Who to trust Design Thinking or Service Design?
Design Thinking and Service Design have gained popularity among organizations. They represent customer-focussed thinking about business, are a work model that gives managers a sense of security and are … simply fashionable.
We associate them with innovation and creativity – what more could you want? At the same time, we watch such talks like Natasha Jen: Design Thinking is Bullsh*t from the 99u Conference. Then we wonder if Design Thinking is still valid today, or maybe if it’s time to look for something fresh.
What is Design Thinking?
Some see this process as a cure for all evil and an answer to all problems. There are also those for whom it is the overrated second freshness model. The case is not so simple. DT appeared quickly, immediately conquered management board meetings and workshop rooms, and in the corridors one could hear: “Let’s focus on the client!”, “Do Design Thinking”, “We absolutely need Design Thinking moderators”. Just how and for what? What exactly is DesignThinking?
Design Thinking is the use of good practices in design for everyday work.
Oliver Grabes, Braun Design Director
It’s a philosophy, a mindset and a set of tools, derived from how designers work to solve problems. The main distinguishing feature of design thinking is its focus on the user – the person whose problem we solve and for whom we are looking for a solution. In practice, this means that we do not operate according to the key “we have technology, so let’s just use it” or “I know how it should be and no one will convince me to change my mind”.
Along the way, we use various tools that help us frame the work and support project teams during the search for solution. Here we find brainstorms, personas and collages. The flexibility of the approach makes every company, team and designer do it differently. So you can choose the tools and how to use them to suit your needs. It definitely simplifies the matter, right?
Simple steps – difficult execution
The model has four to seven steps depending on the description (remember – flexibility): But can be simplified as seeking answers to two questions:
- Which problem is right?
- How to solve this problem properly?
In order not to solve any problem, or the one that seems most interesting to us, we talk to users. This moment is called empathization, cognizance of the user’s perspective. We ask, read, observe and ask even more. We collect huge amounts of information that help us understand “what’s the context.” The second step is to analyze what we have learned and work out the answer to question number 1.
On this basis, we begin to look for solutions. Many and different – the tested and the crazy – we go in for quantity, because quality is yet to come. This moment is most often associated with putting up kilos of coloured post-its on the walls. Opponents of DT will raise their voices that nothing results from such workshops. However, we forget that the design thinking process is the result, and solutions are derived in directly from users and their statements. And if we generate solutions without relying on empathy, we don’t act according to design thinking, we only pride ourselves on ourselves (there is nothing wrong with that, but then we don’t act in the spirit of DT).
Having ideas you build the so-called prototypes, physical representations of an idea. Don’t tell people about your concept – show it. I love this moment of the process, instead of telling, we draw, mould and cut. Gather a group of high-level managers in the room and ask about the problems of the Organization, and the atmosphere will become intense. Give them candle crayons and cut-outs, and they will develop a new approach to the services they provide. This change is not a result of crayons, but a process – the fact that they work in the context of research and very quickly materialize their ideas.
A ready prototype is the moment to show it to users. Tests can take many forms – from individual meetings, through group interviews, to implementing a solution for a narrow group of clients. Start with a fast and cheap prototype in which you can check if you are going in the right direction. A sketch or a scene would be great. Such meetings should be done several times, each time improving your idea, making sure it is right and investing more and more time and money in it. In this way we are looking for the answer to question number 2.
Why is it worth it?
Working according to the Design Thinking approach allows to make sure that you took care of the user’s perspective and avoids a situation in which you do not know what to do next. The process itself assumes iteration. You can always go further in the process (e.g. build prototypes to check your idea) or come back (e.g. carry out research with users again, because you’ve discovered something new while searching for solutions).
Design Thinking also allows you to easily use the idea of co-creation – engaging other people into the team. Gathering different perspectives from the organization in the project means that solutions are better, decisions are made aligned with the interests of various departments, and the members of the project team themselves work more effectively.
It’s also a “toolbox” that you can reach into if you need to. It doesn’t matter if you are a Design Thinking moderator, a member of the design team, a trainer, a coach or a manager. Personas or prototypes are a great support in every situation. Thanks to the tools that designers have used for some time, you will arrange the work with the team and your thought process.
How does Service Design relate to this?
