I like Service Design. It’s like an instruction manual for innovation (whatever that now means) But is this not just design? Hasn’t this always been design – understanding the problem, the goal, the parameters and the stakeholders, Service design feels a bit like bottled water, a campaign tells us we need to buy something which we already had in abundance.
The next book or flavour of the month will be something like Paleomammalian Design – Design for emotional response.
When Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to a church in Wittenberg, was that the result of him using strategies of a service designer? Was Thomas Paine a designer? Were the authors of the U.S. Constitution?
Are there actually any manifestos that have had a lasting impact, beyond an aesthetic influence on future movements, the proto-fascist Futurists are gone, a lot of them aptly in the glory of war, but the museums are still here. Ironically, they must be turning (speedily under machine power) in their graves if they knew how much we still look to the past and at their old work.
Is there any discussion about what ‘Good’ is. I hate to use them as an example, but the rather successful at ‘using-design-and-visual-symbols-and-rhetoric-and-understanding-the-user’ NSDAP didn’t think they were not doing good things. How does one even measure doing good for the world? And to follow up on that rather extreme Godwin’s-law proving example, what if I really want to help old ladies who have swallowed flies, how can I avoid my design causing equestrian deaths. I am aware that they do allude to things like that when they warn of talking oneself into good ideas and not seeing the total picture, but it seems a bit casual
But away from the reductio ad absurdum – isn’t all education a type of campaign for change? The invention of the printing press is just one example. Can’t the whole curriculum of this very course be seen as Service Design? Aren’t fairy tales and children’s stories attempts at change
I don’t think Service Design is bad, quite the opposite, I just don’t think it is that new. Of course, it does break down and highlight the elements that go into it and provide a manual and tools. Not unlike the designs of one Ingvar Kamprad. I am all for all of us tackling BAHGs and the world’s wicked problems of which there are too many, but if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a Service Design approach.
I also find it at times disconcerting that proponents of these specified design disciplines like to spend time dogmatically stating what design is and isn’t. ‘This is not art’, they say ‘art is a different thing altogether with a different goal.’ But some art can have an impact beyond its frame. Turner’s The Slave Ship did not end slavery, but it was his way of bringing attention to it. Olafur Eliason’s sculptures about climate change haven’t solved it, but it might inspire someone to do something that leads to inspiring someone else. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle led to legislative changes. Eddie Adams and Nick Ut’s images from Vietnam arguably helped the anti-Vietnam-war protest. Art can be a starting point a rallying cry; the canary doesn’t actually carry you out of the coal mine, but you would be dead without it. However, I also wonder if Gerald Holtom’s semaphore CND logo – a classic example of graphic design for change had any impact.
Isn’t there a reason autocrats like to ban art and execute artists? Even businesses can be part of social solutions, e.g. the Bangladesh Danone micro factories.
I know that none of these is or is meant to be service design, I am just wondering if change can be achieved through other means, different means, or perhaps big change needs multiple channels and ‘disciplines’
I think any solutions have to be radical in a subtle coat and it needs political or business support. We all want to do better when it comes to, well many things, but we are human and are hard-wired to do what is easiest or feels best to us. Designers can stymie themselves by focuses on tools rather than skills. Some change has to come from below some from below. A motivating grassroots movement is different that lobbying and changing legislation. Not that they are mutually exclusive. Certainly, grassroots campaigns can lead to monumental political and global changes, those these are rare, and at some point, there is a crossover between grassroots and leadership.
Similarly, a lot of the proponents of (sellers of books, workshops, and lectures about)design thinking or Service design thinking, or experiential design thinking, management consulting solving, are also the same people who like to be dogmatic about what design is, or more often what design isn’t. I am not naîve in thinking that design can be anything. Except, I am naîve enough to think that design should first start with a diagnosis, only then should one move onto treatment and solutions.art and design. Sometimes, it seems like design likes to tell others what to do, rather than just lead by example.
Claudette Colvin’s Teachers
Everyone has heard of Rosa Parks, and rightly so.
