30 Jul 2014

Service Design Summer School in Copenhagen

By Vicky

I spent last week in Copenhagen taking part in a summer school in Applied Service Design Techniques at the Institute of Interaction Design. It was incredibly intense, fitting what usually takes four months into five days. We covered everything from user research, design service scenarios and user journey mapping through to experience prototyping, service blueprinting and improvisation.

If you haven’t come across it before, service design is a design approach that addresses all the interactions that make up the full experience of a service. Unlike product interactions that are condensed to specific situations with an item (like how you use your computer), service interactions happen between the people and the ‘touch points’ of the service which are spread out over time (i.e me and my trip to Copenhagen). A touch point refers to every moment of interaction you have with the service.

My team focused on families travelling with children – we were trying to answer the question, ‘what new service experiences can we develop to put Copenhagen at the forefront of tourism’ (although this was much to my regret as through my research I found Copenhagen to be a perfect place for families!).

The first thing we did was conduct user research helping us to build empathy with real people who might use the service. There is nothing worse than designing something that no one wants or needs. User research is a chance to really understand your users and for them to share their world.

The tool I found most insightful was shadowing families to observe their implicit behaviours – this is a chance to see what families do rather than what they say they do. I also found in-depth interviews where I could explore bigger issues really useful. Finally we went on ‘service safaris’ where we went out and became the customer ourselves. I did this by going into the tourist information centre and a few different hotels and asking for information on what my family could do during our time here (I told a little white lie by saying my children were outside with the rest of the family – apparently my acting skills were top notch!).

The next stage was to hold a user research analysis session to study our insights and find design opportunities. We captured everything we had seen and heard on post its (we started off in a white room, which ended up being multi coloured!). We formulated it as stories, quotes and observations which were all supported by photos and videos of what we had seen. All of this stuff is meaningless unless you dig deep into what it all means and this is the interesting part – pulling out the most inspirational points and formulating a design challenge. We did this in the format of a questions which drove our next process: the ideation process.

However this is where I started to feel a bit worried – I discovered that Copenhagen is pretty much perfect for families – they are welcome by the locals, the city is extremely safe and clean, the infracture allows for families to walk or bike around the city hassle free and there are lots of tourist attractions which cater for families. The only insight which left room for improvement is that families only visit Copenhagen for a maximum of two or three days and that it was partly down to it being an expensive city. So we asked the question ‘How might we make Copenhagen more affordable for families looking to spend more time in Copenhagen whilst engaging in activities?’

From this we jumped into a brainstorming session. This is where you come up with ideas of services which can tackle the question in your user research analysis. It can be anything – the more wild and outrageous the better as this provokes your thinking and imagination. The general rule for brainstorming sessions is that you cannot write but instead you should draw – this was interesting for me since I am shockingly bad at drawing! To cut a long and messy story short we came up of the idea of exchanging knowledge from local families to tourist families so that tourists can find more affordable and authentic activities to do whilst visiting Copenhagen. Our thinking was that this will extend their vacation here since there will be more affordable options than the typical expensive tourist attractions. (yes, I know, it is not a genius idea but we had one hour!)

Before we knew it, the brainstorming session was over, we had designed a (dodgy) service scenario and it was time to start experience prototyping certain touch points in the service. Our first attempt was a complete failure.  We went into the city centre with a black board and asked locals with children to write down a suggestion of something cheap and ‘local’ to do in Copenhagen (that was easy and we got loads) and then we approached tourist families to see if they would join in and do the activities. It was extremely difficult to engage with the families when we were walking around with a cheap blackboard with scribbles most people couldn’t understand. We soon realised that we weren’t putting anyone through an experience, we were merely doing a more specific type of field research. For experience prototyping to work you need to ensure that you create a believable and experienceable event that people can become apart of, rather than acting out a scenario that people observe (or feel very confused about).

Over lunch we reviewed our failed attempts and tried again…. we put all of our local tips on pieces of paper and stuck them to the blackboard, we left the board in various locations with a note saying something along with lines of ‘please take a local danish tip of what your family can do’. We sat back and observed. Luckily people engaged this time and a few took the pieces of paper and others took photos of it. Finally, some useful insights were coming in and people were showing signs that they were interested. However by this point it was Thursday evening and we needed to present our service by Friday midday… **more coffee please**.

I learned a huge amount during my time in Copenhagen. The time constraints of the course made it a steep learning curve, however the methods learned would be useful to anyone interested in service design.  We interact with services everyday and they heavily influence our lives and the way we feel. This course has given me a great appreciation of the complexities behind designing a service, and an even bigger appreciation of Copenhagen as a city.