Why is Service Design not the same as Design Thinking? Because it would be an excessive simplification. Service Design is a process that involves services – processes such as visiting a coffee shop, buying an apartment, booking a table at a restaurant, or opening a bank account. In order for the user to perform these tasks, he will have to use various products – doors, cups, menus, banking applications.
The task of a service designer is to arrange the appropriate interactions between the user and various products in such a way that he performs the intended task (e.g. opens a bank account via the website). In addition, he produces a step-by-step description of what the customer is doing, what product he is using, what the company must do to make it happen. He also works with product designers, UX / UI designers and various people in the Organization to make the final process work properly. He looks for answers to the same two questions: “Which problem is right?” and “How to solve this problem properly?” but in the context of a service.
Design Thinking is a universal process that you can use to design any product or process. Service Design is the use of design thinking to work on services – intangible user interactions. The situation is a bit like a family doctor and a specialist doctor. They will both carry out tests, diagnose and determine the treatment. But you will visit one for general health problems, the other when you need a specialist.
How Service Design is different from Design Thinking
Service Design is a holistic approach to designing services. Much wider than finding problems and solving them. It’s constant curiosity, learning and searching. Check a video that illustrates the process well:
To successfully build a new service (or rebuild an existing one), we reach for tools that support us. Below you will find a few of them, which we use most often in our processes.
The service involves much more than the user and the seller. Even if you don’t see it at first glance, a team of people work to get a morning cappuccino and toast at your table. There is a salesman, barista, waiter, chef, coffee bean supplier, coffee roaster, food supplier, etc.
The stakeholder map is a graph illustrating who and to what extent is involved in providing the service to the user. We divide them into two categories – internal ( those who work in your company) and external (those who do not work in it). Along the way, we give stakeholders a level of importance and analyze other aspects.
The result is a clear representation and build of awareness of how many people are involved and how many variables we should include in the process.
This is the tool we have built to organize activities during the empathy phase. It allows us to see what information the organization we are working with already has and what we still need to get. We strive to find directions in the field of trends, desk research and research meetings with stakeholders.
However, we do not search blindly. Each information has a reason, source and form. After completing the map, we set off on a journey called empathy. We operate according to a specific plan knowing with whom, why and what to talk about.
We put collected information into a logical whole. Looking for dependencies, repeatable observations and patterns we arrange the customer journey map. This is a visual representation of the user’s steps when using your service.
It is also worth understanding what happens to our client before he goes to “our cafe” (Is he traveling by car or public transport? Is he in a hurry, does he have time? Why does he choose our cafe?) And what he does after leaving (Where is he going? Is there a routine we are part of?). In addition, on the customer journey we can highlight the difficulties that were indicated during the talks and matters that we do well (pain & love points).
This understanding of the full customer journey gives us the opportunity to define areas for further work. Do we want to improve what already works, or do we feel that we can do something special at a low cost? Do we prefer to work towards improving those steps that from a user’s perspective do not work? Or maybe we will find inspiration to work on a completely new service?
Just as an architect creates a building plan with a floor plan so that it can be built, service designers create service plans. This is a visual representation of the new service, taking into account the user steps and translating them into activities on the side of the company.
In this way, the barista knows where to get information about what coffee to prepare, the chef, what breakfast to prepare, and the mobile application when to send a push notification about the invitation to the “morning coffee lovers club”, which we decided to design for our users.
Service Blueprint is the closing point for the Service Design process – it collects all the important information that we have decided to implement. Thanks to it, we can see exactly how our new solution works from the inside, what it requires from the team and organization, and what steps the user is taking.
What does this mean for me?
Whilst it is not the case in the evaluation of Design Thinking and Service Design, it is worth remembering that the services and products we provide are becoming more and more complicated in terms of technology (and not only). This is why we transfer part of this complication to our users (e.g. the introduction of the EU Payment Services Directive 2). Such changes force us to change the way we work and cooperate.
Design thinking should be treated as general guidelines, a list of good practices that, taken from design, are a signpost during the work on solutions. Whereas designing services as a specialized approach that should be reached if the problem concerns a process – inside or outside the organization. Service Design can be compared to a conductor who helps different sections of the orchestra to play in one rhythm, tempo and sound. Design Thinking is a music school.
If you want to learn more about the work methods we user or you feel that Service Design is something you need or want to try in your organization – let me know. We will start with a coffee, and then together we will design service that will help you become your clients’ favourite brand.