It was not that she just refused to give up her seat, she was also a member of the local NAACP. She deserves all the recognition that has come her way for her last of bravery. However, she was not the first to refuse to give up her seat. Eight months prior, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old, unmarried, pregnant girl was dragged of a bus and thrown in jail. Perhaps one of the reasons that she did not become the face of a movement was due to her being an unwed pregnant girl, perhaps it was because Martin Luther King Jr. had not yet become the charismatic leader.
This could perhaps be a lesson in finding the right visuals for a campaign to be successful. rose Parks was a perhaps more – as horrible as this sounds – likeable person, around whom to build a movement and boycott. It also says something needing a charismatic voice in Dr. King. However, it should be noted that Claudette Colvin wasn’t just doing it on a whim. She was a member of the NAACP youth chapter and had well educated on civil rights by her teachers at her all-black high school.
Rosa Parks had also no doubt heard about what had happened to Colvin eight months prior, it might have had an influence on her decision. In hindsight, we always seek a simple linear development; a spark-tinder-fire situation, but changing the world is not something one person does on their own, but conversely, a small gesture can start an avalanche and have an immense impact on the world. I just don’t think change is a clean and transparent process. In hindsight, we can give Rosa Parks all the credit, but Claudette Colvin’s teachers played a role too. Design sometimes looks back at successful campaigns without perhaps being able to understand the complexities of a system involving so many moving parts, influencing and informing each other.
Plus ca climate change, plus c’est la même meme
Framing a problem is part of the problem. Climate Change sounds rather fun, a bit of a change could do us all good. Rebranding it – so to speak – might help. ‘Death to your children’ might work, but maybe that’s too much and Newton’s third law comes into effect.
Large and radical change is maybe impossible if it is not attempted wholesale. Our brains might be brilliant, but they are probably developed for short to mid-term planning. Longterm thinking is, probably, at best, reserved for what food we have for the rainy season (or toilet paper for the viral season). My brain currently can’t keep focused on the workshop challenges, as I rif on tangents of tangents.
Frequently our instincts are to dismiss new knowledge if it is inconvenient or difficult to implement. We don’t typically like being told what to do, told that we are wrong or told that we have to change, the natural impulse is to disagree.
If I go down to your local airport and insult you while you are getting on a plane to see loved-ones, or to enjoy a well-deserved holiday and try to explain carbon emissions of the plane, and why you should be actually wearing old banana skins and not leather, you will not listen to my message. So the message, the delivery, the location, the tone, and much more matter. And, that is not even mentioning that large change involves a large amount of (by natural design) unique people. (and not just personas). Change has to be easy, or gratifying, or fun, or in some cases make the target audience feel superior. Conspicuous conservation, ok, Boomer?
Is Greta Thunberg a Rosa Parks, or MLK, or a human meme of some sort? I think she has undeniably had an impact, but will this save the world from climate emergency and extinction? It is probably too soon to tell, but obviously she can only really raise awareness, but what she is doing, and sacrificing herself for, is a good first step.
Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch
I would like to focus on. a process that I call, and that I frequently refer to as the 7, 14, 21… process. But, due to a weird cousin of cryptomnesia, I cannot remember or find the source of it. I would like to claim that came up with it, but that might dilute my point, and I am sure I read it somewhere. It is essentially Sequencing, or Customer Journey Mapping; the observation and description of a system, an event, or a process and breaking it down into smaller and smaller steps. While this is not infinite, it can be taken to a very granular level. You can describe it in 7 steps, then 14 steps, then 21, and so on. It also depends on the complexity and length of the task. As an example, the fairly banal task of enjoying a cup of tea.
Drinking a cup of tea for one with milk no sugar.
