working with Nokia and airport company BAA helping them improve their services and their customers experience.
How does service design differ from traditional ways of thinking about interactive design?
- At Engine, we see service as the act of helping someone do something. This clearly covers a very broad set of activities and actions! It's this breadth that often challenges newcomers to service design. Service design uses similar user centred research tools, visualisation methods, prototyping and project management approaches to all the major modern design disciplines, including interaction design - but it also has some of its own unique approaches.
Service design often cut horizontally across established business units and practices, which means service designers need 'business design' skills too - and great relationships with senior figures in the client organisation.
Is this "the customer is always right" on steroids?
- Service design is very user and customer focused, which means we do spend a lot of time listening to and understanding customers. Mapping the various touchpoints where they encounter a brand is also a key activity, but that doesn't mean customers are always right! Understanding how to take customer insights, and translate them into new, exciting service designs that people want to buy and use is the challenge - If designer's just did what users and customers told them to the world would be a very boring - and badly designed! - place. I guess what I'm saying is that even in process driven, user centred practices like service design there's still a lot of room for designer's passion, insight and craft.
You have mentioned Apple as one company that take service design seriously. What do they do right in that area?
- Apple have a brilliant ability to combine complex product, service and marketing offers into very simple and beautiful objects - I suspect their focus and vision comes in a large part from their hyper active CEO. Apple's products are very vision driven, and you just can't get that type of focus without support and inspiration from the very top.
What other companies are taking service design seriously?
- Obviously, our clients do! Despite the bad press they've had this summer in the UK, I've found that BAA, the airports company, are very comfortable talking about and commissioning great service design. Perhaps this is because they always see what they do in terms of journeys? Orange are also service design pioneers, and they bankrolled several UK service design consultancies in the early years.
What kind of education and know-how are you looking for at Engine service design?
- We're always looking for new people. Everyone at Engine has a background in something other than service design, and I think the things we look for are quite abstract: A keen sense of process, a passion for thinking big with an ability to focus on the details. Good communication skills are vital.
- Perhaps the most important thing is to be comfortable with ambiguity, and being happy to let others 'design' the service for you. Being able to let go of your craft is very hard for a lot of designers, but to create great service designs you have to accept that your services are ultimately 'designed' by other people, over and over again every time they use or provide them. This, for me, is the most interesting, and rewarding part of what we do - helping other people help other people, the best they can. You can't really design anything more valuable than that can you?