1. Put on the kettle
2. Put a teabag in a mug
3. Pour the water in the mug
4. Wait for it to steep
5. Pour in milk
6. Remove teabag
1. Fill kettle with water
2. Turn on the kettle
3. Get teabag from container
4. Put a teabag in a mug
5. Wait for kettle to boil
6. Pour the water in the mug
7. Stir tea bag
8. Wait for it to steep
9. Get milk from fridge
10. Pour in milk
11. Remove teabag
12. Put the teabag in garbage
13. Stir milk
1. Walk to kitchen
2. Fill kettle with water
2. Turn on the kettle
3. Open cupboard
4. Get mug from cupboard
5. Open other cupboard
6. Get teabag from container
7. Put a teabag in a mug
8. Wait for kettle to boil
9. Pour the water in the mug
10. Open drawer
11. Retrieve spoon
12. Stir tea bag
13. Wait for it to steep
14. Open fridge
15. Get milk from fridge
16. Walk around kitchen aimlessly staring out of the window
17. Remove teabag
18. Put the teabag in garbage
19. Pour in milk
20. Stir milk
21. Open fridge and return milk
22. Remove spoon and place in sink/dishwasher
23. Pick up mug walk back to offic
24. Sit down
25. Check messages
I think I may have stumbled across this in some form in TRIZ, the aforementioned Teoriya Resheniya Izobretatelskikh Zadatch, or ‘Theory of the resolution of invention-related tasks’
Making tea will not change the world (except when it does and I sure it has through chance and serendipity), but this can also be applied to more important, meaningful process and systems. Observing something at such a level can give you not just an insight into minute parts, but forces a focused and concentrated look at the entirety of an event. What seems banal at first can actually lead to great improvements. A process, situation, event that we think we understand can actually reveal elements we had not considered, seen, or thought about before.
I would be interested in seeing how multiple tasks intersect using this method. Typically, I make tea while also doing something else, be it making breakfast, cleaning up, or something online or on my phone, etc. We might not multi-task per see, but are seldom not engaged in multiple actions.
Aeroplane crashes are always human error
I have been told that a plane doesn’t crash when one thing goes wrong, it is when eight things go wrong. That would be a relief if planes were not capable of having eight things go wrong.
Maybe not all aeroplane crashes are human-error, but most. Human error is typically referred to when talking about mistakes made by humans in the existing system; the pilot forgot to do some thing, a mechanic used the wrong screws, the cleaning crew didn’t remove a piece of tape. However, the systems are designed by humans too. And frequently, when pilots make mistakes, the resulting enquiry redesigns the system or hardware. The NTSAB, AAIB, CAA, FAA, etc seem actually really good at this, arguably always a little late. But there is an exhaustive enquiry, an understanding of events based on recordings from users (CVR), data from the specific time and environment (FDR), the study of materials, interviews of individuals, the history of man and machine, the study of users. These are analysed, compared until the complete timeline of events is understood and each contributing factor to the accident is identified. Then solutions are found and put in place. And some are really small and previously unseen, much like Claudette Colvin’s teachers.
My Grandmother Opened her Door
Interviewing stakeholders can be very useful, but there are blind spots. Decades ago my grandmother was losing her teeth. They weren’t falling out, they were just being worn down. Naturally, she went to see a dentist to have him diagnose the problem and then put measures in place to solve or reverse it. He looked at my grandmother’s teeth, x-rayed them, brought in a consult, probably checked her blood and could not find anything wrong. He asked her a lot of questions about what she ate, and how she cleaned her teeth, and many more. Still, there were reasons he could discover. the mystery of eroding teeth.
It wasn’t until quite a while later when one of her family members happened to arrive at her house at the same time that she was returning from shopping and he observed her opening the door. My grandmother all of 4’10” with shopping bags in her hand and faced with a surprising number of locks for a small house has developed a system of using each key in sequence. It meant holding the metal key between her teeth while her free hand twisted the key ring around to reach the next key, all the while grinding sharp metal keys against increasingly dull front teeth. My grandmother had no idea she was doing it. It was normal to her, that is how for all she knew ‘one did it’.
That would one exhaustive interview to reveal that detail.
So observing can sometimes be better. Stakeholders sometimes don’t know that they are doing something unhealthy, dangerous, et cetera. Similarly, stakeholders sometimes don’t know what they want or don’t like to be told what to do, Newton’s third law of Mookness if you will.
Final thoughts on the double diamond. I like it. It is a fine and general way to explain design (or design thinking for those who thought design could exist without thinking), I just don’t think it should end, it could or should be more circular, or a chain, or a Möbius Diamond. It implies that every solution is a finite solution when frequently it is merely a step and some times it can be an actual problem. I am sure that is addressed somewhere though.
Real and perceived problems